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Aftermath

21 May

The Long Island Literary Journal May 2018

“We did this to ourselves,” Jonesy said sliding bullets into a tarnished old .38.  Besides an aluminum baseball bat and a barn full of rusted farm implements, it was their primary means of defense, one they had yet to use, but the expectation was that things were to only get worse. It had been eighteen months since the ban went into effect, fourteen since the MOAB was dropped on a so tagged hot-spot in the Middle-east and five weeks since the dirty bombs went off in Boston and New York.

Stan watched Jonesy cautiously in the rearview as he guided the dinged-up Dodge Charger along the roadway marred by frost heaves and years of neglect. He knew little about his passenger other than he was elusive when it came to questions but seemed to know much about the western hills of Massachusetts and Connecticut and how to get the most from the woods. Just five days earlier he had drifted out from the tree line under the weight of a large backpack. Stan was prompt in his effort to dismiss the intruder, and felt he had matters in hand until Echo appeared on the back porch with a bottle of pop in hand.

 “Maybe he can help with the generator?” she interjected casually, “We might need that hunk of junk after all.”

Stan wished to protest but knew his wife was probably right just like his mother was when she had the massive crate delivered to the farmhouse in the tense months following 9/11. “If anything like that ever happens again,” the matriarch chortled while drinking a saucer full of cheap scotch when she could easily afford better, “you kids just jump in the car and head to Weathervane Farm. I’ll have everything there for you.” Stan found the notion of buying a farm in Western Massachusetts when his parents lived in Connecticut a complete waste of money, though Church View did turn out to be a good central place for Worthington holiday gatherings. His sister lived in Chicago and made the dutiful trek east twice a year with her ever growing brood.  It was perfect while it lasted and now, his mother’s paranoid ramblings about the future of mankind boomeranged back from the beyond as shards of prophetic wisdom. Stan’s only regret being that he wished he had set up the generator back then when she had wished it.

The car hit a pothole and a bullet slipped from Jonesy’s hand. “Steady mate,” he said cooly as he retrieved the projectile, “Be a shame if Bulla put a hole in your seat.”

That coy air of amiable aloofness bothered Stan. He knew he was alone in that regard.  The others taking refuge in the place his mother had so affectionately rebranded ‘Manure Manor,’  didn’t share his scrutiny. Little Jade was delighted by the coins pulled from her ears at dinner that first night, and afterwards Jonesy toiled under Echo’s direction in the kitchen, sharing wine and laughs late into the evening. Even crabby old Rosemary appeared susceptible to his charms granting Jonesy great deference before launching in with her bristly opines and demeaning insistences. Each morning, Stan expected the man hidden behind aviator sunglasses and a fine beard, to disappear back into the woods, but at night, when dinner was served, he was there at the table as if he has always been.  The tenor of the manor had shifted. There was less control, more spontaneity and things got done. Jonesy was fit and able, a rising commodity as networks fell and the availability of shrink wrapped sustenance waned.

“How much we got?” Stan asked. Continue reading

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Antenuptial

3 May
Originally published in Web del Sol in 2007

Antenuptial

The smell of dried piss and mildew gave way to the sweet, pungent tang of sweat. She was close, almost at the point of no return. A quick look around the cramped tiled room. Even the sallow, brown grime crusted on the lip of the urinal and soggy wads of tissue by her knees weren’t enough to shake two hours of martinis and tequila shots at Sonsie. She didn’t look up as she customarily did with Rob, but began, absent of guilt or further hesitation.

Sonsie was more to Jennifer’s suiting. Open and inviting. Men wore pressed oxfords and women didn’t streak their hair an ungodly red that looked like spray paint. That’s where Sheila led the party after Cosmopolitans atop the Prudential and caviar and salad nicoise washed down with champagne at the Four Seasons. Through it all Jennifer had to wear the white chiffon veil that flopped into her face with each roast incited guffaw.  Continue reading

The Wait

20 Mar
Published in the Open Window Review in December of 2012.

The Wait

Ten years ago my sister bled out on foreign soil. Her soul is now part of the land she tried to protect. The cause of her demise? The military of a nation our country holds as a close ally. To add to that insult, a judge in that country has just excused the army from any wrong doing.

For one long decade, my family has suffered and prayed for closure. My parents spent their life savings on attorneys and trips to the Middle East trying to exact justice for Anna, to prove that she did not die in vain or in the stupid accidental manner that the Israeli government professes. It was all they did every day for ten years and now it has ended in the most vapid and insensitive way that only widens the hole and makes it bleed more.

Anna was ever the idealist, quick to take up a cause and fight wherever she saw injustice. She was born with a short leg and a lazy eye. The weak and the poor were her kin and her mission. As a Girl Scout she worked in a soup kitchen and visited the elderly after school. During college she set up a literacy fund to help educate inner city kids and get them scholarships to college. She did this all with a smile and a humble heart. She never wanted any recognition or thanks. My father said she had no limits, and no matter what she did, the world would be better for it.  Continue reading

The Season that Almost Wasn’t

20 Mar
Published in Slippery Rock's Literary Journal, SLAB in 2007.

The Season that Almost Wan’t

For thirteen years I’ve been a Red Sox season ticket holder, though last season, which began with a tantrum, almost was the season that wasn’t.

It was the third Sunday in March, and like every third Sunday in March, we were to gather at Jim’s apartment in the South End to divvy up the tickets. A decade ago, when the South End was still gritty and Jim lived in a cluttered split-level, this process had been easy. There were six of us, and four seats (Section 41, Row 17, Seats 20-23; perched atop the upper lip of the concourse entrance, they were the best cheap buckets in all of Fenway, a short hop to the beer stand and nothing before you but a railing and more legroom than anywhere else in the park, except perhaps the luxury skyboxes), but over the years, things became complicated. Jim upgraded to a penthouse loft. His girlfriend’s father moved to New Hampshire, bequeathing us (Jim, the pool) two pricey box seats, and, as Jim’s entrepreneurial ventures started to take off, it was not unlikely to find one or two new guys at Jim’s on that third Sunday in March. They essentially amounted to generic, J. Crew goons with over-starched collars, who got in because they fed Jim’s bottom line. I was never consulted about such additions, and hated paying double for two cramped slots under the batter’s net (and the rules of our draft deemed you had to pick them) when I could be out in the spacious wilds of the bleachers. By 2004 we had six seats, seventeen shares, a complicated draft process, and rules, on top of rules, on top of rules. In short, the one-hour booze fest had blown up into a three hour, consult my wife on the cell phone, pissing contest.  Continue reading

Scrambling

20 Mar
Included in anthologies from Grub Street and Thieves Jargon.

Scrambling

Always wear a condom, even with your girlfriend. Go easy when hazing the freshmen, you never know who’ll be covering your blindside for the home opener. Never talk back to the coach. Take the cocky shit from the black guys that make you look good when they streak down the field. Never be boastful to reporters. Floss. Always be polite to recruiters; treat each like they’re the first. Never smash the mailbox of any of the businessmen who pay for the Friday night lights—and never, ever, fuck one of their daughters, like Charles Ray did; he ended up with a busted knee cap and lost his scholarship to College Station. Try to stay in state. Don’t go double A. Feed Ma’ each morning. Wash her sheets if necessary. Make sure Mrs. Vasquez gets her dinner while you’re at practice. Call Tilson at the end of the month and remind him to send the money he likes to forget about. Stretch. Hit the weight room before lunch, but don’t lose any flexibility in your throwing arm. Slide for first downs. Only dive if the game’s on the line. Don’t get into fights—drunken has-beens, jealous wannabes and jilted  Continue reading