Topic: My Craft

He Speaks in Moonlight – Part Two 1

Jerry pulled his clothes, the sleeping bag, and Fredrico’s suitcase out from under the dumpster. One of the girls took the case. They all walked in silence as Charlie led them into the other side of the alley.

“What have you got in here,”  one of the girls carrying his horn case asked.

“That’s Fredrico. ”

She didn’t understand. Jerry stopped and took the suitcase from her. He opened it up in his arms.

“Why it’s just a doll,” she said.

“Well, more than that. He’s my friend.” As soon as he said it, Jerry blushed because he realized could use some real friends. The girl smiled.

“I’m Darlene. I can keep on carrying your friend for you.” She winked at Jerry. He noticed she wore black hose and a sheer top with purple streaks in her hair. He closed the case and handed it back.

After a ten minute walk, Charlies stopped everyone at the entrance to a storm drain leading into a vacant lot. The dark tunnel was blocked with abandoned shopping carts and tires. Tumble weeds, trash,  and mud collected around the tires blocking a green slime trail of water. The water cut through a line of footprints leading into the tunnel.

“Wooee-ah!” Charlie shouted. “Wooee-ah!” The group waited outside the entrance to the tunnel. Jerry watched red tail lights float away in the distance. A cool breeze blew up from the tunnel.

“Come down,” a voice shouted from the shadows.

“That keeps us from getting beaten to a pulp,” Charlie said.

Jerry and his new friends walked under the concrete opening into the darkness. Around a turn in the tunnel, Jerry saw lights hanging from the ceiling. A small generator sputtered next to a wall set up on a stack of pallets nearly five feet tall. Further down, the tunnel was divided up into rooms by a curtain hallway.

“You can take over for Sam,” said Charlie. He pointed over to a dark room hidden by a brown sheet. “Sam took a trip and won’t be back.”

Everyone became quite. Jerry considered the silence wondering what happened to Sam.

“Topside found him with his head bashed in,”Charlie said. Jerry furrowed up his brow. Darlene let out a disgusted sigh.

“What? It happened that way.” Charlie kicked the ground with a mud-caked boot.

“You make it sound like any other day.” Darlene rolled her eyes. Charlie ignored her and slapped Jerry’s shoulder.

“He was lying in his blood inside one of those dumpsters in the alley,” Charlie continued.

Charlie pointed at the room. “Anyway, you can sleep over there.”

Jerry gathered up his things and pulled back the curtain. The room contained a bed and a stack of Heavy Metal magazines. On the magazines, a pewter guitar kept the pages from blowing away. Darlene placed Fredrico on the bed. Behind them a nervous kid kicked the edge of the bed.

“Sam will be back you know,” the kid said. Jerry sized him up and decided he couldn’t be older than 14. Hell, he felt like an old man at 20. He could only imagine what this kid felt like.

“I’m Tate,” the kid said. “Don’t get too comfortable because Sam will be back.” His confidence contained a slight doubt as he continued to kick the bed.

“Don’t worry about him,” Darlene said. “He just misses Sam.” She rubbed Tate’s shoulder.

A small beard covered Tate’s chin and he needed a bath. His black hair framed his face in oily wisps. Tate reminded Jerry of his little brother and he decided the kid needed a friend. “Why don’t you tell me about him,” Jerry said.

Tate pushed his toe into the concrete and brought back his shoe for another pass. “Not much to tell. He’s just a good guy.”

“Too bad he’s not here,” Jerry said.

“Yeah. You’ll like him when he comes back.”

Rooms divided the tunnel with pallets, sheets and towels while graffiti lined the walls. In the center of the tunnel, a sofa sat in front of a paper box.

“We’d put the TV there if we had one,” Tate said. He drew closer to Jerry and stared at him. Jerry turned toward the boy and laughed.

“There’s nothing to watch anyway,” Jerry said.

Part Three

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He Speaks in Moonlight – Part One 1

The driver pretended he was talking on the phone turning away from him. Jerry tried to let it go even though he felt anger bubbling up. Panhandling dipped into the well of hate Jerry felt toward his family. The begging only gave him a squirrel stomach reminding him of his father’s glare. His earnest eyes met ears and bald spots as the drivers sat in their cars pretended to play with the radio, or do other things, to avoid talking to him. The constant rejection on the freeway off-ramp provoked anger, shame, regret, and disgust. He was lucky to clear $30 a day; sometimes more and often less. Jerry hated panhandling worse than living under the cloak of indifference he ran away from.

He tried selling small bags of marijuana or the oxy he pinched from his Aunt Margaret’s medicine cabinet. For this job, he sat in a dark alley waiting for the locals to walk up like spies certain their cover was blown. Every sale was exciting and dangerous, yet he left each encounter sick. The money was quick, but the customers were a bit intense, especially when they needed a fix. Everyone seemed so sad and he kicked himself for feeding their sickness. Plus, the stealing from Margaret stopped when she found out her pills were missing every time he came over. Soon he felt eyes watching him and he suspected everybody was a cop. Paranoia added to the shame and he didn’t like this feeling either.

Jerry walked away from the freeway toward The Strip carrying a grocery sack filled with two hot water bottles. They were colder earlier when he refiled them from a water fountain inside Bellagio. As cars sped by above him, he eyed a billboard promising gamblers Looser Slots; deep down Jerry felt like a loser too.

Koval Lane

The setting sun bore into him as it neared the top of Red Rock and he rounded the neon lights of The Strip into a dark corner behind a casino parking garage. His t-shirt stuck to his back from the afternoon sweat. He headed to the place where he liked to sleep behind a dumpster off Koval where he stashed a trash bag of clothes, a sleeping bag, and a cracked leather horn case containing a ventriloquist dummy named Fredrico.  He looked up as the High Roller inched around and the alternating glow of red then blue of The Strip flashed through the shadows.

He hung his wet t-shirt on the edge of the dark green dumpster, fished out a dry one, and slipped into his sleeping bag under the can. He pulled boxes around his head to camouflage his sleep to make it look like someone failed to throw them away. He had learned it was the best way to blend in with the rest of the alley trash. He stared at the cobwebs on the bottom of the dumpster and at the dirt on the brick wall. He tried to ignore his hunger by taking a drink of water. It was no use; he still felt hungry. Today’s take had been less than $10 and he had spent it much earlier on a $6 sandwich and a $3 Coke. He reached into his pocket to feel his change. He wished it was a ten; he wanted another sandwich.

He talked to himself by practicing to throw his voice beyond the cement pillars. He carried on this conversation with himself until it bored him. He always expected his talent for bending his voice would land him an instant job in a Las Vegas showroom. The first week he was here he went around to the casinos looking for a job. The show runners subtly let him know they despised those fools who even tried to land an unsolicited audition. These days he rarely took Fredrico out of his case.

The hypnotic flashing of blue, then red, and yellow lured him to sleep. He woke with a start 20 minutes later. Jerry never got a full nights sleep. The honks of the taxi horns, the random shouting of the drunks, and anyone looking to kick a bum kept Jerry awake. The sounds of the city faded as they reached his alley, but it was not enough to help him feel safe. You could hear the buzzing of the power lines, the trash bags inflating in the wind, and the clanking of the dumpster bin lids. Yet, even as the darkness made his spot farthest from the party, he still had to keep the encroaching city from overtaking him. He turned over and a trash bag slipped off his head.

“Look, there’s one,” said a male voice in an excited whisper.

“That melon looks good enough to kick,”  a girl said.

“You know you want to,” a guy said. Jerry retreated deeper into his sleeping bag. He stared up at the dumpster and listened. He heard at least four people standing by the metal can inches from his face. He froze and waited.

“I’m sick of these goddamn homeless lining up,”  a third squeaky male voice said. “If they’re not begging, they’re shitting.”

“Do it, Charlie,” the girl said.

(more…)

Scribble, May 1, 2017 0

Another rejection arrived in the email. Of course, writing is not something I jumped into because it would make me rich and famous. Well, perhaps famous. But I never had the idea my writing would generate an income. I write because I feel like it.

***

A Conversation

“I saw these buildings as more pumpkin-like.”

“They are orange.”

“Yes, but they are square. You called it the pumpkin patch.”

“Well, yeah.”

“I saw buildings a bit more rounded with green roofs.”

“True, they are not very pumpkin-like.”

“Then why call it the pumpkin patch?”

“So people know how to find us.”

***

 

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I have created a Patreon Page and ask for your support.

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My first goal is to finally work on my next novel, The Farmers Cop, about a retired detective who takes a job at a southern California Farmers Market. While he thinks he’s found the perfect semi-retirement job, a murder conspiracy will change everything. He will meet an eclectic group at the Farmers Market, encounter quite a bit of opposition, and in the end, solve the mystery. I hope this will become a series of stories. Your support will help me with research, writing tools, and the eventual promotion of the novel.

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Into Hagerman 0

Water leaked out of the cliff forming a irrigation waterfall from the alfalfa, potato, and corn fields north of Hagerman. The photographers pushed off from the shore in a long boat headed toward the island in the middle of the Snake River.

The mayflies rose up in the spring sun darting around the passengers. A single fly landed on Tom’s cheek. He brushed it away in a casual sweep. He pulled his green hat down as the boat skied across the water.

A few yards from the island the boat slowed. On its starboard, a group of nesting grebes rested in the water lilies. The birds dipped below the water in an uncomfortable dance of avoiding the boat and protecting their nests. Tom lined up the birds taking closeups of the water nests with his Nikon. The boat slid across the water with the current. Soon, it reached the island and the passengers climbed onto the shore.

The island covered in cottonwoods seemed primordial. Wisps of grass hung from the bottom of the trees. The air carried a distinctive muddy smell. And then the prize; hidden among the trees hundreds of Great Blue Herons made their nests.

Each bird stood stoic among the lower branches hidden as sticks. Their eyes bubbled out from their beaks. But otherwise, they stood still.

The photographers took time to capture each bird. They stood silent too. Tom framed up the hidden bird until the light lit up only its face between the limbs. He slowly squeezed down on the shutter. The film advanced through the camera and the bird shuddered. Tom felt the shudder and let out his breath. Then the melancholy of the birds became too great. Tom gathered up his camera and walked to the boat. He took a last look back at the island, then the boat slid back across the water toward the far shore.

A Painful Throbbing Inside His Head 0

The alarm reminding him to take his medicine alerted every two hours. If he forgot, the alarm grew insistent and demanded he satisfy its need. He put the alarm on snooze. Sometimes he couldn’t take care of the plea. The pills sat in a drawer far away. This time, he finished mile four on the indoor cycle and started uphill.

The alarm made him ashamed; a grown man tethered to a pill bottle. He tapped his phone to squelch the alarm. It went off nine minutes later. A reminder of the reminder of the first alarm. He grew anxious and put it on snooze again. He looked at the trainer, then his phone. He could see the dust falling around the bike wheel.

The trainer’s mouth became a painful slow motion movie of round vowels and hard consonants. The clock hand grew larger beating out every deliberate second. Then, the trainer sparked a nerve. The alarm went off again. He looked at the phone and back at the trainer.

The medicine could wait.

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A Diamond in Her Eye 0

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“You’ll never get me to tell you where the jewels are,” the child said. She leaned back and smirked.

Too much television, thought the inspector. He sat down across from her rattling the metal chair against the table in the interrogation room. The girl leaned forward. She glared at him. The stare-off went on for a few minutes until he leaned forward.

The girl pushed back pinning her arms into the rests. She was a small child with her hair tied back in a blue ribbon. She looked just like the picture sitting on the table next to him. Below her, the marble floor stretched out nearly a foot from her feet. She casually kicked the legs of the chair. Barely seven years and so far the kid had stuck to her resolve.

An older inspector, Don Sexton, had grandchildren her age. If anyone could play grandpa it was him.

He drew a cartoon hand of a large rabbit holding a carrot. The rabbit took an angry bite. Bits of carrot flew out of the rabbit’s mouth. The angry rabbit sported a fluffy cotton tail. The little girl put her hands on the table. She drew closer to the drawing.

“What’s his name?” she asked.

“Sergeant Baker,” he replied.

The girl studied the drawing.

“He needs a badge, or something.” she said.

Inspector Sexton added a badge above the mark identifying the rabbit’s belly button. The girl shook her head no. She eyed the drawing with skepticism.
(more…)

The Young Never Work as Hard as the Old 2

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The summer blaze charred up the ravine ending at the meadow ringed by blackened trees. The meadow grass remained singed on the corner closest to the burnt saplings and their trunks were starting to fall down. The fire burned the meadow months ago and as the grass struggled to grow back a small truck bounced over rocks next to the burn. An old man, Jay Don, with whiskers from missing two days of shaving pushed up the bill of his hat. The truck stopped in the middle of the meadow on the new grass. Jay Don eyed the boy, Scotty, barely seven years old, who sat with his hands between his knees rocking his legs above the floorboard. The old man reached over and stopped the rocking by placing his hand on the boy’s knee.

“I’ll cut,” Jay Don said, “You load and stack.”

Scotty looked up expectantly and nodded. The old man reached behind his seat and tossed a pair of gloves at the kid.

“Put those on,” he said.

The old man slammed the truck door and walked to the side of the truck. He swept back his cowboy hat and ran a gnarled hand through his hair. A bead of sweet covered his forehead and the water was pushed back through his few strings of hair. He sat the hat back on his bald head. From the back of the bed, he lifted a chainsaw. It was dirty and the red paint on the gas tank was peeling. He fiddled with the clutch, primed the bulb, and ripped on the starter. The chainsaw spurted. He pulled again. This time it started in a cloud of oil smoke. Jay Don walked over to a fallen log and let the saw dig into the wood.

The boy watched from the back of the truck as the old man sliced the log. He had barely started cutting and already three rounds lined up at the end of the fallen tree. The boy swirled the dirt with his toe. A cloud of powdered dust floated around his boot. A breeze brought to him the smell of pitch and sage. He looked up at the mountain and the sun overhead.

His newfound gloves were too big and he dropped them in the dirt. He picked one up on end and it flapped peculiarly in a timid wave. He put a hand inside and his fingers stopped too soon inside leaving the extra material to bend at odd angles. The other glove went on the same. He stood with both hands clasped together like the mismatched hands of a scarecrow.

He knew this was punishment and so he procrastinated. He thought about his crime.

It  started in the produce aisle with a single slice of orange-gelled candy wrapped in cellophane. It lay on the floor beneath the display of assorted hard candies, chocolate bridge mix, and jelly beans. He eyed the orange candy. Then he bent over and put the candy in his pocket. No one saw him except sister Charlene, who immediately turned and pulled on her mother’s sweater. He reconsidered slipping the candy away.

In October, he found similar orange slices in his Jack O’ Lantern. He liked the texture and the taste so he saved them to enjoy last. The sweet and sour of the candy made his lips pucker and they lasted a long time in his mouth. He thought about Halloween as he fingered the candy in his pocket. The cellophane made a crinkling noise and he was sure everyone heard it. Picking up something that didn’t belong to him was wrong. But he still wanted the candy. His mother listened to Charlene’s report.

“Put it back,” she said to him. “You know better.” His mother and sisters waited for him to move. He slowly pulled the orange slice out of his pocket and laid it on the others. He lingered for a moment. He looked up at his mother hoping she would let him buy the candy. She turned instead toward the cucumbers. He followed behind her as his sisters toddled around their mother.

On the phone he overheard her say, “I don’t know what to do with him.” The next weekend his was working with his grandfather.

(more…)

Alternative History of the Electric Car 0

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Listing the priorities of his life, God came first, family second, and then his company. God wanted him to worry about others, Cettie pleaded with him to replace the kerosene lamps, and the Standard Oil Company directors warned him not to buy the Lima oil fields. The result was a parlor smelling like skunk oil, sooty lights, and guests detesting a visit.

Electricity powered bright, clean light and he appreciated its harmony. The failure in eliminating the sulfur from the Lima oil frustrated him. With the sulfur gone, kerosene would never produce a skunk smell. Cleanliness was next to godliness and nothing about his kerosene reminded anyone of cleanliness.

The next morning he sent a telegram requesting a meeting with Thomas Edison. The investment in Lima oil proved fruitless. To please his industrialist curiosity, he needed a find a new way of doing business.

Edison almost refused the meeting. He had the superior product. But the reputation of John D. Rockefeller as a man always looking to save a cent made him reconsider. Rockefeller could help him expand the use of electricity beyond a parlor trick. Electric motors could power industry, move goods, and better everyone’s lives.

(more…)