Category Archives: Fiction Short Stories

Short, interesting stories of all types and themes.

The Suicide Tree

Alex hiked deep into the woods looking for the perfect place to kill himself. He carried no food or water. He would be dead long before thirst or hunger became a problem. He had no suicide note and had posted no video with final words. Alex knew that there was no point. As far as the rest of the world was concerned he had died long ago.

Christmas decoration in the deep woods

The suicide tree in the deep woods

At the busy mall where Alex worked he was completely invisible to everyone. He was the old guy behind the counter. He was of no more importance than the napkin dispenser or the soda machine. Alex was just an object. Alex could not remember the last time anyone  had looked him in the eye as he handed them the food. People did not even bother to glance up from their iPhones.

It had not always been like this. In what now seemed like a different lifetime, Alex had been the gorgeous guy all the girls turned their heads to see. Two hundred sit-ups every morning had given him the washboard stomach he had shown off at the pool every summer. Now he was almost out of breath from his long hike, and the days past when he had a perfect body seemed like something out of a dream.

Alex looked up and in the distance saw the place where he was meant to die. It was a dead cedar tree, denuded of bark, with a soft carpet of leaves and dirt under it. Alex reached in his pocket to make sure his suicide device was still with him. He pulled out a clear plastic bag, and a long length of twine.

Alex had thought for a long time about exactly how to commit suicide. He had no way to get a gun, and knives seemed so painful. Then he came up with the idea that was so simple he was amazed he had not thought of it before. He would put the plastic bag over his head, and use the twine to make sure it was air-tight.  Then he would lie down and let the peaceful sleep come to him.  In just minutes it would be over.

The weather was cold and there was supposed to be a deep snowfall that night. Alex had chosen this day on purpose. He wanted the deep snow to cover his body. He was hoping he would never be discovered.  Alex wondered about wolves, but then realized that no wolves had been in these woods for more than a century. Nothing left now but some deer and hundreds of chipmunks.

Alex reached the tree and lay down under it, exhausted by his hike. He lay flat on a pile of leaves and stared up at the cedar tree and the sky. Then he  noticed something odd. There was something blue and shiny on the tree. Alex stood up and saw it was a Christmas ball.

Alex looked around to see who might have put the decoration there, but he was alone in the woods. It had taken Alex  three hours of driving and two hours of hiking to reach this spot. Why was this decoration on this exact tree in this exact spot on the last day of his life?

He reached up and took the ball off the tree, and saw there was a tiny hand written note taped to the back. In beautiful cursive writing the note read;

“The woods are lovely dark and deep.

But you have miles to go before you sleep”

A shudder ran through Alex’s body. Who had written the note and why had the words of the Frost poem been changed? When Alex was a boy the old folks has told stories about witches in these woods. Had the stories been true all along?

Alex carefully replaced the Christmas ball on the tree. Then he searched through the woods until he found three lovely pine cones. He took the twine from his pocket, tied the pine cones together and hung them on the tree as another decoration.  He steeped back and admired his work. The pine cones  looked good next to the blue Christmas ball.

Alex was very tired and it took him almost three hours to hike back to his car. When he got back to the parking lot he took the plastic bag out of his pocket and threw it in a trash receptacle.

Alex got in his car and started him motor.  He looked at his watch and realized he had just enough time to go home, take a shower and then get to his night shift at the mall.

 

 

 

 

 

The Tattered Princess and Her Walk of Shame

Kirsten knew that the moment she stepped out onto the sidewalk in an evening dress, she would be labeled a slut. There were always paparazzi in front of this hotel. There was no way she could even make it to a taxi without at least 20 pictures being taken.

Kirsten lay naked in bed and looked at the clock. God, it was already 10:30am! Soon housekeeping would be knocking on the door. And where the hell was Richard? Then she vaguely remembered that he had left late last night to go home to his wife. At least he had booked the room in a fake name, and no one had seen her come in last nght.

For the hundredth time Kirsten wondered how stupid she could be to have an affair with a married man.  And how stupid was Richard’s wife? How many late night “production meeting” did she believe he really had?

Of course, if Kirsten was a different type of actress, none of this would have mattered. If she played the sexy tramp in movies, her off-screen affairs would have actually boosted her career.

Walk 1

But Kirsten’s persona was the “Good Girl”. In comedies she was the High School sweetheart. In horror films she was the virgin who stayed alive while the killer butchered the sluts. Of course, the biggest money makes were when she played magical princesses.  Kirsten’s slim features, small stature and sweet looks meant  that she constantly played characters 10 or 15 years younger than her real age of 28.

Kirsten got out of bed, put on her bra and panties, and considered her options. There was nothing in the room to wear except her floor length, black evening dress and  high heals. She could call the studio then decided against it. They had been looking for a reason to break her contract and bring in a younger less expensive actress. Kirsten was pretty sure there was a “morals clause” busied somewhere in her contract.

There was no way  Kirsten was going to break her contract. She loved the money, and there was no way she was going back to being poor.

Out of habit, Kirsten  picked up the remote and clicked on the T.V.  The channel that came on was the internal one showing all of the day’s events at the hotel. Kirsten sat on the bed and vaguely watched while she tried to think of a way out of her situation. Then as she read through the events, she had a Epiphany. She searched thought the closet and drawers of the hotel room until she found  what she was looking for. The hotel sewing kit was small and the scissors were tiny, but they would work.

“If they want me to be a princess, then I’ll be a goddamned princess!” Kirsten said to herself.

Later than evening Kirsten was alone in her apartment, feeling tired, but satisfied. She has made it through another day with her “good girl” image intact.  She sipped a glass of white  wine and turned on the local  news. She had to sit through 15 minutes of stories about fires and car wrecks until the program got to the “feel good” portion of the news.

The anchor woman read the story,

“Today children at the Excelsior Hotel got a thrill when Kirsten O’Reilly showed up at the annual fundraising event for underprivileged youth.  Kirsten was dressed as her famous character ‘The Tattered Princess’ complete with the magic cape and ripped beggar girl dress. Lovers of that movie will remember that the barefoot beggar girl in the ripped dress turns into a princess when she finds a magic cape.”

walk 3

Kirsten gulped down more wine as the news program continued. It showed Kirsten smiling to the kids and shaking hands while the fund raisers thanked her profusely for coming. The tattered dress was a $5,000 Versache gown she had cut to ribbons with the hotel scissors. The “magic cape” was the comforter from the hotel bed.

Kirsten shook her head when she realized how close her career had come to ending today. She vowed she would never have another affair. But the fundraiser had been hosted by a very handsome man named John Reynolds. He had invited Kirsten to go swimming at his place in The Hamptons that weekend.   John had also mentioned that his wife would be out of town for a few weeks. When no one else was looking he slipped Kirsten his cell phone number.

Kirsten reached for more wine and on the table saw the piece of paper with John’s cell phone number on it.  “I would have to be crazy to call him,” she said out loud.

Kirsten drank some more wine and then spoke to herself again. “Of course, the weather is going to be very hot this weekend, and The Hamptons are beautiful.” Then she sighed, and reached over for the slip of paper.

 

 

 

Could The Last Man On Earth Really Happen?

Could The Last Man On Earth really happen? The short answer is “Yes” The Last Man On Earth takes place in a future where a deadly virus has killed almost ever human and animal on the planet.

We humans are protected by the fact that most bacteria and viruses cannot jump species to species. If your cat sneezes right in your face, you do not get a Cold, since the virus giving kitty a cold had no effect on people.

The Black Death in the Middle Ages

The Black Death in the Middle Ages

Note that we said most viruses and bacteria. The problem is that in real life, the few diseases that have jumped from animals to people have turned out to be the most deadly of all.

In 1918, a Kansas farm boy caught a flu virus from the pigs. This inter-species germ jump became The Great Influenza which spread world-wide and ended up killing more people than World War I.

The virus that causes AIDS originally came from monkeys and was transmitted by people butchering monkeys for food.

Yessinia Pestis bacteria - Better known as "The Black Death"

Yessinia Pestis bacteria – Better known as “The Black Death”

Let’s not forget the king of all Bacteria –  Yersinia Pestis, better know as the Black Death. In the Middle Ages it killed as many as half of all the people in Europe. It spread from rats and mice to people. Ironically the religious  superstitions of those days made things worse. Cats were thought to be in league with the Devil, so most cats were killed. If the Europeans had not done this, the cats would have controlled the mice & rat population, considerably slowing the spread of the Black Death.

Fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty come from the days of the Black Death. In some areas, entire towns, villages and even kingdoms no longer had any people.  Decades later travelers would come through a forest and suddenly find an huge castle completely empty. That’s where the stories of an evil witch putting everyone to sleep started and became Sleeping Beauty.

After the Black Death whole castles were devoid of people

After the Black Death whole castles were devoid of people

Remember that all these diseases still exist in the world. They are still capable of killing millions. One day, they may mutate into something even more powerful and kill billions. Something to think about the next time your pet dog, cat or hamster isn’t feeling well and you give it a great big hug.

 

When Men Wore Hats – a poem of John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Men wore hats. Women’s dresses were  Bright,

Ties  narrow and black.  All shirts were white.

Cars had fins and gadgets galore.

America was Great. We had won the War.

The President was handsome. His wife a gem.

We never saw their likes again.

Was it real or were we fools?

Bullets and Time have been so cruel.

John F. Kennedy in business hat and white shirt

John F. Kennedy in business hat and white shirt

 

Jackson and the Magic Bunny

Once Upon A Time, there was a little boy named Jackson with bright red hair. He lived deep in the King’s Forest in house that was built inside a huge oak  tree. His mother Joanna made potions for King Kronan, who lived far away in  Grey Stone Castle next to  The Lazy River.

Joanna and Jackson would walk through the forest gathering herbs and plants and honey for the magic potions Joanna made for the king. They were never afraid in the forest since the giant wolf Oakley always came with them.

Oakley the Good Wolf

Oakley the Good Wolf

Oakley was a good wolf but he was too jumpy  to be part of a pack. The other wolves had thrown Oakley out and told him he had to live with humans until he learned to calm down. So Oakley came to live with Jackson and Joanna. He loved being with them, but he never did learn to calm down. Whenever Joanna and Jackson walked  through the forest, Oakley would run full speed in through the forest, jumping and  wagging his tail.

Sunshine the magic bunny tries to wake up Jackson

Sunshine the magic
bunny tries to wake up Jackson

Now in the King’s Forest lived a Magic Bunny named Sunshine. He wanted so much to play with Jackson and Joanna and to taste all the good plants they were gathering. But Sunshine was afraid of being eaten by the Wolf Oakley, so he stayed hidden under bushes whenever Joanna and Jackson and Oakley would pass by.

Although Joanna made potions for the King, she almost never went to the castle. She would mix up her potions in the big oak house and then wrap them in a small leather bag. Joanna would tie the bag to Oakley and the wolf would run full speed all the way to  Grey Stone Castle to deliver the potions to the king. Oakley  loved running to the castle, but even with his great speed, it would take him one day to get there and another full day to get back.

So Jackson, Joanna and Oakley lived happily in the King’s forest until one day something terrible happened.  A witch had poisoned good King King Kronan and it looked as if he might die. Soldiers came to Joanna’s oak house in the forest and told her that she was the only one with the knowledge to save the king.

Joanna did not want to leave Jackson, but the soldiers promised they would guard the house and take care of him. So Joanna packed her bag of potions and rode off on the back of the giant Wolf Oakley to rush to the castle to save the king.

The evil witch places a sleep spell on the oak tree house

The evil witch places a sleep spell on the oak tree house

But the evil witch was hiding outside the oak tree house and she put a sleeping spell on everyone inside.  The King’s soldiers and Jackson fell into a deep sleep. The witch cackled as she lit the tree on fire.

Jackson Escapes in his Fire-proof suit

Jackson Escapes in his Fire-proof suit

The only one who saw this was Sunshine the Magic Bunny. Sunshine is magic since he can jump higher than any other bunny in the world.

Sunshine jumped over the witch and all the way in through the second story window of the oak tree house. Then he tugged and jumped on Jackson and the soldiers until they woke up. Sunshine got Jackson into a fire-proof  suit and rushed him outside.

Barry the one-antler deer watches Jackson and the magic Bunny Escape

Barry the one-antler deer watches Jackson and the magic Bunny Escape

The soldiers piled snow on the fire to put it out, but they did not know that  that the fire had been caused by a witch. Only Sunshine had seen that.  The witch came out of the forest to try and capture Jackson, but Sunshine saw her and jumped all the way up to her head and bit her ugly nose.  Then, out of the woods came  Barry, the one-antler deer who  was a friend of Sunshine the Magic Bunny . Barry saw what was happening and charged to stab the witch with his one antler.

Like all good stories this one has a happy ending.

Joanna saved the king from poison and rode home on the giant  wolf Oakley. Joanna was very upset and cried when she found out what had happened. Then she cried more when she found out that Jackson was fine.

Sunshine the magic bunny now lives inside with Joanna and Jackson. The evil witch ran off into the forest. Oakley was accepted back into the wolf pack and every day they search all through the King’s Forest to try to find and eat the evil witch.

Each night dinner time, Sunshine, Joanna and Jackson eat together at the dinner table. Then Jackson lies down on the couch and falls asleep while petting the soft soft fur on Sunshine the Magic Bunny.

 

 

The Winter Wife

Towards end of Life,

Once filled with Strife,

He misses most his Winter Wife.

The Devil raged inside his head

then Winter Wife came to his bed.

She warmed his soul,

chased Devil out.

With Winter lust their love screamed out.

Of Cold and Death they had no fear,

Pure love that could not last the year.

Springtime came and melted snow,

Winter Wife packed bags to go.

Another another man, another life,

Another love for Winter Wife

 

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The Winter Goddess

The Winter Goddess stood in the snow and glanced in Eric’s direction. In his  delirious state, he knew she was the same  vision that Viking warriors must have seen hundreds of years ago just before they died of battle wounds.

Eric peered through the snow, but he just could not see her clearly. She was there, but somehow just out of focus – just out of reach. She looked directly at him and smiled. Her skin was incredibly pale and beautiful and her long golden hair moved slightly in the wind.  The Winter Goddess called out to him in in a soulful  soft voice, but he could not understand her. She was speaking some ancient dialect of long forgotten tribes of the far north.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of Eric’s mind was the vague realization that he was  in the final stages of hypothermia.  He had passed through the phases of shivering and dizziness and had entered the final  levels of confusion and rapid heart beat.

Eric’s heart was racing like a small engine about to explode. His heart was going at such a rate that he had stopped shivering. For the first time in many hours he felt comfortable. Then he actually began to feel warm and even hot.

As he walked towards the Winter Goddess Eric shed the clothing which was making him hot.  Off went the jacket, the sweater and shirt and finally the pants and underclothing. Eric strode confidently through the snow. He was warm and happy as he got closer to the Winter Goddess.

Miles away the searchers were looking in the wrong direction for Eric. The Norwegians were angry that they had to risk their own lives trying to find an American who was arrogant and foolish enough to go off alone in the Norwegian wilderness in Winter.

The American had left no note, no map of where he was going, not even a message with the innkeeper as to what direction he was headed. The searchers shook their heads in disgust at the lack of respect the American had shown for the wilderness.

But Eric knew nothing of the searchers anger or disgust. He had entered another realm; another level of existence.  He had finally reached the Goddess of Winter.  She smiled at him and took Eric into her arms. Her breasts felt warm against his chest.  Eric had expected her skin to be cold, but instead the Goddess of Winter’s skin was soft and warm as she gently caressed him.

Now that he had reached the Goddess, Eric could finally relax. He had been walking for so long and was so tired that it felt  wonderful to stop and relax.

The Winter Goddess whispered in Eric’s ear and gently stroked his hair.  Suddenly he could understand her language.  She was telling Eric that he was home now. That all his struggles were over and all his battles had been won. It was time to come in from the cold and feast at the long table with all the Gods and Goddesses.

Eric felt the peace and relaxation for which he had spent so many years searching. The Winter Goddess continued to hug him and keep him warm in the snow as his racing heart gradually slowed down and finally came to a smooth and wonderful stop.

 

James Bond Marries Miss Moneypenny

Three weeks after he retired from MI6, James Bond married Eve Moneypenny. Eve moved into James’ London flat and the two were fabulously happy.  Most people had assumed that James would marry a supermodel, or an exceedingly rich and beautiful woman.

However, James Bond had always been in love with Miss Moneypenny, and she with him. Moneypenny was the woman who was always there for Bond. She was the only real friend, male or female, that Bond had ever  had.

Bond 1

Of course, Bond had made love with countless woman over the years, but he had never really been in love with them. All those women were seduced by 007, the fearless man with nerves of steel and no doubts.

Unlike the other women, Moneypenny had seen the real Bond. The one he hid from the world. When “M” was away, James and Eve spent hours in the office talking about all the demons that tormented Bond.  He confided his guilt about the many people he had killed, the destruction he had caused; even the many women he had seduced and then left behind.  He questioned whether or not it was really for a good cause. Eve Moneypenny was always there to reassure Bond. She was there to pull him up when he was at his lowest.

Bond 2

Unlike Bond, Moneypenny did not retire. She had started in MI6 as a secretary, but eventually rose to become Director of All European Secret Operations. Moneypenny often worked late into the night, directing her spies throughout the world.

James loved his new role. He was a gourmet chef and always had a romantic dinner waiting for Eve whatever hour she returned home.

One day a new agent at MI6 made  a pass at Eve Moneypenny. She laughed it off, and explained that she was a happily married woman.

“Well, your husband, Mister Moneypenny, is a lucky man.”

“Yes he is”, answered Eve with a smile. “And by the way, his name is not Moneypenny. His name is Bond, James Bond.”

WiFi and Naked Coffee

“Usually I’m naked when I drink coffee,” the girl whispered into her iPhone. ” I sleep in the nude, and I guess I am too lazy to put any clothing on before I have that first cup of coffee. Every morning I stand there in my apartment naked with the coffee cup in my hand. There is something amazingly sensual about the feel of the warm liquid going down my throat.

There are times I wish I could just stay nude all day.”

Joseph sat mesmerized, trying to pretend he was not listening to every word the young woman on the couch next to him was saying. Joseph was at a  coffee shop he had never been to before in Soho . It prided itself in its laid-back atmosphere. There were no tables or regular chairs; just soft couches and big easy chairs. The regulars got their extra large cappuccinos and then spent hours sipping their drinks and using the free WiFi. The coffee shop was packed to capacity day and night and you had to squeeze onto the tiny couches and sit next to strangers.

Of course, Joseph had immediately noticed the girl when she sat next to him. She was gorgeous and sensual, dressed in black jeans and a tight black top. Her brown hair cascaded over her shoulders in a very natural style.

Now that he overheard her speaking about walking around her apartment naked, Joseph looked up from his laptop computer and sneaked another glance at the girl.  She was speaking  on her iPhone, while at the same time typing furiously on her own laptop computer.  She was expertly juggling both devices, plus her cup of coffee and paying no attention whatsoever to Joseph, who was sitting so close that their thighs almost touched.

“No, I’ve never spilled hot coffee on my nipples. What a thing to say. You are just terrible,” whispered the girl into the phone giggling slightly.  Her tone of voice was in a teasing, laughing manner, and Joseph was dying to know exactly what her relationship was with whoever was on the other end of the phone. More than anything in the world Joseph wanted to be the person on the other end of the phone.

“Well, I’ve got to go,” said the girl suddenly as she hung up the phone, and closed her laptop. Joseph sighed slightly as he watched her walk away in her skintight Jeans.

Joseph decided it was time to try to get some work done on his own laptop, but when he looked at it all he saw was the dreaded” Blue Screen of Death”. He tried re-booting. He tried Ctrl-Alt-Delete. He tried physically removing the battery and re-installing it. Nothing worked. No matter what he did the computer screen stayed just a solid blue page. His computer was now nothing more than a large paperweight.

Then his cell phone dinged and a text message appeared.  It read, “Joseph – type CVd77@31Y into your computer and all will be well – your couch girlfriend.”

At this point, Joseph was desperate and he followed the instructions and typed the code into his laptop. The second he hit “Enter” a picture appeared with a message under it.

The picture was of the girl who minutes ago had been sitting on the couch next to be him.  However, instead of wearing jeans and a top she was wearing nothing at all.  She was naked and drinking a large cup of steaming coffee. The message under the picture read,

“Joseph – your computer systems need better protection. I was able to use a simple trick and steal all your passwords and get into your systems while you were listening  to my phone call.”  The message went on to explain that her name was April Massey and that she was a computer security expert. She had her own company that set up security on computers. There was a link to the website for her company, and a list of prices for different security packages offered.

Joseph spent the next 45 minutes checking every part of his computer to make sure he had not lost any data. Then he spent the next half hour changing every password on  every link he could remember.

As he was doing this, however, he kept toggling back to the naked picture of April. Finally he decided to make it his screen saver. He was so intent on looking at her breasts that it was a long time before he noticed the little  ♥ heart shaped character at the bottom of the picture. When he clicked on it a new message appeared,

“Joseph – you are the only one who actually got the naked coffee picture. Everyone else just gets the Blue Screen of Death and the security system message.  I think you are kind of cute. Next time a beautiful woman sits one inch from you on a couch how about actually talking to her? By the way, I don’t really drink coffee nude in my apartment in the morning. Every morning I am right here at 6am on that same couch.”

Joseph re-read that message 10 times. He could not decide it it was for real or if April was playing him for an idiot  for the second time in one day. There was only one thing he did know for sure. At 6 am tomorrow morning he was going to be right here on this same couch – waiting.

The Land of Lost Girls

Leah looked at her naked body in the full length mirror and smiled. For the first time in months Leah felt at peace. She had gone from “fat” to “chubby” to “svelte.” All her friends had noticed. Finally she was in control. The way she had mastered her own body had given her something to be in charge of. Something that she controlled. Not her parents, not her teachers, not the boys who tried to paw her at school functions.  Leah was finally in control of her life.

Leah’s greatest joy came when she stopped menstruating.   She felt pure. It was proof that she was superior to those sluts at school who were always taking about the disgusting acts they had performed over the weekend. She was above all that now. Her sacrifices had moved her to a new level of existence.

Of course,  the old people were tying to take all that away from her. Mrs. Ryan, the Phys Ed teacher had been the first to meddle. Leah had been forced to listen to a lecture by Mrs. Ryan about Anorexia Nervosa. Why couldn’t that fat old cow just leave her alone?

Then Mrs. Ryan had done something even worse. She had called Leah’s parents to discuss the “situation.” That’s how Leah ended up at Overlook Hospital sitting here discussing intimate details of her body with Dr. Telesco. The only good part was that Dr. Telesco was really hot. He was tall and thin with a gorgeous face and a  body like a marathon runner.  He also had a really soothing voice.

“So Leah,” began Dr. Telesco. “Now that the examination is done, would you like your parents to come in while we discuss the case?”

“God no!” said Leah in a shocked tone. “Besides, Mom is in California on a big case for at least a month. The only reason Dad is here is that the stock market is closed today.”

“O.K.,” said Dr. Telesco with a smile. “Your rapid weight loss is not good for your health. You have gone far below what is normal for your height. The X-Rays show that this is causing a loss of bone mass. In addition, your body has trouble simply maintaining normal temperature.  I notice you are wearing a sweater even though it is quite warm out today.”

“I just like the way this outfit looks,” answered Leah defensively.

Dr. Telesco leaned forward and said gently, “Leah you are putting your life at risk. You are literally starving yourself to death. I would like to put you on a program to help you get back to a normal weight. You should be seeing a Psychiatrist to help you through this. Your parents will need to be involved.”

Leah began to shake and cry. This is exactly what she was afraid of.  They were going to try to control her. They were going to force her to become fat and ugly. She would develop big cow breasts like the other sluts. That disgusting monthly “thing” would return.

In the end, however, Leah had no choice. She either had to agree to see a psychiatrist  as an outpatient, or her parents could have her involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

So one week later Leah was back at Overlook taking to a psychiatrist named Dr. Grundy. He looked like he had not shaved in a few days, and his suit was very wrinkled. In her own mind,  Leah immediately made up the nickname “The Grunge” for him.

The first thing The Grunge did was to hand Leah a picture of a naked woman sitting on a rock by a rushing river.

“Leah, describe to me in as much detail as possible, exactly what you think is happening in this picture.”

This was a standard test Dr. Grundy had used for several years, with varying degrees of success. It was designed to explore the patient’s attitude toward, body-image, sex and life in general. Although he had been a psychiatrist for 15 years, he had never encountered a response as remarkable or as detailed as Leah’s.

Leah held the picture in her hands and stared it it intently for several minutes. Then she began to describe what she saw in the photo.

“Her name is Lilith. She is trying to get the courage to jump into the water. She wants to jump, but the water looks dangerous and she is afraid. She has ripped off all her clothing so that it will not drag her down when she jumps into the water, but now she is too scared to jump.”

“What do you think of Lilith’s body?” asked Dr. Grundy. “Do you think she is pretty?”

“She’s fat,” answered Leah. “She is upset about being so fat.”

“Most men would call her beautiful.”

“Most men are pigs,” responded Leah. “Look at the size of her ass. That’s all men want. Big tits and a big ass. Something to grab on to while they do disgusting things.”

“Have any men done disgusting things to you?” asked Dr. Grundy gently.

“NO WAY!” shouted Leah. “My tits are too small and I have no ass at all! I like it that way! I am not like those sluts at school!”

Dr. Grundy was concerned that Leah was getting agitated and he was afraid she might storm out of the session. He decided to switch the topic slightly. “Let’s get back to the picture,” he said soothingly. “What will happen to Lilith if she does jump into the water?”

Leah immediately calmed down. She looked up the picture and smiled. “When Lilith jumps into the water, the current will rush her down and over a high waterfall.  She is scared when she goes over the falls, but she does not get smashed on  the rocks.  After the waterfall, the river becomes calm and she floats gently downstream for a very very long time. Finally she comes to the shores of the Land Of Lost Girls.  Other girls come to the riverside and greet her with smiles. They dry her off and give her a long beautiful pure white robe to wear.  They brush her hair and give her fruit to eat and wine to drink.”

“What happens in the Land of Lost Girls?” asked Dr. Grundy.

“Nothing. That’s the point,” answered Leah. “It’s like in Peter Pan, but for girls. They stay there forever and don’t age. It’s actually better than Peter Pan, since there are no pirates, or alligators or weapons.”

“Or males?” asked Dr. Grundy.

“Of course not,” said Leah. “No annoying little boys. No dirty old men. No aggressive over-sexed young men.  Just the beautiful girls.”

The time for the session was over, although Dr. Grundy knew they were only scratching the surface.

As Leah got up to leave she picked up the picture of the naked woman and asked, “Can I take this with me?”

“Of course you can take the picture Leah.”

“May I have an envelope to put it in? I don’t want my dad to get the wrong idea.”

Dr. Grundy found a large manila envelope in his desk and gave it Leah. She slipped the photo of the naked woman into the envelope, and then clutched onto it, like the envelope contained a bar of gold. Then Leah meekly said goodby and left the office.

Dr. Grundy spent the next 45 minutes writing notes about the session. He was very worried about Leah. He looked down at his notes:

Leah’s identification of a healthy young woman as “fat” is a part of Leah’s distorted image of the female body. Leah has possibly been sexually abused, perhaps at an age so early she does not consciously remember it. The desire to jump into the water and go over the waterfall may indicate potential suicidal tendencies. The Land Of Lost Girls fantasy is an obvious desire to avoid sexual maturation”

That night Dr. Grundy and his wife celebrated their 17th anniversary at La Papillon. The food was exquisite  but he hardly spoke at all. “What’s wrong John?” asked Celeste.

“I’m sorry. I was just thinking about all the young lives that have gone over the waterfall through the decades and ended up in the Land of Lost Girls.  Maybe this time I can catch one before she goes over the waterfall.  Maybe I can pull her back.”

Celeste smiled at her husband and did not ask what he meant. She had been married to John for long enough to know  that it had something confidential  to do with a patient. She wished that people who complained about how much psychiatrists earned could see the toll that the work took on them.

Just 10 miles away, Leah was at home alone, also having dinner. Her mother was still on the case in California.  Her father was working late in the City. He had called and said something about the Greek Euro crisis and how he had to work up a strategy for how it would impact his firm’s portfolio.  Leah pretended she understood what he was talking about.

“Have a good dinner honey.”

“I will Daddy,” said Leah as she hung up the phone.

Leah loved having dinner alone. No one to criticize or monitor her.  She looked at her dinner plate and was very satisfied with it. On the plate were a small wedge of Water Mellon, a tiny cube of cheese, three cashews and a stick of celery.  There was also a very large glass of expensive Chardonnay.

As Leah slowly ate her dinner and drank the wine, she looked at the picture of Lilith naked by the water. Leah had placed the picture on the table next to her dinner plate.

“Make the jump Lilith”, whispered Leah. “Make the jump and I will join you soon. Very soon.”

 

 

 

Naked In the Woods

Michelle slipped into the pond and felt the tingle of the cool water on her naked body. It had taken three hours of rough hiking for  Michelle to get to her secret place in the woods.

Michelle had found it by accident at the beginning of the summer, when she had gone off-trail in search of rare plants. The hikes were part of the research for her PhD dissertation in Botany. Her dissertation had the unexciting title “The encroachment of invasive species on the natural ecosystem of upstate New York and the negative impact on the water supply  to New York City”

marriage 1Michelle had been very proud of the first draft and was devastated at the criticism leveled by her PhD adviser Dr. Paul Coelho.

“It’s a little dry Michelle,” Dr. Coelho had said. “You have statistics and graphs, but you need to really feel the subject. To be a real botanist you have to understand that these plants are alive and vulnerable. You have to be in touch with them and love them. You have to be willing to be naked and vulnerable in the woods like they are.”

Michelle was both  insulted and alarmed. She did not like Dr. Coelho’s talk about being naked. Was this the stodgy old Professor’s attempt to seduce his young student?  Yuck!

The day after Dr. Coelho’s lecture, Michelle went further upstate and further into the woods than she had ever been before. She had her thick jeans and heavy hiking boots on. Strapped to her was the large and heavy backpack with the vials for the plant and water samples she would take.

By the time Michelle happened upon the pond, she was exhausted, hot and sweaty.  She put down her backpack and lay on the warm dirt next to the pond. She let her hand dangle in the water, and the pond  felt cool and tempting.

Looking around to see that she was entirely alone, Michelle made an impulsive decision.

“Well, if he wants me naked that’s what he is going to get, “she said out loud

Michelle took off her dusty boots and socks;  her jeans her flannel shirt and stood there wearing nothing but her bra and panties.  She was about to dive in wearing those, but then decided she did not want to be hiking home in a soggy bra and panties. She slipped them off, hung them on a tree branch and stood in the woods completely nude.

As she stood there naked, she was suddenly afraid at how vulnerable she was.  Michelle was not large or muscular and had no weapons. She was small and soft and had no real way to defend herself against anything that choose to attack her. “Like the plants,” she thought.

Michelle almost put her clothing back on, but the cool water looked too inviting for her to chicken out now.  She slipped into the pond and felt  the wonderful sensation of it enveloping her.  It was as if she was the only person in the world.

She stood naked in the water and rested her hands on a tree branch that was just above her head.  Her breasts peaked out of the water and the Sun felt warm on them while the cool water played around her thighs and between her legs.

Michelle stayed that way for a long time, in an almost trance-like meditative state.

After that first time, Michelle came back to her secret spot every week. Her PhD dissertation progressed throughout the Summer, and Dr. Coelho was very pleased with the results. She never told him about her naked visits to the pond. She never told anyone. Somehow that would spoil it.

Finally,  Fall came and it got too cold to go into the water. Winter came, and Michelle continued to visit the pond each week. The pond froze, some plants died and the trees went into their long nap.

But Michelle knew that when Summer returned she would be back. Naked and soft and vulnerable, yet somehow unafraid of the harsh World beyond the woods.

 

The Beautiful Dead Girl – part 4 – Conclusion – The Bird Woman

One the final day of his trial for murder, Derek Manning was feeling very confident. Against the advice of his lawyer, he was going to take the witness stand. He knew that he could charm the jury into forgetting all about the finger print evidence against him.

Derek was not at all afraid of the prosecutor. She was a small timid-looking woman named Elvira Evans. Who the hell would name a kid Elvira anyway? Elvira reminded Derek of an underfed little bird nervously scuttling around the courtroom.  She has a squeaky voice and an annoying thick Bronx accent. The Jury would hate her and love Derek.

It never occurred to Derek that a tiny unattractive woman with an annoying speaking voice did not get to become a top prosecutor in New York City without being pretty damn good at her job.  That’s why he was taken completely by surprise at the Prosecution’s first question.

“Mr. Manning. Are your testicles misshapen?”

“What the Fuck?” replied Derek before his lawyer even had a chance to object.

“Objection Your Honor!”, said the Defense attorney. “This obscenely personal line of questioning has nothing to do with the case at hand.”

“It is completely relevant,” stated Elvira calmly. ” We have heard previous testimony that steroids were being stolen from the hospital where the murder victim worked as a nurse.  It is obviously to anyone looking at Mr. Manning that he is an Extreme Body Builder.  We believe that the stolen steroids were for the use of Mr. Manning. One of the sides effects of extended steroid use is misshapen testicles. ”

Judge Hewett thought about this for a full minute before saying, “Objection Overruled. The witness will answer the question.”

“Mr. Manning. Would you like me to repeat the question?” asked Elvira.

“No lady, “answered Derek in an annoyed tone. “My balls are just fine.”

Elvira went to the Prosecution’s table and retrieved a thick document and handed it to Derek. “Mr. Manning this is the report of the physician who was assigned to examine you after your arrest. Please read the fifth paragraph on page seven. I have marked it with a highlighter.”

Derek rummaged through the report for a couple of minutes before he found the right spot.  The in a subdued tone he read out loud, “The subject’s testicles are smaller than normal for his body size, and are not of normal shape. This condition is most frequently associated with the extended use of steroids by athletes; especially body-builders.”

Elvira took the report back from Derek and handed it to the Bailiff. “Your Honor we would like to make this as Prosecution exhibit J-73.”

Then Elvira turned back to Derek and continued the attack. “Mr. Manning. How do you explain that report.? Would you like to revise your testimony? Perjury is a crime Mr. Manning.”

This was not going at all the way Derek had planned. The Defense attorney, Mr. Cromwell was trying not to look worried, but was not succeeding.

“MY BALLS ARE JUST FINE! I DON ‘T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT WHAT SOME QUACK DOCTOR SAYS! ” shouted Derek. He shouted it so loudly that the police in the courtroom instinctively moved forward in case they had to restrain Derek.

But the Prosecution was just beginning, “Mr. Manning two minutes ago   you appeared to be a calm,  rational individual. Then you instantly became a very scary person. Is this an example of what is known as ‘roid  rage’? Do you often have uncontrollable outbursts like this?”

Derek struggled to get himself under control. “I do not have roid-rage. Any man would be angry if he was accused of having small funny looking balls.  Any man would react the way I did, at what you said.”

“Is that what happened? Did Kira make fun of your small testicles? Or was it the fact that she refused to continue stealing drugs for you? Is that why you snapped and killed her?”

“Objection!” called out the Defense Attorney. “Prosecution is simply speculating and making a summation.”

“Sustained.” answered the Judge. “The Jury will ignore the Prosecution’s last remark.”

But of course the Jury could not ignore it. They no longer regarded Derek as the handsome young man whose lover had tragically committed suicide. They suddenly saw him as a pumped up dangerous steroid freak who could at any time turn violent.

The Prosecution kept Derek on the stand for another three hours. Elvira systematically went through every piece of evidence all over again. By the time Derek left the witness stand he was shaking and sweating profusely.

The Defense Attorney, Mr. Cromwell gave a brilliant closing argument. He stated  that there  was no real physical evidence that Kira had actual been murdered. He tried to cast doubt on the finger print evidence on the computer keyboard.

Of course the closing arguments did not really matter any more. The Jury has seen Derek for the monster he really was.  It took the Jury only 25 minutes to come back with a guilty verdict. Reporters on scene thought this might be a record for New York City.

As the police were leading Derek out of the courtroom, he made a lunge for the Prosecutor Elvira Evans. Derek was so strong it took four very large policemen to wrestle him to the ground.

However, what people remembered most was not Derek’s lunge, but Elvira’s reaction to the attack. She stood there totally  unafraid and unflinching. She did not even take a step back.

The conclusion to the murder trial dominated the media for the next week. There must have been hundreds of stories on T.V. in the newspapers and on the internet about it. However, what everyone remembered the most was the banner headline in the New York Post  which read:

Elvira Grabs Killer by the Balls!”

Three years  later Derek was in prison while his attorney periodically  filed motions for appeal. The media had long since moved on from the story.

The big story in the news was the New York Mayoral election and the strong possibility of the election of the City’s first woman mayor.  All the polls showed that Elvira Evans would win the election, largely due to the overwhelming support of women voters.

If you missed the beginning of the story, be sure to read:

 

 

 

The Beautiful Dead Girl – Part 3 – The Trial

For Derek, the most difficult part of his murder trial was remembering not to smile. He was supposed to be the distraught boyfriend of the beautiful naked girl who had committed suicide by jumping out a window. In reality, he was the guy who had fucked her, snapped her neck, then dropped her out the window.

The fact that he was going to get away with it made him want to laugh out loud. Of course, he knew how to play his part in front of the jury. Every day in court he sat next to his attorney and looked so sad about the death of his “one true love.” When the prosecution displayed pictures  of Kira’s naked smashed corpse, he had even managed to get real tears to role down his cheeks.

Derek knew the jury was on his side. It was a great jury for him. Nine women and only three men. With his looks and natural charm his whole life he had been able to get women to do anything he wanted. In truth, he despised women as nothing  more than stupid dolls that existed to be used then thrown away.  He had an inner anger towards them all.

Except for his mother, the woman he hated the most was Kira. It would have been so much better for Derek if she really had committed suicide.  Still, it was her own fault Kira was dead. If she had just continued stealing drugs for him from the hospital like he told her, she would still be alive today. If she hadn’t decided to argue with him about it and freak out, things would never have gotten out of control.

Derek’s lawyer, Roger Cromwell,  told him not to worry. “The Prosecution’s case is all built on what is Not there, and jury’s hate that,” said Roger.

Over the weeks of the trial, the Prosecution had built its case on all the things that were not present in Kira’s apartment. In a real suicide she would have opened her fourth story window and jumped, but only Derek’s Fingerprints were on the window, not Kira’s. Also, to get out the window, she would have  to step up onto the windowsill. There were no footprints on the windowsill. The Prosecution said that this all pointed to Kira’s having been killed in the apartment then dropped out the window.

The Defense attorney told the jury this was all nonsense. He said that Derek had opened the window before he went out for breakfast. That’s why Kira didn’t have to open it. As for the no footprints, maybe the girl took a running start and dove through the window, missing the sill completely. The Defense does not have to prove anything. It simply has to cast a “reasonable doubt” on the Prosecution’s case.

The only thing that really worried the Defense was the suicide note. It was not a signed note at all.  It was just something typed on her computer screen. And the evidence pointed to Derek’s having typed it. Being a nurse, Kira had been a fanatic about keeping things clean and germ-free. She was obsessive about keeping her laptop computer clean. Every night before she went to bed, Kira wiped down every part of her computer.

The police forensics team had found a complete set of Derek’s fingerprints on the laptop where the so-called “suicide note” was on the screen. No fingerprints from Kira; just Derek’s. How did the dead girl type a suicide note without leaving any fingerprints?

Of course,  Mr. Cromwell was too good a defense attorney to let  himself dwell on the fact that maybe his client really had murdered a beautiful young woman and was lying to him about being innocent. One of the first things you learn as a Defense lawyer is that most of your clients lie to you most of the time.

Cromwell did his best to try and throw doubt in the jury’s mind about Derek’s fingerprints on the computer keyboard. He talked about the possibility of the police mishandling the “chain of evidence”. Still, the jury did not look so benignly on Derek after the fingerprint evidence was presented.

That evening, Cromwell met with Derek and told him things still looked good. “I think there is about an 80% chance that you will be found Not Guilty.”

Derek was stunned. “What the fuck! You’re telling me there is a 20% chance I might go to jail for murder?”

“Even if that did happen, Derek, there are a number of points of law on which I could bring an appeal. Some of my objections which the judge overruled were very valid. I would definitely appeal any conviction.”

“Fuck that! I’m not going to prison and waiting years for appeals to maybe get me off. Put me on the stand tomorrow. I will tell my side and the jury will love me again.”

“That’s a really bad idea Derek. Any attorney will tell you it is a mistake to testify if you are being tried for murder.”

“God Damn it Roger! Put me on the stand tomorrow, or I am firing you as my lawyer. If I can’t find a lawyer who will  put me on, then  I’ll be my own lawyer.”

“All right Derek. I’ll put you on the stand. Just remember that after I question you, the Prosecutor gets her turn to grill you.  Just be polite to her and answer her questions with as few words as possible.”

“Don’t worry,” answered Derek. “I know how to handle women.”

Be Sure to Read  The Conclusion of the Story in Part 4- The Bird Woman

If you missed any parts of the story be sure to read:

 

 

 

 

The Beautiful Dead Girl – part 2 – Lunch

Homicide Detective  Laura Lippman and Assistant City Coroner Dr. Robert Chaucer sat having sandwiches at a conference table near Laura’s desk.  Dr. Chandler dropped by several times a week with lunch for the two of them.   His lab was in a different part of the city , but he somehow he continually found excuses to bring paperwork to her building at just around lunch time. Laura always acted very professional around Dr. Chaucer, but the truth was she enjoyed the attention he gave her. He was a real gentleman compared to  the cops she worked with.

However, this time, they actually did have a professional reason to meet.  They were discussing  the death of Kira Casey. All indications pointed to suicide and the Chief of Detectives was pressing Laura to close the case.

“She didn’t kill herself, ” said Dr. Chaucer.

“Bob, not everything is a big mystery. She died from injuries of jumping out a window. She left a suicide note. There were drugs missing from the hospital where she was a nurse, and the evidence points to her stealing them.  There is no evidence of anything but suicide.”

“What about the boyfriend?”

“I interviewed him personally. He was totally distraught. He was out buying her breakfast and a rose when she jumped.  He even voluntarily took a lie detector test and passed it.”

“A true sociopath can easily fool a lie detector machine,” said Dr. Chaucer. “Sociopaths don’t have real emotions, they simply pretend to have them as a survival mechanism.”

” Bob”, said Laura with a smile. “Tell me some valid reasons why you think this is not a suicide.”

“O.K. She was in the nude and her body was all smashed up from the four story fall. Unlike men, women are very concerned about how they will look when their body is found.  Women who commit suicide get all dressed up, clean the apartment and then use pills or some other method so that the corpse will look good. Even in death, women want to be seen as beautiful.”

“That’s sexist!”

“That’s a medical fact. Check the statistics.”

“What about the suicide note?” asked Laura.

“Now now detective,” teased Bob, “You know as well as I do that most suicides don’t leave a note.  And the few who do leave notes want them to be permanent. They don’t just put them on a computer screen where they can be accidentally erased.”

“What about the motive. The fact that she was stealing drugs and was about to get caught?” asked Laura.

“What type of drugs?”

Laura walked over to her desk and looked at the file. She read off a list of the missing drugs, “Oxycotin, HGH, various types of steroids. All drugs that are real easy to sell.”

“And who buys them?” asked Dr. Chaucer.

Laura paused for a minute and then said. “Body builders. People who want a perfect body.”

“Just like the one her beautiful boyfriend Derek has?” asked Bob.  “Steroids and Human Growth Hormone to build the muscles,  and Oxycotin to ease the pain of lifting all those weights. If she was stealing, he was in on it.”

“That doesn’t mean anything Bob.  She was a nurse about to get caught for stealing drugs. It doesn’t matter if she was taking them for Mr. Universe. She was still going to lose here nurses license, and possibly even end up in jail. Sounds like a good motive for suicide to me.”

“Could be” , said Bob. Then he said shyly. “You know Laura, there is a medical dinner at the Waldorf next Friday night. We all get very dressed up and the food is really good. They have an actual orchestra and dancing, and I wondered if maybe you were not too busy…”

“I’d love to Bob, interrupted Laura, thinking that it had sure taken him long enough to ask her out.

After Bob left , Laura spent the rest of the afternoon and well into the night re-reading through all the forensic evidence. All she had to do to get the case off her desk was to check a little box and rule it a suicide, but she could just not bring herself to do it.  Laura kept going back to the picture of Kira Casey when she graduated from Nursing School. She was so beautiful and full of life, with a bright future ahead of her.  There was no family left and only one overworked Detective to care about what had really happened to her.

Laura went through all the files until her eyesight got blurry and she could look at the screen no longer. It was well after dark when she switched off her computer and went home. She thought of calling Bob  and suggesting they out for a quick drink, but then she decided to stay in her apartment and go to bed early instead.

Laura wanted to be fresh and alert  in the morning . First thing tomorrow, she was going to present her evidence to the Chief of Detectives, and get his permission to ask the D.A.  for an arrest warrant.  If all went well, by tomorrow afternoon, Derek Manning would be charged with murder.

To see what happens next read:

If you missed the first part of the story  see – The Beautiful Dead Girl Part 1

 

 

 

The Beautiful Dead Girl – Part 1 – The window

Derek sat on the bed and  cradled Kira’s body in his arms.   Even in death she was astoundingly beautiful. She had long  brown hair, a lovely face and a sensual figure. She  had  tan skin that had become  white with death. She was perfect in every way except for her neck which was  turned at an odd angle. Her body was still warm, as if it still retained the heat from their love-making session.

“It wasn’t my fault,” Derek said out loud, although he was alone in the apartment. “Why couldn’t we just have had sex and then gone back to bed?”

But then he remembered what had actually happened. The argument. The way she had attacked  him like a crazy woman. He had tried to grab onto her shoulders to stop her and she had kneed him in the groin. It was so painful that he doubled over forward, and  as he did so he had  grabbed  her head.

Kira was  barely five feet tall and weighed less an a hundred pounds, while Derek was six foot three and a very muscular two hundred pounds. When his massive hands grabbed her head, it took only a slight twist to snap Kira’s neck like a twig.

“I wasn’t trying to kill you Baby. I was just trying to balance myself. I just lost my balance.” But in his own mind, Derek knew this wasn’t true. When Kira had kneed him in his exposed testicles his body had been filled with pain and rage. A flash of pure animal fear and rage took hold of him. He instinctively lashed out to protect his manhood. He had grabbed Kira’s head and twisted it with the full force of his weight-lifter’s arms.

Derek reached over to the night stand and picked up  his cell phone. He would call the police and explain what had happened. It was a simple case of self defense. He stood up and lay Kira’s body gently on the bed.  Derek stated to dial 911, then he glanced himself in the full length mirror and realized the police would never believe him.  Derek worked out at the health club every day, and his body showed it.  No one was going to believe he ever had to defend himself from a tiny 100 pound woman.

Derek knew the police would arrest him for murder. He would be convicted and his life would be ruined. All because that bitch Kira could not control herself.

“I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve it.”

For the next half hour, Derek paced the apartment thinking of what to do. He could just leave and go uptown to his own apartment. No, that wouldn’t work.  When a woman is killed, the boyfriend is the first person the police look for. Besides,  his semen was still inside Kira.

Derek then rummaged in the closet and found a couple of suitcases and a duffel bag. He lay the duffel bag next to Kira’s body and  thought that maybe he could fit her into it.

“No. That’s crazy, ” Derek mumbled to himself. “Then  would would I do? Where could I dump a body in the middle of Manhattan? That’s crazy.”

Derek walked over to the window and peaked out through the curtains. It was still pitch black outside. He glanced at the clock and saw it was only 4:45am. Then suddenly he knew what to do.

Derek turned off the bedside light, then opened the curtains.  He reached down and slowly opened the window wide, being sure it did not make any noise . Kira’s apartment was in one of the old New York buildings that still had windows you can open. Her apartment was only four stories up, but that should be enough.

Derek carefully looked out the window to make sure there were no witnesses. There were many apartment windows facing his way, but none had a light on. He knew he had to be fast, since people would be getting up soon.

Then he turned to the bed, and picked up Kira’s naked body. With Derek’s muscular build, he lifted her as easily as most people could lift a cat. He carried Kira over to the open window, took one more look for witnesses, and dropped her out.

Derek moved back to the interior of the apartment so he could not be seen from the outside. He waited for the noise, but none came. There were no screams, no sirens . There was not even the sound of a body hitting the cement courtyard below. There was just the silence of a city that had not yet woken up.

Derek knew that he had to move fast now in order for his plan to work. He quickly got dressed, then turned on Kira’s computer. He sat down and typed on the screen.

“Derek my love. I am sorry I failed you. You were right. I should have stopped. Goodbye.”

Then he grabbed his wallet, took the apartment keys and left. It was now 5:00 am and he wanted to get out of the building before anyone saw him. He made sure to use the front entrance for the street, not the back entrance where the courtyard and the body would be.

Ten blocks from Kira’s apartment Epstein’s Deli was already open and serving  customers, despite the fact that the sun was just starting to come up. Derek realized now that his plan was going to work. He would have breakfast at the deli.  Then he would walk back to Kira’s apartment, “discover” the suicide note, and dial 911. Derek  thought about it some more and realized it would be better if someone else called the police.  He remembered reading once that police are always very suspicions of whoever first calls them to report a death.

So Derek got himself a coffee, a  bagel with cream cheese, and a New York Times.  He sat at one of the sidewalk tables in front of the Deli, and casually read the paper as the Sun got brighter and people rushed to get to work.

Derek was in the middle or reading an editorial about corruption at The Port Authority, when he saw an ambulance and two police card racing in the direction of Kira’s building with their sirens blaring.  He looked at his watch and decided to wait another half hour before he went back to the apartment.

Exactly 30 minutes later he went back into the Deli, and bought a Chai Tea and a blueberry muffin- Kira’s favorite breakfast. On the way back to the apartment he bought a single red rose from a flower stand.

Derek then slowly walked back to Kira’s apartment.  As he walked, he practiced his look of shock and grief for when the police would tell him about Kira’s suicide.  He allowed himself one last smile, as he realized that everything was going to be OK.  He knew the police would  believe him, and even feel sorry for him.  Derek had always had that gift. With his incredible good looks, his charm and his athletic build, people just automatically liked him – especially women.

Derek turned the corner and saw the flashing lights of the police cars parked in front of Kira’s building. He took the smile off his face and changed it to the worried expression of a concerned boyfriend. “It wasn’t my fault,” Derek muttered to himself one last time, as he walked  towards the building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Killing the Kardashians

Edward Graybill woke up, cooked himself a hearty breakfast, and then sat down to work on his plan to kill the Kardashians.  Edward’s life had been revitalized from the moment he decided to kill them.

Ever since Edward had been forced into retirement he had seen no purpose to his life. His wife had died less than a year earlier, when he had been too busy with work to even spend much time with her in the hospital. There was always one more project to finish. One more deadline to meet.

Edward had planned on visiting Nancy in the hospital every day after work, but often by the time he finished for the day, visiting hours were over. Nancy had been so understanding and sweet whenever he missed a day. Then suddenly, Nancy was gone. Edward went to the hospital one day after work and Nancy’s hospital room was empty. it took him 15 minutes to find someone who could tell him what had happened. It turned out that she had a sudden seizure just about the time he was driving from work to the hospital. The doctor who explained the details to Edward was a tiny redhead who looked like she was about 14 years old. The doctor tried to be comforting, but to Edward it all seemed like some sort of slow motion dream.

Two weeks after Nancy died, the company Edward worked for was bought in a hostile takeover. All the senior engineers like Edward were forced into early retirement.  Edward found himself with nothing to do. He tried looking for work, but apparently there were a lot of engineers out of work.  He found himself competing with people who were younger, had more degrees, more computer training and a hell of a lot more energy than Edward did.

For the first time in his life,  he found himself with nothing to do. Nothing at all. He found himself watching a lot of daytime T.V., and could not believe how much crap was on. He began to feel connected to the people on the television, but not in a good way. He began to hate them.

kardashian redbook celebration 2 110411

 

The reality shows bothered Edward the most. The people on them were self-centered morons who lead meaningless lives of luxury and fame. Edward hated the fact that those people were alive while his wonderful Nancy was dead.

It never occurred to Edward that he might need psychiatric help.  He had no family or friends to point him to a grief counselor. The precision of working on an engineering problem had always been his refuge from stress, and now even that was gone.

Edward started sleeping more and more, not shaving and not even bothering to shower.  Then one day he had an Epiphany. He was going to do something to help all of America. He was going to rid the country of the worst of the reality show scum.

He was going to kill the Kardashians.

From the moment he made that decision Edward’s life was back on track. He started taking care of himself physically. He showered and shaved every day, ate regular meals and felt a new purpose.

He began planning the kill with the precision and attention to detail with which he had worked on all his engineering projects throughout his career. He broke it down in specific steps.

  1. What Weapon to use
  2. How to get close enough to the Kardashians to eliminate them.
  3. How to get away.

Edward had no intention of getting caught. Any moron could eliminate people if getting caught did not matter. It took a precise plan to achieve the objective and move on without notice.

In his own mind Edward tried avoiding using words like “murder” or “kill”. He tended to think in terms of “eliminate” or even a television term like “cancel.” He did not really think of any of the Kardashians as real.

Which Kardashian to Kill?

As soon as he starting thinking seriously about the weapon he realized there was a problem, which would mean a major change in objective.  The only way to to eliminate all the Kardashian’s at once would be a bomb or an automatic weapon, and that would mean a lot of innocent people getting killed.

Edward made a decision. He was going to have to pick just 1 Kardashian to kill.  He made a list of them and one by one scratched off names. The first one he scratched off the list was Kanye West. Edward decided Kanye should live. After all, Kanye was the only one with an actual talent and a real job. He also was not evena real Kardashian.

Kill 7

Bruce Jenner also got to live. Edward could not bring himself to hate Bruce. The feeling for Bruce was just one of immense pity. A manly gold medal Olympian who had been so ruined by the Kardashians that he wanted to become a woman. Just sad. Really sad.

Kill 4

Edward narrowed down his death choice list to Kim or her mother Kris. After all, the rest of the family were really just bit players in their strange lives.  Now the obvious choice was to kill Kim Kardashian. Edward was reminded every day just how much he hated her.  It was impossible to turn on a T.V. or browse the internet for more than five minutes without seeing her fat ass stuffed into some dress like it was a sausage casing.

But in the end, Edward decided that the mother Kris Kardashian must be the one to die. After all, it was Kris who had turned the rest of them into what they were. It was Kris who had ruined Bruce Jenner, and made a mockery of American family life. It was Kris Kardashian the world would be better off without.

Getting the Weapon

The next step was to get a deadly weapon which could not be traced back to Edward, and which could get past security.   This turned out to be Edward’s favorite part of the whole project.  Instead of taking the chance of buying a weapon which could be traced back to him, Edward decided to make one himself.

Edward purchased a top of the line 3D printer. It was an amazing device. It hooked to a computer, and could make objects out of very hard plastic as long as you programmed the correct dimensions into the computer.

For about 2 weeks Edward practiced making small gears and sprockets. Then he began designing a fully functional .22 caliber Derringer made out of hard plastic. In less than a month, his keen engineer’s mind had produced a weapon that was every airport security chief’s worst nightmare. He had made a fully functional gun that was completely invisible to a metal detector.

The bullets were no problem. In his basement there were still a couple of duct covered boxes of .22 caliber bullets left over from when his dad had taken him squirrel hunting many decades ago. Even though his dad was now dead, Edward had just never been able to bring himself to through out any mementos of the precious few times his father had spent any time with him.

Edward figured that getting 1 bullet though security could be done, with some ingenuity. It took him another few weeks, but finally he fashioned an expensive looking ball point pen, with the bullet fitting into the top.  He would put the pen in the basket by the metal security detector along with his keys and coins.  It woud be taking a chance, but he doubted most security people would be able to spot it. The plastic gun he would put in his suit jacket pocket , wrapped in a handkerchief.

Then Edward made his first full-scale test. He bought a round trip ticket from Newark to Washington D.C.  He went to the airport carrying his gun and bullet, and went on a weekend trip to the nation’s capital.

By the time Edward returned home on Sunday he could not have been happier. He had successfully made it though airport security and had even visited a total of 5 Washington museums with strict security.  He had never even been questioned.  Edward figured his success was due to a combination of his cleverly designed weapon, and reverse racial profiling. Security simply did not care about an old white man with grey hair, dressed in slacks and a sports jacket. He was just not dangerous.

Where to Kill Kris Kardashian?

The final phase of the plan was tricky and was going to cost some money. However, money was something that Edward quite unexpected found himself with quite a bit of.  It turned out that his wife Nancy had a very large life insurance polity through her work of which Edward was the sole beneficiary.

He was stunned when the insurance company called him.  He was to receive over half a million dollars tax free. He got no joy from the money. It just  made him very sad that he and Nancy had never had any children who he could pass the money on to.  He felt incredibly guilty about benefiting financially from his beloved Nancy’s death.

Unfortunately, in his somewhat psychotic state,  Edward  also started thinking about how suddenly being rich could get him close to Kris Kardashian.  Close enough to use his home-made gun.

Less that a month later, Edward got his chance, and he didn’t even have to fly to California. The Kardashians were hosting a charity fund raising event for the Wounded Warriors foundation, right in New York City.  Edward sent in a $15,000 donation. A few days later her received ticket for the event, plus a hand-written note from Kris Kardashian saying she was looking forward to meeting him personally at the dinner.

Edward was filled with excitement as he rehearsed in his mind the final steps of his plan. He would arrive at the party early and carry the gun in his right hand suit pocket wrapped in a handkerchief. Once through the metal detector, he would go to the men’s room, take the bullet out of the pen and load the gun.  Then he would look for his chance to get close to Kris Kardashian.  He had watched Kadashian group events on T.V., and he calculated that the best time to assassinate Kris was then Kim Kardashian made an entrance.

Kris always arrived first to set things up and stage-manage the show. Once the room was really full and everyone had had a few drinks, Kim would show up wearing a scandalously skimpy outfit and make a grand entrance.

All eyes would be on Kim, including the security guys. That’s  when Edward would casually walk up behind Kris and shoot her in the back of the skull with the .22 caliber Derringer. The crowd inside and on the street would be making so much noise at the arrival of Kim Kardashian, that no one would even hear the gun go off.  Then Edward would move away into the crowd and out a back exit as the body of Kris Kardashian fell to the floor.  With the right luck, Edward could be outside and on his way home before security even realized she was dead.

Moving in For the Kill

The event was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  When Edward arrived, he realized that his that all his time designing a plastic gun had been a waste. All he had to do was show his ticket and he was let in immediately.

The reason for the lack of metal detectors was obvious all around him. The room was filled not only with celebrities and political figures, but also with a large number of wounded soldiers. Many of them has prosthetic limbs or wheelchairs.  Someone had obviously made the decision that having the metal detector constantly being triggered by the prosthetic devices of injured heroes would not be good publicity for the charity.  Edward could have put a regular metal handgun in his pocket and gotten right in.

Still, Edward followed his original plan. He found an empty stall in the men’s room, and disassembled his pen. Then he removed the bullet from the pen and loaded his plastic gun. He  carefully wrapped the gun in a handkerchief and put it the right pocket of his suit jacket.

There were just two more steps left. Finding Kris Kardashian, and shooting her in the back of the head.

Kill 3

The room was packed and waiters circulated with wine and plates filled with tiny delicacies.   Edward took wine and food, since he did not want to draw suspicion to himself. Then he realized he was standing completely alone, and realized that this also might draw the attention of Security. There may be no metal detectors, but there were a number of very large muscular men wearing identical blue blazers, watching over the crowd. These guys were obviously security and were looking for anything out of the ordinary.  A man at a party who stood alone and  did not speak to anyone was definitely out of the ordinary. Edward decided to make an attempt to blend in.

Edward spotted a young soldier and his very attractive wife standing near a mummy exhibit. Edward decided to speak to them until the Kardashians showed up. Edward walked over and said,

“Hello. Excellent turn-out tonight isn’t it?”

The young couple seemed startled that anyone had spoken to them.

“Yes it is,” answered the man, who was in the uniform of an Army Lieutenant.

The woman did not say anything, but up close Edward could see that she was quite beautiful. She had on a long white evening gown, and had come sort of large shawl draped over her shoulders. There was something strangely familiar about this young woman. He realized hat her light grey eyes were very similar to the way Nancy’s had looked when she was was a young.

Edward looked around the room but still did not see any type of Kardashian. He was beginning to worry that his target might not show up at all. Edward decided to make another attempt at conversation.

“So have you two been married long? I bet you are glad to have your husband safe from the war. It’s great of the two of you to support the Wounded Warriors. I think your husband is a real hero for serving out country.” Edward stopped talking, when  he realized he was babbling. It occurred to him  that he had not had a real conversation with anyone sine his wife Nancy had died.

“Julie here is the hero, not me. By the way we are not married, just friends,” said the young Lieutenant.

The woman blushed and said, “Stop it John. You’re embarrassing me.”

That’s when everything happened at once. Edward felt a light hand on his shoulder and as he turned he was looking directly at the face of Kris Kardashian. “I see you have met our guest of honor”, Kris said to Edward. “There is talk that Private Julie Nelson here might get the Medal of Honor for her bravery in Iraq.”

“That’s idiotic,” replied Julie, very  annoyed. “I did not do anything brave. I just got blown up. That’s it.”

“Well you are a hero to me” said Kris, who moved over and gave Julie a big hug. As she did so, the shawl slipped off Julie’s shoulders, and Edward saw she was missing her right arm below the elbow. In its place was a very bulky looking prosthetic arm.

Edward instinctively bent down to the floor to retrieve the shawl. When he did so he could see that Julie also had some type of metal right leg, of which a small portion could be seen at the bottom of her evening gown. Whatever explosive had hit her had done tremendous damage.

Edward went to hand the shawl to the young woman, but by the time he stood up, she had hurried off quickly to the interior of the museum to  hide behind some of the museum’s exhibits.  This left John and Edward standing awkwardly with Kris Kardashian.

“I’d better go check on her,” said John and he ran off in the direction of Julie.

This left Edward completely alone with Kris Kardashian. He patted the side of his jacked and felt the outline of the gun. Then Kris looked him directly in the eye and said,

“It’s the survivor’s guilt that makes you want to lash out at other people. The fact that you survived and someone close to you died and you could not stop it.”

Edward felt a shiver run through him. It was like she had looked directly into his soul and knew what he was doing there. All he could manage was to stammer out was “Wha-What do you mean?”

“Julie feels survivor’s guilt that she is alive and all the other soldiers in the Humvee died. That’s why she lashes at at people now. The Army doctor’s all say that’s what she is going through.”

Suddenly there was a huge roar in the crowd as Kim Kardashian and Kayne West walked through the front entrance.  As Edward had predicted, everyone in the room turned to look at Kim and Kayne. In addition every security man in the room moved towards, the entrance.

Kris Kardashian turned to look at her daughter, and  now had her back to Edward. All he had to do was to pull out the little gun, put it to the back of her skull and pull the trigger.

Instead, Edward turned and walked into the depths of the museum. He had to search through a lot of exhibits until he found Julie. It is a huge museum.  He finally found Julie sitting alone on top of an ancient Egyptian stone casket like it was a bench.  Lieutenant John had either not found her, or she had sent him away.

Edward held out the shawl to Julie and said, “I brought you your wrap.”

“She took it and gave him a meek smile.  “I don’t really need it. I was just using it to cover this ugly prosthetic arm. I suppose Mrs Kardashian-Jenner was giving you an earful about all my psychological problems.  She just loves to play doctor. I know she raises a lot of money for wounded vets, but I feel like an animal on display at this thing. Everyone wants to look at the one-armed, one leg soldier girl. That’s all anyone notices about me.”

Then Edward climbed up on the casket and sat next to Julie. “I don’t think anyone feels that way at all. Not at all, said Edward very gently. What I noticed first about you was your eyes. They reminded  me of the first think I noticed about my wife when I met her so many years ago.”

“She has passed away hasn’t she” said Julie sweetly.

“Yes. Yes she died alone in a hospital. I wasn’t there because I worked late to balance some budget figures. Instead of being with my wife, I was entering numbers into a God-damned calculator.”

“I was supposed to be driving the Humvee,” said Julie. “I was supposed to drive but I was really tired that day. There was a new guy who had never driven one before and I let him drive so I could take a nap while he drove. He was excited about driving. I let myself be a passenger and the next thing I knew the bomb went off and the Humvee exploded. Everyone in it was killed but me.  If I had been driving it would not have happened.”

“It would have happened anyway,” said Edward.

“No. I had experience. I would have seen the bump in the road and known it was a buried explosive device.  I would have stopped and turned around. The new guy just drove right over it, like it was just a pothole on the Jersey Turnpike. They are all dead because I was too lazy to do my job. By the way, you are the first person, I ever told this to.” Julie finished speaking and tears rolled silently down her cheeks.

Edward had not been able to help his wife in the hospital but maybe now  he could help this girl. He decided she did not need someone to talk to her. She just needed someone to be there for her. The way he should have been with Nancy in the hospital.

Julie and Edward sat in that out of the way spot for the rest of the party. Edward did not try to speak or offer any great advise about how to handle her grief. They just sat there on the cool marble of the ancient Egyptian casket in the darkest part of the museaum.

Julie felt  great sense of relief sitting next to Edward. He was the first person she had met in a long time who did not try to give her advice on how to cope with things.  Somehow he seemed to know that some things you just can’t make go away. Some types of pain can’t be talked away and have to just slowly erode away with time.

The party ended, but before it did Julie and Edward exchanged e-mail addresses. Julie left with her Army Lieutenant escorting her. The Lieutenant had been frantically searching for Julie and was happier to be reunited with her.

Edward made his way  back to his empty house. He went to the basement, unloaded the plastic gun and then took a hammer and smashed it to tiny pieces. He felt like his life had been a strange dream since his wife had died, and now he had suddenly woken up.

The next morning, Edward Graybill woke up, made a hearty breakfast and went to work on his new plan. He was going to use his Engineering skills and 3D printing ability to design and make distinctly feminine prosthetic devices for wounded  female veterans and accident victims.

Julie and Edward continued to keep in touch. She was excited about Edward’s new project and helped him every step of the way with advice and encouragement.

The following year, Private Julie Nelson and Lieutenant  John McNeil were married.  Julie’s father had passed away years ago, so she asked Edward to walk her down the aisle.  In addition to her white gown the bride wore a prosthetic arm that Edward had designed and made. It was light and slim and matched her skin tone perfectly.

As they entered the church Julie said to Edward. “The publicity agent for the Kardashians called me last week. He said they wanted to all come to the wedding and make it a big media event. He was very  angry when I told him ‘No’. You know, there are times I could just kill all those Kardashians.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edward, as he smiled warmly at the beautiful bride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Real Snow of 2015

The first real snowfall of 2015 arrived silently last night.

JAN 2015 WINTER 006

We awoke to find sunshine gleaming off the soft powder.

JAN 2015 WINTER 007

No car or animal tracks have yet touched it.

JAN 2015 WINTER 008

With all the worries about traffic and how the snow will impact the commute,  sometimes it is nice to just stop and see how beautiful it really is.

JAN 2015 WINTER 009

“The woods are lovely dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.”

Robert Frost

 

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This fellow is happy to be safe and warm inside on a cold Winter day.

 

The Naked Swim – Chapter 4

“She performs naked Satanic rituals at night and  believes herself to be a witch? She told you that directly?” asked Dr. Eli  Epstein

“No Eli. Not directly. In fact, she states that people started rumors about her when she was a kid. She denies having anything to do with witchcraft. But what about the dead child and the evidence against her? It’s all very damning; wouldn’t you say?”, answered Spencer.

Dr. Eli Epstein and Dr. Spencer Casey were in deep conversation in Dr. Epstein’s  office.  It was exactly what you thought a psychiatrist’s office would look like. There were very comfortable chairs and sofas in soothing colors.  There were paintings on the walls of vast open landscapes in the spring. In the background there was soft classical music playing at a volume so low that your ears barely even registered that it was there. The entire room was carefully designed to make nervous patients feel at ease.

Eli leaned back in his big chair and stroked his grey beard thoughtfully. “It is very interesting that you used the religious term ‘damning’. The witch, especially the female witch is a very powerful symbol in Western Religion. The mere accusation used to get women killed.  Now, of course, the accusation that someone thinks she is witch is enough to label the woman as crazy. Remember that woman from Delaware who was running for Senate? She got labeled as crazy because in high school she once dated a guy who was interested in witchcraft. She even had to have a T.V. commercial that said, “I am not a witch.”

“Let’s stay focused on Jeanne here Eli. What about all the evidence against her in the death of her child?”

“What evidence Spencer? The toddler wandered out of the house on a very cold day while the mother-Jeanne- was asleep. He got lost in the woods and wandered further and further away until he died of exposure. That was the official cause of death after all. The mother is overwhelmed by grief and has never been the same since.”

“You’re forgetting about how the child was found. He has laying down on a tree stump surrounded by little sticks arranged in weird little symbols. What about that?”, said Spencer.

“I have been thinking a lot about that,” responded Eli. “Do you know that when people die of exposure the bodies always look very peaceful?  They get more and more tired as their body loses heat, until finally they just lay down and fall asleep and never wake up.  That is what the child did. He was curled up in a fetal position on a large flat tree stump. He was sucking his thumb.”

“Wow. You have really been looking into this Eli,” responded Spencer in a very surprised tone.  “But what about the sticks?”

“OK Spencer. Let’s suppose that Jeanne really did practice witchcraft. By the way, witchcraft and Satan worship are two completely  different things. She would have taught her son all sorts of ways to protect himself from danger, including arranging sticks in way to ward off the evil spirits. You told me that Jeanne said her child loved going into the woods and gathering sticks. You asked for my professional opinion and here it is. You can accept it or not. It’s just my opinion. I don’t think anyone killed little Jason. I think he wandered off outside on a February day to play in the woods and ended up getting lost and died.”

“But what about all the footprints in the snow?” answered Spencer. “If the boy just got lost and died why didn’t Jeanne just tell that to the police instead of a story about his being kidnapped by a Satanic cult?”

“Because she believes the story Jason. In her mind she believes it one hundred percent. As you know my practice specializes in grief. Grief and guilt do strange things to the human mind.  Your girlfriend Jeanne made a tragic mistake that ended up killing her only child. She fell asleep without shutting the door completely. Her child woke up and got out of the house while she was still asleep. Jeanne’s mind can’t accept that mistake. As a protective mechanism her mind has made up the story of a kidnapping cult so that she does not have to face her own tragic error.”

“Where do you think the footprints in the snow came from?” asked Spencer.

“From Jeanne, of course. It probably did not snow until after the child wandered off. When Jeanne woke up she frantically realized the boy was gone. She went outside to look for him and saw the snow. In her panic she probably couldn’t find her own boots so she put on a pair of her husband’s. She ran around frantically for a long time searching. That’s why there were so many prints.”

“And she doesn’t even remember doing this?” asked Spencer.

” Their is no grief in the world more devastating than that which comes from having  made a mistake that killed your own child.  And it happens all the time, in an instant. Parents back the SUV out of the garage and don’t see the child playing  behind it. People leave a window open and the baby crawls out of it. Toddlers stick a butter knife into an uncovered electrical outlet. It happens all the time Spencer.”

Spencer and Eli sat in silence for a long time. Finally Spencer stood up and they shook hands. “Thanks Eli. What can I do to help her?”

“Just be there Spencer. That’s all you can do. Her mind will tell her the truth eventually, but not until she has healed enough to be ready. Don’t try to force it on her.”

Spencer left the building and slowly walked back to his apartment. That morning Jeanne had packed her bag and said she was going back to Canada. His little apartment was somehow going to seem way too big with Jeanne gone.

He opened the door and there was Jeanne. He went over and sat next to her.

They sat there in the dark apartment not touching and not looking at each other for a full ten minutes without saying a word.

Finally, Jeanne said softly. “I’ve lied to you alot.”

“I know.”

“No. I mean I lie all the time about everything. Who I was, what I’ve done, even who I can be. It’s mostly lies with maybe some truth mixed in. Sometimes I don’t even remember what’s a lie and what isn’t. Sometimes I am not really sure what’s actually happened in my life and what hasn’t. ”

Spencer turned and looked at her and said, “I will help you find out Jeanne. I love you. The real you. You’re not crazy and you’re not a killer. The truth is that I’m your lover and you are mine.  When you are ready to find the truth, I will be there with you.”

Jeanne turned her head and looked at Spencer like she was seeing him for the first time. “I trapped you. Do you know that?  I knew you were a doctor and I wanted that and I set up the whole naked swim to trap you. I wanted to get away from my life and get a whole new one with a rich doctor. Do you still love me now?”

“Yes.  I still love you. Don’t you think I wanted to be trapped?”, said Spencer as he stroked her hair.

“I want to talk about the rest. I want to talk about the cold and little Jason. I will. I will. But not now. Right now I am just so tired.” Jeanne put her head on Spencer’s shoulder and closed her eyes. Just then she said, “Remember when I told you about how strong my ex-husband Billy was?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“You’re stronger. In everything that matters, you’re so much stronger.” Then Jeanne fell into a deep sleep, as Spencer watched over her.

 

 

 

 

The Naked Swim – Chapter 3

Jeanne was completely naked, sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor surrounded by a circle of lit candles.  The apartment was completely dark except for the light from the candles. The beautiful blue dress Jeanne had worn to the disastrous dinner with Karen was hung neatly in the closet. It looked like she had drawn on the wooden floor  with chalk. It was too dark to see what exactly what she had drawn.

“What are you doing?” asked Spencer gently.

“Praying. I am praying for my murdered little boy, ” answered Jeanne without looking up, She continued to rock gently back and forth and she seemed to be either chanting or praying softly.

witch 1

“Let me help you though this Jeanne. I am a doctor. We study extreme grief in medical school.”

“Yea. Well studying  grief is not exactly the same thing as having grief, is it doctor? You can tell your sister she won. She found my weakest point and she stuck the knife right into it. You can tell her the crazy Canadian chick will be leaving tomorrow.”

Spencer stepped over the candles and sat down on the floor next to Jeanne. He put his arms around her and said. “That’s not what I want. I love you and I want you here with me. I told my sister that if she can’t accept that then I don’t want her in my life until she does.”

Jeanne smiled slightly and looked into Spencer’s eyes. “She told you all of the shit they say about me on the internet didn’t she?”

“Karen said a lot of strange nonsense. I told her I was not going to believe it and walked out of the restaurant. By the way, I stuck her with the whole dinner bill.”

Jeanne stood up and stretched. Then she walked over the the bed and lay down. She patted the mattress and said. “Come next to me Spencer. Lay back and let me tell you everything there is to know about Jeanne Sedola. Just lay back, close your eyes and listen without interrupting”

Spencer lay down and Jeanne started her story. She talked in a gently soothing voice, as if she were telling a bedtime story to a child.

“I was never smart. Not like you and your sister. You probably got straight As to be able to get into a good college and then medical school. I was lucky if I could get a C. But even though I was struggling, the other girls in the school were jealous  of me. You see, I was pretty, very pretty and that made them hate me. Of course, the boys all were nice since they wanted to fuck me. They were nice until they found out I wouldn’t do anything with them. Then they hated me too.

It was very rural where I grew up. Vancouver Island  is as different from Manhattan as you can imagine. I used to go hiking in the woods alone alot. I had no friends, my mother was not married, and she was basically an alcoholic. So I went into the woods alone whenever I could. I loved seeing the animals. Once I even saw a wolf. I wasn’t scared of him. I just thought he was beautiful.

I even went into the woods at night. I would bring a lantern and a book to read. I just wanted to get out of our little house where my mother would drink and  watch T.V. until she passed out.

Then the rumors started at school. Kids had seen me going into the woods at night and they started a rumor that I was a witch.”

Spencer could not help interrupting. “A witch? Come on Jeanne, this isn’t 1600. No one believes crap like that.”

“That’s what I thought, ” said Jeanne. “But you can’t believe how cruel kids in a small rural town can be.  No one actually believed I was a witch. What they did believe was that I was a crazy chick who thought she was a witch. People started taping pictures of witches to my locker. The Assistant Principal even called me in to ask if I would like to see a psychologist. You see, even the adults believed the rumor that I was crazy and thought myself to be a witch. Then it all stopped.”

“How?” asked Spencer. “How did it all stop?

“I met Billy. He was a commercial fisherman. He was older than me, and I met him down on the dock one day. He was real nice to me. He was big, real big and incredibly strong.”

Jeanne saw a frown on Spencer’s face, so Jeanne said. “Don’t get jealous Spencer. You are very strong for a doctor. But Billy hauls nets and traps and ropes in the freezing cold all day every day year after year. It’s like his body is made out of steel. Even the other fishermen are a little afraid of him.

So anyway, Billy and I started dating and people stopped saying bad things about me. I think he went around town and warned people to shut up, but I can’t be sure. All I know is that as soon as I became his girl, I was suddenly safe. I was with him as often as I could be. He would put his huge arm around me as we walked, and my head barely made it up to his shoulders. I wasn’t the crazy Witch Girl anymore. I was Billy’s girl and everyone treated me with respect.”

Jeanne lay back in the bed, and closed her eyes. Spencer though she was asleep, and put a blanket on her. Then, still with her eyes closed she continued her story.

“I graduated from high school- just barely.  I got a job at the fish factory and continued to see Billy, whenever he was not out on his boat. I bet for a heart surgeon like you that sounds like a pretty boring life, eh?”

“No,” replied Spencer gently. “It sounds like a nice life. What happened to it?”

“Well, I got careless, an so I got pregnant.  I was just 18. Billy insisted we get married, so we did and I became Jeanne Sedola.”

For the fist time it occurred to Spencer that he did not know Jeanne’s maiden name.

“What were you before you were Mrs. Sedola?”

“Eastman, Jeanne Eastman. I should have kept that name. I like it better. I guess I should  change it back, but there’s a lot of paperwork. Anyway, Billy and I got married and 9 months later Baby Jason was born.”

Jeanne’s eyes started to fill up with tears at the mention of the baby. She lay quietly for a long time and then she continued.

“I moved into Billy’s place which was a tiny little house by the woods, way out of town. He never had a big place since he spent so much time on his boat. I quit my job at the factory. I wasn’t earning much and it would have cost me more to pay someone to watch the baby than I could make at work.

Billy was out on the boat fishing more than ever. He wanted to make as much money as possible now that he was a father. It was a solid boat and he could stay out at sea for a long time if he had to. So I was alone with Jason most of the time. Totally alone. ”

“That must have been rough on you,” said Spencer.

“No. I liked it. It was even more fun when Jason became a toddler.  I would take him for trips into the woods and he loved it. He would watch the birds, and pick up little sticks. He was a real outdoors-man.  He was strong and healthy too-like his father Billy.

Then one cold day in February, Jason had I were both indoors. It was too cold to go for a walk. Billy was down at the docks working on his boat’s engine. I played little games with Jason in the house, then put him down for a nap. He fell asleep quickly, so I took a nap too.

JAN 2015 WINTER 007

I woke up about an hour later because I was shivering with the cold. The door to the house was wide open and Jason was not in his bed. I thought that somehow he must have woken up, gotten the door open and wandered outside.

I panicked. It was so cold, and the ground was covered in deep snow. There were footprints in the snow, but they were from adults not a child’s.”

“Adults? Like more than one?” asked Spencer.

“The police said it was four or possibly five people. I called the police, I called Billy, I even called my Mom. They had search parties going before it even got dark. The RCMP even brought in dogs and a helicopter.”

“The RCMP?” asked Spencer.

“Royal Canadian M outed Police. They never gave up never.” Jeanne suddenly sat up in bed and had a frightened look in her eyes, like she was back there on that day. Then she looked down and realized that her breasts were still exposed. Suddenly embarrassed, she got up and pulled on a T-Shirt.  She paced the apartment room for almost five minutes, working up the courage to say what came next.

“They found his body deep in the woods. He was laid out on a tree stump. The RCMP said there were symbols  and  markings all around. Little Jason had been killed in some sort of Satanic ritual.  I never went to see the place. I never even looked at the pictures.” Then Jeanne just stood in the middle of the room sobbing.

Spencer walked over and enveloped her in a hug. “That’s the most horrible thing I ever heard.” He knew as a doctor that he should be able to say something more comforting, but he just could not think of what it could be. What could he possibly say or do to help sooth that sort of anguish? So Spencer just stood there for a long time holding Jeanne in his arms. Finally he lead her over the to bed. Jeanne was exhausted from telling the story and she fell into a deep sleep.

**************************************************************************************

The next day at  the hospital, Jason’s sister Karen insisted on having lunch with Jason as always, even though he was still furious with her. Jason told the who story of the little boy’s murder. “So big sister. I hope you are really proud of yourself for making Jeanne re-live the worst period of her life.”

Karen was afraid she may lose her brother forever, but she knew she had to ask, “Did Jeanne tell you the rest of it?”

“The rest?” asked Spencer. “Jeanne did tell me at breakfast this morning, that  they never found the murders. It is still an open case That must make it even worse for her.”

Karen looked Spencer in the eyes and gently rested her hand on his. “Did she tell you that she is still the main suspect for the murder?”

“What? That’s absurd! There were multiple people. Multiple footprints. The body was miles away.”

“Spencer. Listen to me. The were multiple footprints but they were all the same boots.  Like someone had walked back and forth many times to make it look like there was more than one person. The police also said there was something odd about the footprints. Like a small light person wearing boots too big. The police think maybe Jeanne was wearing her husband’s boots to confuse the police.”

“It sounds to me like the police were just too damn lazy to do their job,” said Spencer angrily.  “And what about all the Satanic stuff?”

“Did she tell you she is a witch? asked Karen”

“She’s not a witch God Damn it!” said Spencer so loudly that some of the other people in the hospital cafeteria looked over. Then he lowered his voice. “Kids made up that rumor when she was in high school, and it stuck.”

“It’s not a rumor Spence. The police said her house was crammed full of books on witchcraft. She had books on spells and potions and ritual sacrifices.  Even her husband finally admitted that Jeanne practiced witchcraft daily and took the child into the woods to teach the boy spells. Her husband said she used to gather plants from the woods and cook up some sort of potion. She would rub it all over the baby’s body each night. She said it would make him invincible to pain of sickness. It would even keep him warm in a freezing Canadian forest.”

“Where are you getting this shit!”, yelled Spencer. “From anonymous posts on the internet?”

“From the Canadian police Spence. I called and spoke to the Inspector on the case.  He was real interested to find out that Jeanne had left the country. We spoke for a long time.”

“That’s it!” said Spencer. “I and leaving.” He stormed out of the cafeteria, and down the halls of the hospital. He was so upset at his sister he could not think straight.

Spencer paced the halls and kept going over and over in his mind the horrible things Karen had said. But what upset Spencer even more was what he remembered from the night before. He remembered coming into his apartment and finding Jeanne naked in a circle of candles chanting. The burned down candles and the symbols on the floor were still there the next morning. Spencer had taken a a picture of it all and had then looked up on the internet what it meant.  Jeanne had said she was praying, but that was only a sort of half truth. The chants, symbol writing  and  candles were something else.

Something only a witch would do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Naked Swim Chapter 2

Jeanne was completely naked; doing exercises on  a pink Yoga mat. Spencer always hated waking up early but this morning he was glad he did. When he sat up in bed and looked across his small apartment the first thing he saw was Jeanne.

Spencer thought about saying something clever, but he did not want to do anything that might make her stop. It was  an incredibly erotic scene. By the time Jeanne was finished her toned body was glistening with sweat.

Jeanne stood up and walked over to the bed. Spencer reached out to her naked breasts but she step back just far enough to be slightly out of reach, and laughed.

“Don’t you have an early shift at the hospital today, doctor Casey? teased Jeanne.

“We have time.” pleased Spencer.

“No we do not. No quickies for this girl.”

Jeanne stayed out of reach but showed no signs of putting any clothing on. Finally she said. “Well-  we both do have to take showers and it would be a shame to waste all that water by taking them separately.”

“What happened to that shy Canadian girl I met on vacation?” teased Spencer.

“Oh she’s still here. She just happens to be going into the shower right now. Care to join me?”

Spencer jumped out of bed, and stumbled on the clothing scattered across  the apartment floor, as he chased Jeanne into the shower.

*************************************************************************************

Later that day, Spencer was in the cafeteria of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital having lunch with his sister Karen.

Karen had been the Financial Administrator at the hospital for a long time. She was the type of no-nonsense woman that even the top doctors were afraid to cross.

“I can’t believe you brought her back from vacation. That is the one thing I specifically warned you not to do.”

“What do you have against her Karen? You haven’t even met her yet. You don’t know anything about her.”

“Either do you! That’s my point. A pretty girl flashed a little flesh and you believe anything she says. You guys all think below the waist.” Then Karen stood up an kissed him on the cheek. Well, thanks for lunch little brother.  I have to get back to working on next year’s budget. The government is cutting our funding again.”

Yoga

Spencer sighed as Karen walked away. He was still certain that Jeanne would win Karen over the moment they met.

Karen Casey went back to her office, sat down at her large desk and pushed all the budget papers aside. She decided to work on a more important project. Karen turned on her computer and started typing furiously on the keyboard. She was going to find out exactly who this Jeanne Sedola of Vancouver Island Canada really was.

**************************************************************************************

Nine hours later Karen and Spencer were once again  sharing a meal. However, this time it was  in a very fancy French restaurant and Jeanne was with them. Karen had invited them both, saying she wanted to “get to know” Jeanne.

Karen’s real plan, however, was to expose Jeanne for the little gold-digging tramp she really was in front of Spencer. With any luck, the little slut would be back on a plane to the Great White North by the end of the week.

Karen had a detailed plan of which the expensive restaurant was  just  a part. Karen would show Spencer that Jeanne was just  an uneducated hick. She would not know how to dress or act or order in a four star New York restaurant. Spencer would see how inappropriate Jeanne would be as a doctor’s wife.

Then Karen would hammer home the fact that it was totally impractical for Jeanne to remain in New York. She could not legally get a job, and it takes years for anyone to get a green card. She would be a drag on Spencer’s already limited income.  Also, as Spencer started doing more surgery, he would be at the hospital more and more. Jeanne would have nothing to do but hang around a cramped apartment all day every day. By the end of the dinner, Karen knew that both Jeanne and Spencer would see it was time to end this vacation romance. If none of those tactics worked, Karen was prepared to use the “nuclear option.”

The dinner was not working out as Karen had planned. Karen had arrived first and was seated at the table having her second glass of wine when Jeanne and Spencer arrived. Spencer was wearing a baggy grey suit that was so wrinkled it looked like he had stored wrapped in a ball inside a plastic bag.

Jeanne, on the other hand, was wearing a brand new, gorgeous blue dress, and spiked black heels.  Her luxurious brown hair flowed halfway down her back. As she appeared, every male head in the restaurant turned to look at her. When she and Spencer walked towards the table, the way Jeanne moved made it  obvious she she was not wearing a bra.

Karen stood up and she and Jeanne did the obligatory “air kisses”.

“Jeanne, how nice to finally meet you. What a beautiful dress. Did you have it with you on vacation?”

“Oh no. I got it today in Soho while Spencer was on call at the hospital.”

Karen knew she had her opening. Jeanne was already spending a lot of money that neither she nor Spence could afford.  This is perfect.  Karen knew from personal experience that most relationships break up because of money problems.

“Soho. Really?”, said Karen. “That must have cost a fortune.”

“Oh no, it was free,” answered Jeanne sweetly. “There’s a new place called Charline’ s that was looking for what they called a combination of salesgirls and models. We get the clothing to wear and then try to push it on the tourists. I get a salary and commission. We are supposed to wear the clothing off-hours too and then tell people all about the store when they ask about the outfits.

“UN-fucking believable”. Thought Karen. “But-but what about work permits and visas?” stammered Karen.

“The store is paying me under the table for now, and is also working on getting me all the work papers.”

Karen was thinking about possibly getting rid of Jeanne by calling the IRS.  Then the waiter arrived at the table.  This was the part of the plan where Jeanne was supposed to make a fool of herself ordering. After all, Canadians think High Cuisine  is when you put brown gravy on Fries.  Then Jeanne started speaking to the waiter in fluent French.

Karen was furious at herself for forgetting about Canadian’s and French.  She knew that Jeanne was probably speaking French with some absurd accent, but since Karen only spoke English there was no way to know.

“Isn’t she great?”, said Spencer, with a broad smile.

The dinner progressed, and the food was excellent. Karen was on her fourth glass of wine by the time the main course arrive, and her speech was starting to slur slightly. Spencer and Jeanne sat very close to each other, and kept whispering cute little secrets to each other and giggling.

But Karen knew, she just knew that Jeanne was bad news for her little brother. Karen realized it was time to stop pussyfooting around and bring out the nuclear weapons.  Karen leaned in towards  Jeanne and sweetly said,

“So Jeanne; Spence tells me you are recently divorced. That must be rough for you.”

Jeanne was not fooled for a minute. She had sized up Karen an an enemy within five minutes of meeting her.  She was not fooled by the fake smile. All through the salad course, Karen had been peppering her with supposedly innocent questions. Jeanne remembered from High School being taught about the Spanish Inquisition.  She felt like this must have been what it was like. “Where did you go to school? Are your parents still alive? Have you thought about going on to college?” Karen’s questions went on and on. With the divorce question, Jeanne decided it was time to strike back.

“Yes, going through the divorce has been rough,” answered Jeanne cheerfully.  “But it must have been so much rougher for you. Spencer tells me that your husband ran off to Europe with some young nurse from your hospital, and that he even stole money from the company where he worked. That must have been devastating for you. It’s like something you would see on a T.V. soap opera. I feel so badly for you. You are such a nice person.”

Jeanne gave a sparking sympathetic smile as the said this. Karen looked down at her own steak knife and for a fraction of a second seriously considered stabbing Jeanne in the chest.

“This is so great,” beamed Spencer. “I just knew the two of you would become friends”. He was genuinely happy, and completely oblivious to the War which was taking place in front of his eyes between the two women he loved.

Over dessert and coffee Spencer finally took over the conversation. He spoke in detail about the fact that he had been allowed to assist in a heart valve replacement surgery that day. It was a delicate procedure and the Chief Surgeon had praised his performance.

Karen had been quiet while Spencer described the surgery in detail. When he was done with his story she quietly said,

“Kids?”

“What was that?” asked Spencer.

“Kids!” repeated Karen louder than was necessary. “I was asking Jeanne if she has any kids. She was married for five years. It’s a normal friendly question from one female to another.” Karen realized that she was drunk and that she was appearing to be a little aggressive.  But Karen was not going to miss asking the one question to which she already knew the answer.  Karen had spent three hours on the computer researching Jeanne and now was the time to spring the trap.

“One,” answered Jeanne, looking very pale as she said it. “Little Jason. Such a sweet boy. Strong and  happy with a big smile and a cute laugh.”

After a minute’s silence, Spencer said. “That’s wonderful Jeanne. When do I get to meet him?”

Tears rolled down Jeanne’s cheeks as she answered, “I wish you could honey. He is gone. Almost a year now. Buried on a beautiful  hill. You can see the water in the distance from his grave.”

Karen almost felt sorry for Jeanne but it was too late to stop now. Time to move in for the kill.  “What were the circumstances of his death?” asked Karen.

Jeanne flashed Karen a look of pure hatred. Jeanne knew that Karen must have read all the stories on the internet. All these thousands of mile way and there was no escape. There never would be.

“Circumstances?”, said Jeanne. “Sitting here in a warm restaurant in the middle of a large city, you could not possibly understand the circumstances of a boy’s death in the  frigid woods on an isolated Island. ‘Bizarre, sadistic and ritualistic.’ Those were the words the reporters used most often to describe the circumstances of my little boy’s death.”

Spencer was too stunned to talk, and even Karen was silent. Jeanne got up from the table and walked quickly out of the restaurant. Every man in the room watched her leave. If anything, the tears rolling down her face made her even more beautiful.

Spencer was about to follow her, but Karen placer her hand on his arm and said. “Sit down Spence. You need to know the truth. I spent the afternoon researching Jeanne. Let me tell you what the people in Vancouver Island call her, and what they say really happened to  her little boy.

Spencer wanted to follow Jeanne, but a part of him needed to know what Karen had to say. He knew how people could say hurtful things and he wanted to be prepared for what people might say about his new lover. So Spencer sat down and decided he was prepared to hear the worst.

He was not prepared. Nothing could have prepared him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Strong Iraqi Woman

The pain was unbearable. Doctor Kayoosh Radi stood in the ICU and looked down at her beautiful child Anshu. The 9 year old seemed so small in the bed. There were so many tubes and wires connected to him that he almost looked like a robot.

Despite the cold of the room she was sweating. Kayoosh’s heart was beating so fast that her face had flushed  red. Tears streamed down her eyes an she sobbed uncontrollably.  She still could not believe this. How could a 9 year old healthy skinny boy have a heart attack? Of course,  she knew the answer, but did not want to think about it.

She forced herself to look at the readings on the machines and she knew Anshu could possibly die tonight.  Kayoosh had seen many dead children in Baghdad. None of them looked this  pretty. The bodies were usually horribly mutilated from the bombs or bullets from whatever group happened to be doing the killing that day. Early in her career, she had hardened herself to feel no emotion at the sight.

But this was not Baghdad. This was not supposed to happen here. This was Greenwich Connecticut, where she had always felt comfortable and at peace and safe.

The Chief of Cardiology, Dr. Aaron Gold came into the room and spoke softly to Kayoosh.

“I will perform the operation myself Kay; first thing tomorrow morning. His vital signs need to improve before we can do the operation.  We will find out exactly what happened to Anshu and fix it. There is nothing you can do here. By the way, Ryan called. He is still stuck at O’Hare airport with that blizzard. He said to tell you he will be home as soon as he can get a flight.”

Ryan was usually the one who helped Kayoosh through everything. He was the one who had saved her from the horrors of Iraq. Ryan O’Brien had come to Baghdad with a group  of other journalists to report on how the medical establishment was surviving the constant deluge of civilian casualties. Kayoosh noticed him immediately.

He was tall, muscular and towered over the other people in the crowded halls of the Baghdad hospital. He was incredibly handsome, but what she noticed the most was the way he spoke to the patients in the hospital.  Unlike the other reporters, he actually cared about what would happen to the injured. The other reporters only wanted to get a quick soundbite and then get back to the bar of the hotel. Ryan stayed after the other reporters left, and spent the whole day helping to carry stretchers, empty trash and sometimes just hold hands with grieving family members.

Kayoosh liked everything about him – except his name. It was such a stupid name. What kind of parents would give their child a rhyming name? Ryan O’Brien; it just sounded ridiculous.  Ryan came back to the hospital again and again to “interview” her. She knew it was just an excuse to talk to her, but she liked it. So they had their “interviews” over coffee, over lunch and finally at dinner.

For a Westerner Ryan knew an incredible amount about what was going on in Iraq. Not only was he a reporter, but he came from a very wealthy family with political connections. He knew things that even top Iraqi officials had not yet heard.

One night over dinner, he looked at her earnestly and said, “Kayoosh, you need to think about leaving Iraq. The country is being split among religious and sectarian lines. You are a Christian and a woman doctor. There are groups who hate you just for being Christian and others who hate you just for being an educated woman. This is not the Iraq you grew up in. Don’t make the same mistake your father made. Please get out.”

Kayoosh shuddered at the mention of her father. He had been a wonderful well-liked man who had raised her alone when her mother died in childbirth.  He had been so happy at the fall of Sadam and he loved the American liberators. Then he had made the mistake of openly criticizing the corruption of the new Iraqi government. He was proud of his ability to speak English and gave a lengthy interview to a British T.V. crew, detailing the corruption in the new government. Three days later, as he drank coffee at an outdoor cafe, a black SUV jumped the curb and crushed him as he sat. The driver of the SUV was not charged. The police ruled it a car accident. The driver just happened to be a Captain in the Security Force who was promoted to Major a week after the “accident.”

But Kayoosh refused to leave. She thought that the fact that she never made any type of political or religious statement would protect her. All she did was try to heal people of all religious groups and ranks.

It was not enough.

Things seemed to get better. The violence died down and the streets had once again filled up with people. The Baghdad hospital emergency room had reverted back to  the normal inflow of people with cuts and scrapes, heart palpitations and appendicitis. No more victims of snipers and bombs.

Then one day Kayoosh was deep in the center of the hospital picking up a set of X-Rays from the lab, when a car pulled up to the emergency room door. Two men jumped out shouted a slogan and threw a hand grenade into the room. They drove off seconds before the grenade exploded.

Kayoosh ran back to the emergency room and saw the carnage. As she stood there an old woman started screaming at her. It took Kayoosh a few seconds to understand that the woman was shouting, “Your fault! It’s your fault! You were the one they wanted! Your fault!” Other people in the room said that the two men had shouted something about it being an affront to God for a Christian woman to be a doctor. No one could remember exactly what they said.

Kayoosh simply went catatonic. She could not move. She stood motionless and speechless in the center of the destroyed emergency room for over an hour. Some people screamed at her and others tried to give comfort. Doctors and nurses finally just ignored her and walked past her like a statue while they treated the wounded.

Kayoosh was still standing there when Ryan came into the hospital. Without saying a word he picked her up and carried her out of the hospital as easily as if she were made of feathers. He put her in a car and took her back to his hotel. He laid her gently on the bed and pulled a comforter over her. She  remembered his whispering, “You have done all that you can. I will take care of you now.”

Kayoosh lay back and slept. For the first time since being a child she felt completely and utterly safe. Ryan was so big and so strong, and the bed was so soft. Kayoosh slept deeply and dreamed  of a picnic she once had with her father on a beautiful Iraq spring day.

Kayoosh slept for almost twenty hours. When she awoke, Ryan was sitting in a chair by her bed and had a tray of breakfast for her. Over strong coffee and sweet pastry, he asked her to be his wife and she said yes.

Ryan used his family’s political connections to get Kayoosh a  Visa. Things were getting worse and worse in Iraq and people were scrambling to get out. It took all the family’s pull (and quite a few donations to various political campaigns) but the Visa was obtained.

Then came their life in Greenwich Connecticut. It was like nothing Kayoosh could have imagined. The accents and the people and the climate seemed so strange. There was so much wealth and food and fine cars. There were no soldiers patrolling with M-16s. No check points or pat-downs.

Ryan said she did not have to work but Kayoosh insisted that whatever it took she would pass the qualifications to practice medicine in America. At first it was humiliating. She had to prove herself all over again. She had to take tests and courses and board exams and training, just to prove to the Americans that she was a real doctor. But her skill and professionalism impressed the Americans and eventually she was on the staff at Greenwich hospital.

He mentor was old Doctor Gold. He became her best friend and a sort of father figure. She knew that back in Iraq she would not have dared to associate with a Jew.  It would have been too dangerous for both of them.  Kayoosh was not even sure of there were any Jews left in Iraq. She realized that Doctor Gold was the first Jew she had ever actually met.

When Anshu was born it was the happiest day of Kayoosh’s life. Ryan had wanted to name the baby “Andy”, but Kayoosh insisted that he at least get an Iraqi first name. After all, his last name was going to be O’Brien.

Kayoosh went home and sat on the bed in Anshu’s room. His shelves were crammed with all sorts of American football items. There were pictures famous players, sports magazines, and 3 footballs. Anshu worshiped his father Ryan and wanted to be the muscular star athlete that Ryan had always been.

But little Anshu was built more like his mother. He was small and delicately framed. He would never be a linebacker or even a quarterback. Kayoosh had always known that when Anshu got older she would have to gently  explain that even if Anshu exercised every day for the rest of his life he would never be on the New England Patriots.  Kayoosh started to weep as she realized that there may not be a rest of his life. He could die tonight or on the operating table tomorrow morning.

“I killed him didn’t I?” said Ryan quietly.

Kayoosh looked up and saw her husband standing  in the doorway of the room, looking very haggard.

“I thought you were stuck in Chicago,” said Kayoosh flatly.

“There was a break in the weather and they got some planes out.”

Ryan sat on the bed next to Kayoosh. He took her hand and looked directly into her eyes. “Tell me the truth Kay. Tell me medically exactly what happened.  Don’t lie to me. Not you. Did I kill our boy?”

Kayoosh used all her strength and transformed herself into her medical persona. She used the same neutral tone and even voice she used to use with parents back in Baghdad hospital. “The fracture that Anshu sustained when the two of you were playing football in the backyard two months ago was very severe. It was a thigh bone. That is one of the largest bones in the body. The fracture of such a major bone can cause complications.”

“But he was fine,” said Ryan hopefully. “Kids bones heal fast. That’s what all the doctors said. Anshu didn’t even have a limp after the cast come off. He was fine. He was fine.”  Ryan kept saying “He was fine” over and over again like some sort of mantra that would make everything better.

Kayoosh continued in her professional tone. “With a major bone fracture a tiny splinter of bone can get into the bloodstream. It can circulate through the body thousands of time without problems, but then one day it can catch on something vital. In Anshu’s case a splinter caught on a valve in his heart.”

“It was my fault.” said Ryan. “I should have known he was too small to play with that roughly. I pushed him too hard. I killed our boy.”

Ryan lay down on the bed.  His large body could barely fit on the boy’s mattress.  For the first time since she had know him, Ryan looked weak.

Kayoosh stood up and pulled a blanked over Ryan. She bent down and gently took off his shoes. The she said soothingly. “I will take care of us now. Tomorrow Dr. Gold will operate on Anshu and with microsurgery repair the tear the bone splinter made. Then over the coming weeks they will filter every drop of blood in Anshu’s body and remove any other bone splinters that might exist.”

Ryan looked up with a sort of pleading in his eyes. “Tell me the truth Kay. This type of operation – the surgery and the filtering- does it always work? Can they really do the repair and get rid of any other bone splinters?”

“It sounds a lot more complicated that it is, ” Kayoosh lied. “With modern techniques and an an advanced hospital like Greenwich, it is almost a routine procedure.”

Ryan fell into an exhausted sleep while Kayoosh sat in a chair wide awake. “I will take care of us now,” she whispered.  “It is my turn to be the strong one again. You and Anshu will need all my strength to get through this.”

Kayoosh looked at the clock and knew that she would not sleep that night. In two more hours she would take a shower and go back to the hospital to observe the operation on her son.  She would not allow herself to cry any more. She had been too weak for too long. It was time for her to be once again what she really was. A strong Iraqi woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Facebook Page of Dorian Grey

As he did every evening, Dorian sat in a darkened room with the only light coming from the glow of his computer screen.  His latest posts on Facebook were better than ever. Business was great, he was involved with a beautiful model and every investment he put money into soared in value.

The pictures were wonderful too. He looked great at the charity ball next to Koneia; his girlfriend who as always looked ravishingly beautiful.

If only it were all true.

Ten years ago he had actually looked this way. (OK – he admitted to himself -15 years ago). There had even been short period in his life where he did have a model as a girlfriend.

Dorian had started his Facebook page when everything in his real life was getting better every day. He had just been promoted, he had a fashion model girlfriend (Sandra) and all the chances he took in the futures market paid off.

Dorian was so happy he wanted to tell the world about it. He started his page and posted pictures of himself and Sandra at a cocktail party in Soho. He bought a new Mercedes and posted a picture of that. Dorian even felt and looked great. He had hired a personal trainer and religiously followed the trainers instructions. Dorian got those six-pack ab muscles he thought were not really possible. A shirtless picture of Dorian working out with weights also went up on the Facebook page. He got hundreds of Friend requests and he accepted them all. He got more every day and they loved him. Life was perfect.

Until it wasn’t.

It started out small. Some of his futures investments turned down, and he made the novice investor’s mistake of “doubling down” to make up for losses. He would make back the losses when the market turned up again. But it didn’t turn up so he just lost money faster than ever.

Then Sandra left him to try to be an actress in Hollywood. She told him she loved him but she had to think of her career.

He could have recovered from any of this until the day the Wall Street law firm told him they were not going to promote him to partner. The firm had a strict  “up or out” policy. Dorian had to leave to make room for the new blood coming in. He was able to get a job at another less prestigious law firm, but the salary was less than half what he had earned before.

Dorian knew he should have reported each of these events on his Facebook page when they happened. But he loved the Facebook Dorian so much  he just could not bear to hurt him.

When Sandra left, instead of announcing it to his “friends”, he invented Koneia. Being a lawyer, he did it in a way to make sure he did not get sued. Koneia’s picture was really a composite of internet photos of 23 different models he had downloaded. Dorian discovered he had a real computer talent and created the beautiful Koneia.

The real Dorian traded in his Mercedes for a Toyota to save money. The Facebook Dorian got a Ferrari. The real Dorian spent the days doing research on tax law cases. The Facebook Dorian argued cases at the World Court in The Hague.

Of course, the real Dorian got older and a little heaver each year. Long gone was the personal trainer and the six-pack abs were distant memory.  Still; Dorian loved that shirtless picture. After all – it had been real once.

The real Dorian stared at the screen and knew it was finally time to kill the Facebook Dorian. It was far too late to explain to all his on-line “friends” that he had been lying to them for years. He knew, of course that they had been lying to him too. Many times people posted how they had seen Dorian and Koneia at a restaurant. Sometimes people even claimed to have  had dinner with them. Still; it was too late and too embarrassing to show the world the real Dorian Grey.

Dorian went through all the steps to delete his Facebook profile.  All he had to do was press the “Enter” key one more time and Facebook Dorian would be dead forever. The real Dorian liked the idea of doing it that way. No explanation and no warning. Facebook Dorian would just disappear and thousands of friends would wonder what had become of him and start internet rumors about it. Dorian’s legend would live forever.

The real Dorian just could not hit the final keystroke. He had almost done it hundreds of times before, but could not finish the job.  He knew deep in his soul that if he killed Facebook Dorian then he would die too. The Facebook life was the only real part of his existence.  All day long as Dorian researched obscure tax law rulings and wrote boring summaries, he looked forward to getting home and adding to the exciting life of his Facebook self. Where would he travel next? Would he stay faithful to Koneia? Should they travel to China next or India? How could his real life of tax rulings and dinners alone possibly compete with that?

Dorian turned away from the the computer got into bed. Just before he turned off the light on his night-table , he smiled. He had reached a decision on what to do next.  It was time for him to marry Koneia. The wedding would be a lavish event in Thailand. It would be held on the beach and the posted pictures would show the two of them kissing while brilliant sunshine illuminated Koneia’s long white dress. His friends would all be so happy.

Dorian fell asleep as the computer screen glowed on the desk in the corner of the room. The other Dorian Grey never slept. As the real Dorian slept alone, the Facebook Dorian got ten new Friend requests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting A Life

Edgar looked out the train window as the tiny houses near the tracks passed by. When he had e-mailed his bosses in Europe of his decision, they could not  understand why he had quit. How could they? Unless the rode the train, how could they?

It had gotten to where Edgar did not even think of the days as days. It was not like he ever saw the Sun. Up at 5am, when it was still dark. Eating a quick breakfast while everyone else in the house was asleep.  Driving the  mini-van 10 minutes to the train station.

In the old days the train ride itself was a peaceful interlude. Now, like everyone else on the train, each morning Edgar typed furiously into his iPhone trying to answer the hundreds of e-mails from Europe which had piled up during his nighttime. But he never caught up. People could send him e-mails faster than he could possibly respond.

It was just getting light when Edgar got to the office. But his office was in the basement of the building and he was at his desk before the sun rose fully. It was a private office and had a lovely faux window. The window had a little curtain and behind the curtain a frosted lighted glass that sort of looked like a real window. However, if you examined it closely, there was nothing behind the glass but  a wall. As far as support staff went it was a good office, but like all support staff it was in the basement.

Sales & Marketing went out to lunch most days , but the support departments always stayed behind to man the phones and computers. They ordered lunch in and ate at their desks.

When Edgar finished the day it was usually  dark. Still, he would walk  to the train home feeling guilty that he had not finished everything.

It all changed one day when Edgar started looking out the train window on the ride home, instead of working on his iPhone. He could see into the windows of the houses. People were having dinner together, or watching T.V. or playing with their kids. They had lives.  He stared looking out the train window every day on the ride home. There were real things happening. People were going to evening mass. One family was barbecuing in the backyard despite the fact that it was Winter and they all had their coats on.  Edgar realized that these people all had lives and he did not.

Along with the rest of his department, Edgar started going in on Saturdays to try and catch up. The company had been cutting back people in the support groups to save money, but had not reduced any of the work. The people who were left had to work more and more.  One clever woman in the office said she felt like Alice in Wonderland. “I have to run as fast as I can just to stay in the same place.” Edgar wished he felt that good. He was running as fast as he could and still getting more behind each day.

Whenever he got home his kids were already asleep and sometimes his wife was too. He often had dinner alone and it struck him that he had all three of his meals alone every day except Sunday.  One day a week to have a life and usually he was too tired that day to do anything.

Edgar had avoided talking to his wife Keri about what he wanted. When he finally told her he was going to quit and had no idea what he was going to to next she surprised him by saying calmly, “It’s about time. They were killing you.”

Edgar had quit and left early. It was strange to be on the train home when it was still daylight.  He could see people jogging in parks while other people walked dogs.

The train pulled in and Keri and the kids were waiting at the station for him. Keri had driven him to the train that morning and said they would go out to dinner as a family when he got home. Keri was smiling and Kevin and Eva were jumping up and down saying “Daddy!, Daddy!”

Edgar stepped  off the train and walked towards his Life.

 

 

The Naked Swim

“I went topless on the beach this morning,” whispered Jeanne shyly  at breakfast. With her Canadian accent she pronounced “top” like “tope”.

The way she said it in such a timid way it  made Spencer smile. It also made him picture what she must have looked like on the beach. Jeanne was 23 years old and beautiful. She had long brown hair, green eyes and a figure that was athletic yet voluptuous.  He had met her on his first  day at the Caribbean resort and had made a point of timing his breakfasts so that he would “just happen” to be in the buffet line when she was.

Jeanne on the Beach topless

Jeanne on the Beach topless

A lot of guys at the resort had been trying to pick up Jeanne. She always smiled politely and explained that she had just been through a nasty divorce and really needed some time alone.

Unlike the other guys Spencer took it very slow and as a result the two of them ended up sitting and talking at breakfast each morning. Then Jeanne went off to a secluded part of the beach to sit under an umbrella  and read.  Spencer never tried to follow her and join her under the umbrella. So far every guy that had done this had been quickly rebuked.

“Jeanne, you surprise me, ” teased Spencer. “You have been rejecting men all week and then you paraded around in front of them topless. What a tease.”

“I did not parade,” answered Jeanne. “I got up very early and went out on the beach just as the sun was coming up and it was still empty. I could never go topless when anyone was out there, but I wanted to feel what it was like.”

“And what was it like?”

“It felt nice,” answered Jeanne, with her cheeks blushing red. “Can I tell you a secret?”

“Of course.”

“Tomorrow, if I have the nerve, I am going to do the same thing at the same time. Except this time I am going to get totally naked and go for a swim. Let’s face it. When I am back on Vancouver Island I will never do it. Well; have a nice day Spencer.”

With that, Jeanne picked up her bag, and headed to the beach. Spencer just sat there for a long time sipping his coffee. He had never been very good at figuring out what women wanted, and he was very unsure why Jeanne had mentioned naked swimming tomorrow morning. Was she just making casual conversation or was she somehow subtly  inviting him to join her tomorrow? Then he thought of a worse possibility. Maybe she thought of him as such a friend that it would never even occur to her that he might be interested in her sexually. Like the way groups of really good looking girls always seemed to have one gay guy they included in their conversations.  Maybe he had been taking it so slowly that she thought he was gay?

After breakfast Spencer realized there was only one thing to to. He did not want to but he was going to have to call his sister Karen and ask her to interpret Jeanne’s actions. Karen was 8 years older and his whole life Spencer had depended on her to explain all the social cues that Spencer missed.

“You’re an idiot Spencer,” said Karen over the phone. This girl is totally trying to hook you. Telling you when she is going to be naked on the beach. What a crock! Girls don’t say things like that by accident. She planned it out exactly. Like the way a woman “just happens”  to have a towel slip off when she comes out of a shower. She is planning on going home with the rich Doctor Spencer Casey. She didn’t go to the Caribbean to get a tan. She went there to become a doctor’s wife.”

“First of all,” said Spencer “as you very well know I am not rich. I am still a Resident and I took every penny out of savings just to take this one week vacation. Secondly, she does not even know I’m a doctor.  I don’t like telling people I’m a  doctor when I’m on vacation. Everybody treats you differently and then they start telling you about all their aches and pains.”

“All right. Calm down Spence. Tell me what you really know about this girl besides how great she would look with no clothing on.”

“Well, she got married at 18 and apparently her husband was a real jerk. She stuck with him for 5 years and came down here on vacation after a terrible divorce. She took what little money she got from the divorce and used it for this the vacation. She just needed to get away. She lives in a little factory town on Vancouver Island. Just about everyone  in the town works for the fish processing plant.”

“OK,” said Karen, “So she has a high school education at best and a 5 year old kid. Have fun with her, but make sure you leave her behind when the vacation is over.”

“She never said anything about a kid. Where are you getting that?”

“Spence. Men are such idiots. The only reason a girl gets married at 18 is that she is pregnant. What does she do for a living?”

“I don’t know. She said she plays piano. Maybe she teaches it.”

“OK Little brother. Have fun on vacation, but watch out for this Canadian hick. ”

“Wait! Don’t hang up yet. Was she hinting for me to join her for her naked swim tomorrow morning?”

“Of course she was Spence! What does she have to do; write you a letter? See you when you get back.”

After the phone call Spencer was more confused than ever. He was annoyed at how suspicions Karen always was of everything and how she thought she still needed to protect him like when he was little.  Spencer decided to forget about Jeanne for the rest of the day. He went down to the dock and signed up for a sailing lesson, hoping that would take his mind off Jeanne.

An hour later, Spencer was out on the water attempting to sail a Sunfish, while Jeanne was high up on the beach laying on a lounge chair under a palm tree.  In her hand was not a book, but her iPhone. Jeanne did not have much formal education, but she had mastered how to use the internet well enough to quickly check out every guy who had approached her this week. A short chat with any man gave her more than enough information to look up all his important details. On her first day at the resort Jeanne realized she had hit the jackpot with Doctor Spencer Casey.

She liked that he was shy and did not flaunt that he was a doctor. But in their casual breakfast conversations she had been able to get out of him his full name, his age, where he had gone to college and where he lived. Once she had that, finding the rest on line had been easy. His profile was very impressive. Harvard medical school and a cardiac surgical Resident at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York.  Jeanne figured that he probably had a ton of student loans and almost no money right now, but she  had the patience to wait. A New York heart surgeon would eventually  be making a lot of money. More than anyone in the smelly fish factory on Vancouver Island could ever imagine.

“Mrs. Jeanne Casey,” she said out loud. Then she tired out, “Doctor and Mrs. Casey.” Jeanne lay back on the lounge chair and smiled.

Jeanne had not lied much  to Spencer. Most of what  she told him was true. She had been married at 18 and had just been divorced at the age of 23. The only thing she lied about was when she told Spencer her ex-husband  Billy was a jerk. Billy  was actually a real nice guy. He could not understand why she wanted a divorce. He kept asking what had changed.

Over and over she tried to explain to Billy that the problem was that nothing had changed and nothing ever would. The same town with  same job in the fish factory, and seeing  the same people they had seen every day of their lives. All he had to do to keep her was change, but he just couldn’t.

The final straw was when Nancy Kavanaugh came home from college for a visit. Jeanne was so jealous she wanted to scream. “Nerdy  Nancy” that everyone used to make fun of in high school was now a pre-med student at the University of Toronto, and Jeanne was entering Accounts Payable invoices at the fish factory.

Jeanne lay back in her lounge chair and realized that she was getting angry just thinking about Nancy. Then she thought about Spencer and relaxed.  There were only three more days left on the vacation  so she had pick up the pace. Tomorrow would be the day she would allow Spencer to successfully make his move. He would show up on the beach tomorrow morning and she would “just happen” to come out of the water from her naked swim as he walked by. Jeanne hoped the water would not be too cold.

That night Spencer could barely sleep. He set an alarm to make  sure he got up early. He knew that by pure chance on this vacation he had met the woman he was meant to spend his life with.  She was the one. Beautiful, soft spoken and so very shy. He realized that she wanted him too, but could not just come out and say it. Her hints about the naked morning swim were  her way of saying it.

Tomorrow morning he was going to meet her on the beach and they would swim nude in the beautiful Caribbean and make love on the beach before another soul on the resort was even awake. Then he was going to convince her to change her flight and come back with him to New York. They would live in his little cramped apartment and be madly in love. Of course, when he finished his Residency and became a full-fledged heart surgeon they would be able to afford more.

Spencer fell asleep happier than he had even been before. Things were going to be wonderful. He was in love with Jeanne and he knew his sister Karen was going to love her too. Spencer slept and dreamed about the clear beautiful Caribbean water.

Prison Dogs

Prison was not at all like Beth had expected. There were no gang fights, no racial problems, no weird prison tattoos. The prison was immaculately clean, but not in a nice way. More of  a hospital antiseptic type of clean.  There was just the same boring routine over and over. Every day was exactly the same as the day before, and the day after.

prison 2

The part  of the daily routine Beth hated the most was the group therapy session. A bunch of women sitting on chairs in a circle in a cold gymnasium talking about the problems that got them to prison.

The stories were all the same. Bad homes, bad boyfriends, bad decisions, bad drugs, bad booze all leading to the same place.

But the worst part of being in prison was the fact that you knew you were a Loser.  You always thought so before, but now it was official. For the rest of your life there would a be mark in your record that you had been in prison. A place for Losers surrounded by other Losers the good people of the country did not want anywhere near them. You were nothing and you knew it and now so did everyone else.

prison 1

Beth never spoke during the group therapy sessions. She knew that if she did she would end up just screaming at the other women and telling them all to shut up. Telling them all that they should just stop their whining and accept who they were. They were worthless and they should accept it and just shut up.

There were other things to do in the prison, but Beth had not signed up for any of them. Training programs that were supposed to prepare them for the “real world”. But those programs were voluntary and Beth decided not to volunteer for any of them. She would rather just sit in her cell and stare at the spotlessly clean wall.

Then one day she noticed that there was a program for prisoners to try to help train search and rescue dogs. Beth had no interest in it except for the fact that it would take place every day at the same time as Group Therapy. If she signed up for the dog thing, she would not have to attend therapy sessions.   So Beth signed up to help train the dogs.

ANIMALS 007

A week later she and two other women were standing in the prison yard with an enormously fat man named Wally who had brought 3 dogs with him and was explaining the techniques of how to train a search and rescue dog. It was a lot more complicated than Beth had thought.

Each of the women was assigned a dog to work with. Beth was given a large  Golden Retriever named Jumpy. He was named that for obvious reasons. He was a very friendly dog and was so happy to meet people that he had a tendency to jump on the person. The problem was that he was so big and strong that he sometime knocked the person right over. The other two dogs were a Beagle and a German Shepard.

Wally explained that these dogs had all already flunked out of the usual search & rescue training program. This was their last chance to try again to become useful search & rescue dogs.  If they could not make it they would go back to the animal shelters they came from.

Beth got it. These dogs were all Losers too. That was the only reason they had been brought here. A bunch of Loser dogs trying to be trained by a bunch of Loser prisoners.

It turned out that it was very hard work. Fat Wally was like a drill instructor. Every day he showed up at the prison with the  dogs and they all trained for 3 hours. He brought boxes and crates and set up the prison yard like a fake disaster scene. Then the dogs would have to search for “trapped” people. Sometimes there was no one to find. Sometimes Wally would get other prisoners to hide under the boxes and the dogs would find them. Jumpy got better and better as the weeks went by. He loved when he “rescued” someone.

Beth had never been close to anyone in her life. She had been with lots of boyfriends, but had never really shared her feelings with them. But she did with Jumpy. When they took breaks from training, Beth and Jumpy would sit on the grass apart from the others and Beth would talk to Jumpy. He would look at her with those dark soulful eyes intently listing to everything Beth said.

She knew he did not understand what Beth was saying, but it didn’t matter. Somehow she sensed that Jumpy related to the feeling of what she was saying, even if he could not understand the exact words. Beth told the dog all the things she had never told her mother or her boyfriends or the prison therapist.

One day Wally came up to them while Beth was talking to Jumpy. Beth was afraid that Wally was going to make fun of her. Instead he said,

“You know, I like dogs a lot more than I like people. Dogs have all the good characteristics which people pretend to have but really don’t. Dogs are loyal. They are truly brave, and they love you unconditionally.  I have never once had a dog betray me or tell me I should lose a little weight.”

As Wally walked away Beth looked at him like she was seeing him for the first time. She saw him as not just some fat guy with baggy clothing. She realized that he was that rarest type of man. He was a genuinely good person. He actually cared about the Losers of the world.

That night Beth was sound asleep when the bright lights sudden snapped on in her cell.  A guard came in and rushed her down to the Warden’s office without explanation.  Beth did not know what she had done wrong, but it must be something really bad.

When Beth arrived, the Warden’s office was crowded with people. There were police officers and fire fighters. She also saw Wally and the two other prisoners who were part of the dog training program.

Even though it was the Warden’s office, Wally seemed to be the person in charge. Everyone got quiet as he spoke.

“There was a gas explosion at an apartment building about 15 miles from here. The entire building has collapsed. The rescue workers think there may still be people trapped inside the rubble but they can’t find them. We are the only rescue dog team withing 500 miles so we are going in. Lets move!”

The next thing she knew Beth was in a convoy of rescue vehicles speeding along the highway with sirens blaring  and lights flashing. She and the two other prisoners were sitting in a crowded truck along with the three dogs four firemen.

When they arrived at the disaster scene it was chaos. An entire 5 story building had collapsed in a gas explosion and was in a heap of bricks and twisted metal. There were small fires everywhere and people who had escaped the collapse were being taken away in ambulances, or were wandering around in a daze wrapped in blankets.

Wally gathered the dog team in a circle. “You are going to split up and each search separately with your dog.  A firefighter will be teamed with you to take you to where they think there might be a trapped person. You are all good. I have seen you working with your dogs and I know you can do it. Remember; trust your dog.”

A young fireman lead Beth and Jumpy  to the corner of what used to be the building and said. “There is a woman who says her little girl never got out of the apartment which  was in this area. We have been over every square inch but can’t find anything.” He gave her a whistle and said “signal us if you find anything.” Then the fireman walked away and left Beth and Jumpy alone.

Beth nodded and then crouched down to speak to Jumpy. She  spoke to him in a soothing tone and calmed him down. Then she  put on his paws the little plastic booties that search dogs wear so that broken cement does not cut their paws.

The search began and Jumpy carefully began sniffing the ground.  His whole demeanor changed. He was not running around or nervously jumping like he usually did. It was like he knew this was a job and it was time to get to work.

Jumpy had been searching for almost 20 minutes and the Sun was beginning to rise. Then he suddenly stopped and cocked his head. He would not move from a particular spot. He looked at Beth and began barking. Beth blew the whistle with all her breath and the emergency workers came running over.

It took almost half an hour for the the rescue workers to carefully dig where Jumpy had indicated.  It turned out there was a hidden air pocket under the rubble.  The little girl was trapped but alive.  The little girl was pulled out covered with dust but breathing. Her mother came running over and was crying and laughing with joy at the same time. The girl was rushed to an ambulance and her mother rode away with her.

The fireman who had given Beth the whistle said to Beth, “That’s quite a dog you have there. Has he ever rescued anyone before?”

Beth reached down and patted Jumpy on the head.

“Me, ” Beth said. “He rescued  me.”

 

 

The First Person He Killed

The first time Bob killed someone it was an accident. At least it started out that way. Bob had always been the type of person who tried to never get into a confrontation with anyone. He was a  withdrawn thirty year old  man with a very meek personality and a physical appearance to match. Bob was tall and skinny with thick glasses and thinning light hair that looked like straw .

Bob’s wife Penelope (Penny) had left him exactly one week before he made his first kill. They had only been married for a year and a half. Penny had screamed and called him a wimp. She said that he could move up at work if he was just more aggressive. She had been furious that he had once again been passed over for a management position

“Even you car is wimpy!” she had screamed. “It looks like a dented cracker box and it has no power. Old ladies on electric scooters can pass your car.  It’s embarrassing to ride in it with you!”

The week after Penny stormed out Bob went to a used car lot to trade in his “cracker box” and get the most powerful car he could afford. A very attractive saleswoman in a short skirt and a tube top took one look at Bob and zeroed in on him. She knew this would be an easy sale, especially when he said what he wanted was “maximum power”.

She got him to buy a used jet black Dodge Charger. Bob didn’t think he could afford it, but the saleswomen set him up with extended financing.

Dodge Charger

There was just one problem. The only one the lot had was a stick shift and Bob had never driven anything other than an automatic.But the saleswoman (“call me Amber”) convinced him that it would be easy to learn. She told him a stick shift actually made the car much more powerful than an automatic.  Bob and Amber took the car out on the road for almost an hour . Bob drove while Amber taught him how to use the shift. There was no way Amber was going to lose this sale after having filled out all the financing paperwork.

By the end of the drive, Bob felt he had gotten the hang of it. He and Amber went back to the car lot, and  Bob signed the final paperwork for the sale. As he drove off in the Charger, Bob smiled as he felt the car accelerate with incredible force.  Somehow the strength of the car made him feel strong.

Between the financing paperwork and the driving lesson it had taken Bob all day to buy the car. It was quite dark on the way home and Bob turned on the lights. He was concentrating so hard on using the stick shift properly that he did not notice the lights were on high-beam.

Bob was about five miles from home  on a stretch of road than went though a wooded area. He was behind an old pick up truck which  suddenly stopped and a man got out.  Bob thought the pick up truck must have broken down. Bob stopped his own car and rolled down the window to see if the man needed any help.  That’s when the man ran back to Bob’s car and punched Bob right in the face.

“Fucking Asshole!”, yelled the man. “Following me for five miles with your God Damn bight lights on!” The man then  started to walk back to the pickup truck. Bob was shocked and scared. He looked  in the rear view mirror and saw that his nose was bleeding profusely.

A different type of man might have tried to fight back, but Bob just wanted to get away and get home. He  jammed the stick shift into reverse and floored the accelerator. That’s when the car shot forward and plowed right into the man walking back to the truck. Between the shock of the punch and Bob’s not really knowing how to drive a stick shift, he had put the Charger into First Gear instead of Reverse.

Bob turned off the Charger and jumped out to help the man. The man from the truck was lying on the ground and screaming profanities.

“You son of a bitch! You broke my legs! You are going to jail! I am going to sue you for every penny you have! Your life is ruined you son of a bitch!”

Bob was about to  phone for an ambulance. Then he realized that the screaming man was right. As soon as the police showed up Bob’s life was ruined. No one was going to believe that he had run over the man by accident. Bob would go to jail. He would lose all his money. He would lose his job and his new car. He would never get Penny back.

Bob needed to think. He just needed to think, but the man would not stop screaming. It would not be long before another car came by or someone heard the screaming and came to investigate. In a few minutes Bob’s life would be ruined. If the man would just stop screaming. If he would just stop.

That’s when Bob saw the tire iron, jack and flat tire  in the bed  of the pick up truck. The owner of the truck had obviously recently changed a flat tire .  With a sudden Epiphany Bob knew exactly what to do.

Bob reached into the bed of the pickup truck and grabbed the tire iron.  He swung it with two hands and hit the screaming man full force on the head. Then there was silence.

The silence was complete. There  were crickets chirping and the sound of the highway in the distance, but no sirens  and no other cars. Bob new he had to act fast. He took the jack out of the bed of the pickup truck and jacked up the front of the truck. Then he took the tire iron and  removed the left front tire of the truck and placed it next to the truck.

Bob took the man’s body and positioned it directly under the front of the truck. . He was going to make it look like an accident. It would look like the man had been changing a flat tire and had not placed the jack properly. The police would think the truck had slipped off the jack and had crushed the man. It had happened before.

With the body in just the right spot, Bob put his hands on the side of the truck and used his full force to rock the truck back and forth.  He rocked it faster and faster until suddenly the front of the truck fell off the jack. It landed on the man’s body with a horrible squishing  sound, like a large pumpkin being dropped on a cement floor.

tire iron

Bob got back into his Charger, very carefully put it into the proper gear and drove off.  When he got home he carefully examined the front of the Charger for damage but could see nothing but a small dent. He did not see any blood or other tell-tale sign. He was amazed at how fragile a human body is compared to a car. Then Bob went into the house.

He cleaned up his bloody nose, put all his cloths in the washing machine and took a long hot  shower.   They he got completely dressed in good cloths and waited for the police. He did not want to get dragged off to jail in his pajamas.  On the drive home Bob prepared himself for the inevitable. He knew there was no way he could get away with murder.

But he did.

Bob stayed up all night waiting for the police but they never showed up. He turned on his porch light so they would know he was home.  He unlocked the front door so they would not smash it down. But they never came. All night Bob flipped through the news channels for a story on the murder. He scanned the internet continually and even tried the radio news stations.

As  Saturday night turned into Sunday morning,  Bob was finding it hard to stay awake. Then on the early morning local T.V.  news the story came on.  A very young reporter was taking while in the background could be seen an ambulance, police car and tow truck all parked near the pickup truck. The reporter told the tale of the “tragic accident,” where a local man died while changing a flat tire.

Then the news switched back to the studio where they interviewed an automotive expert about the proper and safe way to change a flat tire. The expert repeatedly stressed that changing a flat was much more dangerous than most people realized. He ended by advising that the most sensible course of action is to call a tow truck and not try to change a tire yourself.

Bob realized that he should feel guilty and ashamed. But he did not. It was as if a great weight had been lifted from him. With the television still on, Bob fell into a deep and peaceful  sleep in his easy chair.

Over the next few months Bob fell back into his regular routine. The only real change was that everyone at work loved his new Charger. People who had never paid much attention to him before asked him how it handled, how much he had paid and how fast it would go.  He loved that car. He took it to a car wash every week and got the full detailing  and wax. He never again drove on the road where the man with the pickup truck had been.

The next time Bob killed someone it was not quite an accident. Bob had to take a train into New York for a meeting. He could have driven in but there was no way he was going to take his beloved Charger into the city and risk anything happening to it.

Bob hated going into New York. Everything was so fast and loud and the people were so aggressive.  Just walking down the sidewalks was a challenge. He was sure that some people bumped into your real hard on purpose just to prove they were stronger than you.

The meeting went on longer than expected and it was very late at night by the time it was over. Bob was waiting on the subway platform when the bum approached him.  Bob looked around and noticed that he and the bum were the only people in the station. Bob was annoyed at himself for not noticing that earlier. He realized he should have taken a cab instead of going into an empty subway station.

The bum approached and started into a speech about being a wounded homeless  Vietnam Vet who needed money.  Bob hated when they lied about being veterans. It was such an obvious lie too. This guy was about thirty years too young to have been in Vietnam.

Bob tried to ignore the man, but the bum just kept getting closer and more aggressive.  Bob was about to give the man some money but then the threats started.

“You think you’re better than me?” said the bum. “You’re nothing but a four-eyed wimp. Maybe I’ll just take what I need from you without asking.”

The bum approached Bob and Bob decided that this time he was not going to run. He was not going to let someone call him a wimp and he was not going to let someone hit him in the nose.

Bob was holding a heavy computer case with a laptop in it, He swung it and hit the bum in the chest, knocking the bum  balance and onto the tracks. As the bum fell he automatically put his arms up. When the landed on the tracks one of his hands touched the third rail and he was electrocuted instantly with a sicking burning smell.

Bob immediately left the station, went up to street level and hailed a cab.

When Bob got home late that night he did not watch the news of wait for the police. He went to bed and fell into a worry -free sleep. Just before he fell asleep he realized how much easier the kill had been this time.

After that second kill Bob decided he wanted to stop being a target. He wanted to make his body as powerful as his car. He joined a gym and went every day after work.  He was still scrawnier than most people, but every day he was  getting stronger

One the weekends he started chopping wood in the back yard to build up his upper body strength and get a little Sun to make him less pale and wimpy looking. He noticed that women at work started looking at him differently.

One Sunday afternoon Bob was chopping wood in his secluded back yard when  Penny showed up. He looked up from the pile of wood and there she was stating at him.

“You look different.” said Penny. ” I like the new car in the driveway. I guess you finally got rid of the cracker box,” she said with a sarcastic tone.

Penny looked great. Bob  was about to smile at her and tell her how much he missed her and  wanted her back, but then she ruined it by saying.

With an incredibly nasty tone Penny said, “Too bad you were such a wimp when we were together. Look; I just came buy to tell you that I am filing for  divorce and that I am going to ask for a lot. Don’t be stupid enough to fight me on this. Just give me whatever I ask for. That includes that Charger in driveway. Don’t go against me on this.   I have a great lawyer and we both know you don’t have the balls for a fight.” Then she turned around and started to walk away.

Axe

Bob felt the weight of the ax in his hands and the strength in this arms.   Then he raised the ax and came up behind Penny. No one was ever going to take the Charger from him. Number three was going to be very easy.

Homeless Hibernation

“Homeless” may be the wrong word to use to describe the street people of New York. They do in fact have homes. They  carry their homes with them wherever they go.  As they wander around the streets or sleep by the side of buildings they take with them every possession they own. Many of use shopping carts. Others have taken to piling everything into and onto rolling suitcases

HOMELESS MAN 001

Now that winter is just around the corner,  and the nights are getting colder, the street people are starting to move underground along with all their possessions. This is a picture of one such man who has staked out his spot in the subway station which is below the very wealthy Tribeca section.

HOMELESS MAN 002

 

 

 

 

Three Little Words

Walter sat in his cubicle obsessing about the three little words. He used to think that the most powerful 3 words in the English language were “I love you.” Some more mean spirited people thought “Go F**k Yourself!” were the most powerful 3 words. However today Walter had found there was a worse phrase.

The phrase had come at the end of his quarterly sales performance review. Walter had known the review was going to be bad. His sales were down almost 5% from the prior quarter. He had a whole list of excuses ready. The general economy was bad. His biggest customer was re-tooling its factory.  The warehouse had shipped products late.

But his regional manager, Todd, had not yelled at Walter at all. Instead Todd had been friendly and understanding.  Then came the bomb. At the end of the review, Todd had said, “Don’t worry. You moved a lot of product for your age. You are almost selling as much as guys 30 years younger than you.”

“For my age?” thought Walter. It was not the first time Todd had used those words. Walter thought back to the company pool party the previous summer. Walter prided himself in keeping in good shape his whole life. Walter was  showing off a little swimming laps in the pool when Todd and his gorgeous girlfriend showed up.  Walter jumped out of the pool to say hello. Walter was in a really good mood until Todd said,

“Wow Walter! You are in great shape for your age.” Then Todd took off his own shirt and Walter was stunned. Todd’s body was perfect. It was like Todd spent every spare minute in the gym. How do you even get a stomach to look like that? You must have to do 500 sit-ups a day.

Washboard Stomach

But Walter told himself that it didn’t matter. Todd was younger, in better shape, made more money and was his boss. But it didn’t matter. What mattered to Walter was being the top salesman; just like he had been for the past 20 years. But now here he was at the back of the pack and Todd was telling him it was alright . An old guy couldn’t be expected to keep up with the younger people on the team. Of course Todd didn’t say that exactly. He just made that offhand “for your age” remark. But Water got the message. It was alright to get old and fall behind.

Well it wasn’t alright. Walter sat in his cubicle and decided he was going to put into practice another three word phrase. “Whatever it takes”. Walter decided he was going to be the top sales guy next quarter whatever it takes. If it killed him. If it took every dime he had. No washboard stomached kid with a model girlfriend and a full head of hair was going to tell him he was OK “for his age.”

Walter glanced around  to make sure he was alone. He stood up and saw that the other cubicles near him were empty. Then he reached in his bottom drawer an pulled out his Rolodex. He didn’t want the young people in the office to see that he still had one. They already teased him about not being very good at any of the social media applications and always needing help running the computer applications.

Rolodex

Probably none of them had ever even seen an old-fashioned Rolodex. But he still knew how to work it. All his contacts and all his little personal notes about all of his customers were in it. He knew e-mails and tweets were not going to get him more sales. He had a lot of work ahead of him. Phone calls, road trips, little “gifts” (not bribes), and a lot of dinners and heavy drinking with customers.  That was how he knew how to get the sales. He was going to stop pretending to be younger than he was. He was a dinosaur and he was going to admit it.  A big T-Rex that was going to get the prey it was after.

T REX

Walter was not in the office much for the next three months. When he was there it was just to pick up some extra samples or brochures and to use the computers. He was also exhausted. He was working 12 or 14 hours a day driving or flying to customers, and then spending long nights taking them to dinner and drinks.

When he was not entertaining customers he was sending them gifts. Actually the gifts were for their kids. He had found over the years that gifts to customer’s  kids were more effective than gifts to the customers themselves.  Wedding gifts, Bar Mitzvah  gifts, graduation gifts. He was spending more than the company allowed for these things so he actually had to dip into his own pocket.

He knew his work was increasing his sales, but he did not know how he was doing compared to everyone else. The company did not tell sales people everyone’s results until the end of the quarter. It was not like the old days when there was a big chalk board in the middle of the office with the quarter-to date totals listed by salesperson. The company felt that was “too aggressive”. But the competition was still there. In this kinder gentler world they all had to pretend to be part of a team and not the cut-throat competitors  they really were.

The end of the quarter came and as usual all the salespeople were in the office for their reviews and nervous as Hell.  One by one they would be called in and told how they did in comparison to everyone else. There were rumors that this time the bottom five percent would be fired.

The rumor looked like it might be true, since Jack Winston himself had flown in from California to give the reviews. Jack was the vice president of the whole company and had not been seen in the New York office for at least a year. Something big must be up.  “Happy Jack” was a legend in the company. Always nice, never raised his voice, but the “happy” part was just a facade. He was the hatchet man in the company. If a factory closed or a executive fired, “Happy Jack” was the guy who flew in to do it. Now he was here, and the first person he asked to speak to was Walter.

Walter nervously walked into the conference room where Jack was camped out. He looked around for Todd but did not see him.

“I guess you know why I’m here,” said Jack.

“Not exactly,” lied Walter.

“Twenty five percent,” said Jack with a smile. “How the Hell did you increase your sales by twenty five percent in this economy? Most of the rest of the team had a down quarter. The next best person after you only increased her sales by three percent. Congratulations!”

Walter was stunned. Exhausted and broke, but he had done it.

” I am going to take you out of the field, Walter, ” said Jack. “Someone has to teach these kids how to sell. Todd just wasn’t cutting it. I am making you the new Regional Manger. I know you will miss the road, but I really need you to take over that spot.”

“You mean Todd is fired?” asked Walter.

“No of course not,” said Happy Jack with a smile. “We reassigned Todd to be the regional sales manager in Mississippi. It is a smaller market that will be better suited for him. We made a mistake moving him up in the company too quickly. The big New York market was just too much for a young guy like Todd to handle this early in his career. All in all Todd actually did a good job. For his age.”

 

 

 

 

The Cheater

Mrs. Kuperinsky got more upset the more she watched. She was on the westbound Gladstone train and the good-looking middle aged man in the seat next to her was cheating.  He was trying to hide it, but a cheater could never get past Mrs. Kuperinsky.

He was in a dark expensive business suit, and he was working on the New York Times crossword puzzle in pen. “What arrogance,” thought Mrs. Kuperinsky. ” In pen.”

He continued to fill out the puzzle, but every once and a while would stop. Obviously he was stuck for a word. Then he would take out his iPhone and scroll through it. Then he would go back to the crossword puzzle and begin filling in letters again.

Obviously he was cheating. He was looking up answers on his iPhone whenever he got stuck. Mrs. Kuperinsky hated cheaters. Her husband Charles had been a cheater. But everyone loved Charles Kuperinsky. Good old “CK.”

Like the man on the train CK had  started off by cheating on little things like crossword puzzles. It seemed harmless enough at the time. Then he moved on to little white lies on their  joint tax returns. Overstating  just a little bit how much they donated to charity. Not reporting some side income when he got paid in cash. Then he began cheating with the company car. He was supposed to use it only for business, but after a while  using it every weekend for all their shopping and chores.

It had not bothered Mrs. Kuperinsky.  It never occurred to her the cheating went beyond money. They had a wonderful marriage and  CK was such fun. That was why it came as such a shock to her the day CK announced that he was leaving her for a much younger woman he had been seeing on the side for almost two years.

Ever since then Mrs. Kuperinsky had been hyper-sensitized to  the cheating all around her. She noticed what an epidemic is was and how no one was willing to stop it.  People slipped through the turnstiles going into the subway. Other people would sneak their own empty coffee cups into Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts and then fill up with coffee for free. Old ladies at restaurants filled their purses with sugar packets and dinner rolls. Drivers went through red lights in the city. On the highway 100% of the cars were breaking the law and going over the sped limit.  Everyone stole pencils, pens and paper from the supply room at work. The America she had once known was gone. No one cared about the rules anymore. No one except Mrs. Kuperinsky.

She took solace in the fact that she was making a difference by punishing one cheater at a time. She reached into her purse and pulled out a little gold colored box. “Excuse me”, she said to the man next to her. “Would you like this box of chocolates my grandchildren gave me? I didn’t have the heart to tell them I am diabetic, and it seems such a shame to just throw it away.”

The man didn’t really want to accept it, but it seemed easier to take the gift than to get into an argument. The old woman was almost forcing the box into his hands so he accepted it and put it into his suit pocket.

The train stopped at Lyons and the man got off. Mrs. Kuperinsky looked out the window and saw him get into a car next to an amazingly good looking woman with dark hair at least 30 years younger than him.   “Look at that,” Mrs. Kuperinsky thought, “he has his mistress pick him up at the train station in full view of everyone. No shame at all.” Mrs. Kuperinsky glared at him through the window as the train pulled out of the station.

Mr. Meyer got into the car with the young woman and she said, “Who is that old lady giving us the evil eye from the train Daddy?”

“I don’ t really know Amy. She just sort of started talking to me on the train and then gave me a box of chocolates for no reason.” He pulled out the box ans showed it to Amy. “Every time I took out my iPhone to check my e-mail she gave me a weird look.”

“Are you crazy Daddy? You took food from some nut case on the train? Besides, you know the doctors said chocolate is bad for your blood pressure.” Before he could object, Amy grabbed the chocolates, got out of the car and threw them into the garbage can by the train station.

“How is Mom doing?” asked Mr. Meyer.

“Not good Dad. The chemo has taken away a lot more of her hair than last week, and she is very thin and white as a ghost. Try not to look too shocked when you see her.”

Mr. Meyer and his daughter drove off to visit Mrs. Meyer in the Sloan Kettering cancer treatment center in Basking Ridge.

That night a hungry raccoon found the box of chocolates while rummaging through the garbage. He was dead  ten minutes after eating them, and the poison which Mrs. Kuperinsky had carefully injected into each candy.

As the raccoon died, Mrs. Kuperinsky was  in New York City. She had taken the return train back to New York.   She was now  sitting in Dunkin Donuts next to a young man who had brazenly come in with his own Styrofoam cup. He filled it free form the coffee bar, and the people working at Dunkin Donutss were too busy to notice.

Mrs. Kuperinsky asked the young man if he would  like some nice chocolates to go along with his coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wife Lost in Time

The doctors said it was the most interesting case they had ever seen. To Gerard it was not an interesting case, but the loss  of his wife. Physically Karen was still there, but she no longer occupied the same point in time that he did.

The doctors disagreed as to what was wrong. Some insisted it was early Alzheimer’s disease. Others said it was the effect of a series of minor strokes.   A few said it was something entirely new.  The doctors at Columbia Presbyterian hospital were writing papers about it and trying experimental medication, but nothing worked.

Karen had moved back in time 25 years. She did not understand why she was in New York, did not recognize Gerard; did not know her own home. She told the doctors she lived in   Durham North Carolina in a small apartment with her husband Jerry. She thought Gerard was one of the doctors. She did not remember that he had stopped calling himself Jerry and started using the more formal “Gerard” years ago when he had become an Executive Vice President at the company in New York.

Gerard was not looking forward to today’s meeting with the physicians. They called him into a large conference  room, where five doctors sat around a polished oak table. At the head of the table was the Chief of Neurology, Dr. Karpyshyn, looking very serious.

“Please be seated Mr. Hillerman,” the doctor said to Gerard. “We have the results of the tests on your wife.  The scans show definite damage in the parts of the brain impacting  memory. The damage appears to have come from some sort of virus rather than from trauma or any type of stroke. There are some slight similarities to certain other cases.  There have been instances of people getting a related type of virus after eating contaminated shellfish. Those people see significant reduction in their ability to form short term memories.”

“Why do you say slight similarities doctor,” answered Gerard. “It sounds like exactly the same.  As you know this all started about a week after Karen and I went to that new seafood place on 56th street. She had the mussels and I had trout.  Six other people also got sick from the mussels. It was in the news.”

‘Yes, we are aware of all of that Mr. Hillerman. We have also examined all the other people who got ill. Some developed severe headaches or nausea but none have the memory loss your wife exhibits. All of them, including your wife, have some new mutation of virus in their system, but somehow your wife was more sensitive to the effects.”

“But if there have been similar cases in the past, then there must be some sort of treatment”, said Gerard hopefully.

“Well Mister Hillerman, your wife has much different symptoms than other people who experienced viruses that affected their memory. The usual symptoms are damage to the part of the brain that forms short term memory. The person impacted remembers perfectly everything up to the point of getting the virus, then from that point forward finds it very difficult to form new memories. Your wife, on the other hand has no problem forming new memories, but has lost a large section of her long term memory. She appears to be simply missing  25 years of her past.”

“So what’s next?” asked Gerard solemnly. “Will she regain those memories?”

“The truth sir is that we do not know. We do know that the virus has caused visible physical damage to your wife’s brain. Unlike many other types of cells in the body, brain cells do not regenerate.  We will continue to study your wife and try various treatments, but you should prepare yourself for the fact that the most likely scenario is  the memories your wife has lost will never return.”

Gerard left the hospital in a state of shock. When he got back to his apartment, he searched through the closets and pulled out the boxes containing the photos  and other mementos of their life together.  He and Karen had kept meaning to scan the old photos and upload them to the computer, but somehow had never gotten around to it.

Gerard sat in the middle of the living room floor. Around him were scattered all the pictures taken over the last 25 years. Gerard spent hours looking at them and thought of their life together.

He picked up one picture that had been taken on a vacation to the Outer Banks with some friends. Karen and Gerard were standing together smiling on the beach. Karen was beautiful in her mini-bikini, and Gerard in his bathing suit was showing off his massive muscles and washboard stomach.  His brown hair was long in the style of the time.

“No wonder she doesn’t recognize me” Gerard said out loud to himself. “Karen still looks great but I  have really let myself go.” He got up and walked over to the mirror. What he saw looking back at him was an overweight flabby middle- aged man with grey hair and glasses.

When he had first met Karen in North Carolina, he was a truck driver and she was a secretary at the trucking company. They fell in love immediately. Jerry was always ambitions and Karen said he was the hardest working person she had even known. He took every  chance to work overtime, and even helped unload the truck himself, although the rules said he did not have to.

When they were first married they lived in a little apartment with an ugly shag carpet and bean bag chairs. They spent  nothing on luxuries. They saved so that they could buy their  own truck, and  start their own company. They both worked ridiculously long hours, and Karen even took a job as a  waitress on the weekends. When they had enough money for the minimum down payment on a truck, they started “K&J Trucking”. They got fancy letterhead and a phone number and pretended they were a big company. In reality, there was one truck and the office of K&J Trucking was a section of the cramped apartment where Karen manned the phone, negotiated the rates and sent out the invoices. They had never worked so hard or been so happy.

A few years later, K&J Trucking had two trucks, then three then five. Jerry picked up a picture showing Karen and Jerry standing in front of the new offices of K&J in an industrial park with all the employees around them. He looked closely at the photo and noticed that Karen still looked great but that he had started to put on a little weight and get a touch of grey in his hair.

K&J Trucking grew and grew until one day they got a phone call that  would change their lives. A New York based company wanted to purchase K&J. It also wanted the two of them to move to New York and work for the company. Karen was not sure about it but all their friends told them to do it. Their friends said they would be crazy to turn down that much money.

So here they were all these years later. A successful “power couple” living in a luxury condominium in New York. They had even been mentioned in New York Magazine  on several occasions.  Everything was great right up until they decided to try the new seafood place.

The next day, Gerard gathered some of the photographs and went to the hospital. The idea was that the photos would bring back her memory just like what always happened in movies and T.V. shows.

It did not go like he planned. At first the pictures seemed to cheer her up; but then then she just got  more and more confused.

“That’s a picture of Jerry and me at the beach, ” Karen said with a smile. Then she became agitated. “Why do you have that photograph doctor? Where is Jerry? Why am I in a hospital? Was there an accident? Was Jerry injured! What is it you are not telling me!”

Soon Karen was screaming at the top of her lungs. She jumped out of bed and was trying to find her street clothing so that she could leave the hospital and go home to North Carolina. It did not stop until a doctor rushed in and injected her with a sedative so powerful she fell asleep.

That was the last time Gerard went to the hospital to see Karen. The doctors advised him that his visits were only confusing and upsetting Karen, especially when he tried explain to her that he was her husband.

” With your permission, we will be moving her to a psychiatric facility,” said Dr. Karpyshyn. “There is nothing more we can do for her here. She will need therapy to accept what has happened to her. My recommendation is that you do not visit her until the psychiatrists believe she is ready.”

So Karen was moved to a  psychiatric institute in New Jersey and Gerard lived alone in Manhattan. He went to work every day, but people there started to gossip about him.  They whispered that he was planning  on quietly divorcing Karen and finding a new woman.  Some said he already had a girl on the side.  All the signs of a romantic interest were there. First he got contact lenses instead of his glasses. Then he started having salads for lunch and working out at a gym after work. The more the pounds dropped off him the more his co-workers whispered that he must be having an affair. Then one Monday he came to work with his hair a luxurious brown instead of the grey it had been on Friday. It was hard for people not to burst out laughing.

Gerard continued to check in with the doctors at the institute but there had been no change. Karen was physically fine and was capable of intelligent conversations, but kept asking when she could go back to North Carolina and where here husband was. Any attempt to tell her that 25 years had passed made her hysterical to the point that medication was required.  They told Gerard that the most likely scenario was that Karen would be institutionalized for the rest of her life. Of course, they would need his permission for this. They asked him to sign the commitment papers.

Instead, Gerard told them about the Time Machine he had built and how all their help would be required to get the machine to work.  If Karen needed to live 25 years ago to re-join the real world, then his Time Machine would bring her there. The doctors fought him at first but finally agreed that a Time Machine may be the only hope for the woman.

Karen was in her room at the institute, sitting in a chair and staring out at the long well-kept lawn like she did most days.  She turned sadly and looked at Dr. Epstein as he entered her room with  a large assistant named Joseph.

“Mrs. Hillerman we have been able to locate your husband,” said Dr. Epstein. “He was apparently on a long-haul trucking run and was unaware that you had gotten ill.”

“Is he coming here?” asked Karen eagerly. “When can I see him?”

“It is better than that” said the doctor, with what he hoped looked like a genuine smile. We are going to drive you back to your apartment in North Carolina. We have the van all ready. I was going to go to a conference at Duke anyway so it will be on the way. We should start immediately. You can sleep in the van.

As they went to the van, Karen was so excited she could hardly keep still. “It’s  a long drive from here, but I don’t think I will dose off.”

Big Joseph  came along and his job was  to make sure that Karen did fall asleep.  When their long drive finally got into North Carolina, he offered her a soda. One  which Dr. Epstein had carefully prepared. Karen fell asleep shortly after finishing it. The doctor and Joseph took turns driving so that they could go through non-stop while Karen slept.

When they arrived in Durham they followed carefully the directions Gerard had given them to the apartment building. Karen was still sleeping and they carefully lifted her out of the van and carried her into the apartment where Gerard was waiting. They lay the sleeping Karen on the couch and Dr. Epstein shook hands with Gerard.

“Is she alright?” asked Gerard.

“She is fine. We gave her a very safe medication. When you are ready I will administer an injection and she will wake up gently after that. Let me know when you want to start.”

Gerard was visibly nervous. “You know the idea seemed great at the time but now I am not so sure. I have been working on this for months.  This apartment looks almost exactly like the one we used to live in. I got bean bag chairs. I even found shag carpet. God was that hard to find. It is so ugly no wonder they stopped making them. I have been working out and trying to make myself look as much as possible the way I did when Karen and I first met. But you know, there really is no such thing as a Time Machine.” Then Gerard realized that he was babbling so he stopped talking.

Dr. Epstein patted him on the shoulder and said gently, “You have done all that you can.  You should leave the apartment now and I will give her the injection.  Wait about 20 minutes and then come back in. If this works, she will recognize you as her husband.”

“And if not?” asked Gerard.

“Then sir I am afraid that she may never accept that you are really her husband.”

Gerard left the apartment and Dr. Epstein injected Karen. He and Joseph made coffee, and sat in the bean bag chairs. “Remember,” the doctor told Joseph. “Lots of small talk. If she asks about the trip just say she fell asleep and we were making such good time we decided to drive straight through.”

Karen opened her eyes and mumbled, “how much longer until we..” Then she sat up. She stood up and silently walked around the apartment. She examined each of the pictures on the walls individually and did not say a word. Joseph and Doctor Epstein exchanged worried glances. They put down their coffee in case they had to get up quickly to restrain her.

“Why we’re here already.  You all let me sleep right through the best part of the trip.” Her voice quavered slightly like she realized things were not exactly right.  “Where is Jerry? Where is my husband?”

“He called and said he would be here soon. You know Mrs. Hillerman, you have been at the hospital for a long time. Everything may not be exactly the same as before you got sick.”

Karen was about to answer when the apartment door opened and Gerard came in. Karen looked at him intently. A full two minutes passed in absolute silence. There were four people in the apartment and not one made a sound.

Then Karen ran over and threw her arms around her husband and said. “Jerry! Jerry! I missed you so much. I’ve been very sick and I couldn’t find you anywhere, but here you are.” Tears streamed down her face, and Jerry was crying too.

Jerry held her in his arms and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll always be here for you. Always.”

Dr. Epstein and Josephs got up quietly and slipped out the apartment door.

When the got back in to the van Dr. Epstein admitted. “You know I never thought it would actually work.  It was just a way to keep Mr. Hillerman busy while his mind got reconciled to the fact that his wife would be institutionalized permanently.  I never really though I would live to see an actual Time Machine.”

“What happens next?” asked Joseph.

“I have no idea. She might accept this new reality, or she might realize that something is wrong and have that trigger a psychotic episode. A colleague of mine from Duke Medical school is going to monitor the situation.”

Back in apartment Gerard Hillerman knew it would never last.  As he hugged his wife, he knew it was only a matter of time before she knew it was a fraud. It didn’t matter how much he worked out, he was not the same man from 25 years ago. When Karen stepped out the door she would see that Durham was not the same town from a quarter century before, but now a large city.

What would happen then, Gerard did not know. All he knew was that right now right here he had successfully brought them back in time and the only woman he had ever loved was once again safe in his arms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passing for Normal – An Asperger Success Story

Louis rode on the PATH and concentrated hard on acting normal. He made sure not to rock back and forth, or stare at someone he found interesting or talk to himself. His job coach had trained him how to not do any of those things, even though the urge was always there.

“Once people get to know you they will like you.  But first you have to work very hard to fit in, so that they want to get to know you, ” the coach had said.

Louis did not realize that no one on the PATH train would have actually said anything, even if he was acting strange. Louis was big and very muscular; the type people would instinctively not interfere with.

asp 8

In fact, despite his looks Louis was a very gentle soul. He was naturally big, and his job coach had encouraged him to work out at a gym. “People in good shape have an easier time getting hired,” the coach had said. “If someone looks sloppy or overweight people doing the hiring naturally think that shows a lack of discipline and they don’t want to hire that person.”

Louis had joined a health club, but had a lot of trouble at first.  Like most people with Asperger’s Syndrome, he was a little clumsy and uncoordinated.  He had trouble with the various machines, and almost gave up after a couple of trips. Then he discovered the free weights and found they were very simple to use. He just watched what the other guys did and began to really like the routine and repetition.

weights

He went to the health club at exactly the same time every day, and worked out with weights. Over the months he became extremely muscular, but that was not why he continued.  He liked the pattern.  Sticking to exact routines was how Lois coped with the stress of his existence. He had striven to replace “strange” routines like rocking or talking to himself with routines that “normal” people do like taking the train at exactly the same time every day and doing the exact same work-out routine every time at the health club. More than anything else in his life Louis wanted to fit in with the Normal people.

At the World Trade Center station, Louis got off, followed the crowd up the escalator and headed over to West Street. At 200 West Street he entered the new Goldman Sachs building for work.

Goldman Sachs

Louis loved his job at Goldman Sachs. The previous year the company had made a big push to hire special needs people and Louis could hardly believe that he got hired. “Goldman Sachs is the top of the top Louis!”, beamed the job coach. “My training really paid off for you.”

The job coach and the special needs hiring may have been the reason Louis got hired, but the patterns were the reason he was so successful at Goldman Sachs. Louis could see patterns in the market data that no one else could. He sat and looked at all the many computer screens and monitors with their flashing numbers and graphs and could sense when there was going to be a sudden shift in a market.

At first the Traders did not believe him. They did not want to hear from the “big nut job” as they referred to  him. Then after a few months they started to notice how his market calls were better than anything else they had. Better than the computer programs, better than the Traders “gut feel” and better than the other market analysts who had been doing the job for many years. They stopped referring to him as the “big nut job” and started calling him “Golden Lou”.

At company parties the Traders would try to talk to Louis and get him drinks trying to find out his secrets.  Louis hated the parties. Being in a room with a lot of people you don’t know well, and having to make  small talk is about the most stressful situation a person with Asperger’s Syndrome can go through. Still Louis attended the parties so he could pass for normal.

Although Louis loved his job he still felt  nervous and uncomfortable around all the other workers – except for Victoria.

Louis thought Victoria was wonderful, although he was too shy to tell her. She was beautiful and nice. He loved that she always called him Louis. He never called him “Lou” or “Big Lou” of “Golden Lou”or “Louie”.   She was never loud or obnoxious and never swore. Unfortunately, he knew that she never really noticed him.

In fact, Louis was wrong about Victoria. Louis could read markets perfectly, but other humans, especially women, were a mystery to him. Victoria actually liked Louis very much. She thought he was handsome and intelligent and  she understood why he had trouble fitting in.  But Victoria herself was also very shy, and did not know exactly how to approach him.

Then one day  Louis did something very uncharacteristic. Instead of  eating lunch at his desk he went  out to Godiva and purchased a box of dark semi-sweet chocolates.  He knew that it was Victoria’s birthday, and that she loved semi-sweet chocolates. He was going to take a leap and give her the box.

Godiva

But when he got back to the office and went over to her desk, it was surrounded by three other young men. One of them had an iPad and everyone was laughing at a video they were watching. It was a video of Victoria in a bikini wearing a hat with devil’s horns. She was dancing around and singing in a terrible voice. The guy with the iPad was Jimmy, the office comedian.

Louis did not know what was going on, but he could see that Victoria was not enjoying the video.  The guys were all laughing, but at her desk Victoria had her head in her hands and looked like she was about  to cry.  “Please turn it off,” she said over and over.

Louis walked up behind the guy holding the iPad.  Louis put his massive hand on Jimmy’s shoulder, bent down and said quietly in the guy’s ear.  “She told you to turn it off .” Jimmy turned around and looked up to see the deadly serious face of Louis.

“Sure Lou. No problem.” Jimmy turned off the video and he and the other guys quickly slunk  back to their work stations.

Victoria looked up with tears in her eyes and said. “My ex-boyfriend posted it. We we fooling around at a pool party and I sang ‘She’s go the devil in her heart’ with that stupid hat on. He posted it just to be mean And on my birthday too. Then he emailed some of the people here giving them the link to it .”

In his Asperger monotone voice Louis said, “I would never be mean to you. Happy Birthday.” Then Louis placed the box of chocolates on the desk and started to walk away.

But Victoria motioned for him to sit at the chair next to her. She opened the box and said, “let’s share these.”

Louis sat down and took one of the chocolates. A strange feeling came over Louis, and he realized that it was something he had never felt before.  As he and Victoria ate the candy and Victoria told funny stories about her ex-boyfriend, Louis realized what the feeling was. He realized that for the first time in his life he was completely and totally at ease being with another person. He understood what it was like to actually be normal instead of just pretending.

 

 

 

Cat Heaven And The Floating Sumo Wrestlers by Gregory Farrell

During the day, Juan was the type of man nobody noticed in New York . He was in the country illegally, so he had to keep his head down and work hard.

At  5 am every morning, he was working with a team of other laborers unloading fruit and vegetables from the Fresh Direct trucks and sorting them for delivery to the various apartments in Tribeca.

GREG PICTURES 041

Usually he did not get to make any deliveries. Only the guys the boss liked the best got to do that. Deliveries meant tips at the wealthy apartments, and so everyone fought to be the delivery guys.

It was a bad winter, which was good for Juan. After helping to unload the trucks, Juan could pick up some extra cash by shoveling and salting sidewalks for the stores. Sometimes the store owners paid in full, and sometimes they said the snow was not really that deep and they paid less than they had promised. But there was a really nice old woman on Greene Street who had a little cafe. She always found some small job for Juan to do. She would have him sweep the cafe, or clean the windows or empty the trash. She always paid in full in cash and always gave him a little snack when he was done. She reminded him of his abuela back home.

Juan tried not to think about home very much. When the Narcos started moving in to his town he made the mistake of not showing them the respect they demanded.  He would not pay any tribute no matter how small. He had wanted to fight them but it was his abuela who had convinced him to leave and run to the U.S.  She told him that if he fought the Narcos, not only would he die, but that the Narcos would take revenge and kill the whole family including her.

Feeling like a coward Juan had slipped across the border into the U.S. Like most other illegals he took whatever job was offered. He kept moving further and further north, until finally he found himself in one of the richest sections of New York. He was one of the many invisible people in Tribeca who took care of all the menial tasks for the very rich.

He had found small illegal sleeping quarters in the basement of a clothing store on Spring Street. Years before,  the manager of the store had paid a plumber to hook up a shower, sink and toilet in the basement, and had been renting it out for cash ever since. Juan not only paid cash, but also cleaned the store and stocked the shelves for free. Despite this, Juan still thought he had a good deal.

The only drawback was that when the store closed for the night, Juan was locked in his windowless basement apartment. The manager probably could have rented it for a lot more money except for this.  When people wanted apartments in Soho they wanted to be able to go out at night.

Juan did not mind being locked in at night. He was so physically exhausted by the end of each day that he was happy to just sleep on the little army cot tucked in beside overflowing boxes of women’s overpriced shoes.

How the cat got in Juan could never figure out. There must have been some small secret hole to the outside somewhere in the basement, but Juan cold never find it. All he knew was that one night he was scared half to death when the cat  woke him from a deep sleep by jumping on the cot. It was only five degrees outside that night and the cat’s fur was very cold. The cat meowed and meowed and Juan realized it was half starving. Juan rummaged though the mini fridge which also served as his bedside night table. He gave the cat some milk and pieces of a left over roast beef sandwich. The cat wolfed it down and purred loudly. Then the cat jumped back to the cot, curled into a ball and fell promptly to sleep.

Juan did not toss the cat out of the cot, but just squeezed next  to it on the bed. Juan found the cat’s presence oddly soothing, and soon Juan fell back asleep.

In the morning the cat was gone, but it returned each night for dinner and a nap on the cot. Juan sadly realized that the cat’s visits were the best part of his entire day.

That’s when Juan started dreaming about being someone important.  The dream about Cat Heaven seemed so real that when Juan woke up he was sure he had actually been there. It was a beautiful place.

Cat Heaven was in a giant field of green grass where it was sunny and warm during the day and cool and pleasant at night. The field was full of mice and butterflies which the cats would chase.  In the middle of the field was a large Victorian Mansion with the doors open. Inside the mansion there were comfortable couches and easy chairs for the cats to curl up and sleep on.  There were bowls of fresh water and other bowls with crunchy cat food nuggets.

The cats were very happy there but there was one thing missing. There was no human to pet them and brush them and speak soothingly to them. So out of all the people in the world, the cats chose Juan to come to cat heaven and take care of them. He wandered through the mansion, petting and talking to the cats, periodically picking one up to give it a big hug.

When Juan woke up the next morning he felt that he had really been there. It did not seem like a dream at all. Then he started worrying that he was going crazy. He realized that since he left Mexico he had had no friends, and usually went through the entire day without speaking more than a few words to anyone.

The next dream was even stranger. He was the most important man in a small village in Japan. He was still Mexican, but no one seemed to notice since he spoke fluent Japanese There were two Sumo wrestlers who lived in the village and they needed to get to a big tournament in Tokyo to defend the honor of the village. People had cars, but they were all too small to fit even one Sumo wrestler in.

Then Juan had an idea. There was one big flatbed truck in the village. The Sumo wrestlers could ride on it, but if it bounced around on the rutted dirt road they would bounce off the truck, or at the very least  get injured. But Juan came up with the idea of taking a big fiberglass pool and securing it to the back of the truck. The villagers filled it with warm  water and the Sumo wrestlers climbed in and floated comfortably while Juan drove the tuck.

All was going well until Juan came to the last sharp corner on the road out of the village. The combined weight of the water and the Sumo wrestlers caused the truck to tip. Water flooded the village and the Sumo wrestlers rode a wave through the village, finally ending up safely in a muddy rice paddy.

That’s when Juan woke up an realized that he was simultaneously drowning and choking.  The store was on fire. A raging inferno had caused the sprinklers to turn on. But they had not been tested in many years, and the sudden pressure caused a pipe to break in the basement and the windowless room was fast filling with water. It was already higher than the side of the cot, and water had been getting in Juan’s mouth while he slept.

He ran up the stairs, but the steel door to the main floor of the store was bolted shut. A thought flashed though Juan’s mind how unfair it would be for him to have worked so hard to escape the Narcos just to drown in the basement of a women’s shoe store.

That’s when he heard the cat meowing. It was swimming in frantic circles in the cold basement water which was already as high as Juan’s chest. Juan scooped up the cat and held it in his arms. The cat stayed there for a minute and then jumped out of his arms to a little brick ledge near the top of the wall.

Juan watched the cat intently. He knew it was his only hope. Somehow it got into the basement every night. It must know a way out. It would be big enough for a cat, but what about a man?

The cat ran along the ledge and then Juan saw the hole in the bricks in the top corner of the basement. The cat scampered through the hole, but just as Juan had feared, the hole was just barely wide enough for the scrawny cat.

Juan reached down into the freezing cold water and found the mini fridge. He dragged it to the corner and stood on it. He pulled himself up the brick ledge and put his mouth to the hole the cat had gone through.

Then he screamed. He screamed louder than he ever had in his life. He let out all the fear and anger and frustration he had kept pent up his whole life and just screamed over and over and over. He had left Mexico without a fight, but he was damned if he was going to leave this Earth without one.

He was still screaming when the water reached his chin, and the light shined in his eyes almost blinding him. From the other side of the hole he heard the fireman yell, “Chief! There’s someone in there! Jump back buddy! We’re going to use the jackhammer.”

The rest of the night was a blur and he didn’t remember much about it later. He remembers the sound of the firemen breaking in, and the ride in the ambulance. He was only in the hospital overnight for observation since he had not sustained any injuries.

Juan assumed he would be deported back to Mexico, but that was before he understood the power of becoming a celebrity.  He ended up on all the New York news stations, both English and Spanish.  He became the “poster-boy”  for the mistreatment of illegal immigrants, although he was not  really sure what that meant.

People kept wanting him to talk about how he had been locked in a basement and left to die, but he would not. He did not think he had been mistreated, and he knew the fire was an accident. People kept wanting to give him money but he would not take it. For hundreds of years his family had been hard workers and had never taken a handout from anyone.

All he wanted was another place to sleep and to find his cat. After a while the public lost  interest in him and assumed he had moved back to Mexico. He did not. You have probably passed him in Tribeca or Soho many times and never noticed him. He is still one of the anonymous men unloading trucks in the morning. He has found another illegal place to sleep, this time in the attic of a grocery store. He figured it is easier to get out of an attic than a basement if there is ever a problem.

After work Juan wanders near the burnt out building on Spring Street where the shoe store used to be. In his pocket he has a small bag of dry cat food which he shakes periodically while searching for the scrawny friend who saved his life by showing him the hole in the basement.

After a long day of unloading trucks Juan is glad to get back to his attic room and flop down on the bed. He always falls asleep immediately, and always dreams of Cat Heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Good Priest – By Gregory F. Farrell

It was 7 PM and old  Monsignor Fallon sat  at the big oak desk in the den of the Rectory. It had been a long day already and it was not yet over. The Rectory was silent except for the ticking of the  grandfather clock in the hall, and the purring of the scruffy orange tabby cat  who was sleeping curled up on top of the desk.

The tabby had made room for himself next to a large file folder which the Monsignor had placed in the middle of the desk and was trying not to look at. Fallon reached out and petted the cat, which responded by increasing the volume of its purrs.

The day had not been going well even before the Fallon had received  the file. It had started as usual with the Monsignor performing 8am Mass to the handful of senior citizens who had ventured out on this cold snowy February day.  After Mass, Fallon drove his battered old Toyota to St. Joseph’s hospital. The car slid so much through the snow, that he realized it was time to finally get some new tires for the old rust bucket.

Once at the hospital the Monsignor had to perform Last Rites for two separate patients. The first was for a 94 year-old woman who had finally succumbed to pneumonia. It was not really a sad occasion. She was surrounded by her large and loving family at the end, and after all, she had lived a very long life.

The second patient however, was an entirely different mater. A 17 year old girl who had been driving very carefully home from the Mall in her parent’s car  the prior afternoon was hit by a drunk driving a Chevrolet Suburban. The drunk was fine, but the girl was in a coma and not expected to survive the day. The prognosis  was so bad that the family asked the Monsignor to perform last rites. It was heartbreaking to even look down at the battered girl who was hooked up to an array of  I.V. tubes and breathing equipment.

The girl’s uncle was a police detective named Sean Ryan. He was also a member of the church and Monsignor Fallon knew him well from various church functions. They got coffee in the hospital cafeteria.

“I arrested the drunk personally,” said Ryan.

“Well, I guess that’s something,” replied the Monsignor.

“No. It’s nothing. I am tired of arresting people after something happens. What good does that do? I want to be able to prevent things from happening. Do you know this guy had six prior tickets for drunk driving? Six! It was just a matter of time before something like this happened, but the system kept letting this guy go.”

There was not really anything the Monsignor could say to help, so the men parted and Fallon continued on his rounds visiting patients in the hospital. That’s when he heard Father Manzo calling to him from down the hall.

Monsignor Fallon sighed. He hated Father Manzo. Fallon knew it was wrong to actually hate another man of the cloth, but Manzo was just an annoying little shit. He was only 28 years old, and he was the Bishop’s right hand man. It was well know that any “suggestion” or “recommendation” by Father Manzo was actually a direct order from the Bishop himself.

Manzo was Bishop Ercolino’s “No” man. The Bishop was very clever in this. A lot of Bishop’s surrounded themselves with “yes men”, but a “no man” was actually much more useful. No bad news ever came directly from Bishop Ercolino. It was Father Manzo who would tell the hospital there were no funds available for a new pediatric wing. It was Manzo who said “no” to a senior center in the parish, or a Kindergarten program at the school.

Of course Monsignor Fallon and all the other Monsignors and Priests in the diocese realized that the Bishop was playing Manzo for a fool. Bishop Ercolino had big plans for himself in the Church.  He a very clever politician, and he was well on his way to being Cardinal Ercolino someday.  To do that he wanted to be popular with the public and well like in Rome.

It was  Father Manzo who privately delivered any bad news, but it was Bishop Ercolino who very publicly delivered all good news.  When Catholic High won the State  Lacrosse championship, it was the Bishop who presented the trophy while the T.V. cameras rolled.  When the Governor decided to have a prayer breakfast, it was Bishop Ercolino who was seated right next to him at the head table, and made the front page of every paper in the State. Of course the biggest prize of all was when the Pope himself toured the State last Winter. When the Pope’s flight out was delayed due to snow, he could have stayed anywhere overnight, but he chose to stay at Bishop Ercolino’s residence to wait out the storm.

***********************************

“Monsignor!”

Fallon realized that Father Manzo had been standing next to him speaking, while Fallon had let his mind drift into thoughts about the Bishop. Fallon hoped this was just his way of avoiding Manzo rather than an early sign of senility.

“As I was saying, I have some good new for you,”  continued Manzo. “The Bishop is going to be sending a good priest to help in your parish. He can take a lot of the wight off your shoulders. For years you have been asking for help and now it has arrived! All you have to do is monitor him, write a formal report and then he is there full time to help you.”

Monsignor was immediately suspicious about getting good news from Father Manzo. Then he realized something odd about the wording Manzo had used.  “What do you mean ‘monitor’? And what kind of report?  Monsignor Fallon in the past had sometimes had priests come and help out for a while, and there was never anything said about monitoring or reports.

That’s when Manzo explained that there had been certain “allegations” made about this good priest. Mazo gave Fallon the file folder about the priest and said, “As you know Church handles these matters internally, just as it has done for thousands or years. This file is the full investigation of these allegations. It is all rumor and innuendo.  However, we do think it is best to transfer him to a new parish to stop the rumors, and protect the reputation of both the Church and this good priest. He will come to your parish and you will monitor him just to make sure there are no problems. Then write a report to me stating everything is fine and we can close this file permanently.”

*****************************

Monsignor Fallon reached across the desk and opened the file once more. He carefully re-read everything in it for the third time. These were more than mere “allegations”. The parents of three separate children had made complaints to the Church that their boys had been abused by this “good priest”. None of the parents had gone to the police, trusting that the Church would handle the matter properly.

None of these children were in the same grades and the children did not even know each other. However the stories were all remarkably similar. When the “good priest” had been asked about the allegations, he admitted being alone with each of the boys for considerable periods of time, even though there was no logical reason for him to have been. He kept repeating  that the boys must have somehow misinterpreted his completely natural concern for their development as good Christians.

The tabby cat got up walked across the desk to be petted. Monsignor realized that over the years he had come to appreciate animals more and people less.  Animals were always very direct. It was humans that lied. In reading through the file there was no doubt about who was telling the truth and who was not.

Monsignor Fallon slid open the top drawer of the desk and found his address book. After a short search he found the number he was looking for and dialed.

“Detective Ryan. This is Monsignor Fallon. Remember how this morning you were taking about how you would like to be able to prevent future crimes? Well I have a detailed file about a child molester, which the police need to see. Yes, yes I can meet you at the police station right now. I will drive over and meet you in the lobby in about 20 minutes.”

Monsignor Fallon gave the cat one last pat, and then picked up the file.

************************

A year and a half later Monsignor Fallon was once again sitting behind the big oak desk in the den of the rectory. It was summer and the windows were open to a warm breeze. The meadow behind the church was filling up with people setting up tales and grills for the annual church picnic.  The Monsignor was trying to finish up some work on the church finances before going out to join the picnic. The big tabby cat had already deserted him and gone outside to steal food scraps from the picnic.

A lot had happened in the last year and a half. The pedophile priest was now behind bars in isolation, scared of the day when he might be forced into the prison’s general population. It was well known what happens to child molesters in prison.

Bishop Ercolino had actually turned the scandal to his advantage. He vowed to be the one who finally “cleaned up the Catholic Church” and made sure to work vigorously with the police to help get the priest convicted.

Of course, somebody in the Church had to take the fall for the Church’s attempted cover-up. That someone was Father Manzo.  It was Manzo who had not turned over the original file to the police. It was Manzo who had tried to have the priest transferred to Monsignor Fallon’s parish. In reality, everything Manzo  had done was done at the direction of the Bishop, but there was nothing in the records that even suggested the Bishop’s involvement.

But even in the public outrage, Father Manzo never tried to implicate the Bishop. He kept his mouth shut and took the rap in a way which would have made any Mafia Don proud.  After he testified for the prosecution, the Church quietly  transferred him to a mission in central Africa working with AIDS victims.

Bishop Ercolino was more popular than ever with the public. At last they had found a man who they could trust to make some changes within the church. The Pope was so  impressed that Ercolino was promoted to be Archbishop of New York. One short step from Cardinal.

Archbishop Ercolino was angry at Monsignor Fallon, but Ercolino was too smart to waste his time trying to take revenge. He would just leave Fallon alone in his little suburban parish.

***********************

Monsignor Fallon gave up trying to make sense of the parish financial records and turned off the computer. He got up and went outside to join his parishioners at the picnic. As he walked around the tables everyone greeted him warmly.

In the Catholic Church the title Monsignor has an odd connotation. You get no extra power or privileges with the title. When an old priest reaches a certain age and it is obvious he will rise no further in the hierarchy he is given the title Monsignor as a sort of consolation prize.

But Fallon had never cared about moving up in the church. He had gotten everything he ever wanted. He walked through the picnic and smiled at the people he cared so very deeply about. He was, after all, a very good priest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spider Cracks and the Invisible boy – by Gregory F. Farrell

The snow crunched beneath Tommy’s boots as he marched towards the park pulling his sled. The sun was just coming up and the air was so cold he had to inhale through his nose so it would not hurt his throat. The snow had a thin layer of ice on it, which made pulling the sled easier. It was a good thing, since the sled was made heavier due to Tommy’s little dog Macy riding on top of it.

Tommy had not wanted to bring Macy, but the dog started barking when it saw Tommy going outside, and Tommy wanted to get away without anyone hearing him. Usually that was not a problem at all. Tommy was a very quiet boy in a very loud family. Combined with the fact that he was the youngest, and small for his age meant that most of the time he felt invisible. Sometimes he could go a whole day without saying a word to anyone and no one even noticed.

But Tommy was much stronger and more ambitious than any of his loud brothers or sisters would have guessed. In the winter, when they were all huddled inside watching T.V. or playing video games, Tommy went to the big hill at Cumming’s Park with his sled whenever he could.

His dream was to accomplish what the big kids at the park said only a few had ever been able to do. The conditions had to be perfect and today was the day. The snow was packed down and icy.  Kids had been sledding down the largest hill all week, smoothing the snow and making it as fast as an Olympic luge track. The big kids said if you could go fast enough, you could get all the way down the hill; skid across the small road that ran through the park, and then down another small hill  to the lake. They said that five years ago Kevin Dunn had made it all the way to the middle of the lake.

The only way to do it was very early in the morning before the old men volunteers got there. The park was always so packed with kids that the old guys had started a group to direct sled traffic and keep the kids from smashing into each other. And they never, never let anyone ride a sled across the road and down to the lake. The old guys loved saying,  “a kid on a sled is no match for a car”. The old guys loved lecturing the kids about the dangers of everything.

But when Tommy got to Cumming’s Park there were no old guys yet and no kids either. Tommy and Macy stood alone at the top of the hill looking over the vast expanse of snow. The hill, then the lightly plowed road, then the smaller hill then the lake.

Tommy gently lifted Macy off the sled and put him to one side telling him to stay. Then Tommy took a running start holding the sled in front of him like a shield. He leapt off his feet and threw himself onto the sled, almost knocking the wind out of himself as he did so.

The speed was amazing. He felt the cold air rushing across his face, and could hear Macy barking excitedly at the top of the hill. Then suddenly, he was at the road, and the sled’s metal runners made a terrible screeching sound as they scraped against the pavement. The sled slowed, but just as he feared it might stop, he was across the road and the sled picked up speed again as it started down the second hill towards the lake.

Then the sled moved with a wonderful smoothness as it began to glide out onto the frozen lake. The town had cleaned all the snow off the lake so that people could ice skate. Further and further, past Kevin Dunn’s record, past the rubber orange cones.

The sled finally stopped and Tommy lay on the sled breathing heavily and feeling exhilarated. Macy had run down the hill and was pacing at the edge of the lake excitedly. It was just then that Tommy saw the first of the spider cracks in the ice begin to appear, and realized too late what the rubber orange cones meant.  The old guys placed them wherever the ice got too thin.

From living in that part of Connecticut Tommy actually knew a lot about ice. He knew better than to get off the sled. If he stood up all his weight would be on two feet instead of being spread out, and he would certainly fall through the ice into the freezing cold water. He spread his arms and placed his gloved hands on the ice, and slowly pushed  himself backwards. As he did so the spider clacks multiplied, and the ice started to make small splitting sounds. He listened desperately for any sound of the deeper toned sounds indicating a major split in the ice.

It took him almost half an hour, but he was finally able to push himself backwards, past the orange cones, back to the safety of the ground. He sat down in the snow exhausted, while Macy licked his face merrily.

When Tommy and Macy made it back to the house the rest of the family was having pancakes and hot chocolate and Tommy realized he was starving. Tommy’s mother said something about thanking him for taking Macy out for a walk, but Tommy was too tired and hungry to listen.

The rest of that Saturday, Tommy spent huddled on the couch under a big blanket with his brothers and sisters watching T.V. and drinking hot chocolate while Macy slept at their feet. Tommy realized he really didn’t care any more  about breaking Kevin Dunn’s record, and that somehow he didn’t seem to be invisible any more.

 

 

 

 

Iranian Secrets by Adam & Gregory Farrell

Professor Atash Nikahd sat in his cramped office in the top floor of  the foreign studies department of Columbia University. The office had a desk, two chairs, and a variety of computers and computer parts. The rest of the space was strewn with old books, newspapers and magazines in a variety of languages including Farsi, Hebrew, French and German, all of which the professor spoke fluently.

Despite the tight quarters, there was a second man in the office. He name was Jack Kelly, and he was what as known in political circles as a “smooth talker”. Despite having no formal title, he was the man the President sent in whenever a particularly delicate situation needed attention.

Kelly leaned forward and began, “Professor, there is some concern about a paper you are preparing for possible publication.”

“Please, call me Atash. Yes I have been working on this for almost two years. I have proof, absolute proof that the Foreign Minister of Iran has been working with other high members of the government to steal ancient Persian artifacts from the museums and sell them outside the country to private collectors. They have amassed millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts while robbing the Iranian people of their heritage.”

“Those are very strong allegations professor.”

“They are not allegations!  I have shipping documents, photos of the artwork, even copies of bank statements. When I present the paper at the conference it will be a sensation!”

Despite the professor’s agitated tone, Kelly’s voice remained calm and soothing. “Well you see Atash, that sensation is exactly what the President is concerned about. Our negotiations with Iran are at a delicate stage. We are on the verge of full diplomatic relations, and Iran’s Foreign Minister has been very helpful to us. The President is very impressed with your other work Atash, but as a favor to him he would like you not to present this paper.”

“The President of the United States knows who I am?”

“Of course, Atash. In fact he read your History Middle Eastern Kings while he was in college,” lied Kelly smoothly.  

The professor was flattered but very upset. “But you don’t understand. The academic world is cut throat. I am not even a full professor. Columbia could drop me at any time. I have devoted the last two years of my life to this. I spent all my personal savings for travel and research. And of course, I had to pay bribes every step of the way to get the documents I needed. I was gone from the university so much that Columbia has threatened to fire me.  Even my wife left me. She called me an obsessed fanatic. If I don’t publish the results I am ruined, finished.” Atash was visibly shaking at the end of his speech. It looked like he was on the verge of tears. Atash continued to talk about his problems for another half an hour.

Kelly sat quietly and did not interrupt. The term “smooth talker” was not accurate. Kelly’s real skill lay in his ability to listen, really hear what someone was trying to say. And what he heard from Atash Nikahd was a man in late middle age, desperate for respect.  No wife, no tenure, no money and no publications.

When Atash was finished venting, Kelly leaned forward and began to talk. After he was done the two men shook hands and Kelly left Atash alone in the small office.

The conference came three weeks later but Atash did not present a paper. He sat alone in the back of the lecture hall, listening to lesser minds and even some graduate students make presentations and receive applause. Negotiations with Iran continued and four months later it was announced that full diplomatic relations would resume between the United States and Iran.

It was a warm spring day when the Presidential motorcade pulled up to the front of Columbia University at 116th Street & Broadway. Standing on the sidewalk to greet the President was Professor Atash Nikhad wearing a brand new beautifully tailored dark suit. It was the kind of suit he would be expected to wear as the new United States Ambassador to Iran.

Atash and the President shook hands while the press and TV crews crowded around for pictures. In the back of the crowd, unnoticed by most, Atash saw Jack Kelly. Their eyes met, and Kelly gave Atash a nod and smiled.

 

The List – by Gregory F. Farrell

It was a warm July 3rd, and Ryan Mitchell sat on a bench in front of Morristown hospital. Despite the heat he was wearing a loose windbreaker and had his hands in his pockets. There were a lot of old people like Ryan sitting on the benches enjoying the summer’s day. Some of them, like Ryan,  were in regular clothing , but most of them were in hospital gowns and bathrobes.

Ryan pulled a sheet of paper out of his left windbreaker pocket and looked at the typewritten list of all the people who had tried to kill him. Then he rephrased that in his mind. They had not actually tried to kill him. They would all say they were dedicated healers trying to help him. But the fact of the matter is that they almost did kill him.

It had started with the name at the top of the list “Dr. Marotta”. He was the idiot who had prescribed the Coumadin in the first place; without even explain to Ryan that it was one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. Then there was Marotta’s pretty nurse Nancy who misread Ryan’s blood samples, and constantly reported that there was no problem with the drug’s dosage.  “Marotta’s probably banging her on the side” muttered Ryan out loud. No one paid any attention to him. Old people talked to themselves all the time.

Sitting in front of the hospital, Ryan was almost overwhelmed by the flash of bad memories it brought back. Those tiny pills which Dr. Marotta had prescribed to help thin his blood. No one explained how the drug reacted so differently in different people. How apparently unrelated things like a change in diet could drastically change what the drug did. It thinned Ryan’s blood alright. It thinned it so much that it was literally leaking thorough his veins and arteries into the rest of his body. He was bleeding to death internally and did not even realize it. All he felt was an incredible tiredness.  Then one morning he went into the bathroom and urinated pure blood.  Sometimes Ryan wondered how close to death he had really been when he was rushed to the emergency room.

The real pain had begun once he was admitted to the hospital. The 3 way Foley catheter was inserted into his penis. It was a pure torture device. To wash blood out of his bladder it constantly pumped a saline solution into his bladder with one tube and took the blood/urine mixture out with another. For 24 hours a day for 4 full days.  There is really no way to describe the pain. The third name on Ryan’s list was the Urologist,  Dr. Epstein who it turns out forgot to order the Foley catheter removed. The torture had continued 2 days longer than needed just because Epstein had not gotten around to checking Ryan’s chart.

The list went on and on. Nurses, orderlies, volunteers all had various levels of complicity in the injuries to Ryan.  It had taken Ryan almost 2 years to get himself back to full health.  When  he got out of the hospital, barely able to walk, he had refused any drugs and shunned any contact with any member of the medical community. He made himself stronger by sheer force of will. Every day he would walk a little more. Then gradually he began eating better and even lifting small weights.  Bit by bit he moved on to longer walks and heavier weights.

Every day after his exercise routine he would do his research and compile  the names on his list. Ryan’s wife told him it was useless. She said that no lawyer would take his malpractice suit. No jury was interested in someone who almost died. She said he had no permanent injuries. She pointed out that with his new routine he was stronger than 90% of the men his age. No jury was going to give money to a healthy strong man no matter how much pain he claimed happened to him in the past. She just did not understand.

Ryan suddenly looked up as Dr. Marotta walked out of the front of Morristown Hospital and headed to the physicians’ parking lot where Marotta’s 12 cylinder Jaguar was parked. Ryan shook his head at that. “Who the hell needs 12 cylinders in New Jersey?” Ryan muttered.

When Dr. Marotta went into the parking garage, Ryan got up from the bench, stretched and headed towards the garage himself. As Ryan entered the garage he could see Marotta standing looking at the four flattened tires of the Jaguar.

Ryan reached into the right pocket of his windbreaker and pulled out the brand-new 32 caliber revolver. It was time to scratch the first name off the list.

 

 

The Ex-Zombie Girl by Gregory Farrell

Allison was alone in her SoHo apartment when she went through her daily ritual. She stood naked in front of the full length mirror. She was not admiring her body, but was looking for any cuts or discoloration which would accompany the return of the virus. She took a small blood sample and put it in the meter and only relaxed when she got the green signal.

She never wanted to remember the time of the sickness, but she knew she could not forget it. She remembered using her teeth to tear into the raw flesh of other people; sometimes even people she knew. She remembered the taste of the blood and skin. The worst part was that she remembered the overpowering feeling of how much she had liked it. Every day she lived in  fear that the desire would return. Like a recovered drug addict who never truly trusted that the addiction was gone. Allison knew there was no such thing as a cured Zombie.

Of course, no one was allowed to use the “Z Word”. It was less than 18 months ago and the government had successfully been able to cover up almost all evidence of the outbreak. Stage 1 infected like Allison had been injected with the cure. Stage 2 & 3 had simply disappeared for good after the Special Forces picked them up. Rumor among the Cured like Allison was that it was just a matter of time until the government would decide to eliminate all chances of a second outbreak. One night the Cured would all disappear as well.

Allison got dressed and decided to go out for a walk to see if she could pass for a normal person. She walked all the way over to the NYU campus, expecting to get strange looks from the  students milling about, but got none.

She sat down on a bench near a food vendor’s cart. A slight breeze shifted and  she could smell the meat cooking on the grill. Allison shivered as she felt the change begin in her.  Suddenly Allison felt more hungry than she had ever been. The unbelievable strength returned to her muscles.  What seemed like a fog entered her brain, and a darkness descended on her soul.

A group of NYU students stood in a small circle talking excitedly about their classes and assignments. They paid no attention to the woman on the park bench 10 feet away, when she stood up and with a strange gait started to move towards them.

 

 

 

SoHo Instinct by Gregory Farrell

Maya and Charlie loved the  mornings in SoHo. They lived in an illegal apartment above an overpriced art gallery. For a monthly envelope of cash the manager of the gallery had given them the keys to what was zoned for an upstairs storage room.

Every morning they would get up early and walk up Greene Street while the store owners hosed off the slate sidewalks. Maya and Charlie had opposite personalities. Charlie was big and outgoing and friendly. Complete strangers would often smile and say hello; a real accomplishment in New York City. Maya, on the other hand, was shy and petite. With her small build and shoulder length auburn hair she looked younger than her 23 years. Sometimes she felt as if no one even noticed her unless Charlie was with her.

One day in late October, Maya just happened to wake up about an hour earlier than normal. It was just starting to get light , and the streets were still deserted; but Maya was full of energy and wanted to go outside. Charlie was always full of energy and of course insisted on coming along. They strode along side by side and Maya was swinging the little Louis Vuitton purse with the super long strap that her father had given her last Christmas.

They were just passing a construction site on Spring Street when the attacker struck. He ran up behind at full speed, pushing Maya down with one hand and grabbing her purse with the other. She fell forward and screamed as her head hit the cobblestone and began to bleed.

That’s when the change took place in Charlie’s brain. He was big and friendly and lived in an apartment, but in the far  far past his ancestors had been wolves. And after that, for thousands of years dogs had developed the instinct to defend the humans they loved.

When Maya fell she dropped Charlie’s leash. The attacker was running away fast, but a human in a pair of Nikes is no match for a 120 pound dog at a sprint. When Charlie reached full speed he leapt into the air. Dog’s don’t fight to win points or to apprehend a suspect. Their instinct is to kill. Charlie’s teeth sunk full force into the attacker’s neck and the two of them went crashing to the ground without Charlie letting go. When they landed Charlie held onto the neck with his teeth and shook his head back and forth in that incredibly fast motion that people think is so cute when dogs do it with a bathroom towel. The real purpose of the shake is to snap the neck of whatever animal the dog has its teeth into; and that’s exactly what happened to the neck of the animal that attacked Maya.

The attacker was dead long before the police arrived. Maya was taken to the hospital and Charlie to the animal shelter, where like any dog that had killed a human,  he was scheduled to be euthanized.  It would have ended badly except for the fact that a television commercial was scheduled to be shot on Spring the following week. The director was on the street early that day to get a good look at it before all the traffic and the people obstructed the view. He heard Maya scream and pointed his tablet camera in that direction and started filming. He captured most of it, and brought it to the T.V. station. When it was shown on the news that night, the public fell in love with Charlie; especially the part where Charlie ran back to make sure Maya was all right.

When the public heard that Charlie was to be put down, the Chief of Police actually received death threats. The Mayor did not really care about dogs, or the Chief of Police for that matter, but he knew if he allowed a hero dog to be put to death, then his re-election was in trouble. They Mayor made sure that when Maya and Charlie were reunited the Mayor was right in the middle for the T.V. cameras. There was even a great shot of Charlie licking the Mayor’s bald head.

Maya and Charlie still go for a walk every morning in SoHo. Charlie is still the main attraction, but sometimes people now ask Maya how she is feeling and if she needs anything. At the end of the walk Maya sits on a bench outside the coffee shop drinking her vanilla latte, while Charlie looks up at her with complete unconditional love.