The Legend

It all started before the fire.

For months, the man had kicked his spouse awake with the same recurring nightmare. In the dream, he arrives at Times Square in New York City on the Number 2 train he had boarded at Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn. He is the first violinist and founding member of the respected Arch String Quartet. He maintains a blossoming parallel career as a soloist and chamber musician. He is at the peak of his profession. His violin is a 1735 Guarneri del Gesù violin, a long-term loan from the Gothamburg Family Trust for the Arts. The Strad magazine judged his instrument one of the finest examples of the Golden Age of Cremonese violin-making. It is insured for eight million dollars.

In the nightmare, the man is wearing a suit and carrying his violin case. He changes to the 42nd Street Shuttle to Grand Central Station; but when he arrives at the end of the Shuttle tunnel, there are no stairwells, only a gaping hole in the floor thirty feet above the Lexington Avenue IRT tracks. He can see a train in the station on the express tracks. Wherever he looks, there are shattered walls, twisted girders, and piles of broken concrete. On the other side of a pile of rubble, he sees a column of people, six-deep, walking in orderly lock-step fashion. They look odd, but secure, as if there is a destination in their step.

Standing in the wreckage-strewn subway concourse, he weighs whether to join the line. He notices that all the travelers’ heads are covered with brown paper bags. Their other accouterments are typical of urban commuters—backpacks, folded newspapers, books, cell phones, purses, shoulder bags, rolling luggage, umbrellas. But unlike New Yorkers, this file of sojourners walks with military precision up a steep temporary wooden ramp. Their footsteps kick up a fine white dust.

Ah, the dust must be why they are wearing paper bags on their heads. It’s also why they are marching in step: they can’t see. That’s it. They can’t see where they’re going. Blind mice.

In the dream, he pulls a white handkerchief from his suit jacket and ties it over his mouth and nose. It’s then that he becomes aware of a droning sound. The marchers are humming. The enveloping paper bags give the sound a buzzing quality. He can discern no tune, only a continuous monotone buzz—maddening in its sameness.

No one in the moving line seems to notice that the station has been bombed or suffered a catastrophic structural failure. If they do, they give no indication of anything unusual. They ignore the collapsed walls and piles of rubble. They march on.

Just like blasé, thick-skinned New Yorkers. Or maybe some authority has forced them to don the paper bags so they wouldn’t see the extent of whatever happened here.

Just then, in the dream, he loses his New York cool. Suddenly, a panic attack. There is no place to run. No escape. His heart pounds erratically.  His mouth is dry, his throat parched, his shirt soaked with sweat.

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Black Widow

He had become an accessory to a murder. He didn’t drive the getaway car, didn’t arrange the setup, didn’t provide the weapon, and didn’t know the victim. He had unwittingly provided an alibi for the murderer. And all because of a chance encounter. Out of the blue. It was, he thought, a kismet of the most unusual kind. It happened on a bridge, the Pont Neuf in Paris, on a cold, foggy night.

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How Was Your Afternoon, Dear? Reading, with Sound Design:

The publisher of PANK asks all the authors to read their stories. I recorded myself reading How Was Your Afternoon, Dearwhich 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.

 

Reckonings: A Western

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.

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RASH, A novella of love, revenge, perversion, and the paranormal

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.

rash-cover

Click on cover to read.

Steps

He deplaned Air France flight 9 from JFK to Charles de Gaulle airport at quarter past noon. He had to connect with an EasyJet flight to Nice at terminal 2E. The connection would involve a long walk and a shuttle bus ride. The signage was confusing, but he had traveled this route a dozen times and knew it well. His luggage was a backpack and a baritone saxophone in a leather gig bag. The plane from JFK was fifteen minutes late. He would have to hustle to make the connection.

He passed the train station where a Paris-bound B3 RER train was waiting in the station.

—Why is it when I need to get to Paris in a hurry, there never is a train, but when I don’t need one, it’s waiting in the station?

He continued walking briskly, confident of his route. Somehow he missed a turn and descended into a restricted part of the airport.

—Excuse me, sir. This is a forbidden zone, said the armed guard.
—I’m sorry officer, but I am lost. I need to connect to EasyJet at terminal 2E.
—Take that door and follow the signs to the transfer bus to terminal 2.
—Thank you. Merci bien.

A sign on the door said: No Luggage Trolleys. He entered the door. He found himself in an enclosed escalator stairwell. The door closed behind him. There was no landing; the first step of the escalator was flush with the doorsill. The stairs were not moving when he opened the door but activated when his foot touched the first step.

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