No Rose-Colored Glasses

color peeled away
black and white view of the world
naked truth exposed
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(Source: Wikimedia Commons) 

alone and lonely

wooed by sexy persuasion

bank account in shreds


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Out of the Closet

You know, it seems as though every time a right-wing politician (and, for that matter, a right-winger not in the public eye) opens his or her mouth these days, something unbelievable issues forth. That Colorado school board member's revsionist view of slavery is a recent case in point.

I'm coming to the conclusion that all this hate, racism, homophobia, mysogeny, and downright stupidity has been in the closet all along. But now that the party "leadership" has indeed begun to lead the way, the rest feel empowered to stop pretending and come out. And come out they have, spewing opinions that, until recent years, most people would not have dreamed of voicing in polite society.

It's disgusting.


(Image source: www.clker.com)


Thinking Critically

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Social media has opened the door to all manner of debate and discourse. It's a new age forum, a virtual Speakers' Corner, if you will . Unlike the famous Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park in London, home to prophets and proselytizers since the mid 1800s, this one is accessible to all, and one need not even wait a turn at the podium.

Pick a topic, any topic, and Google it. You'll find blogs, chat boards, and something called "affinity spaces." If you have something to say, sites like Facebook, Twitter --and way too many more to mention -- give you a place to say it.

Check this out.

(Source: Brian Solis & JESS3, with permission)

This is a good thing, I guess. Mostly, anyway. But thus a world of "experts" on anything and everything was born. Perhaps the ease of expressing one's thoughts has fostered too much easy thoughtless expression.

I recently posted a citation on a Facebook thread about GMOs. The article I cited had links to several studies claiming GMOs are harmful to humans. I offered no opinion (because I don't know enough to have one), I simply posted the link. Well, down came the wrath of The Gods-of-What's-Happening-Now upon my virtual head. Boom. As an example: "#*&!@%* (name removed to protect the apparently guilty) is a joke, and one becomes a joke when citing it." My bad, because being as uninformed as I am, I didn't know the people behind with article were aligned with the dark side, and nothing I saw when checking it out before posting it told me so.

Now, I have no problem with people expressing their opinions. But something about the tone of certitude many commenters take doesn't sit well with me. I've been thinking about it since, and what bothers me is that some people seem to have forgotten that that's just what their comments are, opinions. And like concrete, opinions set quickly and become immoveable bias or partisanship.

One commenter advised me to check out a link that offered "A Guide to Looking Smart on the Internet." I kid you not; that was the title of the article. He then went on to recommend sites targeting skeptics.

Hmmm, am I a skeptic? I suppose I may appear to be. I hope I'm not, though. The road from skepticism to cynicism is a short one. I would prefer to think of myself as a critical thinker. I wish more people were.

Oh, and about my thoughts on the GMO thing? Like I said, I don't really know much about it. And let's face it, you can find opinions from an army of those aforementioned experts, on either side of the GMO fence, citing research studies to support their position that may or may not be valid. (Beware using one of them in a comment at the Speakers' Corner, however, lest... well, you know.) But here's what I think. There is enough "out there" that says the pesticides used on GMO crops (crops developed by the same companies, by the way, who manufacture the pesticides) may be harmful to humans. That's enough to make me come down on the side of caution, when I can. Unfortunately, since we don't have uniform labeling, it's not always possible, but I try. Thinking critically, you know.


Dark Secrets

By Miguel Cerejido
Source: Wikimedia Commons

color me purple
shadows hide my mourning face
midnight is my name
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Come Hither

Photo by Don Cload
(Source:  Wikimedia Commons)

verdant, beckoning

Mother Nature's siren song

seduction awaits


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nocturnal clean-up

nature's exterminator

better than Orkin


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Over and Out

slow but not stupid
message received loud and clear

end of transmission


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La Danse Apache

Vintage Postcard 1920

"Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire."
                                               ~ George Bernard Shaw

"You go first."

"No. You. You go first."

It's a dance, one they've been trying to master for years. The music plays, sometimes a sensuous tango and sometimes a sizzling salsa. But the dance never quite comes together. Neither is willing to make the first move.

The tension between them builds. There's always friction, lots of smoke but no fire. Close encounters cause sparks, and each jumps back, fearful of being burned.

They're just not very good at it, it seems. They're always out of step. She comes close as he retreats. He moves in, she pulls away. Each is at once drawn, and repelled.

They'll never get it right; they know that. But neither can they walk away. And so, they dance.




(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

visions chill and white

echoes in the sleepless night

wraiths just out of sight

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

The figure concealed in the deep shadows of the landing at the top of the stairs stands motionless, waiting.

Heart pounding, he mentally runs through his plan over and over, hoping he'll have the courage to follow through this time. It's like that old timey baseball guy said... What was his name? Yogi Bear? Well, whatever, like he said, it's déjà vu all over again. He's been here many times before, in just this place, with just this plan. And each time, his courage deserts him. Tonight, he mutters under his breath. Tonight, tonight, tonight. He repeats it in his mind like a mantra.


"Did you think I wouldn't notice?"

Heart sinking, the woman steals a glance at her husband, then quickly looks down at her hands twisting the purse strap in her lap. What she saw in the flickering light from oncoming traffic in the few seconds she'd looked at Craig is a sight all too familiar. He sits rigid, the knuckles of his hands white from clenching the steering wheel. The rhythmic jerking of the muscle in his right cheek tells her that his jaw is clenched just as tightly.

All night, she's been congratulating herself on making it through a party without incident for a change. She hadn't wanted to go, dreading the usual tension of trying to meet with his approval. To make matters worse, this party was thrown by his boss to celebrate winning some big case. Now that she thinks about it, though, maybe that's why Craig was on his best behavior. It had been such a relief to have no berating comments, no icy stares, no scenes. She'd even enjoyed herself. She closes her eyes for a moment, hoping it's not all about to go to hell in a hand basket.


He shifts his weight from one foot to the other. His legs are going to sleep, and he's tempted to sit down.

No. Not a good idea. They could come any minute. Be vigilant!

He does set his weapon down on the hall table next to him, though, and flexes his cramped fingers.

Hang in. They'll be here soon.


"Notice what?"

Craig snorts. "Oh, please. I'm not stupid, Rebecca, nor am I blind."

She doesn't answer, knowing that whatever has set him off, there is nothing she can say that won't make it worse.

She thinks back over the past few hours, looking for something that could have brought this on. There's nothing. She thought he'd be pleased at how well the evening went. Frank Griffin and his wife had seemed to like her, and she'd made a point of circulating, chatting with Craig's fellow lawyers. All she can remember is laughter and conviviality.

Rebecca glances at the speedometer, where the needle confirms that they are going much too fast.

"I wish you would slow down before you kill us or someone else. I  don't know what you're so upset about, Craig. Please. It's been such a nice night. We had fun. Let's not ruin it."

His laugh is mirthless. "Fun. Yes, indeed. I'm sure you did have fun, Rebecca." His voice drips with sarcasm and loathing. "Imagine how much fun it was for me, watching you throw yourself at Frank all night, all giggles and come-hither looks. For crissake, you were hanging all over him. You looked like a cheap fucking whore."


He's really tired. Good thing he didn't give in to the urge to sit down. He'd have been asleep by now for sure.

Headlights sweep across the darkened foyer downstairs, and the adrenalin rush wakes him up good. They're here. He grabs his weapon and presses himself tight against the wall.

Any minute now.


It's going to be a bad one, she knows. She's never seen him so angry. He's had jealous outbursts before -- oh, boy, had he -- but he's never accused her of something like this.

"I was not 'hanging all over' Frank Griffin, as you so elegantly put it. I was chatting with him, trying to be friendly. Which, if you recall, you asked me to."

Craig pulls the car into the driveway, slams the gear shift lever into Park, and turns to sneer at her.

"Friendly? Friendly? Oh, that went w-a-a-a-y beyond friendly, Rebecca. When I asked you to be nice to him, I didn't fucking mean hump his leg like a bitch in heat."

Rebecca sighs and opens the car door.

"Nice, Craig. Now let's drop it. You're just being paranoid."

She hasn't even made it to the front porch when Craig grabs her arm and spins her around.

"Don't you dare talk to me like that."

She has no time brace herself when the back of his hand knocks her to the ground. She lands hard, and feels the pea stone cut into her face. When she puts her hand to her cheek, it comes away bloody.

Ever the gentleman, Craig leaves her there and storms onto the front porch.


There's a series of clicks as the key turns in the lock. He holds his breath, waiting, and when the door swing open, he can hear crying from outside.

There he is. Now or never. Don't chicken out!

He steps to the stair rail, and raises his weapon. Taking careful aim, he lets fly. He hears a yelp from below, and then sees his target go down.


Rebecca gets to her feet and walks to the front door, hand to her bloody cheek. There are stone fragments still embedded in it. She can feel her eye swelling shut and she's pretty sure she has a split lip.

This has got to stop, she thinks. Fourteen years is about thirteen years too long.

She enters the foyer just in time to see her husband crumple to the tile floor, swearing.


Looking toward the tremulous voice, she sees Billy coming down the stairs in his pajamas, clutching his slingshot, eyes wide.

Craig yells, "My eye, my eye! What the fuck?"


Her son starts to cry. With barely a glance at her husband, still sitting on the floor clutching his left eye, Rebecca hurries to him.

"Mama!" His words come in a rush. "Mama, I'm sorry! I came home early from Mike's. Don't be mad. I had to. He was gonna kill you. Look at your face! That's the worst yet. You're all beat up." Billy sobs. "And now he's gonna kill me!"

Rebecca pulls the shaking boy close. "It's okay, honey. It'll be okay. I'm not mad. You go on up to your room. I'll take care of Daddy."

When she hears Billy's bedroom door close, she turns to her husband, who is bellowing.

"Fuck! That damn kid nearly put my eye out. See what comes of all your coddling, Rebecca? It's time I deal with him before you turn him into a fag."

Rebecca looks at him with disgust. "For heaven's sake, Craig. You need..."

She's interrupted by his angry voice. "What I need is to go to the hospital. Now!"

Rebecca listens to make sure Billy has stayed in his room, then walks over to the table by the door and picks up the ugly bronze statue of Justice that Craig loves so much.

"You bastard," she says as she brings the heavy statue crashing down on Craig's head. "You're going to need more than that."



Intimate Strangers

(Source: clker.com free clipart)

(Preface: OK, so here's the deal. I haven't written much of anything for months. It's time to get back to it, but those muses up there  in the blog banner are being stubbornly uncooperative. So, okay. Fine. Be that way. I'll go it alone, and use the stuff floating around in my head. Maybe they'll get jealous and come out to play.)

Intimate Strangers
Lately, I've been pondering the mystery of internet intimacy.

I've been hanging around the internet for about five years. Oh, there was AOL before that, but that was different. Kind of flat and one-directional. Today, thanks to blogging and Facebook (hard to believe that Facebook is only 10 years old!), cyberspace is a community, more of a community than the one outside my front door. I know this sounds crazy, in a delusional sort of way, but the cyber-citizens who live in my online community, people from around the world, many of whom I've never met (with a few exceptions)... Those people are my friends. Not just the Facebook kind of friends, but real friends.
A couple of years ago, I invited a man I’d met online -- and his wife, lest you think there was something wonky going on -- to come for a visit. When I told my daughter I’d done that, she was appalled.

“You’ve never met him? Are you insane? You’re gonna end up dead in your bed.”
“Not to worry,” I told her. “I know him. It’ll be fine.”

And it was. They came and spent several days. We had fun. And I’m still among the living. Because you know what? I did know him.
I’ve met several other people from my internet community, and lo! In person, they were exactly the people I’d come to know online and think of as friends.
Somehow, the internet makes it possible to develop an intimacy with total strangers. My dictionary defines intimacy as “close familiarity or friendship; closeness, rapport, affection, confidence.” I would definitely apply those terms to many of my online relationships. This intimacy is based on more than just a casual relationship. Over time, you come to “know” people, to know about their lives, their family, their likes and dislikes, what makes them laugh. When you see their names pop up on Facebook, in a text or a blog comment, it gives you the warm fuzzies.
So how does this happen? Well, my current theory is based on the fact that I “met” many of my online friends through writing. Some of that writing is like this post, a bit of a rambling mind dump. But it also includes fiction, poetry, and most recently, some scripts. I’m not sure why, but here’s what I think. People present something of a public face when going about their day, just being themselves. But when they write? Oh, my.

The words come from the core. They’re fed by the writer's heart, and his or her dreams and fantasies as well as the mind. And the writing carries echoes of the past as well as the present. It’s like a window into the writer’s true self. And the trust writers place in their readers when they expose themselves like that? Well, that builds intimacy.

Anyway, that’s my theory. Am I crazy, in a delusional sort of way? Maybe. But it’s a good thing.




(Source: www.sangrea.net free cartoons)

"Write something in the morning."

The grape-soaked words stagger through cyberspace and appear on my screen, ending the longest Internet chat we'd had in ages.

I'd been about to head to bed, but I drop back into my chair, and type, "Why? Because you said so? Why should I listen to you? You're a self-proclaimed 'douche,' and a drunk one at that."

Even as I hit the enter key, though, I know I will. A guru is very hard to say no to.

There Is no answer, but from behind the blinking cursor, I can almost hear his chuckling response.




Genesis Interruptus

(Source: Wikipedia Commons)

begun without end
 landscape of incomplete thoughts
to be continued?


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constant companion

ever-hovering vulture

just waiting to strike




A Dame with a Past - Part 9

It’s been business as usual since I returned from San Francisco last week, which is to say, not much business at all. I spent my time catching up on paperwork. Harry, on the other hand, is busy taking his self-imposed role as Bernie’s fairy godfather – ha, now there’s a picture! – very seriously. Were business better, I’d have a problem with him spending so much time poking into the life and times of Mike McGraw. But since he doesn’t have much else on his plate at the moment, I’m all for it. As Harry says often, Bernie McGraw is a sweet kid. I’m happy to do what we can to help her.

Much to my relief, Harry confirmed that Mike McGraw did indeed return to Pasadena. He has apparently been enjoying the bachelor life in Bernie’s absence. He even took one of his conquests into their home. He’ll probably make sure Bernie gets to smell the perfume on her pillow. What a fucking scumbag.

I’ve checked in with Bernie a couple of times. Each time I talk to her, I hear a more confident woman on the other end of the phone. And she sounds happier, somehow, which warms my heart.

Last time we spoke, she told me she was coming back, and made an appointment to come in on Wednesday.


The sound of Steve’s voice coming from the speaker on my phone tells me that Bernie is here for her appointment. It also tells me something is wrong.

When I open the door to the outer office, Bernie is standing in front of Steve’s desk talking. Whatever she’s said has put a look of real concern on Steve’s freckled face.

“Bernie, good to see you!”

Before I can walk over to greet her, Bernie turns to face me, and I’m sure my face mirrors Steve’s. Bernie’s right eye is swollen almost shut, and I’m betting that beneath her make-up, I’d find a rainbow of color. There’s a butterfly bandage across a split in her right cheek.

Oh, no.

“Bernie, come in.” I put my arm around her shoulders and lead her into my office. “Steve, will you let Harry know Bernie is here?” I throw over my shoulder.

Before we can get seated, Harry comes through the connecting door.

“What happened? Steve said…”

Bernie turns to look at him and brings him to a dead stop.

“What the hell happened?”

Even as he says it, I can tell that, like me, he knows exactly what the hell happened. Mike McGraw happened.

“Did that son of a bitch hit you, Bernie?” Harry sits in the chair next to her and immediately jumps up again. “I am going to fucking kill him!”

He starts pacing around my office, his face turning redder by the minute.

“Sit down, Harry Let’s let Bernie tell us what happened before we go jumping to any conclusions.”

Grumbling, he sits down.

I look at Bernie and am shocked all over again at the sight of her battered face. “What happened, Bernie?”

No big mystery here. When she got home Monday afternoon, McGraw was waiting.

“When I got home from LAX, Mike was there. I thought he’d be at work, but it was obvious he’d been just waiting for me to walk through that door so he could start yelling at me. And he was very drunk.”

“You should have turned around and walked right out of there, Bernie.”

“I know, Harry. You’re right. But I thought I could handle him.” She gives a little humorless laugh.

“Yeah, right. The whole time he was ranting at me, he was pacing around the living room like an animal in a cage. I had about as much chance of ‘handling him’ as I would have had with a wild gorilla.”

She pauses and asks, “Could I have a drink of water?”

As I say, “Of course,” Harry jumps up and goes out the water cooler. He’s back in a flash, and hands Bernie a glass of water.

“Here ya go, hon.”


She takes a long drink, and then continues. “He went on and on about how he wasn’t about to be cut out; that if I thought I was better than him now, I was crazy; that the Bernice Arms was his as much as mine. I tried to reason with him. When I started to explain the trust to him, he just madder.

She gingerly touches her check. “You can see how it all ended.”

“Bernie, I’m really sorry,” I say.

After his display in the lobby of the Bernice Arms, I can’t say this was totally unanticipated. I knew the guy was potentially dangerous. But to actually see the proof on Bernie’s face is still shocking.

“As soon as he did it, he started crying. He was all apologies, saying he didn’t mean it, it was just the booze making him crazy.”

“They all say that, Bernie,” Harry says, shaking his head.

“I know, right? It’s all such a cliché, like a scene from some late-night movie on Lifetime. Ugh.”

“So what happened?”

“I left him standing there blubbering, got in the car, and went to the emergency room. Alone. That’s what happened.”

Harry leans over and gives her a hug. “Good for you!”

“I’m done,” she says. “He can apologize all he wants. I’ve seen the documentaries. I know the statistics. Most abusers never change, and in many cases, it only gets worse. I’m not about to become a statistic myself.”

As she talks, I can see her jaw tightening.

“Besides, even though this is the first time he hit me, he’s been abusing me almost from the beginning. I know he’s losing all our money at the track. We never have enough. Do you know that we’ve never taken a vacation?”

She takes a breath, and I can see she’s on a roll. “And the women! God only knows how many women. He doesn’t even seem to care if I know.

“And then… And then he has the gall to berate me?  Oh, yes, I am done. I am so done.”

“What are you going to do?” I ask.

“I’m leaving him, that’s what. You were right, Marty, I don’t need to put up with it anymore. Thanks to my birth mother, I have a place to go.

“I’m moving to San Francisco, and as soon as I can talk to Mr. Worthington, I’m going to divorce his sorry ass.” As she finished speaking, she gives her head an emphatic nod that sets her hair bouncing.

Harry bursts out laughing. “Now that’s what I’m talking about! Bernie, I knew you were a hot shit right from the get-go.”


 Bernie left LA within a couple of weeks. As she told us, there was nothing really keeping her here.

“I have no family and I hate my job. My friends know what I’ve been through and they’ll understand. I know they’ll visit me up there. And I don’t want, or need, anything in that house.”

So with those words, she was gone, taking our best wishes with her. I regretted leaving part of our job undone. We never did help her find her birth father, but maybe that wasn’t important to her.

As for us, I’m happy to say that business picked up a little. Both Harry and I had enough to do to keep us off the streets. In Harry’s case, this is a good thing for both him and LA.

About three months after Bernie left, Steve stuck her head in my door, a huge grin spread across her face.

“Marty! You’ll never guess who’s on line one!”

It's the first time I’ve spoken to Bernie since she left, and I’m happy to hear her voice. She sounds terrific. I guess being a real estate mogul agrees with her.

“How’re you doing, Bernie?  You settled in?”

“I’m great, Marty. I’m better than great.” Her voice has all the effervescence that had been missing when I first met her.

“I have a new job, one I think I’m going to like a lot, and the best part? I can walk to work.”

“I’m glad to hear it. What’s happening with Mike?”

“The divorce is in the works. It’ll take a while, but that’s okay.”

“He leaving you alone?” I've been worried that McGraw might follow her up to Frisco.

“He is now,” she says. "He showed up here once and tried to force his way in, but Al escorted him out to the street in short order. After that, I got a restraining order, and he hasn’t been back.”

I have to smile at that. I’m betting the idea of facing Al again was as effective as the restraining order at keeping Bernie’s bully husband at bay.

Bernie went on to tell me that her half-siblings were beginning to accept her.

“We not best buds or anything, but at least they are reasonably nice to me.  And Marty, I think Mark is going to turn out to be a friend! Can you believe it? He loves the garden. Turns out he’s the one who put in some of the plants. I asked him if he’d come over and give me a little horticulture lesson, and presto! That turned him right around. I think he was more upset at losing the garden than not inheriting the building.” She laughs. “I gotta tell you, I’m pretty relieved about that!”

“That’s good news. Are you liking your apartment?”

“Oh, yes! This is such a great place. Everyone here is so nice. And I’ve learned so much about my birth mother. I feel like I know her.”

The words were tumbling from her mouth at a hundred miles an hour. She finally pauses for a breath before continuing excitedly.

“And Marty, get this! Remember the last letter from her that was part of my bequeath? She said my roots were in the building, that it had a lot to tell me.”

“And did it? The building tell you things, I mean? You were confused about what she meant.”

“Well, I’m not really sure, but Louise Fennimore – remember her? – sure did. She told me so much about my mother. Marty, it turns out I was born there! When my mother got back from school in England, she stayed in the apartment, and they brought a doctor in when she went into labor. I can’t tell you how weird it is to live in the place where I was born.”

Another breath, then, “But listen, the reason I called was to ask you something.”

I chuckle. “And here I was thinking you just wanted to chat with my charming self.”

“Well, that too,” she laughs. “But what I really want is to ask you and Harry if you can come up here for a day. We have unfinished business, right?”


A week later, Harry and I present ourselves at the Bernice Arms and a beaming Al greets us. “Nice to see you again,” he says as he punches the elevator button for us.

While we wait, Harry gives a low whistle.

“You weren’t kidding, pal,” he said. This is some place. She really is a grand old dame.”

We get on the elevator, and I hit the button for the eleventh floor. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

I didn’t think there was much that could surprise Harry Carrold, but when the elevator doors slide open and he lays eyes that garden, his mouth falls open.

“Holy shit.”

“Yup. Told you.”

He pushes through the glass doors and steps out into the late morning sunshine. “This is…” he sputters. “This is… Well, this is un-fucking-believable, that’s what this is!”

While he tries to get his mouth closed, I take Harry’s arm and lead him around the corridor toward the gate. “Come on. Let’s go see Bernie.”


This time, when I press the button on the gate, there’s a buzz and the gate pops open. Up ahead, Bernie steps out of her door to greet us.

After giving me a hug, she turns to Harry, eyes sparkling, and laughs. “Why’s your mouth hanging open, Carrold? Catching flies?”

He’s back to stammering again. “I’m… I’m… I’m just overcome by your beauty, darlin’.”

Uh-huh. Good recovery. I have to admit, though, Bernie looks terrific. She’s glowing. She’s wearing her favorite outfit of jeans and a T-shirt, but gone is the stress that had been hanging on her like an accessory.

She giggles, a delightful sound. “Oh, you slick talking rascal!”

We follow Bernie into the living room. Everything looks pretty much the same, though she’s added some personal touches here and there. On a bookcase, I spot a few framed photographs. Bernie sees me checking them out and smiles.

“My mothers.”

She walks over and picks up a picture of a brunette woman. “This is Sarah Lahey. Funny, I always thought I looked like her.”

She replaces the photo, and picks up another, this time of a woman with the same dark blonde hair as Bernie. “This is Marjorie Mitchum, and I do look like her.”

She tells us to sit, and disappears into the kitchen. When Harry manages to tear himself away from the windows, he plops down in one of the easy chairs.

“Well, I gotta say, my friend, this time you didn’t exaggerate. This old gal is everything you said, and more.”

“You’d better not be talking about me,” Bernie laughs as she returns with a tray holding frosty glasses of ice tea and a plate of cookies.

She sits on the couch and raises her glass in a toast. “Let’s drink to my new life. I feel as though I’ve been reborn.”

We drink, and then she laughs again. “Twice in the same place! Imagine that!”

We chat a few minutes, and then she says, “Now, about that unfinished business… But first, come on.” She jumps up.  “I want to introduce you to someone.”

We ride the elevator to the lobby, and she leads us over to the doorman’s desk. Al steps around the desk as Bernie says, “Marty Tremaine and Harry Carrold, I’d like you to meet Aloysius Joseph Unger.”

She smiles broadly. “My father!”



~ The End ~



Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No. 5, Muse 9: "Renaissance."


A Dame with a Past - Part 8

Bernice McGraw may be a little naïve, but she’s not dumb. She’s a smart woman, and it doesn’t take her long to realize her options are wide open.

She stands at the window facing the view, but I can tell she’s not registering anything beyond what she sees through her mind's eye. I know she's imagining a future far different than the one she ever thought she'd have before getting that letter from the lawyer.

Looking at my reflection in the window glass, she says, “I’m tired of running blind in a house of mirrors, wondering how to get out, Marty. No matter which way I turn, I just end up right back where I started. If I weren't so blinded by my own damn gullibility, I know I'd see a woman I don’t recognize looking back at me. I'd see the woman Mike McGraw calls his wife, the woman he wants me to be. What about the woman I want to be?
With a look of resolution on her face, she turns to face me. “I want to talk to Mike. Would you please bring him up here?”

“Not unless I stay, too, Bernie,” I tell her.

When I left McGraw in the lobby under the watchful eyes of the building manager and the doorman, he was one outraged and dangerous man. I don’t think leaving him alone with Bernie would be a good idea.

“I’ll be fine,” she insists. “You can wait outside if you want, but I need to talk to him alone.”

She’s probably right, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it.

I head down to the lobby, wondering what I’m going to find. McGraw had looked close to the boiling point when I left. But when I step off the elevator, the only person I see is Al, standing behind his desk reading the newspaper. Joe Kimball and Mike McGraw are nowhere in sight.  I immediately picture wild fisticuffs, ending with one or both heading to the hospital.

“Al, where’s…”

“Joe’s in his office.  That jerk McGraw blustered around here for a while, swearing and threatening to punch out everyone and everything from me to that pillar over there. Did I tell you I used to box a bit in my Army days? I took the all-Army middleweight championship back in the day.” He gives a bark of a laugh. “If he’d gotten into it with me, no kidding, it wouldn’t have gone well for him. Anyway, then he just stormed off. Said he was going back to LA and that he’d deal with his wife later.

“I gotta tell you, Marty, I don't like a bit of it. That guy’s dangerous, if you ask me.”

“I hear you, Al. I better go tell Bernie. She wanted to talk to him.”

“Well, you tell her she’s safe here.  That apartment’s pretty secure, and besides, he comes back here, he’s gotta go through me. Not gonna fucking happen, pardon my French.”


When I get back upstairs and tell Bernie that Mike has taken off, she’s not surprised.

“He’s basically a coward, Marty,” she says from the couch where she is sipping another cup of tea. “That’s why I’m not really afraid of him. He’s all talk.”
Like I said, she may be a bit naïve. I’ve been around this particular block enough times to know that even the most cowardly of lions find their teeth now and then. I think he’s an explosion waiting to happen, and I tell her so.

“You need to take care, Bernie. One of these days, he’s likely to snap. I’ll travel back to LA with you, and go with you to make sure he’s calmed down, if you want.”

“I appreciate having you in my corner, but I really don’t think you need to worry. I’ve been living with his tantrums for years. He always calms down. But thanks. You really are one of the good guys, Marty.”

“Oh, pshaw… Besides, you’re paying me, remember.” I give her an exaggerated look of horror. “You are paying me, right?”

She laughs. “Yes, of course.”

“So what do you want to do?”

“I think I’m going to stay here a few days. I took a couple of days off for this trip, but I have vacation time coming – I mean, who gets to take a vacation? – so I’m going to call in and take some of it. I work in a big office. They’ll never miss me.”

She leans forward and picks up the note from the tray. “Besides, I want to meet with Louise Fennimore and find out what she has to tell me. And I want more time to explore the apartment. I want to get to know my mother, you know?

“You go on back to LA without me. I’ll be fine.”


Before I leave, I stop in the office downstairs and have a chat with the building manager.

“I doubt that he’ll come back, Marty,” Kimball assures me. “But even if he does, he’ll never get past Al or the other doorman. We’ll see to that. Not to worry, she’s in good hands with us.”

I feel myself relaxing at his words.

“Marjorie was a wonderful woman, and a dear friend to all of us here at the Bernice Arms. Before she died, she let us know who the heir – or I should say, heiress – of the building was. It came as a surprise to everyone that she had another daughter out there. Somehow, she just didn’t seem the type to have a ‘love child,’ you know?” He shakes his head.  "Guess you just never know. We all make mistakes when we’re young, right?

“Anyway, it was clearly important to Marjorie that Bernice be welcome here. And what Marjorie wanted, we want. We’ll take care of her. After all,” he chuckles, “her name is on the front of the building.”

While I have some time with Kimball, I decide to ask about Mark Mitchum.

“He’s called Bernie several times, Joe. She said it sounded like he was poking around for information about her plans. She’s nervous about it, said it felt like he was harassing her.”

“Oh, he’s harmless, I think,” Kimball says. “I have a feeling that his nose is a little out of joint that he didn’t inherit the building. I suspect he always thought it was his. Al says he hung around here a lot as a kid. He has a real thing for that garden upstairs.

Reassured, I thank Kimball, say my goodbyes, and head for the airport.


Back in LA, I fill Harry in on Bernie’s adventures in San Francisco. His eyes widen and he gives a little whistle when I describe the Bernice Arms.

“An eleventh floor garden? You gotta be shitting me.”

“I kid you not. It’s beautiful. You should see it, Harry. In fact, the whole place is beautiful, even if she is a little time-worn. She reminds me of those grand old dames of another era.”


“Yeah, I know, it sounds a little precious. But there’s something about that building that just… She has heart. She's seen things. You can just tell, you know?”

Harry laughs. “Heart, huh? Nah, can’t say that I do know, but I’ll take your word for it.

His laughter stops when I tell him about our little visit from Mike McGraw.

“I knew that guy was trouble. Didn’t I tell you? You sure he came back here when he charged out?

“No. I’m not,” I say. “But I'm pretty sure he can’t get to her up there unless she wants him to. And he is her husband, after all.”

“Yeah, but it still makes me twitchy. Bernie's a sweet kid.”

Harry chews his bottom lip for a moment. “Okay, here’s what I’m going to do. First thing, I’m going to make sure he’s here.”

“Good idea.”

“Then, I’m going to give him a real look-see and see what I can dig up. If that marriage blows up in her face, and I’m guessing it will, I want her to be able to defend herself.”

I know if there’s anything to find, Harry will find it. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, Bernie will know everything there is to know about Mike McGraw.

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No. 5, Muse 8: "Running Blind in a House of Mirrors"