Moments Before the Ambulance Arrives 0

A Conversation

“We found him out here just laying on the sidewalk?


“Yep. He looked dead.”

“And then he jumped up?”

“Yeah. Jumped off and started yelling.”

“All that stuff about ‘do you know who I am?’ and “you should listen’?

“I think he must have been a big shot once. I don’t think he is anymore.”

“He ran for awhile and then collapsed?”

“Strangest thing; seemed to run out of energy. He ran around, bumped into a few people, and then fell down. I swore he died again. Oh my, he’s sprinting away.”

“You guys need to hold him down. There, I think they have it.”

“That guy knows how to run.”

“Too much adrenaline. We can counteract it with this dose. Right in the neck. That’s it.”

“Will he be much trouble?”

“No. We’ll take him away and keep him safe.”

“What if he sprints again?”

“Not wearing this special jacket, ankle cuffs, and diaper.”

“He looks almost normal.”

“Yes. Almost normal.”


The Headless Maze Buster 0


I stand in my spot three quarters into the mystery maze. I hide in the dark, jump out, and scare the bejesus out of the little kids. My partner, Larry, hides across from me. He stands under three feet tall and dresses like a clown. He tells everyone he is height-challenged. I call him a dwarf. The correct term, I think, is person of short stature. I like dwarf. Larry doesn’t mind. He knows he is short.

Last year, Larry came out of his corner and chased a real hot chick. She screamed. Oh, did she scream. His little legs following her so fast. We laughed a long time after that. Those were the best six weeks ever.

Tonight we worked fast. A ton of people walked through the maze. We struggled to keep up. The maze is the least scary of all; more of a haunted house for babies. Fake blood on the walls, hanging string, and guys jumping out of the corners. In the next room, Charlie did his best to look trapped in a ghoul’s kitchen. He would flay about on the table and move his fake intestines back and forth as the kids walked by. Those intestines freaked me out in the dark. In the light you could tell they are just plastic ropes.

Larry chased down a lot of kids his own height. He dislikes that. He likes it best when the mothers jump out of his way. Like I said, he gets a kick out of chasing the girls with blonde hair.

The fast pace made our job hard. We barely got back into place before another group wandered in. Plus, the maze owner added a new guy to our room. It made it real awkward to move around. Up towered this big nasty looking dude wearing a canvas robe, a black hole with just two red eyes, and a large scythe. He might as well been a wall in the way. We kept tripping over each other. Larry ran into the guy and fell down more than once. The guy kept whipping the large scythe around the top of Larry’s head. And that evil laugh. He seemed to get a kick out of that laugh.

So, here we were, trying to do our best to jump out and scare the kids and all the while trying to keep from running into each other. Larry ran out, the scythe came down, missing Larry by millimeters, and then I jumped out. Somehow we managed to scare quite a few kids. But it was hard work. All this worked like clockwork until the scythe came down, missed Larry, and hit a kid in the face. I heard a big thump and this small ball rolled to me; a bloody head with surprised eyes and a screaming mouth. The kids around me started screaming and the lights came on.

The guy with the scythe ran out the maze and Larry hauled the kid’s body out of the way. I threw up on his head and you guys showed up. Now that I think about it, I don’t think it was such a good idea to have the angel of death here. He kind of took the fun out of it.

TBR Pile 0


All great writers read books. Alberto Manguel talked about reading: “Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.

I read too and I have quite a few books on my To Be Read (TBR) Pile, including:

  • Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Umbrella Man, Roald Dahl
  • Tomorrowland, Steven Kotler
  • Merle Haggard, The Running Kind, David Cantwell
  • The Mermaid’s Sister, Carrie Annie Noble
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  • The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
  • Interviews with the Masters, Robert Greene
  • Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemmingway
  • The Black Echo, Michael Connelly
  • On Writing, Stephen King
  • The Dude Abides, The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers, Cathleen Falsani
  • The Land of Little Rain, Mary Austin
  • The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci Complete, Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Blink, Malcolm Gladwell
  • Damage Control, Eric Dezenhall

All these books are in my Kindle with a 100 more waiting to be read. Some I have read before and others I just picked up because they looked interesting. This is the list I plan to tackle in the next few months.

Tracks 0


My favorite Trolley Problem involves making the track changer decide between killing one person, or chosing a path where another track changer waits to decide if he should kill one person or five. Of course, this goes on and on until we kill 10, 15, 20 or more!

  • Build a roundabout and everyone dies.
  • Kant (duty) vs. Betham (common good).
  • Or pick up the one person and add him to the five, then kill them all (a two-year old made this choice).

Everything comes down to the Tragedy of the Commons; do we trust others to make sure we are not the only one on the track?

Probably not.

Patiently Waiting in the Cupboard 0


The mouse sat with the candle light filling his eyes. The light flickered in syncopation opposite his heartbeat with a fast shadow or a flash of color. He drew closer to the sound of laughter. He could be patient. If he sat still enough, and long enough, their eating and laughter would end. Nothing would disrupt his patience. He had to believe it. His wait could last a while.

A wooden spoon, dipped in tomato gravy, danced before him. The blood-red sauce dripped down the handle. He flinched thinking fateful thoughts and brought his hands to his face. He dropped his head as a booming declaration bounced passed his ears emphasizing each period. The punctuation buzzed his brain, so he played with his mustache. He listened as the booming intonation echoed through the kitchen and rocked the spice rack with a deeper thrum.

A crumb of lint sat next to him. He brought it up and touched it to his lips. Only a small wad of hair; a discarded piece of an idea. He tossed it to the side and watched it roll away. The shadow jumped back and forth quickly through the mouse hole in a frenetic dance.

Then everything stopped. The animated sound quieted, and the booming became a snore. He heard a female’s unhappy sigh. The light went out.

He inched closer to the jagged hole and poked his nose out. A cool breeze met his mustache. He shuddered. A few more steps, and he clampered out of the cupboard.

He viewed the room. A table with a burned out candle sat in the middle where a large man slept in a seat. Crumbs littered the table next to a half-eaten plate of spaghetti with a large meatball sitting on a bed of red noodles.

He spun around headfirst, dropped to the floor, smoothed out his mustache, and made sure no one saw him. The coast clear, he ran to the nearest chair and scampered up the side.

The reddened edge of the spoon sat near the spaghetti. The sauce sitting in the dented ladle reminded him of his mother’s death. He twitched and made a wide arch around it and turned with relief once he safely escaped it.

On the table, he stacked a few crumbs and tossed some Parmesan behind the candle. He climbed the mountain of spaghetti and rolled the meatball to his feast. He pondered for a moment on the risks and the wait.

Then he ate.

Peaches 0


Cling. Yellow flesh. Sweet and tart. Melting vanilla ice cream on hot cobbler. Peanut butter and jam. Spicy cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Schnapps. The red and orange caramel around the crust of a pie. Burning the roof of my mouth. Grandma’s kitchen. The sticky, sweet, smell of canning.

They disgusted him. The black birds sitting on the wire looking down at the peaches. The small, green, fruit barely larger than a seed. Skin stretched around the seed. Nothing to see here. Shoo!

The Smell of Sage and Iron 0


The day-long truck ride started out as an adventure, then a journey, and after the third basin and range, it became a challenge to overcome boredom.

Victor rolled down the window. He stuck his head out far enough for the wind to buffet his face. The blowing wind helped. He shuck off the grog. He blinked a few times. The cool air made his face numb but the inside air made him sleepy.

He reached back in and the heat hit again. He looked at the thermometer. Still more than 96 degrees. Was that inside or out? It didn’t matter. It was still hot.

Not a car passed in two hours. The desert highway lived up to its name as the loneliest road. Looking east across the playa, Victor saw the heat waves rising off the sand. Blue and green forms rose in a dance hypnotic and he ran too close to the edge. He pulled back with a sharp turn. Another mistake would either leave him awake or dead.

He reached over for some water. The bottle felt light and only a sip remained. He took it. The little wetness only made him thirstier. He reached behind him for another bottle. Finding none, he licked the bottom of his front teeth and wet his tongue.

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Tall Tales of Sin 0


I moved this series of four short stories to Channillo for a couple of reasons:

  1. to force me to keep writing each story;
  2. I like the community.

Readers can now follow the adventures of Cindy Lash. Currently, she is trying to find her dad’s killer and fend off the advances of the manager of a Las Vegas strip club. She also has just met the protagonist of our second story. Eventually, all these stories will overlap and impact on the other.

Channillo is a subscription-based digital publishing platform that allows writers to share their work with readers in regular installments. It is home to hundreds of great series by talented writers from around the world. Series categories include fiction books, columns, short stories, essays, poetry, journal entries, and more.

George Was A Good Man 0


Edna sucked in the soup. A large noodle stopped at her lip. She tried to tongue it into her mouth and couldn’t reach it. She slipped back into the chair and let out a long sigh.

“I miss George.”

Larry stood up and wiped off her mouth. He lifted her hand up and placed the linen in her lap. She forced a smile patting his hand. He left her chair and moved to the window.

“George was a good man.”

Edna tried to turn her head to look at her son. “Would you mind showing me the pictures?”

Larry looked around his mother’s room. A picture of him and the kids in a frame on an old oak table. A white knitted doily circled the frame. On it another picture of a young George. He wore black Caterpillar hat and a blue jean jacket. He never smiled. He was too busy working.

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Can You Hear Me Now, L.A.? 0


A loud sneeze sent a nose full of snot onto the steering wheel and the windshield. James held the phone away from the explosion; otherwise, it too would have been covered.

“Are you gonna be alright?” Sally snickered through the phone.

“Damn ragweed.” James looked around for a tissue. He also tried not to run his hand through the sticky mess on his steering wheel. “I’m either blowing my nose or snorting up salt water.”

He dug through the console for a napkin or any kind of paper. He found nothing to wipe his mess.

He clicked on the speaker button and dropped the phone on the passenger’s seat. He moved his left hand through the snot on the wheel. James shook his hand onto the floor and yelled into the phone.

“I don’t have time for this crap.” His pant leg was now covered. “Just email Mike the job, call my doctor, and find me some tissues.”

James turned his convertible onto Mullholland Highway and headed north. The other end of the line was silent.

“I’m in a hole,” he said. “I’ll pop out in a moment.”

The cell towers often dropped calls and Sally waited. She figured he would always call back.

The sun was shining through the dried yellow mucus on the windshield to create a rainbow on his dash. He looked at the light and ignored the bungalows and exclusive homes of Beachwood Canyon.

James turned a few more times up the winding road. He reached for the phone and heard static. Then a voice came through.

“He says he won’t do it this time.” Her voice sounded distant.

“What does that mean?” he shouted. “Of course, he’s going to do it. There’s no one else.”

“I think it will cost more this time.”

“It shouldn’t cost anything more than last time.” He looked at the screen. “The job hasn’t changed.” He slapped the phone on the wheel and turned the car to the right. He corrected before he clipped two bikers on their way to the Hollywood sign.

“Just email him again and make it clear,” James yelled.

He pulled into a far parking spot at Lake Hollywood Park and stopped the car.


James fell out of the car along with a stack of bent coffee cups. A wadded up napkin followed the empties and blew off toward the grass. He stumbled up grabbing the wad and ripped it apart. With the paper remains, he dabbed at the steering wheel.

“You still there?”

He heard a silent sigh.

“Good, we can iron this out.”

He explained how Mike had no excuse to refuse.

“It’s easy.” James talked with his arms. He waved his left hand in the air.

“He parks on the fifth floor under the camera.”

“Uh huh.”

“No one will see him get out.”

“Uh huh.”

“He takes the box with him and inches along the wall.”

“Why doesn’t the camera see him?” she said.

“It’s pointed out at the cars and not the wall.”

“Oh,” she said. He could tell she failed to see it.

“The camera points across the garage,” he explained. “It doesn’t see up close.”

“I see.”

He lost track of the next step. Honestly, this would go a lot easier if he could just do it himself.

“No one will see him coming,” he said, while pushing his finger toward the ground.

“I’m not sure everything will fit in the box,” she said.

“They came in the box.” James clinched his eyes and rubbed his forehead. “Why is there a problem?”

“The canisters are too big and he can’t put his mask in the box with everything too,” she said.

“Just have him wear the mask and carry the box.”

A small boy and man passed him in the parking log carrying a kite. James looked up at the sky. A few clouds floated up from the ocean. It was a nice day for playing in the wind.

“Canisters?” he asked.

“They’re cupcakes, for crying out loud,” he shouted. “Just have him carry the cupcakes, wear his mask, and surprise her.”

“Cupcakes?” she asked.

“Yes, a dozen red velvet with the yellow baby bottle sugar decorations.” Sometimes she exasperated him.

“Do you think you can pass this on Sally?”

He heard dead silence on the other end of the phone and he wondered if she understood him. He raised his head and stared at the clouds. He shook his head dumbfounded. He wondered why everything with her required so much energy.

“Sally?” she asked.

She had to know her own name. Sometimes she drove him nuts. He looked around the park for a closer cell tower.

“Sally? James enunciated to make sure she heard him.

“This isn’t Sally.”

He pulled his phone away and then brought it back to his ear.

He heard a man in the background tell the woman to shut up. Then the phone went dead.