Them? You Listen to Them? - Part 2

Continued from Part 1

Robert didn’t show his true self right away. Oh, no, he was much too masterful for that. He knew just when to move in and when to ease off, like some kind of fisherman with a fish on the line. Dangle the lure until the fish bites, reel the line in a bit, let the line out a bit, moving the fish closer and closer, until she is flopping around on the deck wondering what the hell happened. And all along, she’d thought she was the one doing the reeling. Ha.

After a suitable courtship – such an old-fashioned word, but apt, though she’d often felt it was her mother he was courting – they married, making her mother even happier than she was.

Then bit by bit, the real Robert surfaced. At first it was little things, like leaving his clothes scattered hither and yon; using the last of the toilet paper; spending the entire weekend glued to ESPN. He expected her to dote on him, clean up after him, serve him gourmet meals, service him in bed.

“He’s a man,” her mother said when she complained to her on the phone. “It’s what they do. You have a handsome husband, a lovely home and an easy life, Meg. Count your blessings.”

Meg had tried, honestly she had. But it had only gotten worse. After a year or so, Robert began traveling more and more on business. When he wasn’t traveling, he came home later and later from the office, often without a call. She couldn’t count the ruined dinners she’d tossed in the bin.

“Oh, poor man. He works so hard!” her mother said. “Other girls should be so lucky to have a husband who works that hard to take care of them. You need to have a baby, Meg. That’ll keep you busy.”

She’d been trying to get pregnant. She stopped taking the pill soon after they married, but to no avail. She’d begun to think that something was wrong with her. Though he seemed rather indifferent to the idea of starting a family, Robert was certainly willing to do his part to get her pregnant.

When she started answering the telephone only to hear the quiet click followed by a dial tone, she suspected his late evenings were spent doing something other than work. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, they always said.

“You need to give him a reason to come home, Margaret,” her mother advised. “I’m sending you a book. I’m sure it will help, and you’ll feel better.”

The book, How to Set Your Marriage Ablaze with Passion, came. Desperate to bring the spark back to her marriage, she opened it at random one night when Robert was in Chicago.

Greet your man at the door wrapped only in Saran Wrap, his martini in hand…

What the hell?

Or perhaps a costume… a cowgirl or a saucy French maid is always good. You can give him the variety he needs so he’ll never have to leave home to find it.

Oh, good grief. Meg closed the book in disgust and ate a pint of Häagen-Dazs Amaretto Almond Crunch instead.

The kicker came the day she answered the door to two humorless men in brown suits.

Mr. Nondescript, the older man on the left, said officiously. “FBI, Ma’am. We’d like to see Mr. Prince.”

FBI? The J. Edgar, Eliot Ness FBI? That FBI?

“Um, my husband’s out of town. What’s this about?”

“Sorry, Ma’am. We’re not at liberty to say,” answered the younger Mr. I’m-Nondescript-Two. “When do you expect him home?”

“Not until Friday.”

“We’ll come back,” the Nondescript twins announced in unison, then drove off in their brown Chevy sedan.

Her heart pounding, Meg called her mother. The news had been full of reports about financial scandal, and more than one big-wig in the industry had been arrested. Just look at Bernie Madoff. What if…

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous, Margaret,” her mother admonished. “Just ask him, for heaven’s sake. You’ll see. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation.”

So she did. She asked. He denied. She accused. He denied, only louder. She threatened. He laughed, and called her “overly dramatic.”


Her mother was going to have a cow, but Meg had decided to leave Robert. Six years of trying to please him was enough. She just couldn’t take it anymore. She didn’t even like him anymore, let alone love him. He treated her no better than his dirty underwear, and besides, she’d begun to suspect that the man she’d married was a crook. Thank goodness she’d never managed to get pregnant.

She decided to pack a couple of bags while he was on the golf course, and stash them in the trunk of her car. Right after the Christmas party tonight, she would to tell him it was over, and get out of Dodge.

It was when she was hurrying to gather her things and pack before he got home that she found it. As she reached up to pull her toiletry bag down from the shelf in their walk-in closet, she kicked over a stack of Robert’s shoe boxes.

She bent to put the shoes that fell out back into their boxes, and inside an Italian loafer, she found a small, rolled bundle of papers held together with a rubber band.  She pulled the elastic from the papers and got the shock of her life. The top two or three pages were a recent bank statement from a bank she’d never heard of. She nearly fell over when she saw a balance in the account large enough to support a small African country for years. And they were addressed to Robert at a post office box.

Oh, no. She instantly flashed to those FBI agents who’d come to the door.  Oh, Robert, what have you done, she thought in horror.

But as bad as that was, it was what she found beneath the statement that sent her reeling: a receipt for the vasectomy he’d had fifteen years ago.

She straightened, and felt a small seed of  hatred take root and sprout.  What was it they said? If it walks like a duck…

Leaving him was way less than the bastard deserved. Meg walked back into the bedroom and picked up the phone.


If she’d had any doubts that she was doing the right thing, Robert’s behavior tonight put them to bed. He had a couple of drinks before they left the house, and once at the country club, the only time he didn’t have a glass in his hand was when he was groping one of the young secretaries on the dance floor. Thank heavens they’d come in a cab.

The band leader announced last call and Robert immediately got up and headed to the bar yet again. Meg followed and stopped him before he ordered. 

Grabbing his arm, she whispered, “Robert, please, not another drink. You’ve had too much already. Everybody’s talking. You’re making a fool of yourself and you’re embarrassing me.”

“I own this company, Meg, in case you’ve forgotten. These people owe their jobs to me. You think I’m worried about a little good-natured talk?  Besides, you’ve been an embarrassment to me for years. Welcome to my world, Baby.”

He yanked his arm free, and continued to the bar, leaving Meg rooted to the floor, stunned. He was often cold, but she’d never heard that cruelty in his voice before. Didn’t they say that a drunken man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts? Oh, yeah.


They’d argued about his drinking and her “constant nagging” as they waited for the taxi to arrive. The other CIS people at the party had seen the storm coming, and left them alone in the bar, thank heavens. Meg was mortified enough as it were.

Well, now was as good a time as any. A bird in the hand, and all that.

“I’ve had enough, Robert. I’m leaving. Life’s too short.”

Robert burst into laughter. She hadn’t expected him to be all broken up, but she’d never thought he’d laugh.

“Right. Well, I’ve got news for you, Baby,” he smirked. “You won’t get a dime of my money.”

“I don’t want a dime of your money, Robert. I’ll be happy just to get my self-respect back.”

Meg turned to see a waiter gesturing at the door.

“Come on. The taxi’s here.”


As the cab turns the corner onto their street, Meg blows her nose and wipes the mascara off her face as best she can.

The climb out in front of their house, and Robert thrusts some bills at the cabbie. “Keep the change, Buddy.”

They’d barely walked – well, in Robert’s case, perhaps 'staggered' would be a more appropriate word – halfway up the drive when a brown Chevy sedan pulls up in front of the house, followed by a sinister looking black Suburban.

The Nondescript twins get out of the sedan and approach Robert, who is looking like he's been gob-smacked. Meg senses that he suspected this moment was coming. Perhaps that explains his unbelievable behavior tonight.

“Mr. Prince? FBI. You’re under arrest for securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used…”

As Meg listens to them read him his rights, she has to fight a satisfied smile. She can’t help but think, “Yeah, Robert. Just like they say, payback’s a bitch.

As the federal agents drive off with Robert in the back of the Suburban, Meg walks toward the house while fishing her keys from her evening bag.

You know, she thinks as she unlocks the front door, maybe “they” are pretty smart. They’ve been pretty much right about everything. Well, all except for the promise that “there is someone out there for everyone.” But Meg counts herself as a basically optimistic person, so the jury’s still out on that one.

But that thing about the curly hair? Yeah. They totally lied about that.

The End


Them? You Listen to Them? - Part 1

“There is someone out there for everyone.”
Isn’t that what they always say? Of course, this would be the same “they” who told her that eating the bread crusts on her PB&J would make her hair curly, and you can see how that turned out.
Even so, like everyone else, she wanted it to be true. So she believed, and looked forward to the day her special someone would find her.
Until she didn’t.
It was kind of like believing in Santa Claus, Meg Gilchrist thought. She wasn’t sure when it happened, but one day, she realized she no longer bought into whole someday-he’ll-come-along fantasy. Didn’t they also say, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”?
Meg was fast approaching her thirty-fourth birthday when she figured it was time to face reality. He wasn’t coming. Ha, if he even existed. Her failure to find her “someone” had been stellar, at least as her mother described it.
Not that she was a dog in the looks department, or some kind of wallflower. A natural (though abysmally curl-free) blonde with hazel eyes, she was passably attractive, if she did say so herself. Well, OK, you can overlook that one crooked front tooth, can’t you? She dated as often as the next girl, and had had her share of close calls. Fortunately, before extricating herself became the stuff of daytime TV drama, she realized that none of those losers guys was the right one -- despite what her mother thought -- and ended it. They were all duds in her opinion, bringing not one spark of the fireworks she’d expected to feel when Mr. I’m-the-One walked into her life. She hadn’t been willing to settle for Mr. Almost-the-One.
“Don’t be so picky, Margaret,” her mother chided. “You’re not getting any younger, you know. Tick, tick, tick.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, chill, Mom,” Meg replied wearily. “I have no intention of leaping into bed with the next warm male body to come through my door just to satisfy your desire for a grandchild. There’s plenty of time.”
In a shocked voice, her mother said, “Margaret! Watch your mouth. No wonder. Oh, well, they say it’s always darkest before the dawn.”
Oh, no. Mom too?
Well, there was plenty of time, right? Of course there was.
But she might as well face the facts, she soon decided. Mom was right. The proverbial clock was ticking. It was time to make a plan. Clearly, a girl had to take matters into her own hands. It was time to find someone to love, even he were Mr. Not-Quite-the-One.
The day she put her plan into action, Meg was working as a temp, filling in for a service clerk who’d been called up and sent to Iraq, She could have spent her whole assignment at Colonial Investment Solutions without once ever seeing its CEO. Sure, CIS was a small fish in the vast sea of financial management, but it was big enough. His office was in the building next door where the brokers did their thing, and besides, the distance between the head office and the Customer Service desk was much greater than the width of a parking lot.
An irate customer insisting on seeing “the idiot running this show” brought Robert Prince on a rare visit to the front office where Meg worked behind the desk.
“That was my retirement!” she’d sputtered at Meg without explanation. “What am I supposed to do now?”
Meg was clearly in over her head.
“I’m so sorry,” she’d offered sympathetically. “But I’m only filling in here. Let me get someone else to help you.”
“Oh, you can get someone else, alright, Missy.” That was when the customer, her face flushing redder with every word, demanded to see The Idiot.
Meg consulted the telephone directory taped to the desk next to the phone and called the CEO. She wasn’t sure she was doing the right thing. In fact, she was pretty sure it was the wrong thing, but everyone was out to lunch and there was no one around to ask. Her heart went out to the poor woman, who looked as though she could stroke out at any moment. Besides, what could they do? Fire her?
To his credit, Prince had come to Customer Service without argument. He introduced himself to the now weeping woman, and gently steered her to a small grouping of chairs near the front windows. She couldn’t hear his words, but as she watched him turn on the charm and soothe the distraught woman, she was impressed. And when he walked the woman, who was now almost smiling, out to her car, she was flabbergasted. Obviously, the guy running this show was no idiot.
She expected him to continue across the parking lot to the other building and his office, but instead he turned, and headed back. Uh-oh. She had a feeling she was in trouble. Maybe he would fire her.
She had a short reprieve when Prince stopped in the lot to talk to one of the brokers returning from lunch. Something the man said brought a smile to his face, and for the first time, she noticed how good-looking he was. She’d heard the buzz about the “drop-dead gorgeous” CEO in the coffee room, of course. How could she not? He was a favorite topic of conversation. She knew he wasn’t married, and all the girls -- the single girls, anyway, and maybe a few of the married ones – had their eye on him. No wonder. Tall, dark, handsome, not to mention wealthy. And, oh yeah, way out of her league.
No matter, because in her head, they piped up to remind her, “If it sounds too good to be true…”
As she stood awaiting her fate, the sound of conversation from the hall announced the return of the other customer service clerks. Not anxious to be chastised in front of the others, she decided to talk to him outside. It was her lunch break, anyway.
“I’m off to lunch. See you later,” she told her coworkers as she walked to the door. Prince was on his way up the walkway from the parking lot, and she hurried to intercept him.
“Mr. Prince, I’m really sorry. I…”
In her haste to speak to him before he reached the entrance, she missed the step down to the walkway. With all the grace at her command, she went flying and landed at his feet. Humiliated, she took the hand he held down to her and scrambled to her feet.
“Oh, my gawd, I’m so embarrassed.” Face flaming, she straightened herself out and struggled to meet his eyes. “I came out to apologize for siccing Mrs. Flynn on you. I didn’t mean to tackle you in the process.”
“No apologies needed on either count,” he said. “You did the right thing. The calling part, I mean, not the tackling part.” The hint of laughter in his voice drew her eyes to his face. She was relieved to see no sign of anger. What she did see was a definite spark of interest in his Paul- Newman-blue eyes.
As he spoke, he reached out and lightly touched her arm, and hello. Was that a small flash of fireworks?
And there they were again. “It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is with a poor one.”
She swallowed her pride and turned on the flirtatious charm she’d been practicing in front of the mirror.
The silence in the taxi fairly crackles with anger as Meg and Robert ride home from the CIS Christmas party at the country club. Recriminations hang heavy like some kind of cruel interpretation of holiday decorations. Meg wiped tears from her cheeks, noting the dark mascara smudges on the tissue. When would she ever learn to wear waterproof mascara?
You’d think that after living with the bastard for nearly seven years, she would no longer be surprised by his behavior. But tonight… Tonight he was in fine form.
She weeps silently as she looks at the mulish set of Robert’s chiseled jaw in the light of passing headlights. But she knows she’s not crying in sadness. She shed those tears years ago. No, these are tears of regret and disgust at herself for believing.

The thing is, she knew better. She has always known better. But he was so handsome and he had that whole power-of-position thing they like to talk about going on. In her mind, and no doubt in his own as well, he bore the unmistakable appeal of being “the town’s most eligible bachelor,” as the local press liked to call him.
She’d been blinded by his reputation, and fooled by how nice he’d seemed to be when she first met him. She still feels a little blush of shame as she recalls how she had literally thrown herself at his feet, which he probably saw as his due, she suspects now.
And he’d actually been interested in her, which flattered her enormously.
It had all come together. He’d seemed perfect. She’d begun to believe that maybe they were right, and her “someone” had found her at last.
Ah, but as they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Concluded in Part 2


Written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory.


A Bouquet of Thanks to Monkey Man

This is my farewell entry in Sunday 160. When I began my blog, Monkey Man's Sunday 160 was one of the regular events that got me writing. Thank you for that, MM. I'll miss having my coffee with you on Sunday morning.


Nighttime Caller

(Phote by Vera Kratochvil at PublicDomainPictures.net)

Three times last night, I thought
I heard your ring, though the phone
was distant and silent. Each time, as
I sought to answer, the ringing ceased.

But in the dread still-dark of dawn,
I answered your call in my dream,
and heard your voice, broken. And in that
moment, the monster that lurked, lunged.


Written for Friday Flash 55. Got something to say in exactly 55 words? Go tell Mr. KnowItAll.


Under the Cover of Time, Part 2

July 15, 1935

There were many towns across the country with fewer residents than Tudor City. There were normally about 4,500 people living there, but that day the population came within a heartbeat of dropping to 4,499.

A green-and-black Ford pulled to the curb on Tudor Place, the bubble on its roof throwing an angry red glare into the gloaming.   After the driver slapped a red, white and blue "Police Business" placard on the dash, two of New York’s finest, Mike Grath and Vincent Lorenzo, climbed from the car and headed to the park across the street, where several uniformed cops from the precinct struggled to hold the curious at bay.  The scene was lit by intermittent pools of light cast by popping flash bulbs.

One of the uniformed cops walked out to meet the two detectives as they entered the park. 

“Glad you’re here, Mike. This guy’s a celeb, and the press is all over it like stink on shit.”

“Oh, yeah? What we got?”

“Guy from across the street.”  The cop jerked his head toward the gothic-looking building on the other side of Tudor Place.  “He was walkin' home from Grand Central and when he gets near that fountain over there, some palooka with a shiv jumps him. He’s cut up pretty bad, but the doc says he’ll make it.  He’s real lucky he ain’t dead. The meat wagon’s gonna take him down to Bellevue in a few minutes.”


“Yeah, I guess. Who the hell knows? Don’t see it as a hit. No reason I know anybody’d want him dead. Besides, who’s dumb enough to pull a hit with a knife that time of day? Wasn't even full dark yet.” The cop shrugged. “But if it was a robbery, Mikey, it was a botch job. He's still got money and a swell pocket watch."

A small scuffle broke out in the growing crowd at the fountain as the looky-loos jostled for position, and the three policemen turned to look.

Mike turned to his partner. “Vinny, you better get over there. Looks like it’s turning ugly.” 

Lorenzo clamped his fedora down firmly onto his head and trotted down the path toward the fountain, shouting “Hey!  Back up, everybody. This is police business. You jamokes wanna get hauled off to the hoosegow for interfering with an investigation?”

“Who the hell is that?” Grath asked the patrolman. “Fiorello LaGuardia?”

 “It’s Abie Cohen, Mike. You know, catcher for the Dodgers.”

Abie Cohen?  No kidding. My boy’s got a bunch of his baseball cards."

"Don't think you're gonna get an autograph from him today.  He ain't conscious."

The two cops start walking toward the hubbub, and Grath asks, "Don't suppose we got any idea who the goon with the knife was?"

"Nah. He's long gone."


The cop lifted his cap, scratched the top of his bald head, and settled the cap back in place.  "Yeah. But, see, here's where it gets dicey."

Grath raised his eyebrows.  "How so?"

"Well, coupla kids, about eleven or twelve, I'd say, were out here playin' ball on the other side of the fountain. They'd didn't get a good look at the stabber, never noticed him, or Cohen, for that matter, because of the fountain. But they got a glimpse of him when he ran away. Just an ordinary lookin' guy, they said.  Just before that, though, there was another guy walking by who caught a ball for them. The ball got away from one of 'em and was about to go into the fountain. This guy catches it, and tosses it back.  They asked him to join the game, but he said he hadda get home."

"Yeah, and? What's this got to do with the attack on Cohen?"

"Well, right after, when the guy starts to walk away, apparently he sees the guy hackin' away at Cohen.  He shouts and the guy runs away.  Too bad he didn't shout sooner, because the goon had plenty of time to turn Cohen into swiss cheese. Even so, the doc says this guy probably saved Cohen's life. Then he just disappears. We think he's the one who called the cops, but we have no idea who he is. Gone, poof in the night.


July 31, 1945

"Leah!" Abie burst through the door of the apartment, his voice filled with excitement. "Leah, where are you?"

Leah Cohen walked out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.  "And where else would I be right before dinner, silly man?"

She kisses her husband's cheek, and asks, "What's  wound you up, Abie?"

“Look.” He held the magazine out to his wife. “Today’s the day.”

The Cohens had been waiting for the publication of the cover article ever since Abie was interviewed. It wasn’t the first time he’d been featured in a magazine article. There had been many stories about his baseball career. But this was the first time he was pictured on the cover. And on Chronos magazine. Wow.

“Oh, Abie. I can’t wait to read it, but it’ll have to wait until after dinner. The brisket is almost ready. Go wash up.”

Lean runs her hand over the cover photo of Abie in his Dodger’s uniform, then carefully puts the magazine down on the sideboard and heads to the kitchen to take up their dinner.

After they eat and the dishes have been done, she settled on the couch next to the reading lamp and opened the magazine to the story about her husband.  

“Unsung Hero.” She smiled at Abie. “Imagine!”

Across the living room, Abie switched on the Philco and tuned to The Arthur Godfrey Hour. As he sat listening, he never took his eyes from his wife’s face as she read.

Her eyes flew to his face. “Abie! Oh my God!”

Leah knew he was overseas during his service, of course. But she’d thought that he was a part of a group of former sports celebrities, making the USO circuit from base to base. She had no idea what he really did or that he’d been behind enemy lines.

“Abie, why didn’t you tell me?”

Shock is turning to anger, as he’d suspected it might. Before he left, she’d made him promise that he wouldn’t do anything that would put him in danger.

Abie came to her side and squatted down next to the chair. “Ah, Leah, I couldn’t. It was all classified. Besides, I knew you would worry.”

“You promised!”

“I know. I’m sorry, Honey. Please try to understand. I just couldn’t tell you. I’d have been court-martialed.” He took her hand and kissed it. “You see that, right?”

Leah had never been one to stay mad long. Even before he was through speaking, he could see she was softening.

“Besides, it’s all over now. I’m home for good. Go on, finish reading.”

Leah skewered him with a piercing look that said, OK, but if you EVER do something like that again... Then she looked back down at the magazine and picked up the article where she’d left off.

“Abie! Oh, my God!” The shock was there again, but it was wrapped in awe rather than anger. “Oh. My. God.” She said again as the realization of what the words she’d just read meant sank in, her voice barely a whisper. Then she threw her arms around her husband and cried.

“Sshh, ssh, Bubbala.” Abie rubbed his hands slowly over her back. When she’d calmed down, he told her about it, as much as he could anyway.

“Thank God you didn’t listen to me. Thank God you were there,” she said.

“I almost wasn’t. Remember when I was robbed in the park across the street about ten years ago?”

“As if I could ever forget!” Leah exclaimed.

“That night, a man came along when I was being stabbed over and over, and he scared the robber away. I’m pretty sure if he hadn’t, the robber would have killed me. The doctor told us that I almost didn’t make it as it was.”

Leah put her arms around her husband again.  “He’s the one who called the police, isn’t he?””

“Yes. He saved my life. Leah, he hadn’t come at just the right time, I’d be dead. And if you’d stayed in New York, so would you.”

July 15, 2005

Finn can’t shake the dream he had while dozing on the couch.

It seemed so real, he thinks as he enters his kitchen, which has a dry floor, he’s pleased to note. He pulls open the refrigerator door and gazes in, but he sees nothing that strikes his fancy.

He catches another whiff of brisket. His stomach growls and that decides it. He’ll head over to the Tudor City Deli and get some brisket for himself.

Before heading out, Finn grabs the Chronos from the floor and goes out to get an elevator.

While he rides downstairs, he glances at the magazine in his hand, and realizes that his dream was probably triggered by the fascinating article he’d read about Abie Cohen in the old publication. He decides to read it again while he eats.  It feels like a legacy Abie Cohen left behind just for him, hidden away under the sink.

As he walks across the park, Finn waves to the boys playing ball near the fountain.

The End 


The character of Abie Cohen is loosely based on Moe Berg, who was a bit of a Renaissance man for his time. A successful major league baseball player, Berg finished second in his class at Columbia Law School while playing for the Chicago White Sox. During WWII, he served with the OSS, spying in Europe for the US Government.

You can read more about Moe Berg here and here.


Under the Cover of Time, Part 1

July 31, 2005

Tudor City perches on a hill overlooking FDR Drive and the East River. Comprised of apartments, parks, shopping and restaurants, it’s often referred to as “The City within a City.” The nickname fits, Finn MacCool muses as he crosses the street and heads into one of several parks within Tudor City.

The pocket park in front of the building he calls home is alive with activity on this perfect summer day. A tall boy playing catch with another boy overreaches his mark with his throw -- kid's got a hell of an arm, Finn thinks to himself -- and the baseball flies over Finn's head. He leaps into the air to catch it just before it continues on it's trajectory straight into the water at the fountain.

Laughing,  Finn sends the ball back to the boy closest to him, who's waving his arms in the air wildly.  "Not a bad catcher, am I?" he calls as he tosses it.

"You wanna play, mister?" the tall boy calls back.

"I'd love to, kiddo, but I gotta get home. Got some reading to do. Maybe some other time."

Finn loves the  The City, as he's learned to call it.  He was beyond excited when he was transferred to the New York office of his management consulting firm,  but his first couple of years in the city brought an unfamiliar feeling of claustrophobia into his life for the first time. He’s a Texas boy, and grew up knowing only wide-open spaces and distant horizons, where the whole of outdoors was his playground. The concrete canyons of Manhattan came as a bit of a shock. Tudor City with its green parks was a happy find.  Central Park is great, but the little parks of Tudor City are at his doorstep. They bring a breath of fresh air in the truest sense.

That was not always the case, Finn knows. When Tudor City was originally built, its planners made sure that the buildings all turned their backs on the slaughterhouses in the area, lest wafting aromas offend the middle class residents they hoped to attract. Some area residents claim they can still detect lingering odors, but that’s hogwash. Ha. So to speak.

He wouldn’t want to live any place else. Oh, sure, his apartment building in Tudor City is an old pile, and like a lot of old folks, it can be cantankerous. But it’s also got barrels of charm and history out the wazoo, history that sometimes sneaks up on a guy and smacks him upside the head.

Take yesterday, for example.  Just as his Sunday fell victim to the foibles of his crotchety old kitchen, a bit of history did just that.

It was a beautiful afternoon and Finn was looking forward to getting outdoors. He was planning to head over to Central Park and see if he could catch a pick-up game on one of the diamonds near Columbus Circle. But like many best-laid plans, they came to a screeching halt when he headed to the refrigerator to grab a bottle of juice to take with him. A puddle of water was creeping across the kitchen floor, adding a shine the linoleum hadn’t seen in quite a while.

“Oh, that’s great. Just fucking great.”

He turned off the water and fetched his toolbox from under the rubble littering the floor of the hall closet. When he opened the cabinet beneath the sink to see how bad it was, he saw that the cabinet floor supporting miscellaneous bottles of cleaning stuff was pretty much ruined. So much for the ballgame.

After he threw a few towels down to soak up the mess, he headed to the hardware store. The store is just a half a block away, another perk to living in Tudor City. He bought some wood to repair the cabinet floor, and while he was at it, he got a new elbow for the pipe, since obviously the plumber’s tape he’d tried to make do with the last time didn’t work.

In a matter of minutes, Finn was back, stretched out on the floor in front of the sink. When he pried the warped wood from the bottom of the cabinet with his trusty crowbar, instead of the mucky mess he’d expected to find, he got a delightful surprise. The leak had apparently not seeped through the cabinet floor, because the space beneath was dry as a bone.  And resting there, nestled comfortably in decades of dust and a few unidentifiable droppings Finn chose not to think about, was a 1945 copy of   Chronos Magazine. The cover photo was of Abie Cohen, a major league ball player back in the day, and an early resident of the very apartment Finn lived in now.

Finn knew that Cohen had lived in his condo when he bought the place. It had been one of the major selling points for him. Baseball and history, his two favorite things? What could be better? Abie Cohen was one of Finn's heroes, and he was one of America's heroes too. He was s fantastic catcher, sure, but it wasn't only that. He was a man of real courage.

Finn was thrilled to find the magazine, and set it aside to read later. Fixing the damn sink had taken all afternoon, and then he had a date with that cute redhead from IT, so he never got to it.  Now, as he heads home from work, he can’t wait to read it. He quickens his step.


The delicious smell of brisket and cabbage drifting in the open window float by like a wave of cartoon aroma, tickling his nose awake and jerking it from the dream he’d been having. The rest of Finn quickly follows, and he realizes that he’s starving.

The living room has fallen into deep shadow.  Huh. I must have dozed off, he thinks as he swings his legs from the couch and sits up, sending the Chronos magazine on his chest sliding to the floor.

He stands and heads for the kitchen, thinking as he shook the sleep off, that was one hell of a dream.


July 31, 1945

He emerged from the subway on 7th Avenue.  The air of celebration that still lingered in Times Square -- though VE Day was several weeks ago -- brought a smile to his face as it always did.  There were times when he thought he’d never make it home from Europe to enjoy it. He had much to celebrate.
“Hey, Pal, how you doin’?” The familiar whiskey-and-cigarettes voice rasped its daily welcome.

“Great, Joe. You?”

It’s like a scripted vignette. Every night, he stopped at the newsstand just outside the entrance to the subway, and grabbed a paper. And every night, he and Joe, the grozzled old guy who had been at this corner since forever, exchanged the same words.

That night, the script was a little different. The image of his own face on the cover of a magazine caught his eye immediately and he improvised.

“Hey, wow, Joe, look at that!” He picked up the magazine and flipped to the article about himself, feeling a little thrill of pleasure.  He put it on top of his newspaper, and dug in his pocket for some coins to pay Joe.

Joe winked as plucked a dime from the hand holding the money. “Yup. Yer famous. Didn’t know I was dealing with such a hotshot.  Magazine’s on the house. I been saving it for you, Pal. They went like hotcakes.”

“Gee, thanks, Joe. You’re a swell guy, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.”

He clapped Joe on the back, then turned the corner at 45th Street and headed toward his apartment.  He couldn't wait to read the article. There was also a piece about Tudor City, where he’d lived since he came to New York as a rookie to join the Dodgers a lifetime ago. That was a bonus.

He couldn’t wait to show Leah. She was going to be over the moon.

Concluded in Part 2



The Funeral

The two women stood arm in arm a slight distance away from the other mourners. It was the first time they’d met, but the friends knew each other well. Over the years, they’d shared laughter and love, heartbreak and triumph, anger and dismay. They always knew they’d meet face-to-face one day. They just never thought it would be like this.

They had come to bid farewell and amen toYouth.

There are many “old sayings.” There’s a reason for that, of course. There is truth in every one of them. The appropriate homily for this sad occasion is “Youth is wasted on the young.” It would be nice if it were never true, and surely for some, it is not. But, if ever it were, it was for him.

He had it all going for him, Youth did. He was beautiful, smart, talented and oh, so sexy.  But, alas, he was young. That goes without saying, right? And if there’s not another old saying that speaks to that, there should be. Because most of the young lack a certain judgment – let’s call it wisdom, shall we? – that comes with experience. And sad to say, experience usually takes enough years to carry one beyond “young” to… someplace else.

Youth was so busy trying to figure things out, trying to decide who he was, who he wanted to be, that he never saw the years accumulating around him like falling snow. While he was posing in front of his mental mirror, all got up in a costume of poetic angst or creative indifference, his worst enemy was able to sneak up on him, unnoticed under the cover of time.  

And then one day, cackling wildly, Age struck, and Youth was vanquished.

“I really loved him,” one woman said sadly.

“Yes. Yes, I know you did.”



My Fifteen Minutes

Poets United is a wonderful site for everyone who enjoys reading or writing poetry.  Its community of contributors is so talented.

Unbelievably, Poets United has given me the great honor of interviewing me for their "Life of a Poet" series. (I still have to chuckle at that. Me, a poet!)

The interview was published today, and I'm still blushing a little.  I'm a talker, as many of you might have guessed  My dad used to tell me I'd been vaccinated with a phonograph needle. After reading my interview responses, I'm thinking he was right. Oh, boy, I talked. A lot.

Alas, there goes all the mystery...


The Curious Case of the Brown Shoes

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone*!

So glad you could make it for dinner.

* Including those of you not celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. 
But don't worry, I made enough for you too.

16 for dinner, one cook
You've got to admit, it's a pretty good excuse!


This is my entry at The Tenth Daughter of  Memory.

Dragons Weep Today

"She first set dragons free on Pern and then was herself freed by her dragons."              - Todd McCaffrey

 (Image of Sad Dragon by Rakaseth on DeviantArt)

The world of science fiction and fantasy writing lost a powerhouse this week. Anne McCafrfrey died on Monday at the age of 85.

Author of almost 100 books, McCaffrey was best known for the Dragonriders of Pern series. During her 46 year career she won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award.  Her book The White Dragon became the one of the first science fiction novels ever to appear on the New York Times Best Seller List. She was honored by induction into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2006.

1 April 1926 – 21 November 2011
 (Image from numerous sites on Google Images)


Fortune Cookie

Crack the shell of uncertainty,
and peer into the future for answers.
Likely you’ll find none. Besides,
everyone else is still guessing

And most best guesses are wrong.
So, go ahead, take your best shot.
Predict tomorrow, then fuhgedaboutit,
and live your best life today.


I'm bellying up to the bar at dVerse Pub tonight with some of my good blogging buddies. So, set 'em up, Joe. Writing is never a lonely business here.



(Photo from 123RF, Royalty Free Stock Photos, edited)

I called your office one weekend. I knew you wouldn’t be there, but just knowing the phone would ring in your space made me feel closer to you. Your answering machine picked up my call, and I was shocked to hear your voice. Not one of the many layers between us had snagged the call so some self-important guardian at your gate could ward me off. Instead, I heard your voice, filled with warmth and caring. I wondered: how did you know I would call?

Once I knew you were waiting for my call, I punched in your number over and over, and listened to your unspoken words of affection. I called so many times, I could picture the telephone lines between my phone and yours burning up from overuse. With every call, I expected Ma Bell to answer, chastising me with “now you’ve done it.” But you were always there, filled with anticipation. Your voice embraced me, though you concealed your feelings from prying ears with words about office hours and the doctor on call.

That was so many years ago, and I got over you. Sorry. I heard after a while that you and your wife got divorced. By then I didn’t care, but I wondered: how did she know about us? You never did.


ceci est la couleur de mes rêves

(Joan Miró, Spanish, 1893–1983)

this is the color of my dreams.
it's also the color of my mood.
like Joe Btfsplk, I'm being stalked,
your misery blocking my sun.

does it help, I wonder?
do you feel better when I feel worse?
is blue your favorite color?
I prefer yellow myself.


Written for d'Verse, and for my friend who,
like Joe Btfsplk, is being stalked by the gloom.

 (from Li'l Abner by Al Capp)

Shouting Down a Well

It gave me the creeps.  Nodding, the man on the Blasingstoke bus leaned over and said to me, in a tone of complete complicity, “Oh, yes, just like shouting down a well.” I could tell he was thinking, “I know that you know just what I mean.” I didn’t.  But even though I’ve never been sure what that means, I have a pretty good idea.


When I read that Gainsborough Farm in Blasingstoke was for sale, I decided to pay one last visit while I’m still able. I spent many happy days there are a child, and some not so happy ones.

Picking my path through the over-grown puckerbrush carefully, I make my way back to the well that still stands out behind what used to be my great-grandmother’s house on Gainsborough Farm.  It once provided water to my ancestors, but it’s a forlorn orphan now. Surrounded by tall dying grasses and thorny thickets, it’s been neglected by the more recent residents of the house.

The deep hole is covered with a rotting wooden cap. Around it, crumbling stones still support the lichen-covered shakes of the roof, but the bucket that once hauled cold spring water from its depths is long gone.

I haven’t seen the old well since the last time I visited Great-Gamma with my family on Guy Fawkes Day all those years ago. My brothers, Will, a year older – he’s gone now, bless him; Daniel, a year younger; and I: we loved that well. We called it our wishing well.  Despite admonitions to stay away because it was dangerous, at least once a visit to the farm, we’d sneak back there into the thicket. We would stand on the big rock beside the well and hang over the edge in turn to drop a coin, calling down our most sincere wishes before the faint splash of the coin hitting bottom called back in answer.

Not one of those wishes shouted down the well ever came true.  Not even the one that George Fisher would stop tormenting me. No, especially not that one.


George Fisher lived on a farm on Coventry Lane that was next to Great-Gamma’s. I think he was only a little older than I was, maybe a year, but he was much bigger. And ugly.

We only saw each other when I visited Great-Gamma, but I was convinced that he spent the rest of the time dreaming up ways to torture me. He started small. The first time, he jumped out of a bush by the side of the dirt lane when I rode my bike past and scared the living bejeebus out of me. I know that sounds like a little thing, but I was just a little thing myself. Down I went. The fall tore my pants and knee alike. I can still hear George’s taunting laughter ringing out behind me as, limping, I pushed my bike back to Great-Gamma’s, trying hard not to cry.

“He only does it because he likes you, Nessa,” Great-Gamma said soothingly as she cleaned up my knee while I sat on the counter beside the kitchen sink. She gently pressed a plaster over the scrape, and went on. “That’s just how boys are.”

Unfortunately, Bobby and Daniel were sitting at the kitchen table at the time with the remnants of Great-Gamma’s shortbread biscuits and milky tea on the faces. “Georgie loves Nessa. Georgie loves Nessa,” came their annoying sing-song little voices.

I remember thinking, “Ugh.” From that day onward, I always thought of that old nursery song whenever I saw George.

Georgie Porgie, Puddin' and Pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry,
When the boys came out to play
Georgie Porgie ran away.

Except he didn’t. Run away, I mean. When my brothers came out, they all ran off together to wage war against the Germans at George’s house. And bully George always got to be Montgomery, I’m sure.

Over the next few years, George developed his craft, getting much more creative with his torment. As much as I loved visiting Great-Gamma, I began to dread the inevitable pranks I knew I would suffer at George Fisher’s hand.

The day he laughingly crushed the tiny bird with a broken wing I’d been nursing under his boot, I thought it couldn’t get any worse.

“Oh, you are a right bastard, George.” I cried. “Your day will come. Mark my words.”


I was alone at the well that Guy Fawkes Day. Father had taken Will and Daniel to the Guy Fawkes events in town.  Even though taking our tea at Mrs. Firthingham’s Parlor was enticing, the idea of standing amongst a bunch of rowdies at the bonfire that would go up just after dark put me off.  I decided to stay with my mother at the farm.

I was fourteen that year, and no longer really believed that the wishing well could grant my wishes. I still enjoyed visiting it, though, and that’s what I did that afternoon just before darkness fell. 

“Don’t dally, Nessa,” my mother called as I was crossing the mudroom behind the kitchen. “Tea is almost ready, and besides, it will be dark soon. I don’t want you wandering around back there alone in the darkness. It’s not safe,” she warned.

“Yes, Mum,” I answered, “I’ll be back before full dark.”

I wasn’t worried, though. The path to the well was as familiar to me as the palm of my hand.

When I reached the well, I fished a shilling from my pocket and dropped in down the well.

“Please, I’d like to be pretty,” I called after the coin.

I didn’t wait for the splash to answer me. The echo of my own voice in the well reminded me that wishing wells were childish nonsense. I turned to head back through the gloaming to the farmhouse, looking forward to the lamb I’d smelled roasting before I left the kitchen.

That’s when the answer to my wish reached my ears.


The tramp through the weeds to the well has tired me.

“You old fool,” I grumble to myself as I sit on the big rock along side the well that we used to stand on. “You’re not the young wisp you were back then. What were you thinking, coming back here?”

But I knew what I’d been thinking. I’ve been haunted by that day for sixty years. It's long past time to face the ghosts once and for all, then be done with it.


“Ah, but Fraulein, you’re pretty enough for me.”

Though the accented words had been near whispered, I recognized the voice as being not that of any German.

“Go away, George.”

I made to quicken my step, but he grabbed my arm roughly and spun me round to face him. I was astonished to see him in a cobbled-up approximation of an Army uniform.

“I was just wishing me some fresh Kraut meat,” he leered.

I opened my mouth to scream, but his meaty hand clamped viciously across my lips before I could get a sound out. I wrenched my body frantically, trying to break free of his grasp, but he was too big, too strong. He forced me to the ground, and settled his weight across my chest. His massive thighs pinned my arms at my sides.

With his free hand, George unfastened the broad leather belt at his waist, and pulled it free of his trousers. In short order, he had it wrapped around my head and pulled tight across my open mouth.

“There now, Liebchen,  Let’s eat.” 

Terrified, I thrashed my legs as I struggled for breath, but between his body atop my lungs and the belt in my mouth, I stood no chance. George Fisher was going to kill me, crushing me as surely as he’d crushed that little bird.


The warm sun  drapes gently across my aching shoulders and songbirds call gaily, but I am too far away to notice. I’m on the damp ground on a chilly November night, feeling nothing but the rocks beneath me and the pounding within. Old tears spring into my eyes as I face the demons that my memories have become.


After pushing the front of my sweater up toward my neck, George grabbed the front of my brassiere and ripped it apart as easily as if it were tissue paper. When he leaned forward to feast on my exposed breasts, he lifted enough for me to draw the chilling air into my aching lungs. The stars I’d been seeing receded, leaving me with the loathsome sight of a wild-eyed George reaching for my flesh with his fat tongue. My shame and revulsion, as much as the cold air, made my nipples stand erect, offering themselves to the drooling animal slathering his hunger upon them. 

Leaning back again, he grabbed first one of my hands and then the other, and held them firmly in his left hand. With his right hand, he reached down and fumbled open the zipper on his trousers, releasing his engorged, throbbing penis. The sight of it springing toward me like a viper was disgusting, and I could feel myself begin to gag.

George slid his bulk lower onto my thighs, and reached beneath my skirt with his free hand. He tore my panties free and forced himself into me. Grunting like the rutting pig he was, he pounded, slamming his need into me over and over. With a groan that released his fetid breath into my face, he collapsed onto me. 

The throes of his release brought not only the sticky mess oozing past his now flaccid penis and onto my buttocks, it also cause him to loosen his grasp around my wrists. My hands were free.

I grabbed one of the many rocks scattered around the well, and before he could react, I brought it down with as much force as I could muster against George’s temple. I immediately felt his body go limp, becoming even heavier than before. I pushed him off of me and scrambled out of his reach.


As I wipe away the tears drying on my wrinkled cheeks, I can still feel the pain in my heart and my groin that never went away after that night. I pull myself to my feet, using the side of the old well for leverage and support.  The crumbling wooden cover covering the well moves aside easily, and I look down into depths as dark as my soul.

My voice cracking a bit, I call down my most  sincere wish.

“I wish…”


After undoing the belt and pulling it from my head, I grabbed the side of the well for leverage and support, and pulled myself to my feet. I  never took my eyes from George’s inert form. My soul was filled with hatred for the bully who had taken such pleasure in my anguish.

I pulled my destroyed brassiere and panties free and threw them down the well beside me, sending the belt down after them.  Then I straightened my clothing and brushed the dirt and leaves off as best I could. With a last look at George, sprawled on the ground beside the well, I ran through the dark toward the farmhouse.

When I walked into the kitchen from the mudroom, my mother and Great-Gamma gasped at the sight of me.

“Nessa!  What happened?”

Looking down at myself in the light, I saw that my clothes were filthy, and I had a little blood on my leg.

“I, uh, fell. You were right, Mum. It’s dangerous out there after dark.”  Then I hurried upstairs and scrubbed the stench of George Fisher from my body.

The next day, they found George, hanging in the well, suspended from the rope that usually supported the water bucket.  He was dressed in his General Montgomery costume.

His distraught mother told the constable that he’d never come home the day before. “He said he was going out to fight the Germans.”


I clear my throat, and start again in a stronger voice.

“I wish,” I call down the well, “you hadn’t killed yourself, Georgie Fisher. I’m sorry you did that.”

I pause and feel a burden lift from my soul. Even if I am wasting my breath shouting down a well, I feel better.

“But I’m not sorry you’re dead. No, not sorry at all."


Written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory.



beneath the waning
lie echoes of the young
heart beating, thrumming
with yearning, passion
once strong and heady, now
gone the way of the forgotten
green shoots of promise.


Happy Recipient of The Everyday Goddess'

Goddess Award