get lucky


        The young black man strode up to a checkout counter in the local Target discount retailer.  There were twenty checkout counter aisles but only four were open and all the lines were long and progressing slowly.  He had arrived at the checkout line empty-handed but he quickly grabbed a soda and some chips from the impulse-item racks.  He stood behind the tall slender young Asian-American woman.

        The young man studied the woman’s shapely bare legs, her short cut-off stylishly-tattered jeans, her bare pale midriff, her clingy lace-trimmed tank-top, and her avant-garde bob hair style.

        He slowly shook his head and licked his lips.

        Then, the couple ahead of the woman excused themselves and backed their full cart out to move to another line.  The young man and the young woman stood side-by-side to let them pass.  The man stared at her face and smiled and nodded.  Her face was round and freckled and she had full slightly parted lips and a crooked tooth.  She had the edgy good-looks of a model.  The woman smiled faintly and nodded almost imperceptibly.

        The man said quickly, “I have developed a superstition: I never change lines in a market no matter how slow it is.  I’ll move and then get behind some woman paying with food stamps while they go over all the items that she can’t buy with food stamps.”

        The woman joined in, saying “I get the people buying a Lottery ticket who scratch their ticket as the clerk makes change, win a dollar, and then buy another ticket.”

        The young man nods and adds, “Or the woman who doesn’t know how much money is on her credit card so the clerk has to subtract one item at a time and then try to ring it up.”

        The woman pursed a smile and started to turn back around to the checkout line ahead.

        The young man said quickly, “I’m Louis Prince Alexander Tucker,” and leaned forward expectantly.

        The woman gave in and softly said, “You’re all that?  Hi, I’m Lucky.”

        Louis splayed his right hand upon his chest and joked, “They always are when they meet me.”

        Lucky grimaced faintly and started to turn around again.  Louis said quickly, “You hear that all the time, don’t you?”

        Lucky muttered, “Yes, apparently a very funny American joke.  My name means ‘lucky’ in Chinese so I just go by ‘Lucky’.”

        Louis asked, “Are you from China?”

        Lucky hesitated and then finally said softly, “I’m from China.  Visiting.”

        Louis would not let her turn her back to him and he said, “You speak real good English.  You don’t look like the Chinese I see in pictures.”

        Lucky said ironically, “I eat better.”

        Louise said, “I’m sorry.  I meant it as a compliment.  Really.  You could be a model!  I’ll bet you get that all the time, too.”

        Lucky thought for a moment and then she finally said, “My father is Chinese, my mother is American.”

        Then Lucky did turn her back to Louis.  Louis sought further reasons to talk and he noticed at last that Lucky was purchasing only a single striped onion the size of a grapefruit.

        Louis asked, “Are you on The Onion Diet?”

        Lucky half-turned around amused and replied, “No.  It’s for my soup.  Is there such thing as an ‘Onion Diet’?”

        Louis nodded toward the magazines and tabloids rack and said, “I’m sure there is.  Look there.  Remember her?  She got really fat and now she’s got an article revealing her super secret diet.”

        Lucky said, “Yes, I see.  And look: Justin Bieber has a new tattoo.”

        Just then the checkout line advanced.  The woman ahead of Lucky and Louis who appeared to be buying school supplies for the entire district had paid and was departing at last.

        Lucky then paid for her onion and glanced back at Louis and said with polite humor, “Nice waiting with you,” and she turned and headed for the exit.

        Louis dropped his soda and chips in front of the checker and winked, saying, “I’ve changed my mind,” and, as he jogged following Lucky, the clerk shook her head and said to the disapproving customer next in line, “I don’t think so.”

        In the parking lot Louis caught up to Lucky and said lamely, “Hey, we’re going the same way.”

        Lucky glanced at him and said, “Didn’t you forget your soda and chips?”

        Louis said quickly, “Naw, I’ve changed my mind.  I feel like pizza.  Hey, do you want to have some pizza?  My treat?  The place is right over there.”

        Lucky smiled and said, teasing, “Naw, I’m making soup for dinner.”

        Louis asked, “So, you do you live nearby this Target, or as they say: Tar-zjay Boo-tique?”

        Louis knew he would soon be out of tricks and he reluctantly prepared to peel-off to head back toward his car.

        Lucky suddenly said, “Would you like to have some soup with us for dinner?”

        Louis hopped back alongside Lucky and asked, “You said ‘us’?  Boyfriend?”

        Lucky replied, “Roommate.”

        Lucky’s apartment was a few blocks walking distance from the shopping center.  The two of them walked quietly along and Louis from the corner of his eye studied Lucky’s long elegant movements.

        Lucky’s apartment complex was called The Serenity and there were many college students and young adults coming and going.  The place was decent with lots of cultivated greenery but it didn’t look very expensive to Louis.

        Lucky finally said, “This is our apartment, number 88,” and then she added for some reason, “In Chinese tradition ‘88’ means ‘double fortune’.”

        So Louis was surprised when he followed Lucky into apartment number 88 and he scanned the heavy rich red drapes that concealed all of the windows, the Elmwood Mandarin cabinets, the Rosewood sideboards, the jade carvings, the Rosewood living room set, the hand-painted gold leaf floor screen, the black lacquer mother of pearl mirrors, the flower and bird motif chairs and tables, the hand-painted blue and white porcelain lamps, and the hand-painted porcelain fishbowl planters.

        Louise hissed, “Ho-ly Shhhhit.  This is like the Queen’s Chambers.  I like it!”

        Lucky said casually, “My roommate did the décor.”

        Lucky went into the kitchen and set the onion upon the counter.

        Louis, following her, noticed the previous meal still left strewn upon the dining table.  The suggestion of sloppiness seemed out of place in the ‘Queen’s Chambers’.

        Lucky said, “I’m going to change.  Just make yourself comfortable.”

        Louis watched her walk away and as she walked away she kicked her sandals off and let them land near a chair.  She pulled her tank-top off and Louis saw her drop it on the floor as she entered her bedroom.  She didn’t close the door.  Louis was tempted but he decided to sit down on one of the flower and bird motif chairs.

        Lucky reemerged in a clingy silk robe, bare legged and bare foot.  Louis pulled off his shoes.

        Lucky went into the kitchen and Louis arose and followed her.  He watched her prepare the vegetable assortment that included bok choy, mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, garlic, onion, ginger, and some spices and sesame oil and soup stock.

        Louis said, “Looks really good.”

        Lucky explained, “We’re vegetarians here.  In China, if it moves they’ll eat it.”

        Louis was surprised to hear her criticism and he asked Lucky, “What work do you do in China?”

        Lucky replied tersely, “I’m a student.”

        Louis then asked, “What about here?”

        Lucky replied, “I model part-time.”

        Louis cried out, “I knew it!”

        Lucky then asked Louis, “So what do you do?”

        Louis gestured and replied, “I’m what you call an entrepreneur.”

        Lucky smiled and said, “Oh.  I see.”

        Louis elaborated in the face of Lucky’s subtle dismissal and said, “I’m a middle man you might say.  I find opportunities and I hook up investors.”

        Lucky said, “Oh.  Investors.  Sounds… intriguing.”

        Louis looked Lucky up and down and smiled and said, “It can be.  Believe me.”

        Louis then wanted Lucky to elaborate and asked, “What were you studying in China?”

        Lucky chopped vegetables and dropped them in the big pot and stirred them and finally answered, “Political Science.”

        Louis said, “Really?  I thought they only had one politic in China: Communism.”

        Lucky said, “It’s different today.  They’ve yoked Communism to the Capitalist engine.  It’s something we don’t really understand yet except that it is very powerful.  And dangerous.  China is flexing its new muscles like a bullied weakling who is now on steroids.  China wants its destiny back.”

        Louis said, “Yeah, I hear about their military stuff.  But, hey, I just figure that to stop China we’d just bomb Wal-Mart,” and Louis laughed.

        Lucky smiled and said, “Funny, true once but not for very much longer.  The problem for the awakening Chinese people will not be foreigners.  It will be their arbitrary, repressive government,” and she looked into the roiling soup and she said, “But I don’t expect you to understand.”

        Louis Prince Alexander Tucker said loudly, “Shee-it, Ex-cyoooz me?”

        Lucky realized the irony in her statement and laughed, touching Louis’ arm and she said, “I’m sorry.  Of course.”

        Just then the apartment door clicked and opened quickly and there entered a taut Chinese man with immaculate hair and perfectly tailored clothes.  The man immediately tensed and stared sharply at Louis.

        Lucky turned and said, “Louis, this is Wei Xian, my… roommate.  Wei, this is Louise, a friend.”

        Wei Xian scoffed rudely and asked Lucky, “Can I speak with you right now?”

        Lucky turned and rolled her eyes at Louis as she walked past and said to Wei, “Yes.  What is it?”

        Wei and Lucky had an intense exchange of whispers in Chinese and Wei repeatedly gestured toward Louis who was embarrassed.

        Lucky at last dismissed Wei’s argument with a slash of her hand and she came back to the kitchen and said to Louis in passing, “Wei is overly protective.  My father pays him to worry.  It drives me crazy.  He’s upset now that I even walked to the market alone.”

        Wei huffed away toward the hallway but he stopped and knelt to pick up Lucky’s sandals and then he went to her bedroom and was picking clothes off of the floor, muttering in exasperation.

        Lucky called to Wei and said sweetly, “Wei, dinner will be ready shortly.”

        Louis heard what he was sure was a curse from Wei in the back room.

        Louis offered to clear the dining table of the remains of the previous meal.  Lucky shrugged but Wei soon appeared and took over clearing the table and he gestured for Louis to sit down in the living room on an ornate sofa chair.  Louis acquiesced and sat watching the fastidious mannerisms of Wei and yet observing that Wei gave off an aura of danger.  Then Louis looked up on the wall at a portrait of a dignified and powerful looking Chinese man and his American wife who was beautiful and looked shrewd and intelligent.

        Louis called out politely, “Is this your mother and father?”

        Lucky called back from the kitchen, “Yes.  That portrait was Wei’s idea to keep me in line,” and Wei could be heard muttering.

        Lucky said, “My mother was an opera singer,” then she announced, “Dinner is served.”

        Louis arose from the sofa to see Wei gesturing at Lucky to sit down at the dinner table.  Wei took the responsibility of bringing the food and serving.

        Wei sat across from Louis and glared rudely, looking away only when Lucky asked him a question.  Louis was certain that Wei had on eye-liner.

        Louise looked at Lucky and said, “This is great soup.  Very hearty.”

        Lucky thanked him.

        After a few minutes of silent consumption Louis asked, “Lucky, so how long have you been here in America?”

        Wei said some rapid admonishments to Lucky which Louis could see made her angry.  Lucky then turned to Louis and said, “I’ve been here about a year.”

        Wei muttered a few words to Lucky and then he glared back at Louis.

        Now Louis was getting irritated and so he asked Lucky, “Are you here because of your modeling career?”

        Lucky laughed softly and replied, “No.  My modeling is just part-time to keep from going crazy with boredom,” and she looked pointedly at Wei.

        Wei shocked Louis by suddenly saying, in English, “Need bigger boobs.”

        Louis laughed.  Then he said to Lucky, “Hey, I think you are perfect!”

        Wei made a humming sound.

        Louis asked Lucky, “Is he growling at me?”

        Lucky said, “Wei is paid to worry.  You have to know the whole story…”

        Wei barked something at Lucky.  Lucky challenged him and then waved away his objection.

        Lucky began, “My father is a very rich man.  He is very important to the Communist leadership.  When I was in school my three friends, Tao, Feng, Song and I had a blog site documenting the inequities of the Communist leadership.”

        Wei slapped his head three times in protest.

        Lucky continued, “It doesn’t matter how big the crime, those with money will not suffer the consequences. Those without money, however, will be shot even for the smallest crime. This is what China is like.”

        Lucky stopped and Louis could see that she was about to cry.

        Wei held his forehead and shook his head.

        Lucky’s lips trembled but she continued, saying, “The government didn’t like our blog.  They arrested Tao, Feng, and Song and accused them of trafficking drugs.  My father had influence enough to send me to America with Wei before I could be arrested.”

        Wei pointed his finger at Louis and said something and then he drew his finger across his throat in a clear threat.

        Louis protested, “Whoa, bro’.  What did I do?  I like Lucky.”

        Lucky sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand and she said, “I found out today that Tao, Feng, and Song have been shot.  The pictures of their execution are on the internet.”

        Wei arose from the table and said two words to Lucky.  He put his soup bowl in the kitchen sink and went away into the hallway.

        Lucky then said, “I need to party.  Let’s go into the living room.”

        Lucky arose and gestured toward the long couch.  She went to one of the big porcelain fish bowl planters and unearthed a bag of marijuana.  Lucky handed the bag to Louis along with some cigarette papers and said, “Roll three of the biggest joints you ever rolled.  We’re going to smoke one each for Tao, Feng, and Song.”

        Louis quietly crafted the joints, rolling them as big as he could manage, glancing over at Lucky who sat beside him lost in sadness.

        Lucky suddenly said, “Wei is just afraid that they will come after me here in America.”

        Louis ignited the first big joint.  It looked like a smoldering drumstick.  He held it out to Lucky.  She took it and drew on it.  Tears were coming down from both of her eyes and she said softly, “For Tao, poor sweet Tao.”

        After Tao was honored Lucky picked up the second joint and lit it and said, “Feng, my sister warrior.”

        Louis could feel the emotion now and he reached for Lucky’s hand sincerely.  Lucky clasped his hand.

        The living room was filling with smoke.  It was a sweet and powerful harvest that Lucky had provided.

        Louis took the third joint and lit it, saying “For Song, right?” and then he turned it around and carefully put his lips around the lighted end and leaned toward Lucky’s face.  She parted her lips and Louis blew long and hard and the smoke went into Lucky’s mouth like a coiling white serpent.

        As Louis blew he saw Lucky reach down and untie her silk robe.  Her now bared porcelain skin seemed to glow.  Louis set the joint down.  As he kissed Lucky gently on the cheek and nose and lips he reached into his pocket and took out a tiny cell phone.  He dropped it discretely into her robe pocket.  Louis then reached into the open robe and gently molded that porcelain flesh.  Their lips fell together hard.  Their tongues coiled upon each other like red dragons.

        Louis pulled back for a moment and said with intoxicated humor, “I like Song the best.”

        Lucky laughed and then arose from the couch holding Louis’ hand and she took him into her bedroom.  Lucky closed the door.  She undressed Louis, kissing his black skin as it was revealed.  They reclined upon her big Elmwood bed with the strewn silk pillows.

        Louis insinuated himself into Lucky, holding Lucky tightly.  He moved in and out of her slowly, deeper and deeper.  Lucky rolled her head from side to side with her eyes closed and hissed and moaned softly.  Louis watched her face.  He was not used to a girl who was so quiet in bed.  He stepped up his game with ever more inspired passages.  Lucky groaned.  Then she began to moan loudly.  Suddenly she was crying in wonderment, “Oh.  Oh!” and she cast her arms around Louis’ neck and looked into his eyes with ecstatic alarm, crying into his ear, “Oh!  Oh!  Oh!”

        Suddenly Louis felt as if an iron bar had been clamped against his throat and he was yanked upward and held upright.  He next felt a searing pain against his genitals.  He could not move.

        Wei had Louis in an arm lock and he held a razor-sharp knife against Louis’ genitals.  The sweat on Louis’ torso was already stinging as it flowed into the nascent wound that Wei was slicing into the base of his penis.

        Louis tried to scream but he couldn’t.  Lucky screamed, “Wei!  Stop!  What are you doing?!”

        Wei growled something at Lucky and then the knife was removed from Louis’ genitals long enough for Wei to toss an object to Lucky, who sat there naked and disheveled and panting and frightened.

        It was a small pistol.  A pistol made of plastic that was short with a small block rather than a barrel.

        Wei growled into Louis ear in English so that Lucky could hear also, “An assassin’s gun!  A built-in silencer.  I found it in your clothes!  Speak before I kill you!”

        Wei released the grip on Louis throat just enough so Louis could croak, “Wait!  I’m not a fucking assassin!  I swear!  I buy drugs in Mexico!  I need that gun for protection.  It’s plastic so I can get through customs!  I swear!  Lucky!  I swear!”

        Lucky pulled her legs together and covered her breasts and said, “Wei!  Don’t hurt him!  It’s my fault!  Let him go!”

        Wei dragged Louis naked to the front door of the apartment and said, “You live.  You are now Mister Lucky.  I keep the gun.  I don’t see you ever again.  Lucky does not see you ever again,” and he threw Louis into the hallway still naked and terrified.

        Louis ran down the hallway.  Fortunately it was the small hours of the morning and nobody was about.  Louis ran down the street back toward the shopping center and his car.  To be black man running naked in the middle of the night was almost as terrifying a proposition as having his balls cut off.

        Louis got to his car but he had no keys.  He kicked the backseat door window repeatedly with his heal until a hole crumbled open.  Louis reached in and unlocked the door and he dove into the back seat.  He grabbed his duffel bag and pulled on his stinking gym clothes.

        Louis sat there panting for several minutes until he calmed down.  Then he took a cell phone out of his duffel bag and tapped in a number.  He held the phone to his ear.

        Louis said, “It’s me.  I couldn’t get her alone.  The bodyguard never left her side.  Yeah.  There is no way to do this cleanly.  I suggest you let her go.  Alright.  Alright.  I know.  I am aware of our deal: You keep the other half.  Yeah, right: Better fucking luck next time.”

        Louis hung up.  He then immediately dialed another number and held the phone to his ear.  He waited and waited.  Finally he said quickly, “Lucky, it’s me, Louis.  Don’t hang up.  Yes, I put that phone in your robe pocket.  I can explain later.  I really like you.  No, don’t be mad at Wei.  He cares about you.  No, Shee-it, I’m not afraid.  Lucky, there is something we need to talk about.  No, Wei isn’t crazy.  Look, I want to help you, too.  I want to be there for you.  Please.  We can arrange a meeting somewhere sometime.  Just think about it OK?  Please.  I’ll call again soon.  Yeah.  Me, too.  Good-night.”

        Louis then sat back in the darkness and said aloud to the roof of the car, “Well, Lucky, you sure rubbed off on me.”


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thus with a kiss 1



        The darkness splits and then a stampede of morning sunlight gallops into my hospital room.  It is my estranged wife Suizette who has opened the drapes.  A bright blue sky and a conical green hill with a tiny cloud for a hat peer in at me.  I raise my right hand to shield my sensitive eyes but I am trussed by both hands like some Gulliver in needles and tubes and tape.  My hair is matted, I need a shave, and God I need a bath.

        I mumble, “Gee.  What a perfect screen-saver day it is.”

        My estranged wife and I (her “strange” husband as we still joke) hold fingers and Suizette asks, “How do you feel?”

        I answer her, saying, “I’m the Morphine Buddha, Baby.”

        The morphine has white-washed my pain just enough.  The big pain, for sure, but I never realized, until the morphine drowned them, the infestation of little aches and pains, physical and mental, that I took for granted in every waking moment for years.  As strangely pleasant as the morphine is, I didn’t want the morphine stupor.  I need some pain to feel alive.  What the hell does that say about my existence?

        I then blurt out as if Suizette had been following my internal conversation, “I’ll take the red pill, Morpheus,” and then when she looks puzzled at my allusion I have to prompt her, saying, “Remember?  ‘You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes’?  Remember?  From The Matrix?  I’ll be hacking the Matrix soon enough.”

        She purses her mouth and shakes her head.

        I continue with my drug-induced bravado humor even though I see it is hurting her, saying, “I just hope there is nothing.  I don’t want to sing in some choir forever,” and I know she is still religious but I say, “I hope I don’t have to carry my personality around through eternity.”

        Suizette suddenly exhales with a laughing sob, saying, “Amen!” and her eyes glisten.


        I won’t accept dialysis.  What’s left of my life would then only revolve around hospitals and doctors.  I’d be a human hook-up between insurance companies and medical providers, a link in a computer network.  A conduit for cash flow.  And a constant burden to Suizette, I know, because as sure as Hell her religious nature will compel her into years of more sorrow together with me.  That would surely be Hell.

        I suddenly say out loud, “I can’t even write like this,” and I raise the coiled tubing that is punctured parasitically into my skin and fastened onto my bloodstream like a swarm of lamprey eels onto a victim fish.

        Suizette looks toward the door and says something and then she goes to the door.  I can make out that she is speaking with three women.  She gestures toward me and I can see them nod.  She says to me, “Ray, you have visitors,” and the three women approach my bed.  Suizette goes out into the hallway.  What now?

        I squint at them.  They approach with such confidence that I assume they are a team of doctors, another corporate rotation of doctors who are about to introduce themselves to me and whose names I subsequently won’t remember.

        But I am profoundly wrong.

        It’s you.

        Can it be you?  It was so long ago.  I have lived with the memory of you as seventeen for all these years.  It’s you.  The eyes.  The cheek.  The mouth.

        You say, “Hello, Ray.”

        The morphine lets through the pain, “Julita,” and the ecstasy, “Hello, Julita,” and if I’m hallucinating I am careful not to dispel the vision, “I’m so glad to see you,” then my vision wavers and I cast out as if a lifeline, “Is it really you?”

        You nod and you smile and you say, “Suizette told me… everything.  She found me.  She asked me to come.”

        I am then aware of the other two women.  They are younger and I suddenly know, asking, “Your daughters?” and I stare at them for pieces of you.

            You acknowledge them and introduce them to me and I hear you say, “She’s the one who first stumbled upon your book Between The Letters.”

           The one daughter says, “I read your blog.  It’s… interesting.”

        Then you talk rapidly and I know you are trying to absorb the vision of me as I am, and you say, “You embarrassed me with my adolescent ramblings.  These two,” and you point to your daughters, “have been merciless.”

        I reply, “Well, I’m down to 150 pounds again.  That’s what I weighed back then.  I’ve been trying to get back…,” and I choke, “…to get back ever since.”

        You change the subject and you say, “I’m married to the best husband in the world.  He’s outside talking with fellow doctors.  When your wife told… explained…to me, my husband insisted that we fly here…with our daughters… a kind of vacation… that’s not what I mean…,” and then you say brightly, “Ray, I’m glad you married and had the wondrous experience of parenthood,” and then you look at me hoping that I will pick up this awkward conversation with some happy concurrences, but instead I tilt my head and ask you, “Who told you I was a parent?”

        I don’t mean for that to embarrass you, so I joke, “If I have any children, believe me: they aren’t admitting it.”

        You say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.  I don’t know why I… I thought … Ray, didn’t you want any children?”

        I focus hard at you and I say, “Hel-lo-o!”

        You hold my stare and return the serve, saying softly, “You know I didn’t think of you that way, Ray.”

        I say, “More like a girlfriend confidante?”

        You close your eyes and reply, “Oh, Ray.”

        I change the subject and say, “They are finally publishing a collection of my blog stories.”

        You say, “That’s wonderful!”

        The morphine has mollified my bitterness and I can say matter-of-factly, “Yeah.  At least Suizette will get all the rights and royalties, so that’s something.  My life insurance is going to fight because I’m refusing dialysis.  My doctors say they will help me all they can with the paperwork.”

        I can see the pity in your eyes.  I don’t want that.  Fortunately you then reiterate, “Published.  That’s great.”

        I say, “Yeah.  An actual three dimensional book that you can drop on your foot or prop open the door with.”

        I can then talk to you like we did so long ago, and I say, “Yeah, most of those stories have strong women as the main characters,” and I add pointedly, “Write what you know, right?”

        You don’t get my allusion to you and you ask, “Why women?”

        I reply wryly, “For obvious reasons I am hesitant with macho characters.”

        You ask, “What do you mean, Ray?”

        I reply, “I am just ‘way too in-touch with my feminine side, Julita.”

        You ask, “Why do you say that?”

        I reply, “Because, Julita, I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body.”

        I see you all are taken aback in shock by that confession.

        I add at last in mock seriousness, “Of course I’m a lesbian.  I hope that doesn’t affect our ‘respectful affection’ for each other,” and you and I and your daughters laugh.

        You touch my hand and say, “Oh, Ray.  That’s the Ray I remember,” and when you smile it is the Julita I remember.

        I then say, “There is one thing I ask, Julita.”

        You say, “What is that, Ray?”

        I reply with nothing to lose, “Kiss me, Julita.  You never kissed me.”

        Your daughters whisper.

        You touch your lips with two fingers and your eyes glisten and then you lower your hand and place it on my hand and lean down toward my face as in a thousand of my dreams.  I struggle to lift myself up and I have a comical vision of myself as the shark from the movie Jaws rising to consume his victim, as appalling and emaciated as I must look to you.

        But you lay your lips upon mine.

        The morphine has dulled my sensations so that your lips are a mere pressure upon my lower face.

        Your scent makes me cry.  I’m losing it.  It must be the morphine.  I can’t stop crying.  You are alarmed.

        Suizette has returned and asks, also alarmed, “What is happening?  Ray?”

        I try get a grip on myself.  I feel like I’m falling to pieces.  I try to make a joke and I blubber a quote from Shakespeare, saying, “Thus, with a kiss…”




        I die into a crescendo of light.  I am walking.  I am on the Southampton tour bus.  I am walking down the aisle.  There is no place to sit.  I see an empty aisle seat.  In the window seat is a radiant girl with long full wavy blonde hair.  This time I am not afraid to sit down, staring.  It is you!  I ask joyfully, “Julita?”  You are still seventeen but you say to me, “Thank you for your acceptance and valuing of me so many years ago, Raymond.”

        Then your eyes look sad and, my God, they glow and you say to me profoundly, “Ray, you have to let me go now.  The rest is silence.”




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But, the most ancient scrolls are kept on: THE TABLE OF MALCONTENTS




Humid, penniless.
“The Last Beginning” occurs to me.
It will happen someday.
I’m weary of this.
All I do is reach for a distant past.
“It could always be worse” isn’t enough.
OK, so I have not the final say.  Finally, I’ll say it:  let go of expectation.
What is the point in thinking?
What does a cat think?
Be what?
A heart and lungs?
Maybe a penis!
Well, I am a dick.
Feelings should be and then be ejected like a bullet cartridge.
Why do they linger?
How screwed is evolution?
How sadistic is God?
That’s why there are orgasms.
How much of humanity would linger for a lifetime of this?
We all die in order to limit the pain we suffer and the damage we do.
Now that is intelligent design!
That ship has sailed and sunk.
All I do is dive for salvage.

IMAGINARY LETTER No. 2 (“know, too”?) 7/20/13

 kathy at castle

IMAGINARY LETTER No. 2 (“know, too”?) 7/20/13

Dearest K,

          Are you still a flautist?

          After that summer I was pining so piteously for you that my mother took me out and let me select an electric guitar (hear ominous duh-duh-duh-DAH!) so thus I would have something else to do besides mope.  Of course I wrote eventually my first song for you.  That was my first memory of “hearing” something before I played it.  It gushed out of me like…well,…

          After we had stopped writing (the first time) I veered into the oncoming adolescent desire to be popular.  I had been blessed with piano lessons as an innocent youth.  A blessing I eventually discarded with the mindless cruelty of a child (Forgive me, Ms Brundage.  I wrote about my eventual guilt and anguish in a veiled manner in my first novel (!!) ADOLPH MEISTERMANN) but now, with guitar and sometimes piano, I followed the piper of that epoch and became one of the army of kids who wanted to be famous musicians.  I’m still paying that piper.  That leads to my own “turbulent 20’s” story to be told in whispers another time.  Perhaps we can scare each other someday?

          Today I like baroque music in general.  Most of it has no “agenda” like subsequent music; just the unfolding crystalline logic of the musical elements.  I also like anything by Handel.  I like any quartet, quintet, sextet, or such “chamber music” of any age by anybody.  In such smaller works every note must justify itself.  There is no hiding in some symphonic fast-talk.

          Of course my favorite get-up-and-go song is “Highway to Hell”, cranked up to “11”.

          I must preface that which I whine about next by stating that I know I am lucky not to be a legless orphan scuttling in a Bombay alleyway.  However…

          The only thing that I ever knew for sure was that I loved you.  The same way I might know that I was hit by a train and mangled.  I was so convinced of divine providence that to awaken from such a dream was bitter.  I spat out God.  I began the random walk through my life.  Statisticians have a word for that random walk; they call it the Drunkard’s Walk.  It can lead back and forth over the same territory, like a drunkard looking for his lost keys under the streetlamp because that is where the light is.

          That is why I have crossed your path again, no doubt.

          “Everything happens for a reason”.

          Well, duh-uh, how inanely obvious is that?  It doesn’t invoke a divine guidance any less than it invokes a careening billiard ball (even if you ask “So, Who took the first shot?”).  So where could I plead injustice?  God’s “mysterious ways” appeared to me no different than random acts of justice and injustice.  There is no morality in randomness.  Karma?  That’s a snapshot of a wish; the arc of consequences that can’t be grasped.  However, “Every solution is the next problem” is now what I like to offer as sobriety.

          Anyway, Justice is an imperfect human invention, a flywheel to restrain revenge upon innocents I think.

          In October of 2011 I was shown by my erstwhile friend a blogger’s site called Open Salon.  That was a pivotal moment of my personal evolution.  For nearly three years since then I’ve written at least one story or poem every week.  I have developed some writer’s muscles.  Now, like a jogger hooked on the endorphins (I’ve been there) writing is becoming the meaning of my life, whatever that signifies.  I think you are a jogger, too, right?

          Hooked on endorphins.  Now I’m thinking of my father and how he was so against “drinking” because his father had been an alcoholic (I alluded to one of his childhood events in my story GIN FLY).  Apparently there is a streak of obsessive behavior in my family (yes, yes, I hear you laughing at me!  Don’t worry about that: I’m too lazy to become a stalker physically).  I have an aunt who is a gambler in Vegas.  I have a cousin who wrote a book about gambling.  Me?  Apparently I’m gambling with my existence.  Rolling those dice and thinking, “something good will have to happen”.

          And that will lead to my tales of marriage.

          Autre temps.

Respectfully affectionately yours,

Alan Grody


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IMAGINARY LETTER No. 1 (“no one”?) 7/17/13

 kathy at castle

IMAGINARY LETTER No. 1 (“no one”?) 7/17/13

Dearest K,


        See?  We are no more “strangers now” than we ever were.

        I’m glad you liked that story.  I think you’d like TWILIGHT IN PARIS.  I don’t know where that story came from but it was like taking dictation.  You might also like EUPHORANASIA and DANCING WITH THE BLACK BULL.  Again, I couldn’t type fast enough.

        I know I have a lot of irons in the fire with several serials on which I’m working but for now I’m staking out territory.  My realtor told me about a Mexican film producer who is shopping property nearby where he can build a film set for Westerns.  I’m developing SINS OF THE FATHER so it could be turned into a low budget Western script more about characters than special effects.

        The act of writing is the only thing in my life where I get what I want.  By the time I make any money at writing I’ll be able to pay for my Depends.

        I’ve become a hermit crab living in a shell of congeniality.  My characters are my friends.  I know, I know.  I hear the cuckoo clock.

        My oldest friend from fourth grade elementary school was in a sky-diving accident, not fatal, but he jammed his neck and spine and he’s on a LOT of medication.  I think the medications must have liquefied his brain.  We were giving him monetary help (I did not want the corrosion of a “loan”).  Finally when we were broke we had to ask that the next “installment” be a loan.  For some reason that offended him and we have not had communication for a long time.  That made me feel old because he was such a tether to my youth.

        My only other friend is an expatriate living in Germany.  I’ve known him since high school and in fact he was introduced to me by my erstwhile friend I mentioned above.  He too is a writer, a much keener judge of humanity.  He is the guy telling all the great jokes.  In a previous life he was a very successful salesman.

        My avatar in the allegedly real world years ago found a book entitled Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter F. Drucker in the bargain bin of a bookstore.  It was one of those transforming books.  I subsequently read all of his books and was evangelized to the possibilities of the practice of management and how powerful it was in this world.  Until then I was a worker bee who thought that management consisted of long meetings and dissociation from the actual work being done.  I read all of Peter Drucker’s works and became a proselyte and was finally hired into a management position.

        However, in the end I have been defeated.  Companies are neurotic “incorporations” just like people.  Doing the right thing is always a struggle apparently.  In the end people bow to their paycheck, understandably.  So there is still a reign of “artificial challenges created by bad management” and I never wonder anymore why a company goes out of business.  Fortunately for me where I work, there are still people who will come to me and tell me what nefarious schemes are afoot so that I can at least navigate with some hope of staying afloat.

        I’m afraid to look up and see how selfish I really am but I really don’t want to talk any more about me.  I’d rather hear from you.

        I’m good at imagining conversations.

Respectfully affectionately yours,

Alan Grody


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 sins of the father - cropped



The Prodigal Sin

        It is the summer of 1864 and a lone horseman rides into the humble Mexican village of Santuario.  The horseman is a thin and dissolute pistolero, gunman, with a full head of long matted hair and no hat.  In the mid-day heat of Santuario no souls tread the dust.  Insects hide upon the sparse shadows of adobe walls.  The pistolero feels the prosecution of the sun

        The pistolero finally dismounts carefully not far from the little adobe capilla, chapel.  Softly he approaches and then he enters the cloak of the Church.  He maneuvers slowly down the aisle of wooden benches toward the altar.  There at the altar a young priest kneels with his back to the pistolero at the feet of a tattered crucified Jesus.

        When the stealthy pistolero is only a footstep behind the priest he suddenly reaches past the priest’s head and releases a handful of shiny brass bullet cartridges that sing into the metal offering plate

        The pistolero says, “Souls I have provided for you,” and then he laughs, adding with a nod of mock reverence, “Father-Brother Emanuel.  Look: I am saved!  I did not burst into flames upon entering here!”

        Without moving the priest finishes his prayer and then says, “Even you are welcome here, Faustino.  My hermanastro, half-brother.”

        Faustino smirks and says slyly, “The call me La Parca now, the Grim Reaper, hermanastro.”

        Padre Emanuel turns to face Faustino.  On his forehead Padre Emanuel has a tiny purple birthmark in the shape of a dagger or cross staked above his left eyelid.  He shakes his head with disapproval at Faustino’s sinful pride.

        Faustino is quickly angry and he says, “Our father was a killer.  Our mothers were whores,” and then he gestures at the statue of The Crucifixion and cries, “And now your precious Jesus finds himself once again between two thieves!”

        Emanuel looks up at the tortured face of Jesus whose bowed head looks down upon him.  Emanuel says calmly, “Yes, but one day one of us will be with him in Paradise.”

        From behind the altar a nun emerges looking down at her clasped hands.  She raises a smile at Padre Emanuel but then her beneficent gaze is suddenly struck down by the recognition of Faustino beside him.

        She says involuntarily and too loudly, “You?!”

        There is a reverberation that echoes from the metal of the altar.

        Faustino grins as he looks the nun up and down and he says, “Well, the virgin Lucida.  A disguise as wonderful as that of Father-Brother here!”

        Sister Lucida looks quickly to Padre Emanuel and asks urgently, “What is he doing here?  Are you alright, Eman…, Padre Emanuel?”

        Padre Emanuel raises a reassuring hand and says to her softly, “I am fine, Sister,” and then he looks to Faustino and says, “Faustino was about to tell me why he is here.”

        Sister Lucida looks back at Faustino and says with defiant bitterness, “There is nothing to steal here.”

        Faustino shrugs innocently.  Padre Emanuel corrects Sister Lucida, “You forget yourself!”

        Sister Lucida averts her eyes and says reluctantly, “I am sorry … Padre Emanuel.”

        Faustino laughs heartily and says, “The three childhood comrades reunited in such a blessed setting,” then he says pointedly, “Lucida, I would only steal you.”

        Sister Lucida looks up startled.

        Faustino continues, “If I could.”

        Padre Emanuel quickly interjects, “Faustino.  Why are you here?” and then he adds with bitter humor, “Did you lose a wager with Satan?”

        Faustino makes a sour face and replies, “I wager with my gun and I never lose.”

        Sister Lucida admonishes Faustino, saying, “You are losing your soul to Satan every time, bullet by bullet.”

        Faustino nods at Sister Lucida and says, “Very good, LucidaFather-Brother here is a good teacher,” then he looks at the statue of the Crucifixion and he boasts, “My challenge to Satan stands.  He sends me only his wretched motherfuckers and the enemies of our father and the fucking bastard children of the enemies of our father,” and Faustino draws his gun with his left hand and holds it aloft and then he raises his right hand as if in benediction.  His right hand has a sixth finger.

        Faustino flexes his right hand and then he looks toward Sister Lucida and he says, “It seems to me that you once enjoyed my deformities… deeply, Sister Lucida.”

        Sister Lucida blushes fiercely and her eyes water.

        Padre Emanuel cries out, “Enough!  Enough, Faustino!  It is enough that you and I suffer the sins of our father!  Do not invoke our own transgressions!” and Padre Emanuel glances with pain at Sister Lucida and he adds, “We were wild animals.  It is a miracle that any of us have found forgiveness.”

        Sister Lucida looks at him gratefully and tries to smile but her lips tremble.  She then glares at Faustino and demands, “Why are you here?!”

        Faustino holsters his gun and runs his right hand through his matted hair.  He suddenly confesses, “I partook of the…charms of a French colonel’s wife.”

        Padre Emanuel slumps and moans, “Oh, merciful Father in Heaven.”

        Faustino continues, “I could not have dreamed of such a woman; such a headstrong spirit!  She was riding alone and came to the river where I was camping.  There were then very few words and much God-given fire between us.”

        Sister Lucida spits, “Hell-fire, you cursed goat!”

        Faustino narrows his eyes at Sister Lucida but he continues his confession, saying, “Perhaps.  In my passion I took our love…”

        Padre Emanuel cries to heaven, “Love?!”

        Faustino is unfazed and he continues, “…down roads that she had not traveled.”

        Sister Lucida covers her face.

        Faustino sighs, “Seraphine came willingly…”

        Padre Emanuel scowls sarcastically, “So this one has a name?  So, it must have been love after all.”

        Faustino grimaces, “…Seraphine shrieked like a dying animal but it did not dispel her damned Catholicism!  I said something…something … and she became as angry as she had been passionate.  She threatened to tell her husband, the French colonel, that I had raped her.  I left her there naked upon the chaos of her garments and I fled away with her curses striking me like bullets.”

        Padre Emanuel holds his face in his hands.

        Irritated, Faustino demands, “And how can you even pretend to be part of the Church when they support this French invasion and they welcome, along with our fucking upper classes, the establishment of a European monarchy here?”

        Sister Lucida jabs, “So the goat is particular about whom he steals from?”

        Faustino says coldly, “I steal the best.  As you well know.”

        Sister Lucida averts her eyes toward Emanuel.

        Padre Emanuel shakes his head to dispel the encroaching hopelessness and he asks Faustino matter-of-factly, “Are you being pursued?”

        Faustino replies, “I am not sure.  But something tells me to count on it.”

        Sister Lucida says triumphantly, “So you have come here to hide!”

        Padre Emanuel says quietly, “You put all of Santuario at risk.”

        Faustino explains, “No one has seen me.  I saw no one when I entered the town.  I have been watching behind me for campfire lights the whole way here.  I made no campfires.”

        Sister Lucida asks, “What if the French are doing the same?  They have many men and your, your…  Seraphine saw the direction in which you fled!”

        Padre Emanuel adds with disheart, “And a dishonored French colonel will be unstoppable.”

to be continued…


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  killing time


        It is Sunday morning.  The library doesn’t open until 1 PM.  I sit on a bench in the little memorial park adjacent to the library.

In Memory Of Thomas Iparaguirre Public Works Employee April 19, 1977 – February 6, 1995

        Eighteen years old.  Sad.  I wonder how he died.  I get out my iPhone and I google the plaque.  No results shown.  Well, they built him a nice gazebo here.  Nice deep shade.  It’s getting hot in the sun.  Supposed to be 99 today.   I used to sweat like a pig when I only weighed 150 pounds.  I hope this doesn’t take long.

        I tied my little Pit Bull Dulcinea to this bench. She’s in heaven rolling in the clover patch in the grass.  You can see in the green where the lawn sprinklers soak the most.  The zones outside the bright green and outside the shade of these little trees are showing yellow and brown.

        A tall thin balding man carrying a black plastic trash bag approaches me.  He smiles and says, “Hi.  Nice doggie.”

        Dulcinea slinks shyly behind my bench.  I say, “She’s usually very friendly.  This is a new place for her.”

        The thin man smiles and says, “Aw” and then he asks me, “Is that your can there?”

        I reply, “No,” and the thin man starts around me.  Dulcinea growls.

        I say, “She’s usually very sweet.”

        The thin man says, “Aw,” and he proceeds to pick up the can and put it into his black plastic trash bag.  He walks away across the grass.

        I notice a black woman coming up the side walk.  Dulcinea stands in the middle of the pathway staring at her. As I reel Dulcinea back toward the bench the black woman tosses an English muffin with chili on it to Dulcinea.

        Dulcinea snaps it up and goes to the clover patch to enjoy it.

        I call to the lady saying, “Now you have a friend for life.”

        The black woman laughs and walks away.  That was sweet of her.

        I stretch back on the bench and watch Dulcinea rolling on her back in the clover.  She is spooling the long leash around herself.

        I am now aware of the sounds of increasing traffic in the street.  I hope this doesn’t take much longer.

        A young Latina approaches.  She is slender and wears a tight blouse and tight pants.  She is wearing sandals and I can see the bright toenail polish from here.

        It’s her.

        Dulcinea again stands in the middle of the pathway watching intently the girl approach.

        I say to Dulcinea as I reel her back to me so the girl can hear, “Not everyone has a treat for you.”

        The girl smiles and comes right up to Dulcinea before me and strokes her muzzle without fear, saying, “She’s sweet and pretty.  I like Pit Bulls.  My father always had several.”

        She sits down on the adjacent section of the bench divided by a coiled metal armrest and Dulcinea puts her face in her lap and closes her eyes as the girl strokes her head and tugs gently on her ears.

        I say, “So your father has Pit Bulls?”

        The girl coos, “Yes.  They are only as mean as they are raised.”

        I ask, “Is your father Chapo Abosolo?”

        The girl is startled and leans away from me.  She exposes her torso and I fire my gun.  The silencer makes a sound like her mortal gasp.  I grab her arm and I pull her slouching body erect.

        I arise swiftly from the bench and glancing around I tread away through the clover patch leaving behind the dying girl and the dog I had befriended.

        I don’t know why they wanted the girl dead but I can guess that Chapo Abosolo thought he was untouchable.


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SKELLY WEAVER 1 - andrew salgado 4[3] - resized 1



the bethlem psychiatric hospital is located in southhampton england

a psychiatrist walks with a hesitant woman in a black dress and a scarf and dark glasses

they are both flanked by muscular orderlies

the psychiatrist is soothing the woman with his words saying

we are so grateful that you decided to come back

you are the only one to whom he responds

he is in a most unusual state of dissociation

he resembles an extreme autistic mode

he will not speak nor will he respond to our words

you can see he just sits there and types on the word processor which we gave him

we are recording his objective histories shall we call them

he is aware of his surroundings but in a dissociative third person objective dare I say godlike awareness as evidenced by his furious writing

there is no first person in virtually any of his transcriptions nor in the fantasy narratives that he will compose of a sudden

only your name comes up in the narratives in the form of second and first person point of view over and over

caryn ashtree

caryn ashtree

we understand how difficult it is to see an old friend in such ill health but you do realize the good that you are doing yes

the woman finally turns and firmly faces skelly weaver and removes her dark glasses and then she gasps and covers her mouth and her eyes fill with tears and the woman asks of the psychiatrist

what happened to him

what happened

one of the orderlies relates as if confessing saying

he cut all the hair off of his head with a sharpened metal plate that he pried off of the toothbrush holder

the other orderly shares the confession saying

he used a grease pencil that he stole to write letters of the alphabet all over his face and body like tattoos

the woman now struggles to ask

is he typing everything that we are doing and saying

the psychiatrist affirms and points to the monitor screen where the text that skelly weaver is rapidly chipping away on his word processor also appears and is saved for diagnosis

the psychiatrist urges the woman

please talk to him

it won’t matter what you say

he will weave it into a narrative that we can analyze


the woman sits down across from skelly weaver and she says

   “Hello, Skelly.  How are you?”

   I feel myself brighten and I smile, saying, “There you are Caryn.  I have been looking for you.”

   Caryn covers her mouth and then lowers her hand and asks, “Where…, where are we, Skelly?”

   I close my eyes and smile and nod and I reply, “Rue de Rêves Cassés.  It’s after midnight already!  Can you believe it?  Don’t be embarrassed.  It is the charm of Paris to be lost in these ancient streets.  Come.  The hotel is that way.”

   Caryn wears the short blue and white dress that I find so attractive.  I say to her, “If you don’t mind, can we go back to the room?  The view of Paris from the balcony is so amazing at night.  You are amazing, Caryn.  I will have a surprise for you tonight.”

   Caryn whimpers and I look into her eyes, “Are you alright, Caryn?  What is wrong.”

   And then I realize: of course, on the sidewalk ahead is a pile of butchered cow heads outside the marché de la viande, the meat market.  In the yellow streetlight the blood glistens down the hilly sidewalk.

   I take her arm and guide Caryn across the cobblestone street and try to laugh as I say, “Not very auspicious.  We must rekindle the mood for this special night,” and I turn to kiss her but she breaks my grasp and I cannot see her anymore and I say with nervous humor, “Where are you hiding, ma cherie?  What game is this?”

the woman stands and nearly falls backwards over the chair in which she had been sitting across from skelly weaver

one of the orderlies is there to catch her but she regains her balance and walks quickly to the psychiatrist and whispers harshly that she does not have the strength for this, for what is coming

the psychiatrist puts his arm over her shoulders and tries to bolster her original resolve saying

yes this is hard for you we know we know but if you can just get through this you will have helped your friend as only you can

after a few minutes the woman takes a deep breath and turns and marches back to skelly weaver and she sits down once again and she says with determination

   “The view from this balcony is magical.  Look.  Look how big the full moon appears over the city.”

   I reply, “This couldn’t be more beautiful.  More perfect.  But it is you, Caryn, not the moon or the city.  It is you who are illuminating this night.  I want you to illuminate the rest of my life this way.  And that is why…”

   Caryn turns and interrupts and she points up to the full moon and says, “Isn’t it wonderful?  No matter where in our world we might be together or apart we can share that same moon.”

   I ask her, “If I have my way we will never be apart.  And that brings me to this…”

   I think Caryn knows what I am going to ask but she is so agitated and she excuses herself, saying, “Skelly, hold that thought.  Let me freshen up first, OK?”

the woman again arises and turns away from skelly and huddles with the psychiatrist again, crying,

don’t make me go through with this

he is going to ask me to marry him

the psychiatrist nods and says

and you refused him

you must find strength

that is not what broke him

we have learned that skelly has had many events in his life that have lead him to reject reality and write himself into his cocoon world where he can make everything turn out the way he wants

it is not your fault

help him

   I look over the dazzling city and while I wait for Caryn to return to our balcony I take out the ring and it is blessed by the full moon.  I look up again and I think to myself that I could wait forever upon this balcony for Caryn.







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american dismantling


        Dear Lord, if you are out there, and in case you have forgotten, I am Hezekiah Green and I work for American Dismantling.  We’re a demolition contractor providing industrial demolition and dismantling for manufacturing facilities and as well we specialize in precision demolition projects.  And 1924 is a very good year so far, thank You very much.  Right now I’m in Maynesboro, in the northern part of New Hampshire, estimating the dismantling of the saw mill and the demolition of the old church.  The government wants to build a prison here.

        That Androscoggin River there twines along fifty miles of the New Hampshire, Maine border.  “Androscoggin”, You know, is an Abenaki Indian term meaning something like “deep dwelling river”.  The Indians used to mine rhyolite along here for their stone weapons.  The river drops about eight feet per mile, so there is lots of water power for the towns alongside like Maynesboro, who built the old saw mill in this heavily forested area.  Hell (pardon me!) when the British owned this territory all the pine trees were to be cut and fit for the Royal Navy.

        This old Catholic church turns out to be the problem.  Saint Hannah Mother of Mary Church of the Good Shepherd is not quite abandoned.  I was surprised to encounter an old lady when I entered the basement of the old church.  She was sitting at a spinning wheel.

        “I am Elmire Jolicoeur,” she said defiantly with a French accent.

        I looked around and the basement looked like the old lady’s parlor.  There were quilts and rugs on the all walls and on the floor.  It was softly lit and, I was thinking, irresistibly cozy.  There was a drowsy German Shepherd curled up on one rug who was keeping the sparkle in his eye upon me.

        I didn’t know what to do so I introduced myself, “Madam Jolicoeur, I am Hezekiah.  Hezekiah Green, madam.  I am sorry if I surprised you.  I was not told that anyone resided here.”

        Madam Jolicoeur turned her head and eyed me, saying, “Hezekiah.  King of Judah.  Abolished idolatry.  Hezekiah even destroyed the bronze serpent that God told Moses to make because it had become an object of idolatrous worship,” and her eyes seemed to look through me and I thought that she had gone into some kind of an old person’s trance.

        I said, “Madam Jolicoeur?  This church is going to be torn down.  Do you understand?  I am sorry but I have been hired to make the preparations for the demolition.”

        Madam Jolicoeur focused upon me once again and began to tell me her story, saying, “My husband Benjamin came to this town for work after your Civil War, in 1866.  There were no houses to rent here then and so I and our one-year-old child Nellie stayed behind with my uncle and aunt on their farm in Québec.  Benjamin worked in that saw mill from 7AM until 6PM for $1.75 a day.  After one year I had enough of missing my husband.

        Without telling Benjamin, I packed what I could carry in a valise and along with our child and I boarded the train for Maynesboro.  There were no amusements in Maynesboro so the men always came to the train station after their supper to watch the train.  I saw the disbelief in my husband’s eyes when I got off the train onto the platform.  I heard the man next to my Benjamin say that he wished his own wife would decide to join him.

        Nellie and I had to stay at the boarding house with Benjamin.  I unpacked my valise upon the single bed and took out the ten pounds of flour, five pounds of butter which I made myself, five loaves of maple sugar, one dozen fresh eggs, and two pounds of tobacco.   And there was one quart of cherry wine with which we celebrated like newly-weds.”

        Madam Jolicoeur stopped talking and she smiled.  I took the opportunity to make her focus and understand, asking, “Do you have somewhere else that you can go to live, Madam Jolicoeur?  This church will be, will be gone, do you understand?”

        Her sleepy German Shepherd growled at my tone and he stirred.

        Madam Jolicoeur shushed the dog, saying, “Maudit!  Wait!  Obey me!”

        Then Madam Jolicoeur merely continued her reminiscence, saying, “We needed more money.  At this church I offered to teach the town children.  In this basement I was provided tables and benches for the children.  I even cooked for them.  But there were so many I had to be clever.  I had a large deep saucepan, called a casserole, and I combined meat, vegetables, and flour and covered it with cheese and I baked it slowly and I had a hearty meal for all of the children and they did not have to leave my school all day.  My new recipe received so many compliments that before long others were making similar dishes and they were calling them casseroles.”

        I was getting absorbed into her stories.  I shook myself back and asked, “Casseroles?  You invented casseroles?  Quite a story, Madam Jolicoeur but we have not addressed your situation, with all due respect.  I have been sent here to remove this church.  It’s the government, Madam Jolicoeur; they want to build a big prison here.”

        She said to me, “Hezekiah, ‘rebel against the king of Assyria and serve him not’.  Independence!”

        The German Shepherd was standing.  What the hell was I supposed to do now?


        I backed up the stairs and said, “Madam Jolicoeur, you make a good point.  I will discuss this new situation with my boss right away.  Thank you for your hospitality.”

        Madam Jolicoeur smiled and asked, “Wouldn’t you like to buy a quilt or a rug?”

        Back upstairs I just was going to leave and get help but I stopped here at this empty altar.  I haven’t prayed like this in years, Dear Lord, but I don’t need your help; really, this old lady needs your help.

        You don’t mind that this is a Catholic altar, do you?



Based on the stories of Berlin, New Hampshire


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