The Fuse


black and white

So there I was,at this joint on the south side of town.  It was a hot, sticky night and all I wanted was a break from the heat… and to be left alone.  The bartender just looked at me, so I said, “Give me a whiskey and coke, hold the coke, make it a double and keep em coming.”  I had a lot of thinking to do and this wasn’t the time to do it.  The bartender grunted, turned around, and poured some whiskey into a glass and set it in front of me.  There is an art to ordering a drink and if I don’t get anything else right in this life, at least I got that.

That’s when she walked in.  Dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin, with long legs and nails.  To be honest, she was beautiful.  I was hooked and there was no turning back.  But I didn’t let on.  I kept my hands and eyes on my drink.  I held my breath even though her sweet, sultry scent filled my nostrils and swirled around my brain.

The bar was empty but she took the seat right next to mine.  She fumbled around in her purse, clumsily pulled out a cigarette and put it between her lips.  She leaned over and touched my arm.  Electricity pulsed through my body and lit a fire in my gut.  I turned to find her staring into my eyes, “What’s a girl gotta do to get a light in this place,” she asked. Without taking my eyes off of her, I pulled out my lighter and flicked it alive. But I hesitated. . .  Because sometimes you’re lighting a cigarette, and sometimes you’re lighting a fuse.

Jett’s Short Pulp Story – Excerpt from Jett

NOTE:  This short story is from the larger story of Jett.  This excerpt is  a short story written by the protagonist, Jett, for her Literature class.  She tells a more light hearted story of an incident which happened over the summer.  The incident itself was much more dangerous than Jett makes it out to be in her story.  Enjoy:

It started out a boring day of summer, but not for long. I was on my bike, riding my usual route from my summer karate class to my job when a group of boys confronted me. I say boys, but there were girls too. Girlfriends, sheep, or sycophants. It’s all the same. Me? I don’t have boyfriends. I ain’t nobody’s sheep and I do what I want. That’s how I live and it ain’t changing for no boy.
The boys were your typical popular kids who somehow parlayed their popularity into being bullies. Most of them were followers, looking for a brave leader to show them the path to glory on the gridiron, or diamond, or whatever other patch of grass they throw a ball around on in a vain attempt to prove their manhood. But these poor souls were misguided. They didn’t have a brave leader to show them the path to glory; they had Bob.
Bob wasn’t the strongest guy. He wasn’t the fastest guy. He surely wasn’t the smartest guy. He wasn’t the anythingest guy. He could throw a ball far, all kinds of balls, and apparently that earns a boy some status in this town. He could throw it far, but he wasn’t very good at getting it exactly where was supposed to go. But, the bar was low in this town and Bob’s ability to throw a ball far, combined with his dad’s bloated bank account and political ambitions, apparently buys a football team a quarterback in this town, or a baseball team a pitcher. I’m not sure what the going rate is for a quarterback, but there wasn’t much of a market by my estimate. Zero wins and Ten losses last year. Again, the bar is low in this town. Pep rallies were more like group therapy and cheerleaders weren’t cheering as much as they were pleading.
Anyway, I digress. These gridiron hapless heroes were blocking my path to get where I was going and they weren’t moving. “What’s up guys?” I asked as I came to a stop. There was no point in trying to run this blockade. I figured I could outsmart them instead.
“What’s up? We’re what’s up. We don’t like your attitude,” one of the boys said. It wasn’t Bob, but it was Joseph. He often spoke for Bob. I say that because Joseph isn’t smart enough to speak for himself. He couldn’t put two words together to form a coherent sentence if he was spotted the noun and given his choice of verbs. Joseph was the muscle, Bob was the brains. Did I mention the bar was low?
“I’m sorry guys. Did I do something that hurt your feelings?” I asked.
“No, you pissed us off though. And we’re gonna kick your ass now.” Joseph replied.
“Kick my ass? Didn’t you get your ass kicked enough on Friday nights last year?” I retorted. I knew it was a mistake, and I wanted to regret saying it, but it felt pretty good coming out. I smiled and said, “I’m just kidding. Sorta.” Oops I did it again.
“See, that’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about. Your attitude. We represent your school on Friday nights.”
“I didn’t vote for you. In fact, I demand a recount.” I retorted again.
“You have no respect for this team or us players,” Bob said, getting into my space.
“Neither do your opponents.” I said, without hesitating. This was too easy. Bob, though, was getting madder and clenched his fists in anger. Something was different about Bob. He was more intense than I remembered him from last semester. Nevertheless, even his girlfriend laughed at that one.
“And you. The karate kid,” Bob said, “Are we supposed to be afraid?”
“Of what?” I asked.
“That’s what I thought. Right now, you and I. You’re going to learn who the boss is here at this school.”
“I don’t want to fight you Bob. I was just riding to my job when you guys stopped me. You started it.”
“Yea. And we’re going to finish it.”
From my left one of the other kids, Rick, a grabbed me by the arm as Bob and Joseph started swinging at me. I managed to get out of Rick’s grasp and moved to my left, away from the other two boys and positioned Rick between us. I stepped forward when Rick lunged at me and then sidestepped, putting my arm up for protection. Rick missed me entirely and lost his balance, falling to the ground. Bob made his move before Rick could get up. I got into my defensive position and simply avoided Bob’s wild, erratic punches while moving away from the other boys, effectively isolating myself with Bob. It wasn’t hard. Bob was strong enough to do damage, and angry enough to lose control, but he was so angry that his punches were random with no focus. He simply flailed away at me with no coherent strategy. It wasn’t hard to maintain a position just to his left and simply block or stay out of his reach while he flailed away. It also made it easier to use Bob as a buffer to keep the other two boys from attacking me. I never threw punch. Didn’t need to. Eventually Bob ran out of breath and was bent over. His friends had given too up by then. We all stood there awkwardly for a moment and I said, “Are we done? I need to go to work.”
Before I could respond Joseph and Rick jumped me at the same time. I let my guard down, I got cocky, and now I was on the ground with two large, stupid oafs beating on me relentlessly. Bob caught his second wind and started kicking at me. That’s when something strange happened.
The girlfriend grabbed Bob and pulled him away. Then she pulled the other boys away with the help of her two friends. “You’re not supposed to fight girls!” she yelled at him, clearly angry. For that moment we were sisters united and there wasn’t anything the boys could do. They just stood there staring as I got up off the ground, with the help of the other girls. The girls then walked me to my job and told my boss what happened. She called my dad, and he came and picked me up.
I never talked to those girls about this when school started. I knew the score. We had our moment of triumph, but we weren’t going to be singing songs around a campfire or marching in any women’s rights marches together anytime soon. They made up with their boyfriends and life went on. They despised me, I tolerated them. Their boyfriends still wanted to beat me up but are a little more hesitant now. I learned two things that day:
Sometimes you can win a fight without throwing a single punch;
And I hate a bully.

Then End.
Jett Landry.



Three of these stories take place in the same “universe.”  The Fuse, The Fuse pt 2 (The Escape) and the excerpt from Jett are all part of the same story.  The Fuse is the beginning of the story (for now) where a man, the hardboiled burnout of a private eye who keeps getting burnetbecause he can’t seem to help himself from doing the right thing to help people; meets the woman who is the troubled dancer with a heart of gold who wants to leave town and start over.  She saw something that she believes puts her in danger so she saves up her money, finds our protagonist, and approaches him at the bar.  The vibe of the story is film noir.  In The Fuse pt 2, (The Escape) the protagonist tells the story about how he managed to swindle Vinnie out of some money and get the girl out of town.  Our protagonist exists in a tangled world of extortion and alliances and he has been using both to work all the characters in town against each other.  It’s how he survives.  He and “the boss” have an understanding because, at some point in the past, he discovered information about the boss that makes him vulnerable.  So he uses this as leverage to keep himself safe.  He has a backup plan if something happens to him so the boss looks out for him. At the same time, he has an arrangement with the local DA of the same sort.  He knows enough about everyone to be left alone to do his thing.   Vinnie is a brash, obnoxious gangster wannabe; another throwback to the past.  While the boss is actually trying to transition the mafia he inherited into a legitimate business empire, Vinnie is still enamored with the old ways.

Jett (from the excerpt from Jett) is actually the daughter of the protagonist and the woman he helps to escape.  The story of Jett includes a perspective shift.  The story is no longer told in first person by the protagonist because the story is now about Jett, not our intrepid and resourceful private eye.  Jett’s story starts 14 years after the encounter in The Fuse.  Jett is an odd, shy, resourceful girl who is equal parts her mom and dad.  Her story is one of finding her identity in the same universe that her parents occupied over a decade before.  In the excerpt from her story, she finally confronts the bully who has been tormenting her since she started her school.

The arc of these stories is to continue the story of the hardboiled, film noir private eye into the future through his child, Jett, who is destined to become more of a comic book style heroine, but who still lives with the ethos and values that were taught to her by her dad.   She is his legacy, but she is the future.  Later, in the story, she’ll refer to putting herself in peril to help people who can’t help themselves as “the family business.”

I’m still writing and telling this story so if you read this and have questions, feel free to ask them in the comment box and I’ll gladly answer them to the best of my ability.


Enjoy and there is more to come.

The Fuse Pt 2 – Escape

It was a sordid affair and, like these things usually go, you know the deal. I could say something sexy and cool here but it won’t matter because the story always ends up the same: with me sitting in some joint somewhere having a drink and thinking about the last woman that I damn near got myself killed over. ..again. So here I was, sitting in this bar having a drink when this knockout of a dame walked in, looking for me. It’s not hard to tell a woman in trouble, because she’ll be looking for me to get her out of it. That’s how I make my living. She took the seat next to me and after getting a light for her cigarette she started telling me her story. Did I mention she was beautiful? No. Well, that’s because I’m trying to forget how beautiful she was. Not in a pristine, diva kind of way though. She was beautiful in that disheveled, stressed out and desperate kind of way. You could tell she’d clean up well if she had the chance. I knew right then that it was up to me to make sure she got the chance.
As we talked this guy walked in. Angry, asking the bartender a lot of questions about this girl he was looking for. I sent her out the back door by the alley with instructions to get a room at the Days Out Motel downtown. The clerk was a friend of mine and he had a habit of not running his mouth. The guy that walked in, well, his name was Vinnie, and he said he was looking for her because he was her boss. So, I punched Vinnie in the mouth.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in this business, it’s that you never punch a guy named Vinnie in the mouth.
But she needed the distraction to get out the back door unnoticed, so I did what I needed to do. Well, to be honest, I didn’t need to punch Vinnie in the mouth, but he probably needed to get punched to get punched in the mouth.
I woke up at the docks with Vinnie and this guy named Joey. Joey had an ugly face and an attitude to match. He wasn’t the brightest guy, but he was good at his job; which is to intimidate guys like me. They didn’t mention the girl, but said that the boss, he had a job for me, pays very well, no questions asked. I asked about the woman, then I punched Vinnie in the mouth again. I’m a slow learner.
I took the job. Not for the money, but for the woman; and because that was probably the only way I was gonna be leaving the docks wearing my own shoes, if you know what I mean. You see, back when we were at the bar, the woman told me that she wanted to leave her employment, but she’d seen some things that she wished she hadn’t and her boss wanted to have a. . let’s just call it an impromptu employment evaluation over it. She worked as a dancer in one of the clubs and wanted out anyway. Now may be the only chance she would have to act on it. Her boss was Vinnie and he worked for the local business, so she had a good reason, and said she’d pay cash for my help. She said that word on the street was that I was discreet and knew how to handle complicated situations like this; and that I didn’t have a big mouth. Funny thing is, that I often complicate situations like this instead of handling them. People get confused on the street. But I knew that Vinnie was on thin ice with the boss, and one more screw up and he would be added to the “unemployment roll.” He’s been unstable, getting personal, drawing too much attention to himself. So, when we saw Vinnie walk into the bar and question the bartender about her whereabouts, I had an idea. I made it personal this time.
All they wanted me to do was deliver an envelope to a local bails bondsman at 2:00am. This guy would be working the desk. Give him the envelope and tell him that Vinnie sends his regards. Then meet Joey and Vinnie at a bar on the corner of North and 25th. Have a few drinks, collect the money, and we’d go our separate ways. The woman was at a motel two blocks away and had instructions to stay put until she was clear to leave town. It wasn’t easy, but I called in a few favors and was able to procure a rental car for he; she’d drive two hours out of town to an airport in a larger city, where I’d have plane tickets to somewhere elseville waiting for her. I had a plan to get Vinnie to pay my fee and fund her trip, so she would have some cash to help her start over. Sounds simple, easy. But, that’s not how things worked out.
I drove around for a while and then went straight to the bar. Vinnie and Joey were there, as planned, but there was a third person sitting at the table with them. They were in a corner, away from everyone else, and no one went near their table. It was one of Vinnie’s joints so they had the home field advantage. When I got to the table, Joey motioned for me to sit down, across from he and Vinnie, next to their guest. That’s when I realized that it was the woman that was supposed to be at the motel room waiting for me. She sat there smoking a cigarette and avoiding eye contact. Vinnie looked at her and then me, and then said, “I would introduce you two but you’ve already met. At the bar, when she offered to pay you to help her leave town. I’m disappointed, and frankly I’m kind of impressed, that you had the balls to take the job. One of the guys caught her slipping out the back of the bar. You think I wouldn’t send a guy out back, or to that shithole motel you always use to hide people? Just how stupid do you think I am?”
I didn’t even answer that question. Instead, I carefully weighed my options. I decided to be straight forward about it. “You know guys like me Vinnie; I work for a living. I offer a service and if you got the cash I don’t discriminate and I don’t ask questions. I have to pay bills just like everyone else.”
Vinnie eyed me carefully, then asked slowly and clearly, “Then what was that bullshit about punching me in the mouth, twice? Was that part of the job?”
“No Vinnie, I just don’t like your face. That’s all.” I meant it as a joke, on the surface, but I wasn’t lying. Joey laughed and then choked it up when Vinnie looked at him.
“So, you’re gonna be a smart ass. Suppose I take you back to the docks right now, one-way trip, for that stunt?”
“No Vinnie, I don’t think you want to do that, not with what just went down at the job you sent me on.”
“What the fuck you talking about? You delivered the package, didn’t you?”
“Yea. I did exactly what you said, but on the way out the guy working the desk said that he had no idea what this was about, that he was filling in for someone else who had an accident, was in the hospital. He’s the guy with the package now.”
Vinnie’s eyes widened. Another screw up, plus the scene at the bar earlier when I punched him in the mouth. The boss isn’t going to like this. “Why didn’t you take the package back?” he asked angrily.
“Because you just said to give it to the guy at the desk. You didn’t tell me who it was I was giving it to. You have to think about things like this Vinnie.” I said.
“So this is my fault,” Vinnie said, his voice rising, drawing attention to himself, “is that what you’re gonna tell the boss? That I didn’t tell you who to give it to? “
“You know the score Vinnie. One more screw up and you’re done. Right now, you need me, because I know who has the package. If the package gets in the wrong hands, you’re done. I can get it back. But I’m not going to do that unless you make a deal.”
“What if I just off you right now? What does any of this matter to you then?”
“You’re not that stupid Vinnie, ” I said, ” because then you don’t get the package back and it doesn’t get to where it’s supposed to go. We’re both dead then. Is that how you want to play it? You need me. “
Vinnie looked at me for a long time. Then he said, “What do you want?”
“I’ll keep it simple. The package, it’s a payoff to someone, I know that. The guy who normally works the overnight shift, it’s his night job, he’s also a cop, so it’s not hard to figure out who you’re paying and what you’re paying for. No one wants that to get out. But you’re a known player Vinnie, so a package containing cash from Vinnie is gonna be a big deal. So, I go back to the kid and tell the kid who got the package that I’m a courier and I made a mistake, get the package back, no big deal. Your face is left out of it and you can get the package to your guy whenever you can. What I want in return is double the fee you promised plus, the girl gets out of town with no problems. If anything doesn’t happen to me, I check in with my lawyer friend who is waiting to hear if everything went down okay. If she doesn’t hear from me, then she goes to the Department of Justice and talks to Uncle Rico about everything. You go down, your friend goes down. Not sure if you want to confront the boss on this one, you’d have better luck with the feds.”
“So I just have to trust you to keep your word on this?”
“As you know, me and your boss have an understanding so you have my word no one goes down if you play along. If not, he’ll throw you under the bus, not me. I don’t want that to happen, so I’m trying to work it out. So yea, you have to trust me.”
“Fuck,” Vinnie said, and nothing else.
“You’re sloppy Vinnie, and you make everything personal. That’s why I punched you in the mouth. To make a scene that would get back to the boss. He wants you to be a good soldier but you keep finding trouble. Let the woman go, give me the money, and it all goes away. Decline my offer and you don’t get the package back. It gets to the boss with your name attached to it. Do something to me and my person tells the whole story. What’s it gonna be Vinnie?”
“What about her? There’s a reason I can’t just let her go,” Vinnie said.
“Give it up Vinnie. You’re gonna have to let her go for this to go down right. Who is she gonna tell? Who’s gonna believe her anyway? She’s gonna go away and start her life over and you’ll never have to see her again. I get my fee and you get your package back. Everyone wins. You in?”
Vinnie knew that he was cornered. Word was that the boss was trying to avoid complications so he needed to keep a low profile and avoid unnecessary attention. He already knew that Vinnie got into a fight at a bar, which is exactly the kind of thing he was supposed to avoid. He needed to get the money to his guy but he couldn’t be seen with him, which is why they asked me to do the job. But now someone else has the money, at least as far as Vinnie knew. The truth was, I still had the money. I didn’t deliver it. My plan was to wait and then bring Vinnie the package with the money as if I got it back from the kid at the bail bondsman’s office. Vinnie’s guy was there, I just didn’t bring it to him. Vinnie and the guy don’t talk, so he would never know what happened. All he knew was that he never got the money, so no matter how this plays out, Vinnie is gonna be in trouble with the boss when he shows up with the money instead of his guy having the money. Vinnie’s girl gets out of town with a new identity while Vinnie is tied up dealing with the boss.
We left the bar and this time I put her up in a nice hotel, one of those 3-star jobs. I used the money from Vinnie to purchase a plane ticket and gave her the name of the guy who would help her go away to never be found again. We spent a few nights together in the hotel, either drinking at the bar or playing hide the goods in the room. Yea, I fell for her and I fell hard. But she had to go. Vinnie wasn’t going to control his impulses forever and she needed to start over, but it was good while it lasted. So good. I don’t know why, but something told me that I hadn’t heard the last from her yet. We had one last romp, said our goodbyes, and she left town while I went back to that joint on the south side of town, ordered a drink, and tried not to think about what was going to happen next. I figured Vinnie won’t be available to cause any more problems and Joey is too stupid to understand what just went down.

I’m a sucker for a woman with a story…

The Fuse

Steves Thoughts and Words

black and whiteSo there I was,at this joint on the south side of town.  It was a hot, sticky night and all I wanted was a break from the heat… and to be left alone.  The bartender just looked at me, so I said, “Give me a whiskey and coke, hold the coke, make it a double and keep em coming.”  I had a lot of thinking to do and this wasn’t the time to do it.  The bartender grunted, turned around, and poured some whiskey into a glass and set it in front of me.  There is an art to ordering a drink and if I don’t get anything else right in this life, at least I got that.

That’s when she walked in.  Dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin, with long legs and nails.  To be honest, she was beautiful.  I was hooked and there was no turning back. …

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Excerpt from Jett (Work in Progress)

Jett collected her books and started her walk to class. As she walked away from her locker, alone as usual, the tall, muscular boy walked by and bumped her, knocking her books from her hands, as he went by, laughing and talking to the attractive young blond girl who was hanging on his every word. “Asshole,” muttered Jett as he walked by laughing at her.
The boy stopped, turned around, and said, “What did you just say you little bitch?”
“Asshole. I said Asshole, referring to you. Because you’re an asshole,” Jett said back. Her heart pounded in her chest and she took a deep breath as she waited for him to respond.
“Fuck off whore,” the boy said as he turned around to walk away.
“No. . .You fuck off. . .whore,” Jett said loudly to his back. It got quiet in the hallway as the other kids stopped to watched, shocked.
“What did you just say, bitch?” the boy said as he turned and walked back towards Jett.
“I’m sorry. . You’re deaf and stupid. My mistake. First I called you an asshole and then I told YOU to fuck off. And I called you a whore. Because it applies to you a lot more than to me, logically. Any questions?”
“I don’t think you know what you’re saying. I think you owe me an apology. Or maybe I just kick your ass. And I don’t care if you’re a girl. No one, especially a little bitch like you, talks to me like that. No one. Got it, half breed?” Half breed was what they often called her in an attempt to embarrass her. She preferred the term Biracial, but she wasn’t going to let it get to her today.
“I’m not scared of you,” Jett said, matter of factly.
“I’m not scared of you. All these kids here, they’re scared of you. Me, I’m not. You don’t scare me. You’re stupid and weak.”
“I suppose you can back that up. Maybe you should be.”
“Because I’m gonnna kick your ass if you don’t shut up.”
“Kick my ass? You’ve never kicked an ass in your life. I heard about the game last weekend.”

“The game, what?”

              “The game.  You’re trying to start a fight with me, but didn’t you guys get your ass kicked enough at the game already?” She asked, smiling as she asked it.  She was feeling good now.  He was on the defensive.  She had him right where she wanted him.

              “Look babe,” another boy said, walking up beside her, “don’t start this.  He’ll fight you, and it’ll be bad for you if he does.  Just, back off.  Walk away and we’ll just call it even.”

              Jett ignored the interloper, looking directly at the first boy, “I’m not scared of you.  You stupid and weak.  You’re all talk.  You’re nothing to be scared of.”

              The other boy just stood there, confused.  First off, no kid talked to him like that; second, this was a girl talking to him like this.  He had to do something. 

              “Just. . shut the fuck up,” was all he could muster.

              “I’m not scared of you.  Or your friends.  And I’m tired of you messing with me.”

              “Shut up!” He said louder.

              “I’m not scared of you,” she said calmly, smiling now.

              “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

              “I’m not scared of you.”

              With that the boy walked towards her, chest out, face red and got in her space, doing his best to intimidate the girl.  “SHUT UP OR GET YOUR ASS KICKED!” he said.

              She calmly stared him down and said, quietly, “I’m not scared of you.”

              With that the boy put his hand on her chest and started to push her.  She stood her ground and leaned forward, with her legs set. “Get your hands off of me now.”

              “SHUT UP” the boy said.

              “If you don’t get your hands off of me by the time I count to three. . “

              “OR what?” the boy challenged her.

“One. .” and then the girl punched him hard in the mouth, putting all of her weight and momentum into it. Before he could react, she kicked him hard in the crotch. The boy lurched forward in pain. She grabbed his shirt and, with force, used his momentum to sling him to the ground. When he hit the ground the other boy jumped in, to defend his friend. She turned and punched him in the mouth too. He fell backwards more in shock than from the force of the punch and landed against the lockers. A random locker door swung open and hit him in the face as he stood there, stunned.
The girl then jumped on the boy on the ground, pinning him to the ground and hit him in the face and head over and over as all the other kids looked on in shock. , “Listen up fuckers,” she said to the friends of the boy that had gathered around to see the small girl beat up their friend, “the next time one of you fuckers thinks about fucking with me, remember what I did to your little bitch friend’s face here. And that goes for fucking with any of the kids in this school that you’ve been fucking with fucking fuckers.”
She then calmly got up as school security arrived, shocked at what they were seeing. “Did you do this?” One of the security guys said to her. “He started it,” Jett said back, as they escorted her to the principal’s office.

The Number

Based on a True Story:
There was a boy at a university. He was shy, awkward, lonely. All his friends had girlfriends, but he just hadn’t met anyone. Semesters went by, and he had a few dates here and there, but he still longed to meet that one girl that would be his college sweetheart. That’s all he really wanted. Not one-night stands, or nights of drunken, crazy sex; but just that one girl who would change everything.

Then he met her. He had a long break between classes. He saw her sitting alone in the Café in the Student Center. She was pretty, in a “plain Jane” kind of way, which is what he liked the most. She wore a pair of jeans, a blue sweat shirt and black framed glasses. Her long brown hair framed her face as she looked down at the book she was reading. She was curvy, maybe a little more so than the other girls, but she was perfect to him. He got up his nerve, walked over, and introduced himself.
“Hi. . .my name is. . .uh. . Steve. . May I join you?” he asked.
“Hello. . uh Steve. . .” she said, “I would love that. My name is Amy.”
She smiled and invited him to sit down. They had coffee together. He was thrilled at the attention this beautiful girl was giving him. She was smart. She had a beautiful smile and she used it often. She blushed at times, which was cute. They both talked and talked and talked. They both felt like they had known each other forever. They both said that they wanted to get to know each other more.
They went for a walk together. They held hands. The talked about anything and everything. They giggled. They sat on a bench outside of Building C and cuddled. His heart pounded almost out of his chest as she got close. His breathing sped up and he probably turned red. She didn’t seem to mind his awkwardness. In fact, she seemed thrilled by it. Then they kissed. Neither of them knows who kissed who first, maybe it was a tie. It didn’t matter. It was one of the most passionate and beautiful and awkward kisses in the history of the University. To this day the old timers still talk of this kiss. The perfect kiss between two lovers that would kick off a lifetime of perfect kisses. So perfect and raw. So innocent and awkward. So deep. He felt like something changed in him after he kissed her. In that moment after their first kiss he felt like he was finally complete. In his mind, he kept fast forwarding to many years later, when they would talk about this kiss to their kids and grandkids; when they would talk about the magic of love at first sight and of the first time they met. How she would slap him on the leg, laugh, and tell the kids how shy and awkward he was and how she had seen him so many times and just wished he would get up the nerve to talk to her in the University Café; and of the excitement she had to contain when he finally did. He entertained every corny romantic notion that a boy at University entertains when he meets the girl of his dreams. But not during the kiss. During the kiss, he was in a state of perfect zen. He felt every motion, every sensation, every breath. He felt the give and take as their mouths groped for each other. He felt the the softness of her lips, wetness of her tongue, and the coffee on her breath. He could remember the smell of her skin and the feel of her face against his. All of this he felt, and he could recall it in detail every day for the rest of his life.
She was late for class and had to go.  He pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote his name and telephone number on one side of the paper and she wrote her name and telephone number on the other side. He tore the paper in half and, while they kissed one more time, he placed one half of the paper in her soft hand. As she kissed him again, she stuffed her half of the paper in her purse, smiled, walked away and ran back and kissed him once more, and then ran to class. He stared at her running to class as he stuffed his half of the paper in his pocket.
“Call me tonight!” she yelled as she excitedly ran away.

He saw his friends later that afternoon. He told them all about Amy. His friends, who were usually encouraging him to find a girl to sleep with and nothing more, were different. They all encouraged him to call her that night, and were glad he found someone and that this seemed like the real thing. They told him to go slow, not to rush her into anything and to focus on having a relationship. For all their usual foolhardy playboy tendencies, they knew their friend was different. He was the serious type who deserved to have that special girlfriend. They never thought that much of themselves but they did of him, and they were all happy for him.
That night, after he got home from class, he ran straight for his phone. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the paper. He unfolded it as he picked up the receiver and got ready to dial. His heart pounded at the excitement of calling her and planning their first date. A million thoughts flooded his mind at once. He almost put the phone down because he was so overwhelmed with emotion, but he persevered and put the phone to his ear, holding it with his shoulder, as he got ready to dial. He unfolded the paper and just stared at it for a what seemed like eternity. . .
Then he put the phone down, crushed with disappointment.
He never saw Amy again.

Many many years later, one failed marriage and too many martinis to count he found himself sitting at some bar somewhere contemplating his next move in life. Things kept going from bad to worse, then from worse to worse, and yet again he ended up alone. He had gone to visit his family recently and found an old box from college. Among all the old artifacts and pictures and awards was this small slip of paper, folded in half. He kept the paper. Now, sitting at that bar, wounded by what his life had become and struggling with yet another bout of depression, he pulled out the paper and stared at it again, just like he did when he was a boy at Univeristy. On the paper was written:

“Steve 867-5309”

The End

The Umbrella

Based on a true story. . .

I walked out of my office, umbrella and satchel in hand as she walked by. I set the satchel back down and I held the umbrella out in front of her as if it were a baton in a relay race at a track meet.
“What’s this?” She asked, as she stopped in front of my office (she always stops in front of my office on the way out).
“Uhh. . .an umbrella?” I said sarcastically.
“I know that, why are you handing it to me?”
“It’s raining really hard, you’re about to go outside, and you don’t have one.”
“yea.. Thanks! Great observation but don’t you need it?”
“Not today, I’m good. I’ll be here a while getting some paper work done.”
“How many umbrella’s have I lost, broke or accidentally given away that were yours?”
“Too many to count. Now take the umbrella so you don’t get wet. I’m not using it so you might as well. Maybe you’ll remember to bring it back this time.”
She laughed, a laugh mixed with a sigh, and took the umbrella. “Alright. Thanks! You’re so sweet, always looking out for me. I’ll bring this one back, I promise.”
“Sure you will,” I said as I pretended to roll my eyes, “be careful out there, that weather is nasty.” I knew she would bring it back this time. She keeps her promises.
“Thanks. .I will. You sure you don’t need this?” she said, holding the umbrella out.
“Nah, the rain shouldn’t last long. It will pass by the time I’m finished. Take it and be careful in this weather.”
“Okay. .thanks! See you tomorrow,” she said as she left.
I waited a few minutes for her to leave and then checked the window to see that her car was out of the parking lot. I grabbed the satchel, locked my office door behind me, went outside, and sprinted through the rain to my car. Drenched, I used my key to open the door and threw myself inside, closing the door behind me. I caught my breath, started the car and turned on the heat. It didn’t bother me to get wet from the rain, because that’s how it is sometimes.

Sometimes in life, you’re just gonna get wet…
On the radio was this song from a band called The Police. It was called “Everything She Does is Magic.”

“I have to tell a story of a thousand rainy days since we first met. . .It’s a big enough umbrella but it’s always me that ends up getting wet. . .” – The Police (Everything She Does is Magic).


Allen and the Single Mom

“ Hey. . .I thought I would call and ask a qu. . yea I know you’re busy but its about your kids. . . No.. . they’re fine. . really, they’re fine. . Well, the little one had an allergic reaction last night and we had to go to the ER. . .no, I’m not asking you to pay. . . I haven’t even gotten the bill. . . would you listen. . . I can’t call tonight. . We have dance at 6:00pm, then one of the boys has a ga. . I’m not ASKING you to come to the damn game. . .I know you’re busy. . . ok. . ok. . . I covered that. . . It was hard but I made it happen. . . I always make it happen you know that. Btw. . nice motorcycle. . . when did you get that? The credit union? Wow. . I’m surprised they gave you a loan. . .No I’m not being a bi.. . But you ARE behind on child support. Yes Allen. . I know you work hard. We all do. . So do. . . I know. . .I know. . I know. . Ok. . I’m very busy can I get to why I called? Anyway, I have a question. . . Whe. . Yes Allen, your son plays football. I told you this. He plays free safety. . He was third string last year but he worked out hard all summer with the weights and the running. His favorite team is the Cowboys and Byron Jones is his hero. Not just because of football but because he was also an academic all American. Your son makes straight A’s Allen. He’s smart and determined. You’re surprised? Why are you surprised. .You should be proud, not surprised. . .I’m telling you this because you DON’T KNOW YOUR KIDS! Your daughter wants to be a dancer. She’s clumsy but she tries so hard. You should come see her perform. I’m not PRESSURING you Allen, I’m just telling you. You should also come to your son’s game. It would mean so much to him if you were there for once. . yes . .yes. .ok. .I’m sorry for the for once but you should co. . .I know you’re busy. New wife, step kids, promotion. . I get it Allen. Yes. . you’ve moved on and we are all so fucking proud of how you’ve moved on.. .Maybe I should do the same? Are you fucking kidding me? I’m raising our kids Allen. While you were out partying and getting laid I was going to Little League and Dance and helping them with homework and talking to teachers. .and NO. .you will not interrupt me again Allen. I’ve been crying with them and encouraging them. I’ve been punishing them when they deserve it and rewarding them when they achieve. I’m the one who worries all night about whether or not I’m a good enough parent. I’m the one who tries to teach them to have values. I’m the one at every game cheering them on while trying not to take over. I’m the one letting them make their own mistakes and feeling the heartbreak every time I can’t just fix everything. I’m the one who is shaping the lives and minds and hearts and souls of these little people that we created while you are getting on with your life. THIS IS MY LIFE ALLEN!!! This is what I do. Sure, you show up about once every two months, you know. . when you have time, and go do something fun. They get all excited to see you. They are happy for any scrap of attention you can give them while I’m over here doing the work. But that’s ok. . I’ll give you a break on the visitation. . I’ll even give you a break on the child support (even though you bought a fucking motorcycle). . . Just come to freaking game for once and give your son some encouragement, watch your daughter dance in the recital. . . and let me tell you about them so you will know what they are talking about when you see them. Now. . I have a question.
Can I ask my fucking question now?
What’s your mom’s phone number? They want to see their grandmother this weekend. They are really great kids.. .
Ok. .thanks. . sorry for the rant.
Oh. .and Allen. . .Pay your fucking child support.

It Happens in Your Sleep

“It happens in your sleep, Steven” – What I was dismissively told when I first became curious about love and sex.
This will never work out. We’re not compatible.
We’re too different:
If I hold her she will sleep.
But if I don’t hold her, I will sleep.
She can’t go to sleep unless I am holding her.
I can’t sleep when I am touching another person.
She suggested I hold her until she falls asleep.
Then let her go, so I can sleep. Once she is asleep, she will not know I am not holding her she says.
She’s a very practical woman. A problem solver.
But she has nightmares. I hear her. Her breathing speeds up.
She startles. She tries to cry out. But she has no memory of these in the morning.
So I held her one night when she was having the nightmares and the nightmares stopped.
The nightmares she doesn’t remember.
If I don’t sleep, I’ll be okay. I’ll know that she didn’t have the nightmares. This will sustain me.
So I start holding her and I don’t let go.
Late at night, when I’m awake holding her, her hands grasp my hands and our fingers are interlocked.
Her legs are intertwined with mine. She holds my legs tight with hers.
We wake like this, but she has no recollection of how it happened. I dismissively told her that
It happened in our sleep, “who knows? it’s just one of those things,” I said .
“Hmmm. . .” she said, and then she gets up and takes a shower.
At night, when she subconsciously grasps my hand. When our fingers are interlocked
And our legs are wrapped around each other
It’s like her soul is breaking through her subconscious mind.. begging me. .saying
“Don’t let go baby. . .never let go.”
And my soul answers, saying
“Baby. . I won’t let go. I will never let go.”
Now, something strange has happened. When I hold her and don’t let go
I sleep. . .. . . .. . . . .
Sometimes it does happen in your sleep.