OLWG · writing

A Long Con?

Written for the fun of it

Santiago and Sebastian Cardoso were brothers. Santiago was presumed to be the elder, although there was some question about that. The brothers were identical twins. Their mother admitted she often confused the two, and Santiago might have been Sebastian or vice versa. Who knew?

Mama told them that there was only eighteen minutes between them and that just wasn’t enough time to quibble over. Her view was it didn’t matter who was who. They were brothers. They were identical, and they would often swap places when it suited them.

The boys grew up rough on the Southwest side of a Texas border town. They drifted towards crime and grift as a way of life. It was probably fourth grade when they partnered up with a classmate. In school, she was called Estrella, which means ‘Star.’ Outside of school, she would choose a different name every day.

She said, “Names have power, like magic spells.” She told the boys that a Disney Princess had taught her that and that it was true. Her favourite aliases included ‘Esme,’ ‘Dia,’ ‘Noemi,’ ‘Mija,’ ‘Dulce,’ and sometimes ‘Soledad.’ She liked Soledad because it sounded old fashioned.

Being cute, Trella was an easy distraction in a convenience store.  She could draw the clerks attention while the Cardoso boys stole candies, sodas, dirty magazines, and beer. The team was successful, and they never got caught. Over time the scams grew more sophisticated and the trio more successful.

Flash forward twenty years. The team was still working together. The stakes were higher. Trella and the boys would travel the world and run the Peking Watch Game, Lost Heir Scams, and all types of Romance Hustles. Foreign Lottery Scams were their bread and butter in the States because no face to face interaction with the marks was required. The whole game could be played by email, or better yet, registered mail.

They were particularly successful running the Barros Luco shakedown (or, as Santiago and Sebastian called it, The Dead Hooker). They worked this in Switzerland, Barbados, Spain, and Italy – plenty of times in Italy. The most successful time was just outside Prato against an easy mark. An hotelier with a jealous wife who had a well-connected father.

It all ended when they were running a Badger Game in Florida. The mark was a wealthy Real Estate Developer named Luke Mccann. The brothers got arrested, tried and convicted. Trella, who had been playing the hooker and was known to Mccann as Itzel, got away.

At  Marianna Camp, Sebastian would often stare at the ceiling of his cell and wonder if he and Santiago were not as clever as they had believed.  Had they been played since the fourth grade?

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 236- Down to the Sea in Ships

Flash, Flash, and Flash written for OLWG# 236

Constable Peters looked up at the widow Houston on the roof of her home at the harbour entrance. She stood with her hands on the black, cast iron railing atop the house, her gaze fixed on the horizon.

“Miz Houston?” he hollered up at her. “How long are you planning to stay up there? He’s not coming back. He’s been gone now nigh seven years, come on down.”

She looked down at Peters. First, she raised her right forearm, and then she slowly elevated the middle finger of her right hand. When she was sure that he had noted the gesture, she dropped it and turned her attention back to the sea.


‘Twas the wee hours, and few were awake in the harbour town. Laurence Houston leaned back against the headboard and wrapped his arm protectively around his bride. Her head rested on his chest – a tear rolled down her cheek.

“I still love you, Martha,” he intoned, “my leaving doesn’t mean I don’t love you, but I’m a sailor. I have to do this. When I get back, we’ll be rich, richer than you could ever dream! Hudson will send you money. All of your needs and this house will be well taken care of, until I return.”


Martha had been alone for years. She didn’t like it, but such was the lot of a sailor’s wife. She had just dished up a bowl of chowder when the constable tapped on the door.

“Come inside, Mr Peters. I’m just dishing up lunch. You’re welcome to join me.” She turned and headed down the wide hallway back towards the kitchen. Peters tailed along behind her.

She had a bowl of chowder in her hand when he broke the news. It shattered when it hit the ground.

Without a word, Martha ran to the staircase and leapt upwards, heading for the roof. Peters heard the latch turn when she locked the door at the foot of the stairs. He went out to the garden. He knew where she was heading.

This week’s prompts were:

  1. doesn’t mean I don’t love you
  2. c’mon down
  3. shattered when it hit the ground

OLWG · writing

Étude Florale en Noir

Written for the fun of it

I met Valerie at a ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ meeting in Tulsa. The meeting was at Jimmy Youngbird’s house. Jimmy was the head of the watch group, and an officer, of some sort, in the H.O.A.

I know now what happened, but I had no idea at the time. I won’t try to explain it here, but suffice to say that I believe I was bewitched and wound up going to Valerie’s house for a glass of wine after the meeting. She lived in a red brick ranch on Quapaw Crescent. It was within easy walking distance of Jimmy’s house, where we had met.

The first thing I noticed as I came in through the front door was how nice the house smelled; sweet, floral, subtle and somehow familiar. I knew the smell but couldn’t quite place it. The second thing I noticed was the oil painting that hung in the entryway. The canvas showed interwoven colours, with countless shades of pastel greens. There were faint pinks and a crisp, saturated blue without any purple undertones. A colour that I would call a galaxy blue. There was marbling of white throughout the background. The foreground was done in obsidian black by an artist skilled with a palette knife. I immediately recognized the image. It was a depiction of common milkweed, such as blooms during the summer in the sandy soils of Oklahoma.

That’s what the aroma was; I recognized it as the fragrance produced by the clusters of pink-purple flowers of common milkweed.

I commented on the painting.

“Thank you, said Valerie, “my grandmother did it. She was a healer. Her role was to secure the help of the spirit world, especially the ‘Creator’ for the benefit of others. She painted this for me. The piece has powers. Can you smell it?”

“Yeah, I can,” I said. “Are you telling me that the floral fragrance comes from the painting?”

She smiled and headed towards the kitchen, “Red or white?” she asked.

Betcha didn’t think I could do that?

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 235- Mending Angels

Written for OLWG# 235

Oswald N’Diaye was a dark black man who appeared to be about sixty years old in 1973 when he uprooted himself and moved halfway around the world to come to Putnam County. He was a tall, slender man who was always well dressed, kept his hair clipped short, and his fingernails clean. He moved into a house on Lost Run Close just outside of town to the west. He took the time to print his name on the mailbox, carefully painting it in white enamel, with a watercolour brush. He never made much effort to meet his neighbours or reach out to the townsfolk. He was a private man, just kept his own counsel for the most part. He spoke with an accent,  and nobody could figure out where he was from; no one could pronounce his name either, so most folks never even tried. Through no fault of his own, he became an enigma in Putnam.

Then one day, Chad Sublette’s old yellow dog, named Biscuit, got clipped by a pickup around the corner from Mr N’Diaye’s house, and by chance, he saw it happen. The dog’s back leg was broken.

In the blink of an eye, N’Diaye was out in the street. He scooped up that dog and carried him back to the house, where he laid it on his kitchen table. He pulled a syringe and a mild sedative from the cabinet, and administered it to the dog, his hands working gently. He spent a couple of minutes calming old Biscuit, stroking his head and whispering to him. Then he set and splinted the leg, wrapping it with Ace bandages to hold it in place.

N’Diaye poured himself a glass of brown whisky, and continued to check the dog. As he sipped the liquor, he spotted the tag that Biscuit wore. It was silver, shaped like a bone and had the dog’s name, Biscuit, and the Sublette’s phone number engraved thereon. He wrote the number on the palm of his hand, picked up his glass and shuffled across the kitchen, where the telephone hung on the wall. As he dialled the phone, he untwisted the long tangled cord.

When his call connected, he began his rehearsed speech, “Hello, my name is Oswald N’Daiye. I live on Lost Run, here in Putnam. Do you have a dog named Biscuit?” he listened for a moment before continuing, “Biscuit is here, at my house. He was struck by a car and has broken his leg. I have set the bone and administered a sedative.”

This time he listened longer. Then, “Yes, I think he will be fine once the leg heals. Um-hum. If you can provide me with your address, I will deliver him home, if you like.” He paused again, wrote some more on his hand, “ten minutes,” he said, “maybe fifteen.” he replaced the handset on the phone and returned to the table.

Gently, he lifted the dog. Cradling him in his arms, Oswald muttered almost to himself, “Come on, Biscuit let’s get you home.”

This week’s prompts were:

  1. an African Doctor
  2. scold me
  3. two-pot screamer

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 234- A New Level of Understanding

Haibun written for OLWG# 234

Not what I started out to write. Not at all what I’d had in mind. Not sure where this came from!

Donna extended her right arm, which moved the handgun closer to Ed. She closed her left eye and twisted her hand in an anticlockwise direction, then back.

For his part, Ed tried to make himself smaller. He hunched down in the straight back chair. His feet were off the floor, his knees as close to his ears as they could be. His erection had fled, his balls retracted to someplace deep inside his abdomen. His elbows were held tucked in tight against his torso. And the palms of his hands were up as he pled for life.

“Donna, please! You don’t want to do this. She doesn’t mean anything to me. I love you!”
“You do, Ed? You love me? You have a hell of a way of showing it.”

Ed stayed quiet, stayed still; there was nothing he could say, and he couldn’t get any smaller. Donna moved the pistol to her other hand and studied him. “I don’t believe you love me, Ed. I believe the only one you’re capable of loving is Ed. So you have a choice to make. You have to choose how this is going to end. Choose wisely, though; you can end up like her,” Donna waved the pistol towards Katy, who lay dead on the floor, “or you can walk away.” She shifted the weapon back to her right hand. “Go ahead then, Ed. Lie to me.”

Donna wiped her nose on her sleeve.

“What do you want from me, Donna?”

a difficult choice
Is there a right or a wrong?
breathe– take your best shot

This week’s prompts were:

  1. a jealous heart
  2. how’s it gonna end
  3. love this city

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 233- Sara, With no ‘h’

Written for OLWG# 233

Sara grew up just outside of Port Centerburg. Raised by her father, she didn’t remember her mother but knew that Mom had also been named Sarah, only she had spelt her name with the ‘h.’ She had some cherished photographs, and Dad had told her stories, but she had no recollection of her mother at all.

Sara was twenty-three years old when Dad passed. At least she had memories of him. Her father had ensured a good life for them both. He had left Sara the house where she had grown up. It was the night before Dads memorial when she found the shoebox under his bed. Inside were letters and cards. It was mostly, correspondence from her mother to her father, written before they were married and while he was overseas.

There were letters from him to her too. The letters revealed that all was not perfect in the union between Sarah and her spouse, but for the most part, it was good. There was the occasional unkind dig, but the bulk of what she found revealed mutual love, respect, and caring. At the bottom of the stack, she found a faded Polaroid with a note written in a feminine hand on the back. It read, “Waiting, for you to come home!” It was dated almost exactly 24 years earlier, to the day. The woman in the photo was her mother. In it, she wore nothing but an unbuttoned, blue plaid flannel shirt. Sara recognized the shirt as one of his that still hung in the closet.

Sara’s heart began to race, and her face got hot as she intruded into the private lives of her parents so long ago.

This week’s prompts were:

  1. gently used love letters
  2. be still my heart
  3. bottom of the deck

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 232- Gotta be a Word for That

Written for OLWG# 232

Debbie come from Clayton, a small town outside Natchez. I come from Council Flats Iowa, the “Gateway to Nebraska.” We’d been married for ‘bout three year and was livin’ in Nashville. One weekend we was sittin’ out under the big tree in the backyard, playin’ pinch and giggle games, drinkin’ whiskey and generally havin’ a good time. All of a sudden Debbie went still and got a faraway look in her eyes.

“Carson,” she says, “Carson, do you love me?”

“Course I do, Baby. What kinda question is that?”

“No, I mean it.” she says, “Do you love me a lot?”

“You’re scarin’ me, Deb. What are you talking about?”

“Shit,” she starts, “a couple a weeks ago, while you was at work…me and Rita went down to Music City Casino. We was just gonna fool around a little bit, ya know. We were just going to play some slots, maybe a little blackjack, but I screwed up, honey. I screwed up, big time.” She stopped talkin’ and looked at me. We stared into one another’s eyes for a long time. Finally, I prodded her to go on, “What’d you do?”

“I, uh, I lost twenty-five thousand dollars.”

I sat up and pushed her off of my lap.

“How’d you do that?”

“Gamblin’ – the details don’t matter,” she bit on her lower lip. Her eyes were pleading, I know how to fix it, Carson, but I need your help.”

“Let’s go inside,” I stood up and offered my hand. When we were both standing, I sorta pulled her to the back door. She cowered at the kitchen table and I poured myself a tall drink. I took a long pull and sat across from her, “How do you think you can fix this Deb?”

She lit a Salem and helped herself to a slug offa my drink.

“On Abbot Martin Road, in Green Hills, there’s this bank I been watchin’. It’s the Fifth Third Bank and I know if we can hit it on a Tuesday afternoon before four o’clock that I can pay back the Casino the next day.”

“How do you know this Deb?”

“You don’t wanna know that, Carson. I just know, OK.”

“You know- that’s a Federal Offense, don’t you?”

She nodded her head.

This week’s prompts were:

  1. no tears, no more
  2. it might kill you
  3. outside of Natchez

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 231- Easy Money

Written for OLWG# 231

It started as a sort of “mini-reunion.” I had come across a post on my Facebook. Ronny Mueller (aka Wrench) had found me. He had posted a picture of the five of us when we were young and stupid; in Cambodia. We were never officially in Cambodia, but here was this photo. I recognized it. It depicted me, Wrench, Buddha, Ghost, and Leeroy, in Cambodia.

There was nothing posted other than the photo. No names, no places mentioned, no explanations. Only the photo. It was a reminder of things that, I would have preferred to forget. In the picture, Wrench stood smiling. He held a cigarette clamped between his teeth and a CAR-15 held across his chest. I perched on a fallen tree with my flask in hand, raised to the camera. My KA-BAR strapped onto my vest and a Mark 22 Mod. 0 “Hush Puppy” with suppressor height sights on my hip. A full-bearded Leeroy sat on the damp earth leaning against my fallen tree. His Stoner 63 propped next to him He seemed to be picking his teeth with a ‘CB70. Buddha had his ‘M79 Thumper’ resting upside down on his shoulder. His jacket sleeves cut off, his biceps bulging. Then there was Ghost. Ghost wore mirror finish glasses and had a Smith & Wesson Model 12 on his hip. He had taken both the glasses and the gun off an unlucky Slick pilot we had come across in an LZ near Cu Chi.

I commented on the photo. I wrote the single word “Wrench” followed by an interrogation mark. Four days later, I got a PM advising me of a reunion at a rented cabin on the Platte River. I had to go, and we were all there, except for Leeroy. Nobody had been able to find him; Buddha said that knowing Leeroy, he was most likely dead.

Buddha collected me at the airport in Columbus and gave me a ride to the cabin by the river. The river was spotted with sand islands. It could have been described, more accurately, as a braided stream at that point. Wrench was there waiting for us. We sat out under the trees drinking and telling stories.

Ghost was due to arrive in the morning before lunch. He did too. He pulled in on a 1953 deep skirted Indian Chief Roadmaster and still carried that Model 12 on his hip. During the afternoon, we sat by the river, drinking brown whiskey. At one point, Ghost got serious and told us that he had an inside line, an easy way to make big money. I got the feeling that he was, in fact, telling me and that if they had been able to find Leeroy, I probably wouldn’t have been invited.

I stood up and set down my glass, “I wish you the best of luck, Ghost,” I announced, “but I’m too old for easy money. ‘Sides that – easy money is very seldom easy, I want no part of it.”

“Sorry to hear that, TN,” Wrench interjected, “You going home tomorrow?”

I looked at Wrench. I looked at the others, “Yeah, I guess I am. I’m going home tomorrow.”

Buddha raised his glass and looked at the sun, through the whiskey, a faraway look in his eye. “Then today we drink.” He tilted his glass back, downed the liquor, and smiled. We all did the same.

I never heard from those guys again, my brothers. Maybe they got away with it.

This week’s prompts were:

  1. there were no screams
  2. easy money
  3. whisky in the shade

OLWG · writing

OLWG# 230- Another Unfinished Story and the Three That I Fucked-up Accidentally (tacked on at the end)

An unfinished story. This one, written during a race against the clock (25 minutes) for OLWG# 230

Ferris found himself sitting at a table for two in the Polo Bar downtown. He was beginning to worry. He had swiped right when he saw Hester’s photo and profile on the dating app. They had exchanged messages through the app (maintain your privacy – never surrender your email address or your cell phone number) and both had agreed to meet here. Get to know one another. See if they wanted to take it any further.



Ferris had arrived early (about twenty after six). Since that time he had checked his watch at least 372 times. It now read six-thirty-four.

What if she had stood him up?

She had probably peeked through the window, spotted him and changed her mind? The photo he had used on the app looked a little like him, but a buff him, not the real him.

Maybe she was lost?

Had she been mugged walking across the park?

Murdered on the subway?

So many things could have gone wrong, and he was beginning to gnaw on his thumbnail when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He started and looked around. It was Hester, no doubt, she looked just like her photograph. She was beautiful, and she smiled.

“Ferris?” her voice was musical, her smile was bright, and her eyes sparkled.

“Yea, yes, uh huh, I’m Ferris,” he stammered as he tried to stand.

“I’m Hester,” she said with a giggle.

Ferris stumbled, a little, as he stood to hurry around the table and pull out her chair – ever the gentleman.

Hester nodded and took her seat. Ferris went back around to his seat. The two sized each other up for a moment before Hester took the lead.

“You look a little different from your picture,” she started.

“Uhm, sorry,” Ferris interjected before she could continue, “that photo was a couple of months old. I’ve grown a bit. You look exactly like your photo.”

“Do you think so? I’ve heard that the camera always adds a few pounds. I don’t know?”

“I’m having a Pepsi,” Ferris said. “Would you like something to drink? Appetizers?”

At that exact moment the waiter appeared at their table. His pencil hovered above his order pad and he stared at Hester, “Oui moiselle?”

“Je voudrais une bouteille de l’eau mineral. Non-gazeuse, s’il vous plait.”

The waiter put his pad into the pocket on his black apron. Without saying a word, he spun on his heel and disappeared back to wherever it was that he had come from.

Meanwhile, Ferris knew immediately that he was in love. He wanted to grab Hester by the hand. He wanted to kiss her hand, kiss her arm over and over, all the way up to her neck. Like that guy on that TV show, Don Addams or Gomez Addams with his wife Morticia. That was a good show, but he refrained from kissing her.

“You speak French, Hester?”

“Yes, yes, I do. I speak: well, English, of course, but also French, Leonese, and Klingon. That’s about it. What do you do, Ferris?”

Ferris worked nights, cleaning office buildings in the Financial District. “I work on Wall Street,” he said. “What about you?”

Hester would go to work at about 2:00 in the morning. She made donuts at Mojo’s, on Fifth Street. “I’m a pastry chef,” she answered.

“Cool, but with your language abilities, shouldn’t you be working as a translator? Maybe at the UN or somewhere like that?”

“I suppose I could do that, but I enjoy the creativity that comes with my current job.”

Whoops – Time’s up! Step away from the keyboard

This week’s prompts were:

  1. cotton to
  2. letters from strangers
  3. patiently lying

Here are the three I accidentally deleted…Sorry

Bill Miller went into his office that morning, as he did every other day. Just like there had been yesterday, there were dozens of tubs stacked against the wall by the office door. Each tub contained hundreds of letters and he intended to open every one of them. There were thousands of them. They were from members of his flock and most all of them contained cash donations. They were small donations, for the most part. There would be Five dollars here, Ten dollars there, but always folding money. Not always dollars either, he received donations from all over the world. He accepted blue money, red money, brown money; the currency mattered not. It was all spendable.

It was easy to fleece strangers who believed everything he said.


I’m sorry Professor; I just can’t cotton to what you’re saying. I think you have it all wrong. The world doesn’t work that way, people don’t act that way. It’s not that easy, it’s not that predictable, and it’s not always black and white, not binary.

But it is, don’t you see? We are creatures of habit. We are doomed to repeat our failures, our debacles, and our deeds. That’s the way we’re programmed. History has proven this time and time again.


Edna sighed and tried again, “No honey, that’s not where babies come from. Babies come from the garden. Your father and I found you when we turned over the leaves of the tomato vine. I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”



Written for: the fun of it

Chayton Tokula left Stillwell, bound for California almost six months ago. He hadn’t been in a hurry. A man could always find work. On this trip, he earned travelling money by sweeping up at Greyhound stations, cooking in roadside coffee shops, or pumping gas at Texaco stations. A butcher by trade, he’d taken more than one job at a small meat processing outfit. He did whatever he had to, to earn a bit of cash, something he could eat off of, and help him make it a few miles further down the road.

The land changed as he hitched and hiked west, the differences more apparent and rapid as he got nearer to the coast. He had come a long way. There were still mountains; he liked mountains. The grasses were greener, the trees more plentiful. The air smelled different.

One morning, north of Salinas, Chayton stood at the edge of an empty artichoke field and puzzled as he breathed in the salt air. He had never smelled anything like this in his life. He inhaled deeply and smiled. Tomorrow, he would look for work. Today was for smelling, soaking it all in.