Friday, August 22, 2014

Quiet Car

 I don't want Stephanie to suffer for my actions.
Kurt tried to concentrate on his computer. The woman on the phone was driving him crazy. It was the Quiet Car for Gods sake. Couldn't she see the sign? It was right above Kurt's seat. The man with the finger to his mouth. Shhhhh. Quiet car.
Oh I know. But it wasn't my fault. I just don't want to cause any more trouble for anybody in the department.
Kurt stared at his screen. The lady was in his head. QUIET CAR. HE really should say something.
Well it's not my fault....I told you...I told you I didn't want to hurt anyone.
What the fuck was she talking about? Where was the conductor? Somebody should say something. It was the QUIET CAR.
I just...can't belive they let me go...
Kurt looked up. That was it. He saw the conductor and motioned to him at the other end of the car. This bitch should know how rude she was being to everyone on the train. The Conductor was punching tickets and made a motion he would be there in a minute.
I love is my life...I...I...I.
Kurt heard whimpering and realized the woman was crying. She was not a pretty woman. Too big boned. Her was hair was too red. But now she was crying profusely.
I don't know what to do now. I have always been a teacher...what will I do for money now...
The conductor  was walking down through the car now. Kurt shook his head. He should not have to listen to this woman cry. Everyone has problems. This was the QUIET CAR.
All I ever wanted to do was teach...
The woman had taken off her glasses wiping both cheeks. Kurt stared at her as the conductor walked up.
Can I help you sir?
Kurt looked up at him and watched the woman still wiping her cheeks, her eyes red. He motioned to the QUIET CAR sign with the man with the finger to his lips.  He looked at the woman's worn handbag.
Yes...He said meeting the conductors eyes. What time does the train get into Chicago?

Blind Date

You mind if I sit here?
The awkward young man looked up.
Well someone is going to be there he said motioning to the open chair.
He looked like a dweeb but Kurt went and sat down on the Starbucks wall. He pulled out his computer and started working.
Pardon me.
The dweeb was up and talking to two beautiful Asian women.
Are you here to meet someone?
The two women stared at the dweeb who was sweating.
No...No. They looked at each other and smiled.
Well...I mean if you are...then I am the person you are supposed to meet.
By now several other people were watching. The dweeb stood there and stared at the two Asian women. said.
The dweeb stared at them and then left the Starbucks in defeat.
Kurt went back to his work and realized then the dweeb had been waiting for someone.  Probably or some other site.
Would you like to use this table?
A different Asian woman was staring at him.
Oh thank you Kurt said taking the small computer table. The Asian woman smiled at Kurt.. He sat for a long moment trying to concentrate. Kurt looked up.
Pardon me...but are you here to meet someone?
The Asian woman nodded and smiled self consciously.
Kurt paused then closed his computer.
Me too, he said holding out his hand.
I'm Kurt.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Working Man IV

I had it all planned out. I would get canned and go on unemployment and write all summer. Maybe Forever. I just went in to the meetings and to get my check. My suit began to get dust on the shoulders. Then they hired Bob.
I believe in you.
Yes. I think you have potential. I am putting you on a Performance Improvement Program.
Bob looked like Herman Munster. Or maybe Fred Flintstone. He had a big dumb smile that I knew would get him canned one day in corporate world. Nobody survives in Corporate American who smiles like Yogi Bear.
I don't think I would do that Bob.
Why not? I'm not going to just fire you.
My plan had been foiled. So I kept going into meetings, to get my check, and to talk to Bob about my performance improvement program. The dust blew off my suit. After three months Bob pulled me into his office.
I don't see any new sales.
I don't have them Bob.
I still believe in you.
Are you sure?
This went on for another three months. The writing was going pretty well but the meetings were murder. Bobs boss wanted him to can me. Bob saw me as a cause.
Not going to do it he said.
The next week I went into get my check. Bobs office was empty. I found out they had canned him after production failed to improve. When I got home the phone rang. It was Lou Tazzles the Vice President who had canned Bob.
Your terminated he said.
Thank you I said.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Working Man III

Alright. The most important thing is to go to all the Detex Stations. You don't go to all the stations then I'm going to know it and I'll fire your ass.
Another thing. A lot of guys think they can get away without going to the Detex station behind the clock. I always check that one.
Frank was a fat guy who didn't look like he could climb any stairs  but in his Security uniform he looked very official.
Alright. Good luck.
I was back in the Wrigley building. I waited until midnight and started my rounds. I had a key I inserted into each little Detex box. This made sure I didn't just sit at the security desk and read all night which I did anyway. I went up all the way to the top in the elevator then got out and went to a door that said. NO TRESPASSING. I opened it and started to climb.
The Wrigley Clock looks down on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It is very impressive and lit up at night. I walked up behind the clock on a long circular stairwell that was pretty narrow. Below me was a long drop to a cement death.
 I kept climbing and was breathing hard when I reached the Detex Station behind the clock. I could hear a buzzing and I could see out a hole the giant clock hands. I put the key in and set the Detex then paused. This was the Wrigley Clock Tower.
I went back down. Frank checked in with me every week. I never went back up to the clock tower again after the guys laughed their ass off when I told them I went all the way up to the Detex. Frank died of a heart attack in the spring.

Working Man II

Angelo hurts his balls by picking up the shipping crates in the shipping office. That's why they hired me. Nobody spoke English at the bakery.
How come you have all them fucking books?
I'm a writer.
What kind of a job is that Jack? That aint no job.
The bread orders came in all night long and I answered the phone. The Italians came in and argued with flour all over their arms and cheeks. They screamed and cursed then went back to work. About two AM the bread orders died and I could start  reading. I started with Fitzgerald, then Hemingway, then Kerouac. The bread fell off the conveyors all night with a steady plop.
About the third week a big Polish guy came in and started yelling at another Polish guy.
You are a stinking drunk. What kind of man would do what you do?
The other Polish guy had his head down and Big John kept on him
You are a disgrace to the family. You are going to lose your job.
The drunk Polish guy kept his head down on the shipping desk. The Italians came in and shook their heads and swore.
Big John lowered the boom
Go home. I'm done with you .
The drunk Polish guy staggered out and I never saw him again.
Angelo's balls healed up and they canned me just before Christmas.


Working Man

All you gotta do is sit here and keep the log.
Got it.
Just don't fall asleep.
I wont
Jack sat behind the security desk in the Wrigley Building in Chicago. Nothing happened all night long. His boss Rico came back and stared at his log in the morning.
You didn't write nothing.
Nothing happened. gotta write something. Shit I don't care what you write. But use Military time.
Military time?
Yeah. You know 0100 0200 hours. That gives my boss a real hard on. Thinks we are working then.
Oh ok.
The next night Jack sat all night at the security desk. At 01100 hours he saw a bug crossing the lobby and noted it in his log. At 01200 hours Jack smashed the bug with his shoe. He noted that in the log. In the morning Rico came back and looked at the log.
Say...this is real good. You're pretty good at security.
Jack had the job for six months and read fifty some novels. It was the best job he ever had.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Archiving Your Life

Went down to the University the other day and dropped off ten computers and my son for a weekend at college. I got to stay in a dorm room and the Archives of the University added ten old computers to my earlier manuscripts. The Archivist looked at the coffee stained behemoths and shook his head. "What kind of operating system are these?" I told him they were Windows...maybe the first one.

And then I shipped off the son and walked around the University. Ok. Seven novels later and I am back where I started. So this is what I did after I graduated. I wrote novels that ended up back at the University in ancient computers. And what does it mean that there is up in the library a room with all my manuscripts and ten old computers that in theory will give up my efforts from the last fifteen years. And will give some scholar a glimpse of my life. I don't know.

I go to the English building and it is locked. Of course. Summer. Duh. I stare in the window and look for the guy who sat in those classes. So I just walk around campus aimlessly like that Undergraduate did so many years before. That night I go get a drink then come back to my dorm room. Laying in the bunk bed I can see the campus from my window and the library. In the other part of the dorm my son sleeps.

Everything is truly a circle.
The Pitcher

Friday, July 11, 2014

Girl Scout Camp

The track wound out of the trees around the bend in the morning sun. Bob saw the girl scout camp then. There were girls in blue shirts in groups around flags. He walked up to a woman who seemed to be running the camp with a bandanna in her hair.
I'm looking for my daughter.
The woman had brown hair and glasses.
What is her name?
Julie Riden
The woman frowned and looked around.
That doesn't ring a bell. She called to two other women who checked a clipboard. They had not heard of her. Bob shook his head.
I know she is here. She always went to girl scout camp in the summer.
The women started talking on their phones. They looked panicked. Bob waited.
Are you sure it is this girl scout camp?
Bob stared down the railroad tracks.
Maybe it is another one.
We could call around for you.
No. Bob shook his head.
I'll just keep on walking.
The three women watched him walk down the railroad track that ran along the river.
I saw him come out of the trees this morning and almost called the sherriff, the assistant camp counselor said. He didn't look right to me.
The woman with the bandanna pulled up her phone and Googled Julie Riden.
They kept their eyes on the man growing smaller. The woman with the glasses gasped.
Julie Riden died in a car crash last year! She stared at her phone. She was survived by her father...Bob Riden.
Oh my God.
You mean he is looking....
The three women  looked down the sun lit tracks passing into the trees.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


C'mon. I got something to show you.
They walked across the white gravel in their bare feet. They walked with their toes grabbing the rocks. It was almost twilight.
Nobody is home Jimmy said.
They walked into the darkened house and Tim followed Jimmy all the way though the house. They walked into a den and Jimmy looked back.
It's in here.
How long has your dad been dead.
About a year Jimmy answered.
The Virginia night was outside the windows now but they could still see. Jimmy opened another door and they walked into a den. There was a large desk. Jimmy turned on a lamp.
Its up there.
Tim stared up at the white ceiling.
I don't see anything.
Up there in the corner...Jimmy said pointing. You see it?
Tim squinted and saw a small dark hole towards the corner
That's where the bullet went.
You mean...
Jimmy nodded.
Yeah...when my dad shot himself in the head.
They left then and walked back across the sharp gravel.
It hurt like hell.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Naked Pictures

John got the first one on the train. It was his wife. She was naked and worse she was spread eagle in a bed. He looked around quickly and held his phone close to his face. The next day two more appeared. In both his wife was completely nude and doing very provocative things. John tried to follow the link but it went nowhere. He said nothing.
  The following week he received five then ten then twenty photos. His wife was very young in the naked pictures and looked great. He hired a private detective to find out where the photos were coming from. Two days later he called. sitting down.
Yeah...well. Your wife is sending these to you.
My wife?
Thank you...thank you very much.
That night at dinner his wife was quiet as usual. They had been married thirty years and had quit talking a long time ago. John cleared his throat.
I got some pictures in my phone
Oh really she said not looking up.
Yes...they were naked photos.
Marcie looked up then.
How did they look?
John nodded.
I didn't know you...ah...did that sort of thing.
Marcie stared at her husband. They never had sex anymore. He slept many times in the guest bedroom.
I was a stripper before I met you.
John opened his mouth.
Yeah...can you believe it.
Marcie shook her head and picked up her I PAD.
I actually had a life then.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gone Son

Where is he?
Brittany jumped up from her pillow. Jason opened his eyes.
Isn't he here?
No! She screamed.
Jason was out of the bed. He ran to the garage.
Is he there?
Where are you going? She shouted.
Jason ran to the basement and saw the empty sleeping bag.
I'm going to that stoner he hangs out with he screamed grabbing his keys.
He never does this Brittany screamed.
I know I know he shouted.
Jason drove like a maniac. He went by all his stoner buddies houses. He saw his car parked in a Visitor Parking spot. He dialed his cellphone
I found his car!
Is he there? Is he there?'s locked!
Oh God Oh God Oh God
Maybe we should call the police.
I cant--
I'll go by McDonald's he shouted.
Jason talked to his boss. No one had seen his son. He was  just gone. He was murdered. He was dead. He had vanished. He had become one of those people on posters. HAVE YOU SEEN?
Jason felt like he was looking into a dark hole. No he was falling off a cliff. His cellphone rang.
Have you seen him? Brittany shouted.
Oh he's dead I know it!
Calm down...hes not dead....
But Jason didn't believe it. He would be forever changed from this point on. He thought he might throw up He thought he might die. He drove in frantic circles around one neighborhood after another. Julie called him again.
We have to call the police he shouted
I just did. They have no record of him she screamed.
My God....My God.
His phone beeped.
It was his son.
I left you a text...
His cellphone rang on the other line.
I found him he screamed
His wife started crying like she was going to die.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mason Jars of Pot

He knew the car was a bust. The broken tail light. Teenagers. Two AM. And he pulled out in front of him. Stupid. So they hit the lights.
See your license please?
The kid was jumping out of his skin.
This is your credit card.
Jim took the license and ran it. No priors. But there was pot in these parts. He knew it.
We'd like to search the car.
The highschooler stared at him.
We have probably cause you have been out after curfew.
That got them. He went through the van reeking of cigarettes.
Can you open the trunk?
Bingo. The backpack. Jim unzipped the top and felt the mason jar. He pulled out the jar full of pot.
This yours?
The high school kid mumbled and nodded.
Wait here.
The call to the parents. The kid going home in moms care with two tickets. Jim dropped off the pot at the end of the night. Juvenile. Misdemeanor. His wife was up when he went in the bedroom.
She stared at him and got up and came back from the bathroom.
He stared at the mason jar of pot.
Where do you think he got this?
I don't know.
Jim took the jar from her and promised to talk to Jim Jr. when he got off his shift at McDonalds.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Doing the Cliff Dwellers

Up among the cliffs are the dwellers. Birds from another time who haunt the top of Chicago's skyscrapers. They have been there since 1907. And while the world below rolls into digital insanity the Cliff Dwellers discuss books. An amazing event in the year of our Lord 2014. But they swoop down and have gathered up authors from Booth Tarkington to Studs Terkel to William Hazelgrove. I have done the Cliff Dwellers before and you don't forget it.

You look out from the top of 200 Michigan and you are outside. No one is worried about writers throwing themselves off roof tops here. No for once the writer is held up and you see them on the wall in the black and white photos going all the way back to the early twentieth century. And then you settle down and talk about your book for two hours. And they ask the hard questions and it is a real surprise to bump into thinking people who want to  know more about your and your work.

And the lunch leads to more conversation and you have a glimpse of a different sensibility. Something beyond the social media maelstrom that consumes authors and publishing today. Maybe a more measured time...I don't really know.  But you are glad you went.

Monday, June 2, 2014


This wont last.
That was his thought when he saw the couple with the stroller going by his old home. He had come back for a graduation party and he was waiting for the graduate to arrive with his parents. John was early and sat on the porch looking across the street at his old home trying to remember what it was like then. His own son had graduated the week before.
And then he saw the couple walking slowly down the sidewalk. He saw them  taking small steps and looking around like someone might come up and steal their baby. And he remembered doing that. He remembered coming home from the hospital with their son eighteen years before and walking around the block. And he didn't know where those eighteen years went. He had no idea.
He left the porch and walked over to the couple who stopped and stared at him.
Listen I just had to tell you I did this too.
They continued to stare at him.
I mean eighteen years ago we did the same thing. My wife and I. We came home from the hospital and took our son in his stroller around the block.
The young couple stared at John who was sweating. The woman was standing over her baby and the man had moved in front of her.
What do you want?  The man demanded fiercely.
John stared at the man and the woman bent over her child.
Well...nothing. I just wanted to tell you it doesn't last. I mean you think it will right now but suddenly you blink and eighteen years have gone by.
The man squinted at him.
Get away or I'm calling the cops.
John gestured with his arms wildy.'t you understand. I am doing you a favor. THIS DOESNT LAST. think it will go on forever. But it doesn' just...ends.
The man and the woman started walking again .
Stay away from us the man shouted back. You're nuts.
John stood on the sidewalk and stared after them.
He would never survive his son growing up.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Firing Old Joe

I just have one problem.
What's that?
I got to fire this retired guy old  Joe.
John bit into his burger.
Ah...he's been there forever. He does the payroll checks. It's like he's the company mascot or something but he bills out at like 25 an hour.
And I ran the numbers and he's like taking away fifty k for a few hours a week work.
And you are the guy they brought into cut costs.
Something like that.
John put his burger down and looked at Rick.
So what are you going to do?
Fire him.
Probably next week. I'll have security standing by to escort him out. how do you do that?
I just say we have to make a change.
That's it.
Pretty much. I already notified HR. You just got to watch their hands.
What do you mean?
People can get violent.
No shit.
Oh yeah. So that's why I have security standing by. This is probably the only income this guy has. He might freak.
Old Joe doesn't suspect a thing then.
Wow...poor old Joe.
Yeah...its not a big deal You just got to watch their hands...and their mouth.
Their mouth?
Yeah. Sometimes people puke when you can them.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Life Coach

He worked for the New York Times and never went to the story. He stayed home and scoured the internet and pieced the stories together and nobody knew. Sometimes he watched television on events he was supposed to cover. He did a lot of blow and was like Barack Obama and everyone knew he was going to be big one day.
And then one day someone read his story and saw it was the same as USA Today.
What do you have to say for yourself Clarence?
Not much.
The old Editor stared at him. He had never had a reporter fabricate stories before.
I am going to have to let you go.
So he went home and did a lot more blow and stayed drunk. Then he went into rehab while the world went crazy. They found all his stories were bogus. Eventually he got a book deal and went on the tour. It was a good advance. They fired two editors who really loved their jobs. Then Clarnence gave some Commencent Addresses. He talked about lessons learned. One of the old editors died of cancer. A year later Clarence was a Life Coach with two hundred clients.

Monday, February 3, 2014


Sam couldn't take it anymore. The guy was face timing one table away to his daughter. Some old fuck who just didn't get it. He had been putting up with it for fifteen minutes and he couldn't think anymore. He stood up.
Pardon me
The man looked up from his phone.
 Do you know people are trying to work here.
Well that is not my problem.
He went back to facetiming.
Yeah some jerk is complaining I'm talking on my phone.
Sam was still standing.
Sir...would you please take it outside.
The old man stared up at him.
Why don't you take it outside?
He faced his phone staring at Sam.
The same prick is complaining.
Sam could hear his daughters squeaky voice
Dad...maybe you should get off.
The old man turned the phone around and Sam saw a washed out face.
Here this is what the prick looks like if he tries anything.
Sam stared at his daughter captive in her phone.
The old man turned the phone back around.
Sam took two steps and grabbed the phone out of his hand and pulled down his zipper. He put the phone to his dick and heard the daughter scream. Then he  threw the phone across the Starbucks. The phone blew apart.
The old man stared up at Sam with his mouth open.
Dicktime Sam said sitting down.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Facebook Love

We separated.
Wow that was quick
Julie held up her hands in the bar.
I don't get it. I had been facebooking with a guy I dated in high school and Jim said I was being  unfaithful.
Kevin stared at her.
Were you sexting?
No...we just talked about old times and I met him for lunch. It wasn't like we did anything.
And he left you over that?
Julie pulled back her blond hair. She was pretty in a busty way and had very blue eyes.
I don't even know what to tell the kids. What we are getting divorced because I facebooked an old boyfriend?
Yeah that is weird Kevin said ordering another beer and wine for Julie.
We just had lunch! Jim says because I talked about sex with him I was unfaithful..
But you never did anything?
Honest to God. We are just friends, Julie said crossing her boobs.
Kevin gave Julie a ride home from the bar that night. He ended up with an STD and heard from Jeff a friend of his he got the same thing.
The Pitcher


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Good Mommy

You have got to be kidding!
Jim stared at his wife.
Because that is fucking weird. She left her husband twice?
Sandy continued packing for the Brownie campout.
Now let me get this straight. What you are saying is she left her husband went off and got pregnant then came back with the other guys kid and her husband took her back?
Sandy shrugged.
Of course he did.
Jim rubbed his face.
And then you said she did it again?
Uh huh.
She went off and screwed around again and got pregnant again and had the baby and came back and he took her back...again?"
Sandy laid out her daughter's Brownie sash.
Oh that  is so pathetic! Doesn't this guy have any backbone? He would take her back twice after she went out and whored around and had other guys kids and now he is raising them?
His wife shrugged.
Maybe he loves her.
Loves her! What about respect? I mean how can you even be with someone like that? What about diseases? What's to keep her from doing it again? And the kids all look they even know?
No. They haven't told them.
Jim snorted.
Oh come on! We are supposed to act like none of that happened now that she's decided to hide out in middleclass land with all the other mommies? How can you accept that?
Sandy closed the suitcase and looked at her husband.
She's a good mommy.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Artists and Fathers

He was supposed to do the book club but the date got screwed up.
Sorry son. Its not until tomorrow night.
That's fine we can get some quality time then Randy said putting his bag in the car.
They spent the next two days in the small lake town of his father. They went to his club and sat naked in a sauna together with the other retirees.
Maybe you should take a job.
I have a job dad.
I mean one that pays.
They both perspired in silence then. This was an old conversation. Randy looked at his watch and began counting the hours to the book club. They stopped for gas and his father spilled five gallons on the cement. Then they went into oncoming traffic.
Shit dad!
Can't see a fucking thing his father grumbled.
How about we go to Panera for a salad dad?
I want a hot dog.
Ok Randy said looking out the window.
When they went home his father fell asleep while Randy worked on a book in his bed. He used to do this when he was a kid with the door locked so his father wouldn't ask him if he was working on that Goddamn book.
He dressed and woke his father.
You sure you don't want to go dad?
No.'s  your thing.
At the book club Randy was a star to the twelve women. He signed books and then walked back to his fathers house with the snow coming down. He took the train back to Chicago and they didn't talk for a couple weeks. It was like that.

Shoveling Snow

The snow blower wouldn't start. It didn't matter. He always shoveled when he was a kid. He loved snow. Loved the way it made him feel. So he charged out to shovel snow like he was a kid. When he finished he felt good. He woke up and couldn't move the next morning. Every time he did he screamed out from the pain. The doctor gave him narcotics and muscle relaxers and Naproxen. He took the drugs and slept all the time and felt like he was on a different planet.

When he slept he woke up with night sweats. His wife found him on the floor of the bathroom with a blood pressure gauge. His heart was going a million miles a minute and he thought he might die. The snow piled up and he couldn't take out the garbage. He couldn't lift anything and stayed in bed all day. His boss called several times and he felt terrible. But he didn't really care about anything on the drugs.

Then he went back to the doctor who said he had a hernia. He would have to go to a surgeon. The surgeon operated and he went back to bed. He lost his job. It took six months before he could bend over and touch his toes again. When it snowed the next winter he bought a new snow blower and never thought like a kid again.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Pitch

He finally got the editor to lunch. This was it. He was going to pitch his book.
Thanks for coming.
No problem. I know a good sushi restaurant.
They went downstairs and talked books.
Toby pitched him on his book and the editor listened intently.
Well it sounds brilliant.
Toby felt himself well up.
I think it will really sell.
And you already wrote this?
Have it right here in my backpack.
Well you have to give it to me.
He had been courting the editor for a year. He had carefully maneuvered he lunch through a mutual friend. He then remembered to ask the editor about his own life. He  listened with a polite smile and realized how well everything was going. He reached for the wasabi and knocked his ice tea over. The tea rivered across the table into the editors lap.
Jesus Christ the editor said jumping up. His grey pressed pants were dark. It looked like he had pissed down his leg.
Shit! And I have a meeting today he muttered.
Toby and the Japanese woman handed him napkins and towels but the editor shook his head.
I'll have to get back to the office and change.
The editor went out the door and left Toby to pick up the check.  He went home with his manuscript. They never spoke again.