Inform the family

He looked around. Turned his hat in his hands by its brim. He didn’t want to stand here in the foyer and tell them that nothing would ever be the same again. That Mr. Wallace was just cooling meat now, manhandled downtown by people who didn’t know or care about you or your kids or your sisters and brothers. Just another inconvenient stiff making them work late, keeping them from that cold beer, TV dinner, and the six o’clock news.

(from “Joey’s Place,” coming as an e-book December 2013)

Thirteen

[mantra-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”45%”]From the upcoming “13” Anthology of short stories…[/mantra-pullquote]

Thirteen.

She grew up in Vegas and she grew up hard. Her father was a gambler and her mother cleaned rooms at the Stardust. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment on Koval Lane, just off the Strip. One of those eight unit, two-story, cinder-block dumps with little window air-conditioners that couldn’t cool a closet. Her older brother ran away when he was fourteen. She didn’t miss him.

When she was little, she’d hang out at the Desert Inn by the employees’ entrance, cadging casino chips and snacks from the maids and carpenters and engineers who maintained the illusions inside, laughing at the security guards who came out to run her off. She liked the sickly-sweet sump smell of the Dumpsters back there. She liked watching the flies fry in the blue light over all that rotting food. She liked the big trucks that hauled the dumpsters away and brought back empties. She was seriously into refuse.

She was pretty, but her short hair and hand-me-down clothes made her look like a boy. She didn’t care. She didn’t have time for boys. Every night she’d play canasta with her mother and count the butts piling up in the ashtray. Every … (more)

Scrivener and the short story

Recently I was asked by fellow writers at the Triggerstreet.com writing site to contribute a short story for inclusion in an e-published collection. In the past, I occasionally posted short stories for review on that site and also enjoyed the opportunity to read submissions by other writers. It’s where I worked out the stories that became “L.A. Limo Tales” (available on Amazon.com) and the comments I received at Triggerstreet were very helpful.

The dozen or so chosen contributors had all been recognized for their own Triggerstreet submissions, so I wanted to offer something worthy of the compliment I’d been given. Threading my way through some early stories, I found one that readily lent itself to a prequel to “Limo Tales”— a (hopefully) humorous tale about a night in the life of high-school aged “Max,” the cynical twenty-something protagonist of “Limo Tales.”

I opened it in Word and got to work. Move this here, shift that there. About 4,500 words. Piece of cake. Right?

Well, it wasn’t long before I lost what I like to call the “thread” of a tale. Did I use that line earlier? Where did I describe that character? That’s when I realized … (more)

The Sky Room

1950s_Desert_Inn_SkyRoomThe Sky Room was dead. Just a middle-aged couple holding hands over Manhattans at one table and a wrinkled tourist with a loser’s face at the bar contemplating a flock of empty shot glasses. The small dance floor was scuffed and dusty. An empty cocktail table had an ashtray filled with butts. You wouldn’t have seen that in the old days.

The ceiling was still painted to make it look like a starry night with puffy clouds, but some of the stars weren’t shining. It didn’t matter. Nobody said “Meet me at the Sky Room!” anymore.

The Murray Arnold Quartet — minus three — was providing the entertainment. The aging boy wonder of the piano was a long way from his glory days at the Cocoanut Grove in L.A. or fronting for Freddy Martin and his orchestra. But the old guy looked comfortable in this empty relic from the town’s past, noodling the keys of a scratched baby grand, exploring a subtle syncopation on “More Than You Know.” Heber wasn’t sure if he liked Murray’s interpretation, but he appreciated the effort.

He found a table by the big window overlooking the … (more)