Tag Archives: Stories

BROTHERLY LOVE?

The Manfred Story—1985 Writing Assignment…

Manfred padded into my hospital room wearing bedroom slippers and no socks about three the next day, not wanting me to expect regular visits of compassion, his being busy with his cockroach collection and all. Told him I neither expected nor wanted them, his camaraderie being something I had gotten used to doing without some fifteen years ago around the time we began sharing the dim little flat I hated to admit was home. He did tell me he wouldn’t rent out my room while I was laid up, felt he owed me at least that since I was his brother and all, and felt like he owed at least that much to our mother, “May she rest in peace.” He had this annoying habit of always tacking on that stupid epitaph whenever he mentioned our long-dead mother. I knew at that moment that by the time my confinement ended, I would probably not only hate my priggish brother, but my poor mother as well.

Thinking about being chained to that bed by the octopus contraption suspending my mangled leg, and having to endure even irregular visits from Manfred, I began plotting my escape. There had to be a way out, but the doctor only laughed when I suggested that night that a pair of crutches would free the bed up for somebody who really needed it, malpractice suits, that sort of thing.

I was doomed to endless ramblings about gutter-side neighborhood happenings, listening to excerpts from The Old Man and the Sea, insincere words of cheer, from Manfred’s drool-dripping lips, until in my second month of sober imprisonment the idea struck of pretending to lapse into a coma, a result of a delayed concussion from the tumble into my premature grave.

Manfred, being the ignorant porker that he was, believed these theatrics for two-and-a-half weeks until one of his cronies told him he overheard a doctor on the street at his lunch hour talking over my case with another hospital type.  Reported that they were going to release me if I continued to improve at the rate I seemed to be.

He descended on me within days of hearing this good news to assure me he really was glad I had regained consciousness, because he had something urgent to discuss, which turned out to be not so urgent, but he thought that was the only way I would agree to let him stay in the same room with me for more than two minutes. And he was right, having been without a drink for about two months, I was not fit company for even normal folks, let alone this sloth I had to admit was related. Sobriety making it even more difficult to look at him, his distended belly eliminating even a hint of belt somewhere where his middle was assumed to be, yellowed teeth, stained tee shirt, that sort of thing. Anyway, it seems when he agreed not to rent out my room he was sure I’d be up and good as new within a week or so, but my coma act convinced him that taking in a boarder might not be such a bad idea after all, him being afraid of being alone as he was, which he did, but now didn’t know what to do about, so he wanted me to be sure to give him plenty of notice so the other guy could clear his pigeon coups and stuffed squirrel collection, that sort of thing, out of my room before I got out and came back to the flat, if that’s what I was planning to do. Told me he would understand if I wanted to look for a place of my own, since he guessed I probably wouldn’t be drinking anymore because of the fate it brought me to.

Good God, what an idea, not to go back there, maybe sobriety would be worth it, my head gears shifted into third. No more Manfred, no more enduring conga-accompanied monologues about Moby Dick, watching spit drip down that double chin. Maybe sober I could do it – escape, sweet thought. Had to concentrate. Manfred left.

Spent the next week and a half reading apartments for rent pages, too much money, no private bath, that sort of thing, until at last I found it — third floor one bedroom, he’d never make it up all those steps, it was perfect. Called and set myself up for the day I was getting out.

Had to see Manfred one more time before I could leave, called, said he was busy reading or something, couldn’t make it out. Told him he could keep his new roommate, I wouldn’t be coming back, but now I couldn’t leave the hospital with no trousers to wear because of the shearing they took when I was brought in. Said he would see what he could do since he promised our mother, “May she rest in peace,” that he’d look out for me when she died. Told him I would let him out of that promise if he’d just bring me the trousers as quick as possible, I was anxious to breathe fresh air and take a walk and maybe see some other faces, and he brought them, after waiting two days, that was to be expected.

Manfred was a little slow-witted, not all home, playing with a light deck, that sort of thing. And I was ready to forgive him for taking so long and all, and I would have, if he hadn’t taken that awful tumble on the way into my hospital room, hitting his head on the protruding part of the bedpan on the table by the door, and died before I could. That was to be expected, if you knew Manfred as I did.

THE BODIES ARE PILING UP!

It’s January, and the dead bodies are piling up.

The murders began at the end of November and continued through December.

Some of the murders were done by hired killers out in the countryside. Others were committed by dedicated dads and moms in the suburbs  to please their offspring. Still others were carried out by well intentioned young men  from the city to impress their girlfriend or new bride.

These brutalities were accomplished with chainsaws, axes, hatchets, or other sharp-edged implements — in broad daylight!

No one reported hearing any screams. When interviewed, folks reported the victim was very quiet, never caused any trouble, and kept to themselves. Then, the witness would slam their door shut to prevent reporters from peering into their own homes.

Why? What were they hiding? Did they commit one of these atrocities themselves? Was there a path of evidence strewn across their living room floor leading to the front door? And what was that scattering of brownish-green specks trailing to the curb?

Yes. Christmas is over, and the dead bodies of blue spruce, balsam pine, and every species of fir tree are piling up outside of homes across America.

We chop them down. Drag them in. Argue over the best side to face ‘out’ avoiding the obvious hole Mother Nature laughingly placed in the most inconvenient spot. Adorn them with ornaments that refuse to hang straight and lights that never fail to blink out in one section just when we think we’re all done. Water them when we manage to remember. Declare them to be the most beautiful Christmas tree we’ve ever had. Demand family and friends pose in front of them for photos. Become one with our vacuum cleaner for the duration of the holidays.

Then . . . when the New Year celebrations end, we strip our victims of their colorful decorations, curse their falling needles poking up through our carpets, and drag them to the curb. No remorse. No fond farewell. No looking back. Good riddance.

A simple promise passing our lips: “No live tree ever again.”

 

Until next year comes, and the killing begins again.

THE QUEEN AND I HAVE A YULETIDE MESSAGE FOR YOU!

STAY CALM, and:

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!

ONCE MORE. . .WITH FEELING!

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.

 

PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE, AND SMOKE IT!

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.

I SUPPOSE YOU’RE WONDERING WHY I CALLED YOU ALL HERE TODAY…

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!

Reginald:

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.

Archibald:

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

Matilda:

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

Reginald:

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.

Archibald:

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

Matilda:

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

Reginald:

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. 

Archibald:

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

Matilda:

Me too! Tell us more, please.

Reginald:

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.

Archibald:

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!

Matilda:

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!

Archibald:

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

Matilda:

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.

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME!

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

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.”

 

WHY I HATE UNICORNS!

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!

 

PLEASE SHARE YOUR EARLIEST MEMORIES OF HOW MODERN TECHNOLOGY AFFECTED YOUR LIFE . . . INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW!

NO RETREAT … NO SURRENDER!

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

 BUT, WE WERE PLEASANTLY SURPRISED (and relieved)  WHEN 

…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!

 

WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME…AND YOUR FATHER’S NAME…AND YOUR GRANDFATHER’S NAME…AND…

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.”

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(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.

1860
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.

McGillinFamily1

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.

Abe-Lincoln-President

1880
McGillin’s customer, W.C. Fields, born. “Philadelphia is a wonderful place; I spent a week there one night.”

quote-once-during-prohibition-i-was-forced-to-live-for-days-on-nothing-but-food-and-water-w-c-fields-61767

1901
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.

1910
McGillin’s celebrates 50th anniversary with a new façade. Name officially changes to McGillin’s Olde Ale House.

1920
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.

1930
Philadelphia cheesesteak invented. A top-seller at McGillin’s.

1933
Prohibition ends! Ma McGillin takes the key from her breast pocket and reopens the pub’s front door.

prohibition-ends

McGillin’s Olde Ale House
215-735-5562
1310 DRURY STREET, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19107
Open daily 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.(Kitchen open until 1 a.m.)

IF YOU’VE EVER BEEN THERE, LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!