Mordecai Makes a Name

A fictional historical story of the Old Testament Book of Esther.

Description: The story of Esther describes the life in the Persian Empire. The King deposed his queen for refusing to obey his order. The King conducted a beauty contest and Esther was selected, thanks to a plan of her adopting father, Mordecai’s. As result Mordecai was promoted to be the Jewish leader in the King’s court. In order to protect the Queen from assassinations, Mordecai entrapped two disloyal guards.

Chapter 7

In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those that kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hands on the king Ahasuerus. Esther 2:21

Gdaliahu, the Jewish leader of all the Jews in the Persian Empire, was getting old. He was in constant pain, couldn’t sit for long periods, and could hardly walk. He called a meeting to announce his retirement.

When the Jewish leaders from the provinces of the Persian Empire assembled. The men were glad to meet one another and discuss. Colors of gold, blue, white, and red were moving on the shiny marble floor.

Gdaliahu slowly entered the room. Silence fell and everyone moved to find a place, watching the elder leader.

Gdaliahu sat on his golden chair, wait a minute to catch his breath, pointed at Mortdecai and asked him to come forward and kneel before him.

Gdaliahu put both hands on Mordecai’s head and in a wizened voice, croaked, “May the Lord bless you and guard you.”

“Amen,” replied the attendants.
“May the Lord show favor and be gracious to you,” he continued.
“Amen,” responded the attendants.
“May the Lord show you kindness and grant you success.”
“Amen, amen, amen,” chanted the attendants.

Mordecai kissed the hands of his elder-leader. “Thank you for this great honor, my esteemed teacher,” he said to Gdaliahu.

Then he stood and turned to the others. He looked into each of their faces, giving the individual an opportunity to make eye contact before moving on to the next person.

“I look forward to serving you all. Together, with love and support to others, we will prosper and thrive. In celebration, my first decree is that every community leader and merchant contributes for the construction of a Jewish center in their town. Such centers shall provide all the Jewish needs from birth to death: finding brides, celebrate marriage and birth, help the sick and attend burial, provide care for the sick, court, school and business chambers. Use a one year annual fee owed to me to cover the expenses.”

Since the Information Bureau was a tremendous economic success, most leaders competed with other leaders to beautify their community, and added additional funds for the construction effort.

Mordecai was visiting Gdaliahu as often as he could. Out of respect, Mordecai always removed his official ribbons and jewelry in the presence of the older leader. Sometimes, Mordecai asked for advice. The two argued their positions with passion. Both knew, “the good thing about an advice is that you do not have to take it.” And the old leader never checked.

Some time after the celebrations ended, Mordecai met Yavin in the back room of the peddler shop. They locked the door, moved down to the basement, entered another room and locked the door of that room too.

“We healed the King’s pride. His Queen is the goddess Ishtar. Now we must protect her. She is my daughter. We promised to keep her safe. Those Babylonian generals and guards might want to kill her, show she is not the goddess Ishtar, and bring back Queen Vashti from her house arrest,” said Mordecai.
“I will investigate her guards,” said Yavin.

“We must also protect the King, in order to protect Esther. He is a good King. The Jews love him because he allows us to finish the new Temple in Jerusalem” said Mordecai.

“I will watch for a plot,” said Yavin.
“Good luck,” said Mordecai.
“I can look around and join an assassination attempt against the King,” said Yavin.

“Better, but still impossible. Who will let you in?” asked Mordecai. “Yet, it is a good idea. This is the best gift one can give a King. If we save the life of the King, he will owe us.”

“We could irritate his guards. Some of them, lately, are neglecting their appearance. Really insulting our King. Strict grooming would anger some of the enslaved Babylon guards. Harvona can order it.”

“Excellent idea! This will remove bad guards and frighten the others. There are plenty of guards who trust me,” said Mordecai. “It should be easy enough to entrap them. Don’t explain the order to Harvona. It’ll be a good exercise for him as well.”
“But what if they report you? You could be killed!”

Mordecai flipped his hand in a dismissive gesture, “We have plenty of time. If things go wrong, Harvona will understand. We will still be rewarded.”
Harvona ordered the King’s guards to have their beards look identical, and their uniforms and weapons must shine. The King, recognizing the effort, promoted him to first ranked bodyguard. Soon after, Mordecai was told that Bigthan, a low-level eunuch door guard, showed signs of irritation. Bigthan was from one of the most prominent families of Babylon. He would have become a high-ranking minister or general, if he hadn’t been enslaved when Babylon was conquered.

Mordecai was watching Bigthan, and saw him meeting Teresh, another door guard, near the royal palace in a secluded area.

I have to move fast before someone else takes Bigthan under his wing and will really kill the King and Esther, thought Mordecai. Bigthan was walking in the main street with a sour face.

“God’s blessing on you, Bigthan,” Mordecai greeted him.

Bigthan stopped and looked at his feet, avoiding Mordecai’s eyes. “The gods are not with me, your honor. They closed their eyes when I was turned into a guard. I am just worthless dust of the ground. I wanted to be a gen… I want to be promoted out of my misery.” Mordecai’s face softened. “Things are that bad? What happened? Maybe I can help?”

“Since his promotion, Harvona is abusing us. He insulted my honor and claimed I was not properly shaved. Damn him!.”

“Is Harvona picking on anyone else?” asked Mordecai. “Are there others who feel like you?”
“Yes. Teresh feels the same. Harvona is always picking on us.”
“The three of us should meet later. I might be able to help you.”

The next day Mordecai met with Bigthan and Teresh in secret. Mordecai’s hands were shaking and his forehead was covered with sweat. They sat tightly together, their hairs touching one another.

“My master is trying to bring things to where they were before, the time of our glory. Will you join me?” whispered Mordecai. “Yes,” agreed Bigthan and Teresh together.

Mordecai relaxed and wiped the sweat from his forehead.

“What’s your master ready to give us?” asked Bigthan.“ Command. You’ll get command of five hundred soldiers and become his trusted officers,” said Mordecai.

“What do we need to do?” asked Bigthan.

Mordecai paused. Trusted officers. Ha. How dumb they are, he thought.
“I’ll supply you with a poisonous arrow. When the time comes, while the King is passing your door, shout ‘intruder!’ Point one hand to a faraway balcony and stab him with the other hand. Then act as if you’re shielding him and trying to pull the arrow out. My master will take care of the rest. In the meantime, follow Harvona’s grooming order to the letter. Don’t show fear or joy. Just be perfect guards. It might take some time. So wait for my instructions. Are you with me?”

“Yes, your honor,” both agreed. Teresh had tears in his eyes. “For years, I was waiting for such a meeting, I prayed and prayed the god Marduk will help me, and here your name is Mordecai,” said Teresh and Bigthan nodded. Bigthan’s mood changed. He was relaxed, and content. His appearance was exemplary and Harvona praised him.

Mordecai was confident the two rogue guards wouldn’t hurt the King on their own, as long as they didn’t have the poisoned arrow. Mordecai waited ten days.

“Yavin, did you hear anything from Harvona?” asked Mordecai.“Yes. He praised your advice. He told me that at the beginning he had some troubles, but he talked to the guards, and since then, like miracle, everything is wonderful. They all dressed perfectly and all are happy.”

“Very good,” said Mordecai. “They did not report me. They have no problem to appear properly. They disrespected the King even before I approached them. They are full of hate and anger. I must move before they will find another master.”
Mordecai contacted Hini, the Queen’s head-maiden, and told her to inform Esther that the honorable guards, Bigthan and Teresh, were related to Baanah and Rechab. Hini gave the message to Esther without understanding what the meaning of it was.

Esther smiled. Esther knew that those two generals, Baanah and Rechab, had assassinated their king, the heir of King Saul, in an attempt to please King David. Esther understood there is no need to rush to the King uninvited. Two weeks later, when Esther was invited to the King’s bed, she informed the King that she heard from Mordecai that Bightan and Teresh were conspiring to kill him.

The King turned to Harvona and said, “Handle it, and write Mordecai’s deed in my history book. We owe him.”

The guards were arrested and interrogated. Each one accused Mordecai and recounted his plan, but it didn’t help their cause, because it was Mordecai who had originally reported them and not the other way around.
The guards were quickly and discretely hanged, putting an end to the incident.
The next day, Mordecai called Harvona for a secret meeting. “Thank you for handling the two traitors so professionally.”

“Thank you, kindly,” said Harvona. “Do you know, people strongly believe the all-powerful all-knowing goddess Queen saved the life of our King! The King ordered me to write your deed in the History book. He declared he owes you.”
“Interesting,” Mordecai said. “But I’m afraid you’ve failed as the King’s head bodyguard. You disciplined Bigthan and you thought you succeeded in reforming him. Wrong! That’s when he started working for me on the plot. If I wanted to, I could have killed the King.”

Harvona stared at Mordecai with wide eyes and a twitch in his mouth.
Mordecai continued. “You can’t make such grave mistakes. Never give disgruntled guards a second chance. They must be immediately removed from the King’s vicinity—preferably killed! No explanations, no excuses. There can’t be a hint of dissatisfaction within their ranks or it could be all over for the King and most likely, for you!”

Mordecai knew he could speak to his friend in such a way and Harvona would understand the serious nature of the situation without becoming defensive or explosive.

Harvona dropped to one knee, held Mordecai’s palm, and brought the upper side of Mordecai’s palm to his forehead.

“Thank you for giving me a second chance,” said Harvona.
Mordecai smiled, raised him, and hugged his childhood friend. “I am giving you a new protocol to select and manage the King’s guards in order to avoid future mistakes.”

“Thank you for your help,” said Harvona.“Keep the story secret,” said Mordecai. “When you write my heroic deeds in the King’s history book, glorify my deed. Don’t give me anything. I want the King to owe me.”

Harvona nodded. “I’ll make sure it’s taken care of.”

By Ilan Sendowski

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Kenny’s Single Show

Description: After a lengthy marriage comes to a close, newly single Kenny Hunsucker finds himself in a completely new dating world and try’s his best to navigate life and online dating.

Chapter 1

The anger was palatable as Kenny Hunsucker pulled into Sushi Sumo, the latest in
a seemingly endless line of Chinese take out spots that occupied the corner spot in his favorite strip center. For Kenny the move was brought on by Sports Center’s early evening edition alerting the viewing public that former NFL QB and current Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh had met his wife in the take out line of a local PF Changs. While hardly on par with some of the ways John Daley had met his various wives it did present a way Kenny could kill two birds with one stone. Satisfy his hunger and possibly meet the next Mrs. Hunsucker. The subsequent call to the local PF Changs (in keeping with the events of Kenny’s recent life) was anything but successful and ended in an uncompleted order after a considerable hold time.

It was a classic Tuesday evening turning point and Kenny pondered some options to replace the date that had been broken a few hours earlier. Trivia, Blockbuster, a second trip to the gym or take out and NBA Playoffs. The later won and remembering that his dry cleaner had uttered high praise for the neighboring Sushi Sumo, Kenny decided to give it a try.

“Japanese, Thai and Chinese” the new sign exclaimed and even though Chinese was a foregone conclusion it did comfort the weary bachelor to know that so many delicacies could be found under one small roof.

The giddiness of the early afternoon seemed such a distant memory as he entered the quaint establishment, his first visit since the original Nan King closed its doors. When Kenny had made the reservation for Marlo and himself at Frank LoCatto’s Steak House he envisioned a triumphant return to relaxing dining with the opposite sex and had a hard time concealing his excitement. The date would have been there first and Kenny had a feeling (obviously unfounded) that this one had real promise. When he was delivering another quality custom dry erase board to Marlo’s bosses at Zen Masters Physical Therapists two Friday’s earlier the two had a nice conversation which turned to talk of dinner. Having forgotten the wise lessons Mr’s Vaughan and Favreau offered up i Swingers Kenny wasted approximately 3 hr’s and 34 minutes before texting a date request to Marlo. It was an unanswered text which was followed 2 hrs and 11 minutes later by a follow-up call (straight to voicemail) to inquire about a possible Sunday night
date. This too was unanswered and for a few brief moments Kenny considered erasing her fledgling entry from his phone.

General Tso’ and a pair of egg rolls did the trick and as Kenny waited the seven minutes for his food to be prepared, packaged, neatly-stacked and securely placed in a grocery bag he called his anger management sponsor Julian E. Julian was unavailable and Kenny not wanting to alarm him left him a brief and happy little message about the glory-filled day that it had been. Julian had only sponsored Kenny for a few short weeks but it has been a time of calmness, clarity and some mighty fine cigar smokin’. Kenny’s last outburst had been in private while driving down the road on Saturday and as Julian was off at a retreat for the weekend the details never quite made the transition from sponsee to sponsor.

Maybe it was the Marlo almost date, maybe it was the length of time Kenny had been without. Perhaps it was the industrious dating pixies from Yahoo who sprinkled $74.95 worth of magical elfin dating dust on Kenny’s bachelor pad. Having never been one to publicly mock those who chose the internet dating route, Kenny privately viewed them with a dose of sorrow and pity. For this was the same virile man who had been propositioned at Jiffy Lube, Kroger, Caribu and Starbucks coffee’s, jury duty pools and DMV lines and countless other orthodox and not-so-orthodox spots. Kenny always had believed that if he was ever unmarried that much like manna in the book of Exodus the good stuff would fall lazily from the heavens. Now that he was a single man; somehow every available single in the metro area had been debriefed and permitted to view all details of his life, the good but mostly the bad. They evidently were fed a substantial bit
of misinformation (this) while not certifiable this had become fairly obvious as the days passed. Kenny would get the occasional digits and the knowing glances, the “hey call me sometime” and the “let’s grab a coffee sometime”. His favorite had occurred on a recent business trip in which the very pleasant conversation with a very attractive young lady ended with her telling Kenny she was taken but he was “quite the catch” and would have “no trouble attracting the girls”. This as she rubbed his chest, shoulders and arms (ooohing and ahhing all along) and at one time pulling a girlfriend over to feel up the now very confident Kenny.

When Yahoo’s A-Team of elves finished there handy work all that was left was for one of Kenny’s Anger Management cohorts, Jed, to mention that Yahoo Personals was the closest thing to fishing from a barrel as he had ever experienced. Jed was 35 and had just finished his 3rd stint of incarceration. Kenny was pretty sure Jed had failed to mention this small, insignificant factoid on his profile. He was struck by the fact that (Jed) although recently freed and living with a roommate, holding a menial job and court mandated to several groups was such a success in the world of internet dating. Jed was the youngest son of one of the cities finest families with boyish good looks and a mischievous streak that girls fall over themselves for. If internet dating seemed cool to Jed well then it was certainly cool for Kenny.

The Visa ending in 5022 was unleashed and Kenny made the 6 month commitment
without a moment’s hesitation. Money had gotten a little tight lately but this was hardly the time to freeze up when such fragrant riches awaited. Kenny posted a fairly straight forward profile mentioning new found singleness, wonderful kids and a fun-loving laid back style that surely would have the ladies flocking. The picture would have to wait until Kenny could find something on his office computer that would suffice. It was quite thrilling to check a few criteria off much like ordering options on a car and then having
hundreds of desperately seeking women appear!

After sending a few “icebreakers” to the first few that caught his eye; Kenny decided to do the prudent thing and add a picture before attempting contact with anyone else. The few profiles he came across with no pictures caused instant suspicion and he sensed that would certainly hold true for his profile until the “right” photo could be added. The babes would just have to wait a little while longer. The def-tones concert in less than 10 days would surely not be another dateless evening with this amazing new weapon in the Kenny arsenal. He even toyed with the idea of dropping Cheno Moreno and the rest of the Deftones names in his profile to ensure that if there were some hot, rock and roll babes who did not have the hook-up to the show then he could provide that service as
well.

The next day Kenny found two suitable pictures. One taken two years prior by his ex while vacationing in Bermuda. It was a shot with sunglasses but Kenny felt it still captured the fun-loving, in shape persona he wished to parlay. The second photo was more recent and in fact was taken at the aforementioned business trip in which Kenny was felt up by his lustful “but taken” friends by one of the partygoers who later e-mailed it to him. It showed Kenny socially interacting with a varied group of party goers and probably because of the angle of the photo made him seem a little heavy. Nonetheless it was all he had to work with and it would have to do until a sexy glamour shot could be arranged. He submitted them both and was told by the backend tech wizards that Yahoo
would carefully review the photos and if nothing was falling out and everything in order that within 24 hours the fun could begin. By now Kenny had lost a little of the initial excitement but knew that Yahoo could not possibly risk an unfortunate Sears catalog underwear ad type moment and must protect unsuspecting eyes from any serial exposers.

Just a few more hours he told himself and folks shouldn’t bother with knocking cause the bed would be rockin’! The industrious censors completed there critical work in far less time than advertised and as Beetlejuice once exclaimed it was “Showtime!” Kenny immediately filled out criteria for a new search, careful not to be too selective and risk leaving hotties on the outside with no mechanism to get on the inside. He may have been new to this internet dating but by god it was not going to take him long to figure it all out. The search revealed several hundred possible matches. “What a great country”, Kenny thought as he feverishly alternated between the informal selected “icebreakers” and more formal e-mail greetings to the really deserving hopefuls. He stopped at a dozen or so rationalizing that any good fisherman first needs to be sure the bait is the right kind and is set correctly. Kenny was sure of two things as he laid his head down that night. First that most (if not all) of the girls he chose to contact would have replied by the following morning. Next that dozens if not hundreds will have sensed the Kenny Hunsucker presence in their dating universe and will have either contacted him (cause as Jed said “brother these women will jump on you quick”) or at least viewed his profile. A viewing is recorded by the dating pixies and one can then contact or ignore the curious possible enterluder. Sleep was sporadic and much like Christmas’ of yesteryear Kenny found himself wanting to leave the bedroom and see if special gifts had actually been deposited in his Yahoo stocking

by Acy Burnes Crawford

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The Law of Grace

Synopsis:  In the future a Government supplies peace and prosperity in exchange for the loss of some freedoms. In the shadows the government has been using its people for enhancement and other experimentations. An act of violence, which has been all but extinct, threatens the security of the government and could lead to their secrets being brought to light as well as a revolution.

CHAPTER 1

Parker awoke early, enjoying the sun warming him as he strutted down the hallway towards the rear of the house. He stopped short of the milky glass door to the bedroom; it was ajar. He peered at his reflection with the sun shining in. If he’d had an opinion he’d likely think he was handsome. He pushed through and hopped onto the bed. His light footfalls didn’t wake Anne. Parker stepped on to Anne’s chest looking straight down upon her face, a light purr that rolled into a meow. His front paws alternated pressing down, contracting and relaxing his rounded black nails. His eyes narrowed to relaxed slits and then blinked, his sign of affection and trust that he’d shown to Anne every morning since she’d rescued him. As far as cats went, Parker was a dignified, although needy, gentleman.

A cool light breeze blew in through the open French doors of the bedroom. The early morning sea air combined with Parkers’ greeting woke Anne. She sat up and Parker put his feet up close to her shoulders driving the top of his head into her cheek, rubbing it back and forth. She said “Good morning to you too.” Anne thought that the sunrise, the breeze and Parkers’ morning ritual made her morning perfect.

Anne, dressed in a white silk sleeping gown, made her way from the bedroom to the living area. Parker trotted alongside. He purred and sauntered around her ankles in a figure eight, pressing his head into her legs and rubbing his cheeks against them. She paused, caressing his silky grey fur stroking him from his ears to the base of his tail. “Let’s get you some breakfast, shall we.” Anne filled and placed Parker’s silver dish down on the honey-colored bamboo flooring. She thought the colors were a gorgeous contrast against the dark grey fur of the cat, and she smiled at the simple beauty. She retreated back to her room for a few minutes, emerging again in simple khaki pocketless pants and a white t-shirt.

She headed out the side door towards the shared garden between the houses. Mrs. Kusta, the widow, as usual was at her dining room window that looked on this space. She was like clockwork, every morning sitting there alone with her old-fashioned white ceramic mug, taking in the view over the water. Anne liked the consistency that this neighbor had provided, as she herself was consistent, someone who ran on routine. Anne picked a handful of lavender, pulled a few weeds and watered the garden. Mrs. Kusta came outside.

“Anne,” she said with a smile “I can’t thank you enough for taking care of the little garden. I know you’re a busy woman but I can’t tell you how much I have appreciated all your help over the past few months since my Arland died.”
“It’s my pleasure.” Anne replied. “And it really hasn’t been a bother at all. If it weren’t for this little garden that you started we wouldn’t have our lavender, now would we?”

“Dearie, if it weren’t for you, this garden wouldn’t have survived, to say nothing of the odd jobs you’ve done for me either. Especially fixing the latch on my dining room window! I don’t know what I’d have done without you, and I just want to tell you how much I appreciate it.”

Anne smiled and stepped through the garden to give Mrs. Kusta a hug. The old woman smelled of a sweet perfume, something like jasmine.

Anne said; “Don’t forget to close that window this evening. It’s likely to be chilly.”

Anne leaned down and clipped a bit more lavender, handed it to Mrs. Kusta and bid her farewell with a warm smile. Mrs. Kusta then slowly shuffled back to her kitchen table calling out “Anne, dear, you take such good care of me.” Anne smiled and retreated inside her home. Mrs. Kusta lived a simple life, she was a quiet little old woman who minded her own business.

Inside, Anne tapped the control to the blinds that faced Mrs. Kustas’ home, then checked her holo-pad ensuring all the blinds were closed except those facing the water from her small dining table. She used the pad to unlock the front door as well, then sat and looked out over the water. She sat motionless, absorbing the view and the sounds of the gulls being carried on the breeze. The blue of the water, the small white gulls that flew above and the soft light of the morning helped to keep her relaxed, carefree and certain. After some time, noticing the clock, she stood and called for Parker. He came trotting to her, the bell on his collar jingling. It reminded her of the old-fashioned tricycle from her youth: whimsical, musical and pleasant. It made her smile. Alise gave her the little red collar with the bell. While Alise said she hated cats, Patrick would always sit on her lap when visiting. Alise never shooed him away.

She took Parker in her right arm, grabbed a few of his favorite cat treats and the catnip plant from the counter. Parker began swatting at them with his paw. She carefully placed the plant in the spare room on the bedside table, the treats on the bed and Parker next to them. She checked the attached bath, ensuring the litter box was clean and that the small water dispenser was flowing for him. On her way out of the room she stroked Parker and scratched under his chin. He purred loudly. She took the collar off; holding it in her hand, left the room and shut the door. Anne walked around her small but comfortable home, ensuring everything was as it should be. The rooms were neat and tidy, the few hand-written notebooks she’d set out upon her long marble Kitchen counter were open to specific pages, and documents that needed to be passed along were set out for the messenger, Molly, to scan and reproduce for work. She wanted to leave nothing unfinished. Her life’s work was here, or at least the copies she wanted to ensure were found today. The rest, well, it would be available soon enough.

As Anne walked back towards the kitchen and her view, she checked the plants to ensure they had enough water, straightened the mat in front of the glass doors to the rear deck, then went into the sitting room. She reached into a small antique wooden box, with the name “Montecristo” burned into its lid. This antique was one of her most treasured. The feel of the old wood and the aroma of lemon oil used to ensure its continued beauty, the old-fashioned metal hinges that creaked slightly when she lifted the lid. The lid had the Montecristo logo, a triangle of six swords surrounding a fleur-de-lis was worn, but recognizable. These little details made her feel alive, so different from the sterile and cold offices of the R&D lab where she spent her days with its holo-screens and grey uniforms. She grabbed some handmade paper and an ink pen from under the lid, as well as a small, but moderately weighted canvas bag. This, after all, was no job for the holo-terminal voice dictation program. This was an occasion for the old-fashioned written word. This was personal, and timing was important.

She sat at the small bistro style dining table, the marble countertop covered with her work. She took a moment to look over the items before her, contemplating their textures and the way the light was reflected or absorbed by each. She let the sunshine on her face, feeling its warmth, inhaling deeply to etch the odor of the salty ocean and decaying seaweed inside her lungs, then exhaled and felt peace. With two taps on the holo-pad the patio doors and blinds closed. Another tap and a single dim light shone over the table, an almost romantic light that cast a warm glow. Anne carefully uncapped the pen, its weight felt nice in her hand, not like the weightless instruments used on the holo-screens at work. The sensation of the paper with its ridges and imperfections of color delighted her fingers and eyes.

Anne wrote; “My name is not important, but what I have done is. When you proceed with the retinal scan you will find I am a registered citizen in good standing. What I do now, I can only hope will have a wide and deep impact upon my fellow citizens. In the time it takes you to enter my home, scan my retinas and begin the investigation, the damage to the Amerist Government and the hand that leads it will have begun. I ask only one thing: when Ms. Pearce arrives, please apologize to her for any inconvenience she suffers due to the time you detain her for questioning regarding my death.”

Once finished, Anne opened the canvas bag and pulled out the matching neuro-stim bolts. These were antiques, heavy in the hand and smooth except for the small ridges at the center of the rounded ends. The military had stopped using these years ago due to the fact that the needed effect was much less than these bolts were designed for. The bolts, once activated, would destroy the circuits in the brain where thought was processed. While the body could be kept alive, if necessary, there was never a chance of recovering any information. Even with the algorithms that Anne had created to read, decode it and translate electrical activity, once the neural pathways were destroyed there was nothing that could be read or retrieved.

Anne pressed the cold smooth bolts to her temples. The adhering compound worked; it was the one thing she’d worried about, as the compound was very old. She folded the canvas bag neatly in half, placed the newly inked paper on top, then the pen as the weight to keep it all together. She heard a small thud in the backroom, like a small weight hitting the bamboo floor, and Parkers bell jingling. She imagined Parker had found and gotten a hold of the catnip, and it made her smile. She gently touched the emergency alarm on the holo-pad.
“What assistance do you require?” the pleasant feminine voice chimed.

“This is Dr. Anne Augustine, please send a SOaC team to my home.” Her voice and hands were steady, as she pressed the disconnect button, cutting off the human voice that was just breaking into the holorecording. She then pulled up her messages that had not yet been sent out, each to a different contact but containing the same documents and research. She said slowly, in a quiet but strong voice, “Send all,” then lightly set the holo-pad on the table. She closed her eyes, exhaled, and simultaneously pushed in on the bolts attached to her temples. Her eyes turned crimson and her nose abruptly began to bleed, her jaw locked and a throaty deep momentary grunt arose. Her arms grew rigid as the electrical impulses batted around inside her head from one side of her skull to the other.

Once the electrical impulses had stopped, her head fell forward striking and cracking the glass top of the bistro table. The blood from her nose flowed slowly through the cracks in the glass, creating red channels that reflected the light above. Her arms fell to her sides, lifeless, and dangling. What remained were the faintest signals from her brain stem, short with long pauses between, causing the false appearance of breathing; they would call it “agonal breathing” on the incident report. Her body had only to wait a short time before the Social Operations and Control Officers arrived to begin the retinal scans. She greeted them with a deep chestnut lifeless gaze and the faint smell of the burned flesh at her temples.

End of Chapter 1

By Jennifer Schmidt

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Escaping to Freedom Through the Eye of a Hurricane

Introduction

Decisions, Decisions…

I am in a difficult position. I have been urged to write my story for teenagers, and the idea seems the right thing to do.  However, I am having a real hard time getting started. Even writing this is a difficult exercise. Where to start? Do I start by giving a background of who I was at the time when my life was turned upside down? Do I tell how a 12-year-old girl faces the hard reality of war? The subject of war was never discussed at home. It is true that I heard about people being displaced. I even went to school with German refugee children who had moved from Germany and Austria because their parents were afraid for their life.  Yet somehow in my child’s mind, it never occurred to me that it could happen to me.

Yet on May 10, 1940, at 6:00 a.m., I was abruptly awakened by my father and told to hurry into the basement for safety. It is only then that I was told that the Germans were attacking Belgium. My father was very cool, calm and collected when he announced what the situation was and what we had to do.  He took charge of what had to be done. He was very confident and definite as to what had to happen. No sooner were we able to get to the first floor that he informed us we would be leaving that same day for Paris. It was as though he became a different person. All he did that day, as I recall, was give us instructions as to what had to happen next.

At the time, I was totally befuddled by the events and suddenly realized that Friday was not at all going to be the kind of day I had anticipated. That particular day was to be a festive day to honor our mothers at school. We had planned to sing songs from Hansel & Gretel. I was going to stand by the pianist and turn the pages of the music. I was so thrilled by the opportunity. I was hoping that my mother would be proud of me. Also, I had worked really hard on a handmade napkin for a tray. It was really beautiful. The night before I had bought some sweet pea flowers for my mother. All that was not going to take place and I was really sad about it. Instead, I managed to hand my mother the napkin I had made during the previous month. All I was told was to pack and be ready to leave that day.

I think this was really the first time that I had to pack for myself and I did not know what I should take. Before I knew, it was time to leave for the train station. My father informed us that we were leaving that day at 4:00 p.m. He was going to stay a few more days to get his taxicab business ready. What he did not tell us was that he had offered his services to the Belgian army. They refused his help. So instead, he took it upon himself to save as many people as he could so that friends could leave Belgium, easily and travel away from the main routes being attacked by the German air force. My father knew the back roads of the country because at one time he used to drive a motorcycle and never traveled the main roads.

In the meantime we were waiting for him, hidden in the outskirts of Paris getting his whereabouts known to us through a friend who was in contact with him. He was risking his life every day. He stayed in Brussels until the last minute, twenty minutes before the Germans arrived in Brussels.

By Dina Klayman

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Wanker Crosses the Pond – Chapter 1

Coming to America

by Alan Wills

I awake with a start, not remembering where I am. A pair of red lips are by my cheek whispering something in my ear but my mind is slow to comprehend “….said I think you should cover your wife.” As the flight attendants lips move away, they are smiling a very all knowing smile. I look down and realize Nancy’s skirt is up around her waist exposing her long tanned legs and her beautiful round white bare bum. I feel my face flush, and I grab the blanket from the floor and drape it over us. Luckily most of the other passengers are asleep.  Nancy stirs and looks back over her shoulder. “Good morning Sunshine.” Her voice is soft, almost a purr. She gives me a wink and looks content. She snuggles into me.

     “Nancy, the bloody stewardess thinks we did it last night. But at least she thinks we’re married”.

“Good for her. Did she look envious?” she asks.

Christ Wills, I think, I knew it wasn’t a dream. You made love to this incredibly beautiful stranger. 

Made love, that’s a joke! I had little to do with it! Nancy just had her way with me! But if this is what American girls do in airplanes, I can’t wait to get to Los Angeles?

“Nancy, hope I wasn’t out of line last night? Being scared of flying, I drank too much!”

“You were just what I needed. Don’t worry about the stewardess. I’m sure we’re not the first couple she’s known to join the Mile High Club?”

“The what?”

“Doing it a mile above the ground.”

 “Nancy how can you be so flippant? Didn’t last night mean anything to you?”

“What did you think, my Cockney lover?  Because we screwed, we’re going steady?”

“Course not! I was just, er, er!  But ain’t you embarrassed that she knows?”

“Why are you so uptight, Alan? It’s the sixties and we are the love generation. I travel so much as sales-manager for Liberty Records, I have no time for a real relationship.”

I feel used and my mind can’t handle it. Christ, I think, she sounds just like a man. 

Realizing we are still spooning I quickly sit up. Seeing that Nancy has her eyes closed, I close mine. I drift off to sleep, but have a nightmare. I didn’t escape after all. The Mob finds me at the London airport and Luigi shoots me just as they call my flight to freedom.

My eyes fly open and I realize I am safe, and on my way to California. I drift back to sleep and my mind reflects back. I’m telling the Pan Am check-in person, I’d like a seat next to a gorgeous blonde, preferably with loads of money. Then I’m shocked to find myself seated next to Nancy. I guess she’s in her thirties. A tall, stunning, business-woman, in a powder-blue blazer with matching high heels, a white pleated skirt and a high-necked white lacy blouse. I tell her I’m twenty-three and she flips her long blonde hair back, and runs her fingers through it in a very provocative deliberate manner. During the many flight hours we eat very little, drink a lot, and flirt like crazy. The last thing I remember is Nancy turning on her side and saying goodnight. So I assumed the spoon position behind her, then with caution move closer and closer until I feel her bottom against my rock hard member. Achieving such closeness to this beauty was the ultimate conquest, and content I fell asleep.  During the night dreams and reality become confused. I feel my zipper being unzipped and my naked manhood being touched and taken out. I feel her satin panties brush my pride and joy as she pulls them down. I clench my teeth and close my eyes tight in fear I might explode. Then she guides me into her warm dampness.

Am I dreaming? Petrified by fear I don’t move, however, the undulating rhythm of her hips does it all. She reached back and touched her finger to my lips to quiet my moans just at the right time. As we drift off to sleep I think how strange it is that we hadn’t even kissed.  In fact there had been none of the prerequisites of promising to love her till death do us part, required by most English girls to get into their knickers.

Nancy nonchalantly reaches down and pulls up her satin panties, then stands and straightens her white pleated skirt. “Why don’t we switch seats, I’ve seen LA from the air a million times. I think you’ll get a kick seeing it for the first time.”

The  view out of the tiny window takes my breath away. “Wow, Nancy.  LA is larger than I ever imagined. There’s snow-capped mountains, and millions of homes spilling into the valleys, and lots of swimming pools. Your roads are wide and lined with palm trees. Your freeways look as though they’re suspended above the streets, with an endless stream of cars.” I sigh, as my words can’t keep up with my racing mind.

“Look over there.” Nancy points, her cheek now toughing mine. “We’re passing over downtown; the tall white building is City Hall. Now, look up in the hills. See the Hollywood sign: that’s Tinsel-Town where I live.”

“Crickey!”

“Now look to the horizon.  See the Pacific Ocean, and over there is Catalina Island.”

“Nancy, it’s all beyond my wildest dreams. I had no idea.”

“OK, now we’re passing over Hollywood Park, that’s a racetrack. In no time at all we’ll be on the ground.”

Walking to the baggage claim I am on cloud nine, and just can’t stop smiling. My mind goes crazy:  I’m in America, my new home. Everything looks so clean and bright. It’s March and people are tanned, wearing shorts and summer dresses. I must look like a spare prick at a wedding in my suit and heavy coat. I remove my overcoat and throw in over my arm.

“You look like the cat that just finished a big bowl of cream.” Nancy says.

“I can’t believe I’m actually in California!  It all looks so different from London.”

“Thanks a lot! Thought you looked happy because I took care of you last night?”

I look away feeling myself blush.

 Standing at the carousel, I observe the many races and nationalities that make up the throng of passengers waiting for their belongings. Realizing most of us are foreigners in this new land, I don’t feel so out of place.  Still searching the many faces trying to guess countries of origin, I’m stopped dead by a very tall stunning redhead. I can’t take my eyes off her and cannot believe she’s walking in our direction.  Her red highlighted hair bounces as she walks, as do her more than ample undulating breasts beneath her flowing, flimsy low cut dress.

Damn Wills, I think she caught us looking at her!  I look away, knowing I’m way out of her league.  But the temptation is too great, and after a few minutes, I have to sneak another peak. Where did she go?   I’m torn by mixed emotions. I know she wouldn’t be interested in a poor chap from the East End of London, but I have this burning desire to look just one more time at this exquisite, slim, well-endowed woman with flaming red hair.

“Nancy, watch my carry-on bag and coat.  I have to go pee.” I say, and push my way through the crowds looking in all directions, but with no luck.  I realize how insane my quest is, so I head back to the carousel. I’m shocked, the redhead is standing next to Nancy.

“Alan this is my sister, Audrey.  Alan is from the East End of London.”

What a cow! I think. Why did Nancy have to put the East End kiss of death on me?

“I saw you looking at me across the baggage area.”

Nice girl Wills, I think, dropped you in the shit with Nancy right away, then holds out her bloody hand like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth!

 My old Cockney way would have been to totally deny I looked at her, dismissing her as  unmemorable. But this is a new country and a new start.  No more lies.

“Nice to meet you Audrey.” I say, and take her hand ignoring the accusation.

My eyes meet her bight green eyes. Wills, I think, isn’t evading the truth still a lie.

“Your sister told me so much about you, but she didn’t say you were so stunning!”    

 “Thank you kind Sir!  Next to my big sister, I’ve always been the ugly duckling! So Alan what brings you to the Golden State?”

Nancy beats me to an answer. “Alan’s been a naughty boy. The English police want to lock him up for bilking the public with a TV scam.  As if that’s not enough The Mob wants to fit him with cement boots and drop him in the River Thames. They made him a loan that they say he forgot to pay back. So you could say he’s in L.A. for his health.”

“Well Alan, how naughty a boy can you be?” Audrey say with a wink.

“Down sister! I invited Alan to spend a few days at our house to show him L.A.”

Audrey looks me up-and-down, and I feel like a piece of furniture she is considering for the home. “Well sis, we only have the two bedrooms.  Shall we flip a coin for him?

“Ladi..es, ladi..es, I really have to go to Glendale as my relatives are expecting me.”

“Alan, you told me you had forgotten to tell them your flight information and that you planned to call them when you arrived.” Nancy says, with the grin of a victor.

“Well then, I had better call them.  Otherwise they’ll be worried.”

“Couldn’t be you’re the one that’s worried being alone with two single women in a strange country, could it?” Audrey says as we walk out of the sliding doors into the bright sunlight.

Wills, I think as we cross the road, she could be rightMaybe you can’t trust yourself being under the same roof with these two gorgeous creatures.

 No! Maybe, I’d shag one, then head for the other’s bedroom and do the sister. Ya that’s it!  Maybe, it would be like that every night of the bloody week.

Yah, Wills, like you’re some big lover. They’d find you a skin and bones skeleton in the first week shagged to death by these two Amazon women.

Get out of my head, idiot!                                                                       

Crossing the road between these two tall, long-legged, beauties is beyond my wildest fantasies.  If only me mates could see me now.  “Do either of you ladies have a camera?”

“I have one in the car, Alan.” Audrey says pointing, “In that parking structure.”

Walking up to the car my mouth drops open, and I forget about a picture of the girls. It’s a very long shiny pale blue convertible with white upholstery.

Audrey presses a button and the convertible top opens and folds down behind the rear seat.

“Could I have your camera? Me mates will never believe the length of this car!” I say positioning the girls next to the car for the picture.

“Christ Audrey.  What a boot! You could put an English car in there,” I say snapping another picture.

“Here it’s called a trunk. The Bonnet is the hood. The windscreen is the windshield. Petrol is called gas. The pavement is the sidewalk and the road is the pavement!”

“Hold on a bloody minute! I came here because I thought they spoke bloody English!”

Nancy slides across the front bench seat. “Hop in Alan.  There’s plenty of room.” Audrey slides in behind the steering wheel and starts the engine. Within minutes we are on the 405 freeway, the bright sun on my face, and the wind blowing through my hair. It’s all like a dream, where I’m being whisked away to a magical land.  From the air I’d seen the vastness of L.A, but now on the freeway it feels more manageable.

Although I’ve never been here before, for some reason, it feels like coming home.

Once off the freeway Audrey drives us through Bel Air and Beverly Hills. I have never seen such huge homes, and each one has immaculate landscaping. A far cry from my parents eight hundred square foot terraced home in London, where I grew up; with the freezing outside toilet, where I would wank. No hot running water and no bath. Right then I decided one day I will have a big house with a gardener who will make sure all the blades of grass are facing the right way.

There are two new cars in the circular driveway of most homes, others have three or more car garages. There are no junk cars like in England. Everyone looks successful.

I ask myself, Wills, will I a poor boy from London’s East End make it here?  

We turn onto Sunset Boulevard, and I recall the TV show 77 Sunset Strip with Ed Kooky Byrnes combing his hair in the driveway. “That’s Dino’s.” I call out! The girls sneer, and I wish I hadn’t said anything, so I change the subject.

“What type of car is this Audrey?”

“It’s a 1962 Cadillac. Do you like it Alan?”

“What’s not to like! It’s a dream car.”

“Well to tell you the truth, it’s not mine! It belongs to a guy I date.”

“What does he do? Rob banks for a living?”

“He’s an almost known actor.”

My heart becomes a huge lump in my throat.  Wills, what did you expect, a girl this beautiful wouldn’t have a rich stud?

I slump down in the plush white leather seat, my eyes cast down to the blue carpet.

“You OK Alan?” Nancy asks.

“A little tired from the long flight. Someone kept me up half the bloody night.”

“Nancy you didn’t! You took advantage of this young man on the airplane?”

“Give me a break, Audrey! Do you think I’d jump someone I’d just met?”

“Sure you would, and twice on Sundays.” Audrey says with a laugh.

“Now see what you’ve started Alan!” My own sister thinks I’d drop-my-drawers in front of a whole plane full of passengers and shag a boy I hardly know!”

End of Chapter 1

By Alan Wills

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Scary, Scary Night -Chapter 1

It’s murder most funny as 20-somethings Prudence and Derek start Halloween by arriving late at the costume store— mostly because Derek hates anything to do with bodies, coffins, ghosts and all things ghoulish. Turns out, the store manager has a dead body he needs to offload, that he decides to stash in the local funeral home run by Derek’s somewhat kooky parents, Jeremy and Formalda Hyde.

Chapter 1 – The Costume Store

The Mortician’s Guide to Supportive Behavior
As a Funeral Director, you probably have a natural inclination to help others who are going through a tough time. However, if you aren’t careful, you could end up saying or doing something that makes the mourner of a dearly departed loved one feel invalidated.
With this in mind, it’s probably not helpful to say things like “Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s not your fault it took over a week to find your mother’s corpse in the tub.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Derek hated nothing more than a moonlit Halloween. Unless it was a moonless Halloween. In a funeral home. Being chased by a killer clown.

You see, he had phobias. Lots of phobias. And who could blame him? After all, he was raised in The Hyde Funeral Home & Body Parts Emporium by two pretty weird parents, Jeremy and Formalda Hyde.

I should know, I live down the street.

Not on the cemetery side. The only building on that side is the First Most Fundamental Evangelical Cathedral–more of a church, really. At least it was a church, until Sam Buglehorn and his wife turned it into Sam & Sandy’s Surf Board and Bikini Bottoms Shop. (I don’t know where you go for the tops. Maybe online.)

No, my house is on the other side, the residential side. Four doors down.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you all about Derek and his quirky parents and the murders. I wasn’t actually a part of it, of course, I was dealing with my old man’s death at the time.
Not that he died of old age. More like stupidity. I don’t know what he was thinking, but when he got locked out of the house and couldn’t find an open window, he decided to try the chimney. And it wasn’t even Christmas. We probably wouldn’t have found him, except for the smell.

But I digress.

So. I wasn’t there when everything happened to Derek, the stuff I’m telling you about. But sure as Santa, I heard enough of the pieces from everybody to put it all together. So I can vouch for the whole story.

By the way, I’m recording this, for transcription later. Or maybe I could run my recording through one of those voice recognition programs. I was planning to type it out on my PC, till I got my hand chewed up in the garbage disposal. My own fault. Don’t ask.

But getting back to Derek. A good kid, especially considering where he grew up. Not that his parents were bad people, far from it. Salt of the earth, really. We’ll, salt with a hefty slug of nutmeg.

It all started on Halloween.

Prudence had decided to drag poor Derek at four in the afternoon, in the rain, to a decrepit, badly lit costume store: The House of Mask & Magic. Way too late to be buying a costume, but then Derek was against the whole idea from the start.

Prudence pushed the store door open with her butt, which rang the somebody-just-walked-in-bell hanging above it. She stepped in backward, pulling on her reluctant boyfriend.

“Come on, Sweetie, we’re here now, so you might as well come in. I don’t know what you’re so afraid of.”

That’s the voice of Prudence, Derek’s girlfriend. I’m saying it with a higher pitch, so the transcriber will get that she was a girl. Well, a young lady, I should say. She was a looker, but with a practical flair that let everybody know she meant business. In a sweet sort of way. But no-nonsense sweet, if you know what I mean.

“I’m not afraid,” he said. “I’m just not crazy about Halloween.” (That’s Derek talking, a slightly goofy-looking guy, earnest and sincere and well intentioned.)

“But why be afraid? I’m not afraid. After all, this is just a time when kids go trick-or-treating. I think it’s cute.”

“You wouldn’t say that if you’d been raised in a spooky funeral home by crazy parents, the way I was. They had dead bodies all over the place. It was like Halloween every night.”
Prudence put her hands on her hips and shook her head. (Just like my mother used to do before the Thanksgiving turkey incident. Not really relevant, forget I said anything. The point is, I didn’t like it much, so I don’t think Derek did, either.)

“Sweetie, this isn’t your funeral home, and you knew we needed costumes. I really wish we hadn’t waited till the last minute.”

“It’s not the last minute…”

“Are you kidding? This is Halloween. Nobody waits till Halloween to get a costume.”
“Well, technically, it isn’t Halloween yet. Halloween means ‘Hollowed Evening’. But it’s only afternoon. So it’s sort of ‘Hallownoon’. See?”

Derek wasn’t very good at jokes, so he made up for it with a big smile. Prudence just stared at him. He tried covering up the awkward moment by taking command. He stepped up to the store register and slapped his hand on the counter, then pretended that didn’t hurt.

“OK. We just need a little help here. Hello? Is anybody here?”

Now, I should tell you more about the House of Mask & Magic. Most of the year, the store was filled with racks of magic kits, metal linking rings, card decks, foldable flower bouquets, silk scarves, top hots and black, shiny wands. And a collection of fake hands, arms, legs, feet and scary-looking heads. Traffic in the store was usually pretty light, mostly just horny young magicians looking for cool new tricks to impress girls and the occasional soccer moms on the hunt for party favors for their overindulged kids. Oh, and a few weirdo goths, because that’s what goths do.

But as Halloween came near, the manager always rolled out the clothes racks filled with costumes to turn anybody into a Frankenstein monster, werewolf, vampire, pirate, mermaid, Playboy bunny, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Batman, Superman, Spiderman and—my personal favorite—Shrek. (Big and green. It suits me.)

That’s not what Derek and Prudence saw, though. They saw mostly empty racks, with only occasional remnants of costumes nobody would recognize, of characters nobody ever heard about. Leftovers and meager odds and ends. They didn’t notice as the store manager, a tall brooding man named Nussbaum, walked up behind them and spoke in a voice that sounded suspiciously like a broken cement mixer.

“Good afternoon.”

Derek wasn’t prepared for this. He wheeled around and almost fell down in fright.
Nussbaum wasn’t at all fazed. “Find what you wanted?”

Prudence was more socially adept. “Actually, no, we’re going to a masquerade party, and we both need costumes.”

“Most of the costumes are already gone.”

Prudence turned to Derek and gave him an I-told-you-so look. “See?”

Derek wasn’t deterred. “Okay, but can we see what you do have?”

Nussbaum shuffled over, took a costume from a nearby rack and handed it to Prudence. He stayed strangely in profile, never fully turning to face them.

“You might want to try this on. The dressing room is just behind there.” He pointed to a door at the back of the store.

Derek frowned. “What is it?”

“I’ll surprise us both,” Prudence answered. “Just give me a second.”

As she skipped to the dressing room, Derek looked more closely at the sinister store manager who seemed to prefer standing away from the light.

“You know, you look familiar. Have we met somewhere?”

Nussbaum shot him a suspicious glare. “What are you getting at?”

“I don’t know, it’s just … you look… I can’t quite put my finger on it…”

“Are you a cop?”

“A cop? Me? No, I just…”

Nussbaum’s shoulders relaxed. “Oh, I remember. You must be that kid, Derek, from the Hyde Funeral Home.”

“…and Body Parts Emporium.”

“What?”

“Never mind. I did grow up in a funeral home, but—how did you know that?”

Nussbaum leaned over to tap Derek’s forehead with his index finger. “Think back. We were kids. Your family was moving in as they were pulling me out – for the fifth time.”

“Oh… Oh! You’re—”

“Yes, I’m…” He looked up at the ceiling. “An orphan.”

Derek shook his head. “Actually, I was going to say you’re that kid who didn’t want to leave. They called you—Nussbaum.” He looked the store manager up and down. “You’ve grown.”

“Yes, I’ve grown.” Nussbaum gave Derek the same once-over. “You, not so much.”

At this point, Prudence waltzed out from the changing room wearing a big red nose and dressed in a clown outfit, clearly too big for her. She walked up behind Derek and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and nearly dropped his pants, scared out of his wits.

“Ahhh!”

This scared Prudence, who also screamed. Then they both yelled again, right in each other’s faces.

Prudence pulled off her bulbous nose and hit Derek on the arm.

“What’s wrong with you?”

“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you? Why would you dress up like that?

“What are you talking about? It’s just a clown costume.”

“Yeah…”

She peered into his face. “A clown costume? Hello? What? Are you afraid of clowns?

Nussbaum didn’t hide his smirk. “Awkward…”

Prudence took on a more motherly tone. “Aw, is it because of all those horrible zombie clowns who attacked you in your youth?”

Derek wasn’t having any of that. “No. But clowns, they’re just bloodthirsty, and ax murderers, and chainsaw serial killers—”

“Sure, in horror movies… I’m surprised you would even watch those.”

He folded his arms. “Well, I don’t like it, so take that outfit off.”

Her head went back. “Excuse me?”

“I said, take it off.”

Hands on hips, she gave him her worse scowl. “I will not. And I’ve had about enough of you. First you procrastinate like crazy, then you make me practically drag you here, then you yell in my face, and now you’re ordering me around. Who do you think you are?”

“He’s Derek,” Nussbaum interjected.

“I know his name is Derek, thank you very much.” She turned back to her boyfriend. “I’ve been so nice, and you’ve been terrible. I’m not talking to you.”

Since Derek’s mom didn’t raise any dummies, he changed tack right away.

“Look, I’m sorry, really. I can’t stand it when you’re mad. There are lots of things I can take—lots of things—” He motioned at the clown costume she was wearing “—but when I see that unhappy face—” He touched her face “—it’s much worse than a serial killer clown.”

Prudence thought about this for a second. Then she took on a more forgiving tone. “Okay, I’m not mad any more—well, a little mad.”

“And you’ll change your costume?”

“All right, I’ll change this costume if it means so much to you.”

Derek stopped holding his breath. “Thank you.”

He turned to Nussbaum and asked, “Do you have anything else she can try?”

Nussbaum frowned, then his forehead cleared. “Well, I do have one idea…”

He looked toward the back of the shop and shouted, “Albert!”

Derek looked at him sideways. “Albert?”

“My assistant.”

A voice echoed from the back storeroom. “Yes boss?”

“Do we still have that dress out back? You haven’t burned it yet?”

“Not yet.”

Now Derek was really confused. “Burned it?”

Nussbaum grunted. “Yep, it was last year’s model. But it’s still in good shape. It’s only been worn once, at a—ceremony.”

He went to the storeroom and returned with a wedding dress and veil. The dress, ragged and dirty, looked as if it had been in a recent bar brawl, with a big red stain on the front. He held it up proudly, but again, purposely stayed in profile.

“Well?”

“Excuse me?”

“What do you think?”

Prudence stepped in to take over. “It’s terrible. And it has a stain on it. Is that blood?”

“No,” Nussbaum insisted. “I call this my ‘Bride of Dracula’ dress. That’s just–uh–stage blood. For effect.”

“Hm… don’t you have anything else?”

Nussbaum gave her a crooked smile. “How about Barney, the purple dinosaur? I have three of those left.”

“No…”

He held up masks of U.S. presidents in each hand. “Barack Obama? Donald Trump?”

Prudence sighed and shrugged. “Never mind… Okay, ‘Bride of Dracula’ it is.”

She grabbed the dress and headed back to the dressing room.

Derek looked through some other costumes on the rack and spoke to Nussbaum as he fumbled through the meager pickings he saw there. “So you’re that Nussbaum kid who wouldn’t leave the funeral home…”

“It wasn’t a funeral home then, it was my home. The bank took it when they found my parents—or pieces of them.”

Derek stopped what he was doing. “Pieces of them? That’s horrible! What happened?”

“Nothing. An accident. An explosion.”

“Wow, I’m sorry to hear that. How did it happen?”

Nussbaum glared at his stupid customer. “I told you. An accident.”

Derek mumbled, “Well, at least you weren’t hurt…”

Nussbaum stepped into the light and for the first time turned to show his left profile. “Maybe you didn’t see my face.”

That was when it happened, and not for the last time.

As soon as he said the word, “face,” ominous music came out of nowhere, as if they were in a movie. It went, “DUHN-DUHN-DUUUUUUHHHNN.”

They both looked up and around, trying to understand where this music came from.

Then Derek looked more closely at Nussbaum and became more confused than ever. His left profile looked just the same as his right.

“But—I don’t get it. Your face looks fine. I don’t see the problem.”

Nussbaum gave him a testy sneer. “No, people never do. That’s what they pretend. But they don’t fool me. I know they find my disfiguration too horrible to take. I know, I know.”

He exited through the back storeroom door, slamming it.

At this point, Prudence came out of the dressing room wearing the stained wedding dress. In spite of its shabbiness, she looked radiant, even beautiful.

“Well? What do you think?”

Derek was beside himself. “Wow. You look fantastic. You’re stunning!”

Prudence gave him a dismissive cluck of her tongue. “Sure, now you think I look good, when I’m dressed as a monster.”

“No, really, you’re—I don’t know—exquisite.”

Prudence was flattered after all, and turned to pose in a full-length mirror to the right of the counter.

“You really think so?”

“Definitely. It’s eerie, but you’re really unbelievably striking, attractive, gorgeous—dazzling.”

Prudence looked in the mirror again, rotating her hip. “I guess it’s not that bad.”

“Bad? It’s great. You’re the most amazing Bride of Dracula I’ve ever seen. In fact…”

She looked at him with suspicion. “What?”

“Marry me.”

“Excuse me?”

“Marry me, Prudence. I just can’t help myself, I love you. I’m mad about you. I’m addicted to you. In fact, I’ve got a great idea. Let’s get married tonight.”

She took a step back. “On Halloween? Not bloody likely.”

“But just think, it’d be so easy to remember our anniversary.”

“Now, why do I find that romantic?”

Derek gave her a hopeful look. “Does that mean it’s a Yes?”

“In your dreams.” She stepped closer and touched his face. “Sweetie, you’re really wonderful, and funny, and adorable, and clever, and—”

“And you love me? You’re crazy about me? You get breathless when I walk into the room?”

She shook her head. “Hold on, cowboy. If I ever do fall madly in love, I won’t be one of those fawning women who faints at the sight of her man and sits by the phone all night hoping he’ll call. I’ll handle it with grace. Quiet dignity. Self esteem.

“Yeah, but…”

“And for me, being in love will be amazing, phenomenal, earth-shattering.”

“Yeah, but…”

“Besides, marriage is a huge step. And there are things a girl has to think about.”

“Things like…?”

“Well, if you must know, I’m a little worried about your phobias.”

“Phobias? I don’t have any– oh, you mean the clown thing. But everybody’s afraid of clowns.”

“I’m not afraid of clowns. Or costume stores, or Halloween, or coffins, or graves—”

“Okay, I get your point.”

“—or corpses, or funeral homes, or—”

“Okay, Okay. I get it.”

She put her hand on his cheek. “Can’t we just keep things just as they are? I do love you, you know.”

“Well, that’s something, anyway. But I’m still going to keep asking.”

“So your feelings aren’t hurt? You’re okay to go to the masquerade party?”

“Lead on, McDuff.”

“And if we have time, let’s stop to see your parents on the way. I know they’d enjoy seeing our costumes.”

“Stop by to see my crazy parents at the funeral home tonight? On Halloween? No way.”

“See, that’s what I’m talking about. Where’s that strong courageous figure of man I know you can be? Come on, it’ll be great. Besides, I think you have the greatest parents ever, really kooky and fun.”

“I have the strangest parents ever. They’re not just kooky, they’re certifiably weird. I’ve seriously considered getting them committed.”

“What are you talking about? They’re sweet, they’re generous and kind. And they’re completely unpretentious. It’ll be great. Besides, I always enjoy seeing how they’ve decorated for Halloween. And you know they adore me.”

“Hey, here’s an idea. How about if we go see your parents instead?”

“Oh no, they hate you. That’s going to take more time than we’ve got tonight.”

“Wait, what? They hate me?”

She ignored him, busily figuring things out. “No, if we’re going to share this with family, it should be your family.”

“They hate me?”

“Pay attention, Sweetheart, you’re repeating yourself.” She looked at her watch. “If we leave now, we’ll have plenty of time.”

“They hate me?”

Nussbaum appeared from the back storeroom. “Sorry, I got bored and drifted off. Did you want to buy costumes or not?”

This brought Derek back to the point. “Oh, right, I almost forgot. We still need a costume for me. Do you have something really appropriate that goes with the wedding dress?”

“Oh, you mean like a bridesmaid dress.” Nussbaum looked him up and down. “Nope, sorry.”

“No, I don’t mean a bridesmaid dress. I mean something like a Count Dracula costume.”

“Nope. Sorry. All out… Wait a minute—” He shouted to the back storeroom. “Albert!”

“Yes boss?” came the disembodied voice.

“Where’s that zombie nurse’s outfit?”

“It’s back here.”

Derek ran his hand through his hair. “Thanks anyway, but I honestly don’t want to go as a zombie nurse. White stockings with white shoes really creep me out.”

“You know,” Prudence said. “I’m thinking you must have watched a lot of horror movies as a kid.”

Nussbaum shook his head. “It’s not for the shoes and stockings. One second.”

He went to the back storeroom and returned with a costume. He pulled a short nurse’s cape from the rest of the outfit. It was only waist length, but at least it was black with a red satin lining.

“Here. I can let you have the nurse’s cape and some Dracula teeth. If you slick back your hair, put on a black suit and talk with a Transylvanian accent, you’ll make a passable Dracula.”

Derek narrowed his eyes, but put on the cape. Seeing his reflection in the mirror, he grinned, grabbed a piece of the cape, swung his arm in front of his mouth and spoke in a Transylvanian accent. “Good ideeea. I theenk it will work. I’ll take it.”

Then he turned to Prudence and once again gave his best Bela Lugosi imitation. “I never drink—wine.”

He started to kiss her neck, but Prudence pushed him away laughing, “Sto-op.”

Derek, finally proud of himself, strode to the register to pay. Nussbaum rang him up as Prudence made one last twirl in the mirror.

“I think I’ll just wear this dress home.”

Derek talked over his shoulder as he paid. “Good idea.” He gathered up his costume and the clothes Prudence had been wearing. He turned to her with renewed confidence.

“Well, we’re all set. We’ll just go to my place, scarf down some supper and get me all duded up as Dracula. We can be at my parents’ by eight.” He added to Nussbaum, again in a Transylvanian accent, “Sorry to rush, but we have to fly.”

He put his caped arm around Prudence and together they headed for the door.

Nussbaum barely looked up. “Don’t forget your fangs.”

“Oh, right.” Derek grabbed a small package from the counter and ushered Prudence through the door to the double-ding of the hanging store bell.

Nussbaum ignored them. He opened his laptop computer and mumbled to himself as he typed. “Hyde Funeral Home… Hyde Funeral Home… Yes.”

End Chapter 1

By Michael Lunsford

Select all writings of  Michael Lunsford

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My Life Stories – Grandpa Remembers

Introduction:  I write these stories so they won’t be forgotten …

Excerpt from Book – Prologue 0 to 1929 (Before I was born)

Zayde Kalman Leaves Russia

I come home from school and open the front door with the key that
hangs around my neck on a string.

Mom yells from the kitchen, Is that you, Ronnie?

“Who else would it be?” I yell back as I smell the delicious food she is
cooking for Passover. I go to the bathroom and … whoa … What do I see?
There is a big fish swimming in the bath tub. I scream, “Mom!

Mom comes running with a wooden spoon in her hand and a worried
look on her face. She yells, “What’s wrong? Oh, I see. I didn’t tell you about
the fish. I’ll tell you all about it when you come out of the bathroom.”

I rush out of the bathroom. “Mom, the fish?”

She stirs a pot of chicken soup with a wooden spoon. Then she takes
some Matza dough out of a bowl and shapes it into a ball. After that, she
carefully drops it into the soup so it won’t splash. It smells delicious.

Finally, she says to me. “My mother, your Baba Lena, told me that the
Gefilte Fish tastes better when the fish you use is very fresh. She kept the
fish alive until the very last minute. That’s what I’m doing. I didn’t think you’d
mind going without a bath for a day or two.”

“No, that’s Okay Mom. Speaking of Passover, tell me the story about
how Zayde Kalman told you that you were going to America. It was on
Passover. Wasn’t it?”

“Again, I already told you that story a million times.”

“I know. I just like to hear it.”

“That’s Okay. I kind a’ like telling the story. It was in 1911. We were
living in Odessa, Russia, My father, your Zayde, was thirty eight years old.
He was really handsome, you know, with his straight black hair, parted in
the middle, and his twinkling blue eyes.”

Then she suddenly laughs so hard she is crying.

“What’s so funny, Mom?”

“He was wobbly because he already had three cups of wine for the
Passover Seder. His cheeks were red. He waved his glass in the air and
looked up, like he was talking to God, and said in a voice so loud that God
could hear.”

“On this holiday, we celebrate freedom. Just as Moses led our people
out of slavery in Egypt into freedom in Israel, I am going to lead my family
out of slavery in Russia, into freedom in America.”

Then Mom gets a serious look on her face. She wipes her hands and
dries the tears from her eyes with a towel and goes on with her story.
“My mother, your Baba Lena, gave him a disgusted look.”

Mom stops and looks at me. “Ronnie, do me a favor and get me a fresh
towel, will you please?”

“Sure Mom” I go and get a fresh towel and hand it to her. “What about
Baba Lena? What did she say?”

“Your Baba was thirty three. Her dark brown hair was parted in the
middle and pulled back into a tight bun. She wore a loose fitting gray house
dress and no makeup. She told me that she was taught by her mother that
she shouldn’t look pretty after she was married so she wouldn’t tempt
anybody but her husband.”

“She said to Zayde, ‘Sit down old man. Don’t talk such nahrishkeit.
You’re talking foolish. I can hear the wine in you talking.'”

“Your Zayde looked upset. He really wanted to convince his wife that
they had to leave Russia. He tried something new. He looked at her and
continued. ‘We live in a dangerous city. you know?'”

“Baba shrugged. ‘What’s with the danger? Our neighbors are Jewish?
They’re not going to hurt us.'”

“I could see my Papa getting frustrated. He went on, ‘What you don’t
see is the danger from Turkey. Russia took Odessa away from Turkey in
one of their many wars. Now they are afraid the Turks will invade and take
the city back. Then they would kill all of the Russians living there, just like
the Russians did to the Turks.'”

“‘The Russian people wouldn’t live here at first. That’s why the Czar let
us Jews live here. He could care less if all the Jews got killed. He won’t
let Jews live in any other Russian city. We showed him. We made Odessa
into a very prosperous city. Now the Russians want to live here. He’ll
probably change his mind and kick the Jews out of Odessa too.'”

“Baba stood up and screamed. Her face was red. ‘We can’t leave Russia.                               You have worked hard. We are making a good living from your leather
factory. You are head of the Odessa Communist party. The children
are doing well in school. ‘”

I say to my Mom, “Boy, things got tense.”

Mom answers “Yes, I got scared and changed the subject. I said to
Zayde, “Papa, you once told me you wanted to be a Rabbi. Why did you
change your mind?”

“Then Papa smiled at Rose, my younger sister, and me. He loves us
and we adore him. He waved for us to come to him. He said, ‘Look at my
two Ziese Meydele, my sweet girls, so smart and beautiful.'”

“Then he answered my question. ‘I decided that the Communist Party
will make life better for everyone. We will live in a classless society. The
Russians will not be our enemies. We will be comrades.'”

Mom gets serious again, “Getting back to the story, Your Baba got red
in the face and yelled at Zayde. ‘Why don’t you pay attention to your son,
Chaim? He is only ten years old, yet he helps you in the factory every
day after school. See how handsome he is. He dresses like a grown up.'”

“Chaim, my older brother, your Uncle Herman spoke up. He didn’t want
anybody to talk for him. He said, ‘Rabbi Schwartz, my Bar Mitzvah teacher,
told us there are 150,000 Jews in Odessa. Most of us are doing well.'”

“Baba looked proud as he spoke. ‘We are doing well. That is good.'”

“No,” said Chaim. “Rabbi Schwartz said it’s not good. The Czar is like the
Pharaoh of Egypt. He is afraid that we will join his enemies.”

“‘Pooh, he was just trying to scare us.’ Said Baba Lena.”

“‘No Mama,’ protested Chaim, ‘the Rabbi says the Czar is planning
more Pogroms. He will send the Russian peasants on killing sprees against
the Jews and let them steal their homes and properties. He wants to take
over our businesses and factories and give them to his friends.'”

“Papa got very serious. He told us, ‘The Russian sheriff came to visit
me. He warned me if I didn’t quit my Communist activities, he would
take Chaim into the army when he turned twelve.'”

“Baba turned pale. She was finally convinced we had to leave
Russia. She pulled Chaim over to her and hugged him tight. Chaim looked
scared. He told us, ‘My friend, Hershel Greenbaum, was taken away into the
army last week. His mother Rachel says he was as good as dead. The
family is sitting Shiva. That’s the ceremony for someone who is already
dead. I am too young to die. We have to leave Odessa.'”

“Zayde looked relieved that Baba agreed. ‘We have to do this quietly or
the Sheriff will call in the Cossacks to wreck the, factory. He doesn’t do it
now because I pay him for protection. Boris Karpoff, the head sewing
machine operator, will pay me a few kopeks for the business.'”

Mother continues making Matza Balls. She says “Your Zayde Kalman,
told me how he went to the office of the sheriff, Ivan Ivanovski, the next day.
I’ll tell you the story exactly how my Papa told it to me.”

“Ivan sat there behind an unpainted desk, drinking vodka from a dirty
glass. A red cap with a gold star was on his bald head. A visor shaded his
red nose. His arms were folded across his huge belly, ‘Hello Kalman, You
are my favorite kike. I hope you gave up that Bolshevik activity. I’d hate to
take that smart little Chaim into the army.'”

“He gave Papa a bear hug. Papa could smell Ivan’s body odor and onion
breath. Ivan asked, ‘Did you bring something for me?'”

“Then he asked, ‘How can I he be of service to you, tovarich?'”

“‘I want to take my family on a trip to visit my relatives in Warsaw. Then I
want to go across the border to Berlin to visit my wife’s family.'”

“Ivan bragged, ‘We have a good business arrangement, no? It takes
six months to get such a passport, but I will have yours ready in a week.'”

“Ivan waved goodbye to Papa as he left and said in a loud voice,
‘Dasvidaniya. I will see you soon, tovarich.'”

“Papa waved back and smiled as he whispered through clenched teeth,
‘Dasvidaniya, Tovarich. I will never have to see you again. Never again.'”

Mom finishes making Matza balls as she finishes her story. She turns
off the gas under the soup. She says to me.”Ronnie, you can thank God
we are safe in America and you can thank Zayde for bringing us here.”

Written by  Ron Lever

Select all writings of  Ron Lever

Select biography of  Ron Lever

Writing, from the Art of Seeing

Chapter 9 

by  Bernard Selling

The writing of a motion picture screenplay is both a subtle art form and a maddening craft. By their very nature, screenplays are incomplete, in the same way that plays are incomplete: they provide only the text with which the actors and director must work. Creating a sub-text that breathes life into the screenplay and the film is the job of the actor and director. A job well done by the screenwriter means nothing until the screenplay gets to the screen.

Every writer, whether novelist, short story writer, playwright or screenwriter has three basic tools with which to work: narrative, dialogue and inner thoughts and feelings. The novelist and short story writer must be skilled at narrative, good at dialogue and have the advantage of being able to express inner thoughts and feelings directly.

The screenwriter must be skilled at creating narrative that can be communicated through action and dialogue. His success, however, will derive from the way that he handles inner thoughts and feelings that can seldom be expressed directly. Since a great many scripts are adaptations from novels, short stories and plays, let’s take a look at a classic American short story and see how it might be adapted to the screen. I have in mind Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” An example of American short fiction at its best, “Macomber” was one of Hemingway’s favorites. It was also made into a 1947 movie, Macomber, starring Gregory Peck. The story is typical Hemingway: every moment in the story is a test of a man’s manhood.

In the story, “Macomber,” a handsome, athletic, very rich, rather naïve man goes on safari in Africa, accompanied by his wife and their guide, Wilson. Let’s look at the opening:

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

It was now lunch time and they were all sitting under the double green fly of the dining tent pretending that nothing had happened.

“Will you have lime juice or lemon squash?” Macomber asked.

“I’ll have a gimlet,” Robert Wilson told him.

“I’ll have a gimlet, too. I need something,” Macomber’s wife said.

“I suppose it’s the thing to do,” Macomber agreed. “Tell him to make three gimlets.”

This seems like idle conversation, yes? Except for the line, “…pretending nothing had happened.” What does this line mean? Hemingway goes on:

‘Francis Macomber had, half an hour before, been carried to his tent from the edge of the camp in triumph on the arms and shoulders of the cook, the personal boys, the skinner…he had shaken all their hands, received their congratulations and then gone into his tent and sat on the bed until his wife came in. She did not speak to him when she came in and he left the tent at once…to sit in the shade.’

So the public perception of Macomber is that he has done something to be proud of, but Mrs. Macomber doesn’t share that view. Next, Hemingway describes these characters:

‘Mrs. Macomber looked at Wilson quickly. She was an extremely handsome and wellkept woman of the beauty and social position which had, five years before, commanded five thousand dollars as the price of endorsing, with photographs, a beauty product which she never used. She had been married to Francis Macomber for eleven years.’ (Page 4)

“He’s a good lion, isn’t he?” Macomber said. His wife looked at him now. She looked at both men as though she had never seen them before. One, Wilson, the white hunter, she knew she had never truly seen before. He was about middle height with sandy hair, a stubby mustache, a very red face and extremely cold eyes with faint wrinkles at the corners that grooved merrily when he smiled. He smiled at her now.’ (Page 4)

Francis Macomber was very tall, very well built if you did not mind that length of bone, dark, his hair cropped like an oarsman, rather thin-lipped, and was considered handsome. He was dressed in the same sort of safari clothes that Wilson wore except that his were new, he was thirty-five-years old, kept himself very fit, was good at court games, had a number of big game fishing records and had just shown himself, very publicly, to be a coward.’ (Page 4)

Ah, so there it is. Macomber has shown himself to be a coward. What kind? Since this is a safari—probably a wild animal hunt, we can suppose that Macomber ran from a lion or a rhino. If so, what will the consequences be?

Early in the paragraph Hemingway damns Macomber with faint praise: “if you didn’t mind the length of bone…” (gangly) “thin-lipped…” (unsensual) “…good at court games…” (a too-civilized form of mano-a-mano competition).

“Here’s to the lion,” he (Macomber) said. “I can’t thank you enough for what you did.”

Margaret, his wife, looked away from him and back to Wilson.

“Let’s not talk about the lion,” she said.

Wilson looked over at her without smiling and now she smiled at him.

“Hadn’t you ought to put your hat on, Mr. Wilson…you have a very red face.”

“Drink,” said Wilson.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “Francis drinks a great deal but his face is never red.”

“It’s red today,” Macomber tried to joke.

“No,” said Margaret, “It’s mine that’s red today. But Mr. Wilson’s is always red.”

From this we see that Macomber has done something to be ashamed of, apparently something cowardly, such as running away from danger. In all likelihood, Wilson saved his life and shot the beast. Macomber tries to joke about his cowardice, as if it’s a small thing—maybe it is to Macomber. But it’s a big thing to his wife. She is ashamed. Or is it something else? Perhaps they have a relationship in which each struggles for power and now Mrs. Macomber has the power on her side. It seems that way, from the way she flirts with Wilson.

The two men talk about the natives, Wilson allowing that a good beating every now and then keeps the natives in line. Macomber replies, “We all take a beating every day, you know, one way or the other,” a line suggesting that Mrs. Macomber has been indulging herself in exercising her power over her husband quite often.

Moments later, Macomber says, “I’m awfully sorry about this lion business. It doesn’t have to go any further, does it? I mean no one will hear about it, will they?”

So now we see that Macomber is ashamed of his actions and he doesn’t want the world to hear about them. Or is he? It is an odd line, so–as we say—“on the money.” If we repeat the line to ourselves, remembering that Macomber is a very rich man, one gets the impression he is more concerned about the annoyance of having failed at this sport than the shame. He certainly sounds more matter-of-fact than deeply wounded. Wilson is put off.

“You mean will I tell it at the Mathaiga Club?” Wilson looked at him coldly. “No, I’m a professional hunter. We never talk about our clients. Supposed to be bad form to ask us not to talk, though.”

Hemingway follows with several of lines Wilson’s inner thoughts and feelings:

He had decided now that to break would be much easier. He would eat, then, by himself and could read a book with his meals. They would eat by themselves. He would see them through the safari on a very formal basis—what was it them French called it? Distinguished consideration—and it would be a damn sight easier than having to go through this emotional trash. Insult him and make a good clean break.

“I’m sorry,” Macomber said. “I didn’t realize that. There are a lot of things I don’t know.” So what could he do, Wilson thought. He was all ready to break it off quickly and neatly and here the beggar was apologizing after he had just insulted him. He made one more attempt. “…you know in Africa no woman ever misses her lion and no white man ever bolts.”

A moment later, Macomber says, “I bolted like a rabbit.” He’s matter of fact, honest, strangely non-evasive, as if not ashamed, just nonplused.

Hemingway reveals more of Wilson’s thoughts. Now what in hell were you going to do about a man who talked like that, Wilson wondered.

Wilson looked at Macomber…(who)…had a pleasant smile if you did not notice how his eyes showed when he was hurt.

“Maybe I can fix it up on buffalo,” he (Macomber) said. “We’re after them next, aren’t we?”

Here, the exposition comes to an end. Macomber has shown he is a coward but not a blustering, silly coward–just a matter-of-fact coward, not a man for whom Wilson can summon any contempt.

Mrs. Macomber, however, enjoys her husband’s vulnerability to the fullest, savaging him like a picador teasing a bull before sticking the sword in its shoulders.

“Why not let up on the bitchery just a little Margot,” Macomber said.

“I suppose I could,” she said, “since you put it so prettily.”

So, Robert Wilson thought to himself, she is giving him a ride, isn’t she? Or do you suppose that’s her idea of putting up a good show. How should a woman act when she discovers her husband is a bloody coward? She’s damn cruel but they’re all cruel. They govern, of course, and to govern one has to be cruel sometimes. Still, I’ve seen enough of their damn terrorism.

Before going on to the development of the story, Hemingway takes us into a back-story that allows us to experience—and taste every bit of Macomber’s cowardice in facing the lion.

Returning to the present, Hemingway begins the development section of the story, having Margot to continue Macomber’s humiliation by sleeping with Wilson.

Yet Macomber does not go to pieces. Like one of the animals being stalked, he’s wounded…hurt…but not crippled. Despite her infidelity—which has taken place many times before—he is alert and ready for the hunt.

The next day they engage several buffalo and, though Macomber acquits himself well, the largest one escapes into the bush.

“Then it’s going to be just like the lion,” said Margot full of anticipation. “It’s not going to be a bit like the lion,” Wilson told her. “Did you want another drink, Macomber?”

“Yes, thanks.” Macomber said. He expected to have the feeling he had about the lion to come back but it did not. For the first time in his life he really felt wholly without fear. Instead of fear he had a feeling of definite elation. “Can we go in after him now?” asked Macomber eagerly.

Wilson looked at him appraisingly. Damned if this isn’t a strange one, he thought. Yesterday he (was) scared sick and today he’s a ruddy fire eater.

Wilson tells Macomber they will wait a little while. Hemingway then slips into Macomber’s point of view and stays there for a while.

Macomber felt a wild unreasonable happiness he had never known before.

“By God that was a chase,” he said. “I’ve never had such a feeling. Wasn’t it marvelous, Margot.

“I hated it,” she said bitterly. “I loathed it.”

“You know I don’t think I’ll ever be afraid of anything again,” Macomber said to Wilson. “Something happened in me when we saw that first buff and started after him. Like a dam bursting. It was pure excitement.”

“Cleans out your liver,” said Wilson. “Damn funny things happen to people.”

Macomber’s face was shining. “You know, something did happen to me.”

His wife said nothing and eyed him strangely.

“You know, I’d like to try another lion,” Macomber said. “I’m really not afraid of them now. After all, what can they do to you?”

“That’s it,” said Wilson. “Worst they can do to you is kill you.

It had taken a strange chance of hunting, a sudden precipitation into action without opportunity for worrying before-hand, to bring this about with Macomber, but regardless of how it happened it had most certainly happened. Look at the beggar now, Wilson thought. He liked this Macomber now. Damned strange fellow. Probably meant the end of cuckoldry, too. Well, that would be a damned good thing. He’d seen it in the war work the same way. Fear gone like an operation. Something else grew in its place. Main thing a man had. Women knew it too. No bloody fear.

“You’re both talking rot,” said Margot. “Just because you chase some helpless animals in a motor car you talk like heroes.”

So here we have it. In this struggle for power, Margot had always gotten the upper hand—their reason for staying together. She stayed in order to assert her power. He stayed because he had to find what it would take to release him from her death grip around his neck—to find his balls. So now the question remains: what will happen in the next four pages? Will Macomber prove himself as capable and fearless as he believes? How will Margot handle it.

…the gun bearer shouted wildly and they saw him coming out of the bush sideways, fast as a crab, and the bull coming , nose out, mouth tight closed, blood dripping, massive head straight out, coming in a charge, his little pig eyes blood-shot as he looked at them. Wilson who was ahead was kneeling shooting, and Macomber, as he fired, unhearing his shot in the roaring of Wilson’s gun, saw fragments like slate burst from the huge boss of the horns, and the head jerked, he shot again at the wise nostrils and saw the horns jolt again…and aiming carefully, shot again with the buffalo’s huge bulk almost on him and his rifle almost level with the on-coming head.

Wilson had ducked to one side to get in a shoulder shot. Macomber had stood solid and shot for the nose, shooting a touch high each time and hitting the heavy horns, splintering and chipping them, and Mrs. Macomber, in the car, had shot at the buffalo with the 6.5 Mannlicher as it seemed about to gore Macomber and had hit her husband about two inches up and a little to one side of the base of his skull.

So this is Hemingway’s solution to what happens after Macomber’s emancipation. His wife sees to it that he pays the price. As she cries hysterically, Wilson comes up to her:

“That was a pretty thing to do,” he said in a toneless voice. “He would have left you too.”

“Stop it,” she said.

She repeats this over and over.

“Oh, please stop it,” she said. “Please, please stop it.”

“That’s better,” Wilson said. “Please is much better. Now I’ll stop.” Wilson sees this as a game in which Macomber had been stalked all right, but not by the wild African game he no longer feared. And while he had grown to fear his wife no longer, she had not ceased her hunt. If she couldn’t wound him any longer, she at least could kill him—all because, with her beauty fading, her power was ebbing before her eyes.

***

How might we translate parts of this story into the language of the motion picture. Let’s look at the beginning, this time cast in motion picture script format.

 ———-

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

EXT. AFRICAN DESERT – TENT — DAY

On a vast plain of the Serengeti Desert, several small tents dot an oasis. Two Land Rovers sit behind the tents, as the “beaters” eat their lunch at some remove from two men and a woman who sit beneath the fly of the dining tent.

EXT. UNDER THE TENT FLAP

A tall man leans back in his chair. He is Francis Macomber, rich, wealthy, mid-forties. A sportsman. Next to him sits his wife, Margot, a once-beautiful woman, now a bit lined in the face. Across from them sits the guide, Robert Wilson, middle height, and red-faced from living outdoors all his adult life.

MACOMBER:  Will you have lime juice or lemon squash?

WILSON:  I’ll have a gimlet.

MARGOT MACOMBER:  I’ll have a gimlet, too. I need something.

MACOMBER: I suppose it’s the thing to do. Tell him to make three gimlets.

This is the scene almost exactly as Hemingway wrote it. The physical descriptions, the dialogue, everything. Except that it means nothing. The most pregnant line in the beginning, “…they were all sitting under the double green fly of the dining tent pretending that nothing had happened,” has not been dealt with in any way. Consequently, there is no opening.

Let’s start by asking ourselves what each character wants. According to Hemingway, Macomber is here to shoot lions. But we realize that, in reading the story, he’s here for some other reason. His wife taunts him as she has done in the past. So he’s looking for a way to get past her taunts. And perhaps her taunts serve a purpose—to goad him into facing what he has never faced: his basic cowardice.

So that’s what he wants: to gain his manhood.

And that’s what she wants: to remind him of his smallness, his insignificance, his impotence. Is that what she wants, really? No, the author has something else in mind.

What does she really want? To feel powerful. Yes, that’s it.

Having used her beauty all her life to get what she wants, she knows her power lies in her face and her figure. But now that both are fading into middle-aged wrinkles—and that her husband looks a hell of a lot better than she does, she must find some other way to feel powerful. Yes, that’s good. How does she go about it? By reminding Macomber of his impotent insignificance. Thus he will stay close because she’s smarter and stronger. Uh huh, that’ll work.

What does Wilson want? We know from the story, he loves the opportunity to match wits with and to test the mettle of wild animals. He also loves bailing these “sporty” fellows out of trouble, and bagging their wives, if the occasion warrants, as his bounty for saving their skins. So he wants to feel superior to these rich people. But if a man, who has shown himself to be a cowardly sort, suddenly turns out to be ready to test his mettle in some earnest way, Wilson will give him all the credit in the world. So his secret desire is to help men become men, as would a top sergeant who brings his infantry troops to the front lines for the first time.

What does he want? To free men of their cowardice? Yes, good.

So if Macomber want to find his manhood, running away feels bad, feels like a defeat, or perhaps he’s trying to overcome some inability to focus when panic surfaces. How would we express this in action and dialogue.

* * *

EXT. UNDER THE TENT FLAP

Francis Macomber leans back in his chair. Rich, wealthy, mid-forties, a sportsman with a surprising innocence about him. His smooth cheeks and bright eyes suggest a man who has not been out in the sun more than necessary. Next to him sits his wife, a once beautiful woman, now a bit lined in the face, who has been out in the sun too often. Across from them sits the guide, Robert Wilson, middle height, and red-faced from living outdoor all his adult life, coupled with a pint of whisky at the end of each day.

A servant brings them vodka gimlets, frosted, out here in the desert.

MACOMBER: (raising his glass) A toast.

MARGOT MACOMBER: (giving him a look) How you do love your toasts.

WILSON: I’m in. He lifts his glass, just barely. Macomber clinks his glass against his wife’s.

MACOMBER: To Mr. Wilson. A crack shot.

MARGOT MACOMBER: (eying Wilson) Umm, yes. A crack shot. Put it right where he wanted it. I suppose you’re always pretty much on target, aren’t you Mr. Wilson?

Macomber’s eyes narrow as he gives her a look. Wilson catches their look.

WILSON: Paid to do it, Mrs. Paid to do it.

MARGOT: My husband’s a crack shot, aren’t you, dear?

Macomber eyes her, holding back something.

MACOMBER: (shrugging) No one’s perfect, my dear. Margot leans toward Wilson. MARGOT: A perfectly wonderful shot, Mr. Wilson. Yours, I mean. A work of art I should say, you—standing there waiting —until the last moment. Then Pow! The crack of the rifle. Down it goes, poor helpless, frightened beast.

She gives Macomber’s arm a patronizing pat.

MACOMBER: (shrugging) Helpless, eh? (looking up) Tomorrow, Mr. Wilson? He clinks Wilson’s gimlet glass. Wilson who has closed his eyes to the two of them, awakens with the slow rattle of a snake uncoiling.

WILSON: Tomorrow, Mr. Macomber? I should have thought You might want to wait a day. Gather yourself.

MARGOT: (laughing) Oh, you know how we Americans are. Fall off a horse, get right back on. We’re taught that from birth.

Wilson, fully awake now, sizes up the two of them. He downs his gimlet.

WILSON If you’ll excuse me. (getting up) Tomorrow, eh?

He gets up, taking his gimlet glass with him, walks over to where the “beaters” are eating and tosses the glass to an elderly black man who washes dishes.

SERVANT: (laughing, showing rotten teeth) Americans, boss?

WILSON: (shrugging) Americans. They say the women all have one breast— So they can draw back the bow string a little better.

He motions as if to draw a bow string across his chest and shoot an arrow then swings around as if to send it into the servant’s heart. They laugh.

EXT. TENT

Macomber plays with a hunting knife he has drawn from its case on his belt. He picks up a stick and begins to carve until it has a sharp point.

MACOMBER: I thought we agreed you’d were to stop playing the bitch, Margot.

MARGOT: Does the queen take her pawns off the board, just because the bishop whines in her ear?

He takes the stick he has been whitling and runs in under her chin. She looks a little startled, even worried.

MACOMBER: Nice chin. I should say, a very nice chin. If anyone ever said, ‘Macomber your wife is losing her looks,’ I would answer them, ‘On the contrary, she has never looked more beautiful than at this moment.

She gives him a cold look, gets up from the table and stalks into their tent. Macomber gets up from the table and wanders over to Wilson who is packing rifles, ammo and the rest of their kit in one of the vehicles.

MACOMBER: (sotto) I say Mr. Wilson….Eh, no one needs to hear about what happened this afternoon, do they?

WILSON: We never talk of these things, guides I mean.

MACOMBER: (musing) Ran like a rabbit, I did.

WILSON: Wouldn’t think much on it, governor. Or talk about it. Macomber shrugs as he turns and looks out at the desert.

INSERT – Macomber points his rifle at a lion some distance away, but never fires. The lion races toward Macomber, who turns and runs for the bushes. A shot rings out. Macomber turns and sees the lion drop at his feet. Macomber is covered with sweat, his eyes filled with fear. Over and over again those eyes brimming with fear.

INT—TENT – NIGHT

Macomber rolls over restlessly then suddenly awakens at the sound of footsteps. He opens his eyes as Margot enters, disheveled, straightening her hair.

MACOMBER My God, Margot. It’s practically morning.

MARGOT: Go to sleep.

MACOMBER: You said you were done with that kind of thing. She takes off her shirt, revealing her well-toned shoulders and arms, full bosom and slim waist. She drops her trousers, no longer hiding a pair of lacy panties that cling to her very shapely bottom. Leaning over, her butt practically in Macomber’s face, she pulls open the bedding on her cot and climbs under the blanket.

MARGOT: Sleep well, Francis. You have a big day coming up tomorrow, don’t you? (suppressing a throaty laugh) Tomorrow—. Ummm.

She smiles to herself, pleased, and falls asleep. In the background, Macomber stares at the top of the tent from his cot. No sleep for this man.

* * *

As we evaluate the job we’ve done on this section of the story, we must consider six questions:

Q: Have we reduced this 37 page story into a much shorter screenplay or a longer feature length screenplay?

A: So far we are doing well. These ten pages of short story have been compressed into four pages of script. That’s a plus.

Q: Have we been faithful to Hemingway’s intent?

A: We have established what each one wants: Macomber to test his manhood again, Margot to make him pay for all the ways in which he has failed her, imagined or not, Wilson plays a waiting game.

Q: Have we found a way of keeping the inner thoughts and feeling of the characters present through dialogue and action.

A: Wilson’s inner thoughts and feelings are difficult to reveal in a story such as this so they must be externalized somehow. Thus the moment with the elderly black man—“Americans”.

Q: Have we managed to keep the dialogue interesting, that is, have we kept the dialogue from being too much “on the money” (obvious).

A: We’ve kept alive the sense that something went wrong and these people are reacting to it, trying to make everything normal, as happened in the story, but on the other hand Margot is not going to let an opportunity like this go by unchallenged.

Q: Are the character qualities of the actors faithful to the author’s intent and do these qualities still work to make the story interesting.

A: We’ve kept alive Macomber’s sense of innocence, his singular focus on getting his manhood back “tomorrow.” We’ve kept Margo’s sly bitchiness in sight as well. “Always on target, Mr. Wilson?” Wilson remains slightly contemptuous, but open to possibilities—to Margot’s in-your-face infidelity as well as Macomber’s intent on righting his ship and proving he’s a man.

Q: If we’ve made changes, do they work in behalf of the story?

A: The changes we’ve made have been in the direction of shortening the dialogue while keeping Hemingway’s sense of characters in conflict. A film has a life of its own so being too faithful to a book or story can be a drawback. But if we move too far away, we lose the feel of Hemingway’s life experience. Hopefully we’ve found a happy medium.

We have made every effort to create a script from which actors and directors can draw upon their talents to bring the conflicts into focus. At the same time, the script must be visual enough and sufficiently readable that a producer will be satisfied that the script will serve his purposes: to raise money and excite the right talent to want to work on the project.

The End

by Bernard Selling

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Confessions of a Wanker – Book 1, Chapter 3

Athletes and Growing Pains

It’s a short bike ride down Low Hall Lane from our road, past the war time allotments where neighbors still grow vegetables, to the green playing fields and swings of St. James Park.  To the left of the park is the smelly ugliness of the city dump, a sad place where poor wretches rummage through trash for items to repair and sell.  Its slim pickings for them as the dustmen always bag anything of value for themselves from outside the homes.  Behind the rear park fence there is a strip of land, filled with overgrown trees and bushes that we call the jungle, it’s where we built our gang hideout.  To cross the Amazon River we balance across a fallen tree trunk, if we slip alligators will eat us. In truth we would die of the stink, it’s an open sewer.  Beyond the jungle the city used trash fill and dirt to build a sports area; football fields, cricket pitches, and a running track.

Danny uses the cricket field as an escape from his battling parents, he’s a good batter.  At the start of our second year, he tells me to try out for the team as a bowler.

Mr. Stanton, our cricket master, stands three feet from the wicket, and says he’ll “kill two birds with one stone” and watch my bowling, and Danny’s batting stroke.  At twelve I have never actually bowled.  I’ve seen cricket matches on TV, and feel I am destined to be a world’s best bowler.  My run-up is perfect.  My right arm rotates smoothly over my shoulder and the ball leaves my hand at incredible speed.  Unfortunately, my aim is exactly three feet to the right of Danny’s bat, and the rock-hard leather cricket ball strikes Mr. Stanton in the crotch.  By his screams I know have totally demolished his family jewels.  I run to where he is reeling on the grass.

“Sorry, sir!”  I say.  “Slipped out of me ‘and.  Do ya want me to ‘ave anover go?”

In a female voice he answers, “Another go?  Are you mad?  You’re out of cricket!”

I walk off the field feeling like a right wanker.

So ended what might have been a promising career as a cricketer.

Wills who cares! I think. Cricket is as boring as watching paint dry on a bloody fence.

I’m transferred into field and track, along with Dave, Eddy, and the other cricket dropouts.  With the shortage of teachers, Stanton is the coach for field and track and cricket.  He spends five minutes at the track, and then we never see him again.

Being dedicated teenagers, we always run one lap before heading for the stands to

play cards.  It’s been an unlucky week for me, I’m down three shilling.  I’m late, riding my bike as fast as it will go, I pray my luck will change.  As I approach the others, surrounding Mr. Stanton, I smile.  Dave is wearing cutoff work trousers, black leather shoes and a black sweater.  The twins look as if their mother dressed them from a rummage sale:  Bernard is wearing a silky blue shirt and a pair of khaki army trousers. Gilbert, is wearing an army shirt and a pair of tight red shorts, that I swear are women’s.  Ed’s football socks are pulled up above his knees, overlapped by white shorts that look two sizes too big.  I feel very out of place in my dad’s long white cricket trousers and starched white shirt.  Mother insists I must look the part to carry on me father’s achievements on the cricket pitch.  I’m too ashamed to tell them I was kicked off the cricked team.  So I run wearing my dad’s cricket whites.

“Wel1 boys,” Stanton says, “you will represent our school at the County Games.”

My heart sinks “But Mr. Stanton, we can’t” I protest!

“You can and will, or you´ll get a fail for PE on your report card.  And remember, I also teach you idiot’s social studies, which you’ll also fail, if you don’t at least place at the Interschool Games!” With a smug grin, he turns and walks off

“What a prick!” I say, and stick me tongue out to his back.

“No, he ain’t a prick”‘ Dave says. “A prick’s useful!  ‘e’s a bleeding blackmailer.  But ‘e ‘as all the bloody aces!  So I guess we’re the bloody field and track team. ”

“But we don’t know ‘nuffing about all that stuff,” Eddy says.

“Then we’ll learn, and learn bloody quick.” Dave says firmly.  “The games are in ten weeks and I don’t want us to look like the wankers what Stanton ‘finks we are.”

“Dave what do ya ‘fink our chances are of winning one of them races?” Eddy asks.

“I would say about a million to bloody one!”

“Oh, that’s OK then” Eddy says, “cause I didn’t “fink we really stood a chance.”

 

We all meet at the track at six A.M, two hours to practice before school starts.

“All right you idiots,” Dave yells.  “As none of us knows our ‘idden talents in field and track, I want ya to line up.  When I say go, run as fast and as far as you can!”

“Fuck ya Dave! I say.  “It’s too bloody cold, and too bloody early to be running.”

“Little Alan’s cold is ‘e.” Dave says with a sneer.  “Then run so you’ll get warm.”

Eddy takes off like a rocket.  Being heaver and taller, it takes me a while to get going.       Seeing the others sitting on the grass, I run all the way around the track then join them.

“Alright!” Dave says, “Eddy, you’re quick off the mark, so ya take the ‘undred-yard dash, plus the standing broad jump.  Alan, the two-twenty and four-forty yard runs.  Ya two twins ain’t very fast, and ya look like a couple of bloody fairies tip-toeing through the bleeding tulips.  But ya did keep going, so ya can join Alan and Eddy in relay races.  But, mark my words ya two wankers.  I’ll punch ya lights out if ya don’t do well in the Interschool Games. As for me!” tall, slim Dave says, “I’m built for the high jump, and long jump.  Be no problem, ‘cause I’ve watched both of ‘em on the telly.”

 

We meet every morning, evenings, and weekends, but have little improvement.  We work hard for two hours then collapse in a group on the grass sweating and panting.

Out of breath. I say “Dave, we’re wasting … our bloody … time!”

“You lot are not motivated,” Dave says. “I got the winning times from last years games from old Stanton.  We’re gonna race for green!”

“Oh!” I say, “So where’s this money coming from? It don’t grow on trees ya know!”

“We’re gonna nick it from our mum’s handbags.  Then we’ll each ante-up a pound in the pot.  The one what gets closest to winning will get the big five pound prize.”

 

We meet Mr. Stanton at six A.M. then board the red double-decker bus.  Each of us really looks the part.  Mr. Stanton had borrowed matching blue shorts and shirts from his old school.  Getting off the bus, the white columned Grecian style South West Essex Tech looms up in front of us.  We walk in silence to the running track.  I know we’ve trained hard, for the entire ten weeks, but I have huge butterflies in me gut.  Entering the field I see hundreds of real field and track athletes from the richer schools, limbering up.  All my butterflies form a squadron then fly upwards. I swallow and close my lips to stop from throwing up. Hoping it will calm my nerves I head for the loo to have a quick wank.

I take second in the four-forty and third in the two-twenty.  Dave steps over the line and is disqualified from the long jump. His long legs place him second in the high jump.   We could have won the relay, but one of the twins refused to let go of the relay baton, and Eddy dragged him about thirty feet around the track. We came in third.

Eddy shocks us all by winning the hundred-yard dash, breaking the county record.  He tells us, “When the gun went off, I let a very wet fart, and was afraid of pooping me shorts so I ran like hell for the finish line, and the W.C.”  He won the five pound prize!

On Monday, all five of us go up on stage, in the assembly hall after morning prayers.

“Jolly good show chaps!” The headmaster says. “These five boys showed courage, determination, plus physical fitness at the Interschool Games. So give them a big hand.” The applause is deafening.  “Heed their example!” He continues as the applause dies down “They were the underdogs and finished with flying colors, Eddy Sells breaking the county record.” thunderous applause starts again, and cuts off the Headmaster’s voice.

The five pounds made it fun, but I ‘fink the ‘fing what made us achieve the unachievable was our Cockney pride, to show Mr. Stanton that we ain’t no wankers.

 

Maureen Miller, who is labeled semi-easy, approaches me after the assembly.

“ ’ello Alan…., me name’s Maureen.” She says coyly. “Congratulations, ya’re one of our school ‘eros.   I’ve wanted to talk to ‘ya fa so long, but I was too shy.”  Wearing a black bra beneath a white low cut blouse, she looks as shy as an alligator in a duck pond.

“Oh, Maureen!  Glad to meet ya.” I say, unable to keep my eyes out of her cleavage.

She offers to take me to a movie.  Considering my empty pockets, I gladly accept.

As we sit down in the back row, a huge bar of Cadbury chocolate flashes on the screen.  The movie then proceeds to show Cadbury’s factory, and how chocolate is made.

“So what’s the main movie, then, Maureen?”

“This is it!” she says, looking down.”

“A bloody movie about Cadburys?”

“Yeah! I got the tickets for free, from a bloke outside Woolworth’s.”

“Christ, Maureen! I ‘fought ya was taking me to a real bloody movie.”

“Now, now, don’t get pissed off.  I’ll throw me raincoat over us, ya can cop a feel.”

My hand slipped inside her bra, and I’m titing-her-up!  Unexpectedly, I feel her hand touching the head of my “Pride and Joy” through my trousers.  I feel embarrassed that she knows how excited I am.  Wills, I think, ya mates will never believe this!

“Do ya wan’ta put ya ‘and up me skirt?” she whispers, nibbling on my ear lobe.

“Not ‘alf!” I pull my hand from her bra. Holding my breathe I gingerly slip it between her legs, under her tartan skirt, and feel the softness of her inner thigh.  I stop knowing I’m about to touch that forbidden place. I think, Wills, you could be the first of the boys to actually touch what we have talked about for so long?But ‘ow can ‘ya prove it to ‘em?

“What you two up to?” a voice says from behind a blinding light.  It’s the usher.

“Oh, nuffing, sir,” I say, removing me hand. “We put the coat over us …It’s cold!”

“Do ya see stupid idiot written on me forehead?” he says, shining the light in my eyes.

“You two buggers are doing nasties in me cinema! I’m going to call ‘ya parents.”

I jump up, grab Maureen’s hand, push the usher across the aisle, and we run from the theater.  We don’t stop running till we reach the bottom of High Street.

At the theater there was a tray of free samples,  Maureen helped herself to two bars. At her house, she takes them from her handbag, and hands one to me.

“I’m five minutes late, me dad’ll kill me,” she says. “Sorry we don’t ‘ave time to finish what we started, but I’ll make it up to ya on our next date.  I’ll eat me Cadbury’s in bed, and ‘fink of you, Alan. She kisses me hard, and is gone through her front door.

It all happens so quick that I stand there feeling as useless as spare prick at a wedding.  On me way home I think of her soft smooth thighs while I eat the chocolate, and have to stop down an ally for a quick wank.  Finish what we started. I think,  does she mean?

 

Saturday morning. I awake early, and remember putting my hand up Maureen skirt. My pride and joy is making a tent of the sheets. I take care of it, into my handkerchief.       Then I run up our street to Dave’s house, and pound on the door. His dad lets me in. Without a word, I bound up the stairs, two at a time, and burst into Dave’s bedroom.

“Wake up, Dave! I bloody did it. Wake up, for Christ sake.”

Slowly he sits up and rubs his eyes. “What’s all the bloody fuss about then?”  Getting out of bed, he slides a chamber pot from beneath, and takes a pee in front of me.

“I bloody did it.” I yell  “I put me bloody ‘and all the way up Maureen Miller’s skirt.”

Dave says, “So!  Every boy in school ‘as got a little stink-finger from ‘er!”

I’m crushed.  That dirty slut!  I think.

Wills, I ‘ope ya didn’t touch ‘er ‘fing! Cause ya fingers could turn black and fall off!

At school Maureen Miller tries to talk to me, without a word I walk away in disgust.  Now I’m definitely sworn off birds, and pledge to just hang out with me mates.  Next time we all go to the cinema I have to have a bar of Cadbury’s.  It recaptures the memory of Maureen Miller’s soft, smooth inner thigh.  I head for the loo to relive the tension.  After, I walk back to where me mates are seated.  However, I don’t feel that wonderful old feeling like floating up to heave, it’s like I’m left still wanting.

 

It’s now a year later and we all seem to have changed dramatically.  At fourteen Dave’s voice suddenly jumps three octaves.  It goes from the high shrill of a girl being goosed in a crowd to the deep tones of a radio sports announcer.

Eddy, who insists we now call him Ed, says when he looked in the mirror one morning, he discovered his hands and feet had almost doubled in size.  He says that’s why he keepings his hands in his pockets. We all know he’s playing pocket billiards.

Danny’s face and neck have become even more infested with acne. His favorite pastime is squeezing whiteheads that splatter onto the mirror in the boy’s toilet.  He collects his blackheads in a matchbox, to grosses out the girls on the school playground.  During this pitted-face period the same policeman who caught him sniffing girls’ bicycle seats, and let him off with just a warning, has now arrested him.  It appears he had shinnied-up a drain pipe outside the municipal baths to ogle women undressing.  The policeman would normally just shake his finger, call him a dirty little sod, and send him on his way.  However, this time Danny was holding on the drain-pipe with one hand and amusing himself by abusing himself with the other.  The story flew around our school, he is now called the “World’s Wildest Wanker.” Dave predicts, Danny will be the one to start a new club called  “Sex Without Partners.”

As for myself, I am getting much taller plus suffering many of the same teenage growing aches and pains, my legs always ache.  My mates attribute this to me standing while wanking in front of the toilet.  How dare they suggest such a thing!  I absolutely deny it! But I have change to a seated position.

End of Chapter 3

By Alan Wills

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Confessions of a Wanker – Book 2, Chapter 42

The Dreaded Miss Heathcliff

When I arrive at the store, at five-thirty P.M, I see Danny at his workbench; head slumped down over a typewriter. I know Miss Heathcliff is running him ragged.  He has been looking very tired and very pale lately.

“You asleep on the bloody job Danny?”

“I ain’t feeling so ‘ot, me old mate.”

“I’ll get you a glass of water.” I say and head for the loo.

Running water always makes me want to pee, but I hold it, as I’m worried about Danny. I rush back, give him the water and an aspirin, and he says he’s feeling better. I rush back to the loo and take a piss. A faint smile  crosses my face remembering the many times before at work when I’d have a quick wank.

Wills, I think, how can you have such thoughts when Danny needs you!

     Was only a bloody passing thought, I did wank did I!

When I return I’m shocked to find Danny passed out on the floor. I scream at Dave “Help me!”

We lie Danny in the back of the van, and I drive as fast as I can to Connault Hospital.  On the drive I think everything through, what’s the worst thing this could mean.  If Danny’s hospitalized I will have to take leave from Stanwood’s, to run the typewriter business. Better still, if I was in hospital Stanwood would pay me. With this in mind I check Danny in as Alan Wills. The nurse in the emergency room says she thinks Danny has pneumonia and admits him.

The next morning I awake early, and have no intention of going to work at Stanwood, but instead head to our store. I call the hospital. They confirm that it is pneumonia, and that he will be confined to the hospital from one to three weeks.  I call Stanwood’s and talk to my manager.  “I’m sorry, Mr. Grey. I must have been overdoing it trying to sell off all those trade-ins as quickly as possible for you. Well I’m at Connault Hospital, and they say I have pneumonia, and that I will be confined here for at least three weeks.”

“Dear me, Alan, that’s very serious. Pneumonia can be very nasty. You look after yourself. Get lots of rest. Don’t worry about the trade-ins, they’ll still be here when you get back. Be sure to bring us your discharge papers when you are released from the hospital. Good luck old chap.”

I feel less pressure now that I have time to run our businesses. Although I can clean and do minor adjustments on typewriters, Danny is the mechanic.  It’s just two days since he went into the hospital, and a vicious typewriter gremlin has taken over at the Swift Shirt Company.

It’s now a week Danny has been in the hospital. I have been called to the Swift Shirt Company every day, and I now have ten machines in the shop that need major work. Consequently all ten loaner typewriters are now at Swift. Danny, being a competent mechanic is usually able to repair the typewriters on the spot. Therefore, we had never before used more than one or two loaners a month.  Since we are out of loaners, I pray that Danny will be back to work before another typewriter bites the dust.

Have you ever noticed that your prayers sometimes fall on deaf ears? Or, even worse, that the horned feller, carrying the oversized toasting fork, and wearing the red suit, intercepts them.

Today I receive a call from guess who, at Swift Shirt.

“Hello, Mr. Wills.  This is Miss Heathcliff from the Swift Shirt Company.  An inordinate number of our machines seem to be malfunctioning.  We now have two more that are totally out of commission.  Can you come right away?”  Miss Heathcliff asks, sounding like a stern English schoolmarm.

“Oh yes, Miss Hea’fcliff.  I’ll be right there. Don’t you worry?”

Out of commission was an understatement.  Both machines are seized up tighter than a duck’s ass, and that’s watertight.  I do everything I can with my limited experience, plus some calculated, out of desperation taps with my hammer.  I even close my eyes and talk to the big mechanic in the sky.  But I guess he must have been out tuning harps or something, as I get no reply.  So I pluck up the courage and head for Miss Heathcliff’s office. Anticipating her fury, I gingerly tap at her door, hoping she won’t hear.

“Come! Come!” she yells, in a sergeant-majors voice.

“Yes, Mr. Wills?” her loud voice startles me back to reality, as I enter.

“Well, Miss Hea’fcliff, your two typewriters are sick and will have to go to the hospital,” I say, trying to make light of the situation. But, judging by the deafening silence, my humor fell on deaf ears.

“So why are you telling me? Just install two replacement typewriters and be on your way. I’m a very busy woman you know!”

“Well, you see, that’s the problem.  I don’t have two more loaners.”

“What?” she bellows like a water buffalo in heat. “What? You don’t carry adequate replacement machines? Mr. Wills, Swift Shirt Company is the largest shirt manufacturer in Great Britain.  We type hundreds of invoices, labels, and letters every day.  We must have those typewriters in working order, at once!”

“Oh yes! I totally understand, Miss H.”  Again it went as quiet as if someone had brought a ham into a kosher kitchen.  She tilts her head back thrusting her nose in the air.

“My name is Miss Heathcliff, and I’ll thank you to remember that, young man!”

“Yes, of course!  I mean, whatever you say, Miss Heathcliff.”  I almost bow as I shuffle backwards, then bump into the doorpost “I’m sorry. I…”Christ! She must think me a real idiot apologizing to the doorpost. I half open the door and make a hasty retreat.

I have only been back at the shop for fifteen minutes, and haven’t even started to look at the two typewriters, when the phone rings. I just know it’s old thunder thighs.

“Mr. Wills, this is Miss Heathcliff.  Are those two typewriters ready?”

“Well, not quite.  You see, me partner, Danny, is in the hospital and…”

“Now, you listen, and listen good!  I don’t care about your petty problems.  You get me two typewriters NOW! Or I will see to it that your contract with the Swift Shirt Company is revoked.  Do you completely understand?  Do I make myself clear? Mr. Wills?”

“Right, yes, very clear!  Clear as a bell, Miss Heath…..”

She hangs up in my ear, something that’s now not new to me, but it still makes me mad. I kick the solid wood leg of the workbench and hurt my foot.  Hobbling around, I call her everything but a lady.  I decide to phone Danny at the hospital, to consult with him about how to repair the typewriters.

“I’m so sorry,” says a sympathetic sounding nurse.  “Your friend developed appendicitis, and has been sedated and rushed to surgery.  But you will be able to visit him in a day or so.”

Why me, God?  When I was young I went to church, sort of regular, was a Boy Scout helped old ladies across the road, and even carried the Union Jack flag in church.  You know, sometimes I did fake singing hymns but it was really in your best interest. You of all people know I have a lousy voice. Oh, and I guess You know about me using the money me mum gave me for the collection plate, to buy peanut brittle from Mrs. Strut’s sweetshop.  But even so, don’t You think losing the money on the fairing business was repayment enough?  Let’s make a deal.  You get me out of this scrape with the bloody typewriters and I’ll go to church regularly, or at least semi regularly.

It becomes really quiet in the shop and I wait, for what I’m not sure.

OK, God, I’ll donate ten percent of the Swift Shirt contract money to the poor. Again I wait and listen. So how about fifteen percent? Oh, yes! I forgot that you have turned a deaf ear to Alan Wills this month. So is this the payback for my illegal deeds my mother warned me about?

Instantly the phone rang.  Realizing that God communicates in strange ways, I grab for it in hope.

“Mr. Wills, this is Miss Heathcliff from the Swift Shirt Company.  Are you there?”

“Oh yes, I was just expecting someone else!”

“You remember me, don’t you?”

“Oh YES! Of all people how could I forget you, Miss Heathcliff?”

“Well, Mr. Wills, our main duplicating machine won’t print and it’s the only one that will make legal size copies.  Can you come right away?”

“I’ll be there before you know it, Miss Heathcliff!”

“Will you be bringing the two typewriters with you?”

“Now, what’s more important”, I hedge, “the duplicating machine or the typewriters?”

“The duplicating machine!  My boss is in a big meeting with the solicitors and must have copies within the hour.”

“Be there quick as a wink, Miss H… I mean Heathcliff.”

I take the back off the huge, old, duplicating machine, and I can’t believe my eyes.  Before me is what I can only describe as a frightening conglomeration of gears, rollers, and strange devices.  Devices, I might add, that my four years of electronics school had never remotely touched on.  I experience the fear of a coal miner being asked to perform brain surgery.

I take a deep breath and try to compose myself.  Wills, let’s consider the factsYou are not stupidYou have passed every practical exam for electronics and TV repair.  Tape recorders and record changers never give you a problem, and they are mechanical devices. This is just another device. A scary device, I’ll grant you, but still only a big mechanical device. A man designed it, a man built it and servicemen no smarter than you repair it.

That’s right, I think.  So what am I worried about?  I’d better get busy and repair it before the old battle axe, Miss Heath-bloody-cliff, returns.

I am just becoming more relaxed, when suddenly, my long screwdriver hits something and there is a big FLASH, and a BANG! Then all the lights in the office go out.

As the door opens, I didn’t need to look up to know who is standing there.

“Mr. Wills! What on earth have you done? I heard this enormous explosion and all the lights went out in the offices.”

“Yes, I heard that too. Must be something outside!  A power outage or something.”

“Power outage, my foot!  You blew all the fuses! Are you qualified to work on the duplicating machine?”

“Qualified? I’m overqualified!  City and Guilds degree and a five-year apprenticeship.  This box of tricks is a piece of cake. That fuse had nothing to do with what I’m doing, but I’ll be glad to go down in the basement and check the fuses for you, Miss Heathcliff.”

Once at the fuse box I quickly jump the blown fuse with a piece of solid wire that a bomb couldn’t blow,

Back behind the monster, duplicating machine, I know that I must repair it or Miss Heathcliff will definitely see to it that our contract is cancelled.

As I work I fantasize; Miss Heathcliff inviting me into her office. “Lock the door young man’, she commands, standing there wearing one of those old fashioned corsets with the bone ribs.  She also is wearing navy blue, knee length fleecy school bloomers, and holds a school cane in her hand. “Take me, and save your contract,” she’d say, ripping the corset apart with both hands. I pictured her huge boobs hitting her knees, and I shudder.  Boy, do I understand why she is still a bloody Miss. I shake my head to focus.

As I delve deeper into this mystery box of tricks, I gain newfound confidence.  Although it is messy, with greasy gears and inky rollers, it disassembles quite easily.  I carefully lay out the millions of springs, levers, drive-belts and ‘C’ clips in order on a table next to the duplicator.  So far, I have not found a problem, so I decide to delve deeper, which requires removing a large metal screening box. After I remove all the retaining screws, the box will still not come loose. Gently I tap it with the handle of my large, fuse-blowing, screwdriver.  It appears to move, so I tap it a little harder and it moves again.  Placing a hand on either side of the box, I give it a huge pull.  Unexpectedly, it comes off with such ease that I stumble backwards, knocking over the wood table.  Rollers, gears, springs, clips, levers and a thousand unknown parts go flying everywhere.  Before the last part hits the floor, Miss Heathcliff is at the door.

“Mr. Wills! In exactly five minutes, Mr. Witherspoon, my boss and Director of this company, will expect me to hand him copies of his legal papers.  Do you understand?  I must have those copies or it will be my job. What do you think, Mr. City and Guilds with five years apprenticeship?”

Once again in my life something or someone is working my mouth. Even I can’t believe what I hear coming out, “What do I think, Miss Heathcliff?  I think you’d better start looking for another job!”

As you might guess, we lose the Swift Shirt contract.  Danny, still in the hospital, is fit to be tied. He tries to get on the good side of Miss Heathcliff, by sending her flowers and a very nice “Sorry we fucked up” note. But we have not heard from her.

I try to console Danny by telling him “You did everything he could to get on her good side. But that old battle axe obviously doesn’t have a good side, Danny!”

End of Chapter 42

By Alan Wills

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Select biography of  Alan Wills

 

 

 

The Witch Lineage

The storylines that drive the young adult thriller, The Witch Lineage, are the fight between two warring witch covens in Morro Bay, California, a geeky girl in love with the high school hero, and an unstoppable sorceress set to form a powerful alliance. Will either coven kill to bring the supreme witch into their fold?

Here is the book chapter:

Chapter 2

Several groups of teenagers milled around the tiled courtyard at Morro Bay High, a huge
school with a large student body. The crowd was buzzing. Kids pointed to solemn school
personnel who were posting notices plastered with a senior boy’s face on the walls and doors of the building. A few people pushed their way through the crowd to read the “Information Wanted” notices. The majority of the young people turned to each other, raising their eyebrows.

Most look scared and pale. The bell rang and the crowd of somber teenagers filtered through two huge double doors into a bustling hallway.

Lena and Penny walked through the many cliques in the hall, alone as usual. But for
some reason, the hairs on the back of Lena’s neck tingled. There was a hushed tone to the crowd in the hallway, rather than the usual loud roar. Intuition prickling the back of her neck, Lena knew the difference was due to her dream. She looked over at the notices while Penny led the way. Her friend seemed oblivious to the posters. Instead, Penny waved to a few people as they walked forward.

Pointing to the signs, trying to get Penny’s attention, Lena stopped where she stood.

“What happened last night? I’ve got a bad feeling.”

Again the images of people screaming, lights going out, and shadows surrounding a boy
came into Lena’s mind. She recognized the boy from her dream as the same person on the posters. He looked like a senior named Kyle who went out with a pretty girl named Sarah. Could Kyle have been hurt in a bonfire? And was any of this related to the other incident last year?

Lena started to push her way through the crowd to read the notice nearest her, but her
train of thought derailed as Nick Stewart walked into the hall. The drop-dead handsome jock she had always loved, Nick projected a mellow energy which made him sexy to the extreme. He wore the letterman’s jacket she wished he would give her and faded Levis that barely fit over the sculpted muscles of his thighs.

Jackson, Nick’s best friend, jogged up and gave Nick a high five. A poor woman’s version
of Nick, Jackson was an elf in comparison, three inches shorter, with large ears and a button nose. One of the rich kids at their school, like Nick, Jackson was dressed in his usual uniform of expensive jeans, a tight T-shirt and a hip leather motorcycle jacket.

Penny pushed her, and she walked by Nick’s group, staring at the boy she had loved
since grade school. Nick didn’t notice her pass, but Jackson stared in her direction. She
could sense his dark eyes on her back.

“I can’t wait for college,” she said, muttering under her breath, but loud enough that
Penny could hear her.

Penny popped a breath mint into her mouth, a sour expression on her face. “How’s Mr.
All American?”

Lena knew Penny disliked Nick. But she didn’t think her friend gave him a fair shake.
Lena couldn’t resist getting in a dig. “My sides are splitting.”

“It’s comic.”

Penny was so wrong. “Nick doesn’t know I exist.” Although Lena wished this wasn’t
true, it was a pathetic fact. “It’s tragic.”

“Because you’ll never stop loving him.”

Lena didn’t care for Penny’s sarcastic tone. She wished she could make her friend
understand. “There’s a connection I can’t explain. He was nice after my mom died.”

“Don’t make me care about him.”

“Nick links me to her in some way.”

In fact, Nick was tied to Lena’s memory of her mom so much that she was almost certain
she would never lose her mother if she could make him love her. She knew her logic made no rational sense, but Lena didn’t care. Every day she could recall less and less about her mother and she wanted to retain whatever she could. Maybe if she and Nick were together, she could hold on to the memories she cherished.

“He’s changed since fifth grade.”

Lena dismissed Penny’s statement. But a tiny piece of Lena wondered how Nick could
ignore her the way he did after having been such good friends with her just a few years back. She figured his popularity and interest in athletics were to blame. She was hopeless when it came to sports, and her popularity was nonexistent. He didn’t excel at academics and had to work hard just to get the ‘C’s’ necessary to play on varsity teams. Still, she wanted to believe they were meant for each other.

“He’s perfect for me.”

“You’re sure he’s your soul mate, you’ve wanted him since elementary school, and you’ve spoken to him, what, three times in the last eight years?”

When Penny put their relationship that way, Lena had to acknowledge the irony. But she
knew why she didn’t often speak to Nick, and the truth embarrassed her.

“I always say the wrong thing.”

“You don’t say anything.”

“Quiet beats road kill.”

Penny chuckled but nudged her, so Lena waved at Nick in desperation. Unaware of her,
Nick gave a passing jock a high-five. Lena walked away, knowing how dejected she must look, but unable to hide her emotions.

As Penny followed her, Lena thought she heard Jackson say, “Hey dude, didn’t you see
Lena waving at you?” She strained her ears to catch whatever response Nick might give, but all she heard coming from her crush’s lips was, “What?” and Jackson saying, “Man, you got to pull your head out of your ass.”

She moved closer so she could hear Nick, but not so close that he would notice her. The
hallway was still crowded, but she could catch the conversation through the noise of the other people. “No time for girls right now. You know the pressure is on. I’m working for the state scholarship. I can’t let up.”

“Come on, bro,” said Jackson. “That one’s ready to turn.”

Lena heard these words and stopped short. Jackson was pointing in her direction. Did
Jackson know her birthday was tomorrow? She swiveled her head away from them to Penny, who shrugged her shoulders. Then Lena turned back and watched Jackson slap Nick on the back.

Nick pulled Jackson into a headlock, and the two laughing guys walked down the hall in the opposite direction from Lena and Penny.

Lena forced herself to stop wondering about Nick and Jackson. Her thoughts flitted back
to the posters on the wall. She wanted to know what had happened and if the victim was Kyle. She was about to move closer to the posted notice when she heard a loud, shrill whistle. A young boy and a tall, thin, pretty girl approached Lena and Penny, waving. They were her science research partners and she was glad to see them. They had a lot to discuss.

The boy was John-Paul, a small, Asian, self-proclaimed nerd toting a science model and
wearing mismatched clothes and big glasses. A button on his shirt read, ‘Scientists do it in the lab.’ John-Paul was obsessed with gadgets and had every new form of hand-held technology available. The girl, Emily, was more old-school, preferring to do her work the old-fashioned way. She still used a paper calendar for her school assignments and wrote all her papers in long-hand. Emily’s look reflected her retro attitude. She sported a large Afro hairstyle and over the top 1970’s style clothes that almost, but didn’t quite, look hip.

“Lena!” said Emily.

Penny ducked, lifting her books to cover her face. “Oh, no. Freshmen.”

“They’re not that bad.”

“Later.”

Lena forced herself to not roll her eyes at her friend as Penny dissed Emily and John-Paul and stalked off to class. The girl could be such a snob about matters of school status.
When Emily and John-Paul reached her, Emily asked, “Where’s Penny going?”

Lena ignored the question because she didn’t want to hurt Emily and John-Paul. Instead
she pointed to the ‘Information Wanted’ posters on the walls, hoping her friends could tell her what had happened.

“Do you guys know what’s going on?”

Emily nodded but John-Paul interrupted her before she could open her mouth. He jumped with excitement, falling back to the ground with a spastic jerk.

“I got a call yesterday,” he said in his high, thin voice. “We won first place.”

“No way!” said Lena.

Emily nodded. “Now we’re in the running.”

“The top Physics prize. Wow.”

Lena was proud of their accomplishment. They’d been working all year, developing a
detailed plan for an experiment located at the bottom of a nearby quarry. The experiment would offer them a chance of detecting dark matter, the vast, invisible universe which humans cannot perceive but that scientists think exists. Dark matter and dark energy exert gravity on what is visible; so Lena, who loved Physics, was determined to find whatever was blindfolding humanity and discover the phenomena causing dark matter. She and Emily and John-Paul had put together their final written presentation two months before and sent it in to the state science fair for consideration, never daring to hope they would be chosen. Now they had the chance to win at the national level, to join the big leagues of scientific research, to study with the cream of the crop.

The best part was that the prize came with funding for one year of experimentation. Now they just had to develop a verbal presentation for the competition. They had a two-month window to hone their talk. A herd of butterflies raced through Lena’s gut. She always avoided public speaking when possible. But this time she wouldn’t be able to worm her way out of it.

“Did your dad finish his cure?” asked John-Paul.

She nodded, her apprehension about the science competition fading, amazed at the
convergence of two such major scientific breakthroughs in one day: the cure her dad had come up with, and the chance to detect dark matter and dark energy. She wanted to hug Emily and John-Paul, who had gotten her one step closer to making her dream a reality.

Lena reached around to open the zipper compartment of her backpack to show them the sample of the cure her father left in her safe-keeping. She had decided never to let the cure leave her sight. Keeping the cure with her reminded her of her father. And she wanted Emily and John Paul to see it. “He gave it to me.”

As John-Paul raised his finger to push back his large taped glasses, which had fallen
forward on his nose, Cassandra Morris, the beautiful cheerleader holding pom-poms, walked by with a group of pretty senior girls. The Morris family lived in town; that is, until Mr. Morris relocated for business. He had left his wife and daughter here two years before. Even though Lena should sympathize with Cassandra Morris, since her own father was only leaving her for a week and she was having a hard time dealing—and it must be even worse for the other girl, she wasn’t a big fan of the cheerleader and all-around gorgeous queen bee who ruled their high school. With an evil gleam in her eye, Cassandra mimicked John-Paul’s motion. Then Cassandra gestured at the three of them.

“It’s the cast of ‘Weird Science.’ Was it you at the bonfire?”

John-Paul looked confused but Lena tensed up, remembering her dream. Was Cassandra
saying some people from high school had been involved? Or was she suggesting something more sinister, such as she and her science partners were witches?

Cassandra’s group sniggered, doubtless at her shocked expression and John-Paul’s
obvious outrage. But Emily looked at Cassandra and licked her lips long and slow.

“Sugar, I know you wanna be my next experiment.”

Cassandra backed up into her group of nervous friends, who giggled. As Cassandra
turned around to leave, Emily gave them a warning glance, which Lena took to mean there would be retribution. The next words out of Cassandra’s mouth confirmed Lena’s suspicions.

“See you at the assembly tomorrow. FYI, no genetically engineered mutants allowed in
the bleachers. Hope you don’t mind standing.”

Cassandra’s taunting words hurt. It was clear to her that Cassandra was now gunning for them. She could only hope the girl’s animosity would not cause a roadblock in her dad’s deal with Morris Pharmaceuticals. For the first time, Lena was glad her dad had left town. She glanced at her freshmen friends, who were looking at their feet. The bell rang and Cassandra and her friends walked laughing toward the gymnasium where the cheerleaders congregated. Lena, John-Paul and Emily walked in the other direction.

“I hate assemblies,” said John-Paul.

Emily nodded, an angry expression on her pretty face; but Lena asked again, “What
happened at the bonfire?”

Emily turned to face her. “That kid Kyle got paralyzed. They’re saying it’s the same thing
that killed the senior guy last year.”

Lena gasped, too frightened to speak. Her sister Linda had almost gone to the bonfire
party at the town gazebo the year before. Only a terrible migraine had stopped her from
attending. But the trauma had shaken the whole town.

John-Paul shook his head. “Not again.”

Emily nodded and pointed him and Lena toward the “Information Wanted” poster. Lena
didn’t want to think about last year’s incident, but the information flooded her brain. After the senior had been killed, popular community opinion held that witches had killed the boy. Nothing had ever been proved, and no culprit had ever been found. The autopsy was inconclusive. The detectives who investigated her mother’s death, Blanca Garcia and her partner Randy Blaggett, failed to turn up the killer, just as they had when her mother was poisoned. Because of public outcry, and the fact that the dead senior boy’s father had government connections, the FBI had been called in. But the federal probe found nothing either.

Emily and John-Paul were staring at her. But Lena couldn’t seem to master her panic.
Her insides were wrung out. Fearful and apprehensive, she wondered what more she would learn that day.

End of Chapter 2

By Marian Lindler

Select all writings of  Marian Lindner

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Confessions of a Wanker – Book 1, Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Based on a true story of a boy’s coming
of age in London’s East End

 

CoverConfessions071916Part1

Chapter 2

 

 

Living in Two Worlds

Me best mate Dave lives four houses up on our side, and Danny Silver, who’s a bit of a wanker, lives opposite him.  Everyone knows everyone’s business in our six block neighborhood.  Dad says the war brought everyone together.  Me self I think it’s the mums chin-wagging their gossip over a pot of tea after their old men go off to work.

At thirteen Dave is the oldest of me mates.  Danny and Eddy are the same age as me, twelve.  We’ve all lived on Albany Road since we were born.  It’s a short street with terraced houses on both sides.  Dad says they’re two hundred years old.  They look the same as all the working class homes in the East End of London.  They are narrow two story brick houses, with a bay window, a front door next to your neighbor’s door, and slate roofs.  They have a black cast-iron coal stove in the living-room for cooking and heating.  There’s no bathroom and no hot water.  The toilet, or loo, faces out to the back yard, and is bloody freezing cold in winter.  I don’t know why but the door has a big gap at the top and the bottom.  I always sit on me hands to take a poop, and get out fast, with no thoughts of wanking.

Mum’s sister Aunt Jenny and her hubby George, who suffers with terrible gout, lives next door at number 34.  Their kids, are me cousins. Paul is thirteen, who is a right prat, and his sister, gorgeous Patricia, is fifteen.  Eddy’s family lives opposite.  Something I still can’t figure is how Eddy can be their cousin, but they tell me he’s not my cousin.

Dave is the oldest in our little gang and we think he knows everything.  He is tall with a long face and square chin, sort of like a movie star, but with a big nose.  All us other boys on Albany Road have blue eyes.  We think Dave is smarter because he has brown eyes – plus he tells us he’s smarter.  He always says, “If I don’t know it, it ain’t worth knowing.”

Danny’s dad is old and crotchety.  His younger mum, who me dad calls a tart, shows lots of cleavage.  She always stops, in full view of us boys, and lifts her skirt above her knees; looks back and straightens the line on her stocking.  Friday and Saturday nights his crippled old man stands out front and yells up the street, “Piss off ya trollop” as she heads for the pub.

Danny’s a loner and a misfit. Even though we think him a bit of a wanker, all us boys feel sorry for him, so we let him tag along.

Due to the shortage of teachers after the Second World War, students are herded through school with little concern for education.  Unbeknownst, to me, it is impossible to fail the Eleven Plus exam.  Kids who spell their names correctly, know the date, and answer most of the questions go on to the better schools to prepare for university.  The rest of us are sent to Markhouse Road Secondary Modern School, just a five minute walk from me house, and a meager four year preparation for the rest of me life.  For some unknown reason, me attitude during me first year at this mediocre medieval school is that of an onlooker watching a mere rehearsal.  During the first year’s final exam it hits me. Wills, you missed the main performance.  Mother, I swear I’ll study hard next term.

     Me and me mates think Cockney is real cool.  So I live in two worlds.  With my parents I speak proper English, and with me mates Cockney.  Some people think, or as  Cockneys say it ‘fink, the Cockney dialect is low class.  For us, it’s a badge of honor to drop our H’s and “ ‘ope people fink we’re Cockney.”

We are also proud of our tough walk, not that I would let my mum see it; she calls it a cocky Cockney swagger.  She say’s Cockneys are ruffians and low life who will never amount to anything.  So as not to upset her, I keep me Cockney gear at me mate, Dave’s house.  Wearing Cockney gear is like giving the finger to English class consciousness.  On Fridays, as soon as school lets out, I rush home, kiss me mum, and tell her I am going to Dave’s “House” to study.  In front of her, I always emphasize H words.  But then discard all my H’s on the way up our street.  Dave’s mom, who is a real Cockney, opens the front door. “ ’ello Alan, Dave’s in ‘is room waiting fa’ ya, listening to ‘is bloody awful music.” Her Cockney lilt is music to me ears.  His dad calls from the living room,

” ‘ello Alan, you two lay-abouts going up ‘ igh Street to ogle birds (girls)?”

“More than likely Mr. Kent, bird watching is me and Dave’s favorite pastime.”

As I climb the stairs I think, Dave is lucky ‘aving young Cockney parents.  Wills, I think, you was a mistake! 

     Me parents are older, and don’t have a clue about teenagers.  I smile hearing Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock through the door.  Bursting through the door, I kick off me leather school shoes, tear off me navy school blazer with the school crest on the pocket, and remove the noose they call the old school tie.  With relief I kick off me gray short trousers, which label me a child.  In me Cockney “gear,” blue twill work trousers and the black pullover, I feel older.  Lying on his bed, already dressed the same, Dave watches me as I strut around him like a bantam cock.

“Ya such a wanker.” He says, as he jumps up, and opens the door. “Time to ‘ang out on street corners, and check out the birds.” He says, running down the stairs, and out the front door.

Outside of school, and church, our whole world revolves around the High Street. There are hundreds of stores, on both sides, all the way up the mile-and-a-half-long street.  On market days the road is closed to traffic and becomes cram-packed with stands, known as bargain stalls.  These are loaded with everything from clothes to china, to gold fish and cute puppy dogs.  Push carts known as barrows are laden with fruit, flowers, or cockles, mussels, and fish.  The barrow boys or costermongers, as some people call them, are all real Cockneys, and we hang on their every word.  For us boys, the walk up and down High Street is sheer heaven, or as we say ‘eaven.  We find it almost impossible to pass a store window without stopping to comb our hair in the reflection.   We always stop at Lou Rose, the one tailor shop that has a pair of America blue jeans in their window.  Dave says, “they’ll never ever sell ‘um ‘cos they cost more than a bleeding suit.  These ‘ere jeans came all the way from America.  They’re the same as them worn by movie stars, the likes of James Dean, and rock and roll groups.  You’ve all seen the pictures on me bedroom wall.”  Every Friday all four of us made a bee line for Lou Rose, just to look at the jeans in envy.

A few months ago we all followed Dave up High Street to Joe’s half price stall, where he shows us blue work trousers, which when he rolled up the bottoms looked like jeans. “Now, as we’re all mates.” Dave said, “I need ya to cough up ya money so I can get the first pair.  Then every week each of ya can filch money from ya mum’s handbag and by months end all you wankers will ‘ave Cockney gear.”  We all empty our pockets into Dave’s hands, and he buys the blue work trousers.  Then he disappears into the public toilet, which we call the bog, and comes out wearing them with a tight black wool pullover.  “So what do ya ‘fink, gang?”

“Dave, where did ya get the new black wooly.” I ask.

“Sort of slipped into the bag with the jeans didn’t it?  When I pointed out the bird with the big tits across High Street, Joe turned around to look.”

“Dave, you’re our ‘ero, a true wanker.” Danny says.

By months end we all had our Cockney outfits.  For me the wooly itches like crazy. “Don’t be a bloody sissy!” Dave says, “It’s “in”, and remember, we’re tough Cockneys.”

In actuality, our town is a good sixty minute bus ride to Cheapside, and the famous Bow Church, where to be a real Cockney you have to be born within the sound of its bells.

Me mum enrolls me at Smiths Dance Academy to learn to ballroom dance.  Me partner is a very tall, older woman of about thirty, who has rotten teeth and bad breath.  I get the basic step but have trouble with the turns, so she lifts me up at every corner and puts me down, and we dance on.  I live in fear that me mates will find out I am taking ballroom dancing lessons.

Dave tells us that Rock and Roll will change the world, and us 50’s kids will do things our parents’ generation never even thought of doing.

“Can you picture,” he asks “ ya dad sticking ‘is tongue half way down ya mum’s throat, or shagging ‘er down an ally?”

The thought makes me sick.  I think, I know me mum would never let me dad do that.

Dave teaches us boys how to comb our hair in the latest styles with Brylcream hair grease.  He has sideburns, and combs his jet-black hair into a DA, (ducks ass) with a “Tony Curtis” rolling over to touch the center of his forehead.  Dave is “real cool.”

Dave is the only boy in his second year class who wears long trousers.  This was prompted by a note sent home to his mother from the girls’ gym teacher, Miss Babcock.  It informed Mrs. Kent that Dave’s manhood had outgrown the length of his short trousers, and that it was causing a major distraction to the girls in her gym class.

Miss Babcock is a beautiful young woman in her mid-twenties who always wears shorts.  All us boys gave her ten on a ten-scale.  Eddy is crazy for her, and gave her a twenty.  Eddy and Danny are like chalk and cheese.  Eddy’s dad, who was a officer in the army, marches him to the barbershop for a short-back-and-sides every couple of weeks.  He has almost white blonde hair, what there is of it, and there is never a hair out of place.  He has to call his dad sir, and we are sure he would be court marshaled if he ever answered him back.  Eddy has three brothers and two sisters, all much older than him.  Even though he sits at the back of the class with me and Danny, we ain’t real close mates.  His dad won’t let him out to play much, and he’s always doing chores or reading.  I’m still confused, me cousin Paul says Eddy ain’t me cousin, but he’s Paul’s cousin?  It must be true as Eddy never tells me no personal stuff, like cousins do.

Today our science master was taken ill, so Miss Babcock comes into our class and says she’s our substitute teacher.  Fortunately, this voluptuous gym teacher knows nothing about science, and agrees to read us a story.  Me, Eddy, and Danny, are sitting in the back of the room and are going nuts over her short shorts, and bulging white cotton shirt.  Frantically I wave me hand in the air,  ” ‘cuse me, Miss.  Me and me mates can’t ‘ear ya from way back ‘ere.  Can we come up front and sit on the floor?”

She agrees and we position ourselves in front of her with our eyes bulging.  The direct view up the leg of her shorts, into the dark unknown, more than compensates for her poor reading abilities.  At the bell, we rush to find Dave and tell him what we had seen… or, should I say what we hope he’ll believe we’ve seen.  In actuality, by squinting hard I almost saw her underwear.  Well, at least I thought I almost did.  The memory of Miss Babcock is great every day for three or four wanks!

 

End of Chapter 2

By Alan Wills

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Confessions of a Wanker – Book 1, Chapter 1

by Alan Wills

Based on a true story of a boy’s coming
of age in London’s East End

Wanker: British Slang
1.  An endearing term between mates
2. A Con-Man or Jerk
3. Masturbator

 This auto-biographical novel is shockingly explicit, very real, and filled with humor. Readers will pass through the tough Cockney East End of pub fights, cons, dead end jobs, and revisit the 50’s & 60’s and the early days of Rock and Roll.

The story opens with the vicar’s sermon decrying self-abuse. At eleven Alan knows he is speaking directly to him.  He and his four mates are inseparable, and emulate Cockneys, by speaking rhyming slang. You will relate to teenage embarrassment, rebellion, and sexual naiveté. This only child is abandoned at fifteen by his parents. Learn how Alan is forced to become self-sufficient, working in outdoor markets, including London’s famous Petticoat Lane. The costermongers and barrow-boys add color and charm as they con the English public, and tourists alike.

We follow Alan’s determination in many different businesses, and discover he was an inexperienced jerk, or wanker, and we live his guilt and justification.  He does become business smart, but is an absolute novice in matters of love and sex.  His big con shows the inner workings of a wanker, or con-man’s mind.  It also demonstrates the entanglement, financially and ethically, that leads this young man to leave all his mates and England on his wedding day, with The Mob and the police hot on his heels.   Enjoy! 

Confessions of a Wanker is an easy read, as it unfolds in short chapter of connecting short stories. Although funny and light hearted, there are many lessons to be learned from his life, which he refers to as the College of Hard Knocks.

Just for fun, at the end of the book there is an appendix:

Cockney East End Street Language and Rhyming Slang with translations into ordinary everyday English.

Your comments are welcome authorspreview@gmail.com

CoverConfessions071916Part1

Chapter 1

After the War

     “Ga-Aw-D” the vicar’s three-syllable word always gets me attention.  I’m looking up at his stern face high above me in his pulpit.  His double chins hide most of his white clerical collar.  My eyes are glued on his worn black suit straining against his plumpness, and his huge mouth filled with big teeth.  I think. This monster could eat a small kid.

“Ga-Aw-D wants you to refrain from self-abuse,” he demands, pointing his outstretched finger directly at me.

My mind questions.  Self-abuseWills, is ‘e talking about wanking?

No, self-abuse sounds painful and wanking is a release; like floating up to ‘eaven.

“Ga-Aw-D knows when you abuse yourself!” he bellows. “You will go to a fiery hell!”

I’m eleven and a half, standing with three other scouts as the color guard in front of the whole bloody congregation wearing me neatly pressed tan scout uniform with merit badges on both sleeves.  I grip the flagpole tightly with both hands, trying to hide behind it.  The Boy Scout law rings in me ears,  A Boy Scout is clean of mind and deed.

Everywhere I look I sense God, in this massive white stone St. Saviors Church, this Sunday morning.  The ‘oly Ghost reads me dirty mind with a thousand piercing eyes.

Me mother has eyes that can see though solid brick walls and around corners.  She says God knows and sees everything.  Funny, many times I totally forget about Him being around.  Ironically, I never think of God while hiding in our outside loo, even though I’m making one more attempt at floating up to heaven.  The age-old horror stories of “Wankers Doom,”: hair growing from the palm of me hand, has not deterred me.  But “Ga-Aw-D WANTS YOU TO REFRAIN” keeps rattling around in me brain

I close me eyes and try to escape the vicar’s harsh words.  Me mind flashes back through time and I see meself at a World War II bomb-site with me older cousins.  I’m a happy little blonde, blue-eyed, six year old boy, rummaging through the personal stuff strewn throughout the blitzed homes.  I find a small suitcase covered in dust and fill it with my new found treasures.  Torn faces in broken picture frames, lifeless dolls with severed arms and legs, and other previously valued possessions of departed owners.  I find one rubber shoe, a Plimsoll, and dig with a bent knife in the dirt to find it’s mate.  I take off me black leather shoes with the holes in the bottom, that makes me feet wet when I jump in puddles.  The dirty white rubber shoes are too big, but Patricia me cousin says I’ll grow into them.  She says I can keep the Plimsolls and little suitcase as the boy who owned them is in heaven.

Holding the flagpole, I think, when the suitcase was me most prized possessionIn my bedroom I use to talk into the suitcase to the boy in heaven.  I was never alone again.

A moment later my eyes spring open and my head jolts back as I realize the human suffering those bombsite playgrounds represent.  The overpowering stench of decay returns to me nose and throat, I gag on the memory.  I cling to the flagpole to regain balance.

The vicar drones on and on and my eyes close again.  I see the train bringing me and me mummy home from being evacuated in Liverpool.  I’m five.  It stops with a loud hiss of steam.  A man opens the carriage door.  He sort of looks like the picture that mummy kept next to our bed, but with more lines.  I’m a little scared of this stranger.  He lifts me down to the platform and says how big I got.  I don’t feel big, looking up at huge people all around me.  I’m afraid I’ll be stepped on.  He throws his arms around me mummy.  They hug, and she cries. I think, I hate him for making her cry.  Then they kiss. Yuk!  Each takes one of my hands as we walk down the platform.  They talk about stuff; London bombing, his job as air raid warden, missing each other, and terrible things that happened to some evacuated kids.  I touch the toy knife sharpening man in me jacket pocket, and remember how happy we were staying with the old couple, who I called Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary.  I go to show Daddy the toy, but change me mind.  I keep look up at them but they just look at each other.

Wills,  ‘e don’t even know ya ‘ere.

You’re right! I like Uncle Bob better, I think, and not just because he gave me the toy.  I wish we’d never come back to London.

The vicar’s monotone voice reminds me of the drone of the German rockets that flew over London during the war.  The big difference being, once the vicar stops talking we can all head back to the Scout room for biscuits and lemonade.

Me mind flashes back to 1943, I was three.  The air-raid siren wails and my mommy scoops me up and carries me to the dark, damp, air-raid shelter, underground in our back yard.  When I wake-up I can’t see I have white stuff in me eyes.  She says not to pick at it and calls it apses, as she washes it away.  She tells me the loud noise in the sky was from German rockets, called doodlebugs, and that if the noise stops we have to get under the bed quick. Many nights in the shelter we hear the engine stop and under the bed we’d go.  It’s a fun game.  She’d always hold me tight in her arms and prays to God that we’ll be spared.  When we hear the explosion, mommy cries, saying the Doodlebug had blown-up nearby, and Londoners had perished in the flames.  She always asks God to save their souls.

I hold the flagpole tight and think, God, will I ever be free of these memories of the war?

I look around the church at all the neighborhood people dressed in their Sunday best. There are many more women than men.  Mum said, countless husbands and sons didn’t return from the war.  I feel sad as I see the little old ladies with rounded shoulders and hunched backs sitting alone, who still dress in black and never smile.  God I ‘ate war!

Every Sunday the vicar says a prayer for their dearly departed.  Then, I smile at the younger women who wear blue eye shadow and tight sweaters that show pointy breasts.  I watch as some of them flick their hair back, or cough to gain the attention of the few single men in the congregation.  I say a silent prayer, God, please! No more wars! Plus help our fifties generation bring happiness back to England.

Wills, it seems like bleeding ‘ours that we’ve been standing ‘ere ‘olding this bloody flagpole. I think, shift from foot to foot.  Once again I feel the weight of the war memories pushing down me shoulders and me eyelids feel heavy.  I open me eyes real wide and try to empty me mind of war.  Like a shuffled deck of cards me mind stops on the school exam that I took a few days ago.  Have you ever noticed the questions they ask on school exams pertain to information that you’d swear had never been covered in class?  This was definitely the case with me “Eleven Plus” which determines the type of senior school that you attend.

Looking at the exam paper in utter disbelief, I was petrified for most of the first hour. Then it hit me.  Wills, The bleeding school board has obviously devised questions guaranteed to eliminate the likes of us. 

     Your right! What would me Dad’s hero, Field Marshal Montgomery, do?

In Dad’s war stories he says Monty distrusted the obvious, and out-thought his enemy.

Me eyes become slits as I think hard about the exam.  Then I feel a smug smile spread across me face, as I know what I must do.  Wills, Ignore the bloody questions, and check the answers in systematic order.  A cunning teacher would start easy, with ‘free yes answers to sucker ya in.  Then slip in a no, then ‘free more yeses, one more no and so on.

     That’s the answer! Monty would be proud of me, deciphering this sneaky plan.

     I quickly apply me theory, marking the first three questions with a yes, then one no, then the next three yes and another no.  I smile; it feels very good being this confident.  I quickly finish the exam and I’m one of the first to leave the room.  I wait outside in the drab green hall, displaying our school crest Circa 1902, feeling smug.  A couple of classmates, “A” students, who we call book-worms, walk out of the exam.  On checking me three-yes-to-one-no theory with their answers, it becomes obvious that I could be busted all the way back to kindergarten.  Looking down at me shoes I wonder how to break this news to me mother?  I hear a familiar voice. I look up and see Danny.

Today as always, Danny’s clothes look as though he has slept in them.  One sock up the other down around his ankle, his shoes are a combination of scuffs and mud, his dull mousy brown hair sticks up in all directions.  Danny’s face is a bombsite of acne and pock marks, which he continually scratches with his filthy fingernails.

“ ’ow d’ya do then, Alan?”

“Not so good Danny!” I admit.

“Sitting in the bloody back of the class, that was our downfall me old mate.”

“’ow’s that, Danny?”

“Well, information travels on sound waves, don’t it?”

Knowing Danny once built a crystal radio set, I feel safe in agreeing with him.

“Sure does!”

“So then it makes sense that some info. ‘as long-waves and some ‘as short-waves.”

“Ya, that sounds right to me, Danny!”

“I’m sure Alan, like me, ya noticed that the exam was filled with bloody short-wave length questions?  So, as the information never reached us at the back of the bloody class.  ‘ow could we be expected to know the bloody answers?”

It made perfectly good sense to me.  However, on my return home, my mother is less receptive to Danny’s theory.  She keeps asking embarrassing questions, like, “which questions didn’t you understand?”  Then she says the typical mother things, “God helps those that help themselves, you know?  It’s all up to you, Alan!  I’m just trying to help!”

Wills, ‘ow’s she going to ‘elp ya? I think, as she’s talking. For Christ sake she can’t even understand Danny’s ‘feory of long wave and short waves.

     “See mum, Danny’s  theory is the exam was filled with short wave questions that never reach the back of the room, where me and Danny sit.”

“That’s quite enough, Alan!” she interrupts “Go to your room without dinner.  Wait up there until your father gets home and see if he buys your story of Danny’s waves.  Personally, I reckon you are in for a good hiding!”

End of Chapter 1

By Alan Wills

Select all writings of  Alan Wills

Select biography of  Alan Wills