Thursday, August 30, 2012

THE CLOSET (The Runaway -- XII)

When Josh returned to the hotel room, Nikko had not yet returned. He kicked off his shoes and sat on the chair by the window. Cars zoomed below on the highway, heading south, which made him miss his parents, his room, Absalom, and he even though he and Nikko had decided not to call their families, not to call anyone, he thought it might not hurt to leave a message they were okay.
The mattress sagged on Nik’s side of the bed, the side closest to the phone. A red light blinked. Nikko must have called, that was why he hadn’t returned.

Josh picked up the phone and punched zero.

“Yes?” a voice on the other end said.

“Room 602 has a message,” Josh said.

A pause. “Yes.” A thick voice. “You need to pay up for this week. Your bill was due yesterday.”

“Okay. That’s all?”


Josh blinked to hide his disappointment. He went to the bathroom to wipe his face before he cried, then took a shower. Water pattered his back warm like rain and calmed him. He thought he heard the door to the room open, and he washed faster, happy Nik was back, but when he came out the room was empty. It was four. Time to go sing, to earn his keep. He toweled quickly.

Anger clotted his stomach. Damn Nikko. Where the hell was he? He pulled on jeans and finger-combed his snarled hair into place. He would have to play solo, they needed the cash. Josh threw on his coat. The closet door rattled along its track. He reached in for his guitar.

Josh felt air. Emptiness. He flipped on the light. The guitar was gone. He double-checked. Nothing but plastic hangers. Where the hell was his guitar?

He slammed the door. The mirror quivered, making his reflection waver. He raised his fist, wanting to punch the glass, punch his reflection. How could he have been so stupid to leave home?

The sun left a wan stain of light on the floor. He would go find Nik.


Installment 12 in THE RUNAWAY. To read more, go HERE and follow the crumbs. Thank you for reading my words. Peace...

Monday, August 27, 2012

School Is In

It is 5:30 in the morning. Crickets sing their melancholy, and the open windows let in the cool, darl air. In less than an hour, my son's alarm clock will begin to play whatever rock music plays at this time of the morning. He will tumble from bed, silent, unused to the dark, unused to the gentle prodding from bathroom to breakfast table to backpack.

After my son trudges up the hill to the bus stop, I will wake my daughter, wrapped in her blankets with dolls and stuffies. Her body will feel warm, and I will have the urge to lie beside her. She has more time to prepare for the bus that takes her away most mornings for the next nine months to school.

A bittersweet day. This has been a good summer--even I found the time to slow down--yet I welcome the return to schedule, to routine. And this morning, as every morning of the first day of school, I will find myself weepy-eyed as the yellow bus pulls away from the curb. Peace...

Thursday, August 23, 2012


When Josh left the hotel on the eleventh day, a cool brackish wind blew off the bay and made him shiver. He bought a coffee from the McDonald’s in Chinatown.  Prostitutes gathered for breakfast, their sequins and satin rumpled and stained. Doctors and nurses rushed in for coffee and biscuits, a blur of blue and green, their clogs squeaking on the restaurant floor. Josh sat at a stool by the window. Pedestrians hurried past, heads bowed against the wind, umbrellas at the ready.

Josh day-dreamed about lying in bed back in Maryland, the muffled sound of his parents talking over eggs and bacon filtering up the stairwell. Across the street he saw Nikko walking with another man in a black leather trench coat. Josh could not see the man’s face, but he could see his silver hair pulled back into a small pony-tail. The man gripped Nik’s arm, and even though Nik talked and even laughed, there was something pinched about his face that showed he was scared.

Josh’s stomach burned. The coffee filled him with nausea. He pitched the half-full cup and ran out the door. Cars and buses flew by. The man disappeared around the corner. The light flipped to green and Josh bolted across the street, almost bowling over a bent-over Chinese man pushing a wagon filled with handbags and bright scarves. By the time Josh reached the corner, he saw no sign of Nik or the man. Boarded-up warehouses lined the short block and, at the end, a ramp led to the roar of the highway. A crumpled piece of newspaper blew towards him and it began to rain.

The eleventh installment of The Runaway. To read the rest, go ==> HERE. As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read my words. Peace...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Literal Literary Road Trip

Route 95 from Baltimore to Boston is a blur of asphalt, trucks, and toll booths. Forest and rolling farmland dominate the Maryland landscape. From the New Jersey turnpike, New York City looms over swamp and industrial dross, skyscrapers veiled in mist.With its soaring silver cables, the GW bridge takes us into the City full of promise, but the Bronx itself is a sunken roadway, filled with potholes and graffiti-inscribed brick buildings. McDonalds arches glow yellow in the lower end of Connecticut, then give way to the granite that marks the rocky earth of Massachusetts. Through all, the faint smell of sea filters past dieseled exhaust.

The journey is an exhausting one. A good trip will take 6 hours or so, no stops; a bad one nine hours or more. All made worse by the need to urinate, to quench a thirst or stop a headache, the whine of adolescents in the backseat. The boredom.

Traveling north, excitement mounts as we pass the green signs denoting location. The Larchmont, NY exit makes me nostalgic for a place I have never literally visited, the birthplace of Benjamin, the protagonist of BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT. From a distance, the outline of a crane atop a growing building anchoring southernmost Manhattan reminds me of the horrors September 11, 2001, and of how Ben's father perishes there in PURE.

We gas up at the Vince Lombardo rest stop at the top of the NJ Pike, and it is here that Nikko and Josh stop in the Greyhound as they flee Maryland for Boston in THE MINISTER'S WIFE. Signs for Cape Cod remind me that Ben first told Phoebe he loved her on the ferry to the Vineyard, that they made love in the sand, and it was a memory that got him through his descent into madness.

Of course, I have my own memories of many of these places. My characters are so real to me, the places they visit theirs and mine, that the memories all intermingle and sometimes, I forget where my imagination begins and ends. But for all my novels, New England is a place of origin or ending; returning there always invigorates my writing, and the lives of my creations.

What place evokes your muse? What lands do you take and twist their reality to make home for your characters? What is your place?


Tuesday, August 14, 2012


My small story Cochinos up at the fabulous MiCROW. The summer theme is home, and what a collection of dark and delicious stories, images, and poems. A huge thank you to Michael Solender, editor and writer extra-ordinaire for including my work.

I'm out of commission the rest of this week, summering with limited internet. Fill your time with the fine reads at MiCROW. Catch you soon. Peace...

Thursday, August 09, 2012

BUSKING In BOSTON (The Runaway--X)

THEY STAYED AT THE HOTEL. Josh wanted to move to the Y, the hostel had a double for $49, but Nik said no, they had lock-in at midnight and how would they be able to perform on street corners if they could not stay out past midnight? Besides, he said, we have enough money to last us a month.

Mornings, while Nik was gone, Josh wandered the city. He walked to the harbor and watched ferries and cruise ships come and go, felt the briny humidity curl his hair and gloss his skin. He stumbled into Little Italy and walked the uneven cobbled streets, his mouth watering from coffee and garlic, the pizza and sweet pastry; one morning, he allowed himself to spend two bucks for a cannoli, the sweet ricotta smearing his fingers as he crunched down on the crisp shell. He spent little time on Newbury Street, with its open air restaurants and boutiques, the women in their spiky Manolo Blahniks and the men in silky Armani; in his jeans, slick from dirt and grime, he did not belong there. Afternoons, when he returned to the room, Nikko would be laying face down on the bed, arms and legs spread-eagled, deep asleep. Josh would sit on the hard chair, warmed by the wan streaky sun, and watch Nik sleep, heard him moan and sometimes thrash in the sheets.

Josh worried where Nik went at night, and every night before he dropped to sleep, Josh vowed to follow his friend. But when the door clicked open, the rectangle of light thrown on the bed, Josh found himself too tired and too scared to slip on his shoes and jacket and follow his friend into the dark.

After Nik woke from his afternoon nap and showered, they took their backpacks and the guitar and headed to Harvard Square. They never set up in the main part of the square, but on a side street, in front of Herrell’s ice cream or on a street shooting off towards Central Square. The cops had run them off the first night because they didn’t have a license.

The first few nights they made about thirty dollars, bills and change dropped in Josh’s open guitar case. Singing on the sidewalk, Nik’s pure voice thrown against his in harmony, the heft of the guitar in his hands, hearing the cling of quarters and the sound of applause, Josh realized he was happy. All the grit, the weariness and loneliness,  the lean edge of hunger gnawing at his stomach, all the worry that thrummed under his ribcage while Nikko was gone, it all seemed worth it.

The tenth installment of The Runaway. To read the rest, go ==> HERE. As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read my words. Peace...

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Happy Dancing x 3

Three reasons why I'm jittering for joy. In order of importance:

ONE: My friend Michelle came through her surgery for cancer in stupendous shape. She believes in power of prayer, and so do I. So if you have a spare prayer, please send it her way. Think: good lymph nodes.

TWO: I found this nifty pencil holder at a weekend yard-sale. The drawings all around the cube remind me of my character Jeremiah and his South Dakota farm. It makes me smile, well worth the 50 cent investment.

THREE: And now I can purchase 100 pencil holders! A nice check for a 4-line poem. Look for Greetings From Motel 6 in the 2013 POET'S MARKET, coming soon to a bookstore near you!

Hope you have reason to dance. Peace...

Friday, August 03, 2012

HO DAY INN (The Runaway--IX)

THEY ARRIVED IN BOSTON IN THE THICK OF DARK. Wind blustered around the corner of the terminal. Two policemen stood in the bus terminal, watching arrivals and departures. When one of the cops prodded a woman asleep on a bench and surrounded by voluminous bags, Josh knew they’d have to find a place to crash.

Nik stood in the center of the terminal silent, shivering every few seconds. He headed for the bathroom as soon as they disembarked, and this time Josh followed him in. They both pissed, splashed their faces with water, and left the small reeking room. Outside, Nik pointed down the street with the brightest lights.

“There’s a Y down here,” he said. “On Boylston.”

But the Y was booked. The young clerk behind the counter suggested the Holiday Inn four blocks down.

They returned to the street. Overhead streetlamps flickered with each gust of wind. They almost missed the motel. The ‘L’ and ‘I’ parts of the sign had blinked out, so it read Ho day Inn. The lobby looked like any other Holiday Inn lobby: stark, efficient, too bright with incandescent lights, fake ficus trees in pots. Three men sat in green vinyl chairs drinking from small brown bags. The boys paid cash for the cheapest available room, a queen bed for $119.

The sixth floor room overlooked an exit ramp from the elevated highway. Trucks barreled down the elevated highway, their wheels hitting some bump or metal plate, the carumph echoing up. Nik threw his backpack on a chair and wandered into the bathroom.

“Lousy view, lousy amenities,” he said. “Thin towels you can see through.”

He rifled through the drawers, then picked up the phone.

“Can we please have a room service menu?”

Josh heard a muffled laugh from the other end of the phone. Nik slammed the phone into the receiver.

“What a dump. What a goddamn dump. No restaurant, just coffee and donuts in the morning. I am fucking starving!”

“We passed a vending machine,” Josh offered.

He dug in his jeans pocket and came up with a handful of change. Nik propped open the door with the phone book and together they walked down the hall, bringing the small plastic bucket for ice. Josh was parched, thirsty more than hungry.

The coins jangled in the machine. Nik pressed P2 and a bag of pizza-flavored Doritos tumbled into the chute. Ice clinked into the bucket.

Back in the room, Josh drank glass after glass of icy water. Nik crunched through the bag of chips, then pulled off his shoes, his shirt, and clambered into the queen size bed. Josh went to the bathroom, needing to release all the water he had drunk. When he came back, Nik was snoring.

He clicked off the lamp. The sheet felt cool against his bare legs and chest, and he shivered, but not from cold. He thought about tomorrow, about the possibilities. He thought about performing on corners to large crowds, the jingle of coins in his guitar case, of someone in the audience hearing him and appreciating his talent. It would all be worth it, he thought.

Light from the city glowed through the window, a gray haze obscuring clouds and stars and moon. The roar of the highway lulled him, the steady carumph-carumph of the trucks like a metronome. He woke up only once. A block of white light entered the room, the click of the door, and he sensed Nik leaving the room. He looked at the clock—2:13—but was so tired he did not care, he could not rise from the bed to check. In the morning, the sun blazed into the room, and Nik was still gone.

This week's installment of THE RUNAWAY, a story from THE MINISTER'S WIFE, currently under construction. Finished the entire story a few days ago, this baby clocks in at >13,000 words. Revision heaven awaits! If you wish to read the prior installments, please go HERE and follow the breadcrumbs back to ground zero.

As always, thank you for reading--this is all for you. Peace...