Short Stories

Live Oak

As the story was told, they had met in a hot tub and he had asked her to marry him twenty minutes later; they had eight kids, and after another fifty years, he had died only a month after her own passing. It was the kind of thing you hear and don’t believe for a minute longer than it took to tell.

Gene pulled his jeep over to the side of the road—what there was of a road to be seen beneath the texture of fallen leaves—following a graveled path a dozen yards above the creek. It was nothing more than hardpack but it was clearly raised enough to be dry for most of the year. On a hot Southern California day in June, the shade of the live oaks was water cool. read more…

The Faith in Dreams

The faith in dreams, like the beliefs of small and ancient religions, is often lost with the simple passage of time. Mere time. Simply forgotten. A figment of midnight delusion at midday. Too vague to grasp. We all remember the faith we once had in our fathers, or mothers, for instance. Or the absence of such an absolute trust, perhaps. But what of those other beliefs, and their failure or strength, that were so instrumental to our being and to what we would become?

There were many such smaller religions in my past–a thousand convictions which I once held dear–all of them long since lost. There was the sure knowledge that summer would come and school would end. That Bill, the bus driver would always be there on the colder days, or wait a moment longer. That Mel, the Good Humor man would let me the extra nickel needed for the orange-cream popsicle. That the profound chill and still-hollow of a winter night would soon enough be transformed into the lush dark of mosquitoes and crickets and tree frogs. But all of those simpler faiths were set aside when my first full time job showed little interest in the seasons and getting to work in time depended on the IRT.

It is only by circumstance that a few of those convictions, remembered now, were caught in such a neat web of events that they might easily be recalled afterward–or, the better metaphor, that they left a bright scar on the darker skin surrounding. Years later, you finger it gently at first notice, as if it might break open at this touch. You pause to remember.

Let me tell you about this one. read more…

Seeley’s Surfside

The hanging road sign for Denton Real Estate offered a constant chirping against an intermittent wind. It was a small and familiar voice to Burk as he approached Seeley’s Surfside Diner. The murmur of tires on passing cars was dampened by the new snow. With the hood of his parka pulled tight against the cold, most other sounds were obliterated by the rub of fabric against his ears and he had to keep an eye out for the car lights through breath-fogged glasses as he made his way from his apartment.

The blaze of neon from Seeley’s was not comforting against the black and white of snow and night ahead. It never was. Even on a hot evening in the summer it was joyless. Tonight, it cut through the falling snow more pink than red. Burk had thought before that it was an odd thing, how the color in the sign seemed to change depending on the weather. He had mentioned it once to Pat, but the observation was shrugged at. Ignored.

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She Knows Her Onions

You want me to tell you about Zim? I don’t know you. And I never forget a pretty face. . . . Sure, I worked over at the Mirror years ago. Probably before you were born. There wasn’t a single dame in the entire newsroom back then. I guess times have changed. For the better, heh? But if Barry George sent you over, then you must be okay. . . . Cass, is it? Just call me Jim. Is that shorthand you’re doing? Geez! Chicken scratch. Nobody’s gonna be reading over your shoulder. But let me tell you about the old days. I had a stubby pencil and a notebook and the best I could do was to spell the names correctly. . . . Yeah. I got canned. That was because of Mayor John F. Hylan. Sonofa—I’d tell you what the ‘F’ stood for—But that’s why I gave it up.

Right. So this is what I know. At least what I’ve heard. The part that I think is true.

No. Just cream. I can get you some milk out of the icebox if you want it?

So. Despite what you read in your own paper, it wasn’t Joan who caused any of it. She might not be innocent, but she was a bystander right up to the end, almost. . . . Joan? Yeah. I did my time waiting in the outer office at Daring. Smart cookie. But I never got to first base.

It was Florrie that was the first guy to get a hook on Zim. This was something of a surprise to me, you see, because Florrie was the last guy you’da thought needed the help. read more…

That Little Old Lady and Me

She brought me down with a two by four across the back of the knees. My head hit the doorjamb as I fell. Hard headed or not, I think I was a little dazed.

I was lying then on a black and white tile floor in the half dark of that vestibule and looking up at the mouth of a model 17, 9mm Glock semi-automatic, when I first heard that voice.

“What’da’ya’want?”

This is a single word, in common use, but has problematic spelling. When I write stories now I often just resort to familiar forms, like ‘What do you want?’ Rather than be accused of stereotyping or pandering. I was actually thinking about this while I was lying there only half conscious. I had spent the morning at my one room apartment over in Cambridge, writing and dealing with the grammatics—that’s my word for dramatic speech patterns–when Connie McGuire showed up and asked me to do him a favor. That meant he was going to screw with my regular schedule and put me on a job right away. He’s been doing that less lately so I didn’t complain. Just part of the job description. Besides, he’s short on cash because of the economy and I’m on salary anyway, so it doesn’t cost him extra to dump on me. I ran through a few more ‘grammatics’ in my head on the way over to the South End. I had to decide the way to go with the piece I was working on. It made a difference.

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Ghosts

I don’t believe in ghosts. Any more than I believe in a tree, or a rock. What the heck does a tree care what I believe in. Why does it matter what you call a stone, unless you’re a geologist or something. I just try to live with things–as is. ‘Take them the way they are, and work on your own self,’ like Daddy said. Like you have to take Uncle Bob. It’s not going to change anything about Uncle Bob if I object to it. He’ll just get more ornery and give Mama a harder time. He’ll just ignore me, same as a rock would. You can’t argue with a stone, and Uncle Bob thinks anybody still under the age of sixteen is as dumb as a rock anyway, so what’s the use.

I’ve been watching this one ghost for a week now. He thinks I don’t see him, if he thinks about me at all. He moves up and down the stairs like he’s carrying something but I can’t see his arms. Maybe he doesn’t have any arms. But he looks busy, like he’s getting something done.

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Novels & Novellas Available for Purchase

I Am William McGuire

I Am William McGuire

It’s a bloody Cro-Magnon world.
What’s a Neanderthal to do?

 

A Slepyng Hound to Wake

A Slepyng Hound to Wake

Leaving well enough alone is not good enough at all—not if the reason for a death is to be found in the life that was lost.
Hound

Hound

Henry Sullivan has made a simpler life for himself, finding and selling books. There is little room in it for either love or murder.

 

About

I have been informed by trusted authority that the short quip which I have placed here for the last year or so, by way of biography, lacks gravitas. “Over-paid by others for hyphenated jobs such as lawn-work, snow-shoveling, house-painting, office-boy, dish-washer, warehouse-grunt, table-waiter and hotel night-clerk–I’ve since chosen to be a writer, editor, publisher, and for most of my life, a bookseller, and even managed to occasionally pay myself. Hound is my first published novel.” And so it does. It is hard to be serious about so unserious a subject as oneself. But herewith, and keeping the ‘nasty bits’ (Brit expressions are so brilliant) to myself, I offer then, this ongoing post begun as posts at Small Beer Press. If anyone is interested, from time to time I will add something at the end to bring the epic closer to the present moment.

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