This is a collection of flash and short fictions I’ve written over the last five years.
I was beyond broke. I kept staring at the dime and the nickel, my total worth: net, gross and real. Fifteen cents, the cost of one 1967 New York City subway token. As the Wall Street types say, that was my liquid.
I had fifteen hours until I would be evicted from my SRO flop on West 71st Street. I lay on my bed, stomach growling, as I heard the night clerk shove the eviction notice under my door. I would have until noon tomorrow to pay. No pay, no room. I was already a week behind in my $12.50 a week rent. I’d let management hold my passport against my past-due rent. I’d hocked all my musical instruments except my soprano clarinets. If I did get a show gig, I would have to borrow some saxophones and flutes or rent them. I knew that if I were homeless, someone would steal my clarinets and then I was doomed. When I came to the Big Apple seeking my fortune in the concert music business, homelessness in Mayor John Lindsay’s crumbling New York City was not on my agenda. My family refused to loan me money: “You could have been a doctor.” The intake worker at unemployment said I hadn’t worked enough freelance gigs to qualify for benefits. She told me that the day after I spent six hours playing in the subway, which netted a mere twenty-two dollars and eighty-two cents.
Mine was a humble arrival in the most famous of America’s boroughs. I entered Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York in a rental car. I had been offered the car free if I would drive it to JFK from Chicago. My liquidity was $600 cash, a backpack of tattered clothes, art supplies, and the promise of an apartment to sit while its occupants were on honeymoon. I would have ten days to find a place to live. It was 1982, the depths of the Reagan recession and eight months shy of my fortieth birthday.
Park Slope was still home to working class Irish and Puerto Ricans, but it was undergoing rapid gentrification. Every week, another real estate company opened on Seventh Avenue, Park Slope’s commercial hub. Mostly the neighborhood consisted of chopped up Gilded Age brownstones, rent-controlled tenements, and abandoned homes repurposed as hangouts for desperadoes and drug addicts. It was a neighborhood in transition, still mostly working class and poor, but the inexpensive housing and proximity to Manhattan were an irresistible magnet for all manner of wannabe twenty-somethings: musicians, artists, illustrators, writers, playwrights, dancers, painters, sculptors, directors, actors, models…. There were a few well-known writers, musicians, and film people living on the Slope, but most incoming residents were ambitious career entrants.
He was the oldest person attending the wedding and reception. His brother Nick, the groom’s father, was only ten months younger than himself. His youngest brother Jack, five years his junior, was still the third oldest person there. Except for the groom’s extended family, the majority of the attendees were equally split between twenty-somethings and early-middle-aged relatives of the groom’s mother. To him the younger women, contemporaries of the bride, all sounded as if they were breathing helium. In addition to high inarticulate voices, their conversations were filled with up-talk, conjunctions conjoined to conjunctions and OMG’s in various flavors.
He was not drinking. He had been dry for three months and this was his first social gathering. He’d flown in from Paris, not so much for the wedding, but to be together with his brothers for probably the last time. The previous time they had all been together was fifteen years ago at their mother’s funeral.
This is my first creative non-fiction story. It was published in the multi-media magazine Mad Hatters’ Review (Issue 13, May 2012; homepage). The Butterfly Effect was a designated “Notable Story” by storySouth Million Writers Award.
Click on the magazine cover to hear/read my story. (The printed version is updated from the earlier read version.) Elsewhere in the issue is my music Mouth Parts, performed in Paris by Trio Rare < here >
The publisher of PANK asks all the authors to read their stories. I recorded myself reading How Was Your Afternoon, Dear? which was published in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of PANK magazine online. To hear me read the story with my sound design and music, click here and click on the audio play button.
The angry man drove into the setting sun. He was tired and fought to keep his ‘69 Volkswagen squareback from skidding off the unplowed snow-covered road. He slapped the steering wheel mouthing a vulgarity when he lost control of the car. Why did he agree to drive his estranged wife from Chicago to her sister’s home in Los Angeles? Their marriage was over. Why this last chivalry?
According to his wife, there was a small county park where they could car-camp for the night off this side road. That wife was sick with the flu, sleeping in the back of the car. They had spent the first night in a similar park in Oklahoma. Now he was on a narrow back road looking for the park twenty miles off I-40, west of Albuquerque. He had been driving for twelve hours and had to piss.
To make extra money for her move to Los Angles, his wife took a job substitute teaching in a Chicago junior high school between Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations. She caught a virulent flu from her charges. Even though, as she claimed, she was being “extra careful” because she knew she was coming down with something, she lost her wallet with her driver’s license. She couldn’t help with the driving. But nothing could protect her from the approaching full moon in Ares. She was in for a spate of turbulent times. No amount of precaution could stop the power of the cosmos. What bull shit. She was an idiot. Astrology crap drove him crazy. It excused all sorts of nonsensical behavior. Now he could feel the flu coming on: scratchy throat, fever, headache, stomach cramps. He slammed the steering wheel with his palm and cursed his wife.
Two Wives was originally published on Fictionaut in September 2013. It has been significantly rewritten and is included in my collection: Considered Fiction.
Two women sat at a small outside table at a neighborhood restaurant waiting for the same man. The older woman, older by only twenty-four hours, was tall and slender, almost anorexic. She wore a newsboy cap, which covered her thinning short coif. She had large white teeth that were prominent when she laughed, which she did in a theatrical way. She was wearing a blue work shirt, Calvin Klein jeans and Brevitt boots. The combination of tight jeans and heeled boots accentuated her shapely hips and stems.
Her companion, junior to her by twenty-four hours, was a raven-haired beauty with, as they say, good bones and a wineglass figure. Her perfect complexion and classic high-cheek-boned face were framed by a crimson wide-brimmed hat decorated with a feather and a gold butterfly pin. She wore a white ruffled blouse with a straight black skirt. Her ensemble was accessorized by an Hermès scarf and black sling-back heels. Neither woman would ever see fifty again.
The man they were waiting for was the painter, Jack Mahler. Jack had been married to the older woman, his ex-wife, for three years. His current spouse of twenty-five years was the younger woman.
Rash, inspired by the classic Pygmalion myth, is a story of love, revenge, perversion, vanity, and the supernatural. Jack Mahler, a painter and sculptor, befriends Margaux Howland at the local gym. Margaux is in a loveless marriage with a powerful judge, Leland Howland. The judge commissions Jack to make a portrait statue of his wife. Margaux and Jack begin a love affair. When the Judge discovers the affair, he sends Margaux to their Santa Fe home. The gardener at the Santa Fe home, Carlos, is a well-regarded shaman. Observing the unhappy Margaux, Carlos uses his powers to bedevil the judge. He also gives the statue magical properties. The vanity of human behavior clashes with the power of the paranormal as the story unfolds in unexpected ways.
Click on cover to read.