Tag Archives: fiction

Mr. Bob Dobalina (flash fiction)

I was listening to the excellent podcast “The History of Rock Music in 500 Songs” by Andrew Hickey when the idea to write something based on “Zilch” by The Monkees came to me. Before hearing the particular episode on The Monkees, I’d never heard “Zilch.” If you haven’t heard it either, it was meant to be a throw-away filler track, though it seems to have enjoyed more of a life than what was expected. You can see the lyrics, such as they are, here.

I downloaded the album Headquarters on which “Zilch” can be found, and then listened to the track a few times before sitting down and writing this odd this bit of flash fiction. It’s quite rough, so forgive any typos I may have missed.

He sat in the waiting room, his left leg bouncing up and down in place, a nervous habit he’d had since childhood. He remembered his mother placing her hand gently on his knee to stop the movement, which she claimed shook the whole dinner table. What would she say to him? Something about—

“Mr. Dobalina? Mr. Bob Dobalina?”

His leg kept its pace as he continued looking at the magazine without really seeing it. It was a magazine about sailing and ships, about which he knew nothing. Except…that wasn’t true, was it? His brother worked on a ship, didn’t he? The China Clipper. Where was it docked? Some place in California?

The intercom in the small waiting room crackled to life: “China Clipper calling Alemeda.”

That was it. Alemeda. But why would someone say that over the intercom in a doctor’s office?

“Mr. Dobalina? Mr. Bob Dobalina?”

He looked up and saw that the nurse at the reception desk was looking directly at him, as if he was Bob Dobalina. But that was ridiculous, not only because it wasn’t his name but because it was the beginning of a song by The Monkees called “Zilch.” A silly, throw-away track on their excellent album Headquarters that would get in his head and roll around.

The intercom repeated: ““China Clipper calling Alemeda.”

This time, he felt a chill overtake his body. What if something had happened to his brother? What if he was hurt or lost at sea? He jumped up and went to the desk, determined to ask the nurse if he could borrow the phone to make a long-distance call. He’d pay for it, of course. He had money. He was a lawyer, after all.

The nurse regarded him with a blank look and said again, “Mr. Dobalina? Mr. Bob Dobalina?”

He shook his head furiously. “Listen to me, I need your phone, it’s an emergency.” He reached over the desk and grabbed the phone. The nurse didn’t react. He brought the receiver to his ear and heard someone say, ““Mr. Dobalina? Mr. Bob Dobalina?”

“What the hell is going on?” he asked as he slammed the phone down. He didn’t have time for this. In fact, he had an upcoming case he should be working on. Why was he at the doctor’s office again?

“Never mind the furthermore, the plea is self defense.” Those words resonated with him.

As a lawyer, he knew all too well the importance of self-defense in a case. But he also knew how difficult it could be to prove. The line played over and over in his head, as he thought about his upcoming trial.

“It is of my opinion that the people are intending,” he muttered to himself, finally realizing what it meant. He had to win this case, not just for his client, but for the people. He had to show that justice would prevail, and that the innocent would be protected.

But what about his brother? What about his own health? The phone at the nurse’s station suddenly rang, but the nurse kept her blank stare and didn’t move. Cursing, he jerked the phone off its cradle and shouted. “Who is this?”

The voice on the other end said quietly, “Mr. Dobalina? Mr. Bob Dobalina?”

“Who are you?” he screamed.

The intercom crackled again, and he sank to his knees, sobbing, as the voice uttered the same report about the China Clipper. The phone line went dead as the nurse said once more, “Mr. Dobalina? Mr. Bob Dobalina?”

He stood, regained his composure, and nodded. The nurse’s face lit with a beatific smile, and she said, “The doctor will see you now.”

Bob Dobalina walked through the center door, not noticing how the door seemed to be disappearing as he passed through. He was walking forward. That was what he knew. “Never mind the furthermore, the plea is self defense. It is of my opinion that the people are intending,” he told himself, treating the words like a mantra instead of the nonsense he knew them to be.

The Only Beach Boy Who Could Surf (fiction)

Apparently, I posted this story in 2015 but made it private. I’m not sure why I did that. I just gave it a once-over and made a few changes. The story’s better than I remembered.

I found him at the bottom of the pool, dead. I sat in a chair and smoked a cigarette, thinking about all the years I wasted with his sorry ass. 24 years. We were only a few months away from our 25th anniversary…he couldn’t have waited a little longer before he died? 25 is a nicer number, and it says more about my long-suffering. Yep, 25 years I spent with Walter, I could say. 25 years of his drinking, womanizing, lying, stealing, and all the other shit he got up to. It just sounds better than 24 years of his drinking, womanizing, and so on.

Marjorie wandered out from the house, sleep still in her eyes, wearing one of my extra bathrobes. I had four or five, all gifts from Walter. He thought I liked them when the truth is, I couldnt give a rat’s hairy ballsack about bathrobes. I’m always hot after a shower or bath and I liked to parade around naked. Walter used to like that, way back at the start of everything. 

Marjorie bummed a smoke from me and stared in the pool. “That Walter?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Huh. He’s not floating.”

“Bodies don’t float for long.”

“And how do you know that, Miss Priss?”

“Saw it on a Law & Order or something. Or maybe I read it sometime. Does it matter?”

“No, I reckon not.” Marjorie plopped her fat self in the chair beside me. She still had her rollers in but she’d put on lipstick. The filter of her cigarette looked bloody. “Well, now what?”

I flicked my cigarette in the pool. It hissed when it hit the water. God knows the last time we’d had the thing cleaned. Walter had died in some nasty water, that’s for sure. “I guess we could call the police,” I said. 

“You kill him?”

“No. I came out here and found him at the bottom of the pool. My guess is that he got drunk and tumbled in.”

“Like that Beach Boy.”

Lord, what was Marjorie yapping about? I knew better than to ignore her. Just like my youngest son, Nate, when he was four and he asked one of his endless questions. After what felt like the hundredth question, I’d ignore him, and he’d hitch his voice up a couple of octaves and say “Mama!” until I thought my damn head would burst. 

I lit another cigarette. “What Beach Boy would that be?”

“The only good-looking one, Dennis. Remember, the drummer? He got drunk and fell off a boat and drowned. Did you know he was the only one who surfed?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“That always rubbed me the wrong way. I mean, how can you call yourselves The Beach Boys when only one of you guys can even surf? That song ‘Surfin’ Safari’ is nothing but a pack of lies.”

I’d often imagined finding Walter dead–dead in his chair, dead in the driveway from a heart attack, and even dead where he slept all those years right beside me. But I didn’t ever imagine sitting here with my best friend talking about how The Beach Boys betrayed the public’s trust while Walter’s body lay at the bottom of the pool.

“Well, I guess I’ll make a little breakfast and put the rest of my face on,” Marjorie said, groaning as she lifted herself out of the chair. “Let me know what you decide to do.”

“Okay,” I said. “You’ll put on a pot of coffee?”

“You know it.”

“Sounds good.”

I sat by the pool for a little longer before going back in to get a cup of coffee. Marjorie made it extra-strong, which I liked. She’d been staying with us for about a week by that point. I remember Walter pulling me aside after two days and hissing, “Now just when is she gonna be on her merry little way?”

“Whenever the mood strikes her, I guess,” I said. “You know Marjorie. Free like the wind.”

“She’s not living here.”

“Who said anything about her living here? She’s got a nice place of her own in Waycross, you know that.”

“Well, I know women like Marjorie and you don’t,” Walter said, ignoring the obvious problem with his statement. Walter fancied himself knowledgeable about many things when in fact what he knew was limited to HVAC repair, cheap beer, and chasing ass. . So-called “women like Marjorie” scared the pants off him because they didn’t rely on a man and they mostly did what they damn well pleased. Like taking off on a whim and coming to visit me without a specific end date in mind.

Marjorie was thumbing through the newspaper when I sat down at the kitchen table with my coffee. She hadn’t put the rest of her face on; she was still just wearing lipstick, her curlers, and a bathrobe. Well, what was the hurry? It’s not like we had a dead body in the pool or anything. Ha ha.

“You gonna call Nate and tell him his daddy died?” she asked.

“That can wait. Nate and Walter haven’t talked in nearly five years. No reason to dump this on him so early in the morning. Maybe after lunch.”

Marjorie shook her head and her curlers did a little dance. I was always envious of her hair. I could do something with mine, but I never saw the point. I sure as hell wouldn’t put rollers in at night. I caught my reflection in the mirror the other day and thought I look like someone children would be frightened of.

“Well, this is your show,” Marjory said, “I’m just an audience member.” She put her plate and coffee mug in the sink and went back to the guest room.

I stayed at the table, thinking. Our 24 years together hadn’t been all bad. We’d been in love once. I remember how handsome Walter looked when he got out of basic training. I thought I was the luckiest girl on Earth as we walked through town, my arm in his. I lost my virginity to him before he shipped out and I promised to wait for him. And that’s what I did. We got married, and before long, Nate was born. I had a hysterectomy in 1976, so no more kids for us. That was fine with Walter, who never wanted kids anyway.

I could almost forgive Walter for losing interest in me, for letting himself go and drinking so much, but I had a harder time forgiving what he did to Nate. He didn’t rough him up or anything like that. He just never showed any interest in him. Nate was a weird kid, I’ll admit it, but every boy needs his father to support him. Hell, to at least take him fishing or show him how to shoot a gun or work on a car. Nate hung around Walter like a lost puppy, and Walter never paid him any mind. When I confronted him about it, Walter would just shake his head and say, “Everything’s fine between us. Leave it alone.”

Well, if everything had been fine, they wouldn’t have gone five years without talking. I looked over at the phone. I knew I should call Nate and the police. I glanced at the clock and noticed it wasn’t even nine o’clock yet. For all the police knew, I slept every day until eleven. Nate knew better, though. He knew I still got up around six, after so many years of doing so and making Walter’s breakfast.

I walked back out to the pool and looked in the water, suddenly convinced that Walter would no longer be there. But there he was in the same position: face down, arms spread out. He was wearing his work jeans and a flannel shirt, tucked in as always, his graying hair spread out like a halo.

“Oh, no you don’t,” I told myself when I felt tears prick my eyes. But I couldn’t help it. My husband was dead.

Before I knew it, I was in the water. It was warm. I waded over toward the middle of the pool where Walter was and peered down. The image of him swirled and for a moment, I could pretend that he’d just dived down to the bottom for fun. Not that he was down there because he was a drunk and he’d drowned, just like that Beach Boy Marjorie talked about.

What was that Beach Boys song I always liked? Lord, I couldn’t remember anything anymore.

“Walter,” I said, and my voice scared me. It didn’t sound like me at all. I tried to say his name again, but nothing came out. I dipped my head under water. Walter looked peaceful, his body not completely touching the bottom of the pool.

“God Only Knows.” That was the name of the song. I took my head out of the water and tried to sing it: I may not always love you, but long as there are stars above you…

That’s as far as I could get.

Merry Christmas, Or Something (micro fiction)

I vaguely remember writing this short piece. I was looking through old work when I stumbled upon it and decided to make a few changes her and there. I may have posted it here before, but I’m too lazy to look.

There’s nothing left for me here, but that doesn’t mean I’m leaving.

I’ve grown accustomed to the ache, the longing to be elsewhere, which is what I feel most days. Some days, it’s all I can think about. Me grabbing what I can cram in Mama’s pink and brown suitcase and shoving his old car in gear,  willing it to work at least across the state line. I don’t felt that way when he starts playing that old guitar, the one his father stole for him the Christmas he turned thirteen, that he doesn’t touch unless he’s been drinking. He coaxes such beautiful music from the instrument, it nearly makes up for his wreck of a voice, his hesitant delivery, the way he stumbles over words he should know.

“You don’t understand music,” he always tells me, but what he means is, “You know more that I do,” so I keep my mouth shut and listen to him. The music is like a lover, a more patient one than him, this would-be musician playing in our tiny, cramped living room 

The winter night lurks outside the windows, waiting to creep in when the lights are off and we’re in bed, clothes scattered through the place, his hands wandering across my body, re-staking his claim to make sure my dreams of leaving don’t come true for a little while longer.

Back on Planet Earth

I wrote this some time ago as a poem, but I think it works better as prose…maybe. I suspect it should be longer, but I don’t have it in me to produce long pieces, be they poems or prose. Once upon a time, yes, but those days are gone, and I suspect they won’t return.

“I ate a butterfly,” my son confessed late one night when the moon hid her face and the stars had twinkle-toed their way into the Great Beyond where giant creatures soared through interstellar space, a comforting prospect for me and my dutiful, sky-gazing, only child.

“I’ve heard worse,” I told him. “Hell, I’ve done worse, though butterfly eating isn’t the best thing in the world. You’re mom would have had a fit.”

I remember the time she cried in the backyard and I kissed her eyes until she stopped. She told me about memories she couldn’t have had, images of a past life she lived under violet clouds and three moons. We agreed that she was from another planet, and we acknowledged how terrible it was that she had to die on this one.

My son and I think that she must be one of the space creatures now, her cavernous mouth agape as she drifts in the cold darkness, lonely until she bumps until another creature she hopes is me or our son. Perhaps one day it will be, but for now she sighs an alien sigh and flaps her dark wings.

Back here on planet Earth, we struggle on. We etch our memories in sand, knowing they will fade with rushing water and wind. Some of us eat butterflies. The rest of us learn to forgive such things and try to smile.

Something deep and troubling had occurred…(story draft)

I began writing this story in 2008, and I’m surprised I’m still able to connect to the characters and their voices. I didn’t think they had anything else to say.

For now, I’ll call this story complete. It never had a title, and I can’t come up with one now. So it goes.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Something deep and troubling had occurred during Ed’s time away, and it rippled through the park like electricity. He couldn’t come right out and ask his wife Martha what it was; if she knew, she would lie like she always did, no matter the circumstances. There was a time when he and Martha were close, and he would have gone right to her and said, “I got that feeling again,” and they would have talked about it, probably made love and talked some more. But they were different people now.

And this time, things felt much different. Worse. A fundamental shift had taken place.

His horoscope was no help at all. Whatever Ed had—the sight, clairvoyance—wasn’t always reliable, but it was still a hell of a lot more accurate than astrology. But he was in the habit of reading it, if only to get a chuckle. Today’s read: Cancer – You should avoid any extra projects this week. Outlook is good on the creative front, but beware strenuous labor. What good did that do? He was a contractor, for God’s sake. Labor was what he did, but as the cards fell, he wasn’t doing anything today, though not for lack of trying. He and his partner Joe Frampton had just come back from a job in Williston, and his back ached like someone had beat his spine with a shovel. He didn’t have anything in the works until next week, when he and the crew were going to do some demo work out at Greg Anderson’s place. Nothing to do today but contemplate his own list of unending chores around the house. It was one thing Martha dug at him about. “When are you gonna fix up the bathroom?” she would ask.

“I’m not a plumber, Marth,” Ed replied.

“You could fix it and you know it. You’re just lazy and good for nothing.”

If he was lazy and good for nothing, what was she? The exact same. Martha hadn’t worked since being a cashier at Winn-Dixie in high school. She hadn’t even been a good mother. Their first child, a backward looking boy named Rye, was serving ten years for armed robbery, and child services had taken away eleven year old Kelsey to live with relatives over in Robinson county. Ed called Kelsey occasionally, and his only daughter would grunt through the conversation and smack gum. He hadn’t visited Rye in nearly two months. As bad of a mother as Martha had been, he knew he wasn’t exactly in the running for Father of the Year.

Maybe he was good for nothing, except maybe hammering two pieces of wood together. Maybe Martha had the right of it, after all.

But none of this explained the overwhelming sense that all wasn’t right, that something terrible had happened. Ed sighed and grabbed another beer from the fridge and waited for Martha to return from whatever nonsense she was up to.


The nonsense Martha was up to involved disposing of a body, specifically that of Georgia Jenkins.

“God in Heaven, Jilly,” Martha growled as she dragged the duct-taped and blanket-shrouded body from the truck bed of her friend’s dusty Ford F-150. “How many rocks did you put in there?”

“You’re just out of shape,” Jilly said, slamming the truck door and peering around the darkness of the lake. “I hope no one’s out here.”
Martha dropped Georgia’s inert form and breathed heavily. “Too cold. Everyone else is inside, warm and toasty. And we’re out here dragging a body to the lake.”

“What if we get caught?”

“We won’t get caught if we hurry. Come on and give me a hand.”

The two women dragged the body to the edge of the lake and eventually got the corpse pulled between them and began swinging. Georgia Jenkins connected with the icy waters of the lake with a tremendous splash and, after bobbing around like a ghastly cork, sank beneath the surface.

Martha sighed. “Well, that’s that.”

Jilly tried and failed to suppress a shiver that had nothing to do with the biting wind. “Unless she comes back to haunt us.”

“Shut up with that nonsense, Jilly.”

“What, you don’t believe in ghosts?”

Martha withdrew a battered pack of Salem Lights from her front pocket and lit a cigarette. After a greedy drag, she answered, “No, I don’t believe in ghosts, Jilly. And if I did, I wouldn’t be waiting around for Georgia’s sorry ass of a ghost to come dragging its chains to my door. She was a dumb bitch in life, and probably dumber in death.”

Jilly shook her head. “I don’t know, Martha. Maybe we shouldn’t have—”

Martha flicked ashes at Jilly, and a tiny piece of hot rock sizzled in the air. Jilly gasped and jumped back. “If you’re gonna turn spineless, do it when you’re alone. Don’t try to drag me down, too. I’m right as rain with what we did.”

“All right. Can I bum one of those?”

Martha grimaced and grudgingly offered the pack. “I guess you need a light, too?”


“I thought you quit.”

The cigarette trembled in Jilly’s grasp. “I’m starting back now.”


Ed was about to nod off sitting in front of the TV when someone started banging on the door. He snorted and shook himself awake, staring blearily at the clock. It was midnight, and still no Martha. She wasn’t the one banging on the door. Even if she’d lost her key, Martha would be howling Ed’s name and calling him all sorts of things.

Ed polished off the last of his beer as he stumbled to the door. He was shocked to find Georgia Jenkins—naked and shivering—on the porch. But then he immediately felt such strong déjà vu that he stumbled back for a moment. This is it, he realized. This is what’s wrong. Something with Georgia.

“Georgia, what the hell…” Ed started, but the words died on his tongue. Under the sallow front porch light, the girl sobbed uncontrollably. Her lip was split in several places, her left eyes swollen shut and the color of eggplant. Lashes lay like spiderwebs across her chest, and her right arm had been savagely yanked out of socket.

“Get in here, get in!” Ed said, tenderly taking Georgia in under his right arm and walking her into the trailer. When he touched her, it felt like sparks shooting through him. For an instant, he hurt everywhere that he saw wounds on Georgia’s body. The feeling faded as quickly as it came, but Ed started shaking like the girl.

Georgia’s sobbing increased when he shut the door and left the room to fetch a blanket. “I’m not leaving you, Georgia!” he called wildly from the bedroom. He dashed back in the living room an draped the blanket around the girl’s bruised shoulders. When his fingers brushed her skin, he didn’t feel any pain, which was a relief. “You want some water? Maybe something stronger?”

Georgia nodded, and since Ed wasn’t sure which she preferred, he went to the kitchen and returned with a glass of tap water and a bottle of Jim Beam. Georgia reached for the Jim Beam and took three strong pulls. She shuddered and lay back against the threadbare couch. “I’m okay,” she said, and Ed winced at the way Georgia’s broken-glass of a voice sounded. “I’m okay. Well, at least I’m not dead.”

“What happened?”

Georgia turned her good eye to Ed and paused before saying, “Your wife. And Jilly. They did this.”

Deep inside, Ed knew it was the truth, but he still said, “Georgia, come on.” Martha was many things—many of them not good—but a murderer?

“Fuck you!” Georgia’s voice, no longer broken, filled the trailer like thunder. “Martha and Jilly beat me and left me for dead, Ed! They wrapped me in a blanket and taped it up and dumped me in the goddamn lake! I got out because they’re too fucking stupid to do anything right!”

As soon as the fury had entered Georgia, it evaporated. She sank back onto the couch and into the blanket, glaring at Ed from a tangled of wet brown hair. “So fuck you if you don’t believe me,” she went on quietly, “but this isn’t the kind of thing a girl’s mistaken over.”


Now it was Georgia’s turn to laugh. “Why? Because they’re lunatics. And because of me and Jilly’s husband.

Despite the bruises and cuts, and the dislocated shoulder that was becoming more uncomfortable to look at with each passing second, Georgia Jenkins’ beauty still shone. Sure, lots of women in the park were jealous of Georgia. And yes, Georgia hooked up with John Martin after he and Jilly split but before he cut town for good, but to kill her for it?

Georgia sighed and took another drink. “After a few more sips of this, I’m gonna need you to pop this shoulder back in. Okay?”

“Yeah,” Ed said.

Georgia stared at her bloodied palms. “I get lonely sometimes, just like everyone else. You know, when men do it, no one gives a shit. But let a woman run her life like she wants, and she’s a goddamn whore.”

“I guess.”
Georgia shrugged and winced when her right shoulder flared with a fresh wave of pain. “Let’s get this over with,” she muttered and stood up. She let the blanket fall, and waited while Ed studied her naked, brutalized body. “And I’m gonna want some clothes. Don’t know why they stripped me.”

Ed reached out and took a hardy pull on the Jim Beam. He reached out and touched Georgia’s swollen shoulder. If he concentrated, he could almost get inside Georgia’s head. She was scared, but more than that, she was angry, and the anger was growing. “You ready?”

“As ready as I can be.”

Then three things happened: Ed snapped Georgia’s shoulder back into place, Georgia screamed so loud the windows rattled, and Martha opened the front door.


No one said anything for what, to Ed, felt like an incredibly long time, but was only a few seconds. He had read somewhere that the human mind goes into hyper alert mode when it encounters a serious threat. Time seems to slow down, and looking back, it’s like you can notice every small detail. In super slow motion, Ed watched his wife’s expression go from blank to shocked to scared, and then turning, he saw Georgia’s expression morph second by second from hurt to animal rage.

Time snapped back into place, and Georgia flung herself across the room so fast that Ed didn’t have time to react. Martha outweighed Georgia by a good fifty pounds, but she wasn’t ready for the attack. They both tumbled out the door, off the porch, and into the dirt.

“You tried to kill me!” Georgia screamed. “You dumped me in the fucking lake and left me for dead!”

People were running now to see what the commotion was, and when they arrived at the little plot of dirt and grass in front of Ed and Martha’s trailer, they were treated to an eyeful. Georgia Jenkins, naked as the day she entered the world, was straddling Martha Irwin and choking her. “How does it feel, bitch?” Georgia yelled. She dashed Martha’s head against the ground.

Ed was just about to pull Georgia off his wife when Georgia suddenly let go of Martha and sat back. “Get me some goddamn clothes before I freeze to death,” she snapped at Ed, “but nothing of hers. Some of your stuff is fine.”
Martha was on her hands and knees, coughing and vomiting up what looked like chicken pot pie and Kool-Aid, and it smelled like stomach acid and whiskey. Jilly broke from the crowd of onlookers and was going to help Martha up, but she stopped when Georgia said, “Leave her. I know you had reasons to hate me, and while I’m not real happy about you trying to kill me, I get where you’re coming from. That piece of shit”—she kicked a rock at Martha—“is a cat of a different fucking stripe.”

Ed came back with what he figured were reasonable clothes for Georgia: a flannel shirt, jeans he hadn’t been able to fit in for ten years, a braided belt, some white socks and a pair of old slippers. Georgia stood up and took the clothes, saying, “I’m stepping in here to change. See to your wife, but you make sure she’s still here when I get done.”

“Okay,” Ed said, nodding. He looked at the crowd, which had broken up. People had their own problems to deal with, and when it was clear that Georgia wasn’t actually going to choke Martha to death, they decided it wasn’t worth their time anymore. The only people who stayed were Jilly and Pesto Bill, an old man with rheumy eyes and who was missing his left arm from a farming accident.

“You gonna let that girl whip on your woman like that?” Pesto Bill asked Ed.
“I reckon I didn’t have a choice,” Ed replied. Pesto Bill shrugged and walked away, whistling the same tune he always whistled, “That’s Alright, Mama” by Elvis.

“Georgia said I couldn’t touch you,” Jilly whispered as she bent over Martha, who was still coughing. Her breath wheezed in and out of her lungs. Every time she tried to speak, she coughed. She finally gave up and sat back in the dirt.
“Listen, before Georgia comes back here,” Ed said, walking forward, “I gotta say, this is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done. And we both know you’ve done some dumb shit over the years.”

Ed directed his comments toward Martha, but he glanced over at Jilly so she knew his statement included her, too. “This is attempted murder. It’s not like you just scared the girl or tried to run her off. You threw what you thought was her dead body in the lake. What was your plan after that? To keep that terrible secret for the rest of your life?”

Martha shook her head, but she didn’t try to answer. Ed would have found out, of course. Martha wouldn’t have been able to keep thoughts of Georgia’s murder hidden. He did his best to stay out of Martha’s mind, but the murder would have been a flashing red beacon that he couldn’t have possibly ignored. He would have confronted her, she would have denied it…and then? They would pretend it hadn’t really happened? Ed wasn’t sure he could have done that.

Georgia stepped back outside into the chilly air. She was more composed, and it looked like she had tried combing her hair. Ed was once against struck by how pretty she was. He stepped aside and let Georgia pass, keeping his mind as far away from hers as possible.

“You two listen, because I don’t plan on repeating myself,” Georgia said. “I’m not calling the police or pressing charges or any of that shit because it’s not worth my time. There’d be a trial and lawyers and people poking their noses in my business, and I’m not having it. But Jilly, you’re leaving. Tonight.”
Jilly didn’t move. She looked like an animal staring into headlights, and she stayed that way until Georgia clapped her hands together. The clap sounded like a gunshot, and Jilly jumped. “Go!” Georgia roared. “If I see you around here again, I will shoot you in the cooter, I swear to Christ.”

After Jilly had scrambled away, Georgia turned to Ed and winked, though there was no mirth in her expression.

“As for you, Martha Irwin,” Georgia said, “you’re staying put where I can keep an eye on you. I haven’t decided your punishment yet, but believe me, it’s coming. There will be hell to pay for what you did, but I need to think on it.”
Martha stared at Georgia and then Ed, her expression pained. Aren’t you going to do something? it said to Ed. Ed sighed and turned to Georgia. “Can we talk for a moment inside?” he asked.

“No,” Georgia said. “I’m tired. But thank you for your help. Martha doesn’t deserve you.” She whipped around to Martha and said, “But just because I feel that way doesn’t mean I was going to fuck him, you stupid cunt. Are we clear?”
Martha nodded, and so did Ed. Georgia said, “Okay then. Ed, I’ll return these clothes to you after I wash them. Right now, I’m going to get a drink and sleep for a day or two.”

Ed didn’t say anything as Georgia walked away. When she was out of sight, he gave his hand to Martha, who took it grudgingly and pulled herself up. “We gotta handle her,” she whispered, wincing in pain as she did.

Ed reached out the smallest bit with his mind to touch his wife’s, just to see if what she was saying was bravado or if she really meant to try to kill Georgia a second time. He pulled back almost immediately after skimming the black, hot surface of her thoughts. She was serious, God help her.

Ed didn’t say anything as he helped Martha inside the trailer. He hoped Jilly was packing and getting ready to split; he hoped Georgia was back in her trailer and able to have a moment’s peace. As for him, he was going to have to find a new way to live with Martha…but he didn’t expect that would last long. One way or the other, either Georgia or Martha were going to have to go. And after tonight, Ed wasn’t sure which one he wanted it to be.

Freewriting Session #???

Doubt this will go anywhere, but who knows?

It was a dark day when I decided to kill him. I don’t mean spiritually dark…it was fucking dark, like the sun had gone out or something. There wasn’t an eclipse or anything, it just got dark. Looking back, I’m glad it was like that, like the world was in shadows. And now that he’s gone, I can get on with what’s left of my life.

Writing, or Better Known as Banging My Head Against the Wall

Well, stupidly, I thought I could write something of substance. Ha. Here’s what I wrote:

“I don’t have time for bestiality,” Mr. Warble said.

“Noted,” replied Ms. Eye Drop.

It was the dead of winter. The trees felt like crying but were too cold to do anything but sigh. In a distant land, someone invented love. In a distant time, someone invented death.

I sang into an unplugged microphone, something about leftover dreams and dust.

Raymond Chandler, it ain’t. I love Chandler, by the way, but that’s neither here nor there. I could just as easily say, “I love Stephen King” (which is true) or Stevie Smith (also true).

The thing is, I know my writing voice. I have a distinct poetic voice and a less distinct fiction writing voice. I suppose that’s because I haven’t spent as much time developing my fiction writing…except I have. It just seems like I haven’t. But I wrote fiction almost constantly from the age of 16-33. I wrote five books, two of which are half-way decent. I have an untold number of stories, both finished and unfinished. I’m quite familiar with the craft of writing fiction; I’m just not as good at fiction as I am with poetry.

Why’s that such a problem? It shouldn’t be. You don’t see Joyce Carol Oates lamenting that she’s not as prolific a poet as she is a fiction author. The inimitable Billy Collins does not, to my knowledge, rail out against the Writing Gods that he doesn’t write killer short stories. He’s a poet, and a damn good one. Why not be content with my gifts, such as they are, and let it go at that?

Because I want to be good at fiction. Though If I’m honest, my fiction writing voice is the same as my stream-of-consciousness voice, and I’ve apparently decided that isn’t good. Ever since I began scribbling in journals and typing away at an electric typewriter, I’ve been most comfortable letting the words just flow. That method works well for poetry and sometimes as an idea-generator, but it doesn’t make for compelling fiction. It makes for weird and confusing passages, and while they often make me laugh, I’m afraid others would have a hard time getting through them. “Okay, that’s just a waste of time,” I imagine folks saying. “What the hell’s wrong with him? This isn’t a story! This is just nonsense!”

I’ve never posted or shared in any form my real writing… the immediate, fiery words that erupt out of me and go in so many strange directions. Again: why is this bothering me so much?

so many questions….

And no, that isn’t me. Well, it is, but heavily edited with FaceApp because it makes me laugh as much as it horrifies my wife.

You may see some freewriting over the next few days. and it will be strange. Stay tuned…or stay away.

Jenny and the Gorgon (freewriting)

Writing something weird is better than writing nothing at all, eh?

Do you remember the time with scaled that mountain and you fell and busted your back? Jesus, you were laid up for six months in the hospital, and you did all that physical therapy. What was the therapist’s name? You slept with him, which is all kinds of fucked up, but I try not to judge. I try and fail. Ha ha.

Darren, that was his name. I’m not saying he wasn’t attractive, but you getting in bed with him made as much sense as a lizard in a blender, which–I don’t mind telling you–doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense at all. That’s what my daddy used to say, before he turned to stone. Speaking of weird-ass things, how many people you know that just, like, suddenly turn to stone? It threw me for a bit, I’ll tell you. And when other people started turning to stone, I figured it was some kind of chemical attack, some country that had cooked up this lethal gas that made people into statues. But it turned out a gorgon had gotten loose, which would mean that she had been held somewhere to begin with, for something like a thousand years, and then she was set free and she was like, “Fuck, it’s been a long time, I’m going to set these eyes on the first miserable bastard that comes along,” and bam, just like that, Daddy was stone. He had just woken up, had his first cup of coffee, and opened the front door. Little did he know a gorgon was slithering down the street.

That’s the kind of fucked-up world we live in, Jenny. Trump in the White House, gorgons roaming the streets, ol’ Ms. Shookapoo coming down with the gout. Did you know women could get gout? I thought it was a man thing. Hell, I hope I don’t get it.

No, Jenny, it wasn’t Medusa! Lord God! It was another one. Maybe they cut her head off and put it in a bag, and they’ll keep it around in case something big-ass monster shows up, like they did with Medusa, who’s apparently the only gorgon you think existed. Crack a book open, Jenny, and get off that damn YouTube!

I swear, you and the YouTube! Its like you think it’s magic or something. Maybe it is magic for you and you’re under its damn spell, so I think it would be best if I just smashed the daylights out of the computer and run over your phone in my truck. Then what, Jenny? Then you’d be more worried about the damn gorgon, is what.


Ben the Would-Be Cannibal (story snippet)

 I came across this story snippet as I was going through some old writing, and I was struck by how often cannibalism comes up as a theme in my work. Also, for every completed story, I have perhaps fifty or so partial stories. So it goes.

No picture for this one. I’m not terribly keen on Googling “cannibalism.”

“I’m supposed to care about something, you know,” Ben said as he chewed on a face.
“What if I’m a sociopath?”

“Well,” Donovan observed, “you’re eating a human head. And just because you’re
supposed to do something doesn’t mean you should. Shit, I’m supposed to go
to church, but I don’t. Also, I’m sitting here as you demonstrate you’re a cannibal, so
what does that say about me? I’m supposed to stop you, right? Or at least protest in
some way?”

Ben sighed. “I’m not really a cannibal. This is processed.”

“Doesn’t matter. You’re eating a processed human, which they say tastes like the real deal.”

“I guess.”

“You haven’t eaten a real person, right?”

Ben sighed again. “No.” He could have, of course. There was nothing stopping him
from exploring the black market and picking a body. It would be dressed-out and
ready to cook. Instead, he was gnawing on human-flavored gelatin face. What
respectable cannibal would eat a face, anyway? Could you even cook a head and have
the features stay in place? Maybe if you closed the eyelids and simmered it in broth,
Ben reasoned. The facsimile face he was dining on had gooey, sweet-flavored eyeballs.
He imagined the real deal was a bit tougher and more salty.

“So why are you worried you’re a sociopath?” Donovan asked. “I mean, the current
activity notwithstanding?”

“Because like I said, I don’t care about anything. Not school, not girls, or cars.
Nothing, man. It’s a scary feeling.”

“Which means you’re not a sociopath. Do you think a real sociopath pauses to
reflect on his lack of empathy?”

“Maybe. Like, early in their sociopathy.”

“Have you ever tortured or killed animals?”



“That doesn’t mean anything, Donovan. The mutilation of animals is only one
indicator in a wide variety of cues that might signal someone’s a sociopath.”

“Well, for someone who doesn’t like school, you don’t seem to have a problem
learning. At least about sociopaths.”

Ben shrugged and ate.

Donovan studied the beheaded false corpse before him. Eventually, Ben would have to
remove its clothes, and Donovan didn’t want to be around for that. Ben had
ordered a male corpse, which Donovan guess was better than a female corpse, but he
really wasn’t sure why…


The Pattern (short fiction)

In the spirit of Joyce Carol Oates. Please pardon any typos I may have missed.

sidewalk cracks
image credit


The Pattern

If she looked closely, she could see a pattern, and she could see herself in the pattern. This didn’t happen every day, of course–she had to be in the right frame of mind and receptive to receiving the pattern and her place in it. Over the years since the accident, she estimated that she’d detected the pattern about fifty times. Of that fifty, she’d located herself in the pattern about twenty times.

She couldn’t talk about the pattern with anyone, not her husband, not her sisters, and certainly not her friends. But they weren’t really friends, were they? And as much as she loved her sisters and her husband, that weren’t of ultimate consequence. The accident had proven that she could live without them. She could live without anyone, or so the pattern indicated, and she believed the pattern over all things.

After the accident, she lay in a coma for three months, and that’s when the pattern had come to her. When she woke to her broken body, her torn and disfigured face, the pattern was burned into her mind. She remember the fiery way it came, like the tongues of flames that appeared above the apostles head on Pentecost, She’d known she was on the brink of death; that feeling permeated everything. In the coma, she had a series of dreams, all of which were lit by the fire of the pattern. It flickered over walls, highlighted the ground, filled the sky. Sometimes she dreamed she was a young girl, and other times she was a old woman. No matter the dream, no matter the non-sequiturs her mind strung together, the fire followed, and she felt peaceful.

Nearly a year of physical rehabilitation followed her waking, and she bore it with uncharacteristic stoicism. Her husband said she was remarkably brave, and she just nodded. He was afraid of her, afraid of her new-found strength and determination. Her doctors were skeptical that she would walk again, but she was walking after six months. She underwent two surgeries on her face but stopped short of cosmetic repair. The scars formed their own pattern, and she liked them. Her husband urged her to get the cosmetic surgery, but she wouldn’t be swayed.

When she was cleared to leave the rehab unit, she found her house stifling. It was no longer her home, she realized, and she convinced her husband to sell it. In the home’s place, they settled into a small apartment in a neighborhood that made the husband uncomfortable, but he found that he couldn’t tell his wife no. She had been returned to him, more or less whole, and every day was a gift, or so he told himself She wanted to move, and so they moved. He would grow accustomed to the neighborhood with its loud music and questionable young men who stood on the corner, laughing and smoking and hitting each other. He had been a young man once, but he had never acted like that.

She went for long walks, even though it was painful. She walked with a limp and would for the rest of her life, or so the doctors said. That was all right, she decided. Her new neighbors stared openly at her, disturbing by her ruined face. That was all right, too.

She couldn’t have explained the pattern to anyone, even if she felt they could be trusted. The pattern defied description, and it could be apprehended by her alone. It made her sad sometimes that she couldn’t locate herself always in the pattern, but ultimately she decided that was the nature of life and, indeed, the nature of the universe. The universe didn’t have to include you in its plans, but it was wonderful when it did.

As much as she could determine from the pattern, she had only to follow it when prompted. The first indication had been to leave her house, which she had done. The next part had been to walk through her neighborhood as much as she could, mentally mapping the terrain, and she did that.

She hadn’t worked since the accident. She found she hated her job and work in general, and she was relieved when she discovered her company had terminated her. What a horrible thing, work, she realized. Her husband was an investment banker and made more than enough money to support them both, but he wondered if she wanted to perhaps get a part-time job or maybe volunteer. She shook her head no. It’s not that there wasn’t time for such things, for there was, even with the promise of the pattern. But she had no desire to do anything unrelated to the pattern.

Her husband was more patient than most men, and he felt overwhelming guilt whenever he allowed himself to wonder What’s wrong with her? She’s healed physically, but it’s like the rest of her is just…elsewhere. She would have agreed with that sentiment, had the husband shared it. She was certainly elsewhere in her mind, her spirit. She was seeking the pattern, having seen it enough times to crave more. But she was not in control of that. She simply had to remain open.

The woman’s sisters and friends slowly separated from her, and they shared worried whispers about her less and less. Eventually, her husband took a job and Seattle and said he would return to move her there with him, but he never did. She didn’t mind. He still supported her. Her bank account was alway full and never need replenishing. She had more than enough money for food and the occasional item of clothing she bought.

All the while, she continued her treks through the neighborhood. As time went on, people developed stories about the strange woman who limped up and down the streets, her eyes scanning back and forth, sometimes talking to herself. The stories ranged from true, that she’d been in a terrible accident that affected her mind as well as her body, to patently false, that she was a cold-blooded murderer who had done away with her husband. Most people felt sympathy for her, but some hated her for no reason other than she was different. One day, some kids in a car threw rocks at her, one large enough to leave a jagged gash in her forehead. She fell to her knees.

“Crazy bitch!” one of the kids sang out from the open car window as it sped away.

She stared at the concrete, tracing its web of cracks with her fingers. “The pattern,” she whispered, knowing everything–the accident, her sisters and husband abandoning her, the cruelty of the world–was worth it.