Comfortable Together


 

“I wonder where you go sometimes.” She said.
It wasn’t a question or a demand.
Just a statement, “I wonder where you go sometimes.”

I thought quickly about what she said and how she had said it,
It seemed free of malice, containing no hidden agenda.
Maybe a little like saying, “I couldn’t find good peaches at the market today.”

“It’s just work,
“and I can’t really talk about it.”

“I know,” she said, “I know.”

She turned her attention back to her scone. I went back to The Times.


              

Thanks all! This is pretty wonderful!

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Inner City Painting


urban-decay

I tried to forgive them, but they didn’t show up. I had to call their boss.

15.September.2014

555-4545
“Thank you for calling Inner City Painting” the robot said, “If you know your party’s extension please enter it at any time. For a company directory please press 7 followed by the pound sign. To leave a message in our general mailbox please press 314, followed by the star key, or wait for the beep.”

7#

“To leave a message for Alberto press 101 followed by the star key. To leave a message for Diedre press 103 followed by the star key. To leave a message for Manny press 104 followed by the star key. To leave a message for Michelle press 107 followed by the star key. To leave a message for Rick press 108 followed by the star key. To leave a message in our general mailbox press 314 or wait for the beep.”

“Shit, who’s the boss?”

101*

Beep

“Hey Alberto. Are you the boss? If you’re not the boss could you pass this message on to the boss? Please?
“You guys were supposed to paint my mother’s house green this week. It’s Friday and the house still looks kinda grey. It looks like it’s auditioning for a part in ‘Amityville Horror’. Can you guys call me back and let me know what’s going on? This is Delbert Dangerfield 313-555-1212. Thanks”

17.September.2014

555-4545
“Thank you for calling Inner City Painting. If you know your party’s ex…”

314

“Thank you for calling Inner City Painting. If you know your…”

314*

“You have reached the general mailbox for Inner City Painting. Please leave your name, number and a brief message after the beep. We will get back to you as soon as possible.”

Beep

“This is Delbert Dangerfield. My number is 313-555-1212. Please call me back ASAP. I think you forgot to paint my mom’s house last week. Thanks.”

20.September.2014

555-4545
“Thank you for calling Inner City Painting. If you…”

103*

“Hi, you’ve reached the desk of Diedre at Inner City Painting. Sorry, I’m not available to take your call please leave a message. I’ll call you right back.”

Beep

“Hi Diedre, my name is Delbert Dangerfield. Can you call me back right away at 313-555-1212. Thanks”

0*

“Thank you for calling Inner City Paint…”

104*

“You’ve reached Manny. Well, you’ve reached Manny’s voice mail. Speak to the beep.”

Beep

“Hi Manny, can you call Delbert Dangerfield back right away at 313-555-1212. It’s about my mother’s house. Thanks”

0*

“Thank you for calling…”

105*

“We’re sorry that is not a valid extension. For a company directory please…”

106*

“We’re sorry that is not a valid extension…”

107*

“Hi, this is Michelle”

“Michell, Michelle, thank God I got a hold of you. I was beginning to lose hope.”

“I’m busy helping other customers right now. Leave a message at the sound of the beep. I’ll call you back.”

Shit, shit, shit, I’ll never forgive them. I gotta go down there now. Where the hell are they?


The Last of the McCarty’s


Photo purported to be Joseph McCarty Antrim. photo discovered by Ray John de Aragon
Photo purported to be Joseph McCarty somewhere around the age of 15 years
Photo discovered by Ray John de Aragon

In the span of a breath, everything changed. It was a rattling breath, a final breath. It was drawn in September 1874. It was the last painful breath of Catherine McCarty, wife of William Antrim, and loving mother of William Henry and Joseph McCarty. It was drawn in Silver City, New Mexico where she was living when she finally lost her long battle with tuberculosis.

Shortly after their mother’s death, William Antrim placed his stepsons in foster homes. He was a miner and a matter-of-fact man. There were no excuses, or emotions associated with this development. It was simply the way things had to be. The boys, at fourteen and eleven, were too young to go into the hills mining with their stepfather. Their mother’s death was pivotal for her sons. The good people of Silver City said they had been well behaved, educated young men. They were friendly and outgoing with generous personalities, just like their mother.

Billy, the older boy was placed with the Truesdell family, owners of the hotel. He worked for his keep and by all accounts comported himself well. Eventually, he set off from Silver City and achieved some level of notoriety through his participation as a Regulator in the Range Wars of Lincoln County, where he was shot dead.

Young Josie went to the Dyers. They were saloon owners and Joe also worked. Although the nature of his work was decidedly different from that of his brother – he grew up rough and he grew up fast. He drank, he fought, he smoked a bit of opium, and he gambled.

The high deserts of New Mexico did not interest Joe McCarty. The grazing lands, where grasses thrived while the trees were twisted and beaten down by the winds, offered nothing that he cared to embrace so he took up the life of a gambler; oscillating between New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. In 1882 or maybe ‘83 Joe found himself in Tucson where his luck had been good. Riding a wave of good fortune, he married a bordello girl, Rose Marie Perkins, who went by the name of Amber Annie. She refused to settle down to domestic life and Joe would often find himself sitting at the gaming tables downstairs while his wife worked the bedrooms upstairs. Their union did not last long and the emotional toll served only to embitter and further harden young Joe. He left his wife and went back to Denver where he pieced together a living as a gambler.

Joe spent the rest of his life alone in Denver. A pauper’s life; he slept on the streets or, when his luck was good, he would take a room in one of the boarding houses that fringed the downtown area. He died penniless in 1930 at the age of 67 and was buried in an unmarked grave at the expense of the state. No records exist to pinpoint the exact location of his interment.

There were no children. Catherine McCarty had been dead since 1874. No records exist to identify the biological father of her sons, not even his name is known. Joe’s older brother, Billy, had been killed in 1881, also childless. His stepfather, William Antrim had disappeared into the mountains around Silver City about the same time that Joe went to Tucson. His fate was unknown. When Joe McCarty died that branch of the McCarty family tree died with him.


I need to tack on a note that while the McCarty family was real, this story is fiction. Details described herein are primarily the product of my imagination. Please do not use anything written here as reference material for your history report. Thanks.

Claire


 

The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in, an endless procession of monotony. Never changing, ever the same. This world and the people in it were dark and incomprehensible to me. I tried to clear my way with logic but, found myself moving through life with no goal – no purpose. Like an automaton, letting the days fill with whatever happened to happen.

That all changed the morning I first saw her. I watched as she carried her coffee to the table by the window, moving softly in the sunlight. I watched the rays illuminate her eyes and her golden hair. Without speaking a word or even glancing in my direction she let me know that I had gotten it all wrong. She silently taught me that I had to take control of my days and in so doing, take control of my life. Intuitively, I understood that I would occasionally need to turn those buckets over and stand atop them in order to attain a broad enough perspective to chart a proper course. In order to master my own destiny I must control what fills my days. I saw clearly that I need not simply accept whatever fell my way.

Emboldened, I seized the opportunity and strode to where she sat alone, reading and cradling her mug. “Good morning,” I said, “I saw you here and wanted to introduce myself.” I extended my hand.

She looked up at me and I was mesmerized by the changing shades of sunlight curling through her hair. We shook hands. “I’m Claire,” she said and laughed. “Please, have a seat.” Her smile was warm; warmer than the summer sunshine streaming through the window beside her.

 


3rd Place in the Speakeasy this week!
I’m smilin’

High Pressure – Sodium Lights


 

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen the stars. It may very well have been before she moved to the city, when she had still lived out amongst the cornfields. She had left home and run here as fast, and as soon as possible; casting aside her family and friends in search of excitement, fame, fortune. Maybe even love, she was no longer sure of that. Now she looked back on that life with nostalgia. There were no stars in the city. There was only the omnipresent yellow glow of the sodium street lights. The lights that overpowered the ephemeral glow from the stars. Most nights the moon was barely visible.

“Hey, HEY, Goddamn it Florence, are you listening to me?” She snapped out of her reverie.

“Sorry Jimmy, yeah, I’m listening. I guess I haven’t had enough coffee this morning.” Florence said and she pulled her robe tighter against the morning chill.

“I asked you, ‘Where the FUCK are my car keys?’ I got a meeting with that money guy, the one that Ruben knows, this morning. I don’t wanna be late.” He ran the palm of his right hand over his pate as if he were smoothing down nonexistent hair on his bald head. “Do I look OK, baby? This could be big. This could be the break we been waitin’ for!”

“Uhm, yeah Jimmy, your keys are right behind you, on the counter.”

Jimmy turned and scooped up his keys. Squeezing her ass as he walked by, he said, “Make sure you’re not late to work again. Don’t piss Mr. Chesterfield off. We need your job, Doll.”

“Yeah Jimmy, I’m good.” She said to his back as the door slammed behind him.

Florence took her mug to the chipped Formica table and sat down. The dream was dead. She knew it was dead but it was difficult to admit. She stood and threw her coffee cup at the sink where it shattered; then she turned and went back to the bedroom to get dressed and plan her latest escape.

She called Chesterfield and told him she was sick. She would not be in to work today as she was going to the emergency care center and would no doubt have to wait for hours. “Bring a note from the doctor when you come in tomorrow.” He admonished.

“I will sir.”

She dressed and went to the salon. A hundred and twenty bucks to perm her red hair but she had to do it. At home again she put on fresh underclothes and changed into her good black dress, the one Jimmy made her wear when he wanted to show her off to his boys. Then she took the number 13 bus downtown. It was late in the afternoon, but still light when she disembarked and looked around. The tallest building downtown was just a couple of blocks over and she headed towards it.

The doors were glass and polished brass. The lobby was marble. There was a desk to her left by the banks of elevators. A pimple faced kid wearing a badge that said ‘Concierge – Toby’ pushed his blond hair off his forehead, “Yes ma’am, there’s an observation deck on the roof. Just take the number 8 elevator to the top floor and you’ll find stairs to the roof.”

“Thank you, Toby.” She flashed her award winning smile causing Toby to smile and blush.

She walked to the lift and, in turn, made her way to the roof. Pay per view binoculars lined the railings. The railings were capped with heavy steel grating placed to prevent accidents. She went to the east rail and put a quarter in the binocular but was unable to find the building where she and Jimmy had lived for these last few months before the quarter ran out and her view went dark. There were only a few tourists with her up there and they were all looking west at the sunset. Removing her shoes Florence climbed the railing and looked at the sky. The yellow glow of the city reflected back and she shook her head. There was no light, no light from the stars.

She perched on top of the safety grating, sitting and looking at the sky. Time to go, she thought and dropped her shoes. She paused, took a breath and quietly slipped after them.


178

Put Your Heart Into Your Work


 

Everything hurt.

It shouldn’t, I shouldn’t let it get to me, but it always did. Another rejection letter. Christ, I could wallpaper the parlor with them, I had so many. I used to enjoy writing until I started trying to get published. It was not always the same, but the pattern was consistent.

I would send a manuscript.
It would come back with a note: “Great character development but too long,” they would say.

I would tighten it up and send it back.
It would boomerang home again with another note: “Too short, but love the cast.

Rewrite, edit, find a happy medium.
We just don’t like it. The protagonist is wonderful, so real, but the hook doesn’t work… not enough conflict… the resolution leaves us unfulfilled.” Always, words to that effect.

I had to figure out a way to make it work. I had to change things up, take charge of my own destiny. So I sat down to analyze the situation. What was I doing wrong? What was I doing right? What could I do better? I scratched out a list and realized that I had a knack for characters but apparently had trouble drawing in the reader; injecting believable conflict; and worst of all, a penchant for wishy-washy endings

It made sense. My methodology had always been to create the characters and let them tell the story. In retrospect, it was clear to me that when I surrendered control of the story to my cast, things went downhill.

I could fix this.

Rolling a sheet of erasable bond into my old IBM Selectric, I drafted a quick character sketch. His name was Dr. Raymond Concord, a literature professor at a distinguished Ivy League school. He had studied writing and grew up listening to his grandfather tell him stories of “Wild West” shoot outs, of hold ups, and bank robberies; stories of war and destruction. He knew how to craft and tell a story. He knew how to write one as well.

Beyond that, he also knew how to kill. He knew how to kill slowly, painfully, he enjoyed it. He had killed his parents when he was eight years old. Smiling, he had watched them thrash and bleed out after running the blade of his father’s razor across their throats, one at a time. He knew he had been lucky that first time. He had been reckless and impulsive but no one had suspected him. He was just a child, after all. He was forty-three now, and he was an accomplished master.

I suggested a story line to Dr. Concord and let him run with it. In a matter of only a few weeks he crafted the exact story I had hoped for. He had really put his heart into it and it took on a life of its own. In the story Raymond is a professor who needs to be published, for tenure. He continually receives rejection letters, not unlike the ones I had been receiving. In fact, I had shown him a selection of my rejections for inspiration. Unlike me though, Raymond is incapable of creating characters that come to life. He is incapable of sketching a protagonist so real that they can literally leap off the page. In his story, Raymond has to deliver his manuscript in person. He handed it to the editor himself, ensuring that he knew who was readying the rejection letter. That night he would pay them a visit and wielding his considerable powers of persuasion he would painfully convince them to write an acceptance letter and a contract before mercifully killing them and posting the letter to himself.

I had to make few revisions before the manuscript was ready to send for consideration, but the changes were minor. A week after I handed it to the FedEx driver, I knew.  I saw the story on the morning news. Late the night before, an editor at a major publishing house had been brutally murdered in his office. His throat slashed deeply, from ear to ear. I knew the panic he had felt as he watched his blood soak into the desk blotter, his life slowly ebbing away. I knew also that he had been cruelly tortured before he was killed. The anchorman said that there were no suspects.

Three days after the editor’s death made headlines, I received an acceptance letter from my publisher along with a contract. A contract with very favorable terms, I might add.


 

I count 747 for 176

Fiction – Should I Stay or Should I Go?

 


 

“We have to let you go Kenneth. Clear out your desk immediately. You can stop by HR and pick up your final check.”

My jaw dropped. I was not expecting this. “But, Mr. Dithers I, we’re, just getting rolling on the Bumstead project. As project manager I am confident that we can bring this one in, on time and under budget.”

“The Bumstead project has been cancelled Kenneth. Please go down to HR now. I don’t want to have to call security.”

“Can you at least tell me why, Mr. Dithers?”

He picked up his phone and spoke, “Gladys, can you ask Security to come up here right away?”

“That won’t be necessary, sir.” I spun and walked out of his office with as much dignity as I could muster. Gladys was ignoring me, feigning intense concentration and staring at her monitor, when I went past her desk on my way to the elevator.

A security representative fell in step and rode down the two floors with me to the cube farm I had called home for the last year and a half. As I threaded the aisles towards my desk the people who I had considered friends averted their gaze, or picked up their phones and pretended to be having conversations. I was, apparently quite the pariah. How had I not seen this coming? How could I have been so blind?

I packed up my desk, and went to HR with my new friend from Security. I got my check, signed some termination papers and left. In the ground floor lobby my escort peeled off and went to jaw, snicker, and point with the others of his kind. The ones we had always called ‘the gatekeepers’. With my meager box of belongings tucked under my arm I reached to push the door open.

“Kenneth?” I turned and saw Lois hurrying my way. She stopped short and said, “Kenneth, I just heard. I’m so sorry, this is so unfair.”

I wanted to put my arms around Lois and cry on her shoulder but instead I pulled her aside and asked, “Do you know why? No one will tell me why?”

Lois nodded. “You should have stayed on your meds Kenneth. There were complaints, and you were scaring some of the girls on the third floor.”

“Thanks for being honest with me Lois.” I said and angrily stormed out of the building.

It was Friday afternoon so I had the entire weekend to stew and I certainly started out that way. Got good and drunk Friday night but on Saturday morning I got busy. I poured out what little bourbon was left in the bottle and started taking my meds again. I shaved and went out to find a salon. A pear shaped girl gave me extensions, and snapped her gum while she dyed my hair and eyebrows blonde. Downtown I found a sale and scored a whole new business casual wardrobe, khaki trousers and long sleeved dress shirts. Beige, white and light pastels are the new me. I spent Sunday teaching myself to talk like an educated surfer.

Monday morning found me checking my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I nodded and spoke to my reflection, “lookin’ good, dude.” I approved the transformation, my mother wouldn’t recognize me. I went back to work prepared to tackle the Bumstead project, and see it through. I just had to make sure that my cover remained intact. There would be no paychecks for a while but I had enough savings to last. This could work.

I snagged a visitors badge from the gatekeepers: traded up for an employee badge that S. Smith had left on his shirt in the locker room and took the lift to Marketing. An empty cube was easy to find there. Marketing had been short-staffed since ’08. I requested copies of my Bumstead work from filing and while waiting for them to come up, carefully cut S. Smith’s photo from the badge and replaced it with one of mine. I re-laminated and was suddenly in possession of a legitimate looking, albeit forged, employee ID. I needed them to see what I saw. They should have let me stay. They should not have made me go. I needed them to realize their mistake. They would beg me to come back. I reached into my pocket, found a pill and swallowed it without water. I couldn’t afford to be erratic. I had to maintain.


 

Summer Grid #172

Too cool – Top row – Thanks guys