TBP’s On-Line Writer’s Guild #20


  1. Kerouac, Steinbeck, Twain
  2. Stop me if you’ve already heard this
  3. Wasabi

There were four of us competing for the post.

Bonnie Kerouac was the front runner and favoured to win but Rich Twain had mounted a strong comeback. Bonnie was starting to get worried. Andy Steinbeck was considering dropping out of the race but was still discussing options with his advisors. Me? I didn’t care if I won or not. I had thrown my hat into the ring with the sole purpose of getting extra credit for my Poli-Sci class.

My name is Mailer, Thomas Mailer and I’m an English Major.

Rich Twain studied Marketing Communications. He carried a solid 2.0 GPA and liked to party more than he liked to study. He was a smart guy – if you could catch him sober. I think his faculty advisor had sobered him up just in the nick of time. The smart money was still on Bonnie but there was a faint glimmer of hope that he might edge Kerouac out of the race at the last minute.

I had dated Bonnie a couple of times during our sophomore year but nothing ever came of it. She was studying Computer Science – wanted to be a game developer. We had absolutely nothing in common, nothing to talk about, but the sex had been good. The parting had been amicable and we were still friends. I had led her on for as long as I could, but Bonnie Kerouac had dumped me when she understood that I was not prepared to give her the commitment that she wanted. She was looking for something long-term. I was chasing skirts.

Andy Steinbeck was a jock who had lettered in two sports, tennis and darts. He might’ve had a better chance in this race if he had played a higher profile sport than darts – maybe football or rugby?

The election was on a Tuesday. I woke early and headed to the library to vote for myself. I didn’t have any classes so I strolled downtown with a detour past The Bent Taco where I treated myself to a breakfast burrito. As is usually the case I wound up at The Bookshop and wandered in. I did a lot of reading at The Bookshop. The staff there was all hippies and they didn’t seem to mind if I sat all day, reading without buying a thing. I went straight to the shelf that held the book I had been slowly working through. It had been written by some guy in 1986 and was titled Miami and the Siege of Chicago. One of the TA’s had recommended it. I thought it was a little old fashioned but still entertaining. Yanking the copy I had been reading I made my way to one of the soft, easy chairs that The Bookshop provided. Thumbing through the book, I was relieved to find that my bookmark was still in place.

OOPS – I spent almost 35 minutes writing this much. I’m not going to edit. You get the rough cut, the first draft. Sorry guys, there’s no lipstick on this pig!

Parliamentary Procedures

  1. Time is on our side
  2. The squeak on the stairs
  3. Movie of the week

TBP’s On-line Writer’s Guild #19

They were gathered in the upstairs bedroom, the bedroom that looked out over the courthouse. The doctor called the meeting to order.

“Quiet everyone, quiet,” he said. “We have a serious problem here and we need to address it. I think you are all aware that a new family has moved into the house and they have begun redecorating. We can’t have that. When Bill died we all naturally assumed that the house would stand vacant and we would have free reign.” Doctor Johnson looked over at Bill, “What happened, can you explain it?”

“Of course I can. It’s my son and his wife. They have the house now! I told you about this before I died but all of you arrogant spirits didn’t want to accept the facts. You didn’t listen to me.”

“We’ve got to get them out of here.” Lamont said, “They’ll screw everything up.” Everyone began talking at once, and Dr. Johnson let them rant for awhile. He took inventory of who was here.

Lamont had been a railroad man who had worked at the roundhouse years ago when the rails were a viable concern in town. In a tragic accident he had lost his leg to the steel wheel of a boxcar. By the time he got to Dr. Johnson’s he had lost too much blood and he bled out in the very room where they now met. For thirty years Dr. Johnson had run his practice from this old house. When he passed away; he stayed. It had been his home and he knew that other spirits lingered. All of them had passed in the house. Lamont, from blood loss; Elizabeth had expired during childbirth; she was still here, but the baby had moved on. Randall, Buck, Leticia, and Carrie Belle were here and so was Patsy. Bill was the latest. He had lived in the house until his death three years ago. He was still here though, he had loved the house too.

Buck finally appointed himself as spokesperson, “We need to scare them out,” he said. “We’re ghosts, this should be easy for us.”

“No way,” Bill interjected, “I won’t have any part of this. That’s my son and his family. I won’t let you do it.”

“Nobody asked you,” Buck shot back with a sneer, “we need to get them out!”

“My boy won’t scare easy.” Bill said.

“We have the squeak on the stairs. That’ll scare him,” said Buck.

Everybody laughed at that. “What’s so funny?” Buck asked as he looked at each of them in turn.

Leticia answered, “A squeak on the stairs? A squeak on the stairs? That’s not gonna scare anybody, Buck. I think we oughta just get used to them. I think we oughta make nice. Be friendly. Ya know?”

Bill pointed at Buck, “you go ahead and squeak the stairs if you want, but I agree with Leticia. We need to make nice. They’re family and I kinda like having them here.”

“Let’s take a vote,” Dr. Johnson’s commanding voice silenced everyone. “All in favour of trying to scare them off say ‘aye’.”

“’Aye’,” said Buck immediately.

“Yeah, I suppose I have to vote ‘aye’ too,” Lamont looked at the floor and raised his hand. The rest of the ghosts were silent.

“All in favour of making friends and coexisting?” the doctor asked.

Randall, Leticia, Carrie Belle, Patsy, and Bill all raised their hands. Dr. Johnson looked at them all and raised his hand too.

“So it’s decided then. Buck, you and Lamont need to sign up for this, are you on board with the program? Or will we be kicking you out instead?”

“I guess I’m OK with it as long as I don’t have to listen to that music those kids play all the time.” Lamont said.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Buck grudgingly conceded.

“Meeting’s adjourned,” Dr. Johnson said, “Y’all all go downstairs and introduce yourselves.”


OLWG #18

  1. It was mockery
  2. I liked the way she spoke
  3. While the dog wheezed and sputtered in the other room

Wearing only shorts, I lay on the cool tile floor seeking relief from the heat, while the dog wheezed and sputtered in the other room. Poor girl, she was having as much trouble with the oppressive temperatures and humidity as everyone else was. I finished the last beer and knew it was only going to get worse now that there was nothing cool to drink. The water was unsafe. The beers were done, as were the coca colas. Eventually I was going to have to venture out to the market for supplies. I craved ice and wished for bottled liquids. Perhaps this time I would stock up on bottled water instead of beer and soda. That might be smarter. I dozed; off and on to pass the time.

As the afternoon waned and the shadows began to lengthen I sensed the respite promised by the evening. A breeze began to kick up and blew a bit of life back into the city. People began to take to the streets again; I could hear them as they passed by my curtained window. Almost reluctantly, but knowing it was vital, I picked myself up off the floor and pulled on a thin white cotton shirt and my Huaraches. With a few pesos in my pocket, I checked the dog’s water and walked out the front door, pulling my rolling cart behind me. It was a few blocks to the Mercado and I intended to buy lots and lots of water.

It was still hot outside, like a furnace, I estimated it to be at least 45 degrees and I considered going back in the house. No, I had to do this; else I would surely perish tomorrow. I trudged slowly up the hill to the end of the block, turned left and walked down to the store where I bought water. I filled my cart with water; water and three large bags of ice. I greeted Sr. Zuniga and asked how his day was going. His wife answered for him. In Spanish she told me that it had been a very good day for them. The weather was good for business. She was from somewhere down south and I liked the way she spoke. Her accent was lilting and soft. Zuniga was a lucky man. She was beaming as she scurried about the shop, staying busy by straightening shelves and making sure everything was stocked properly. She pointed out that they had watermelon and I took two of those as well. I would have bought them all but I was a little light on pesos, with no income anticipated until late next week. I had to conserve.

Melons balanced precariously atop my basket of ice and water, I headed home. The old dog, who lives in my house, greeted me when I got inside and sniffed around my basket to see if I had brought her something. My refrigeration system here consists of three old Igloo Ice Chests I keep them iced and anything that requires refrigeration goes into one of the coolers. I got the ice in the coolers and threw some water in there with them. The rest of the waters I stacked on the floor in hope that they might be kept temperate by the Saltillo tiles. I cut one of the melons in half and set one part on the rough wooden table. The other half I lowered into a chest. I would save it for tomorrow.

Slicing off several thick slabs of melon I sat at the table and ate. I offered some to the dog and we ate our dinner together. The melon was delicious, juicy and sweet. The old cur seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.

Oh, times up – 25 minutes passes fast when you’re crafting a story. I spent another five to edit. I choose 3!

TBP’s On-line Writer’s Guild #17


  1. Just got back from Idaho
  2. Turn that up, will you
  3. Complex in its simplicity

It was about three o’clock in the afternoon when I turned my truck up the recently graded dirt track that led to my cousin’s cabin in Eastern Oregon. She lives just outside The Narrows on about 30 acres of land. The house is modest, she’s not rich, but she is paranoid. As I pulled close I saw her on the porch waiting. She must have heard me coming from pretty far away. She had her shotgun broke open and lying across her left arm. I knew she had shot in both barrels and I would have bet that there were more shells in the pockets of her coat. I stopped about 50 feet away from the house, set the brake and got out of the truck with my hands up where she could see them. She doesn’t like to wear her glasses much, says they make her dizzy.

“Lila, it’s me; Gerald. Gerald Templeton. Your cousin. Your Aunt Clint’s boy.” I wasn’t sure if she could see me this far away or not so I opted to provide too much information, just in case.

She snapped the barrel of her piece back in place and I bent my knees; ready to run if I had to, but she set it down on the porch and leaned it next to the door. She was wearing a brown leather jacket over a flowered cotton shirt and a blue jean skirt with cowboy boots. A straw hat with a red bandana tied around, as a band, finished off her outfit. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a loose pony tail and fell down her back.

“Come on up Gerry,” she hollered, “The hell are you doin’ in these parts?”

I got back in the truck and pulled up to a DG pad next to the house; slotted in next to her Jeep. I could hear old songs from Credence wafting from the house.

We hugged when I got out of the truck and she invited me in. “Good to see you Jerry. Whatcha doin’ here. Somebody die?”

“Nah, I just got back from Idaho, on my way home and thought I should stop and pay my respects. Haven’t seen you in what? Three or four years?” I thought it was funny the way I slipped into her vernacular so easily.

“Choo doin’ in Idaho?” she asked.

“Mostly fishin’. Got a cooler fulla keepers, thought you might like some of ‘um.”

“Nice ‘o you,” she said, “hungry? I snared a mess ‘o rabbits earlier in the week and I got a stew goin’. You’re welcome to stay the night. I could use the company. Got any whiskey?”

“Matter of fact,” I pulled a bottle of Jack Daniels from behind the seat of my truck and tossed it to her. She grinned as she caught it and I slammed the driver’s door on the truck. I went around back, dropped the tailgate and pulled a cooler out of the bed. “I got some nice steelhead here. Figure I should leave you a couple.”

She held the whiskey in her left hand and hefted one side of the cooler with her right. I took the other side and we moved up to the house. It smelled rich with rabbit stew. Lila’s cabin was a single room, for the most part but the bathroom was attached. The front of the cabin was taken up by the kitchen and the dining table. There were a couple of recliners on the wall behind the kitchen pointed at the fireplace and her bed was behind that, close to the bathroom door. The sheets were a mess but that was just Lila. The rest of the house was neat as a pin.

I had the fish on ice and there was a nice one on top he was at least 36” and she immediately said that that one would be enough for her, thank you very much! “You gonna have to share with yo Momma and Marlene as well, ain’t cha? This here’ll be plenty for me and I ‘preciate it.”

She pulled the fish out of the cooler and set him on the counter, next to the sink. “Don’t mind if I fillet him before I throw the good bits in the ice box do ya?”  She moved to the counter opened a drawer and pulled out a fillet knife. She opened an upper cabinet and took out a couple of glasses. She set the knife down next to the fish, opened the bottle and poured a couple of fingers of whiskey in each glass. She handed one to me. “Here’s to family,” she said and drank it down.

I pointed to the tape player she had sitting on top of the refrigerator. John Fogarty’s voice was telling me that someday never comes.

“Turn that up, will you?” I asked her.

30 minutes. Edited in real time as I wrote, so it’s still a little rough.

I just went back and read this. “little rough” is a bit of an understatement. I won’t change this one but I may revisit this story with a red pen soon. Hope not to bore you if you have to read it again. Gosh, thanks for reading it the first time!


TBP’s On-line Writer’s Guild #15

TBP’s On-line Writer’s Guild #15

  1. she loved storms
  2. Oh no, not again!
  3. Just like Ricky

Blanche crouched low on the balcony of unit 402, number 57 rue du Ormond. She glanced at the silenced 7.62×51mm M40 that she had assembled and readied. The rifle was her favourite and she was looking forward to using it on this job. That is, if she were allowed to complete this job; if Ricky didn’t have the same assignment. She knew that her minders would often assign the same targets to them both. Lately, Ricky had been getting there first.

Today would be different. Today she had a view of the embassy building where the motorcade was to begin. The ambassador would be getting in his car there. If luck were on her side she might be able to finish the job before he even got in the vehicle. If there was no shot while he was in the open, she knew that the limo would be coming up the avenue. She would have several hundred meters and she would be able to sight on him through the windscreen. An easy second opportunity. The day was cool and cloudy. There would be no glare on the glass and Ricky had to be further down the parade route. This would be her kill, she knew it.

She heard a noise from the balcony below. The sound of the doors opening and shutting, she froze and listened. Whoever was below was quiet, but she picked up the unmistakable sounds of a sniper rifle being assembled. Oh no, not again; that would be Ricky. It couldn’t be anyone else. Ricky used the AI Arctic Warfare Super Magnum and he would be putting it together right now, on the balcony right below her.

“That you Ricky?” she asked in a stage whisper.

“Hullo Blanche,” she heard in reply.

“You gotta go somewhere else Ricky,” she went on, “this is my nest. Go find your own.”

“I don’t think so, Blanche. I quite like it here. You should move.”

“No way Ricky, I was here first.”

There was silence from below. Blanche listened. She wanted to pick up the sounds of him leaving but she heard nothing.

“Still there, Blanche?” he finally asked.

“Still here,” she said, “I’m waiting for you to leave.”

“That’s not going to happen. There’s a storm brewing. No wind but rain is pretty much assured. The only other viable vantage point for this would be the park. The park’s fu’ther down the parade route and would leave me unprotected from the storm. I’d get all wet”

“I love storms.” Was all she said.

“Let’s do this one together, Blanche, shall we? You know, in unison, on the count of three, all that. They’d have to pay us both then.”

She was quiet as she considered his proposal. It was just like Ricky to come up with an idea like this, but she might be able to use it to her advantage.

“All right, Ricky,” she said to the balcony down below her. “I’m game.” She looked at her watch. “I expect the ambassador to show within the next few minutes. You count and we’ll do it on three.”

“Right.” He said.

They both went quiet then. Blanche was peering through her scope, breathing slowly. She had the butt of her gun pressed against her shoulder. She knew Ricky was doing the same thing and when the activity picked up at the embassy building; she knew the ambassador was about to come out to his limo. She held her breath.

First man out of the door was a bodyguard, she watched him scan the embassy grounds and then signal back inside. Blanche began a long slow exhale.

“Ready, Blanche?” Ricky asked as the ambassador came out from the building.

He started counting, “One… Two…”

Both rifles fired simultaneously pffht. The ambassador went down.

Blanche began disassembling her piece preparing to go.

“Ricky, you prick, you cheated.”

“Only because I knew you would.” He replied.


Mari, From El Paso

  1. They were seven when they left Abilene
  2. It wasn’t as much fun as I had hoped
  3. Maybe I’ll just stay here for awhile

They were seven when they left Abilene. They were new graduates from the university there. For the most part they sat together in the middle of the bus on both sides of the aisle and told stories. Comfortable with one another as old friends are wont to be.

California, that’s where they were bound, fame and fortune beckoned. Bill had studied theatre, Andrew knew lighting, Amy and Katherine had voices like angels. Mike had a screenplay that was almost finished and Walter craved the adventure. Walter had convinced Susan to come along; and she came because she loved him. She didn’t want to be the one left behind. She didn’t want to be standing at the depot in Abilene waving goodbye as he disappeared from her life forever.

They stopped in Big Springs for fuel and bathrooms. They stopped again in Van Horn. When they pulled into the station in El Paso the driver announced that they would be here for an hour and a half. He suggested the Jackrabbit Cafe, across the street from the depot if they were hungry.

Walter and Susan stayed on the bus, making out. Amy and Katherine decided to hunt for souvenirs in the gift shop. Bill tagged along with the girls and Andrew decided a walk was in order. He wanted to stretch his legs. Only Mike went to the Jackrabbit.

The waitress there was a young girl, maybe 18. She had dark hair and her name tag said “Mari”.

“What can I get you?” She asked Mike when he took a seat at the counter. She had a pencil behind her ear and a pot of coffee in her hand. Her order pad was tucked in an apron pocket.

“A cup of coffee would be nice.” He smiled at her and thought about what it would be like to spend time with her; maybe a picnic on the side of a stream, or visiting an art gallery downtown.

She smiled back. “Just passin’ thru?” she asked.

“Maybe,” he said. “Now that I’ve met you I’m rethinking that.”

“Well, I recommend the Monte Cristo,” she told him. “Esteban makes a mean Monte Cristo and he can make the fries extra crispy if you want.”

“Who’s Esteban?” Mike asked.

“Esteban’s the cook.”

“A Monte Cristo it is then, with extra crispy fries” he ordered and she scribbled it on the ticket, went back and slid it onto the wheel in the window. He watched her make her rounds, speaking with the customers, topping up their coffees, making change, and sliding bills onto their tables.

Straightaway though, she came back to Mike and they talked about why he was going to California. They talked about his screenplay and his dreams.

She asked if he had to be in California to sell a play in California. They flirted shamelessly till he had to leave. He put money on the counter top and turned to go.

“Hey,” Mari called him back, “you know, they’re hirin’ at the gas station.”

Mike waved goodbye to her and hurried across the street. The driver was checking tickets at the door. Mike took the first two steps up, to board the bus before he stopped and turned back to the driver. “Can you get my luggage out from below?” he asked. “I’m thinking, maybe I’ll just stay here for awhile.”

Mike waved to the others as the bus pulled away.

They were only six when they left El Paso.

Thirty one minutes to write. I spent less than a minute to edit. One of these days I’ll learn to spell “souvenir”. I read it and figured I would let the raw character of the writing slip through my fingertips. Hope you enjoy the unedited me.


TBP’s On-line Writer’s Guild #13


  1. …drank up all my money
  2. “I like heavy metal.”
  3. I’m not one of those other girls.

“Hey, Sugar,” she leaned against the bar next to me and I looked over at her. She looked to be between 25 and 30 years old but I knew she was only 19, and I could tell right away that she leaned against the bar because otherwise she would fall down. Her eyes were half closed and unfocused; she was deep in an alcoholic haze. An unlit cigarette was clutched between the first two fingers of her right hand.

I’d seen her here before but didn’t know too much about her. I knew how old she was, and I knew that her name was Janelle. I knew that she was a barfly because I’d seen her in other local dives too. All the barmen, bouncers, and servers knew her. She’d been coming into the bars for a couple of years now and she’d slept with most of the people who worked in them, men and women alike. She knew that they couldn’t toss her out if they had been serving her for a long time or if they had been intimately involved with her. It was her way of ensuring access to her drug of choice, alcohol.

She stood there for a while without saying anything till she tried to take a hit off her unlit cigarette. She noticed me again, “Hey, Sugar,” she repeated, “got a light?”

I handed her the book of matches I pulled from my pocket, “Keep ‘em,” I said. She stood swaying, and struggling. I watched her ruin four matches without getting her smoke lit. I took the matches back from her, lit one on the back cover, cupped it in my hand, and held it out to her. She steadied herself with my arm and lit her cigarette. I shook out the match and handed her back the book, whereupon she turned a bit and fell back onto the empty stool next to me.

“Say, I wonder if you could help me out?” she asked, her words slurred past her lips in a haze. “I kinda drank up all of my money and I seem to have misplaced my drink. Would you like to buy a girl a drink?” She sat and swayed, waiting for my answer. I watched her for a moment or two then I signaled Rocket, who had been watching us from the other side of the bar, down by the old NCR. I jerked my thumb in the direction of the drunken girl and Rocket moved easily down to where we sat.

“Sorry, I’m cutting you off, Janelle.” She said, “I think you’ve had enough. Want me to call you a cab? Your momma’s probably getting worried.”

“Ahh fuck, Rocket! Not again.”

“Sorry Janelle.” She said.

“But, I got no money for a cab.” She looked at me, pleadingly. “Can you loan me ten bucks, Daddy? Rocket’s tossing me out.”

“Sure,” I said and I pulled my money clip out of my pocket. I peeled off a Hamilton and held it out. She grabbed my hand and held on as she took the money. Rocket went back down to the register and picked up the phone to call a Gypsy Cab.

“Thanks,” Janelle said then she turned back towards the bar and clutching the ten spot, put her head down on her arms. Rocket had to wake her when the driver arrived.