Archive for the 'story' Category

Sep 04 2014

Cracks in the Ceiling

Published by under story,Uncategorized

I lie here staring up at the cracks in the ceiling.  Most people don’t notice them, but they’re there.

Most people don’t notice them, but then again, most people don’t notice too much.  They also don’t have too much time.

Not like me.  I don’t have much of anything else, but time.  I don’t have too much to do, except lie here and stare at the thin spidery cracks in the ceiling.  Actually, there’s quite a lot of them.

I imagine myself slipping through them, floating up to them and they stretch open to accept me into their web of lines. They don’t have to expand too much.  You see, there’s not that much left of me to get stuck. Most people don’t realize that a web is also a cocoon.  It not only traps; it also protects. Most people don’t know that.

I’m not most people, you see.  Oh, it’s not like I’m something special or anything.  I’m not.  I’m probably just the opposite. Most people are special in their own way, you see.  Most people are.

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May 06 2012

Elisha sends Yonah to anoint Yehu – An Imagination of Kings 9:1-2

Published by under short story,story

The stone room hummed.  The walls seemed to radiate with energy.  A dozen men formed a circle, squatting on the floor,  their enwrapped bodies folded with their head between their knees, their hands extend to the heavens.      In an instant the humming stopped.  One of the men lowered his arms and lifted his head.  “Yonah,” he called.  His voice was soft, almost musical.  “Come here my son.”

One of the other men lifted his head, and lowered the shawl from his brow to rest on his shoulders.   He shook out his long black hair and slowly rose to his feet.  His eyes shone with dark intensity, as he approached his master.

When Yonah’s eyes met the prophet’s, Elisha’s own eyes widened.  He resisted an urge to pull away.  Their dark intensity frightened him.  An aura of blood red fire danced around Yonah’s countenance.  Elisha hesitated.  Maybe it was a mistake to send Yonah.  Maybe he should be the one to deliver this message after all.  Those eyes reminded him so much of Eliyahu’s.  Had it made a difference when Elisha anointed the king of Aram?  Had his tears mitigated the judgment?  No, probably not.  Elisha still saw the same vision of destruction.  But there would be tears just the same.  Not for Yehu.  And not from him either.  Yehu could be cold and cruel when he wanted to be.  That is why the Almighty chose him for this task.  And Yonah.  Elisha doubted that Yonah would shed a tear, would feel remorse at the necessity of his role, and the blood that would be spilt as a result.  Elisha watched the flames of blood dancing around Yonah’s face.  No, there wouldn’t be any remorse.  And maybe that is the way it was supposed to be.

Elisha looked up into the waiting face of his disciple, and smiled.  The smile only barely touched his eyes.  “Yonah, my son, gird up your loins, and take this vial of oil.”  Elisha removed a small ceramic flask from the folds of his robes.  “Go to Ramoth Gil`ad, to the army there.  And when you are there find Yehu the son of Yehoshephat the son of Nimshi.  Take him aside, and bring him to an inner chamber.”  Elisha paused.  He read Yonah’s face again and suppressed a shudder.  He didn’t need to tell the young disciple anything.  The youth already knew, the way only a youth can know.

Elisha continued just the same.  “When you have him alone, take this flask of oil and  pour it over his head and say, ‘Thus says the Almighty:  I have annoited you king over Yisrael.’  Then, my son, open the door and flee.  Do not hesitate.  Do not wait.”

Yonah slowly took the flask. Elisha thought that the youth’s eyes burned even brighter, if that wer at all possible.  “Yes, my father.  I will do as you have instructed.  He opend the leather cord around the flask and hung it around his neck.  Then Yonah tied up the edges of his salmah and darted from the room.  Elisha’s heart went with him.

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Jun 25 2010

All About Me, Chapter 3.5

Published by under All About Me



There was a knock on the hotel door room, and everyone jumped. It wasn’t a really loud knock or anything. But, you know how it is when everyone is focused on one thing, and then something else happens, kind of unexpected. Everyone’s attention suddenly gets shocked out its orbit. For me it was no big deal. I get distracted a lot, if you haven’t noticed. I have this A.D.D., thing, remember? But, anyway, when that knock came, even they looked at the door as if it might explode or something. It didn’t. Of course, Leon became hysterical anyway. “Oh my God,” he shrieked, “Who’s that?”


No one seems to pay much attention to his panic attack. Even the rabbi didn’t seem to pay much attention to it, which was kind of surprising to me. I mean, Bobby and I were used to it, having lived with him all these years, but most strangers seem to take his drama seriously. I know you’re probably wondering who this rabbi was and what he was doing there in the hotel room with Leon, Bobby and me. I mean, that is, aside from filling out a great opening for the joke. I wish I could tell you. The truth is, I had no idea myself.


Actually, truth is, there were actually a lot of rabbis in the hotel. We, that is the terrorist and I, had taken over this whole convention of rabbis as a protest against all the inhumane and horrible things that were going on over in Palestine. Of course, unfortunately no did nay research as to what kind of rabbinical conference it was, which was a bit of a problem because this particular convention was a conference of rabbis who were against Zionism.


It took us all a bit by surprise, actually. We never expected a bunch of rabbis to be against themselves. I mean, the rabbi that was trapped in the room with me told me that Zionism was a part of Judaism from the time of the Bible. Which kinda makes sense to me. Not that I know anything about it.


By the way, it was Mustafa’s idea, actually; the takeover of the hotel, not that rabbi should be stuck in that hotel room with me. You see, this particular rabbi had nothing to do with the convention, or the takeover for that matter. Well, that is except that he was there now, so I guess he was one of the hostages. He certainly wasn’t one of the terrorists. Though, he didn’t seem to act much like a hostage to me. Then again, I was having a hard time in my role as a terrorist, so I guess we were even. For some reason, he came with my parents. They were outsiders too. I mean, they were insiders, now, I guess. I mean you’re not really allowed to take your parents hostage, are you? Isn’t that part of the Geneva Convention, or something?


Does anybody really understand that thing anyway? I mean, whose idea was that anyway? What bunch of people sat down and tried to figure out rules for killing each other? I mean, wouldn’t it have been a better idea to work out a bunch of rules for getting along, or at least tolerating each other? And, it’s really kind of silly idea, too, if you think about it. Like there’ll be some referee walking around the battlefield throwing little yellow flags, every time someone violates a rule? “No, sorry France, you’ve violated rule 16a. You’ll have to withdraw your troops from that city you just conquered, give the other side a chance to regroup, and then try and take it again, according to the rules.” I don’t really remember reading anything like that happening in the history books. It seems that the only people that ever violated the Geneva Convention were the ones that lost the war. Kind of funny the history works, huh?


Anyway, I made the mistake of calling Bobby before we actually took over the hotel. To tell you the truth, I was kinda nervous. As, I might have mentioned, I’ve never really ever done anything to feel guilty about. You might consider this to be a pretty big exception. I thought I might die or something, and wanted to give a final farewell to my loved ones. I think I may have inherited some of my father’s drama.


Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I told her we were taking over a hotel or anything. I’m not that big of a loser. I didn’t call her up and say, “Hey, Bobby, guess what I’m doing this afternoon.” But, you know how mothers are. Or is it fathers? I don’t really have a good point of reference to tell you the truth. Anyway, parents always seem to be able to figure out what’s going on, even when you think you’re hiding it pretty well. Growing up, I was convinced my mother worked for the CIA or something.


I remember one winter. I think I was in second or third grade. I came home and Bobby asked me why I didn’t wear my coat during recess. How did she know about that? I wondered. It spooked me out, to tell you the truth. I mean, how could she have possibly known? The next few days I was always on the lookout for cameras hidden in the trees of the playground. You know like the stuff you see on television, where the camera cuts to some hidden camera in the knot of a tree that the hero didn’t know about as he was infiltrating the enemy base. I figured my mom probably contracted out to some secret spy organization or something to keep an eye on me at school. As I’m sure you figured out, I never took my coat off again during recess.


Anyway, as I was saying there was this knock on the door. We all stared at the door. And then, there was a second knock. No one moved. Finally the rabbi said, “Maybe you should see who it is?”


I looked at him for a moment like he was speaking Swahili. Is that a real language? “Why me?” I asked.


He made one of those faces that most people make when I tell them my name, and said, “You’re the one with the gun. That tends to make you in charge.”


“Oh, yeah,” I said. He had a point. He really did. So, I took a deep breath, unlocked and opened the door a crack and peeked outside. It was Steve, a fellow member of S.TO.O.P.I.D. I released a deep breath. I didn’t even know I was holding it.


”It’s okay,” I said to the rest of the people in the room. “He’s one of us.” I looked at the others in the room. “Well, I mean, he’s one of me.” Bobby gave me one of those looks that made me feel like I was eight years old and had just lost her favorite fishing rod. I try to offer her a smile, but it didn’t melt any of the ice, even with the million degree heat. I let Steve into the room.


“Where’ve you been, man?” Steve asked.


Steve’s not so swift, really. For some reason he had trouble realizing the obvious. Couldn’t he connect the fact that he knocked on the door, and that I was the one to let him in? I know what you’re thinking, but no, it wasn’t him that came up with the name for the organization.


Anyway, to help him out, I tried to answer him as directly as possible. “I’ve been here,” I said.


It didn’t help much. “No,” he said, “Like, where’ve you been?”


I gave him “the look,” which is now becoming quite popular and Steve said, “Everybody’s like wondering what happened to you man. Mustafa sent me to check all the rooms.”


To tell you the truth, I wasn’t so concerned that Mustafa wanted to know where I was. He can manage just fine without me.


But then Steve said, “Alisa’s worried about you too.”


Have I mentioned this thing I have for Alisa Copper before? “Really?” I asked Steve. It wasn’t that I thought that he was lying or anything, but sometimes the truth is difficult to believe. You need to hear it at least twice.


“Yeah,” Steve confirmed. He noted my expression, I was getting a little excited, and then thought about it a second. “More like concerned, really,” he said. He knew I felt about her and didn’t want to give me any false hopes.


He succeeded. “Oh,” I answered.


“Yeah, man, so like, are you coming or what?” Steve asked.


I took a deep breath. “My parents showed up.” I nodded in their direction. Steve looked up and suddenly noticed that there were other people in the room.


“Oh wow,” Steve said, “What a drag. It’s kind of like you’re mommy driving you on your first date.” He then looked towards them and said, “Hello, nice to meet you.”


“Nice to meet you too,” everyone responded.


“Finally, we get to meet one of your friends,” Leon added.


“Yeah, anyway,” I said to Steve, “So tell Mustafa, and Alisa, where I am, and tell them I’ll join you guys in a minute. I got to finish up with my parents, ok?”


“He’s going to be pissed,” Steve said. “He’s counting on you.”


“I’ll be there in a minute,” I said, and pushed him towards the door. “I got it under control.” Of course, you know that was a bald faced lie, but what else could I say. I don’t think I’ve ever had it under control. Even if I was the one holding the gun.


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Jun 17 2010

All About Me, chapter 3

Published by under All About Me



So, I don’t want to bore you with all the details of my trip out to the airport. It wasn’t all that exciting really. Of course, the whole time, as you can imagine, I’m thinking about Alisa Cooper, and how I got to come up with a real cool opening line when I see her at the reception. I mean, she’ll be busy with all that reception stuff – no, I don’t really know what that means, either – but I would need to make sure that when I do get a chance to say something that it’s more profound than “Hey, how you doing?” Of course, then it occurred to me that I could even mess that up. I mean, what if I totally freeze, like I saw this guy do on television once. This guy; like there was only one, right? It seems half the sitcoms play out that scenario, right? Well, they wouldn’t do that if it didn’t happen all the time in real life, right? I mean what is art but an imitation of life, right? Or, is it the other way around? Is life an imitation of art? I mean, maybe all these weird things happen to people because they saw them on television and it kind of created this self-fulfilling prophecy thing. Then I’d really be doomed, considering all the television I’ve watched. Maybe I gotta watch different material, or something. I mean, cause I’ve seen the geek freeze like a million times when trying to talk to the girl. And, I mean a million times.


I don’t know. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe it’s already programmed into my being or something. That would be great, wouldn’t it? Then I’d look like a total dork, for sure, and Mustafa would end up riding off into the sunset with Alisa Cooper. Who am I kidding anyway? They’ve probably been an item since she joined the organization. In fact, she probably joined simply so she could get closer to this Mustafa guy. I haven’t got a chance, really.


I was really beginning to hate Mustafa, you know. So, then I started imaging all these weird accidents and things that might happen to him. Just by chance of course, I wouldn’t do anything to him. I haven’t the guts to tell you the truth. I wouldn’t want to be involved or anything, just an accident or something to knock him out of the competition, so that I’d have a shot at dating Alisa Cooper.


Then it occurred to me that if something did happen, like a really horrible accident or something, then Alisa Cooper might be so overcome with grief that she wouldn’t want to do anything that would diminish her recollection of him or anything and she’d keep herself chaste or whatever for the honor of his memory.


So, then I figured that maybe he could just get sick or injured, but nothing too serious, something that would just sideline him or something. But, I decide that that wouldn’t work out either, cause then I figured, Alisa Cooper being the compassionate type and all, that, even if she wasn’t interested in him, she end up feeling compelled to nurse him back to health, and then, for all that, they’d create this special healer – patient bond, and I’d be sunk again.


I just couldn’t win with this guy. He was really starting to get on my nerves.


Anyway, that was more or less what I ended up doing for most of the trip out to the Cincinnati Airport, which is where the speaker was supposed to be landing. By the way, the truth is, it’s kind of a ridiculous name for the airport, if you want to know the truth. It’s not even in Cincinnati, really. Actually, it’s not even in the same state. That’s a bit crazy if you ask me. I mean, if you’re going to build an airport and call it the Greater Cincinnati Airport, you’d at least think that they’d put it in the same state as the city it’s named after. But, no, you got to cross the whole Ohio River, go through a border crossing and customs and stuff, and drive through half the state of Kentucky before you even get there. That’s like building a monument for some crazy war and calling it a Peace Memorial, or getting married so you can date other people, or having a coup, and calling the deposed leader, the Former President For Life or, building a dressing room for strippers, or … Well, you get the point, I guess. I mean, I understand the current fashion of stripping our language of any real meaning – I mean didn’t someone once say that language prevents communication, – but, I don’t know, it seems the whole Cincinnati Airport thing might be taking things a bit too far, if you ask me.


Anyway, I left really early, because I was worried about getting there on time, considering the distance and all, and the fact that my car isn’t exactly straight off the lot, if you know what I mean. It’s still a pretty cool car, though. I got a ’92 Chevy Cavalier with over 250,000 miles on it. It gets really good gas mileage downhill. I don’t know what color you’d call the car now, though. It’s pretty rusted out, with a lot of Bondo, duct tape and a few other unidentifiable things holding it together. I’m afraid to wash it, to tell you the truth. I think it used to be red once, but that was long before I bought it. It only cost me $480, which I figured was a pretty good deal, even though it takes like three hours to warm up and there’s this really lousy smell when you run the heater. I mean, that is, when it works. Which fortunately, because I’m sensitive to smells, isn’t too often. The roof leaks a lot too, but only when the top is up. It’s a convertible, you see, which really attracted me. I thought would be a fun and all to drive around with the top down.


Except that I forgot that I live in Ohio, and twelve months out of the year it’s either raining or snowing. Actually, that’s not entirely true, and the day I bought the car, it was a nice sunny day, so the top was down. The guy I bought it from was pretty cool, but he was in a hurry and didn’t think to explain anything to me, and I didn’t think to ask. That night it started raining and I spent three hours trying to figure out how to close the top. By the time I did get it closed, the seat cushions had floated into the trunk. It took me three weeks to dry the car out. It still has this musty smell to it that never seems to go away. When the heater’s running, the two smells kind of compete with each other. It’s hard to tell which smell is worse, really.


I have three different air fresheners hanging from the rear view mirror, all of them made in China by the way, but they don’t seem to help too much. That is unless you stick your nose right next to them and inhale deeply. The last time I did that at a traffic light, some cop on a motorcycle gave me a weird look and pulled me over. He didn’t give me a ticket or anything, but he told me never to do anything like that again, or he’d cite me just for being weird. Even if he was a Class – A Jerk about it, I don’t need something like that on my record. I have enough trouble as it is. So, I no longer sniff my air fresheners in public.


Then I started thinking about the smell, and that I had to pick up this special speaker with this whole medley of smells going on in the car. I started worrying about whether this woman would notice the smell, and if it would bother her. Of course, considering she’s some Palestinian refugee, or whatever, I figured it wouldn’t matter too much. She’s probably had to deal with a lot worse smells all that time living in a bombed out building, without electricity or indoor plumbing or anything. I mean, I started thinking that my car would probably smell good to her, comparatively. Well, maybe not.


Then I started thinking about this poor old woman growing up without a decent home or anything, and how horrible it must be really. Of course, I actually know a lot of people who like to go without electricity and indoor plumbing sometimes. Well, not a lot of people, really. Maybe just a few. Actually, the truth is, just this one crazy old couple, which lived way out in the Pennsylvania woods. Bobby, my mom, and I used to go camping near their log cabin every summer. We would rough it for one week out of the year, with just a tent and a backpack. Bobby would say that it was nice to get away from the corporate wilderness, once in awhile, just to remind you of who you were. I never really know what she means when she says stuff like that. I don’t think my mom grew up in the outback or anything. I mean, as far as I know, she grew up in some apartment in the suburbs of Cleveland. Well in any case, I liked going on these trips a lot – even though we didn’t have any television for a week. I brought my Game Boy and a case of batteries to keep me busy during any lulls in our outdoor adventure. There were a lot actually. It could get so quiet out there, that sometimes you could hear yourself think. Something I try and avoid as much as possible, as I’ve mentioned. It could get quite scary sometimes, but I survived. We used to go out there every year, till I was about fifteen.


I’m not exactly sure why we stopped going, to tell you the truth. We had a lot of fun, really. My mom would have made a great boy scout, except of course, that she wasn’t a boy. I think they have rules about stuff like that. I don’t know much about it. I only got as far as Weebloes, myself. Our pack leader got arrested for child molestation and that kind of ended any chance of me ever participating in any type of group youth organization ever again. Leon, my dad, cried for three weeks over that incident. He would just look at me and then burst into tears. And I wasn’t even involved. In fact, nobody I even knew was ever involved. I later heard that our pack leader’s ex had simply made up the accusations. Something about her trying to get custody of their kids. If it was true, then it seems like it was a pretty low thing to do, if you ask me. But, you never know. Some people simply go crazy and forget to be human sometimes. Or, maybe they forget to not be human. I don’t know. They get desperate and do really stupid and evil things, anyway.


Later they might regret it, but they’ll never do anything about it, except maybe feel guilty. I once saw this guy on television talking about how everyone really likes to feel guilty, because they think that the guilty feelings they feel absolves them of their sins. Like, if they feel bad about it, then it means they’re really not such bad people. I don’t know. Seems pretty backwards, if you ask me. I feel guilty all the time and I don’t like it at all. It feels like crap, actually. And I don’t even know why I feel guilty. I never seem to have enough guts to do anything to feel guilty about, really. Just once, I’d like to finally do something that’s worth feeling guilty about. You know what I mean?


Anyway, this couple out in the woods seemed to manage just fine out there with no electricity or plumbing. I guess they were a pretty weird couple though. They said their names were Adam and Eve. To me it seems like a helluva coincidence for a couple with names like that to get together, right? I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’d have thought that if I were named Adam, I wouldn’t even think about hooking up with a girl named Eve. That would be too weird, right? I mean, I’d at least make her change her name, or I’d change mine, or something. It’s just too weird.


Anyway, even though they were a little weird, they were a really cool couple – grungy, but cool. This guy, Adam, could hunt and fish better than Daniel Boone. He even tried to teach me to shoot and hunt. I did okay, I guess. I mean, I’m an okay shot, but when we were hunting, I keep getting distracted all the time. Like I said, I’ve got this A.D.D. thing going. It was the same thing with fishing; I even lost my pole once. I had waded into this stream about halfway up to my neck, and I saw this crazy log floating downstream. I swear it looked like this huge alligator or something. I mean, I know there aren’t too many alligators in Pennsylvania, but I don’t know. I thought maybe it was one of those pet alligators that some kid in Brooklyn flushed down their toilet or something. I mean, you never know. It could have found its way from New York, right? But, then, in another moment, it looked like something else. So. I got kind of curious about it. The truth is, I don’t know what happened to my pole. The next thing I know, it’s no longer in my hands. My mom was pretty upset, to tell you the truth. It was this expensive Sage Graphite III RPL Fly Rod, with an Orvis reel. It was Bobby’s favorite, actually. She didn’t even really buy the story about the alligator so much. I don’t think she ever got over it, really.


Now that I think about it, I must’ve been fifteen when that happened.


I think it was about the same time that Adam and Eve got raided by the Feds. I’m sure you heard about it. It was on both CNN and FOX and everything. I’m not sure really what it was all about. He was wanted by the cops for like a zillion years. I’m not sure, but I think he was involved in some sort of radical stuff back in the sixties, or something. I guess that’s why he was living in a log cabin in the middle of the Pennsylvania woods, without electricity and stuff.


Then again, the cops couldn’t have been looking too hard. I mean, it sure took them a long time to find him. I mean, we knew where he was, and visited him every year. It wasn’t like he was on some deserted island or something. I think that was also the same time those guys from the ATF or the FBI or whatever initials they were using that week, came to our home late one night to talk to Bobby. They were all decked out in these super dark suits that absorbed light or something and these crazy ear pieces with a wire running into their pocket like they were plugged into the Matrix or something. They spent over three hours talking to her in her office. At least they didn’t take her to a little room in the basement of some government dungeon or something. I don’t know much about it, to tell you the truth, except that for three months afterwards, Leon kept fretting that someone was following him or hiding in the bushes or something. I don’t think my dad ever met Adam or Eve. Though I think he would have gotten along with Eve pretty much. Except that Eve was a lot less nervous, even with her being a fugitive and all.


Eve had this organic vegetable and herb garden. She was always cooking and cleaning, fidgeting over this and that. Eve really did remind me a lot of Leon, to tell you the truth. Like I said, I don’t think the two of them ever met though. Leon said that he couldn’t survive without all his creams and cosmetics and stuff. My dad can’t stand to be filthy or dirty or anything. He’s always in the bathroom freshening up. He spends a lot of time in the bathroom. Except, I don’t really notice that much of a difference between when he goes in and when he comes out. Okay, maybe they’re not so much alike, after all. I don’t think he’d survive too long as a fugitive, or a refugee either, if you know what I mean. Not unless the U.N. has a special camps for divas.


Anyway, before they were busted, my mom and me would stop by and visit Adam and Eve a couple of times almost every day while we were camping. As you can imagine, my mom got a long great with Adam. They would sit and drink and smoke cigars just like they were old army buddies or something. I don’t know from where my mom knew them, but I always got a kick out of visiting them. Their place always smelled really good too, like fresh cut pine, or something. Nothing like the stupid little “Made in China” cutouts of pine trees hanging from my mirror.


So like I said, I was thinking about this poor Palestinian refugee woman, and everything. Then, suddenly I realized that I would be picking up this poor Palestinian refugee from the airport. And then I thought that picking up some poor Palestinian woman from the airport might be a bit controversial, especially with me parading around with this crazy sign with her name on it, broadcasting to the world that I was associating with some Palestinian woman. Suddenly, I started to picture those guys in the dark suits and wires climbing out their ears dragging me off to a little room to ask me a few questions. I mean, picking up strange refugees at an airport has got to be more suspicious than sniffing car air fresheners at a traffic light, right?


Then I thought, that maybe it would be a good thing if I did get arrested. Then maybe Alisa Cooper would come and visit me in jail, and we can start one of those prison romances or something. She’d feel responsible and use all her resources to fight for my freedom and she’d write me everyday promising to wait for me until I’m free. Then again, by that time, Mustafa would have his car fixed and she’d get him to bring her to visit me in prison, and then they’d end up spending all this time together and by the time I got out they’d be married with a hundred kids already. Oh man, I did not want to get busted before I even get a chance to ask Alisa Cooper out on a date. That would be horrible.  I worried about it the rest of the way to the airport.

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Jun 13 2010

All About Me, chapter 2

Published by under All About Me


As I said, Alisa Cooper had no idea what I had meant when I told her that my folks were “a little different.” As I mentioned, with a name like America, and no last name, most people thought that my parents were either super hippies or super patriots or something like that. I couldn’t be so lucky.

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How Leon and Roberta, my parents, ever got together in the first place was always a mystery to me. Probably to everyone else that knew them, too, but I didn’t discuss it with them, so I don’t know. Then again, most couples I meet seem to defy explanation. Or, is it just me? Do you ever see two people together, like at a restaurant or something and just say to yourself, “What does she see in him?” Or, “How did he hook up with her?” I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. Anyway, Leon and Bobby were just more so, I guess. I mean, you’d of thought, if you knew them, that they’d be the kind of people that would never even get married to anyone, either of them, let alone to each other. And, here they were, married to each other. And not some quick, flash in the pan marriage either. We just celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary last year. I got them these matching Personalized Lithophane Photo Carved Night Lights. It was a stupid gift really, but as you can imagine, they’re not exactly the simplest couple in the world to buy for. It was from a picture of the three us that I had from when I was little. We were at some water park or something. I had always gotten a kick out of that picture, cause we were all wet and smiley. You could tell we were having a really good time, even if the picture was a little out of focus, and there were a few of these water droplets in the picture where they must have splashed onto the lens. They said they loved it. Especially Leon, who kept saying how it was the perfect gift and all, but he does that a lot. The truth is, I could have given him a rock, and Leon would tell me it was the most beautiful gift in the world. Anyway, to tell you the truth, I’ve been home a few times since, and I have seen those lights anywhere. Not that I did a major search or anything, but they weren’t gracing the dining room table or anything. Maybe they were in their bedroom or something. I haven’t gone into their bedroom since I was nine. I have some issues with that room, really.

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They rarely ever talked with me about their early years together, or even their childhood. All I did know was that when they first met, Leon wasn’t wearing dresses in public and Roberta, Bobby to everyone who knew her, was simply referred to as a “tom boy.” I eventually came to understand that, except for those four minutes and eight seconds that brought me into existence, Bobby never surrendered her body to anyone, including my dad. And, even that one time, was probably a guerrilla maneuver, like a nursery spider playing dead to attract a mate, a tactical surrender in order to gain an advantage. I learned all about nursery spiders from some nature show on television. Anyway, my Mom would’ve made those women in my “Language and Women” class really happy. She always wore the pants in the family, Leon, the dress, figuratively, if not always literally. The only thing that was strange, I mean aside from the whole setup itself, was that Leon, the transvestite, was always referred to as my Dad, and Bobby, the bull dyke, as my Mom. Even they gave that little nod to biology and nature. Which is funny, if you think about it. In any case, from a very young age, I started calling them by their first names, anyway. I don’t remember too much about it, really.


Of course, up until seven or eight, I didn’t even realize anything was different about my family. To me, they were normal. You know, when you grow up, that’s just what you know. Bobby was a great mom, playing “father,” taking me hiking and fishing and all that stuff that boys do with their dads. And Leon was a loving and doting dad, playing “mother,” spoiling me sometimes, fretting over everything I did, and stuff like that. In fact, sometimes I had the feeling that they typecast themselves into each other’s role as model parents, even if it was maybe a little forced. It was kind of like the Brady Bunch flipped it on its head.


Of course, Freud would have had a field day with all this, I’m sure. When I was nine, I wandered into my parent’s room and found a huge rubber penis strapped to a belt on their bed. It looked very real and very large. It sure ended any castration fantasies I may have entertained about my father; I don’t care what Freud says. Its size probably had a lot to do with my feelings of inadequacy growing up, too. That’s probably why I was never successful with girls or anything. As I’ve mentioned, I have some issues with that experience. I’ve never set foot in their bedroom again. I don’t want to find anything else lying around, if you know what I mean. You see it’s probably because of that phallus that I became a terrorist. Well, okay, maybe not.


However, none of this, of course, was I ready to share with Alisa Cooper, five minutes into our first conversation. As I said, she had no idea what I had meant when I told her that my folks were “a little different,” and I was wiling to leave it at that for now. Besides, I figure it was a good thing that she thought we had common ground.


She even volunteered her name. “I’m Alisa,” she said. “Alisa Cooper.” Like I said, her name reminds you of someone you think you should know. Actually, the name conjures up an image of a cute, sweet, little girl hiding a hatchet behind her back. In case you were wondering, she isn’t any relation to that seventeenth century witch, with a similar name, nor any of her reincarnations. She caught my expression, and smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, well, like I said,” her smiled broadened. “I kind of know what you mean. They didn’t think about their last name when the picked my first.”


That happens a lot, really, you’d be surprised. I once had a girl in my third grade, named Robin. Her last name was Hood. We both laughed. It was really cool. I was having a spectacular time. For a moment, we were solid. We were as tight as a ball of string.


Then, it all started to unravel, of course. I stood there reveling in the moment. I imagined our upcoming date; how I would pick her up, and we would stand there listening to the speaker, becoming inspired and excited by the injustice. Our passions for justice would become enflamed, and it would fan the fire we shared for each other. It would be a romance born of activism, of a pursuit of social justice. Then I imagined our upcoming wedding, and then our marriage. I know your thinking I was getting carried away, but you never know where these things could lead. We sure couldn’t mess up our children’s names any worse than our parents did. Really, you never know. Whole nations were formed on less substance, actually. You can look it up, if you don’t believe me.

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While I was living all this, she stood there waiting. I imagined she was playing out her version of the same fantasy. But then she started shifting her feet, then her head. I guess I was reveling a bit too long. The moment had passed, and I forgot to hitch a ride. “I really got go back to passing these flyers out,” she said.


I panicked. I needed to do something. So, failing to come up with anything brilliant and suave, I asked a stupid question. The tactic of the desperate, but it works every once in a while. “So, when is this rally?” I was still holding the pamphlet in my hand. The date and time were shouting off the page. Only a former president, or the guy that came up with their organization’s stupid name, would have been so blind as to ask such a question. As soon as it left my lips, I started making plans to become one of those suicide bombers. I’m pretty sure that most of them sign up, only after they were talking with some girl and their mouth started acting solo, ignoring signals from their brain. It’s a good thing there weren’t any recruiting stations in my neighborhood, or I’d be signing up three times a day.


The truth is she saved me. She was really a compassionate woman. I could tell. She grabbed my arm and pointed to the brochure, not critical or anything, but just to point out where the place, date and time was printed. The best part was she touched my arm. Did I mention that, already? Oh, sorry, but it was really fantastic. The only problem was I didn’t really know how to handle it so well. I kind of froze. I mean, I had just been making plans to build a future with this woman, which, I got to tell you, was hopefully going to involve a lot of touching, but I never really expected it. And, then when it did happen, my whole system nearly shut down. What was even worse was I caught a whiff of her, and I don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything so terrific. It was probably just a clean soap smell, but it shot straight to my brain, and the thing overloaded, or at least it nearly did.


Smell has got to be one of the most enigmatic things around, you know. Isn’t that a cool word? I don’t get to use it too much, but anytime I get the chance, I throw it in. And, it really works in this case, because nothing is more enigmatic that the sense of smell. When you catch a particular smell it can evoke a million memories, right. But, think about it, I don’t think I can ever actually remember, that is recall, a smell like I can an image or a sound. You know, where you actually see it or hear it in your mind. I once read that if someone doesn’t have a sense of smell, he’ll eventually go crazy. I can believe it. But then again, some smells make me go crazy, you know? It’s the coolest sense around. I’m digressing again. Sorry about that. I did mention about the A.D.D. thing, right?


She bit her lower lip. Normally, things like that bother me. I mean, on most people, it’s a clear signal that they’re about to take advantage of you. I’ve seen it before. But on Alisa Cooper, it was kind of cute. And, the truth is, I wanted her to take advantage of me. I mean despite all I said, it’s really hard to build a relationship on the fact that we were both embarrassed by our names, right?


“Can I ask a favor?” she asked.


“Sure. What is it?”


So, she’s standing there, holding my bicep, biting her lip, and wondering how to ask me this favor she needs. I’m just waiting for her to ask so I can say yes. I’m sure you realize that there wasn’t much chance of me refusing. At the same time I was wondering if my bicep was big enough. Maybe I should have done a few push-ups that morning, so she’d have something to hold on to. I was also trying to remember if I had used deodorant that morning. I know that’s a pretty weird thought, but considering how great she smelled, I was terrified that I might spoil the atmosphere. It was hot that day. Not as hot as it was in the hotel room, where I started this story, but it was still pretty hot. I hoped I wasn’t sweating too much. I take after my mom in that area. Of course, the situation itself was helping to increase the activity of my sweat glands, to tell you the truth. So, the most important thing for me at that point was whether I had put on deodorant that morning, and I couldn’t remember doing it. That happens a lot really. I do things, automatically every day, and then don’t actually remember doing them. I tried to retrace my steps, and everything. I know I showered. There was a problem with the hot water and I nearly burned the skin off my back. But other than that, I couldn’t remember. I know I got dressed, because, well, I was wearing clothes at the moment. Boy, I wished she’d ask her favor quickly, so I could stop worrying about the stupid deodorant.

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It all goes back to that sense of smell, really. I’ve noticed that woman have a particularly attuned sense of smell. It really boggles my mind sometimes, if you want to know the truth. I don’t know how she knew, but, as she asked, I knew that she already knew the answer. She was just confirming her suspicions. How do girls do that?


“Do you have a car?” she asked, with expectant eyes.

Of course, even if didn’t have a car, you know, I would have bought one in about thirty seconds. As it turned out though, I already owned one. “You need a lift somewhere?” I asked, already fantasizing about a long car ride through the country, or maybe a road trip to Vegas, or …


“Well, sort of,” she started. “You see, Mustafa’s car is in the shop …”


“Who’s Mustafa?” I asked, already getting jealous. I suddenly had this image of one of those suave, dark and devilishly, handsome Arab gentlemen, oozing with desert masculinity. “Ah, my dear Alisa,” his voice would sing, as he kissed her hand, “come back with me to my palace in Arabia, and I will make you queen of my herem.”


Alisa Cooper though, kept his secret charms to herself. She simply said, “Oh, he’s kind of the leader of our organization. He’s a grad student. He was supposed to pick up the speaker at the airport, but now he can’t. I’m kind of responsible for finding a replacement.”

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So here was my opportunity. I’m usually good at blowing these types of sure-fire situations. It was really handed to me on a silver platter. An opportunity to drive Alisa Cooper to the airport to meet her speaker; we’d have a ton of time to get to know each other, without any pressure, just casual conversation. And no one would be able to cut in, and she’d kind of be a captured audience. I mean, not like really captured, but I’d have to be the worst conversationalist in the world if she asked me to stop and let her out somewhere along the highway or something. I mean, even to me that doesn’t happen.


Well, it doesn’t usually happen anyway. And even then, that one time, with Susan Freeds, it had nothing to do with me really. She had gotten food poisoning from the restaurant. How was I suppose to know that the Chinese place had been condemned by the Health Department? I mean there were a lot of other people there, too. Did you notice that Americans seem to have a fascination with everything Chinese? How many “American” restaurants do you think there are in China, huh? Maybe one. Right? And that’s just for all those American tourists that get homesick for the restaurants that they don’t go to when their home. I’m mean, when they’re in America, they’re always ordering Chinese, but in Hong Kong, they want “American” food. Which I don’t even know what that is, really. If you think about it, Chinese food is American food, and so is Indian, and Italian and stuff. Though, things are getting pretty weird, you know. I once bought this package labeled “Traditional American Hot Dogs,” but when I got them home I saw “Made in China” was stamped in small print on the label. So, I’m wondering. Is that also considered Chinese food?


So, in any event, I think the reason Susan Freed made me pull over and let her out of the car had more to do with the food poisoning, than with my company. The funny thing is, though, I didn’t even feel queasy.


So, anyway, as I’m reliving Susan Freed’s recycling of her meal, Alisa started filling in the details of her favor. “So, like I hardly even know you, but could you maybe?” She started asking.


“No problem,” I said, the hero charging in to save the damsel in distress. “I’d love to.”


“Wow, that’s great. Thanks. I really appreciate it.” Her smile was fantastic. “Let me write down the information for you.” She took the flyer that was in my hand and started writing things down. “She’s coming in this evening. We’re having a reception for her at the Commons. I’ll write down her flight information for you. You’ll need a sign, so she can find you when she comes out of the terminal.”


“You’re not coming?” I asked, suddenly watching my plans swirl down the drain.


“No, I need to set up the reception.” She offered me a curious look. “Why would I need to go?”


She had to set up the reception? What? Was she the only one that did anything in this organization? Why couldn’t this Mustafa set up the reception? He was probably going to be there. They were probably going to be setting it up together. He probably arranged for his car to be in the shop so he could use the opportunity to get close to Alisa. I was beginning to hate this Mustafa guy. He was probably the one who came up with the organization’s stupid name too.


I began to stutter. “I don’t know. I mean. I thought.” Finally, I allowed the centrifugal force to suck me into its depths. “Sure. I guess it was a silly idea,” I offered weakly.


Alisa Cooper, though, like most women, knew how to keep me in the game. Is it something innate, or do they learn it at some special school for women. “I’ll see you at the reception,” she said as I was leaving, catapulting my hopes into the stratosphere.


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Jun 07 2010

The Haunted Heart, Chapter One

Published by under Haunted Heart


Chapter 1


“Here we are,” Richard said as he turned into the wide circular driveway. The seven year old girl sitting in the backseat of the SUV leaned forward, eyes widening almost as much as her smile.

“Your first sleepover, Nell. A little excited?” Richard smiled. He was so happy to see his daughter smile. It had been a rough few years. Man, had it been.

“Wow!” exclaimed Nell.

“Yeah, it’s pretty big house, huh?” Richard said as he opened his door. He eyed the expansive Craftsman/Bungalow styled home. “Nice,” he thought. He especially liked the large reflective bay windows that stretched the entire height of the three-story home. Richard looked over his shoulder. They probably have a nice view of the hills over the tree line facing the property. The house was only one of less than a half a dozen on the street. Wood lined the south side of the street. That’s a rarity, today, thought Richard.

“Yeah, Sally’s got two brothers and a sister.” Nell looked at her father, who had now opened her door and was lifting her out of the car. “Daddy, will I ever get a sister?”

Richard rolled his eyes. “I don’t know sweetheart. We’ll have to see. Not for a while anyway.” He grabbed the “My Little Pony” backpack from the seat and shut the car door. “Well, let’s go meet Sally’s mom.”

Nell grabbed her father’s hand, squeezed it and led him towards the house. As they approached, the white double doors opened and a little girl about the same age as Nell came running out. “Nell!” She screamed as only a little girl can.

“Sally!” Nell answered.

“You’re the first! Cool! Marcy’s coming. Stephanie too. Wendy can’t come cause she’s got some kinda of bug or something. But Amy said she’d be come. Is this your Dad? Wow. He’s cute. Come on! I’ll show you my room!” As Sally led Richard’s daughter running through the doors, they almost collided with the woman that was now exiting. She laughed as the girls scrambled around her.

“You must be Mr. Faux,” she said offering a hand and a smile. “I’m Barbara, Sally’s mom.

“Richard,” he said taking her hand. “And yeah, judging by the blur, she could almost be your twin.” He paused. “In another fifteen years, I mean.”

Her smile widened. “Well, looks and charm. We’re going to have to find a girl for you, Mr. Faux,” she said. “Richard.”

Richard shrugged and rolled his eyes.

“In fact, I may know someone, a friend of mine?”

“Is she as pretty as you?”

“Mr. Faux, keep talking like that, and the next time my Bill takes a business trip, it won’t be you’re daughter I’ll be having for a sleepover.”

Richard laughed, a little nervously. It was only innocent flirting, he knew that, but a shudder ran up his spine. He turned, a little too quickly, and looked at the woods across the street. “You have a lovely view, Barbara.”

“I’m sorry,” she offered. “A little too much, huh?” A glimmer of sadness touched her eyes. “I know about your …”

“Yeah, the whole world knows about it.” Richard sighed. “Um,” he turned back towards Barbara. “I’m sorry, I’m a little off my game.” He shrugged. “Anyway.”

“It’s okay.” Barbara smiled.

“Yeah, anyway.” Richard drew a deep breath. “That’s why we’re a little early. “You see Nell’s had it pretty rough. This is the first time she’s going to be away from me for any length of time, and …”

“You want me to have her call you with hourly updates?” Barbara joked.

Richard chuckled. “Yeah, it’s going to be a little rough for me too, I guess, but …” He shifted nervously. “But, uh, I just wanted to prep you, and leave my numbers, and …”

“It’ll be okay, Richard. This isn’t my first sleepover” Barbara put a hand on Richard’s shoulder. “Come on in, have a cup of coffee, check things out a bit, and leave me your numbers. I’m sure Nell will be fine, really.”

Richard allowed himself to be escorted inside. “I just mean, if she gets nervous or something, it’s no problem for me to come back and pick her up, if she needs.”

Barbara laughed. “You’ve never experienced a girl’s sleepover have you? She won’t have time to be worried.”

“I mean, you never know.”

“You on the other hand,” Barbara offered another smile. “When Tracy, Sally’s older sister, went on her first sleepover, I was a bundle of nerves. What if? You know?”

“Yeah, I know. You have no idea.” It was Richard’s turn to laugh. “Maybe I will take you up on that cup of coffee, until the other kids get here.”




Richard pulled his SUV into the driveway of his little bungalow. He released a chuckle. At least he had a home now. Small as it was. Richard decided he was going to enjoy tonight. After dropping off his daughter, he picked up his supplies for his first night of peace in a very long time. It seemed like a lifetime really. Maybe it was. Grabbing the grocery bag and pizza he headed for the front door.

That’s strange, he thought. I thought I left the porch light on. As Richard got to the door, he looked around. That strange shiver rolled up his spine again. He released a sigh. “Nerves,” he said. “You’re being paranoid, Richard. And now,” he laughed. “You’re talking to yourself.”

“After all this, you’re going to go crazy? Just when your life starts getting normal again.” Richard unlocked the two deadbolts and then the doorknob. “Relax, Richie. It’s going to be okay,” he told himself. “It’s going to be okay.”

And it would be. He really felt it would be. His little encounter with Sally’s mother was awkward, but normal. He could learn to have a real life again. “I hope Nell’s doing okay,” he said.

Richard shut the door behind him with his foot, quickly put his wares on the floor and went to disarm the alarm. It only had a thirty-second delay. But, as he went to enter his code, he stopped short. He looked again at the liquid crystal display. Did he forget to turn on the alarm? Was that possible? Richard was dumbfounded. Suddenly, that shudder rolled up and down his back again. He drew a breath. His stomach rose to his throat. His eyes searched the foyer. He listened to the empty house. His hand went to his mouth. Someone is here. Richard felt his pulse increase. He couldn’t catch his breath. He closed his eyes. Don’t panic!

“Too late,” he said out loud, a little too loud. “Calm down. She can’t be here. It’s not possible. It’s just your imagination. Nell is safe. Nell is safe,” he repeated. Richard laughed. He was worried about letting his daughter go to the sleepover, but at least now she was safe.

That actually helped. Richard inhaled deeply, trying to force himself to be calm, to think. “I don’t know. Maybe, I was so worried about the sleepover, I forgot to set the alarm. Everything is fine. She’s not here. Jane is not here. She can’t be. She’s locked up. She can’t hurt us anymore. She is not here.” He allowed himself to sit on the staircase. He sat there for a good while.

When his pulse returned to normal, Richard picked up the grocery bag and pizza and went into the living room. He dropped the pizza on the table, removed the six-pack from the grocery bag and brought it to the kitchen.

“Well, that was fun, Richie. Now you’re pizza’s cold and your beer is warm. Does it ever get any easier?” He put five of Heinekens in the freezer, and opened the sixth. “Well, here’s to good friends, panic and paranoia,” he said as he took a long pull on the bottle. “Tonight is kinda special.” He took another pull. “No, that’s Lowenbrau.” Richard shrugged. “I’m doing well tonight.” He returned to living room.

“Okay, a little Springsteen, some pizza and The Dark Tower. We can salvage the evening.” Richard paused. “I gotta stop talking to myself.”

Richard’s pocket started vibrating while chiming “Born to Run.” He looked at the cell phone. It was Steven, his lawyer and probably his last friend on the planet.

He flipped open the phone, but before he could say hello, Steven practically shouted, “Where are you? Turn on Channel Five News, right now. And sit down.”

“What is it?”

“Just do it, right now. I’ll stay on the line. Are you at home? Good. Sit down, man, and take a deep breath.”

That was out of the question. Richard’s breath seized in his chest. He grabbed the remote and flipped on the television. His eyes riveted to the screen. Automatically, he sat on the edge of the couch. “What is it?” he whispered into the phone, but he knew, somehow he knew.

A fire danced in the background of the screen as the voice of a young woman described the news event. The words at the bottom of the screen seemed to laugh at Richard, “Live from the Bergen County Female State Penitentiary for the Criminally Insane,” and he knew. He didn’t really need to hear the announcer describe how three women escaped, killing two guards and wounding four others. Two of the prisoners were killed, but the third was still missing.”

“Are you okay?” Steven asked.


“Are you okay? It’s not as bad as it sounds. They’re not identifying the escaped prisoners yet.”

“I know. You know.”

“We don’t know anything yet, Rich.”

“Yes we do. That’s why you called me.” Richard buried his face in his hand. “Oh God, what am I going to do?”

Suddenly, the whole evening returned to Richard in a flash. The door. The alarm. Did he smell her perfume when he walked in? She was there. She was in the house. Nell. Oh God, what if she gets to Nell. He had to get to Nell, to make sure she was safe.

“Steve, I got to go.”

“No, Richard, wait. Let me help you. I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Don’t do anything till I get there. Okay? Rich?”

Richard had already hung up the phone. He went to the closet and grabbed his Louisville Slugger. “Okay Bitch, where are you?”

The house was deadly quiet. The one thing that helped him keep his grip on sanity was the fact that Nell wasn’t home. She was safe. Even she couldn’t know where Nell was. Richard walked towards the stairs. She must be upstairs. The sound of his breathing echoed in his ear with each step. “How did you do it Jane? How?”

Before Richard made it to the upstairs landing, there was a loud knock at the front door. Richard’s heart smashed into his teeth. The bat fell from Richard’s hands and clattered down the stairs. Richard gasped. There was another loud knock on the front door. Mr. Fax,” a deep male voice boomed, “Are you there?”

Richard collected himself and descended the stairs. He picked up the bat and opened the door to two large men in suits. They both held out their police identification for Richard to see. “Mr. Fax?” the first one asked.


“May we come in, sir?” the blonde one asked. “Did you happen to see the news?”

“Or are you just getting ready for spring training?” the first one pointed to the bat.

“Yeah, well, I …” Richard shrugged, “Come on in. I suppose this is about the prison break, right? It was Jane, wasn’t it?” He led the two detectives to the living room.

“How did you know?”

Richard looked at the two cops. “Are you at all familiar with this case officers?”

“Yeah, it is pretty ‘Outer Limits,’ I guess.”

“But you don’t have anything to worry about,” offered the second one, “That’s why we’re here. She’s dead.”

“What?” It was too incredible to believe.

“Well, in the course of their escape, a gas canister ignited and exploded. We found two bodies, and parts of a third.”


“Your ex-wife is dead, Mr. Faux.”

“You’re sure? She’s dead?” Richard repeated. His legs gave out and sank to the floor. Richard began to cry. “Oh God.” He breathed deeply. “Oh God.”

“Are you alright, Mr. Fax?”

“Mr. Fax?”

“It’s Fox, as in the animal,” Steven said as he stepped through the door.” “Is everything okay, Richard?”

“She’s dead, Steve.” Richard looked up at Steven’s voice. “I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.”

The blonde detective turned to Steven, “Sir, what’s your involvement in all this, if may I asked.”

Steven sized up the two men quickly. “I’m his friend.” Steven shifted his gaze from one officer to the other. “And attorney. What’s yours?” Steven asked.

“We’re with the State Police,” said the one with the deep voice. “I’m Sergeant Banes, and this is Detective Hackman. “We came to inform Mr. Faux of the news.”

“And?” asked Steven, knowing there was something else.

“Well, his daughter is listed as the next of kin,” confessed the one called Banes, “and we need to know how to …” His voice trailed off as he searched for the right words.

“Dispose of the remains,” offered his partner.

Banes scowled at Hackman, “He means that we need to know what type of arrangements should be made.”

“What do you guys normally do with psycho killers?” asked Steven.

“Steve, please,” pleaded Richard.

“What? You’re going to defend her, now?” Steve asked Richard. “Five people are dead because of her. What would you have me call her?”

Richard sighed. “She’s dead Steve. I was married to her, and she’s still Nell’s mother. Let it rest.” Turning to the detective, he asked, “What do I need to do?”

“Well, as your daughter’s guardian, you can take custody of the body, and have it transferred to a funeral home, or you can sign off on it, and let the state ‘dispose’ of the remains.”

“No, we’ll give her a proper funeral.”

“I don’t believe you.” Steven rolled his eyes. “After all she put you through? You’re a fucking saint.”

“What are you?” asked Hackman, “The other woman?”

“Shut it, asshole,” Steven shouted. I’ve seen what she’s done to him.”

“Hackman,” Banes cautioned.

“Sorry, counselor.” There was almost some sincerity in Hackman’s apology.

“Hey, where is Nell?” asked Steven.

“At a sleepover.”

“You were free tonight, and you didn’t call me?” asked Steven.

“I just got back from dropping her off, when you called,” Richard answered. “And, I just needed some time for myself.”

“Girls, can you hash this out later, I want to get home to my wife,” interjected Hackman.

“Hackman!” Banes chided.

“Do I have to sign for her tonight?” asked Richard.

Banes pulled out some folded documents from his jacket. “We brought you the forms, Mr. Foax. You want to look at them, counselor?”

“Yeah, let me see them,” Steven said reaching for the papers.



“Thanks for your cooperation, Mr. Foax,” Banes said as he walked towards the door. “Good luck.”

“Thanks, officer. Um…” Richard paused while escorting the police officers to the door.”

“Is there something else you need, Mr. Foax?” Bane asked.

“Yeah, I know it’s kinda silly, maybe even a little crazy, but could you give the house a once over. Check upstairs …”

“What for?” asked Steven.

“Paranoia.” Richard forced a smile. “Just to put my mind at rest, you know.”

“Sure, Mr. Foax. Come on Hackman,” Banes said, as he mounted the stairs.

“The guy’s a little nuts isn’t he?” asked Hackman when the two of them were upstairs. “What’s he expecting, her ghost?”

“Look, the guy’s on edge. He’s been through a lot. Besides,” Banes looked at his partner, “I’m not going to give up an opportunity to check out his house.”

“What gives?” asked Hackman.

“Oh nothing. Just intuition,” Banes entered what appeared to be the main bedroom. “Look, there’s no way that lady was able to break out without outside help. I don’t believe it, and …” Banes eyes caught something on the bedroom mirror. “Look at this.”

“So what? He’s got a picture of his wife,” said Hackman.

“Ex-wife,” corrected Banes. “And, after all she put him through, too. Makes that Fatal Attraction lady look like a girl scout. He was even set up as the murderer. Sat in jail for awhile.”

“You don’t think that this guy …”

“Probably not. But something’s not right about all this. Just don’t know what it is. Come on, let’s get back downstairs.”



“You want me to stay awhile?” Steven asked after the police had left. “I can sleep over, and then I can ride over to the funeral home with you in the morning.”

“Don’t you have a life?”

“No, not really.” Steven laughed, “It’s what I get for hanging around with you.”

“Thanks, man,” Richard said, “You really are good friend. There’s some cold pizza and some Heineken in the freezer.”

“Why don’t we warm up the pizza? We’re not in college anymore.”

“Go ahead. I’ll go fix up the guest room,” said Richard.

Steven headed towards the kitchen when his Blackberry began to ring. He looked at the Caller I.D. and scowled. “Yeah,” he said into the phone.

Steven became increasingly impatient as he listened to the caller. “Look, I’m little busy… Don’t be a …” Steven looked to see if Richard was within earshot. “Just let yourself out … And you too … Deal with it.” Steven closed his phone and shoved it back into his pocket.

“What’s up?” asked Richard.

“Nothing,” said Steven, “nothing at all.”



“Come on Steve, we’re going to be late,” Richard called from the doorway.

“I’m coming, I’m coming.” Steven jogged towards the door. I couldn’t find my shoe.”

“Arm the alarm, will you?” Richard asked as he held the door.

“Sure,” Steven answered as he coded the alarm box. “I don’t know why you need this thing anymore.”

“Humor me,” replied Richard.

Steven exited the house, and Richard double locked the front door. “I’ll drive,” said Steven. “Are we picking up Nell first, or going straight to the funeral home?”

“No. We’ll pick up Nell on the way home. I already talked to Barbara, and she says Nell can stay all day if I want.”


“The girl’s mother. She’s really nice.”

“Don’t you think it’s a little soon,” Steven chided.

“She’s married with four kids, Steve.” Richard laughed. “She did say she had a friend for me though.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet,” Steven joked. “Just be careful. I’m tired of bailing you out of trouble.”



“Are you sure you don’t want to come in?”

“No, I’ll wait in the car. Just don’t take all day.” Steven leaned back in his seat. “I’d like to salvage what’s left of my Sunday.”

“You won’t even know I’m gone. I’ll just grab Nell, say thank you and we’ll be off.”

“Are you going to tell her?” asked Steven

“I’m going to wait till the funeral on Tuesday. I don’t want to ruin her day. This is the first time she’s had friends and a sleepover …”

“Yeah, whatever. Just go.”

“You asked,” Richard said as he closed the car door. He admired the house again as he approached the door. This time, he had to knock.

But, he didn’t have to wait long for an answer. The door opened and Barbara greeted him warmly. “Richard, so good to see you. Come on in.”

“I can’t stay long. My friend is waiting in the car.”

“Nell, you’re father’s here,” Barbara shouted into the house. “How are you doing? She asked Richard.

“I’m okay.” He smiled. “A little confused, to tell you the truth. A part of me is relieved, but I’m also a little sad. You didn’t say anything to Nell, did you?”

“No. You’re not going to tell her?”

“Not today. The funeral is going to be on Tuesday, and I want to wait till then.”

“Well let me know if you need anything.”

“Thank you. Really.”

Nell and Sally came running down the stairs like screaming banshees. “Daddy!” She yelled as she jumped into Richard’s awaiting embrace.

“Had a good time, kitten?”

“Oh yes! It was fantastic!”

“The girls spent all night telling ghost stories, and didn’t fall asleep till the middle of the night,” offered Barbara.

“Wow. How do you manage?” Richard asked Barbara.

“Oh, I’m fine. I love little girls. Just wait till you have a son,” she joked.

“Come on kitten, Uncle Steve is waiting in the car,” said Richard.

“Uncle Steve?” Nell said. “Come on Sally, you’ve got to meet Uncle Steve, he’s really cool.” Nell raced out the door followed by Sally.

Barbara walked Richard to the door at a slower pace. She placed a hand on his forearm. “Listen, I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but if you need a hand, you want me to watch Nell or have her sleepover, please feel free to ask. I’d like to help.”

“Thanks. I may take you up on that. We need to get our balance, and start living again.” Richard placed his hand on Barbara’s. “I appreciate it.”

“Pretty friendly woman,” Steven said to Richard as he entered the car. “Where’s her husband?”

“Business trip.”

“Ahh,” mocked Steven.

“Stop that,” chided Richard, “You sound like …”

Richard swallowed hard at the thought. Her,” he said. Richard shook his head at the memory and turned in his seat to face Nell. “All strapped in, honey?”

“Yes, Daddy,” answered Nell.

“Did you have a good time?”

“Oh it was the best time. Can I stay over again? Sally wants me too, and Aunt Barbara says its okay. Can I?”

“We’ll see honey. I’ll talk with Aunt Barbara and we’ll work it out?”

Steven laughed. “Aunt Barbara? So now she’s part of the family?”

“Give it a rest, Steve.”




“Isn’t it suppose to rain at a funeral?” whispered Steven to Richard. They were standing graveside, as the two men on either side of the grave lowered the casket into it. Nell was holding her father’s hand, staring into the grave.

“You didn’t have to come, Steve,” Richard whispered back.

“Ah well,” Steve shrugged. “I don’t understand why you’re going through the trouble, but you are my friend. Might as well see it through to the end.”

“Mommy can rest now, right Daddy?” asked Nell.
“What did you say?” asked Richard.

“Well, I mean, God will take care of her now right?” Nell looked at her father. “You said the doctors would help her, that she’d find rest in the hospital.” Nell’s face was very serious. “Now, that she’s with God, he’ll help her right?”

“I’m sure He will, sweetheart. “

“She’s probably roasting marshmallows,” Steven whispered to Richard.


Someone approached the grave. Both looked up and were surprised to see Sergeant Banes.

“Sergeant Banes?” Richard asked.

The detective smiled. “I came to offer my condolences, Mr. Foax.” He offered his hand. Richard shook it. “This must be Nell,” he said kneeling before the seven year old. “I’m sorry about your mom.”

Nell looked up to Richard. He encouraged her to take the detective’s hand.

“It’s okay, Daddy says that Heaven is better than the hospital.”

Banes stood up. “I’m sure it is, dear. Hopefully she can find peace.”

The gravediggers began filling in the grave. Banes, Richard and Nell began walking towards the gravel road where the cars were parked. Steven hung back. When the others were a few yards away, he turned and spit into the grave. One of the gravediggers looked up, but said nothing.

“Rot in hell, you little wench,” Steven hissed. “Game over!”

Bane walked Richard to his car. “Didn’t she have any friends? Family?” he asked.

“Well, everyone kind of abandoned us, when the killings started. You know, everyone thought we were just bad luck to be around at first, and then when everyone found out …” Richard sighed. “No one knew how to handle it. It was easier to avoid it.”

Bane smiled. “Well, he stuck by you.” Banes nodded towards Steven who was coming towards them. Richard buckled Nell into her seat.

“Yeah, Steve’s been great. He was my roommate in college, the last of the old gang.”

“Talking about me?” asked Steven.

“Just telling the detective what a good friend you’ve been to me, and to Jane.” Richard sighed. “You coming back to the house?”

“Yeah sure,” said Steven.

“You were Jane’s friend too?” asked Banes.

“Once. You know how it is,” answered Steven.

Banes nodded. “Not really, no.”

“You know, before she flipped out,” offered Steven.

“I see,” said Banes.

“Well, we need to get going Sergeant. Do you want to come back to the house? We have a spread,” offered Richard.

“For a woman that made your life a living hell, you’re going to an awful lot of trouble,” Banes said.

“Yeah, well,” Richard demurred. “My shrink would tell you I have some conflicted feelings about her. She’s Nell’s mom, she was my wife. A part of me will miss her, and now that she’s dead, the part of me that was terrified of her is…” He searched for the right words. “I’m trying to make my peace.”

“Is there a reason you’re asking all these questions, detective?” Steven asked.

Banes smile widened. “No, no, just curious by nature. It gets me into trouble with my wife all the time.” He turned to Richard. “Mr. Foax, thank you, but I’ll have to take a rain check on the offer. I do need to get back to my job.” Banes took out a business card and handed it to Richard. “I can’t imagine why you’d need this, but just in case, please feel free to call if you need anything.”

“Thank you,” said Richard, placing the card into his pocket.

Banes turned and walked to his car. Steven looked after him. “I don’t trust him,” he said.

“Now look at who’s being paranoid, Steve,” Richard chuckled. “It’s all over.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” answered Steven. “I guess it’s just my nature. I am an attorney.” He patted Richard on the shoulder, before turning and walking to his car.


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Jun 03 2010

All About Me – The Novel

Published by under All About Me



You want to hear a joke? Okay, a transvestite, a bull dyke and a rabbi are all trapped in a hotel room. So far so good, right? I mean that’s a pretty good opening for a joke, right? The only problem is, so far, that’s all I got. I don’t know the punch line yet. To tell you the truth, I was never very good at telling jokes. It’s not that I don’t have a sense of humor, or anything. I come up with a lot of great one-liners and witticisms all the time. Well, at least I think them, anyway. They sound great in my head, you know. But, for some reason, the minute they leave my brain, they seem to trip over my tongue and crash into my teeth, long before they ever get a chance to leave my mouth.


Anyway, this joke – the one about the transvestite, the dyke and the rabbi – the truth is, it was actually my life. No, really. See, aside from the three of them, I was also trapped in that room. Of course, I didn’t have a label like they did. I’m not an easy kind of guy to label, you see. Really. I was never good at those, “describe yourself in fifty words or less” things either. The other day I got on Facebook, and it asked me what was on my mind. But, it only gave me a few hundred characters before it cut me off. I need a few hundred pages just to get warmed up. Then again, maybe there’s really nothing on my mind, and I just keep the chatter up to convince myself otherwise. That would be scary. I hope it’s not true.


I guess, what it really is, is that I’m never really focused enough for a label. You see I’m a little A.D.D. If anything, I spend a lot of time and effort trying hard not to define who I am “in fifty words or less.” Anytime the urge towards self-reflection does pop into my head, I’m always able to find a good distraction. Thank God for television, right? I’m kind of a T.V. addict. If I get in front of a television, I just lose myself, even when it’s a program I’ve already seen; even when it’s a really crappy show. There’s a lot of crap on television, as I’m sure you know. There really is.

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The television in this hotel room wasn’t working. Nothing was actually. It seemed that the police had cut off power to the hotel, in order to force the terrorists to surrender. I guess I forget to mention the terrorists, right? Oh yeah, well, sorry. As you can imagine, I’m a little preoccupied here. And, on top of everything else, as I mentioned, there’s no television, so I’m nervous to start with. So yeah, there’re terrorists, too. I forgot to mention the terrorists. See, little details like that can be really important, when you’re telling a joke, or describing life. Same thing really. It’s why I have so much difficulty with both of them.

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The terrorists; that’s how we all got stuck in this room together, without television, without air conditioning, in the middle of a hot and humid summer heat wave; a regular dog’s day afternoon, if you’ll pardon the expression. So there we were, all sitting in the room together; the dyke was sweating, the transvestite was perspiring and the rabbi was schvitzing. Schvitzing is Jewish for sweating. I learned that from watching television. You can learn a lot of neat words from the tube, so it can’t be all that bad. I mean there’s some educational value to watching it, right? Anyway, I don’t know what the terrorists were doing. They weren’t in the room.

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That is, except for me. Oh yeah, another point I may have forgotten to mention. I happened to be with the terrorists. Did I mention I ‘m A.D.D.? Yeah, sorry, about that. So, some might say that this whole joke was really all my fault. It might be true, really. They have a point anyway. Then again, I’m not so sure.


Anyway, so you can picture it, I’m standing against the door, with a very large Chinese AK-47 pointed at the other three people in the room. It even had “Made in China” stamped on the black metal. The gun, I mean, not the people. There weren’t any Chinese people in the room, and even if there were, I doubt they’d be stamped with a label. That would be a kick, wouldn’t it, if everyone went around with a label on their head, telling everyone what they were made of. I wonder what mine would say.


It’s funny, you know, most of the things I own are made in China. I’ve never been to China. Actually, I’ve never been out of the United States. Well, I did go to Canada once. I don’t know. Does that count? I know Canadians get all upset when you suggest that Canada is just like the U.S., but to tell you the truth, I didn’t notice that much of a difference. I don’t mean any offense by it, or anything. When I was there, though, I bought this really cool souvenir: a model of a Canadian Mounty. It must be cool to be a Mounty, except I’m kind of scared of horses, so I probably wouldn’t be so hot at the job. The only thing is, when I got it home and looked on the bottom of this thing, it said, “Made in China.” If I ever get to China, I bet they’ll have a million souvenirs, with “Made in Mexico,” stamped on them, or something like that. I don’t know, maybe not.


Anyway, I don’t really consider myself a terrorist – not a real one, anyway. Yeah, I got the gun and all but it’s not so simple. It takes more than a gun to make someone a terrorist, right?

Actually, this whole thing really started about a year ago. And, it had nothing to do with politics or war or peace or any of those things. It’s really all about love. That, and a girl named Alisa Cooper. I know what you’re thinking. She’s got one of those names that make you think you must know her from somewhere. But, I doubt it. She doesn’t get around that much.


I met Alisa Cooper as I was crossing the quad on campus. She had long brown hair pulled tight into a bun that clung to the nape of her neck. She was wearing a snug white t-shirt with red lettering – from the angle I couldn’t make them out, and a pair of Levis, that while not exactly tight, didn’t hide her figure at all. To tell the truth, I get distracted a lot walking around campus. There are so many … I don’t know what the word is, “opportunities,” maybe. Yeah, I know that sounds sexist and all, but I don’t mean it that way. I’m not this sex crazed fiend or anything. I just really like to talk to women, and be around them, even though I’ll never understand them in a million years. Of course, they aren’t all real opportunities anyway. Most of them, actually, aren’t even close. In fact, none of them have ever really panned out for me at all, so far. But, like a kid staring at the display window of a candy shop, the fantasy of possibilities is always very exciting.


The truth is, if you knew anything about me, you’d probably think I’m the least sexist guy in the world, considering my upbringing and all. I guess just being a guy makes me an automatic sexual suspect these days. I once signed up for this feminist class about “Women and Language.” I was the only guy that had ever signed up for the course in the whole history of the school. You’d a thought that people would appreciate that, right? You know, kind of give you the benefit of the doubt? However, the first day of class, two of the women wanted to have a vote to see if I could stay. They claimed I would ruin the dynamic. They didn’t even know me. I hadn’t even opened my mouth yet, or anything. I was just sitting there at the table, doodling in my notebook. There were only about a dozen of us in the class, anyway. No one would speak to me at all, though. They just all stared at me; wouldn’t say a word. It was like the “cat got their tongue,” as my mother would say.


Thankfully, the professor, her name was Ellen James, wouldn’t hear of it. I think that put everyone on edge with her for the rest of the course, to tell you the truth. She kind of made things even more tense when about halfway though the semester she went and got married. It was to this really nice guy, a professor in the Anthropology Department. I mean he was probably a bigger feminist than John Stoltenberg or Michael Kimmel or one of those other male feminist guys. It didn’t matter though. Half of the women in the class acted as if she was the biggest traitor in the world for getting married to a guy. Despite what they say, I don’t think they were the most open-minded bunch of people in the world, to tell you the truth.


Anyway, she was my type, this Alisa Cooper, not the women in the class. Not that there was anything wrong with them or anything, but I think I would prefer to date a girl that didn’t think my gender was just “an annoyance of evolutionary biology.” I don’t thinking I’m setting my sights to high to want more than that in a relationship, if you know what I mean.


Anyway, Alisa Cooper was who, or is it whom – I’m never very good at that. I was talking about her, Alisa Cooper, when I mentioned she was my type. She was very pretty in a rough, casual sort of way, but that’s not what attracted me to her. Well, to be honest, not only. I mean if she looked like a double for Jabba the Hut, I don’t think I’d be attracted to her no matter how glowing her personality was. Maybe that does make me a little sexist, but I got to be honest, right? What got me though, really, was her earnest, her energy. She was like this big electromagnet pulling me into her gravitational field. She was passing out flyers for some organization. Before I knew it, I was standing in front of her little makeshift stand, reading the large lettering on the white and red banner overhead:


Student-Teacher Organization Opposing Palestinian Indignation and Discrimination


Someone else might have laughed. But not me. I have a certain sensitivity for silly names. Even so, the name probably didn’t do much for their cause. I told her as much.


           “Yeah, no one paid much attention to the acronym when we formed the group,” she revealed. “And by the time anyone noticed, we were already tax-exempt and everything. You know how hard it is to change a registered organization’s name?” Her confession immediately endeared me to her forever. At the same time, I questioned, not for the first time, what I was doing at a university where such things were regular occurrences. What was it that they were supposed to be teaching me? How to be a clueless idiot? Where was the faculty advisor for this group anyway? Anyway, I didn’t blame Alisa Cooper, for the group’s name. I’m sure she wasn’t the one that picked it out. And even if she did, well, she pretty much had a free pass with me at that moment.


She handed me one of her pamphlets. As she turned, I saw the acronym emblazoned across her chest: S.T.O.O.P.I.D.. It takes a lot of courage, or commitment I guess, to wear a shirt like that on a campus full of drunken college students. “You probably aren’t interested, right?” she said accusingly. “You’re probably a big supporter of those fascist Israelis, right?”


“Why do you say that?” I immediately became defensive.


“Well, you’re Jewish, right?” It was more a statement than a question.


“No,” I answered, though not so surprised. For some reason, people were always thinking I was Jewish.


“Oh, sorry.” She apologized. “It’s just you look it, you know.”


I shrugged.


“Not like I’m anti-Semitic or anything,” she offered quickly. “It’s just most Jews tend to not be so interested in our group.”


I nodded. I was buying whatever she wanted to sell, truthfully.


“Anyway, we’re having this rally on Sunday afternoon. There’ll be a speaker. You want to come?” She asked.


She probably asked everyone who passed, but to me, it sounded like she was asking me out on a date. I couldn’t say yes fast enough.


“You want to sign our petition,” she asked, noting my excitement. Of course, I would have agreed to take up arms for the cause, at that point. She had me hooked. I nodded enthusiastically.


“Cool. What’s your name?” she asked, grabbing a clipboard off of her table.


I hesitated. This is where I always crash and burn. “America,” I answered, hesitantly.


She made a face. One of those, “get real,” expressions. She obviously thought I was making fun of her, or at the very least, giving her a phony name. “It wasn’t even a very good joke,” I could hear her thinking.


“No, really,” I said, already fishing in my pocket for my campus I.D.


As I said, I’m sensitive to strange sounding names. You can only imagine some of my experiences in school. The teachers were never very sympathetic. Most of them were just out of jail for marching against Vietnam, and stuff. So, they always thought that my parents must have been these super right wing reactionary neo-fascists or something. On the other hand, those teachers who had just gotten back from killing babies and stuff in the war, always assumed my parents were these big peace and love, pot-smoking hippies. The funny thing is, if you knew my parents, you’d realize how ridiculous both of those assumptions were.


The truth is, my parents named me America, because, as they tell it, I was conceived during the song, “A Horse with No Name;” play time: four minutes and eight seconds. Thank God they weren’t listening to “Another One Bites the Dust” or “Girls on Film.” It probably wasn’t the most brilliant thing they ever did. And, the thing is, it took me many years before I understood how perverse it was that my folks knew exactly which song was playing when I was conceived. Think about it.


I don’t have a last name either. My parents didn’t believe in them.


I thrust my I.D. at her, like and old lady with the winning card at Church Bingo. Can you tell me what the hell “Bingo” means, anyway? And why is gambling only okay in a church? Yeah, I’m digressing again, huh? Sorry about that. It’s my A.D.D. thing.


So I offered her my I.D. In today’s world, of course, who we are is defined by all those two and a half by three and a half inch plastic rectangles. She didn’t take it, not wanting to make a commitment, but she did turn her head to read it. Then she looked at me. Her face asked, “Is that for real?”


“Yeah, well.” I started. I had to be careful. You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I was thinking if things go any further with this girl, I didn’t want to turn her off my parents, her future in-laws, too quickly. “My folks are a little different,” I offered.


“I know what you mean,” she replied, in a gesture of shared camaraderie, fellow generation travelers, whose parents couldn’t relate.


Of course, she had no idea what I meant. I was purposefully vague, but I wasn’t going to set her straight. Not yet, anyway.


‘Why do you have to point that filthy thing in this direction?” The transvestite shrieked hysterically. “What’s going to happen to us?”


“Oh relax, Leon,” I said. “Don’t get all hysterical on me.”


“Don’t talk that way to your father!” shouted the Dyke.


Oh yeah, I may have forgotten to mention that the dyke and the transvestite were my parents. Sorry, about that. Did I mention I’m a little A.D.D.?


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