Category Archives: Fiction

The Popes & the Punks

The out of uniform day is the Catholic school equivalent of a prison tattoo. It’s your chance to show what you are all about. If you didn’t go to a Catholic School, this is how it worked. Once, maybe twice a month there would be a fundraiser for a particular club. The band needed new uniforms, the theater department needed to rent costumes for the spring musical, I’m pretty sure I gave money to the Pro-Life Club to buy paint for their protest signs. They would go around at lunch or in homeroom, charge you a dollar and on a specific day you got to come sans uniform.

T-shirt choice was a huge factor. You only had one shot and if you blew it you’d have to wait weeks before you could make amends. No matter what music you listened to, most kids chose to wear a concert shirt. This was the mid 90’s in the suburbs of Chicago so there were a lot Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews Band, and Pearl Jam shirts.

If you were into punk rock, it was your only shot at finding like-minded punks to hang out with. We couldn’t have piercings. We couldn’t dye our hair. All we had was the out of uniform day. When it came to shirts, the more obscure and local the better. Green Day had already sold out so if you wore a Green Day shirt you were instantly a poser. And since the bassist from Green Day wore a Screeching Weasel shirt onstage at Woodstock ‘94, they were out as well. But that was okay. There were a number of oddly named bands to choose from: Sponge Tunnel, No Empathy, 88 Fingers Louie, Los Crudos, Trenchmouth, Naked Raygun, 8 Bark, the Bollweevils, etc.
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Roadhouse Bars, Cock Rock Guitars, & the Healing Powers of Johnny Cash

Our guides that night were a boyfriend/girlfriend tag team from Detroit. I can’t remember their names only that they had androgynous ones like Jaime, or Lesley, or Alex and I kept calling him by hers and her by his. They were taking us to an authentic Japanese karaoke bar on the east side of Louisville, Kentucky

An authentic Japanese karaoke bar in Kentucky is basically a road house bar where the only thing remotely Japanese is a poster of a slender Japanese woman in a black cocktail dress holding a bottle of Sapporo. A beer they didn’t even sell

The bar was split into two factions. On one side were the kids we were meeting. All out-of-towners with too many tattoo’s and piercings. who wore mostly black and almost exclusively sang 80’s cock rock classics. A lot of Poison, Skid Row, and Motley Crue.

On the other side were the painfully obvious locals who, both male and female, wore tight white jean shorts that stopped just above the knees. They sang almost exclusively sang Top 40 Modern Country hits by Garth Brooks and other country singers I guess.

Both groups were loud.

Both groups were rowdy.
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Two Stories From “Pretty Much Dead

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IN RE: Citation #31312035T

Dear Municipal Transit Authority (MTA):

I am writing to you today in regards to Citation #31312035T. I have enclosed a copy of said citation. I am asking that you please dismiss the citation and the $100 fine.

MTA, about 39 years ago, there was a little girl in Harvey’s Drugstore in Manlius, New York. You have probably not heard of either the town or the store. Manlius is a small town, though it was ranked #98 on CNN’s top places to live in 2005. I don’t think it was that good 39 years ago, except maybe in Harvey’s Drugstore: There were jars of all sorts of candy sticks lined up one next to the others. Peppermint, sure, but there was also orange, and lemon, and cherry, and licorice, and anything you can imagine, in colors too magical to be anything except candy.

In this story, 39 years ago, a 4-year-old girl asked her mother for a candy stick. Because it was close to dinner, the mother said no. The little girl darkened like a cloud.

The little girl — angry and full of desire so strong it was stronger, even, than reason or fear – put four sticks of candy in her dress pocket. The cunning girl slid down to the floor of the station wagon’s leathery red backseat rapturously. The radio played Fleetwood Mac, but not loudly enough: Her mother heard the plastic crinkling in her daughter’s hands. She turned the car around. The girl was marched into the drugstore, spitting an apology through her tears, paying for the candy with sticky hands. She did not have that kind of money. It took weeks for her to work off the candy money with chores. It took weeks more for the tears to stop.

MTA, that little girl was me. In the 39 years since then, I have not stolen a thing. This is not because I am good. I have done some really, really horrible things in my life — far worse than, say, accidentally not paying a transit fare. I have broken hearts. I have told lies. I have cheated at Monopoly. I have done shameful things that hurt other people and caused damage that I will never begin to repair. But, MTA, I can pay you the fare that I somehow didn’t pay when I got on that morning. You will find a check for $2 attached. Please take this check in lieu of the $100 requested, because:

  1. If you check my fare history, you will see that, like clockwork, I pay a morning fare to get to work, and I pay a fare to get home from work. Every day. Why would I suddenly decide it was time to skip a day?

  1. Fare Inspectors are waiting at the station when I exit. They’re there every day. They’d be hard to miss in their fluorescent yellow jackets.

  1. I pay a $2 fare. Does it REALLY make sense that I would suddenly risk a $100 fine for $2? There was $38.75 on my transit card. Why wouldn’t I pay?

  1. Let’s put it all together: Maybe I decided not to pay the fare EVEN THOUGH I HAD MONEY on my card AND I KNEW there would be Fare Inspectors AND I ALWAYS GET CAUGHT WHEN I DO SOMETHING WRONG, or I was somehow distracted or unaware that I didn’t pay the fare, because: Continue reading


All the Tea

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I was sitting around my office smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes, re-reading old newspapers, when an alert came over my phone notifying me that a friend of mine had updated his Facebook status. Being a man of few friends, I’m not one to take these matters lightly, so I yanked the device out of the desk drawer, flipped it open, and scanned for the new information.

I guess I don’t have a head for business, because if you gave me all the tea in China I’d be like, “What the @#% am I supposed to do with this?!”

I started to leave an angry comment: “Well, guess who does know what to do with it, mother fucker?” but instead of posting, I just sat there fantasizing about what it would be like to be a tea baron presented with the entire supply of a precious commodity that’s coveted by a thirsty nation with semi-porous trade barriers. Sometimes, a little thing like that can get a guy’s gears spinning. Continue reading


The Donut Shop

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Somewhere a woman is howling about the devil and lost change and her father who left her here sometime ago. Alone. Nina and I look up from making dough. We can barely hear ourselves think from her screams, “Get by me Jesus.” The shouting plops down right in the middle of the frigid night.

This is Bob’s Donuts, the place you go for a pack of smokes at 1 a.m. I’m one of two bakers. If that’s what you’d call us. My job is to create magic out of flour and water and whatever goddamned thing Raphael tells us.

Yes. There’s no Bob. Bob died three weeks after opening the shop. His widow sold it to three middle easterners who turned it into bakery that failed, because someone found  a middle finger in the mixer.

Nina tells me about the ultrasound as she pushes a thick lock of blond hair out of her eyes. It wasn’t the best review she’s ever heard. I ask her about the details. Was her wait-to-cash-that-check husband there? No. In my mind, she must have looked great laid out with the white sheet barely covering her shy snowdrift. Her eyes always reminded me of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” It’s a song that turns dark in the middle of the night. Continue reading


Traditional German Cuisine

Bavaria_Dining_Room_largeThere’s a restaurant near my work that still has a smoking section—if you can believe such a thing still exists. I don’t smoke, but I guess knowing that there are still a few places that spit in the face of the establishment and break the rules appeals to my rebellious streak. In addition to being one of the last bastions for tobacco enthusiasts in the city—maybe even the state—it is one of the only restaurants I know of where you can still get authentic German fare prepared and served by a staff of traditionally trained Black Forest gnomes. Continue reading


They Don’t Like Me: A Love Story (Part 2)

7bbaea7b971dab2c57a4a42b5d37fb83[The first part of this novel excerpt can be found here.]

Once the workday was over, I decided it was time to amend my physical appearance. I would need to get rid of my parka. And the circles under my eyes. Pump some life back into my hair by washing it. With shampoo.

And I would need to mastermind my wardrobe for the interview.

That night I went home and I stood in front of my closet for a full ten minutes. I decided to go with my gut instinct. My gut instinct was telling me to dress SEXY. I needed to polarize myself from the turtleneck as much as possible. I needed to make it look like I would sleep my way to the top if necessary. I settled on a red mini-dress that I had purchased from Forever 21 for 13 dollars. I had never worn it to work before. I paired the dress with tights and Russian hooker boots. I decided to give the outfit a test drive. So, I wore it to the grocery store.

Before I made it into the store, a man on the curb asked me if I wanted to go for a ride with him. God had given me a sign: THIS DRESS WAS A WINNER.

I bought a bottle of soda water at the grocery store. When I got home I poured a little into a glass of ice and filled the rest up with vodka. I leaned on the counter and looked down into the glass. The ice cracked, the bubbles floated to the surface. I could feel my red mini dress creep up, just barely underneath my ass. I imagined myself standing in the kitchen as if someone else was watching. A young woman in a kitchen, a mini-dress, with a drink on the counter, contemplates her career advancement. I must look incredibly sophisticated. Intelligent. A definite catch. I beamed inwardly.

My interview was the next morning. And I needed the final part of my strategy: How would I sabotage Judy? What were her weaknesses? Where did she live? What was her life like? Maybe she was too perfect? Could that be a weakness? Definitely. That turtleneck screamed “status quo” and stability. Everything that turtleneck represented was EXACTLY what was wrong with America. If only I could find a poignant segue during my interview to express this opinion.

Maybe the Turtleneck meant that Judy was hiding something. A birthmark. A scar. Or a giant mole. Or maybe childhood trauma, self-loathing, insecurity – I could only hope!

I took a long gulp of my drink, and gasped with satisfaction. Continue reading


They Don’t Like Me: A Love Story (Part 1)

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[The following is an excerpt from the novel They Don’t Like Me: A Love Story.

The narrator is Haley, who is barely holding it together after a break up with her boyfriend, “Vanagon.” Vanagon cheated on her with his ex-girlfriend, a woman named Theresa Gibson. Haley found this out while she was at her best friend Dan’s wedding. She has plunged into a spiral of depression, and is desperately searching for a way out…

Note: These characters are not real people from the author’s life. This is fiction.]

 
***

Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville.
Searching for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame,
But I know it’s my own damn fault. – Jimmy Buffet, Margaritaville
 
Things were bleak. I spent an inordinate amount of time staring at my ceiling. I thought about Vanagon and Theresa. Constantly. I imagined them on an Island, coasting down zip lines, and having amazing sex outdoors. They’d be fucking on boulders and shit. Fireworks and glitter and perfect lighting. Total ecstasy, straight off the cover of one of those Fabio novels. Then I would think about blowing my brains out. But only for a second. Continue reading


Tehachapi – The Confidence Crisis of One Popular Inmate

Prison Bob's ScarfThe sentence hit him in the gut, like a brickbat from the streets of his old neighborhood. Still, under the circumstances, he knew that three years in the joint was about the best that he could have hoped for. With gain time, Prison Bob knew that he could be back out on the streets in fewer than twenty-four months.

Good behavior wouldn’t be a problem for inmate Robert Chambers. While he had sworn that he would never return to prison, he was determined to turn this experience into an opportunity for growth. That might mean learning another language, developing a new skill—who knew what the near future held? In truth, Robert was a little bit excited about the possibilities.

But prison life is tough for any man, and Prison Bob was no exception. As a bright, energetic, and engaging individual, however, he quickly made friends with the other inmates and became a member of a few of the more popular cliques. Friday nights were card nights with the boys from Block D. Saturday mornings, Robert and his pals would sit around eating breakfast together and talking about current events that they would read about in the paper. Sunday was “pigs in the blanket” day at the prison cafeteria, and any time was a good time for charades. Yeah, this wasn’t where Prison Bob wanted to be, but he knew that he was going to be just fine. Continue reading


Showdown in Tent City

riotA man doesn’t always have to be proud of his actions to be a man, but he should at least own up to them when he makes a mistake. And it’s not like I didn’t have the choice to walk away, so I’m not exactly justifying what I did. I guess I’m saying that I know I was in the wrong, but I really don’t regret doing it. Still, I suppose there has to be some kind of reckoning.

Come May every year in Washington, D.C., we have this big gathering of active and retired law enforcement types. It’s a time when a lot of cops from around the country put on their dungarees and double-knit polo shirts and converge on the nation’s capital to commemorate our fallen—sometimes the cops wear cargo shorts. Normally, I have a lot of respect for this particular breed—salt of the earth kind, digging deep into their pockets and burning their vacation time to come out and commemorate the honored dead. I guess that what makes what I did sort of out of character for me. Continue reading