Welcome to Day 7 of #RRBC’S ’20 WC&BE SPONSORS BLOG TOUR! @RRBC_Org @RRBC_RWISA @Tweets4RWISA @pdoggbiker

Welcome to Day 7 of  #RRBC’S ’20 WC&BE SPONSORS BLOG TOUR!  

I am proud to be hosting Author John Podlaski!

Title:  When Can I Stop Running?

Cover:

Blurb:

2019 KCT RRBC Runner-Up Silver Award Winner
#RRBC 2020 Rave Review awards: BOOK OF THE YEAR

The year is 1970, and the story follows the two soldiers – impressionable Detroit teenagers – during their long night in a Listening Post (‘LP’), some 200 meters beyond the bunker line of the new firebase. Their assignment as a “human early warning system”, is to listen for enemy activity and forewarn the base of any potential dangers. As they were new to the “Iron Triangle” and its reputation, little did they know that units before them lost dozens of soldiers in this nightly high-risk task and referred to those assigned as “bait for the enemy” and “sacrificial lambs”.

Sitting in the pitch black tropical jungle – with visibility at less than two feet – John’s imagination takes hold throughout the agonizing night, and at times, transports him back to some of his most vivid childhood memories – innocent, but equally terrifying at the time.

As kids, we instinctively run as fast as we can to escape imaginary or perceived danger, but as soldiers, men are trained to conquer their fears and develop the confidence to stand their ground and fight. Running is not an option.

Trailer:  https://youtu.be/UZzOQN5Te6I

Amazon purchase link:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01H9BESNC

Author bio:  John served in Vietnam during 1970 and 1971 as an infantryman with both the Wolfhounds of the 25th Division and the 501st Infantry Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, two Air Medals, and a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He has spent the years since Vietnam working in various management positions within the automotive industry and has recently received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. John is a life member of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154 and lives with his wife, Janice, in Sterling Heights, Michigan. They own a 1997 Harley Davidson Heritage and are both members of the Great Lakes Chapter of South East Michigan Harley Owner’s Group. Both retired in 2013 and enjoy not working anymore. John has authored and published four books on Amazon: “Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel”, “When Can I Stop Running?”, “Unhinged”, and “Unwelcomed”. He is currently working on a sequel to “When Can I Stop Running?”

Social links:  John Podlaski | Facebook

(20) John Podlaski (@pdoggbiker) / Twitter

(24) John Podlaski | LinkedIn

Author reading of preface – https://youtu.be/pmNMB5srYns

Thank you for supporting the books and authors along the RRBC ’20 WC&BE SPONSORS BLOG TOUR!  These authors are generous in their support of others so we want to show our support of them in return.  You may follow along each day of the tour by visiting the tour’s home page.  Be sure to leave a comment below to ensure that you have a chance at winning a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA 7/18

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Around WordPress this week, members of the Rave Reviews Book Club will be sharing writing samples and information about other authors in this organization called RWISA, the Rave Writer’s International Society of Authors. 

Today’s writing sample is from author Ron Yates.

Burning Out in Tokyo

By Ronald E. Yates

 

Clayton Brandt stood just behind the glass doors of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry building waiting for a let-up in the storm that pummeled the hot Tokyo pavement. Wisps of vapor rose into the air as the rain hit the warm ground.

 

He searched the eight-lane boulevard in front of the MITI building for an empty taxi. He knew it could be a long wait before an empty cab came down Sakurada-Dori. Thousands of bureaucrats glutted Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district, and whenever it rained, it seemed like all of them wanted a taxi.

 

“Son of a bitch!” he said, his words echoing through the lobby. Two middle-aged Japanese bureaucrats standing nearby looked over at the tall foreigner. They understood that English phrase.

 

Clayton grinned. “Ame-ga futte imasu,” he said.

 

The two men looked at one another and then back at Clayton as if to say: “Yes, we can see it is raining. But is that any excuse for such a rude public outburst?”

 

Clayton sighed, opened his umbrella, and stepped out into the downpour. He turned right and hurried through the governmental heartland of Japan, maneuvering his 6-foot, 3-inch frame through the crowded sidewalk glutted with black and gray umbrellas. Sometimes the edge of an umbrella held by a much shorter Japanese man or woman slashed at his throat or slapped against his face. Whenever it rained, and the umbrellas came out, Clayton always felt Gulliveresque—like a giant trapped in a forest of undulating toadstools.

 

He looked up at the leaden April sky. The rain had drenched Tokyo for the past four days, covering the ground with a pink and white patina of delicate sakura blossoms. A slow rumble of thunder curled between the squat granite structures of Kasumigaseki. Clayton looked at his watch. It was four-thirty and the evening traffic was already crawling. He had hoped to get his story written and filed by six o’clock, but the briefing about Japan’s angry reaction to Washington’s decision to bar the U.S. government’s purchase of Japanese supercomputers had taken longer than usual.

 

The sky rumbled again, and bolts of lightning streaked overhead. A taxi pulled up outside the Ministry of Health and Welfare and was disgorging three Japanese bureaucrats in dark blue suits. Clayton closed his umbrella and dashed for the cab splashing through rivulets of water as he ran. The three men had barely climbed out before Clayton bolted past them and into the rear seat. He gave the driver his destination, closed his eyes, and rested his head on the seat back as the taxi inched its way back into the gridlock.

 

Every so often, his eyes opened just long enough to take in the somber Tokyo landscape. The perpetually gray skies of Tokyo didn’t do his already sepulchral spirit any good. In fact, very little seemed to buoy his disposition these days. He couldn’t help it. He felt depressed and probably a bit too sorry for himself. A few hours before the MITI briefing, he had suffered through another of those telephone “chats” with Max, the foreign editor of Global News Service in London about expenses and the need to cut back on costs.

 

“O.K., O.K. Max,” Clayton had sighed bleakly into the phone. “I get the picture.”

 

The exchange ended with Max suggesting that Clayton not be such a “cowboy.” A “cowboy?” Why? Just because he was from Oxford, Kansas and not Oxford, England? It wasn’t easy working for a bunch of Brits when you sounded more like Garth Brooks than Sir Laurence Olivier. But he knew what Max meant.

 

Clayton was an iconoclast in a profession that increasingly rewarded conformity rather than individualism. Newspapers today all looked alike, loaded with the same predictable stories about the same predictable events. It was rubber-stamp journalism practiced by rubber-stamp editors who worked for rubber-stamp publishers who worked for boards of directors who wanted twenty percent operating profit margins above all else—quality journalism be damned.

 

He went over the notes he had hurriedly scribbled during the MITI briefing, searching for the lead of his story. His pen scratched heavy lines under the words “ill-conceived” and “studying our response.” Then he stuffed the notebook back into his bag.

 

“It’s over,” Clayton thought to himself as he watched the snarl of cars and trucks crawl along Uchibori-Dori through Kokyo-Gaien, the large plaza that fronted the walled Imperial Palace. It was as if today he had been forced finally to confront the inevitable mortality of his professional career; or at least of his particular brand of journalism. He was writing the same boring stories over and over again. Where was the challenge? The sense of accomplishment?

 

Clayton exhaled and gazed out the taxi window at the striated, ashen facades of drenched buildings. They reminded him of the mascara-smudged faces of women weeping at a rainy graveside.

 

He closed his eyes and nudged his mind away from the depressing Tokyo landscape. Soon it was obediently shuffling through old images of another, more beguiling Asia. It was an Asia of genial evenings spent beneath traveler palms; of graceful, colonial-era hotels in Singapore and Malaysia with their chalky plaster facades and their broad verandahs peppered with rattan settees and peacock chairs; of slowly turning teakwood paddle fans that moved the heavy night air with just enough authority to create a light breeze, but not enough to obliterate the sweet scent of evening jasmine. THAT was the Asia he missed; the Orient of the past.

 

Yes, it was ending. Clayton could feel it. It had been a good run . . . A good career. But now the journey was ending, like a train that had roared through the night and was now pulling into its last station. How many times had he almost gotten off only to be lured back on by the promise of what lay ahead at the next stop? How many times had he been disappointed by that decision? How many times had he been rewarded? At first, the rewards outweighed the disappointments, but in recent years, as he had grown older, the regrets seemed to have gained a definite edge.

 

For one thing, the passengers kept changing. And the conductors. And the engineers. But what did he expect? Wasn’t that the way the world worked? What was it that Tennyson had written: “The old order changeth, yielding place to new?”

 

Clayton shuddered. Was he the old order? Should he be yielding? Was he burned out?

 

Maybe he was becoming the old order, Clayton thought. But he wasn’t burned out just yet. And if there was any yielding to do, he wanted it on his own terms. The trouble was, the gulf of time between his past glories and the imminence of the callow, computer savvy handlers in the home office who controlled his destiny was becoming almost unbridgeable.

 

Most of his career predated cell phones and computers. For the computer literates at Global, his life’s work might as well be stored on some remote database. As it was, he existed only in yellowing newspaper clips, aging telexes, and letters of commendation that were kept in his personal file back in London. And nobody bothered to look at that stuff anymore.

 

It made no difference, Clayton thought. In the mutable, evanescent province that modern journalism had become, it was ancient history. Hell, HE was ancient history. He was like a piece of old journalistic parchment—readable, but, unlike a computer, much less utilitarian.

 

What Clayton needed was another journalistic rush . . . A story he could get hold of and play like a newly discovered Mozart piano concerto. He needed something . . . Not to satisfy the yuppies back at Global, but to give him a reason to get back on the train and to leave the station again.

 

The taxi slewed to a stop like a wooden bathhouse sandal skidding along a wet tile floor. Clayton looked up. They were in front of the Kawabata Building.

 

“Kawabata Biru, desu,” the driver announced.

 

Clayton fumbled in his pocket, handed the driver a one thousand yen note, and waited for his change. Then he bolted through the swirling Tokyo rain and put his shoulder against the massive glass and steel doors of the Kawabata Building. Unlike most of Tokyo’s modern structures, the Kawabata Building didn’t have sleek automatic glass doors that hissed serpent-like and opened automatically at the approach of a human being. It was a pre-war relic—an architectural throw-back with cracked marble floors and a fading art deco interior that had somehow survived the allied bombings.

 

The building’s deteriorating facade, which was the color of dead autumn leaves, seemed to glower at the world—like the rumpled brow of an angry old man. But the tumble-down building had an undeniable individuality in a country that too often prized sameness, and that was the reason Clayton liked it and had refused an offer to move into one of the new glass and steel “smart buildings” that soared over Tokyo’s Otemachi district.

 

He paused to talk for a moment with the old woman who operated the small grocery and newsstand tucked away in the corner of the lobby. From his many conversations with her, Clayton had learned that the old woman had operated her little concession since 1938 and knew the building’s history better than anybody.

 

She smiled as Clayton’s towering frame bent toward her in one of those peculiar half bows that Japanese make when they are in a hurry. Japanese could do it with a certain grace; but not Clayton. When this big foreigner bowed, he always looked like he was on the verge of crashing to the ground like a gingko tree struck by lightning. Nevertheless, she liked this gaijin. Ordinarily, she merely tolerated foreigners, but this one had a solitary charm. He was big, but not threatening; assertive, but not arrogant.

 

“So, Oba-san, Genki datta?” Clayton asked, combining the Japanese honorific for “grandmother” with the less formal interrogative for “how are you?”

 

“Genki-yo,” the old woman replied. Clayton picked up a package of Pocky chocolates and placed a one hundred yen coin in the old woman’s hand.

 

“Sayonara,” Clayton said as he turned and scuttled toward the bank of elevators.

 

“Sonna ni hatarakanai ho ga ii desu!” the old woman called after him.

 

Clayton smiled and nodded over his shoulder. The old woman was right. He was working too hard, and where was it getting him? Back on a train to oblivion?

 

“Oh, get over it,” Clayton thought as the elevator door closed. “You’ve got a story to write. Feel sorry for yourself AFTER you make your friggin’ deadline! Besides, what else do you know how to do, you old hack! Burning out is not an option.”

 

The End

 

*Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again, for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Ron Yates  RWISA Author page

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA 7/15

RWISAWatch Write Showcase Tour

Suzanne Burke

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Around WordPress this week, members of the Rave Reviews Book Club will be sharing writing samples and information about other authors in this organization called RWISA, the Rave Writer’s International Society of Authors. 

Today’s writing sample is from author Suzanne Burke.

THURSDAY’S CHILD

By  Suzanne Burke.

Copyright 2019.

 

She hadn’t really intended this to happen. Oh, sure, she’d thought about it often enough, but thinking about something didn’t make it a crime. A convergence of circumstances had prompted her choice. Regret was such an outmoded commodity.

She checked her latex gloves fitted well, and flicked her dark eyed gaze across to where Peter Cameron lay, still and silent. “You brought this on yourself, Peter. Did you think me a complete fool?”

Carol moved across to the edge of the bed and stood over him. She reached down and flicked the blonde hair back from his forehead, then gently rested her hand there.

“You’re cold. Shall I fetch you a blanket?” Her laughter soothed her.

The man’s eyes were now open, and Carol revelled in the fear she witnessed in their blue depths. “Ah, there you are. How do you feel?” She laughed again. “Oh, silly me. You can’t feel anything. Can you? Such a handy little drug, and no taste I believe, especially in your malt whiskey.”

Peter Cameron’s blue eyes registered the words and Carol watched on as he commanded his brain to activate his fingers, his arms. He had no control of his voicebox. His brain refused to obey. He remained still.

“Oh, don’t fret so, darling. You’re not going to die … yet. The paralysis will last just long enough for my needs. It’s all in the timing. You need to helplessly contemplate what I may have in store for your immediate future.”

Carol walked away from him, and headed for the bar, whistling happily in anticipation. She placed his used glass and the bottle of Glenfiddich into her handbag, then poured a stiff belt of burbon into a paper cup, and seated herself comfortably on the sofa in the large living room and admired afresh the warm ambience of her surroundings.

“The best that all my money could buy.” Her voice brought her comfort.

She drained the cup and refilled it. When empty she crumpled it and placed it alongside the other items now concealed in the bag.

The wall clock reaffirmed that she had an hour remaining before company arrived. She nodded in satisfaction and rested.

With twenty minutes remaining she stood and checked on her captive one more time. “Not long now.”

A low groan came from the bed.

Carol gently stroked his cheek. “Are you terrified, my darling? Your eyes tell me you are. Good. That’s as it should be.”

Carol smiled in satisfaction and left the room, content to wait this out for a few minutes. At exactly 11.02p.m she heard the front door open and close again. A musical female voice called out, “Peter? Darling, where are you?”

Carol listened carefully from her dark space in the hallway. She held her breath as the woman came into view and she watched her enter the master-bedroom in search of her lover.

“Waiting in bed for me, darling? That’s different. I thought we were going to share a late supper.”

The woman sounded disappointed.

“He can be very disappointing. I agree.” Carol said from the doorway.

The woman jumped in fright and managed to say “Oh, my God. I’m not, that is, we aren’t, this isn’t.” She shut her mouth when her frightened eyes took note that her lover’s wife was standing in front of her wearing latex gloves and aiming a gun at her head.

“It isn’t what? An affair? Oh, please. Do you expect me to believe that you’ve come here to my home every second Thursday at 11.00p.m for 3 months to do something innocent?  Go ahead, enlighten me. I’m a reasonable woman. Convince me I don’t have a reason to hate you.”

“Please! I’m so sorry. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Oh, no, Thursday’s Girl. It means everything. The others meant nothing to him, therefore I ignored them. Ah, but you, you’re different. Turn around, let me take a closer look at you.”

Carol walked across to the shaking woman and prodded her with Peter’s handgun. “I said turn around.”

The younger woman nodded and hurriedly complied.

“He does love a tight ass. Long legs too. That’s always a bonus.”

“He doesn’t care about me. It’s a … a fling.”

“Nice try.”

“I’ll end it and never see him again. I promise. I’m sorry, please. Let me go.” The woman was sobbing now.

“Don’t you want to know how I know your special?”

The woman shook her head. “I’m not ….”

“Shut your stupid mouth and listen!” Carol barely controlled her anger and shoved the nozzle of the Glock into her rival’s chest.

She drew a deep calming breath and lowered the gun slightly. “I know, because he’s been happy. Happier than he’s been for many years. The only thing that’s different in his life since the advent of his peculiar behaviour is you!”

Carol fished inside the pocket of the coat she was wearing and drew out a small velvet box. “He brought you this little diamond trinket from Caliago. His jeweller of choice. It’s an engagement ring for you, Thursday’s Girl. The ring size is smaller than mine, and besides I only wear emeralds. My contact at the jewellers tells me it’s worth upwards of one million dollars. I do hope it’s insured. Give me your hand. Let’s try it on for size.”

The hand the woman held out was shaking. Carol nursed the gun, and held out the jewellery box. “Now place it on your finger. Don’t be stupid enough to flex your hand. Slide it on.”

The diamonds glistened as the ring slid into place perfectly.

“And lastly, should you think me presumptive, then don’t. You see our darling Peter visited our attorney to get the ball rolling for divorce proceedings. I can only wonder that he made such a stupid mistake. Our attorney was the one I recommended twenty-years ago. He earns every cent of the additional fees I pay him every month.”

Peter groaned again from the bed and his lover stood there watching on, too afraid to move.

Carol smiled. “How tragic love is. How very sad that you came here to end your relationship. Peter Cameron had never been denied anything in his life. He couldn’t take the rejection. He apparently decided that if he couldn’t have you, then nobody would.

The woman began to scream, and Carol laughed with pleasure. “Oh, yes, scream. Go right ahead! We do love living out here. There’s a righteous freedom in having no near neighbors.”

The woman was still sobbing as Carol sat next to Peter on the bed and shot her three times in the chest. She calmly watched as the body was flung backward by the impact and dropped to the floor.

Carol gazed down on her for long enough to see the faint hold on life vacate her eyes.

Carol checked the spandex gloves, satisfied that they’d worked as they should. She placed the weapon down for a moment as she removed the other things that she’d need from the bureau.

Peter’s arm felt like a dead weight as she wrapped the tourniquet around his upper bicep. The veins responded beautifully, and Carol inserted the syringe and watched in fascination as her husband’s body jerked several times. She watched him begin to foam at the mouth. She watched him die. “Heroin is so deadly, if you don’t get the dosage just right. I believe it’s referred to as a ‘hot shot’.

She placed the Glock in his right hand and checked to ensure the trajectory married up with the bullet’s impact on his dead companion. Carol squeezed his fingers closed around the weapon with his finger on the trigger, then let his arm drop and the gun lay loosely in the dead hand.

Carol stood back and admired her handiwork. Content now she hurried outside.

She ran to her car secreted behind a tall stand of trees and drove it into her driveway, behind the visitors Porche. She let the car idle and punched in 911 on her iPhone.

“911. What is the nature of your emergency?”

“Please! Help me. I need help! Please!” The voice was frantic.

“I’ll help you, Ma’am, but I need you to calm down. Please tell me what is happening.”

“I heard a woman screaming! Then I think there were gunshots! Now I can’t hear anything. Please! Please, I beg you, please hurry, I think my husband is inside. Should I go in? I have to help him!”

“Please give me your address.”

Carol gave it.

“Do NOT enter the dwelling. Police and Paramedics are on the way. Stay on the line with me. Are you close to the house?”

“I’m outside in the driveway.”

“Please move away from the property. Stay away from the windows. They’re on their way.”

***

CNN breaking news.

“In breaking news! The body of United States Senator Peter Cameron has been found at his home. A crime scene now exists. Early indications from our sources indicate that another body has been found at the scene. Murder/Suicide has not been ruled out.”

“Tragically it was the senator’s wife who made the grim discovery. She is reported to be resting under sedation. In deep shock as these events unfold. Police at this stage don’t believe that a third party was involved in the tragedy.”

Carol listened to the excited broadcaster and smiled.

Then she settled down in her pristine hospital bed and drifted off to a contented sleep.

#

 

*Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again, for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Suzanne Burke  RWISA Author page

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA 7/15

RWISAWatch Write Showcase Tour

Fiza Pathan

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Around WordPress this week, members of the Rave Reviews Book Club will be sharing writing samples and information about other authors in this organization called RWISA, the Rave Writer’s International Society of Authors. 

Today’s writing sample is from author Fiza Pathan, a chilling entry, be sure to read to the end.

The Star Pupil’s Diary Entry by Fiza Pathan

Dear Diary,

I had a wonderful day at school today. I got a star and I’m going to tell you all about it.

I’m eight years old, but I’m the tallest boy in the class. I, and the other kids in my neighborhood, study at the school down the block. Actually, our school was once something terrible; it was a disgusting Christian church, something called “Catholic.” The school officials tore it down and made it into a proper school for us kids.

So, I went to school today. I was the first one there so I got the biggest teddy bear to do my training with. The kids who were late got teddies that were way too small, the cheap ones that our soldiers stole from the hands of fleeing Jewish kids before they shot them in the head.

My teacher made us do our practice training in the morning. He handed us our daggers. We each checked with our fingers if they were sharp enough. Since I was early to class, I got to demonstrate. I put the dagger on the neck of the teddy and slit it the way my teacher had taught me to do. The other students followed me, but I was the best at cutting off teddy’s head.

“The jugular,” my teacher scolded another student who was cutting the wrong part of the teddy. “The jugular and do it slowly; it should make them cry.”

After dagger practice was over, we all sat and singing practice began. Singing is important; it touches souls and bring them closer to God.

We sang the national anthem. Teacher said I was the best singer and patted me on the head.

“Now, who knows a good English song, a hymn for our nation?” our teacher asked.

Every kid was stumped. They knew plenty of English songs, some of them were American. But you couldn’t sing those songs anymore. They knew “If I Was Your Boyfriend” by that Justin Bieber nonbeliever and “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction, another group of nonbelievers—may the devil plague them!

But no one knew a hymn in English to our cause. Not a single kid. Well, everyone except me!

I raised my hand and teacher smiled.

He asked me to stand up and sing in place.

The other kids turned to look at me. They were jealous because they were not as smart as me.

I put my hands behind my back and stood straight like I do when singing the national anthem. I opened my mouth and began to sing:

We for the sake of Allah have come under the banner,

We for the sake of our Caliph have torn the world asunder;

We for the sake of our raped sisters will kill the ones responsible,

We for the sake of our nation will die, but not before we become incredible.

I didn’t know the meaning of raped, but daddy had taught me this song while we were fleeing India to come here, to this land of milk and honey. Daddy taught me a lot of songs and hymns as we fled India. We almost got caught, but our fake passports worked. Daddy is so smart. He is now working as a soldier here.

“Bravo, my son,” my teacher said, and he shook my hand. The other kids clapped, but some spat on the ground with disgust.

“Bravo, my son,” my teacher said again, holding me by the shoulders and looking into my eyes. “You are a gem of a man already. You get a star for this.”

And I did; a star made of metal shining like gold, the ones soldiers put on their uniforms. I was so proud that I couldn’t stop smiling.

The teacher then said it was almost time for prayers, but before that, did any of us kids know who we were deep in our hearts? Many kids answered:

“We are Allah’s blessing in flesh.”

“We are the terror of the Westerners.”

“We are the protectors of our faith.”

“We are true worshippers of the almighty.”

But the teacher said all their answers were wrong. I knew that too, because I knew the real answer. Teacher then asked me, “Tell me, son, who are we?”

I smiled, fiddling with my gold star before answering: “We are men who love death just as some people love their life; we are soldiers who fight in the day and the night.”

My teacher clapped, and so did the other kids, except for the ones who yet again spat on the floor and gave me angry looks.

We spent the rest of the day praying, going to the mosque that was once a church. They called it Lutheran, which sounds so ugly. I then came home, and here I am writing in this diary, which Daddy gave me to record the fun time I’m having here in this new country, the place where Allah truly lives with his beloved people.

I’m so happy to have earned my star. I’ll wear it tomorrow to the next beheading on the main square of those bad men who were trying to escape heaven, this place where we stay. I love beheadings. I take pictures of it on my uncle’s cell phone. I love the blood, snapped bones, and torn veins the best.

Tomorrow, our class will burn crosses at the beheading. I will burn not a cross, but a small statue of Mary, mother of that prophet who sinned against us. I’ve never burned her before, not because I haven’t gotten a chance to do so, but because . . . her eyes, her eyes when they look at me are funny.

Well, it’s time to go for prayers. I shall write later.

Yours always,

Alif Shifaq of the ISIS children brigade,

3 Bel Anif Mansion,

Sultan Saladin Road,

Raqqa,

ISIS Syria,

March 12, 2015.

*

After the fall of ISIS in Raqqa, an American soldier with his entire team were on the ground for inspection purposes. It was the year 2017, and the whole city had been razed to the ground.

The American soldier’s name was Emmanuel, and as he walked over the immense quantity of rubble, he spotted something.

It was a diary. A bit battered due to the bombing, but in good shape.

The hand of a preteen was found holding a pen beside it. The hand only. Not the rest of the body. The body had been incinerated.

Emmanuel lifted the diary and dusted it. He took it along with him, jumping over a pile of dusty teddy bears with their throats cut.

“City of the dead,” Emmanuel intoned, as he opened the diary to read. The first thing he read was an inscription in black ink from a fountain pen. It was done in calligraphy—skillfully done.

 

We are men who love death just as you love your life,

We are the soldiers who fight in the day and the night.

 

Emmanuel sighed and turned a page.

***

 

*Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again, for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Fiza Pathan RWISA Author page

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA

RWISAWatch Write Showcase Tour

Beem Weeks

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Around WordPress this week, members of the Rave Reviews Book Club will be sharing writing samples and information about other authors in this organization called RWISA, the Rave Writer’s International Society of Authors. 

Today’s writing sample is from author Beem Weeks.

Dying for a Kiss, by Beem Weeks

 

It’s like one of those stories you’d read about in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. I mean, who ever heard of anybody dying from a kiss? Seriously! But that’s what happened to me—well, except for the dying part. Two weeks in the hospital—that’s the souvenir I brought back from my spring break.

Okay, let me back up to the beginning.

My parents’ hushed words pierce the wall that separates their bedroom from mine. This particular conversation doesn’t warrant status as an argument, though. And believe me, I know what their arguments sound like—lots of yelling, and maybe an ashtray or a bowling trophy gets thrown by Mom. I guess I’d classify this one as just another log of disappointment tossed on the bonfire that engulfs our family—our collective lives.

Dad is a dreamer. The problem is, dreamers make promises they’ll eventually have to break. He’s also the sort of man who’ll spend his last five dollars on scratch-off lottery tickets instead of household necessities, like food, or gas—or our long-planned excursion to Disney World during spring break.

Dad’s the one who sets it in stone over breakfast in our kitchen—Dad, because Mom refuses to play the bad parent anymore.

“Sorry, kids,” he tells me and my sister, Amanda. “We just can’t afford Disney at this time.”

Amanda, being nearly two years older than me, carries a heavier burden of disappointment than I do. She’s had more time to gather her own collection of tales regarding broken promises, cancelled plans, and the jettisoned idea of ever being a normal, well-adjusted family.

“I figured as much,” Amanda mumbles, dismissing herself from the table.

Dad tries to be sincere in his attempt to save spring break. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t go somewhere that’s almost as fun and exciting.”

When Dad speaks of somewhere, it’s usually a state-park campground in some far-flung forest up north.

Amanda hollers from the living room, “Just so you know, Daddy, I hate camping.”

I don’t hate camping—though it doesn’t exactly make my top-ten list of fun things to do.

*      *      *

A little backstory.

My parents met at a Beatles concert back in 1964. Mom claims love at first sight.

Dad, well, he’s been known to dispute her recollections on the subject. He’s fond of saying, “She had the hots for John Lennon, is all. I’m just the booby prize.”

Hippies, they were—and still are, even though it’s 1979 now. They only just recently (as in one year ago) got married—despite the fact that Amanda is almost fourteen and I’m already twelve. And though they’d both been college students when they met, neither has ever collected the degree they once intended to earn.

Mom works at the IGA as a cashier—minimum wage, with practically zero opportunity to advance into a higher tax bracket.

Dad? He’s dabbled in various occupations—sales, electronic repairs (TV’s mostly, maybe a few stereos), welding, landscaping, auto repair. Nothing ever really sticks for him, though. My grandfather (Mom’s dad) refers to my father as professionally unemployable. Granddad still blames him for making a mess of Mom’s life. They don’t speak, Dad and Grandpa.

Dad’s a good guy, though. He means well. He’s just not one for responsibilities.

So, anyway, the folded map of Michigan comes out, spread across the kitchen table. Mom eyes the places circled in red—those previous vacation spots. We’ve been all over the state: Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Traverse City during the cherry festival, Holland for Tulip Time. We even spent a few days on Mackinac Island three summers ago—though we didn’t stay at the Grand Hotel.

“It’s Andrew’s turn to choose,” Mom says, dropping the big decision in my hands.

Hiawatha National Forest had been my first choice the last time my turn came up. But Dad broke his foot, which cancelled our vacation that spring.

“The Upper Peninsula, it is,” Dad says.

Amanda despises me in this moment. “I told you I hate camping.”

*      *      *

Radio songs fill the van once we hit US 27 going north. The Bee Gees squawk about a tragedy twice before we’re even on the road for forty minutes.

“I hate that song,” Amanda complains.

Dad says, “Well, I like it.”

Mom tries to lighten the mood. “I spy with my little eye—”

“Please don’t!” Amanda begs. Without warning, she socks my shoulder, yells, “Slug bug red!”

“Ouch!” And just like that, it’s on. We’ll both of us be battered and bruised by the time we spy the top of the Mackinac Bridge.

“Slug bug green!” Thwack!

“Slug bug blue!” Thwack!

“Slug bug—oh, never mind. That’s not a VW.” Thwack!

“Hey! No fair!”

Blondie sings about her heart of glass and Amanda momentarily abandons our game—just long enough to sing the few lines she actually knows.

Many hours later, I’m the one who spots the top of the Mighty Mack! “I see the bridge,” I say, hoping it’ll irritate Amanda.

But in truth, she doesn’t mind losing this game. It’s not a thing to her anymore. She’ll leave us the day she turns eighteen—or even sooner, if she has her way. Grandpa promised to pay for her college, knowing my parents will never be able to afford it.

Evening spikes the sky with an orange-pink sunset by the time we find a campground inside Hiawatha. Dozens of tents and RV’s occupy the prime camping spots.

“Andrew and I will set up the tent,” Dad says, parking our van on the last vacant lot within sight. “You girls can get dinner ready.”

Kids—loud and rowdy, as Grandpa would say—run from lot to lot, chasing after somebody’s collie, darting across the road without so much as a glance in either direction.

“Too stupid to last long in this world,” Amanda says.

Mom gives her the eye. “They’re just kids, for crying out loud, Mandy.”

*      *      *

“Andy and Mandy,” the girl teases, laughing at our introductions. “That’s cute. Are you two twins or something?”

“Or something,” Amanda says.

Her name is Nora, this girl with short brown hair. Already fourteen—unlike Amanda, who still has another month. The tents across the street are her family’s—it’s their collie running wild.

“Five kids,” Nora says, answering my mother. “I’m the oldest. Three younger brothers and a baby sister.”

“Sounds kind of crowded, that many people in just two small tents,” I observe.

She looks right at me when I speak—like I’m really truly here, standing in front of her.

“You don’t know the half of it,” says Nora. “I asked if I could just stay home, sit out this vacation. That’s not happening anytime soon.”

*      *      *

Blue jean shorts and a red bikini top—that’s what Nora wears the following morning. And a pocket full of salt water taffy—which she gladly shares.

Mom’s not impressed. “Leaves little to the imagination,” she says, regarding Nora’s top.

“But you and Daddy used to skinny dip,” Amanda reminds her. “So how is that better?”

Mom’s hard gaze issues silent threats. Her words aren’t quite as harsh. “Aren’t you kids going boating?”

It’s not really a boat, this thing we rent; it’s more like a canoe—but only plastic. I sit in the rear, my paddle steering us toward the middle of the lake. Amanda has the other paddle, though she’s not really doing anything with it.

Nora sits in the middle—facing me!

I think Amanda is intimidated, not being the oldest for a change.

Nora talks—a lot. But I don’t mind. She tells us all about life back home in Detroit—well, the suburbs, really, a place called Royal Oak. She used to have a boyfriend, but he cheated on her. Her parents separated last year, intending to divorce, but her mom ended up pregnant.

“Amazing how an unborn baby can save a marriage,” Amanda says.

It’s after we bring the canoe in that Nora says, “Wanna go for a walk?”

Only, she’s not talking to Amanda. Amanda is already halfway back to our tent.

We end up in a picnic area near the lake, just me and Nora. She tells me more about herself, her family, what she intends for her future.

“You’re cute,” she says, sitting right beside me on a park bench.

My cheeks get hot, probably bright pink.

And she’s two years older than me, I think, as her lips press against mine.

My first kiss—well, first real kiss.

On her tongue I taste salt water taffy and excitement and all things possible.

What I don’t taste is the meningitis in her saliva.

Amanda intrudes, tells me lunch is being served at our tent.

*      *      *

It strikes without warning, leaving me confused, nauseated. Words tumble from my mouth, though I have no idea what I’m saying.

Mom’s hand finds my forehead. “He’s burning up,” she says. “We need to get this boy to a hospital.”

Only, I don’t hear it that way. What I hear is, “We need to get this boy a pretzel.”

“But I don’t like pretzels,” I mumble.

*      *      *

Two weeks later, I’m back home. It’s a blur, but my parents say I nearly died.

From a kiss!

Is that a Ripley’s story or what?

And what a kiss—totally worth dying for!

Well, almost dying.

 

*Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again, for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Beem Weeks RWISA Author page

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA

RWISAWatch Write Showcase Tour

Mary Adler

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Around WordPress this week, members of the Rave Reviews Book Club will be sharing writing samples and information about other authors in this organization called RWISA, the Rave Writer’s International Society of Authors. 

Today’s featured author is Mary Adler, with “Black Notes Beat.”

BLACK NOTES BEAT, by Mary Adler.

I have studied and observed crows for years, and the more I’ve learned about them, the more I admire their complex family and flock relationships. They are intelligent, create and use tools, and they teach their skills to other crows. As Rev. Henry Ward Beecher said, “If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows.”

Over the years, I have told my family and friends more than they ever wanted to know about crows. One person said, after hearing the stories I told about them, that she stopped trying to run crows down with her car. (There is so much wrong with that statement, that I don’t know where to begin.)

During the non-nesting period of the year, crows gather at night to roost together, sometimes in flocks of thousands. They are stealthy and take a roundabout way to the roosting place. They have good reason to be wary. For decades, humans have killed them, even dynamiting their roosting places at night.

Like many natural creatures, they are good and bad, depending on your viewpoint, and not everyone appreciates their beauty. But I love to watch them streaming across the sky–one small group after another–as they return from foraging to join the flock. When they are together, those who have found a safe source of food will tell the others where it is. They share, but only within their own flock.

One evening, after watching them move across the sky, I wrote this:

 

Black Notes Beat

Black notes beat

Unfurling dusk

Across the bruising sky.

 

Quarter notes, half notes

Rise and fall.

Whole notes

Rest on treetops.

 

An arpeggio of eighth notes

Silently swirls,

Scribing a nocturne

in the fading light.

 

Softly they spill

to the nighttime roost:

Rustling,

murmuring,

settling,

hushed.

 

Now the still moment,

the last note fading,

No bows, no curtsies,

No fear of reviews.

 

They need no applause to perform their works.

 

Mary Adler

 

*Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again, for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Mary Adler RWISA Author Page

Books You May Not Know of…Irish Flavor

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It’s Spring, and the flowers are budding, the birds are singing, and we’re all getting ready to pretend we’re a little Irish.  My second installment of “Books You May Not Know of” is An Embarassment of Riches by Gerald Hansen, a bowdy, irreverent look at one Irish family, their hi-jinks, and a long-time bitter rivalry between two sisters, one of whom has won the Irish lottery.

I learned of this book through a book recommendation on my Kindle a few years ago and decided to read it.  I remembered it recently and couldn’t find it; but when I searched by author, it came up.  I wondered if it was just an obscure book, but, truth be told, there are 176 reviews for it on Amazon, averaging four stars overall.

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A Bawdy Spring Read

Be forewarned:  in this book, nothing is sacred.

I laughed, I guffawed, I felt guilty for laughing.  This book almost seems to poke fun at Irish culture, or maybe just Irish stereotypes, and I kept wondering if I was wrong to enjoy this.  Yet, I realized, every family has it’s embarrassments.  A Catholic daughter gets knocked up by a Proddy, a younger daughter pulls chaos at her christening; this is full of irreverent laughs that are sometimes a little over the top.  Seriously, there is never a dull moment in this story.  If you like that sort of thing, try this book out.  The author himself is Irish.

So, once again, I sing the praises of my Kindle and the Amazon book recommendation system, for bringing me great reads that none of my friends have ever heard of.  I once read somewhere it is good to read a lot, and to read wide.  It’s the best advice I ever received!

Books You May Not Know of….

…But you ought to try!

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Okay, I’ll be honest, I read Dogrun by Arthur Nersesian 17 years ago.  I was going through a break up and a re-evaluation of my life.  The main character goes through a sort if breakup, well, to be honest, her boyfriend dies.  She has to re-evaluate her life.  In addition, she has to look for a job and navigate the world of dating, during which she gets set up with a guy who has a foot fetish.

At any rate, the way she becomes single again is sort of dark and odd, but it had been a bad relationship.  She has a dog (which is awesome), and she lives in New York, hence, the need for a dog run.  If you enjoy laughing at things you shouldn’t laugh at and identify with characters whose lives seem like one screw up after another, you’ll like Dogrun.  It’s sort of a Bridget Jones mixed with Bernadette Peters’ in the movie “Slaves of New York.” It was published by MTV books, but I looked it up recently and it seems to have gotten another publisher.  Now, go find your copy and get ready to laugh from a dark, twisted side of you!

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You can find this book at https://www.amazon.com/Dogrun-Arthur-Nersesian-ebook/dp/B003N3TUAM in Kindle or paperback.  It is not appropriate for kids under sixteen.

The subject of this book came up in a conversation with my boyfriend.  To make a long story short, I have loaned him the book because I thought it fit right in with his sense of humor.  Then, I got the idea for this post.  I picked this book up because of the blurb and the MTV books on the back (which is probably now defunct) and did not regret it.  After getting a Kindle in 2012, I started reading many of those books Amazon recommends, and I’ve been rewarded for that choice about 80% of the time.  There is beauty in choosing to read a book that everyone else may not have heard of yet.  This is why I started this post series.  I look forward to sharing more books with you!

 

Watch RWISA Write. An Author Discovered, Harmony Kent. #RRBC

RWISA TOUR (1)[2337]                            Please join me in welcoming fellow author, Harmony Kent to my blog today!  Harmony is a supportive fellow member of Rave Reviews Book Club and is also a member of RWISA, Rave Writers’ International Society of Authors.    The following is a sample of her writing.

Harmony

Live or Die?

by Harmony Kent

 

Sometimes, you need to accept help. Sometimes, you need to admit that you need it. Sometimes, you need to take the hand that’s offered. You reached out and took my arm. I let you. I took the assistance I needed. I gripped your hand so that you could pull me to my feet. The last thing I needed was for you to slit my wrists. So much blood. All that carnage. My heart ripped right out of my chest.

I did my best.

Though, what kind of an epitaph is that?

Do I want that immortalised on my headstone?

Does that adequately sum up a life?

What about all the rest?

At the end of the day, what’s left to show for all that struggle, all that pain?

Right now, only one thing remains certain, that things can never be the same. That river? Already crossed. That road? Already travelled. That life? Already lived.

No going back. Not ever.

Going forward, though? Now, there’s the question.

For this gal, only one choice remains. Live or die?

Sometimes, you need to accept help. Once bitten, twice shy and all that, though, ya know? Truth be told, I’ve come to the end. Like I said, no going back. The rub is that I can’t go on either. The wind whips my hair into my face and throws cold pellets of rain at me. I shiver and dig deep for the courage. Never did like heights, yet here I stand. To jump or not to jump? That is the question.

The darkness wraps around me and locks the breath in my lungs and my feet in place—leaves me perched here in a daze. The metal burns cold within my death grip. With pulse racing, I edge my left foot forward a couple of centimetres, and then bring the right one up level. Perforce, I have to let go of the steel girders now. I’ve taken a step too far. Sweat breaks free from every pore and soaks this trembling mass of flesh, muscle, and sinew. With a heart this broken, how does it even continue on?

‘Miss? Are you okay? … Miss?’

At the unexpected voice, I twist and startle. A man reaches for me, indistinct in the arc-sodium lights.

‘Miss? Here, take my hand.’

A sudden gust buffets me from behind, and I stumble forward, a scream frozen in my terrified throat. All of a sudden, it hits me, I don’t want to die. Too late, however, as I’m off balance and too close to the edge. Dimly, as I fall, I see that it’s not about living or dying but about having the choice. It seems the wind has finished your job for you. Limp and spent, I plummet to the waiting river below, which sends up cold plumes of spray and waves like open arms welcoming me in and under to die beneath.

Sometimes, you need to admit that you need it. At the first swallow of brackish water, I swallow my pride, and every molecule of this being cries out for help. I should have grabbed his hand. Should have, but could I have? Would I have if given the chance? More ice-cold water pours into my throat and drowns my lungs. All the philosophising ceases as it becomes a fight for life. The cold pierces and stabs like a knife.

Tired and afraid, and no longer quite so numb, I kick, searching for the surface. Already, my limbs have gone stiff. The pressure in my chest has grown unbearable, and I have to take a breath, even though I know it will mean certain death. I just can’t do it. Can’t hold it all in anymore. Bubbles erupt when the life-giving air breaks free of my now open lips.

They show me the way when they float up, up, and up.

For a second, I hesitate. Do I go for it or not? Here is my chance for total surrender. To not have to fight any further. Do I have the energy? The will? At the end of the day, what’s left to show for all that struggle, all that pain?

I did my best, but I don’t want that on my epitaph.

My legs kick and arms stroke, pushing through the murk and trying for air. With this exhaustion and cold, I doubt I’ll get there. By now, the bubbles have long gone, but I’ve come near enough to discern the orange city glow. Not far now. One more kick. One more. That’s it. Just one more.

Sometimes, you need to take the hand that’s offered. I come to, afloat on my back, and the icy waves provide my waterbed. Way up high, atop the bridge, come the blues-and-twos, as the emergency services rush to the scene of my demise. Don’t they realise that I’ve fallen too far from reach? Beyond any assistance or redemption.

It seems as if hours pass me by while I drift in and out and upon. This time, a deafening roar causes me to rouse. A shadow flies through the sky, trailing a bright beam. The search is on. These arctic temperatures have other ideas—so much so that I’ve begun to feel warm. A bad sign. Sleepy too.

Impossibly white light hits me and burns my eyes. I raise a hand to cover them and, immediately, lose my buoyancy and sink back into the dark. The search light now glows dimly above the water. Too tired, too cold, too done to even try and fight, I let the river have its way.

The universe has other ideas, it seems, and once again, I lose the choice. Strong hands grip my armpits and haul me upward. To the artificially lit night and the cold and the air and the despair. Oh, love, what did you do to me? So much blood. All that carnage. All those lies and abuse. What’s the use?

 

You reached out and took my arm. It all unfolded in a blur and strobe-like snapshots—the winch into the helicopter, the medi-flight, and them getting me here. Trouble is, I think they left my heart there.

A nurse bustles into the private room and pulls apart the drapes. ‘Time to let in some light,’ she says. Oh, how wrong could she be? The last thing I want to do is see. Right now, only one thing remains certain, that things can never be the same. I want to stay in the dark; hide from my shame.

‘You have a visitor.’ Her voice sounds far too bubbly. It hurts. ‘The police officer who tried to help on the bridge.’ A shadow crosses her face. Then she gets busy tidying the bedding and then me. ‘I’ll just go and show him in.’ Once again, I don’t get a choice. No time to find my voice.

The door opens slowly, and I lay with baited breath. A young man eases in, dark hair and chocolate eyes, with a smile that feels like the most glorious sunrise. ‘May I?’

His question gives me pause. Never before did anyone ask my permission. Dumbstruck, I give a mere nod. My visitor edges to the bed and takes a seat on the hard plastic chair that the nurse placed there. We sit in silence for a while, and then his eyes find my scars. So many. Clouds snuff out that beautiful dawn and darken his face.

Now, he’ll make his excuses and take his leave. He’s done his bit. But no. Instead, he takes my hand. Looks into my eyes. Somewhere from the edges, I register that he doesn’t have on his uniform. ‘It’s okay,’ he tells me, fingers rubbing mine. ‘You’re safe now. We’ll make this right.’

Uninvited, a sob brings the elephant right into the room. ‘No one can,’ I croak.

‘It’s okay. He won’t hurt you again.’

‘You know who I am?’

He nods, gives my hand a squeeze. ‘We know everything.’

All I want to do is shrivel up and crawl within.

With both hands, he reaches out and takes my arms. I let him. He seems an angel in human form, and I feel safe within his embrace. Into my hair, he whispers, ‘It’s okay. I’ve got you. I got you now.’

Can I take the leap of faith?

Now, there’s the question.

Live or die?

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH RWISAWRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

 

Harmony Kent  RWISA Author Page

 

 

Watch RWISA Write! An Author Discovered, John Howell #RRBC

RWISA TOUR (1)[2337]

I’m proud to display the work of fellow author, John Howell, today.  John is a fellow member of Rave Reviews Book Club and RWISA (Rave Writers International Society of Author).  You can find out more about his writing and published books following his brief story below.

John W. Howell

Last Night by John W. Howell © 2017

So, with nothing better to do, I figure I’ll stop at Jerry’s place and grab a couple of drinks and a burger. Usually, I don’t go there on Saturday night since there’s a crapload of amateurs taking up what would be considered prime space. I figure since this is a Friday and close to Saturday, it may be packed, but not as crazy as Saturday. It’s the kind of place where everyone minds their business. They’re there for a good time and will likely not notice me. Even so, I go through the door, stop, and have a look around, trying not to make eye contact. I hope that the ball cap and large coat will keep me from getting noticed.  The bar holds a weekday crowd, hanging on each other like they never had a date before. I tighten my eyelids against the smoke and make out four guys near the pool table, and what looks like a couple of girls fetching drinks. I search for a seat beyond the table in the back, but it seems like they’re all taken.

A guy bumps into me as I stand here. I say excuse me, and he looks me in the face. “Hey, don’t I know you?” he says.

“I don’t think so.” I make to turn away.

“Yeah, you’re the sports hero who lost all his money. I saw you on TV.”

“Naw, people always say stuff like that. I’m not him, buddy; trust me.”

He gives me a puzzled look but doesn’t want to push it, in case he has it wrong. I turn away and continue to look for a seat.

Straight ahead lies the bar, and it has a place right in the middle. I move in the direction of the empty place and look over to the other side of the room. The tables look full of happy drunks. Buckets of empties line the bar top, and the barmaid’s trying to sell more. She doesn’t have much luck since most of these people just spent their last five bucks on this outing. Upon making it to the stool, I hoist myself up and lean on the bar.

“Hey, Greg,” Jerry says. “Whadda you have?”

“Evening, Jerry. I’ll have a Gin on the rocks with a water back.”

“Comin’ up.”

I like Jerry’s no-nonsense way of handling things. He doesn’t like small talk and gets right to business. My eyes smart from the smoke, and I wonder how Jerry gets away with letting people kill themselves, when clearly, it’s not supposed to be allowed in this kind of establishment.

“Here you go. Want me to run a tab?”

“Yeah, I would appreciate that. I intend to have another drink and then a burger.”

The guy who thinks he knows me grabs my shoulder from behind. I almost fall off the stool.

“You’re Greg Petros, the big fund manager. I knew I’d seen you on TV. You took a beautiful career in football and ran it into the ground.”

Jerry leans over the bar and lays his hand on the guy’s shoulder. “Move on, my friend. You made a mistake. This guy is nobody. Go sit down and let me buy you a drink.”

“You sure? You called him Greg.”

“Yeah, I’m sure. Go get a table, and I’ll send someone over.”

The guy looks at me one more time but does as Jerry suggests. He believes Jerry’s wrong, but the idea of a free drink lets him get away without losing face.

“Thanks. I didn’t mean for you to have to jump in.”

“No problem. Gimme the high sign when you’re ready for another drink.”

“Will do. Thanks.”

“For you buddy, anything.”

I should mention that Jerry and I go back aways. When I fell on hard times, he became the only one that seemed to give a shit. I take a sip of my drink and wait for the burn in my throat, which signals the good stuff. Here it comes. I take a swig of the water and almost believe life is good. The Gin needs to get to the brain before making any honest judgment.

While I wait for the warmth to go from my stomach to my head, I check out the folks seated on either side of me. They both have their backs turned to me and sit engrossed in some discussion with their neighbor. I figure it’s just as well since I don’t want to go through that old “don’t I know you?” bullshit again. Also, I don’t figure on staying the night, so no use in getting into any long discussions about life.

I look down at my drink and wonder what will happen tomorrow. My daughter Constance wants to come and visit. She lives in New York, and before all hell broke loose, we didn’t see each other often. I missed her so much, and it seemed I had to beg her even to talk on the phone. Now, it’s like she wants to be here every weekend. It’s only an hour’s flight by the shuttle or three by train, so she can come when she wants. I just can’t figure out why she got so clingy. I have my troubles, but it doesn’t have anything to do with her. No use in asking her husband, either. Though a nice enough guy, I always wonder if he has someplace important to go when I visit. He never sits still, and stays busy on the phone or at the computer. He makes a good living, but it seems a person could take an hour to sit and talk. I’d looked forward to some kind of relationship when he and Constance got married. It’ll never happen with him.

When I take another pull at my drink, I notice the burn feels less. It happens every time. First sip initiation, I call it. It’s like the first puff of a cigarette, hits hard then, after, nothing. I decide to let Constance pretty much have the agenda tomorrow. She and I have not had a chance to talk about anything deep for a while. It could just be that she blames me for her mother running off with that guy with the house on the Hudson. He has a title, and the old gal couldn’t resist, but, I think the daughter always felt I should have done something. Her mother’s sleeping with another guy and what the hell can I do about that?

I’ll just go with the flow. If she wants to go out, we will. If she wants to stay in, we can do that, too. I better think about getting some food in the house. Of course, we can always order take out. I need to move on to my drink and let this go. Tomorrow will be what it is. I remember the day she was born. I looked down at her in my arms and promised I would do anything for her. I love her more than life itself, and I hope we can somehow get to the root of whatever’s wrong. She sounded strange on the phone this morning, and I feel helpless to do anything about it. I hope she opens up when she gets here.

For some reason, I feel tired. Perhaps I’ll go ahead and finish my drink. Maybe I’ll just go home and forget the burger. First, though, I’ll just shut my eyes for a minute. My hands feel good when I put my head down.

“Hey, Greg,” Jerry says. I barely hear him. “What’s the matter? You taking a nap? Greg?” I can feel him shake me, but I have no interest in waking up. His voice gets further away, and I think he says, “Oh my God, Sophie, call 911, quick.” Now the room goes silent.

 

END

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John Howell  RWISA Author Page