You can't go wrong with Townes Van Zandt. Have a listen. Storytelling at its finest.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
The Fourth of July had come and gone and Foster couldn’t bring himself to the task. This had been his and Tessa’s tradition. Except for when their kids were young, it was a moment he and his wife had shared with no one else. But now she was gone and the children were grown and had moved away many years before.
From his back porch rocking chair, Foster gazed out to a clear starry horizon, the wishing lantern resting in his lap. His old hound lay beside him on paint-faded boards. A loyal friend and once a fine tracker, but like Foster, the dog had also retired from his formal duties.
Foster leaned up from his rocking chair, extended a hand that was once used for hammering and sawing, a hand that had helped build many fine structures in all of Southern Indiana, patted ol’ Dylan on the head, and stood.
Down the steps, across the manicured backyard, Foster walked to the edge of the hill where the old home place sat and looked beyond as far as his ancient eyes could see. Overlooking the horse pasture, out there to the twinkling speckled sky, he saw memories from long ago. He saw a shy young man of sixteen asking a girl of fifteen to accompany him to the annual spring dance. She had said yes in her delicate, soft voice. He had walked her home and wanted to kiss her goodnight, but didn’t have the courage. He would gain that courage eventually. In the backseat of a station wagon, going on another family vacation, he saw four impatient children who couldn’t wait to arrive at their destination. He recalled his daughter’s wedding day in this very backyard where she once ran and played as a child. He would never forget their father-daughter dance together.
He concentrated on one particular star and thought of his sweet Tessa, so frail and weak, lying on their bed, looking up to him with love and affection, telling him everything would be okay. He agreed with her even though he really wasn't so sure. She was his world and all he’d ever known.
Foster spread the chute of the wishing lantern and lit the wick. As the chute filled with the hot air that would send it up and away, he thought of his life now and the question that kept haunting him: how would he ever be able to go on? He was unsure but deep down knew that he would. He would for Tessa.
The chute expanded and Foster felt it becoming lighter. Eventually, it took flight and slowly gained altitude. The lantern rose higher and higher and Foster felt a cool summer breeze on his neck. He watched and waited. It floated over the pasture until it reached the farthest tree line where it too resembled a twinkling star.
Just before the lantern disappeared, Foster closed his eyes. Then he did what he and Tessa had always done together.
He made a wish.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
This story is included in the book HARD LUCK: Stories.
Megan was every man’s lustful desire. From atop her yellow sundress, her breasts bulged and bounced as she pranced across the hardwood floor of The Lounge. Every working stiff in the joint watched the blonde beauty strut until she settled onto a barstool next to Joe Spray, who nursed a Makers Mark on the rocks.
Twenty years ago Joe was a good-looking man, and he thought he still was, even with his receding hairline and his gut hanging over his belt. What attracted most women was Joe’s lottery winnings from two years ago—five-hundred thousand. Most of the money was spent on guns, two hunting trips to Canada, a new truck, and whatever else he felt the need to buy. He never invested any of it, his money. He blew it often. Nowadays, his side business of making meth and selling it across the county served as the majority of his income. Something else about Joe was he craved women, especially young ones―young compared to him, anyway. Megan was no exception.
“Where you been?” said Joe.
“Sorry I’m late,” said Megan. “Damn construction had traffic creeping.”
Joe leaned in for a kiss and Megan pecked a quick one on his bearded cheek. Joe pointed with his eyes and said, “Ordered you a beer.”
“Thanks. I could use one.” Megan reached for the Miller Lite in front of her.
“You okay?” asked Joe. “You seem sad. You tired or something?”
“I’m fine, Joe.”
“Can I get you something else?” he asked.
“Maybe a shot of Jack.”
Joe motioned to Vicki the barmaid and ordered a shot of Jack Daniels.
“You look nice,” he said to Megan, trying to lift her spirits.
“Thanks,” she said.
They sat smoking and drinking with little conversation between them. A few beers and a couple shots later, Megan loosened and the moment struck her to say what she’d come to say. She turned to Joe with glossy, blood-shot eyes. She said, “Do you love me? I mean really love me, Joe?”
He struck a match and lit the end of his Winston. “Course I do, honey. Why you ask?”
Twirling the beer in her bottle, Megan paused, searching her thoughts. She said, “I just need to know for sure. That’s all.”
The ice clanked as Joe set his empty glass on the bar. “I do love you.” He put a hand on her smooth, soft knee.
“Do you desire me?” Megan continued.
Joe motioned to Vicki for another Makers Mark. “Every waking moment.” He smiled inside. He thought the response clever. “You’re the sexiest woman I ever met.” He paused, and then asked, “Why you asking all these weird-ass questions?”
Megan tilted the beer to her glossy, red lips. Before she drank, she said, “I know the real truth.” Her voice turned cold. She took one gulp and placed the empty on the bar.
“The real truth?” asked Joe. “The hell you talking about now, woman?”
Megan said, “I saw the calls on your cellphone, Joe. Why you keep up this charade? And why you keep going back to her? Don’t you realize I’m the one who loves you? Not her.”
He knew right away Megan was talking about Regina, an on again, off again flame. Joe paused to think. He was indeed drawn to the sexy twenty-one-year-old woman sitting beside him. Maybe he really was in love with her. He wasn’t sure, but he did know she was damn beautiful and possessed a sex drive like no other. Best piece of ass he’d ever had.
“I left her before.” He flipped ashes into the ashtray and about that time Vicki placed a drink in front of him. “Thanks, Vick.” She smiled, wiped the bar, and went on. He said to Megan, “But for some reason I keep going back. I don’t know why I do it.”
Megan said, “I’ve given you more love than you’ll ever know and this is how you treat me?”
“Listen,” Joe said, “you’re the one I love. You want me to leave the bitch then I’ll do it.” Then Joe’s voice turned to self-pity when he said, “I don’t know why I keep going back. She’s not even a good fuck.”
Megan rolled her eyes. “You sure know how to sweet talk a girl.”
“I try,” he said with a playful smirk and blew a stream of smoke.
“You really going to leave her?” asked Megan. She shook a smoke from Joe’s pack lying on the bar.
“I said I would,” said Joe. He struck a match and lit the end of her cigarette.
“You don’t know how happy that makes me.” She spun on her stool and threw her arms around him. “Now we can finally get married and start our family.”
Choking on his bourbon, Joe said, “Family? Now wait a minute. You don’t expect me to jump head first into marriage, do you?” Joe snuffed his cigarette in the ashtray and pulled out another.
“Why wouldn’t you? Now the bitch is gonna be out of the picture and I’ll have you all to myself.”
“Well…yeah…that makes sense, but…she’s fucking psycho. She won’t take the break-up so good. Who knows what she’ll do. Last time we broke up she beat the fenders in on my Silverado with a ball bat.”
“Then you know what we got to do.”
“What?” asked Joe.
“Kill the bitch,” Megan said outright. “It’s something I should’ve done a long time ago.”
“God damn it. Keep your voice down.” Joe raised his cigarette and pulled in a deep draw. “I ain’t looking to kill her. Shit. Just break it off.”
“Why does everything have to be so damn complex with you?” said Megan. “This’ll be the easiest thing we ever did.”
“What’s so easy about—” Joe lowered his voice, scooted closer. “What’s so easy about killing someone?”
“It’s simple. You tell her you want to see her; she comes to your house; I sneak in the backdoor, and…pop pop…goodbye, Regina.”
Joe squirmed on his stool and tugged at his collar. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“I knew you didn’t love me,” she said. “You still love that bitch!”
“Calm down.” He gazed about the bar.
“There’s something else,” said Megan.
“She’s been seeing King.”
“Randall King? The Sheriff?” Joe asked.
Megan nodded. “She’s probably been telling him all about your extracurricular activities. You can’t trust her.”
He flipped ashes in the tray. He felt the blood rush to his face. “How do you know all this?”
“I just know. It’s not worth the risk. For our future or your freedom.” She grabbed his hand and gave a reassuring squeeze. “We can do this.”
Joe had spent time in Scott County jail for back child support and a couple marijuana charges. He vowed never to go back to that shit hole. And no way would he risk going to prison over a piece of ass. He knew Sheriff Randall King would relish in the opportunity to pin a meth charge on him. Without further deliberation, he said, “Okay. I’ll call her.”
Poised, Megan held up her empty bottle and smiled at Vicki, who stood at the end of the bar, and mouthed, “I’ll have another, please.” Joe tugged at his collar and ordered a double. He knew he’d painted himself into a corner. About that time someone fired up the jukebox and Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” echoed throughout the bar.
The next day, Joe called Regina and made plans to meet. She drove to his trailer that evening. Joe had considered Megan’s drunken babbling the night before as nothing more than a jealous female rant. He still felt unsure and uneasy about the entire scenario, almost sick.
Sitting at the end of the sofa, Joe stared at the gorgeous woman walking in his direction.
“I was surprised you called,” said Regina, bringing Joe his usual Makers Mark on the rocks.
“I had to see you,” he said.
“Are you okay?” asked Regina. She sat down next to Joe. “You seem a little out there tonight.”
“I’m fine. Right as rain.” He nervously searched his pants pocket.
“Your cigarettes are there on the table.”
Grabbing his pack, he pulled one and patted his pockets again, searching for a lighter.
“I have some killer crank. Maybe that’s what you need to loosen up.” She pulled out her own lighter and lit the cigarette dangling from Joe’s lips.
“Yeah…sure…why not,” he said as he sprang to his feet. “You get it ready. I need to take a piss.”
“Okay,” said Regina.
Joe went down the hallway to the backdoor. He turned the dead bolt, unlocking it, preparing for Megan’s surprise visit later that night. He went to the bathroom to take a piss. He sucked from his cigarette, dropped it in the toilet, and flushed. When he returned to the living room, Regina had two large lines of crank waiting on the glass-top coffee table.
“Here you go, baby,” she said. “This will turn you into a fuck machine.” She handed him a rolled 100-dollar bill. Joe sank to his knees and inhaled the long, thick yellow line. He felt an instant burn resonate through his sinus cavity, trailing back behind his right ear. He resumed his spot on the sofa when a strong euphoria swept over his thinking. Regina snorted the other line. After the drug settled into her brain, she said, “How you feel now, baby?” She kicked off her suede, tiger-striped high heels, climbed up, and straddled Joe.
He reached to the end table, grabbing his drink. “Much better,” he said.
“I knew it would do the trick.” She leaned in and gently kissed the side of his neck.
“I think I like that better,” he said.
“Oh yeah? Bet you’ll like this even more.” She reached down between Joe’s legs and massaged.
“Yeah, baby. I like that.”
Then she pulled away, stood, and said, “I’m getting in the shower. You want to join me?” From the mound of crank on the table, Regina shoveled a small bump onto her pinky nail and snorted it. Joe sat up. “You’re such a fucking tease,” he said.
“You can have all you want later,” she said.
“All right,” he said. “You go on. I’ll wait out here.” He scooted to the end of the sofa where his glass and smokes were.
Regina smiled. “Okay.
When Regina disappeared to the shower, Joe contemplated his next move and asked himself, “Where the fuck is Megan?” Although he loved fucking Regina, and loved her drugs, he didn’t know if he could keep up this bullshit much longer. He thought about telling her he wanted to break it off, send her on her way, but knew it was too late now. Their lustful evening had already got underway, and there was no turning back.
Joe pulled his cellphone and went to the kitchen to make a fresh drink. He scrolled the names on his phone until Megan’s name lit up and tapped the call button.
“Answer your damn phone,” he said, after the first ring. After the fifth ring, there was still no answer and the call went to voice mail.
Returning to the sofa, he tried to gather his composure. He ran his fingers through his hair as regret and doubt swarmed his drug-addled mind. He then grabbed the razor blade lying on the table and scraped away a section of the yellow crank. Joe chopped and worked it back and forth. He formed a line and snorted it in one sweep. He sank back into the sofa with drink in hand.
“The fuck is she?” he asked himself again.
The running water in the bathroom stopped. Joe glanced at his phone and checked the time, hoping to see a missed call from Megan. It was 9:45. No missed calls or messages.
“Joe,” yelled Regina from down the hall.
“Can you come in here?”
“Be right there.” He guzzled the rest of his bourbon.
Joe walked down the darkened hallway and as he turned the corner of his bedroom door, he found Regina at the end of the bed, on all fours, naked. She flipped her long, damp hair and peered over her shoulder.
“Climb up here, baby.”
Along with the crank, the sight of Regina’s succulent spread staring back made Joe’s heart race. Even though she wasn’t built as shapely as Megan, he still loved the sight of Regina’s naked body. He was turned on by the mere anticipation of knowing he was about to get the fucking of his life. He pulled his boxers off. Once again, the evening’s problem escaped his mind.
At the backdoor, Megan crept up the concrete steps and peered through the window, staring down the darkened hallway. She gripped the black 9mm in one hand and slowly turned the knob with the other. When she stepped inside, she smelled the familiar aroma of stale cigarettes and Chinese takeout. She waited and listened. To her left she heard the humming of the deep freezer coming from the room that Joe had dubbed his hunting quarters. In there he housed his collection of guns, knives, and taxidermy. Hearing nothing else, Megan, on light feet, moved up the narrow hallway. She detected voices. Her heart thumped faster as she walked on. With gun raised and back against the wall, she stood outside Joe’s bedroom and listened as the two bodies clashed and moaned.
With gun raised, she swung in and flipped on the lights. “Party’s over, motherfuckers!”
Joe and Regina screamed.
“Do something, Joe. She’s got a fucking gun!”
Joe rose from the bed, leaving Regina naked and in the sights of Megan’s 9mm.
Joe dropped his head. He looked ashamed, as if he was a little boy about to be scolded for stealing a cookie out of the cookie jar before supper.
“Sorry,” he said. “But I had to choose one of you.” Waiting for the gun blast, he noticed Regina forming a devilish grin.
“Is that right?” she asked.
“Shoot her and get this over with,” said Joe.
“Don’t worry your pretty little head none, Joe,” said Megan. “That’s what I’ve come here to do.” She swung the gun in his direction.
“The fuck you doing?” he said.
Regina scooted off the bed and stood beside Megan. “Sorry, Joe, but this is the way it’s got to be.”
Joe said, “You fucking bitches. You set me up!”
“You got out played,” said Megan.
“What do you want? Money? How much?”
“We already have your money,” said Megan. “It was all withdrawn and transferred into an anonymous bank account. In a couple days, we’ll be lounging on a beach of some remote island. And for what it’s worth, you shouldn’t get shitfaced-drunk and leave your banking information lying around. It could be very hazardous to your health.” The women laughed at the joke.
“You bitches stole my money too?” Having heard all he wanted, Joe made an attempt toward his nightstand where he kept his .44. Two steps and Megan fired a single round into the side of his head, painting the wall with brains and blood. Joe’s naked body plummeted to the bed, slid off the side, and crashed to the floor, helpless and limp. Regina turned to Megan.
“What took you so long getting here?”
Megan answered, “Sorry, but a woman has to look her best…even if it is to snuff out some sleaze bag.”
“True,” said Regina. “And might I say you look fucking hot tonight.”
“Why, thank you.” Megan leaned in and seductively kissed her accomplice.
Regina looked to the body of Joe Spray. “That guy sure knew how to fuck. I’m gonna miss him.”
Megan rolled her eyes. “Here we go.”
“When are you ever gonna learn to stop getting so attached to these old, cheating bastards?”
“I’m trying,” said Regina. “I guess I’m just not as cold-hearted as you.”
Gazing at Joe’s bloody corpse, Megan answered, “You’ll learn one of these days, baby…you’ll learn one of these days.”
Monday, May 29, 2017
It wasn’t one of the legendary shows at the Fillmore East from the early 70s, but I did have the privilege to see the Allman Brothers in 2001 at Louisville Motor Speedway. It was hot as hell that day and the stage sat facing the sun. I remember Gregg Allman had a stack of white towels beside him on his piano, one stack replaced by another as the scorching day progressed. He wore a long-sleeved shirt, rolled midway to his forearms. I kept thinking to myself that he had to be miserable up there playing. However, he made no mention of the heat between songs. He grabbed a towel, wiped his face and hands and went on, thanking the crowd after each deserving applause. Gregg Allman was a class act. And if you’ve seen any interviews of him, you’ll recognize right away that he was also a humble man. He was one of the good guys.
Friday, May 5, 2017
I’ve finally pinned down a release date for my upcoming book. HARD LUCK will be released on July 11, 2017. This book is a mix of seventeen stories that weaves through the realms of dirty realism, contemporary realism, and the often gritty country-noir genre. If you’re into sex, drugs, crime, and a touch of humor here and there, (Sounds like a tearjerker, doesn’t it?) this book might be for you. With all that said, I’m giving away several Advanced Reader Copies. If you would like a PDF copy of your own, shoot me a private message with your email address and I’ll send it to you as soon as I can. Simple as that. Many thanks and I hope you enjoy the book.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
Saturday, February 25, 2017
I wake up every morning around six. I make coffee, maybe cook breakfast, and try to squeeze in a few words before I venture off to the day job in my 1998 Ford Ranger, which I’ve been driving since 2006. The truck has no heat or ac and needs a universal joint replaced, all of which I cannot afford to have repaired. During the day I’m a home maintenance technician, which is a fancy, politically correct way of saying I’m a maintenance man—more specifically, a maintenance man for two apartment complexes. It’s far from being a glamorous gig, but it’s an honest one, and it pays the bills and allows me to continue my writing endeavors.
I’m not embarrassed by having a day job. It doesn’t make me a failure as a writer, or inferior as an artist. In fact, if you are one who works your ass off at a full-time job, helping to provide for your family, and are still striving to fulfill your writing dreams, or any dream, I admire you. I really do. I’ve held many jobs throughout the years. I’ve called myself a machinist, a metal fabricator, delivery driver, and when I was fifteen I bagged groceries, and all the while I made time to write. It’s a disease, writing, I’m sure of it, but a disease of which I hope I’m never cured. I am a writer, an artist, that’s my job, my life’s passion. My writing doesn’t pay all my bills, but it's what I do and it’s who I am.
If you’re a writer then you know you can never stop writing. I couldn’t if I tried, no matter how many other jobs I had. On the days I don’t produce words, I feel a lingering gloom. It’s an emotion that will pass only when I place pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. If, one day, destiny calls and I become a fulltime writer and I’m able to work from the cozy confines of my home, I will consider myself very fortunate—but I’m a realist. If I’m forced to continue waking at six in the morning to head to my day job, then so be it. I’ll continue writing just as I have all these years, with conviction, obsession, and psychotic impulses that are out of my control.