Tag Archives: Stories



Finish shopping for your family, and 75 of your closest friends and colleagues, making sure you stay under that $200 limit you set for yourself this year;

Bake 500 dozen cookies that are so special no one has ever eaten them before;

Decorate at least three trees of varying size for inside your house with different themes, one of which must be woodland creatures;

Check batteries on all those “safe” candles you now own, so the cats and dogs, and babies don’t set themselves on fire;

Add one more string of lights outside, so TV station satellites can pick out the glow of your home from space;

Cook every kind of meat that exists so everyone (including that Uncle we all have) enjoys Christmas dinner;

Cook every vegan dish you can think of so the two people you know who are vegan don’t starve;

Watch all twenty gazillion Christmas movies in one weekend while you . . .sing along to every Carol that was ever written;

Send out at least two thousand Christmas/holiday cards to remind everyone you’ve ever met in your life that you are still alive;

And, most importantly — make sure the liquor cabinet is well-stocked, so you can accomplish all of the above!

Enjoy the holidays . . . and try not to hurt anyone.

From our castle to yours … MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!



Old couple watching TV

“Would you like to go to NYC for New Year’s Eve?” he asked.

“Sure. Why not,” she said.

And so,  they held hands.

“What is your favorite color dead leaf?” he asked.

“Orange,” she said.

And so,  they dated.

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

“Have another beer,” she said.

And so,  they laughed.

“He asked me to marry him, is that okay?” she asked.

“About time. It’s your life,” her children said.

And so,  she said yes.

“Does Bastille Day work for you?” he asked.

“Definitely,” she said.

And so,  they were married.

“Will you hand me the remote?” he asked.

“Here ya go,” she said.

And so,  they smiled and grew old together.



Excerpt from my next book —

Mae’s Revenge

VanSant pulled a pipe from his inside pocket, opened a pouch of tobacco, pinched a bit between his fingers and began tapping it into the bowl. “You don’t mind if I have a smoke, do you Mae?”

“Of course not, my father smokes a pipe every evening and I’ve grown accustomed to the aroma of a fine tobacco.”  This man doesn’t need to know I lived above a tailor’s shop in a tiny apartment with four other people. I can tell him whatever story I want, and he has no way of knowing if I’m telling the truth or not! This encouraged Mae to expand on her tale. “Why, when my family received the ambassador from Cuba, he presented my father with a sterling silver tin filled with the very finest tobacco the island had to offer.”

“My, my! That is impressive, Mae,” VanSant said and lit his pipe.


Penguin #1: 

Hey, everybody — did you hear she’s writing a new book?

Penguin #2: 

No, really? That’s so exciting!

Penguin #3: 

Who? Who’s writing a new book?

Penguin #1 (Reginald):

The lady who writes this blog, dummy!

Penguin #2 (Matilda): 

What’s it about? Does it have a penguin hero?

Penguin #3 (Archibald):

Oh boy! A penguin hero! I can’t wait to read it!


Don’t be silly, Archibald! This blogger writes about human beings, because she is one, and she was taught to write about what she knows.  She doesn’t know anything about us.


Oh drat. No penguin hero. Then why did you call us here today?


Yes, Reginald, I agree with Archibald — if it’s not about us . . . what is this new book about?


It’s about a woman named, Annie Mae Steinberg from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Her friends called her Mae.) The story begins in the late 1800s, when she travels west to South Dakota to become an actress on the stage of the Gem Theater. The Gem is located in a mining town called Deadwood.


Deadwood? O-o-o-h . . . that sounds scary!


Yes, it does sound frightening. Was she all alone out there?


Completely.  She left all her friends and family back in Philadelphia to have her own adventure. You see, Mae was a dreamer . . . a bit like you, Archibald.  But, fate stepped in and completely altered her grand plans. 


Oh no. How? Why? What did fate do to her? I’m beginning to like this Mae human.


Me too! Tell us more, please.


I can’t . . . the book’s not finished . . . the blogger human is still writing it. We’ll just have to wait until it’s published.


Ya know what, Reginald? You suck! You called us all over here to share your big news, and now you tell us — you can’t tell us! What a jerk!


Now, now. Don’t be so hard on Reggie — he hasn’t been the same since he lost that part in “Penguins of Madagascar.”

Reginald’s head droops as he walks away:

Thanks a lot, Matilda. Just for that, I won’t tell you what the book is called, and you’ll never be able to find it to read. So there!


That’s not fair! I want to read about Mae. Sorry for calling you a jerk, Reginald.


I’m sorry too. You would have been the best actor in that movie — honest! Please tell us, Reggie.

Reginald turned, his ego restored, and with his head held high, declared:

Mae’s Revenge!


Please return here at various intervals for updates on this human blogger’s progress with Mae’s Revenge. The target release date is early fall, 2017.


Baseball season is upon us!

To celebrate this “National Pastime” I’ve decided to share an excerpt from my book—

“Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the ‘Bloody Fifth’ in Philadelphia.” http://tinyurl.com/j4qbpsz

(From Chapter Twenty – 1916)

Out in the crisp air of the sixteenth of April, after leaving the station early that afternoon, Dave forgot the morning’s row and felt a bit like his old self. He began to whistle “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary” as he waited for Howard and Johnny on the corner outside of Baker Bowl, the ballpark on Huntingdon Avenue.

“How’re ya doin’ Davey,” Johnny greeted him with his usual enthusiasm. “Damn, look at this crowd. They’re even up on the roofs! Lucky for us you got them tickets. Where’s Howard? Not here yet?”

“No, but I hope he gets here soon. The owners are going to give presents to the players for winning the pennant last year, and I don’t want to miss it,” Dave said.

He spotted Howard trying his best to rush through the crowd.

“Here he comes, Johnny. Over here, Howard!”

Howard spotted Dave, and waved back with both arms.

“Shit…I forgot how bad that limp of his is,” Johnny said. “Come to think of it, I don’t remember the last time I saw him.”

Howard’s broad face shone with anticipation and perspiration when he met up with them.

“Hello, Johnny! How’re you doing, Dave?”

They joined the large throng entering the ball field.

As they took their seats, the announcer on the field started naming the players as they entered, each one to louder and louder cheers. Grover Cleveland Alexander, the Phillies’ star pitcher, appeared last. Dave and his two friends joined the other rooters as they stood to give the pitcher his well-deserved ovation.

Everyone sat down again, anticipating the start of the formal ceremony. The owners presented each of the Pennant-winning players of 1915 with a monogrammed gold watch. At the end, the crowd stood again and cheered.

To start the opening game of the season, Mayor Thomas B. Smith threw out the first ball, which got picked up by the catcher who tossed it to Alexander. The Phillies’ twenty-nine-year-old right-handed pitcher’s uniform hung like a potato sack on his slim six-foot-one-inch frame and his cap looked like it belonged to a child, but he didn’t take notice. He curled into his windup and let fly.

“Can’t they afford to get their players uniforms that fit?” asked Howard. “He looks like hell!”


Grover Cleveland Alexander, Phillies star pitcher, 1916 “Old Low and Away”

“Who gives a shit how he looks as long as he beats the Giants?” Johnny replied.

About that time, a beer hawker came through the bleachers to where the friends were seated.

“Over here—three!” Dave called.

As he passed the beers to the other two, he said, “Beating these bums’ll be no problem—they were dead last, last season.”

In the first inning, however, the “bums” made a game of it thanks to a wild throw by the normally steady shortstop, Dave “Beauty” Bancroft, which allowed two Giants to score.

“Son of a bitch! What the hell are ya doin’?” Johnny yelled.

“Take it easy. Here, have some peanuts.”

“I’d like some more.” Howard reached into the sack Dave held, and grabbed a handful. He brushed peanut shell fibers from the front of his shirt. “Wish this damn wind would settle down. I think it’s throwing their game off.”

“It ain’t the wind—they just stink,” Johnny replied.

The Phillies answered with one run in the first, and two in the second. Johnny calmed down.

The Giants managed another run in the third inning. Johnny and Howard both cursed.

In the fifth inning, Dave worried Johnny would have a heart attack. Alexander tossed a rare hanging curve to Fred “Bonehead” Merkle, who smashed it 272 feet over the right field wall.

Johnny’s face turned purple. Howard held his head between his hands and moaned. Dave ordered three more beers and some more peanuts from the hawkers.

The sixth inning saw both teams score, bringing them to a tie at four each.

By the ninth inning, the tension became so great the three friends were not talking. They were leaning forward on their elbows with their beers gripped tight.

Then it happened. Ninth inning, Phillies up, with two outs. Stock, the third sacker, grabbed a free pass, stole second, and scored after a passed ball and a wild pitch. Final score: Phillies—5–4.

It all happened in a flash. Johnny and Howard and Dave stood in place in shock, along with about 21,000 other rooters. Then, as if on cue, they all began to cheer and laugh and hug and spill beer over each other.

“Damn, Davey…that was the best baseball game I ever seen!” Johnny said. “Thanks a lot for bringin’ me along.”

“Yeah, Dave. That was great!”

“Nothing like a ballgame with your buddies,” Dave said. “Let’s get the hell outta here. I’m starved.”



When the kids were young, they depended on me for everything. Food, clothing, shelter, changing the channel on the TV…you know—all the important stuff. I even bathed them when they were dirty! I was a good mom.

Through the years, I taught them how to sing, read, do all kinds of crafty things on rainy days. The crafty lessons were mainly to help me keep my sanity while they were stuck indoors.

They would fall down. Get scrapes and bruises. Push each other down. Get more scrapes and bruises. The crying and screaming sometimes became as irritating as nails skimming a blackboard. But, they were mine and I loved them, so I’d hug them, kiss them, patch them up, and tell them not to hit, bite, or kick the perpetrator in retaliation. Some times that worked.

During those early days, home desk-top computers came into fashion and affordability. Naturally, only the adults were allowed to touch the keyboard. After all, kids didn’t understand “if then/goto” and all the very complicated jargon of that early behemoth that required its own special room in the house. God forbid anything spilled within ten feet of that fifty-ton monster.

As the mom, I was permitted to play “games” on the computer. At the time, my game of choice (my only choice) was a text-based game called, “Zork.”

The only clear memory I have of suffering through that adventure game was the phrase, “The Unicorn is a mythical beast!”

That phrase glared at me in annoying white letters on that beast of a black screen more times than I could count. I recall it was in response to my trying to remove the key hanging around the Unicorn’s neck so I could open the next door…or some such thing.

In my frustration, the word choices that exploded from my brain to my mouth could only be spoken out loud after the little darlings were fast asleep!

Special Note: For those today who believe Facebook is a time-suck machine—you obviously never played “Zork!”

After hours and hours of hunching over the keyboard, tapping various instructions to the gremlins everyone knew lived inside the monster (and who obviously took great pleasure in making me crazy), I would trudge up the stairs to bed, bleary-eyed and grumbling to myself about how I would kill that Unicorn some day!

The next morning, my adorable, loving children would stare at me, frightened,  as they sat down to eat their breakfast of scrambled eggs and jelly beans.

Ah, technology!




I WON A “MAJOR AWARD!”  (Think: A Christmas Story – leg lamp) — back in December, 2015.

It turned out to be a legitimate random drawing for three nights and four days at “When Words Count Retreat” in Rochester, Vermont, for myself and a guest. My husband  and I checked in last Thursday!

We had no idea what to expect.

We became a bit concerned after traveling the last mile of our journey from southern New Jersey on a gravel-covered, narrow, backwoods road, and joked about “The Blair Witch Project”—(thanking God it was daytime).

Blair Witch image


…we pulled into the drive of a lovely white farmhouse sporting a welcoming red door.IMG_2395

Behind that door was a total writer’s paradise. In between the fabulous gourmet meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner—and the cocktails, of course!) there was uninterrupted writing time! A concept completely foreign to me, until last week.

In the evenings, guests read portions of their current work, and the rest (including our host, Steve Eisner) critiqued what was read, in a professional, caring, and encouraging way.

With the food, the new friends we made, the spectacular mountain views, and crystal clear air,  we felt completely pampered.

If you ever get the chance to go—do it!

SURRENDER to this, or some other RETREAT!

Your “Work in Progress” (and your soul) will be glad you did!

Have you ever attended a “writer’s retreat?” If you have, please share your experience (good or bad) in the “Comments.”

I’d love to hear your stories!



The following is a quote from my book, “Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the ‘Bloody Fifth’ in Philadelphia”— Chapter Ten, 1907: Follies

          “Damn, Davey. Haven’t heard anything that funny in a long time!” Johnny took another swig of beer and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Smith’s got some sense of humor for such a big shot.”
          “Yeah, he does. Thanks for meeting me here at McGillin’s. I tell ya, after the day I’ve had, I needed a drink. Want another beer?
          “Nah. I’m finished. Think I’ll head home before the sky opens up.”
Dave patted Johnny’s back. “Yeah, you’re right, guess I should get going too. Next time, we’ll meet closer to home.”
          As they emerged from the cool darkness of the saloon, Dave blinked a few times to clear his vision, then looked up at the sky and announced, “Those storm clouds are lookin’ mighty serious. Take care, old friend.”

% % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % %

(The following information is excerpted from McGillin’s own website:)

McGillin’s Olde Ale House threw open its doors the year Lincoln was elected president. That’s shortly after the Liberty Bell cracked and long before ground was broken for Philadelphia City Hall. The beer taps have been flowing since 1860 — making it the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia and one of the oldest taverns in the country.

Catherine & William McGillin opened the Bell in Hand Tavern.The Irish immigrants, who raised their 13 children upstairs, soon become known as “Ma” and “Pa” and the laborers who frequented the bar called it “McGillin’s.” The nicknames eventually stuck. The tavern grew to include the oyster house next door, the back alley/washroom and the house upstairs.


Abe Lincoln elected president. Although Lincoln visits Philadelphia, we have no proof that he visits McGillin’s. Of course, we have no proof that he doesn’t either.


McGillin’s customer, W.C. Fields, born. “Philadelphia is a wonderful place; I spent a week there one night.”


Pa McGillin dies & Ma McGillin takes over bar. No pushover, Ma has a list of troublemakers who weren’t allowed in. The list reads like the social registry, including some of Philadelphia’s most prominent citizens.

McGillin’s celebrates 50th anniversary with a new façade. Name officially changes to McGillin’s Olde Ale House.

Prohibition enacted. During Prohibition, Ma McGillin hires a chef. Serves food and ice cream and perhaps, a few tea cups were tipped on the second floor.

Philadelphia cheesesteak invented. A top-seller at McGillin’s.

Prohibition ends! Ma McGillin takes the key from her breast pocket and reopens the pub’s front door.


McGillin’s Olde Ale House
Open daily 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.(Kitchen open until 1 a.m.)




“Probably the fastest recovery in the history of lost dogs, but “Muffin’s” owner has been located and returned home!!! Thank you!!!!”

(The above update was an Actual Facebook post)

Lost dog ad


Thank God!

Muffin has been losing her mind with worry for over forty-five minutes. Her owner was last seen wearing a heavy parka, boots, gloves, and carrying a snow shovel.

Muffin tried giving the police a description of her owner, but all that came out of her mouth were barks and howls. The cops simply patted her little head and ignored the APB she offered.

At last, her owner heard her wailing over the sound of the snow plow going past. He came back inside Muffin’s home, only to be accosted by two men in blue. They ascertained this individual was truly Muffin’s owner and left the pair cuddling on the sofa, licking each other’s face. (ewww—gross!)

Another happy ending brought to you by “editing!”

Halloween Horror


If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.” He patted the right pocket of his dirty overalls as he approached.

Glancing around, I discovered I was alone down here with this small skinny boy. How could I be alone? I’d followed at least a dozen other commuters through the turnstile before descending to the platform. I backed away quickly, trying to recall which way I should run to reach the subway steps leading up to the street.

“No thank you,” I replied.

“You don’t even want to guess?” he asked, more aggressively.

I couldn’t move. I don’t know why. I think it was his eyes. They were an iridescent green I had never seen before.

“I’m not very good at guessing,” I told him. Again, I managed to take a few steps back.

“You’re just like the rest of them. Nobody ever wants to play.” His eyes grew brighter.

“I just want to go home,” I said.

“Then try to guess, and I’ll let you.”

I began to shiver. Was it his closeness? Probably the cool draft that’s always present in the subway tunnel. No—this was different. Panic was starting to tighten my throat, making it hard to respond.

“A toy?” I asked weakly.

“Don’t be stupid! If I had a toy, I wouldn’t need you to play with me.”

“A piece of candy?”

“I’ve been down here a long time…if it was candy, I would have eaten it by now,” he scoffed.

I tried to think back to the kinds of things my brothers always had in their pockets.

“A pen-knife?”


“A yo-yo?”


Trying to buy some time, I decided to ask a few questions of my own.

“How long have you been down here?”

“What year is this?”

“What year?”

“Yeah…what year.”

“1990,” I replied.

“Then I’ve been here about forty-three years.”

“What? Wait a minute…you’re only about twelve years old—how could you be down here that long?”

“It’s a story I won’t tell, unless you guess right. C’mon, c’mon…make another try.” He was growing impatient.

“A piece of paper?”

“Ha! You’re smarter than the rest. you’re close.”

Oh my God…“Is it a ticket?”

“Hoorah! At last! I knew you were a smart one! And now you may have it.”

The strange, transparent little boy with the mesmerizing green eyes reached into his pocket, pulled out a faded ticket, and handed it over to me with a grin.

“I’ve been saving this since that day I fell onto the tracks.”

I took the ticket from him and squinted to try to read the destination. “Hell?”

All at once I could feel the poke of the elbow into my back pushing me over the side of the platform, and the sharp edge of the iron rail as my head slammed down into the dark gravel. Then came the screeching sound of the train’s breaks as they failed, and the laughter of a young boy.