Some Bunny Loves You

9-26-13  3 step prompt, picked at random.  Write about –

A thought:   That bunny has nice long ears he can tug on when he’s anxious.

A feeling:    Lassitude

A sensation:  I feel as though spiders were crawling on my skin.


I awoke with a start.  The clock on the bedside table read 3:21.  I didn’t know what it was that had spooked me, but I felt as though spiders were crawling on my skin.   I pulled the covers up around my chin and rolled to my side to increase the contact on my body.  I needed that sense of being touched to feel safe.  The spiders slowly left, and I lay on my side in the dark, pondering life and my place in it.

Work had been going downhill fast.  I started something, and was overcome with lassitude halfway through the job.  I had to force myself to work these days.  Thoughts of poverty didn’t help.  Homelessness in this Valley was beginning to seem like sitting in the lap of luxury.  What could I do to motivate myself?  Lying in bed until 7 am wouldn’t do it anymore.  Clients don’t stand for lateness more than two or three times.  Pretty soon the calls would become few and far between.  I resolved to do better, and closed my eyes.

When I awoke, it was 7:30, and the alarm clock had been shut off.  Now I knew I was in trouble.  I didn’t even remember my self-destructive behavior anymore.  I threw my clothes on, brushed teeth and hair, and ran to the van.  My resolution had been hijacked by fate.

Painting in the morning went well.  Carpentry and a bit of trim work went okay in the afternoon. That evening, the newly installed toilet leaked for fifteen minutes before I tightened the right bolt.  I didn’t dare charge what the job was worth.  I felt bad for the client because my heart didn’t seem to be in it.

I dragged myself home and collapsed into bed.  Isn’t this where it all started?  Come on, spiders, do your thing.  I thought about writing for a little while, but couldn’t come up with anything.  Good for me.  First workers block, and now writers block.  I pulled the blanket tight, the autistic in me wanting full contact.

The clock read 3:11 when I awoke this time.  Still black as night.  Funny, that expression.  Could you use it when describing nighttime?  I rolled over and turned on the light, squinting to avoid the “sudden light” headache.  I sensed a small movement in the far corner of the bedroom, and sat bolt upright.  There, sitting in the corner of my bedroom, was a larger than life cartoon bunny, dressed in a light blue suit with black slippers on.  It sat there, looking scared and glum, and pulled on it’s ears.  I didn’t know which of us was more surprised.

From my position in bed, I studied the bunny for a while without making a move or sound.  I didn’t want to scare the little thing.  I did for a moment wonder where reason had gone.  Perhaps I was actually still asleep.  I pinched myself on the left arm, not hard enough to really hurt but just to check.  When I did this, I saw the bunny flinch.  Curiouser and curiouser.  I tipped my head to the side a bit, and the bunny blinked.  I crossed my legs and folded my hands in my lap.  Bunny looked ready to run through the wall.  Should I?  I wondered.  What the hell.

“Excuse me,” I said in a quiet voice, “but can I help you with something?”

Bunny leaned forward a bit, and wiggled its nose at me.  It did release it’s ears and sit back a bit, looking slightly more relaxed.

“Are you a boy bunny or a girl bunny?”  I said.

Can you imagine a rabbit giving me a look as though I was the biggest moron it had ever met?  Cocked head, cocked eyebrow.

“Would you like to join me up here where it’s cozy?” I asked.

Bunny hesitated a bit, then moved forward and hopped up onto the bed, scrabbling with its hind legs for traction and moving over to my side. I lay down facing the bunny and just looked at it.  It hunkered down, closed its eyes, and was asleep.

Well, as Robert Heinlein once said, “There was nothing I could do, so I took a nap.”  I rolled over to turn the light off, and lay myself down to sleep.

When I woke up in the morning, it was a minute to five; my usual time to rise, and the bunny was still there.  I got up fior my morning ablutions, came in to dress, and got out of the house to go to work.  Mr. Bunny would have to fend for himself.

I felt good about work, and the bunny stayed with me for a good long while.  We became companions, and motivators.  I kept working, and the bunny relaxed in my company.  I had no idea what it did while I was out for the day, but it was always there in the evening.  Welcome home.

A Face In Need of a Fist

9-12-13  The prompt:  Two words

Sgriob (Gaelic): The itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whiskey

Backfeifengesicht (German): A face badly in need of a fist

Write for 30 minutes

I was sitting in the pub in Westport with the sibs.  We had flown in to Shannon earlier, visiting the old haunts up on Croagh Patrick for our semi-bi-annually-monthly visit to Dad’s folly.  The twenty seven acres stood there mute and immutable, yet taunting us viciously even over the seas to America.  “No,” said the building council.  “You may not build on the land.  If you want a house, we have plenty of them vacant here in town, and it’s your lot that’s to blame for it all.  You can even remodel it from the bones of those that haven’t been picked clean yet.  No one will stop ye, but there will be no building up in the Patrick’s Mountain.”

We were holding a whiskey-fueled council to try to figure out what to do in this most unfortunate of all circumstances.  Kathy arrived at the table, back from the bar with a first load of glasses.  I held mine under my snoot, and was overcome.  “Sgriob,” said the oldster sitting behind me.

“Slainte,” said I in return.

“No, no,” he said. “Sgriob is that tickling that was moving your upper lip toward a sneeze.  We’re all on intimate terms with it here.  It’s the sign of quality whiskey.  Sneeze if you must, but without sgriob, that’s a wasted hoist of the arm if you ask me.”

I smiled and raised my glass to toast him.  He joined in with his pint.

A boisterous crowd chose that moment to enter the sanctuary of fine intelligent folk.  Eight or ten Germans taking the tour on holiday, and they were comparing the virtues of German beer with all the vices of the Irish piss in a circular tour around our fair isle.  The disparaging voices were at once filled with stout, and then sprayed onto the floor in disgust.  Why, oh why did we have to endure such from our continental cousins?  Did they see us over there commenting on the German habits of beer making, those that included swimming in the vats and pissing into the batches?  No, we were too polite and intellectual for such boorishness.

A single rotund and rosy-faced traveler broke off from the pack and began to make the rounds of the sitting area.  As he passed by trolling for a citizen to harass, Chris did one of those backhanded gesundheits that actually came out as “Backfeifengesicht!”  Herr Roly-Poly froze in his tracks and swept our group with his eyes.

His fists clenched, and his hue went from florid toward crimson.  “Was ist?” he shouted.  Chris, ever the statesman, sneezed again. “Backfeifengesicht!”  The German was in his face in an instant. “Was?!”

Chris was on his feet, glass in hand, chin jutting forward and eye to eye with the visitor.  And then, in a spectacular move, he rocked back and swallowed his entire glass of whiskey in a single gulp.  No tears, no whoops, no gasp.  Just a smile, and he sat back down.

Chris turned toward Deirdre and asked in a very nonchalant voice “Do you think we could convince the council if we invited them out for a few tomorrow night?”

Deirdre remembered to close her mouth, and nodded slowly.  “I bet that’s what they’re waiting for.  They just want to know that we’re friendly, and mean no harm.”

Herr Fatboy didn’t know what to do.  He stood there staring at us for a few seconds, and headed back to his mob.  His step was a bit softer, and his head a bit lower. No wind had his sails.  Defeated again.  Five minutes later, they left the pub to blissful peace, and a murmur flowed through the pub.

“What was that you sneezed at the old kraut?” asked the gent sitting behind me.

Chris grinned a sort of crooked grin, and explained in the half-Irish he feigns.  “I said ‘backfeifengesicht.’  It’s an old German word meaning ‘a face badly in need of a fist.’  The old fool must have been well-read if he could have such a reaction to it.  I learned it on the flight over.”  He held up a small paperback tome entitled ‘Swear Your Way Across Europe.”

Well, that did it.  We didn’t pay for another round all night as the word spread of the epic heroism of the American cousin who came all the way over to Westport to uphold the honor of the cherished Isle against the Hun.  By the end of the night we tumbled out onto the street, firmly convinced that we were related to every single inhabitant of the town.  I suspect that if there were any locks left on the gates of the city after the latest round of mortgage backed security ravaging that we would be presented with the key by Hizzhonor the Mayor tomorrow morning.  The invaders had been turned back, and all was right with the world.

Homeward Bound

4-5-12   The prompt:    There are four points of the compass   A fifth point is possible in some Asian cultures.

30-minute writing, fiction


I headed north from Chelsea, knowing the destination.  All of my fears followed me.  Some even led.  Funny that it seemed like time slowed.  The footsteps got smaller. The noise of the traffic faded a bit.  I felt yanked along, with Ma shouting in my ear to “Keep up!”  That’s what it’s like with the homecomings.

I circled the block, heading east past the mafia restaurant over to Sixth Avenue, then down again, south to 18th, west to Seventh.  I had to go in sometime, but remained reluctant.  I was tempted to go back and dive down into the subway, but knew there was going to be no easy way out.  Maybe just once more around the block.

I surrendered, and went up the stoop, let myself in and climbed the 54 steps to the third floor.  Knocked, stepped back a bit when the door flew open and nieces and nephews flew out to greet their favorite Uncle.  From the kitchen, I heard Kathy yell out  “Ma, he’s here!”

Dragging the hoard with me, I stepped back into my mother’s heart.

On the occasion of leaving my Main Street Writers mug behind at the Thursday night writing group

much money

On Friday, January 18, 2013, kathy <> wrote:

Hi Kevin,

I have your mug. Am considering ransom terms.

Amanita Buntburn (not my real name)


Re: much money

On Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 5:30 PM, Kevin <> wrote:

Dear AB,

When considering ransom, please recall my story contribution of last night.

Janoš Svěčim

(Note to readers:  The story contribution included an ice pick applied to a brain through an eardrum.)


Re: much money

On Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 6:49 PM, kathy <> wrote:

Dear Jan

Hmmm… I will accept your awl, handle first, placed gently in my hand. If I remain unharmed, I will tell you where your mug is buried.

It has a straw for breathing. For now.

– A


Re: much money

On Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 6:58 PM, Kevin <> wrote:

Dear Amanita Bananamita,

I contacted the FBI, not to tell on you, but just to ask for their advice. They said I should act natural, and don’t do anything to anger you. Would you like to come over for a sleepover? Maybe we can have ice cream. I’ll supply the ice cream. Could you bring the mugs to eat it out of? Ask your mom.



Re: much money

On Sat, Jan 19, 2013 at 1:06 PM, kathy <> wrote:

My mom says don’t mess with my name. She also likes your mug. She wants to know could you bring the ice cream over here.


Galbon, Fetcher, Wheezley, and Forbes
Attorneys at Law
36 Wall Street
New York, NY 10011

Dear Ms. Buntburn,

We are contacting you on behalf of our client, Mr. Janoš Svěčim. Mr. Svěčim called us about his concerns that you may be interfering with his progress as a world-renowned author and speaker. His contention is that your possession of his mug has caused him extensive and pervasive emotional harm. When we met with him in our very prestigious office overlooking the financial capital of this great country, he was distraught, beside himself, and weeping. We were barely able to console him. I (this is Jim Fletcher speaking) barely recognized him, as he has not been able to focus on his personal care since the loss of his beloved mug.

We would like to resolve this matter (your theft of our client’s mug) in a manner that benefits all. Our offer to you will include a quantity of ice cream to be determined through binding arbitration. You will also be allowed weekly visits with the mug to ensure the health and well-being of said mug. Our preferred time for this visitation would be Thursday evenings, but other times can be negotiated at arbitration. Our client has agreed that these terms seem reasonable, considering the circumstances. We hope that there will be no delays in your response.

If you rebuff this offer, we will have no alternative action other than contacting the authorities. In Western Massachusetts, we understand that this often means the involvement of a “Marshall” or “Sheriff and Deputy”. We would regret this course of action, and believe that you would also. We ask only that you act in a reasonable manner and consider the well-being of our client.


Galbon, Fetcher, Wheezley, and Forbes
Attorneys at Law



On Sat, Jan 19, 2013 at 1:06 PM, kathy <> wrote:

I’m very sorry – my daughter Amanita has gone comatose upon receiving this communication. The last words she uttered were garbled by a massive spasm of stomach muscles. Did you threaten to give her ice cream? She is massively allergic to ice cream. My attorney will be contacting you in the dark of night.



Forward to Amanita Buntburn

On Sat, Jan 19, 2013 at 10:11 PM, Kevin <> wrote:

Please refer to attached document.

Office of the Attorney General

10 Mechanic Street, Suite 301
Worcester, MA 01608-2417
Telephone: (508) 792-7600

January 19, 2013

Ms. Amanita Buntburn
c/o Main Street Writers
664 Main Street, Suite 60
Amherst, MA  01002

Dear Ms. Buntburn,

Our office has received a request for aid from the law offices of Galbon, Fetcher, Wheezley, and Forbes, an LLC based in New York City.  The request is regarding an alleged abduction or involuntary restraint, and so would normally be forwarded to the US Department of Justice for action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

We have decided to accept this request for aid until we have received information which would elevate the matter to a Federal level.  As such, we would ask you to forward to our office a brief summary of the situation as you believe it to be true.  We will take this summary into consideration as part of the preliminary investigation by our office.  If you have any supporting documents or evidence, or statements by witnesses, please forward them as well.

The Office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is not a mediator in cases such as this, but we would like to provide an environment in which resolution can be achieved prior to court action.  Your prompt attention to this manner would be appreciated.


James Allen
Enterprise and Major Crimes Unit
Office of the Attorney General


Re: Forward to Amanita Buntburn

On Sat, Jan 19, 2013 at 11:00 PM, kathy <> wrote:

Mail Undeliverable at this address. Resident seems to have vaporized, leaving only a mug and a spoon behind. Please inform all parties of this tragic matter.

PS Nice letterhead


Re: Forward to Amanita Buntburn

On Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 5:34 PM, Kevin <> wrote:

Please see attached document.

Office of the Attorney General

10 Mechanic Street, Suite 301
Worcester, MA 01608-2417
Telephone: (508) 792-7600

January 19, 2013

Ms. Kathy
c/o Main Street Writers
Main Street
Amherst, MA  01002

Dear Ms. Kathy,

We were very sorry to hear of the vaporization of your comatose daughter, the suspect Amanita Buntburn.  This office wishes to offer its deepest sympathy at your loss.  With no perpetrator available, we are forced to cease our investigation.

Please keep a copy of this letter on your person at all times for the next ten years as proof of our intent.  After that period, you may dispose of it in an appropriate manner.


James Allen
Enterprise and Major Crimes Unit
Office of the Attorney General

Ps:  An agent of our office shall be by on Thursday evening to collect the evidence left behind.  We ask that you offer him your cooperation. You will be able to recognize him, as he often engages people in conversation and passes himself off as an author of some sort.


Re: Forward to Amanita Buntburn

On Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 5:46 PM, kathy <> wrote:

Um…. I am not Amanita’s mother. But I do know her. She said she would give me the mug for two rupees. What should I do?


Re: Forward to Amanita Buntburn

On Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 7:30 PM, Kevin <> wrote:

Dear Ms. “Kathy”,

I accept your terms, and payment will be made, The ransom will be backed by the full faith of the United States Government. However, available currency is restricted to Czech korunas, as the Treasury Department has recently sold the US Federal Debt to the Czechs for a whole bunch of korunas, and a dumpling or two (yum). At current exchange rates, two Indian rupees are worth 0.72 Czech koruna. That means I owe you one koruna, and you owe me 1/2 rupee.

I hope that the aforementioned date of Thursday next holds.



Re: Forward to Amanita Buntburn

On Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 5:46 PM, kathy <> wrote:

Ano. Pokud to musí být. (Povzdech)

Translation from Czech:

Yes. If it must be. (Sigh)


Wisdom Is Free


The prompt:           The poem:  Conversation With Myself At A Street Corner

                                         Everette Maddox


I talk with myself all the time.  I used to give people the old Bert and I joke when they ask why I do it.  “I like to speak to an intelligent man, and I like to hear an intelligent man speak.”  They chuckle, write me off as a complete loony, and I get to go on my merry way.

The fact of the matter is, I use these moments to arrange random thoughts and try to get myself organized.  It hasn’t worked out so well, but hope springs internal.  As I mouth words to myself, I try to draw ideas out of my subconscious.  I know, I am utterly convinced, that the answers to all of peoplekind’s questions are floating around in the vast reaches of my brainpan. That idea doesn’t scare me as it does some others, but it does infuse me with a sense of obligation to the world to come up with answers.  I am utterly convinced that my inner intellectual is sitting in there, just waiting to be invited to say a few words on the fate of the world, or the direction to the center of the universe, or how to solve the problems centered around the US national debt.  I’ll give you that one for free.  Move.  Just pack up and move to another country, preferably not Greece, but one perhaps just as pretty but fiscally slightly more conservative.  Did I mention that I want to move to Prague?  Leave the wasteland that the US will become before too long.

Did I mention in the abstract to this article that I am a personal optimist, but a social pessimist?  The basic tenet of this philosophy is that the whole world is going to Hell at a rapid pace, but I will survive and thrive amidst the chaos. Good luck, and could I please have another sausage sandwich, prosim?

This verbiage is flowing onto the page seemingly at a randomly rapid pace.  I do stop now and then to consider my words quite carefully, but it is always possible to overthink things, so I have to be careful lest my motives be misconstrued.  There actually is no motive, as you will realize if you refer back to my personal philosophy in the last paragraph.

The talking to myself that got me into this train of thought will probably get me an invitation to a bed at the Brattleboro Retreat, which is a lovely place for drug addicted folks and doddering old fools, which is what society calls those who talk to themselves.  The biggest attraction of the Retreat as I have heard tell is the petting zoo, which was added to keep the residents calm and compliant.  I can see the appeal of spending the day just sitting with a pet bunny in your lap, or staring down a baby pig.

The train of thought here seems to be indicating a lack of focus on the task at hand.  I’m supposed to be showing the world of writers how brilliant I can be if poked with a sharp prompt.  What I seem to have done instead is to put my brain in neutral to coast a bit.  The lesson tonight just may be that there are limits to what you can do in any one span of time.  The expectations of those around me are going to take a hit if I keep it up, and I will be exposed in all of my human weakness to be just another clothed larval life form waiting and hoping for enlightenment.  Welcome to my world.

That would have been the perfect closing line for this sitting, but the expectations, both internal and external, revolve around writing for a set amount of time.  As that set amount has not yet been reached, I will have to extemporize.

Back to the talking man.  These days, seeing someone speaking in a slightly raised voice walking down the street or through the local grocery is perfectly normal.  We understand Bluetooth.  Consider, however, the impact of all these fellow travelers on the poor folks who are speaking without the aid of electronic device, and still feel the need to put voice to the thoughts running through their heads.  We walk down the sidewalk talking with someone who may be on the other side of the planet, glance to our right at the guy with his cap in front of him, sitting on the sidewalk, talking away just as we are.  We don’t consider that he may be vocalizing the cure for cancer or a path to world peace. The judgment leaps to our thoughts without that intellectual filter that we all seem to lack these days. “I’m talking to someone important here, crazy man, could you please keep it down or take it to another town?  Hmm?  Please?  And, no, I’m not going to give you my hard earned money.  If you want some, get a job like I have and you’ll be fine.  Now, shoo.”   Back to the conversation with the person on the other side of the world.

Which of these is the crazy one, and which enlightened?




The prompt:     Make a short list of warning signs

Yield, stop, falling rocks, railroad crossing, all employees must wash hands before returning to work.


The car was probably traveling faster than safety would dictate.  It had almost made it.  The sign on the mountain road had read “Falling Rocks” and showed a cliff with rocks in mid air.  It certainly didn’t show a little car next to the cliff.

The ambulance showed up fifteen minutes after the call was received.  Why the other cops hadn’t intercepted it, we’ll never know.  There was no need for medical attention.  The coroner’s office could send someone up to scrape the bodies out of the car after the jaws of life were finished.  My partner was still looking a bit green around the gills, but he soldiered on like a trooper.  We had finished interviewing the students who found the car and called the incident in.  The poor kids were a bit green themselves, and I sent them on their way as soon as I could.

Harry, my new partner, was poking around the car still.

“Hey,” I said, “you’ll wanna be careful there.  The cliff was unstable enough for those poor schlubs.  I’d hate to lose a partner to a rock slide on his first day.”

He looked up at the cliff, then back at the rear seat of the car.  The roof had been peeled back to expose the bodies, and the interior was wide open.  “Yo, Fred, you’ll wanna see this.”

I walked up beside Harry and looked down at an arsenal.  These mooks were carrying more firepower than our entire department had.  I hadn’t seen some of these weapons since Viet Nam.  Piled on the back seat of the unidentifiable sedan were M-16s, a couple of heavier M-60s, and a crate of claymores.  The claymore is one of the best anti-personnel weapons ever invented.  It’s a plastic rectangular box with a curved front face with a little note saying “This side toward enemy.”  The plastic is filled with explosives and ball bearings.  On the floor were ammo crates for the .223 and .30 cal weapons.  What the hell had we stepped into here?

It seems that these two guys (I think they were guys, from the length of the hairs sticking up out of the mush in the front seats.  These days, who knew.)  Anyways, it seems these two were on their way to do something very bad when mother nature or fate stepped in and stopped them.

“Harry, do me a favor and call this in from the car.  We’ll need a CSI team and some higher ups .”  Harry headed over to our unit, and I started taking pictures with the camera.  I did a complete 360 around the car, and included the mush brothers.  Then I did something I thought I’d never do.  I reached in and grabbed one of the claymores.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s every boys dream to blow something up with a loud “Boom!” and a hail of ball bearings.  I made sure that I got the box with the tripod and igniter grip.  I stashed it in my scene bag resting at my feet.

Harry came back and let me know they were on their way.  He started poking around the weapons and I waved him away.  “Better wait for the Crime Scene boys.”

Harry said “I told dispatch to get the Feds in on this.  I suspect the Feebies will take it over, and then ATF will take it out of their hands, and then Homeland Security will throw a blanket over it and we won’t have to do so much paperwork.  How’s that?”

Lord help me.  I finally got a smart one.

“Yo, Freddie, do you think they would miss it if I just happened to disappear one of those?  I suspect one of those machine guns would look pretty cool above the fireplace out at the deer camp. What do ya say? “

“Oh, go ahead, but be quick about it.  I’ll have to re-shoot the photos so they don’t get the inventory screwed up.  Put it in the trunk.  And hey, put the crime scene bag in there with it.  I’m pretty sure we won’t be needing the kit with all of the alphabet soup boys on the way.”

I liked this kid.  He thought a lot like me.


Kouzelný Praha

1-3-13  The prompt:    Make short end of the year lists

What I bring with me     What I leave behind


I left tired.  There was no more time to lose.  Whatever it took, Linda and I were getting on that plane and heading to Prague, away from the Fiscal Cliff, away from a dysfunctional country, away from school shootings and deficits and shouting.  Just away.  It was, after all, a vacation.

I felt bad running away from something awful instead of running to something wonderful.  I just didn’t know what to expect, and the recent past was pushing quite forcefully at my back.

My greatest fear in going was the airport and all that has happened since I last flew on 2000.  Not to worry, everything went well.  Taking off shoes and belts was just stupid.  Nobody touched my junk.  The worst part of the whole trip was being so crowded on the plane that I couldn’t move for seven hours.  You think that’s not so bad?  You try it and come dancing off the plane in Frankfurt.  Good luck.     Continue reading

We Sail The Ocean Blue

2-7-13 Written at Tanya’s house


Random words pulled from a hat:

Two words:  Gratitude, schooner

Next word:   Amnesty

Next word:  Intrigue


It was good to be on the water again.  I had come down from a landlocked town at the behest of a distant friend who had made it big.  Jim had more toys than he knew what to do with, and a few that he couldn’t play with alone.  The schooner was one of the latter.  What had possessed him to buy a full-rigged seventy five foot schooner?

I ran him through the basics of setting up the boat, got him situated in the cockpit, and started the diesel up to get us away from the dock. Jim was a fair dinkum motorer, I found out.  He could point the boat in a direction and go there, avoid buoys and sandbars if they were pointed out to him, and he kept a smile on his face the whole while.  I like confidence in a sailor.

We came out of the channel into the sound, and I headed forward to set the sails.  I suddenly had a pilot with split attention.  Jim had to keep the boat pointed into the wind for me, but he wanted to watch what I was doing at the same time.  I blessed him with first-timers amnesty, and gently let him know if he was about to kill me with a jib sheet across the throat.  As the sails were unfurled and caught the wind, the boat suddenly came to life, and I had Jim cut the engine.  He got that right the first time.

Silence came over us, and Jim was blessed with the serenity of the sailor.  He didn’t have that need to fill the space with talk, and I sat back and enjoyed the wind in my face as he learned to sail his new toy.  I was intrigued by his ability to take this all in stride, and he explained that for the past five years he had been studying Zen Buddhism when not working and making gobs of money.  The dichotomy was stunning.  A filthy rich Buddhist.  What do you know?

I finally felt comfortable enough to go below and get us a couple of beers.  There is nothing like drifting along with the wind in your face and a beer in your hand.  Luckily Jim hadn’t fallen head over heels into vegetarianism and abstinence, so the beer was welcomed.  We sat back, listened to the waves at the bow, and remembered our past together.

“Jim, whatever happened to that girl you were hanging out with when we graduated?”

“She went her own way”, Jim said.

Brevity.  I liked that,  too.

We were running out of water, and I told Jim what to do to get us turned around.  I headed forward, and Jim let out a hearty “Jibe, ho!”  I ducked fast to avoid a swinging boom.  I figured that he had a fine future ahead of him on the water.


Oh my God

I don’t know where my writing comes from. I really don’t. I used to do comedy improv on stage, and I never knew what I was going to do on stage before I went out before the audience. I was always surprised, and often shocked. That is how I feel now with the prompted writing from Main Street Writers. How do we all come up with such different stories from the same prompt? I’ll admit that this piece left everyone in the room stunned, myself included.


The prompt:
Write down the name of the song going through your head
Create a character that hears this song
Create the action they are going through related to the song.

I hummed along with the TV, knowing that the theme song from Rocky and Bullwinkle would be there for the duration of vacuuming and probably well into the laundry. Why the hell had I left that channel on? Will was outside playing in the sandbox and was totally oblivious. I had work that needed to get done, and Frank wouldn’t be home for another two hours. I strode over and killed the TV. Just like the bumper sticker said. Finally, silent bliss.

I peeked out the window to check on Will and headed upstairs to collect the week’s worth of laundry that always seemed to take longer to wash than it took to wear. Frank was actually the one who donated the most to the laundry pile. He insisted on a clean pair of pants every day, and the thought of wearing a shirt twice would send him to the emergency room with symptoms of a stroke. I had learned early on in our relationship that Frank was Frank and there was no discussion of how, where, when and even if Frank would live his life. He was good to me, and doted on Will, so I had no complaints.

I scooped up Will’s handful of clothes, checked under the bed for strays, and schlepped down to the laundry room. As I sorted, I heard Will carrying on a conversation with his imaginary friend Mr. Bump. The two were inseparable. Literally. Mr. Bump had lived a very real life in Will’s imagination for three of his five years. The conversation out in the back yard had become heated.

“Don’t put it there, Mr. Bump. I can’t reach it if it’s so far away, and we’re supposed to share.”

“Okay, Silly Willy, here.”

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. That wasn’t Will. I could feel the panic set in as I headed out of the laundry room and over to the window. Looking out, I saw Will sitting alone in the middle of the sandbox, running a dump truck back and forth through the dirty sand and over all of the plastic army guys he had dumped there.

This was the first time I had heard Mr. Bump speak in the three years of his existence.

“Will?” I tried to keep the tremor out of my voice. “How are you doing out there? Is everything okay?”

Will looked up and smiled over toward me. “I’m fine, Mommy,” he said. “Do you want to come out and play with me and Mr. Bump?”

Everything seemed fine. Maybe it was a hallucination. “I have to do the wash, but I’ll be out as soon as it’s in.” Will bowed his head and went back to work.

I had the clothes in the washing machine and was adding soap when I heard the voice again.

“Hey, do you want to see something?”

Will’s little voice came through the window.

“Sure, what is it?”

That wasn’t Will. I had no idea of what was going on, but that wasn’t my Will. I ran through the house, wrestled the slider open and ran across the deck toward the sandbox. I couldn’t see my son. The truck was there, tipped on its side. Army guys were scattered around. There, on one triangular corner seat was a folded piece of paper. I snatched it up and scanned the yard for Will.

“Will! Where are you! I told you not to leave the yard!”

I glanced down at the paper in my hand. In neat flowing script that didn’t come from the hand of a five year old was written “Gone on an adventure. Be right back.”

It was the neighbor who said she heard my screams. She called the police, and came running from across the street. In the hospital she seemed concerned for me. I didn’t know why she wasn’t out with everyone else looking for my Will.

Five years later, I still don’t remember anything after reading the note. Just the sound of a voice that wasn’t my son.

God bless you, Mr. McNamara

The writing in our little group is often all over the place. The six or seven of us, or on a busy and crowded night, maybe eight, huddle over our notebooks or laptops and pour our words onto the surface, reflecting our lives, passions or dreams. I have heard fiction, memoir, sci-fi, fantasy, horror so thrilling it set me back in my chair with my mouth open. Thank you, Tanya, for that one. Kathy leads us and joins in, reading last after she is certain all in her charge have had their say. It always works, even when it is a struggle and words come slowly. This piece came slowly because I was back in elementary school, experiencing daily life fully. Time travel will never become practical, if only because going back is so painful.

The prompt: You learned basic grammar from a specific teacher when you were young. Write about it for 30 minutes.

He called me Kev. That was enough to turn me on my head. Never before in my life had anyone except my father called me by a nickname. I did get the occasional “Hey, doofus!” or “Dork”, but that was about as creative as the kids could get in sixth grade, and after that I learned to disappear.

Mr. McNamara was an English teacher. He was there to teach us how to read, write and speak like proper little ladies and gentlemen. Unfortunately for the administration folks at the Tuckahoe School, Mr. McNamara was one of those adventuresome teachers, and he would often give us an example of good or bad grammar by quoting something from Beowulf or Ulysses, and the whole exercise would fall apart. He did one thing brilliantly, though. When no one else in the world could see, he recognized me.

I was the lost child. He knew that I was always the one called out behind the school during recess so the class bully of the day could beat me up. He knew that the bully didn’t have a gender or a color or a reason. Somewhere along the line as playground monitor, he must have heard the siren call of the bully: “If you’re not there, you’re a chicken, and I’ll get you tomorrow twice as bad.”

So, one day in the Fall, after English class was over, Mr. McNamara said, quietly, “Kevin, could I have a word with you for just a sec?”

The chill of the outcast child ran through my body, and I stayed in my seat as everyone else left for lunch. I gazed ahead, miserable and defeated, waiting for something dreadful from the only teacher I liked. The last thread of good in this school was about to be cut.

“So, Kev,” he said, “what’s been going on?”

My face must have flushed bright red, and my head must have sunk down just a bit more. I looked up with tears in my eyes and didn’t say anything.

“I thought so. I didn’t know it was that bad, but I thought so.” Mr. McNamara got up from his desk and came over. He sat in the chair next to me. There was no comforting arm around my shoulder. There was no shoulder to cry on. Those things would have ruined it all, and he must have known that was so. I knew then that he was one of the good guys.

Ten minutes and a tissue or three later, a pat on the back, and I went back out into the world of fear and pain. My eyes were red from the outpouring of all the torment, but this time I had a secret weapon to hold and guide me. Tucked into my pocket was a short hand written note from the English teacher. It read “Kevin Cooke has my permission to read in the library each day after lunch and before his first afternoon class.”

The first book was about parachuting, and how to do it. The next one was about flying an airplane. It was Mr. McNamara who got me interested in science fiction, and I read my way through the meager holdings of the library. Back in the Sixties, sci-fi was not legitimate, and would get you the same response as finding a Playboy in your locker. Isaac Asimov seemed to be on the approved list. I read all about the Pacific Islands where my dad had fought. I still read comic books at home, but when I was finished with lunch at school, I would head down to the library and enter worlds where I could be me. Sometimes more than me, and sometimes a super hero me, but often just me learning how to do something that the kids out on the playground didn’t or couldn’t do. Sometimes I read something and would write a book report for Mr. McNamara as a thank you gift. Just being there was enough, but just in case you didn’t know it, thank you, Mr. McNamara, for calling me “Kev.”