The Kids of Saint Anthony (Flash Fiction Friday I-02)

Photo by TrippyBeth

It’s amazing how wonderfully huge the world can be through younger eyes. A hedgerow is thick, dense forest. A row of suburban houses is a castle wall. By the same token, it’s amazingly tragic how much the same world shrinks in the eyes of an adult. A hedgerow is something to trim. The row of suburban houses, a wall meant to keep the public unpleasantness out and the private unpleasantness in. To the young, impressionable eyes that first set eyes on Saint Anthony’s Home, it’s facade is a castle filled with the tales of valiant knights and beautiful princesses. To the more mature eyes of the ones who spent her fair share of years there, Emily now sees it as just another old building filled with stories that she would just as soon forget.

There was a brief moment of time in Emily’s life where she thought it would be a wise idea to join a convent. Her personal demons whispered in her ear for most of her late teens, and she felt the only way to get them to stop was to give her life to the Sisterhood, which she did, for a few years. Because of her young age, and late indoctrination into the faith, her responsibilities mainly revolved around the well being of the children and not much else; feeding, cleaning, learning of grace and reader of the occasional bed time story. It wasn’t long before her demons left her alone. After ten years of acting as a surrogate, and realizing that she wasn’t going to progress any further, she packed her belongings and left the home in search for a more fulfilling life, and perhaps, if time permitted, a child of her own.

Years later, she returns to these halls. This time as the Home’s most loyal social worker. Although the stone walls are still high and the tile floors still amplify every heel from every step, they no longer hold the ominous wonder they did when she was younger. It was no longer a castle, it was just another office building.

Being an adult sucks.

 

~***~
Photo by Vesinia from Deviant Art

“Ah, it’s good to see you again, Emily.” Sister Mary Margret was always so cheerful; a smile seemed

permanently attached to her face, followed by the grasp of her cold, bony hand. It didn’t matter that Emily walked out on her so many years ago, Mary’s calling was to nurture and offer charity to an otherwise cruel world.

Emily tried to smile as she took her hand. The memories of every horror story from every child beginning to creep into her mind and pollute the otherwise Christmas Morning-type greeting that her former mentor doled out for free. “Afternoon, Sister Mary,” was all she could muster through a forced smile. As a teenager, she would open up her entire world to her. As an adult she is always all about the task at hand. There was little room for small talk or pleasantries, except when it came to Sister Mary. Emily would always allow a small concession. “How’ve you been?””Oh, I could never complain, child. It wouldn’t do much good,” said Mary with delicate cackle of a grandmother’s laugh. “I trust you’ve taken a moment to go over the files?”

“Yes,” said Emily as she flipped through the folder that was on the top of the pile, “Although, I’m a little confused. When we talked last, you told me that there was something wrong with this set of siblings that came to you recently.”

“Yes, dear.”

“Okay, well going by their most recent medical records, you had them go through physical and mental evaluations. First opinions, second opinions and even a note from the clergy, all giving clean bills of health.”

“Yes, dear.”

Emily has endured years of the tales of abuse from the runaways and orphans. Every story devolving into more horrific tales as the years went on. She has put herself through college and suffered the years of indignation from every male colleague and professor to finish in the top percentile of her class. She has survived a failed marriage. She even managed to live through her own daughter dying in her arms. She has survived. And yet, she still gets a chill down her spine whenever her former mentor would not be as forthcoming as she normally would be. It usually meant that something was beyond her grasp, and that usually meant trouble. Emily studied her poker face. She knew her expressions. The more dire the situation, the quicker her familiar smile would leave her lips. The Sister’s face was a few degrees above dire. Emily closed the file, took a deep breath, took a step forward and whispered at Confessional level, “I’m not going to like what I’m about to hear, am I?”

“Well, yes… and no, dear. Look, you and I have heard stories of the worst evil imaginable, in the case of these children that came into my protection, it doesn’t appear to be the case. There was no abuse, no trouble with the authorities, just three children without much of a past.”

“Oh, well then it’s just a case of tracking down their parents and their records and…” before she would let her come to her obvious conclusion, Sister Mary reached out with her cold, boney yet loving hand and placed it on top of hers. “I don’t think it’s going to be that easy, dear. Perhaps you’d better come with me.” They walked down the hall together, towards the familiar rooms where all the children lived, played and slept.
©2014 Anthony Payson/The Writers Bloc

Whatever I Want Wednesdays: Where Is Fancy Bred? (Caution: Rant in Progress)

Okay, to be honest… I thought it was “bread”. I always thought that Benvolio was looking for a specific baker that made this particular loaf of Pumpernickel. Which was rather odd because he was gambling for his life at the moment. Maybe picking the right casket made him…hungry…what was I talking about?

Anyway, this quote:

“…Where is fancy bred? In the heart, or in the head?”

-William Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice)
Forget for a moment that this quote is more noted for being in a certain movie, this question basically asks: “How should we love? Passionately, or wisely?” Implying, of course, that never the twain shall meet. As with many things attributed to the bard, this quote could easily be applied as a life lesson for many things other than amorous crushes. Would it be too far removed to ask, “How should we live?”

I never gave too much credence to any so-called “Self-Help Gurus”, or “Life Coaches”. Perhaps it was the jaded nature of my generation that casts a wary eye to these individuals. Our childhood dominated by experiencing the Vietnam War on a nightly basis, the ripple effect left by Watergate, and the seeds of the Cold War being planted and cultivated may have also formed our mindset. I remember being herded into our high school gymnasium on a yearly basis to be screamed at wowed by these “Motivational Speakers”with their big hair, loud Cosby Sweaters and go-get ’em attitude telling us to be MOTIVATED!!….apparently for the sake of being….MOTIVATED because your typical high school teacher had no idea how teach it themselves and had to get someone else to do it. Someone else that was hired by…I don’t know…let’s say Texas school text book publishers. Someone who thought that getting some dude in his forties would be the perfect candidate to communicate with the kids, because they’re cool and rad too! THEY know how to reach the kids! THEY know what they want…because we tell them to like what they want…Look! He’s singing along with a Foreigner song! He MUST be one of us! He’s so relatable! I mean, forget that its a band made up of old dudes and the only people listening to them are your crazy uncle who blares it from his 8-track in his customized van, forget that a kids in the 80s (the cooler kids) are more inclined to listen to Van Halen than to a band that came out 10 years before we got old enough to appreciate it!….I wish MTV would hurry up and get here…but YEAH! He’s rockin’ out and telling us to be good little subservients! And he’s got concert lighting and smoke machines! I wish he were MY friend.

If the iPad was invented thirty years earlier, I guarantee you every face would be pointed towards the floor as every student Tweeted about how much of a poser this guy was. We didn’t have that back then. All we could do was give him the blank stare and fidget in our seat and wait for the lunch bell. For some, the result of having to sit through this painful ordeal had a positive effect and made (somewhat) of an impact that lasted a day or so. For the rest of us, we regarded it is bullshit window dressing designed to waste time before some of us went to vocational school. The people in the office buildings would say that their efforts paid off. The kids that it was directed it had a different opinion.

The 80s kids never listened to this, because we failed to see the point in it. We failed to see the point in it, because we felt we were being talked down to, and dressing it up in loud clothing and putting a cocaine induced smile on its face wasn’t making it any better. For all our trappings and our ambivalence, we failed to see the point in it, because your message still wasn’t reaching us, and we’re not that stupid.

But, no matter. We leapfrogged from the days of Leo Buscaglia and Deepak Chopra, and graduated to Tony

Robbins and motivational posters when we entered adulthood. Soon, the backlash happened. We figured out that we could buy our own platitudes for encouragement. We figured if we were at the point of needing help, and were motivated enough to go to the bookstore to by motivational poster or a self-help book by some New York Times Bestseller…then we are pretty much motivated to do…well…anything.

Soon, the Motivational Speaker craze gave way to a different animal. Soon, the Cosby Sweaters were replaced by slick, 80s throwbacks with their supposedly expensive suits, sitting on their Lamborghini that’s parked outside of their palatial mansion and telling the late night television viewing audience that they have the secret to success as bikini-clad models drape over their arms. These men have claimed to make it big in real estate and flipping houses, or knowing the right algorithms of the stock market, or some other far-fetched scheme, and they could give their knowledge to you…that’s right…YOU! All you have to do is sacrifice your entire weekend, write out a check for $1500 while you let this guy scream at you to buy his book while you fidget in your seat at the convention center while you check the clock and patiently wait for the time when you can go to the bathroom.

Where is fancy bred?

We are not that stupid. We failed to see the point of it because what you were selling has fallen on deaf ears and empty wallets…

 

Can you personally build a better business system than McDonald’s?

No, Mr. Kiyosaki, I can’t. But, I suppose you could distill the essence of attaining an MBA into one weekend retreat? Oh…also, thanks a bunch  for trying to make me regret not getting accepted into Harvard where I may have had a chance to build a better business system were my proclivities drawn to such a direction. Not all of us are so lucky. Not all of us are successful. Not all of us can afford to buy and sell real estate to flip for a profit. If we could afford it, then we wouldn’t plunk down hard earned cash to listen to you drone on for days.

I don’t mean to pick on the guy, but I don’t get the people who try to hammer his point home either. As if I needed any help in understanding a principle.

Well, that’s just it. Isn’t it? We have to redefine what “quality” means. When it comes to McDonald’s churning out a quality product, McDonald’s is way down on that list. Consumer Reports had them practically at the bottom. But since the individual experience doesn’t matter, and we’re talking a macro level model, then yes, you’ve got me that McDonald’s metrics on cranking out the same “quality” food on a consistent basis. I mean, they employ such winning tactics as that whole “Pink Slurry” thing as well as exploiting their workers to maximize profits, I think the question should not be “can I build a better system”, but rather should be, “can I build a better system that I can in good conscious live with myself after implementing?”

But, just for a moment, consider that all the consistency in the world isn’t going to do you much good where you’re churning out crap. Saying that, “McDonald’s customers aren’t really expecting that much” is saying something to the effect of: “…where the common customer had a choice from the dollar menu or consuming a shovel full of dirt with cheese on it, the customer will almost always pick the dollar menu…” It’s like they considered the shovel full of dirt. Does anyone else see this? Implying that McDonald’s is the only kid on the block is also pretty ludicrous. Sure, the field is a little smaller as of late as Burger King flies the coop to Canada, but they’re on the same level of crap slinging as its rival is. If an American institution pulling up stakes to head north to avoid paying taxes like a draft dodger trying to avoid the Vietnam War isn’t enough to get you to stop patronizing these places, maybe waking up one day and realizing that much closer to diabetes every time you eat there will? Maybe? No? Oh…okay….Oh LOOK! The McRib is back!!!

“Take a number? Yeah, sure. No problem.”

The Big Two of McDonald’s and Burger King aren’t the only kids on the block. Quality may not enter in the equation now. You may not see it now. But what about the long term? If these guys are placing at the bottom of the list as far as customer satisfaction goes, pretty soon that little nugget of infomation will catch up to them. 5 Guys, In-and-Out, Fatburger, White Castle, all consistently crank out an infinitely better product, and their business isn’t hurting either. Are they using the same model as McDonald’s? Their product is more expensive, and yet there’s a line out the door at my local 5 Guys and nobody seems to mind, myself included. The lines are quick at any one of the dozens of Mickey-D’s in my town, and I see red every time I order a burger that has been obviously been microwaved. Is that a better business system? Is that something I should try and emulate?

I guess what’s really getting to me is that people still confuse quality over quantity. Success isn’t necessarily a numbers game. Yes, there is about 10 McDonald’s and Burger “Great White North” Kings to every one 5Guys, but that doesn’t mean that those restaurants are any better. It just means that people don’t know any better. And don’t give me that whole, “well, it’s cheaper” argument. That’s another discussion for another time. Cheaper doesn’t mean better either, it just means people can’t afford to take a chance on anything else, and we suffer for it.

Personally, I could care less. I can’t stomach fast food anymore, but that’s not the point. What’s really getting to me is that most people will always go for the dollar menu and not be bothered to take a chance on anything of sustenance, like cooking something for themselves that doesn’t involve a microwave, or reading a blog that doesn’t have a list on it.

Where is fancy bred?

It will always be the heart. But I’m trying really hard to feel it from the head.

 

Hello everyone, hope your Monday has gone swimmingly.

For this weeks Motivation, I chose the always quotable, Neil Gaiman. Some day, I hope to achieve the same dream-like images his illustrators conjured up for the Sandman series. But for now, I’ll be happy with what I got.

Do not lose hope…

…never lose hope

Image:

Cover:

Fonts:

The Kids of Saint Anthony I-01 (Flash Fiction Friday…Belated)

Good intentions are getting in the way a little too much with this one.

The whole purpose of flash-fiction is that it’s supposed to keep you limber as a writer. My intention for Fridays is to tell a story with as little word count as possible.

This project is not turning out that way.

This project wants to find roots and grow. It doesn’t want to be raised in a cage to be cut down early in its life. There are options I haven’t found yet, possibilities yet to be discovered, characters not yet formed. There is something there, and it needs to be fleshed out.

Now, I realize the Friday entry is two days too late in posting, and for that I apologize immensely. I wanted this to be quick, but this is not turning into a one-off situation. This is the kind of thing where I need to pack a lunch. So, as a result, I will be posting sections of chapters as they come, while making room for the occasional challenge from prompts that I find. If you’re as interested as I am to see where this story will go, please feel free to subscribe so you won’t miss a thing.

Please enjoy.

Sorry so late.

Will do better.

Hugs and kisses.

 

~***~

“No, I won’t be able to take a look at it until Monday. I’m with a client all weekend.”

Rain spotted her windshield as she sat in her idling car in the parking lot, waiting for the clock in her dash to read 3:00. She would normally have this conversation on the road. Talking on the phone while driving was never her strong suit. She could never get the hang of it. Her phone would always slip from her cheek as she drove, and almost always the conversation would end abruptly as her newest sleek and stylish smartphone would wedge itself between the driver’s seat and center console. This would happen repeatedly until she finally discovered Bluetooth and never leaves home without her earpiece.

“Yes, Richard, we’ve been over this. All weekend.” Her voice remained as civil as it could be as she buried her forehead in the palm of her hand. The voice from the other end of the conversation was none too pleased to be reminded of what he should have remembered, and proceeds to make his opinions known about it. Without stopping. “Yes…YES we….I…Richard…Richard! Calm down. I’ve informed my lawyer and she’ll be contacting you tomorrow, would that be okay?…Yes, Richard. Of course, I think of everything, why can’t you?” With a single, purposeful tap to the earpiece, the conversation ended abruptly. Seat cushions would not have this day.

2:54. She turns off the engine, removes her earpiece and gathers up her paperwork in the front seat. Reports with typed information, handwritten affidavits, photos of the children, all neatly paper-clipped and placed securely in manila envelopes. She pauses before she clasps up her briefcase, as she normally does, to stare at an old photograph of a young girl with a sad face. It’s the expression that all children give when they don’t want their picture taken. She stands board straight and bored stiff just long enough for the flash to go off so she get out of that dress she thought was ugly and into her street clothes where she could feel normal. This photo is of her daughter on her ninth birthday. This photo was taken as she was just getting off a merry-go-round horse. This photo was taken 10 years ago. This photo was taken two weeks before she died.

2:58 as she shakes the rain from her lapels and throws the lanyard name tag around her neck that reads “Emily Mason-Wright, BSW”. 2:59, the guard gives her a familiar nod, and buzzes her in.

 

~***~

Pick Your Potion…Who’s Asking?

“Captain Picard was into Earl Grey tea; mention the Dude and we think: White Russians. What’s your signature beverage — and how did it achieve that status?”

Oconnellls PubMy signature drink? Well, I suppose that depends on who you ask.

Thanks to The Daily Post for keeping my fingers nimble this morning before I dive into starting into the cold, cold waters of a blank page.

It’s nothing out of the ordinary. You take great care in presenting yourself in a certain way, unaware that no matter how hard you try and be that person you want to be, you will always be somebody completely different to someone else. Let me see if I can clarify…

Show of hands: Who has spent any length of time “People Watching”? A sport engaged solo or in a group of peers, usually practiced over any assortment of beverages, where you sit and watch the people pass by your field of vision and make up a back-story for each one. I myself have been a practitioner for many years and it’s more than partially responsible for leading me down the road of writing. You sit back and watch people and make up a story in which they are the main character. Great fun, but I’ve never noticed.

…how must I look to other people? Who would I be?

 

To The Barista Making My Double EspressoCoffee cup

It could go either way. I could be…

The Guy Who Knows What He Wants

The guy that doesn’t have time to mess around with multi-syllabic descriptions for a type of coffee “What the hell is a double-half-cap-flibbidy-wibbidy-knickleback…nick-nack-paddywhack…whatever, just give me a damn coffee and make it strong.” The guy who doesn’t have the energy to get into what he prefers because he has deadlines and schedules to keep and needs this little boost to get him there. A no-nonsense guy. Or…

The Guy Who Doesn’t

Whatever, dude. I just spent an entire month memorizing the entire menu and all of it’s options, and all you want is something you can make yourself at home. You’re the fifth waste-of-time I encountered today. Oh, you want to pay with the app you downloaded? Well, look who’s up on the new tech! Good for you, I’ll still get your name wrong…NEXT!” At least, that’s what I hear in my head whenever he asks me if I want this for here or to go.

 

To The Bartender Pouring Another Glenlivet On The RocksDrinks

Again, depending on the situation; who’s tending today (sorry…I meant tonight…I never drink in the daytime…pinkie-swear). What type of place is it? A Dive? A Sports Bar? Pub? Speakeasy? Is the bar crowded? Who am I with? Is there a game on TV at the bar? IS there a TV at the bar? A lot of factors go into this, because there are times when you want a DRINK and there are times where you just can’t be bothered, so you just get what everyone else is getting. “I’d rather smash my face repeatedly with a glass ashtray than to drink a Coors, but yeah, sure, I’ll take one.”

Anyway, I could be…

A Man of  Taste

Wow, here’s a guy who knows what he wants! I bet he gets a double espresso every time he goes to that over-priced coffee franchise down the street! He’s the only guy in here that orders this. Everybody else only gets long necks. Wow, he’s so interesting and mature. I might just have to sleep with him…” Hey, it’s not far-fetched. It could happen. So what if the bartender’s a dude? Or, I could be…

A Noob

Wow, look at Mr. Sophisticated ordering the only thing we don’t have. Whadidja, lose a bet? The only people that order this are old dudes and twentysomethings who want to look like old dudes. Just get a long neck, order some chicken wings and switch it over to the Eagles game. Sheesh!” This is what I think goes through their head every time I order one and it’s a little on the shallow in the glass. “Dude, pour me two fingers at LEAST! I know you’re going to soak me on this because you can, but could you at least make it worth it? Are you using an eye-dropper? What’s the deal? Turn over the damn TV yourself!”

 

To The Waitress At The Local Diner Pouring a RefillAmerican Diner

This one’s a little trickier. I love diners. I love the grease-filled ambiance, and the promise of shoving something starchy in my face to start my day off right. I love the waitresses and how they always call you, “hun”. I think with them it could either be…

Mr. Tightwad Stingeypants

“Boy, I sure hope he doesn’t stiff me on the tip.” Or…

Mr. Gropey McRapeykins

“Boy, I sure hope he doesn’t grab my ass.”

 

To My Bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Sitting Atop My Refrigeratorred

Well, that’s easy…

Friend and Confidant

“Come on over, put your feet up and tell me about your day.”

 

Not sure if I answered The Daily Post’s question correctly, but just what actually is my signature beverage?

I guess it depends on who’s pouring.

What do you consider your signature beverage?

Whatever I Want Wednesday: In Vino Veritas (A “Tell Me A Story” entry)

Let’s see, the last time I actually wrote dialogue was…(counts on fingers and toes)…I don’t remember.

Honestly, I don’t.

But, this is a good thing, right? I need to dive into the deep end of the pool if I want to learn how to swim, right? Dialogue isn’t my strongest suit and in so recognizing it, it can be something I could and should work on.

This is my first entry in my “Whatever I want Wednesday” as well as another contribution to +MJ Bush ‘s “Tell Me A Story” series of writing prompts. I apologize in advance for the slapdash nature of this entry as I was wrestling with making this a Single or a piece of flash fiction. There is a difference, right? One’s longer than the other? Oh well, in any case, I am heeding the word of my heroes and writing it until it’s finished…which it…kind of is.

Anyway, here is my short, Hitchcock-inspired piece, “In Vino Veritas”.

Enjoy…

 

~***~

 

Link to the post

“You always were a pain in the ass, Maurice.”

“Oh just…just shut your mouth and get on that…thing…over there!”

“…Thing? Oh. Oh you mean, ‘the chair‘?”

René has made it a point to return every year to the same suite at L’Hôtel sur la Seine to celebrate yet another successful year. Every year, he would set his away message on his phone and email, lock up his office, pack a weekend bag, and head straight to Paris for his yearly rendezvous with his beloved Lilly; a striking woman with impeccable taste. Every year, they would act out the same scenario of “accidentally” bumping into each other on the elevator, sharing a polite but tense trip to the fifth floor only to find out that the hotel “accidentally” booked them into the same room at the same time, to which they would try and make the best of the situation by feigning their gentility and refinement, only to wind up making mad, noisy, crazy, messy love in every room of the suite until the sun rose the following morning. The next day would see them part as convivial strangers. This was his vacation. His escape from the corporate life. His one of very few vices. René would be enjoying this right now, in fact, were it not for Maurice, Lilly’s Husband; a bear of a man with a short temper and even shorter wits, not-so-accidentally met him in that very suite with a fully loaded pistol.

“Same old Maurice,” René smirked. “Using brute force to accomplish what your limited vocabulary could not. I still remember the first shiner from you. We must have been what, eight years old at the time?”

“We were six,” said Maurice. “I remember because it was the first time I saw Lilly.”

“Ah, yes.” said René recounting all the years of this triangle. “It would appear that you have finally caught wind of our liaison. It’s only taken you…oh…thirty years to finally catch on that she never loved you?”

Maurice was not known for his patience. Especially when he felt that he was being slighted, cheated or denied what he wants. Maurice was also not known for his language comprehension skills. Which might explain René’s bafflement as Maurice sat up straight, smiled and laughed. A warm and hearty laugh. It was the kind of laugh that you would expect from a grizzly bear of a man waving a pistol around in your face. “Please, René,” said Maurice catching his breath, “please stand on the chair.” His weapon trained on René’s head as he walked into the other room and procured a length of thick rope from a satchel. “Here,” said Maurice as he tossed the rope, “tie off a noose and then tie one end to the foot of this bed.”

“You don’t expect me to do this willingly, do you?”

A smile crept back onto Maurice’s face.”You see, that’s always been your problem is: you are over confident. You’ve always thought that you were better than everyone else, and you always had to prove it, and you always felt the urge to rub my face in it. But what you never counted on was that I might be smart too. I’m not easily fooled and I am not the guy you want to fuck with.” he placed the cold steel of the barrel against René’s cheek as a knock rapped against the door.

“And just who the hell is that?” said Maurice through clenched teeth, his face turning five shades of red.

“That would be room service,” said René calmly. “Considering the current situation, it would probably be best if I spare you the details. They know me. I told them to come up at this time.”

Without hesitation, Maurice pulled back the hammer of his pistol and raised it to René’s head, “Get rid of him. Make it quick.”

“I’ll take care of him, but would probably be wise to put away your gun so as not to raise suspicion.”

“I’m not that stupid. I will be behind the door just in case there is any funny business. Hurry.”

René took one moment to collect himself. He took a deep breath and flew open the door, nearly crushing Maurice’s nose in the process. “Bonsoir, monsieur. Voici vos articles comme vous avez demandé.” said the young voice on the other side of the door.



“Ah yes, right on time. Thank you very much, Bernard. I trust the family is doing well?” said René as he slipped a €20 note into his gloved hand.

 Oh, c’est pas mal. Merci de demander. La petite Marie se rendra à l’école l’année prochaine,” said Bernard while Maurice grows quietly impatient behind the door.



“How wonderful is that, eh? They grow up so fast. Love to the wife.” René called out to the porter as he shut the door with his hip. His left hand held a bouquet of flowers while his right held a bottle of red wine.

“Oh for me?” asked Maurice, “you shouldn’t have.” It’s amazing how confident one gets with a gun in his hand. “Get back to it,” he said with a motion towards the chair with the rope.



“Yes of course,” said René with an easy smile. “It seems rather tragic that this fine bottle of vintage should go to waste.”



“You’re not talking your way out this time, old man,” huffed Maurice. 

“I wouldn’t think of it, sir, and I must concede that you have the upper hand in this conversation. Here, take these. Pour the wine and tell me how you knew about Lilly and I while I set the stage of my own demise.”



Maurice stood for a moment to let that sink in. He was expecting blathering, pleading, maybe the soiling of underwear. Not this calm demeanor. Not from him. Eventually, it caught up to him that René is who he always was, and truthfully shouldn’t expect anything less from him. He strolled to a table, placed his gun down when he saw his victim happily fumbling his way to tying a 13 loop noose, uncorked the bottle and poured. “It was simple, really. I knew something was going on, but I couldn’t quite figure out who or what or…” he sipped his wine before finishing his thought. It had been a long time since his lips tasted wine. “when…Mon Dieu, this is a good wine.”

“Yes. It’s your wife’s favorite, did you know that?”

“I know everything about my wife. She just never told me about this. Anyway,” he continued as he poured another glass, “I knew because I was going through her purse to find her keys and I found your name on a piece of paper, one thing led to another, and it brought me here.” 

“My, my. Your deductive skills have improved since we were kids, I see. Kudos to you, sir. They must come in awfully handy in….beg your pardon, what is it that you said you do again?”

“Shipping and receiving,” Maurice answered, his brow heavy with sweat. “‘t’s honest murk…”

“I’m sure it is, old friend,” said René with the jauntiest of smiles. “I’m sure you’ve worked so hard your whole life to claw your way up to middle management. How exciting that must be!”

 “Hey!” Maurice squawked as he flopped in his chair not handling his third glass very well, ” ‘t’s a helluva lot better’n what you do. At lease Lilly don’t complain.”

Silence fell between them as René slowed his pace at feebly tying a not he had no intention of finishing. He glared at this monster slowly losing his grip on his words, his breathing, his gun. “Actually, Maurice, she did.” his words heavier than stones. “She complained a lot. Mostly about you, about your job and how you came home late. How you never did anything to satisfy her. Oh, and how you fly off in a rage and beat her. That was a big one. You put her in the hospital, Maurice, and I cannot let that stand. She has always loved me, and I have always loved her. From the very beginning. She only married you because she was in fear of her life. She was sure that you would kill her if you married anyone else.”

“At least I work,” was all Maurice could muster.

“As do I, Maurice. You see that bottle? Did you happen to see who’s name is on the bottle? I’ll spare you the suspense, it’s mine. I built a vineyard up from nothing, and today I ship globally to discerning clients. I don’t like to brag, but I do well. Well enough to buy this hotel. Yes, mine too.” René tossed the rope away and slowly approached Maurice. “Did you know that many wines today are mass produced in huge metal vats and packed in crude boxes?” René genuflected himself as if to remove the sin of it. “I’m what you would call a traditionalist. I still age my wine in solid oak barrels.”
” ‘nd watsat got to do with me?” Maurice spewed forcing a grin.

“Maurice? How’s that tree nut allergy of yours?” Maurice’s grin fades slowly. “Oak has been the traditional method and preferred wood of many wine makers since the dawn of civilization. Oak is also a fruit bearing tree. Acorns, to be specific. As I remember, you would land in the hospital if you so much as sniffed a peanut when we were boys. It would probably explain your demeanor. Always a bully.”

“I… not…bully…” Maurice began to struggle. He grabbed his tie to allow himself more room to breathe.

“You hit Lilly, Maurice. I cannot allow that to happen ever again. What you’re feeling right now is not intoxication, it’s the beginning stages of anaphylactic shock. Your body is rejecting just the minutest amount of acorn found in the barrels. Soon your airways will tighten, and judging by the amount of alcohol you’ve consumed, you will suffocate peacefully and eventually die. You see, Maurice,” René whispered in his dying ear, “I buy and sell shipping clerks like you for breakfast. Your fists may have saved you many times before, but you were always forgetful, prideful, arrogant, ignorant. And while I must respect your prowess in getting what you want, you hurt the woman I love. Your fists are no match for my brain. I,” he whispered with great relish as Maurice struggled in vain to breath, “…I am the guy you…comment avez-vous dit don’t want to fuck with.” And with that, Maurice went stiff.



A moment. A moment was spared to remember a fallen human. One who, although led a life of violence and intimidation, must be remembered at least as a human being. The moment ended as soon as there was a knock at the door. “Come in, Bernard.” said René.

“Is it done, Monsieur?”

“Yes, my friend. It’s finished.” said René smiling that smile. “Have the cameras been rolling this whole time without a problem?”

“Oui, Monsieur. No problem whatsoever. The police are already on their way.”

“Splendid, Barnard, absolutely splendid. A perfect job as always. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to make a phone call.”

“Of course, Monsieur. Pardon.”

He walked; Strolled, to be more specific towards the elevator. Taking the time to make sure he could hear her voice. “Allo?” said the voice at the other end of the line.



“Hello, my love. It is finished.” Stainless steel elevator doors polished to a mirror shine shut with a whisper behind him.

Off The Shelf

 “Take a look at your bookcase. If you had enough free time, which book would be the first one you’d like to reread? Why?”

I’m a few days behind, but I couldn’t help but respond The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt posted above.

Lullaby cover  The book I have always found time for is Chuck Palahniuk’s “Lullaby” (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is always a close second). For a while, this was a yearly read for me. Around the time when the leaves fall, I would find myself curled up on the couch with a copy in my hand. Had to put it away for a while to allow for assorted Neil Gaiman titles… y’know…priorities.

Anyway, the reason I would always find time to read this book as that it starts off in a place that, to the unseasoned writer, would seem impossible to move forward from. (*SPOILERS* The section in one of the opening chapters where he’s building a doll house still gets to me. Even after all this time. I read that part, slowly close the book, place it on a table and gently push it as far away from me as possible. It’s that unnerving. ) It starts out dark and abysmal, moves forward into uneasy and alien, strolls confidently into quirky, and ends up a hilarious mess that has you screaming for a sequel.

What keeps me coming back to this title is Chuck’s deft ability to weave tight suspense with absurd but realistic humor. I’m not good at reviews, so I’ll just leave that here.