Winner, Winner, chicken dinner! 3 Short-Short stories.

I was just informed by the judges from the Princess Ronkonkoma Productions annual prose contest that my short-short story won first prize. I submitted three. Here they are for your reading. See if you can guess which was the winner.

                  IT FELL TO EARTH

 

Eustis had a warm relationship with his grandfather, but he had come to understand that the old guy was a prankster. Fifty years ago, when Eustis was just seven, the whole country was moon mad.  The moon landing that summer had captured the imagination of everyone.  Not the least of which was Eustis’ grandfather.  When Eustis lost his front tooth that September and was planning to leave it under his pillow for the Tooth Fairy, Eustis’ grandfather said he had a better idea.

“Wouldn’t it be more fun to send it up to the moon?” he asked, with a mischievous grin.

“You can do that, Grandpa?”

“Why, sure,” Grandpa said. “It’ll be up there forever, right next to Neil Armstrong’s flag.”

The two of them set to fixing in Grandpa’s workshop in the barn.  Two things every farm in Iowa had plenty of was corn silos and manure.  The manure could be converted into ammonium nitrate through a simple leaching process.  Add some diesel fuel and you had yourself a pretty powerful explosive.  You could fire a projectile as far as you wanted to if you used enough cow manure, or so Eustis’ grandfather said.  About that, Eustis had come to believe cow manure was all the old man was spreading.

On a moon-lit night they put Eustis tooth, that day’s newspaper, and a baseball autographed by Bob Feller into an old Maxwell House coffee can, with the lid soldered back on.  Shortly after they lit the fire, they watched the coffee can explode out of the corn silo and into the sky.  Eustis lost sight of it pretty quickly, but Grandpa insisted he saw it go all the way to the moon.  He even pointed out a dark spot that he said was the can.  Eustis saw the spot and his seven-year-old mind wanted to believe.  Fifty years later, his adult mind told him the spot was always there, and not his tooth in a coffee can.

Presently in Iowa there was a meteor expected to hit Earth.  It was expected to land somewhere in the vicinity of the farm.  Iowans were asked to bring their livestock in for the night as a safety precaution.

That night, Eustis and his sons were sitting on the porch watching for the meteor.  Eustis was telling them the story of his grandfather and the tooth when they heard the meteor rip through the atmosphere with a shriek.  They watched it crash and make a flaming crater right in the middle of their cornfield.

Eustis and the boys ran out to the crater.  It was at least ten feet around and everything inside was burnt black.  Bits of the meteor, no bigger than a fist, were still glowing.  The only other thing in the hole was an old battered Maxwell House coffee can.  Eustis pried off the lid to discover a tooth, a newspaper from 1969 and an autographed baseball.

Eustis looked up at the moon and saw the spot his grandfather said was his tooth was no longer where it always was.

“Well, I’ll be a son of a gun,” he said, scratching his head.

Sal’s Way

 

 

Sal was the best electrician in Local 3, you just had to ask him.  A know-it-all, he wasn’t listening to anyone. He liked to play loose with the safety protocols.  He found them time consuming, so he treated them like suggestions.  This was frowned upon in an industry that handled enormous amounts of electricity.  Sal didn’t care.  He was doing things his way.

Sal was considered an “A” mechanic in the trade.  As such, he was assigned an apprentice.  Billy was a sharp kid.  He had always wanted to be an electrician.  Excited to be working with an experienced pro like Sal, he was also diligent in his studies in the apprentice school, attended each night after work.  What Billy noticed was that Sal liked to take short cuts.  After several weeks in the field and the classroom, Billy felt confident enough to ask questions.

“Why do you ignore the safety protocols,” he asked.

“Because they take too long,” Sal said.  “That’s just not my way.”

Billy made note of the short cuts, and though he didn’t argue the point, he was careful to stand far away from Sal when he was making them.  Sal noticed.

“What’s the matter kid, you scared?”

“No, Sal. Just careful.”

“Careful?” Sal scoffed.  “Careful don’t get the job done.  That’s not my way.”

It had come to the attention of the foremen and supervisors that Sal was being reckless.  They asked Billy about it.  Out of loyalty, he wouldn’t give Sal up.

“He does things his way,” was all Billy would allow.

Sal and Billy were assigned as big a job an electrician could ever have.  They were tasked with changing the cables and rewiring the mains for the Empire State Building.  This involved changing the feed from Con Edison’s transformer into the buildings main circuit box.  Billy was astonished when Sal told him they would be working with the power on.

“We have to cut the power.  That’s safety rule number one.”

“Nonsense,” Sal said.  “I’m wearing rubber soled boots.  The floor down here is grounded.  We would have to close the building for half a day if we cut the power.  Do you know how involved that is?”

“For this job, please just do it the right way,” Billy asked.

“Nah,” he said.  “I’m gonna do it my way.”

Billy watched from out in the hall, where it was safe.  Sal hadn’t noticed that one of his “grounded” boots had a tack stuck through it.  He didn’t feel the moisture seeping into his sock from the water leak in the dark power room.   He also couldn’t see the frayed wiring laying in the puddle.  When he removed the power cable from the transformer, thirteen thousand, eight hundred volts of electricity coursed through his body and fried him to a cinder.

When the supervisor got to the scene, Billy told him what happened.

“Why didn’t he cut the power,” the supervisor asked.

“That wouldn’t have been Sal’s way,” he said.

A THEME PARK LIFE

 

If Donnelley’s life were a theme park, he thought, it would be Disappointment Land. He had lost his job. It had been a good one, as a tech-support supervisor for Facebook. He thought it was a job he could retire from—many years in the future.  Apart from the excellent salary and benefits, he had what looked to be a retirement bonanza in the form of stock options.  The new internet privacy laws stemming from Europe ended all that.

In a month, Facebook’s stock had dropped to a tenth of their original price.  Donnelley’s were worth less now than when they were issued to him.  What followed hard on the heels of that was a massive downsizing. It turned out the only one’s job that was safe was Mark Zuckerberg’s.   

 Donnelley was on the hunt for a new one, but the going was hard.  He found the prospects slim for a forty-year-old computer tech, in a field full of twenty-somethings who would work for so much less—not having things like a family to feed or a mortgage to pay.  He soldiered on.  His family was counting on him.

  He had to stop at the grocery store to buy tonight’s dinner.  Money was short these days, so he had to be frugal.  He purchased eggs on sale, day-old bread, butter and a tiny jar of pimentos.  He would make his children’s favorite—eggs in a hole. 

Approaching the checkout counter, Old Mrs. Potter shoved him out of her way.  She was as mean as she was rich; which was very.  The wealthiest family in Bedford Falls, the Potter’s seemed to dislike everyone.  Poor Donnelley would not be exempted.

“I have a nail appointment,” she said.  “I have no time to wait for a slacker like you.”

She loaded her entire cart of groceries onto the check-out belt, leaving Donnelley to stand there holding his few meager items.

After she paid for her groceries, shooting Donnelley a disdainful glare, he placed his items on the belt.  Distracted for a moment in thought, he hoped he had enough money to cover the small purchase. So, he was caught by surprise by what happened next.

 Balloons and streamers fell from the ceiling.  Glittering confetti rained down on him.  He was the long spoken of, but never seen “Millionth Customer” of supermarket legend, winning the Holy Grail of free groceries for life.  For a moment, he was speechless.

 “Sometimes I get lucky,” he said to the local TV anchorwoman there for the occasion.

To himself Donnelley thought, I am so very grateful, as a tear formed in the corner of his eye.  He considered that maybe he would have to rename his theme park.  Grace and Patience Land had a nice ring to it.

When Mean Old Mrs. Potter was killed in the parking lot walking in front of an Accesso-ride handicapped van, everyone else thought it was Karma Town.

Thanks for reading. Hit me with an email, or IM on FB, Instagram or Twitter to vote! Hundredth voter wins an autographed copy of Shot to Pieces, right to your door!

READING WITH LAWRENCE BLOCK, and a VIDEO LINK

This past Thursday, I had the distinct honor of sharing a podium with the renown author, Lawrence Block.  We were both at the KGB Bar in the West Village to preview our new material at the Mystery Writers of America's Author Reads Program.  I previewed a segment of my upcoming novel, A Reckoning in Brooklyn.  Mr. Block read a portion of his upcoming novella in his celebrated Matthew Scudder series. 

I will share my selection with you now.  I would share his, but copyright laws prevent me.  Also, I forgot to ask his permission.  In my defense, I was a little star-struck.  Please enjoy this excerpt from A Reckoning in Brooklyn.

January 1971

Bushwick

 

When Butchie got to Fat Sam’s clubhouse, in the former storefront of Bruno Badlamenti’s latticini, he was prevented from entering by two of Sam’s goons.

            “This is private property, Copper. You don’t get to come in here,” Butchie was told by Donato Trinchera, the larger of Fat Sam’s bodyguards.

            “I need a word with your boss,” Butchie told him.

            “He’s not seeing visitors,” he was informed by Vito Meloro, the other bodyguard. “Least of all, Italian cops who hate their own.”

            Meloro hit the ground with a thud after Butchie shattered his jaw with a lead sap. Trinchera took two shots to knock out, but his jaw was just as broken. He leaned over the two goons to admire his work and ensure they didn’t require any more of his tender administration. Satisfied, he stepped over the fallen thugs and entered the clubhouse.

He spied Fat Sam at the card table in front of the espresso bar. He was playing pinochle with a group of the older Italian men from the neighborhood. Also in the group was Father Alphonso Spinatro, one of the parish priests from St. Brigid’s. He said the Italian mass on Sunday mornings which Butchie’s parents attended.

            “Hi, Father,” Butchie greeted the priest as he advanced on the card table. Fat Sam looked up, confused.

            “How the fuck did you get in here?” the gangster demanded.

            “I let myself in,” Butchie informed him as he overturned the card table, scattering cards, the bets, the players and their espresso cups in all directions.

He grabbed Fat Sam by the throat and lifted him out of his chair. Then he drove him to the floor. Standing over him, Butchie took out his five shot off-duty revolver and shoved it into his mouth. Fat Sam looked into Butchie’s impassive, dead eyes and instantly appreciated the very great peril he was in. Indelicato’s face became a mask of terror.

“Listen carefully,” Butchie cautioned him. “Because you only get to hear this once. The Bucciogrossos are now exempt from paying you for protection. If you set one foot in the bakery, if you come near any member of my family, I will end you. If anything should happen—a broken window for instance, or an electrical fire, even an act of God—I’m coming to talk to you about it. But be assured, if I come back here, my face will be the last thing you ever see in this life. Capisce?”

Butchie took the gun out of Sam’s mouth to let him answer.

“I’m not going to fuck with you, Butchie. But when Lilo hears what you did today, he’s not going to like it. He’ll have something to say about it.”

“That’s why he’s next on my list of phony-baloney tough guys who get a visit. I’ll discuss it with him when I see him.”

Butchie put his gun away and got off the frightened gangster. He made a point of not helping Fat Sam off the floor, slapping his hand away when he reached up.

“One other thing,” Butchie told him before he left. “You will not come to the bakery for the rent. You want it, you get it from me. But you’re going to have to come to the precinct for it.”

As Butchie stepped over Trinchera and Meloro, still laying in the doorway, he knew Fat Sam would never come within a block of the ancient precinct-house on DeKalb Avenue. The bakery was now rent free, as well as unencumbered by the fictitious protection fee. Now Butchie just had to make Carmine Gigante understand the new rules.

Before heading down to the Magic Lantern Bar on Bath Avenue in Bensonhurst, from where Lilo Gigante was known to hold court and run the Bonanno business, Butchie called his partner to let him know where he was going, and why—just in case he didn’t come back.

Eamon Fast Eddie Curran had been a boxer in his native Belfast. He got the nickname because of his lightning-fast hands, and propensity for quick knockouts. Butchie had volunteered to work with Curran for the very reason every other cop in the command refused to. Curran was assiduously honest, and would have nothing to do with the payoffs from the mobsters which were a common practice in the NYPD at the time. This rectitude cast suspicion on him from the other cops, who routinely took money to look the other way. Butchie heard about it, and asked Curran directly why he wouldn’t take the money.

“I come tree tousand miles to enforce the law in Brooklyn, Boyo. Dat’s exactly what I intend to do,” Eddie told him, in his thick Irish brogue.

Butchie had noticed Curran’s brogue was as much for effect as it was ingrained in his manner of speech. He seemed to get more Irish when he wanted to drive home his point. Evidently, he wanted to be sure he was understood on this particular subject.

“It’s just a little gambling and whores,” Butchie challenged. “What’s the harm?”

“There’s a plague over dis land, Boyo, and it’s called La Cosa Nostra. If you don’t tink every dollar of bribe money isn’t geared to further dat very ting, then you’re a shite and an ijit. They are enslaving and killing the people of dis neighborhood as surely as if they were to put them in shackles. And every cop who takes their money is complicit. It’s no different than Judas and his tirty pieces of silver. But ye already know that, Giuseppe. You don’t drink from the poisoned trough either. So, what do ye say ye stop pulling me wire and get to the fookin point?”

“I wanna work with you, Eddie,” Butchie said. “You do the right thing for the right reasons. I won’t take their money either. I want to hurt them. I want to drive them out of Bushwick.”

“I don’t tink we are enough to be rid of dem. Sure, we’ll get no other help. We can make their lives miserable though. So, if yer’ willing, Boyo, then I’m in.”

Much to the chagrin of the mobsters, miserable and more is exactly what the two cops made them. Together they became an ever-present nuisance to the gamblers, pimps and drug peddlers. Early on, several of their more entrenched and corrupt fellow officers tried to intervene on the gangsters’ behalf. After the first few were beaten bloody in the locker room, they stopped asking. Everyone finally realized these two cops would never relent. They would just have to be avoided. The most obvious solution was out of the question.The mob knew that killing two uniform police officers would bring down such swift and absolute retribution, La Cosa Nostra would cease to exist.

When Butchie told Eddie what he intended to do, Curran had only one question.

“Are we taking my car, or yours?”

                                                                        ***

Butchie and Eddie got to the Magic Lantern in Eddie’s beat up Dodge Dart. At the trunk, they armed themselves with cut-down shotguns. Over those, they wore knee-length trench-coats with the pockets cut out. They entered the bar with their fingers already on the triggers beneath their coats. Butchie spotted Lilo in the back of the bar reading a racing form. He walked directly over to him. Meanwhile, Eddie spied the two Sicilian henchmen who were Lilo’s bodyguards ensconced at the front of the bar. He brought his shotgun up and cautioned them.

“Right about now would be a good time to stay perfectly still, unless ye want me to make it a permanent fookin condition,” Eddie said.

The two zips held their hands up in compliance.

Butchie walked right up to Lilo’s booth and slid into the bench across from him. Gigante looked up and registered recognition. But Lilo was confused. He knew who Butchie was. He just didn’t know why he was here. He was particularly curious as to why the angry cop had a shotgun pointed at his groin from across the table.

“Do you know who I am?” Butchie asked.

“Of course, I do,” Lilo said. “You’re the Italian cop in the 83rd who hates Italians. You work with that Irish lunatic who has my bodyguards playing Simon says right now at the front of the bar.”

“Close, but not exactly,” Butchie corrected him. “What I hate are you Mafia scumbags preying on the innocent people in the neighborhood. You’re like carrion picking at the flesh of a dying animal. But I’m not here on behalf of them. You’ve got them so scared shitless, they wouldn’t let me help them anyway. I can’t save everybody. I’m here for one family only—my own.”

“How does this concern me?” Lilo asked.

“This morning I straightened out one of your Capos. I had to put his bodyguards in the hospital to get in to see him. I explained some new rules to him. I also treated him somewhat less cordially than he is accustomed to. I wanted you to hear about it from me. I’m not apologizing. I just want you aware of the new rules. Your life depends on you and your people adhering to them.”

“Does it?” Lilo said, smiling. “So, what’s this new arrangement?”

“The Bucciogrossos are no longer to be touched. We are not paying you vermin—for anything. If any of his goons or yours’ should come to the bakery—if so much as a window gets broken, or a truck gets vandalized—I will wipe you out from the bottom to the top. I want you to understand; this is your problem now. You need to make it an edict. Because if it’s not upheld, you’ll be the one to pay for it.”

“What’s my end in all of this?”

“You get to live.”

“Nothing else for my trouble?”

“Not one other fucking thing,” Butchie said. “Eddie and I are going to enforce the law—no special dispensations. If your goons want to avoid our attention, they need to stop doing stupid shit when we’re working.”

“I gotta hand it to you, Bucciogrosso. You got some set of balls on you.”

“It’s not balls, Lilo. I’m mad dog, batshit crazy, and I don’t give a fuck anymore. I’m not afraid of jail, and I don’t care if I live or die. That’s bad news for you. Because if you cross me on this, your survivability drops to zero. Now, you need to sound off that we have an agreement, or should I just make a modern-art masterpiece out of your guts on the wall behind you?”

Lilo considered his options briefly. In the end, his business acumen and instincts reasoned that giving a pass to a bakeshop was an indignity which was not so hard to swallow. Lilo understood his bread and butter was the narcotics trade. He knew Butchie and Eddie were still just uniform cops. The damage they could do with respect to the heroin racket was minimal. But Gigante needed the last word.

“We have a deal,” he said. “But you and that insane Irishman better behave. If either of you gets jammed up, the minute you’re not cops anymore, I’ll make grease spots in the street out of the both of you.”

“Thanks for the heads up, Lilo. But I have faith in you. I got a funny feeling when you go down for the dirt nap, I’m gonna be there to tuck you in. It will be my pleasure to send you straight to hell.”

Butchie and Eddie left the Magic Lantern, having the agreement they came for. They went back to Bushwick to continue to treat the Bonannos with the same contempt they always had.

Check out this Youtube video filmed over lunch at the Chelsea Market;https://youtu.be/Me34hNymmG4

 

If you're in Farmingdale, come see me Monday Night, June 11th, @ 7:PM at the Farmingdale Public library.  There will be coffee and donuts!  What did you expect.  Once a cop always a cop.

 

 

 

 

WELCOME BACK and A SAMPLE from BURNT TO A CRISP(a Paddy Durr novel)

Hello, everybody.  It's been a while since you heard from me.  I've been busy promoting Shot to Pieces, and of course, writing.  As many of you know, I am seeking agent representation for A Reckoning in Brooklyn, the prequel to Shot to Pieces.  Prospects for that look promising.  In the meantime, I've been writing a sequel.  Burnt to a Crisp(a Paddy Durr novel) is proceeding nicely.  After letting you know about some of my upcoming appearances, I will share a segment with you.

1. Thursday, May 17th I will be appearing at the Mysterious Bookshop, 58 Warren St. NY, NY, 10007, with fellow NYPD novelist, Bernard Whalen, to celebrate Police Memorial Week.  The program starts at 6:30 PM

2. Friday, May 18th I will be featured at the Freeport Memorial Library, 144 W. Merrick Rd., Freeport, NY 11520.  Discussing my writing and the indie publishing scene.  The program begins at 7:00 PM

3. Monday, June 11th I will be featured at the Farmingdale Public Library, 116 Merritts Rd., Farmingdale, NY, 11735

Of course, signed editions of Shot to Pieces will be available for purchase at all the events.  Hope to see everybody in the near future.

And now without further ado...more Paddy Durr!

         Paddy and the Shrink     

 

Paddy Durr stirred his drink. Looking in the mirror behind the bar at himself, he decided he didn’t care for his own reflection. You look tired, boyo, he thought. No, he corrected himself, you look beaten. Having had enough of the image, Paddy threw back the drink, finishing it in a swallow, before ordering another.

He was at the monthly meeting of the Honor Legion of the NYPD, at the Rex Manor in Brooklyn. The Honor Legion is the oldest fraternal organization in the department, and the only one you have to earn your way in. You needed a Commendation or better just to apply. Paddy knew the majority of the members, like himself had numerous such decorations that qualified. He looked around and identified with the serious faces he saw there. Hard bitten with hyper-alert eyes, he knew the look. It peered back at him from the mirror. They were killers. He knew because he was one also.

But Paddy wasn’t troubled at the moment by this fact. Death in it’s many forms usually didn’t bother him. Even his own death was of little concern to him. He wasn’t trying to get killed. He just didn’t care, and he made no effort at all to prevent it other than shooting the bad guy first. At that he was quite proficient. But one death was weighing on his mind tonight. It was the impending death of his wife Mairead from cancer. She was hanging on, but barely.

He was joined at the bar by an attractive blonde in a blue business suit with a form fitting skirt. She was attractive to most men. If Paddy didn’t know her, she would have been attractive to him. But he did know her, and thought she was a meddling, cloying pain in the ass. Her name was Dr. Debra Levine. She was the senior psychiatrist at Psych Services. Her specialty was post-traumatic stress, and she and Paddy had some history.

“Hello, Paddy. How are you holding up?” she asked.

“I’m holding up fine, Dr. Levine. What brings you to an Honor Legion Meeting, professional curiosity?”

“I’m actually an honorary member.”

“That doesn’t seem fair.”

“Why not?”

“Because I had to shoot my way in here, and you just have to show up and plunk down some dues. Our respective sacrifices for the privilege of membership seem inequitable.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that. I deal almost exclusively with the aftermath and repercussions of shootings. It’s PTSD all day, every day for me. I’d say I know a little bit about it.”

“Like a tourist knows Paris. Until you actually make somebody dead, Doc, you’re nothing but a spectator. That doesn’t give you the insight to comment on the horror of mine or anyone else’s psyche. But that doesn’t stop you, does it?”

“I don’t act capriciously, Paddy. My primary concern is always for the well-being of the Member of the Service.”

“And yet, guns are taken and careers get drydocked—all on your say-so.”

“Would you prefer I leave a depressed cop with the means to destroy himself?”

“I would prefer that when you make that determination, there be an apparatus in place to dispute the finding, or at least make it less permanent. As it is, some cops are stuck on the rubber gun squad for years. If you want to know why they’re depressed, that might be a place to start. Take a cop’s gun and he doesn’t feel like a cop anymore. That is psychologically devastating.”

“I don’t want to justify the efficacy of what I sometimes have to do. We’ve had this discussion before, Paddy. Can we just agree to disagree?”

“I don’t give a rat’s ass about the efficacy, Debra. Just don’t do it to me,” Paddy said, throwing back his drink, gesturing to the bartender for another.

Dr. Levine noticed. The look of concern that came over her face wasn’t missed by Paddy.

“What is it, Doc?”

“Are you drinking vodka like that?”

“No. I have a reverse messiah syndrome. Christ turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. I turn vodka into water. I don’t drink. You know that.”

“I just thought with what’s been going on at home, you might have reverted back to alcohol to cope.”

“How do you know anything about my situation at home? Did somebody post it in Spring 3100?” Paddy asked, referring to the police department magazine.”

“No,” she said. “You know I’m friends with Sergeant Nolan. She told me about your wife. I’m very sorry, Paddy.”

“What else did Janice tell you?”

“She was concerned you were losing faith—that you were turning in on yourself. You know that’s a classic symptom of PTSD.”

“Debra, Please. I’m not losing faith. I know God exists.”

“Doesn’t that give you any comfort?”

“Just because I know God exists doesn’t mean he doesn’t hate me. Or that I don’t hate him right back.”

“That doesn’t sound like faith.”

“I don’t need faith. I have empirical evidence of his existence. If he is a he. I just know there is a greater power in the universe pulling strings.”

She gave him a skeptical look, reminding Paddy that this woman of science did not believe in God. She was a humanist, the most deluded of God’s forsaken children. He knew if she had his perspective of the human race, she would be looking desperately for something else to believe in. Humans were disappointing pieces of excrement, Paddy Thought, and he was about to tell her so when she interrupted him.

“What sort of empirical evidence?” she demanded.

“Ever watch someone die?” he asked. “Did you notice at the moment they do, as soon as whatever is present in us, call it a soul, or a divine spark—whatever. At that moment, the human husk is diminished, noticeably so. The body seems smaller in death than it was only seconds before. That’s from something leaving—something profound and important.”

Paddy first noticed this phenomenon when his friend, Police Officer Jimmy Crowe was murdered. He was with him in the emergency room when he expired from the gunshot wound perforating his heart. He attributed what he was sensing at the time to his profound grief. But since then, Paddy had taken more than a dozen dying declarations from victims, noting the same effect every time. Then there were the hundreds of autopsies he attended. Every single corpse was something less in death. Reflecting on this, he became even sadder, if that was even possible. He knew it wouldn’t be long before he had to watch Mairead diminish the same way, and right in front of his eyes. The thought might have broken his heart if it wasn’t already shattered into a million pieces—like beams of light through a prism.

“Is that all you’ve got?” she scoffed. “Shrinking in death has a whole host of medical justification.”

“Not when it occurs in the instant. But I have other evidence. You like humans so much, my experience is most often people are self-centered, avaricious animals that are more prone to fucking each other over just to snatch the crumbs God has left to us, rather than help someone—even family. But I’ll grant you; there is balance in the universe. Even amid all of this senseless carnage, thievery, and death, some nobility surfaces from time to time. Using ourselves as an example; did you ever notice how doing the right thing, even if no one else knows about it, just feels good. It is its own reward. That brief ability to sacrifice one’s own self-interest is all that redeems this fucked up race. It makes something fine seem possible.”

“So, there’s redemption,” Debra noted. “Surely that can help you do something other than hate God.”

“I tried. I truly did. But ultimately, I came to discover that God is a six-year-old with a magnifying glass. We are ants in an ant farm, and he isn’t leaving till he fucks some shit up.”

 

RE-WORKED OPENING OF A RECKONING IN BROOKLYN

My goal for the new year is to find an agent and publish my second novel, A Reckoning in Brooklyn.  With that in mind, here is my re-worked opening of Chapter One.  Trying to hook the reader(agents and publishers too).  Let me know what you think.

 

                         CHAPTER ONE

July 12, 1979

Bushwick

 

          The numbness washing over Butchie was perplexing to him.  He had relished this moment in his mind for years.  He expected to be elated, celebrating his triumph over a hated and vile enemy.  Instead, he felt nothing, save for the brief instant of exhilaration when he realized the opportunity as it lay before him.  Now that the deed was done, all he was left with was a vaguely tired ambivalence and a wave of involuntary nausea.  Butchie wrote the urge to vomit off as an artifact of the rich coppery, metallic taste from all the blood spilled, mixed with the acrid chemical smoke from the expended gunpowder, hanging in the air like a malevolent cloud.  It lingered on Butchie’s tongue, and in the back of his throat, invading his nostrils and staying there—a vagrant accusation.  At least, that’s what he pretended to believe.  He also chose to ignore the slight tremors in his hands and the aching in his joints.  Surely, he thought, they weren’t anything like a sign of regret.

          There were three dead men on the ground, scattered about the rear courtyard, which served as an extra private dining room for the small, Italian eatery on Knickerbocker Avenue.  Butchie knew all of them.  Two were associates of Carmine Lilo Gigante, the head of the Bonanno Crime Family.  The third man, at Butchie’s feet, was the Don himself.  Butchie didn’t know who killed the associates, and frankly didn’t care.  He knew they were criminal scumbags who deserved every bullet—in this case, shotgun blasts.  But he knew who killed Lilo.  He understood he would have to look that murderer in the face every morning for the rest of his life when he shaved.  He was surprised when the realization didn’t seem to bother him, struggling right now to feel something…anything. 

          As he stood over Gigante, Butchie could feel the residue of fear-sweat (not his own) on the fingertips of his right hand.  He wiped them absently on the leg of his uniform duty pants, considering what he had just done; killing the last living witness to a mob rub-out with his bare hands—well, one of them.  It certainly didn’t sort well with the vows he took when he was sworn in as a police officer almost a dozen years ago.  But, Butchie reasoned, the mob boss was already dying when he came into the courtyard.  Lilo wouldn’t have ratted on his killers even if he had lived.  So, the final squeeze was of little consequence to anyone, save his conscience, which was surprisingly untroubled.

Surveying the image of the mobster he had just dispatched, Butchie saw Lilo had been struck twice by shotgun blasts, once in the lower abdomen, and a glancing blow to the right side of his face.  But, he mused, glancing is a relative term with shotguns.  Like hand grenades, it’s hard to miss, and they do fearsome damage just the same when you do.  It had torn up the right side of Lilo’s face and took the eye.  Butchie knew both wounds would have ultimately killed the Don, irrespective of even a herculean effort to save him.  If by some miracle, Lilo made it to the hospital, he would have been brought to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center.  Everyone knew there were only hacks, quacks and witchdoctors at that particular temple of medical malpractice. 

Gigante was a dead man, with or without Butchie’s help.  It was not a matter of necessity, but principle that prompted his hand.  He had predicted, even promised to be the one to usher Lilo out of this world.  Now he had.

Butchie wasn’t sure what he expected to feel after fulfilling this promise, but it hadn’t been nothing.  He had just rid the world of the most wicked man he had ever encountered, in a short life chock-full of evil men.  He thought he might derive some satisfaction from the act—even an epiphany of sorts.  Instead, there was only the maddening numbness.

 He had ever so briefly enjoyed seeing the fear in Lilo’s eyes when the Don recognized him, The last spasms and final helpless kicks as the helpless mobster died with Butchie’s hand clamped like a vise around his throat should have elicited some sort of satisfaction.  But all he felt after was a nagging sense of hopelessness, and the urge to puke.  He had slain a monster, but Butchie knew instinctively, in that moment, there would be more monsters, and they would be far worse.

Strangely, Gigante’s broken eyeglasses remained propped, however askew on his badly mistreated head.  Butchie thought the only thing missing from this picture was the little Cuban cigar Lilo always had sticking out of his sneering maw.  He had looked for it, but it was nowhere to be found.  He spied its replacement when his partner for the day, Ernie Whelan, returned to the courtyard from the street with a lit anisette cheroot sticking out of his fat face.

Shoot me an Email and let me know what you think!

In the meantime, I want to give a shout out to my friend and fellow Author, Retired Detective Bob Martin.  His debut novel Bronx Justice is a must-read for fans of the genre.  I loved it!  Authentic and entertaining.  Check out Bob's link.  You wont be disappointed!

https://www.amazon.com/Bronx-Justice-Novel-Straight-Files-ebook/dp/B01NBFTZK6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515940976&sr=8-1&keywords=bronx+justice

 

Merry Christmas!

The Fat Man Crosses the Line

I couldn’t sleep.  It was Christmas Eve, after all, and I am only eight.  I snuck to the stairwell and peered into the living room to see if the fat man had been there yet.  I don’t know why I cared.  All he ever left for me was clothes.  What I saw down there was disturbing.  The fat man was making out with my Mom in front of the tree.  My father was nowhere to be seen.  Probably passed out drunk somewhere, which was his wont to do on most holidays.

          As disturbed as I was at the sight of it, the ardor with which my mother was hungrily sucking Santa’s face through that mountain of yellowing white beard was disgusting.  I lost the last vestige of respect for that harlot if I ever had any, to begin with.  What was worse was the stink.  Santa smelled like my father; stale tobacco, whiskey, fetid sweat, and desperation.  I was left to wonder, is this what becoming a man entails for everyone?  If so, I want no part of it.  I went to my room to get my baseball bat.  This shit ends tonight.

 It's not too late to get your copy of Shot to Pieces for Christmas!  Have you got that somebody who is impossible to shop for?  Signed copies of the novel are available for $15 at Turn of the Corkscrew Books and Wine, in Rockville Centre.

TWO VERY SHORT STORIES

This week I found out one of my entries in the Princess Ronkonkoma Society of Arts and Poetry placed first in their inaugural short fiction contest.  I was thrilled to hear that one of my stories won in its category, but I was surprised the other one didn't get consideration in its category.  Then I was informed, you could only win once.  I'm not sure which story I like better.  It's a bit like a father trying to choose a favorite among his children.  So I present them both for you to decide which one you like better.  By all means, let me know.

 

                            Joke’s on You

 

      Monte Dunlap was a toy maker.  The third biggest next to Hasbro and Mattel.  Monte made board games and gag-gifts, and a sizable fortune until the advent of video games.  Once everyone became glued to their television screens, they found little time to play board games, and even less for novelty items and whoopee cushions.  Before the revenue stream dried up, Monte had purchased several spectacular homes along the Pacific Coast Highway, and properties on Rodeo and Mullholland Drives.  So, he was cash poor, but seemingly property rich.  Until he died.

      Monte was always a pleasant and easy-going soul.  With a generosity and infinite good humor, he was universally loved by everyone who knew him.  Except for his daughters.  Monte had lavishly spoiled them.  They viewed their opulent lifestyles with a sense of entitlement, rather than gratitude.  They hadn’t spoken in years.  After he became ill, they began a death-watch in anticipation of inheriting his wealth.

      Their younger brother, Kendal was similarly indulged as a child.  But, he was a free spirit who could not be spoiled.  All Kendal wanted was to listen to smooth riffs, smoke reefer and surf.  In his torn jeans, faded tee-shirts and flip-flops, Kendal got government approval to grow medicinal marijuana.  He opened a weed dispensary that was now the largest in California.  He had remained close to his father.  All he wanted was to spend time with him, and enjoy the sense of peace his father afforded him.  He was crushed when Monte became ill.  Despite his obvious industriousness and business acumen, his sisters found him ridiculous.  They began a campaign to cut the embarrassing Kendal out of the will.  It appeared they had succeeded.

      The attorney addressed the siblings.  He got down to the nuts and bolts of dispensing the properties.

      “To my daughters, Constance and Marjorie, I leave all of my homes and real property.  To my son, Kendal, I leave my collection of toys, board games and novelty items.”

      Constance and Marjorie high-fived in front of the attorney.  Constance gloated to Kendal.

      “He left you the toys because you’re a child, Kendal.  How does it feel?”

      “Pretty bad,” He admitted.  “I miss my dad.”

      At this point, the attorney had quite enough of the sisters’ naked greed.

      “Before you ladies go spending money you don’t have, you should understand your father’s finances were in shambles for the last thirty years.  Every property has been leveraged with several mortgages.  They are all in foreclosure.  Then there are the tax liens.  They’re in the seven figures—each.  So, what you actually inherited was massive debt.  It will cost you thirty-million dollars to rescue your properties.  Kendal, on the other hand has received your father’s priceless toy collection, debt free.  Every toy, game or gag gift he ever manufactured, he kept a first edition, in its box, in the wrapper.  The entire collection was appraised at Sothebys.  It’s worth at least twenty-five million dollars.  So, enjoy your inheritance, ladies.  I’m sure you’ve earned it.”  

 

                                                             

                           

                   The Drinks are Not Free

 

      Rehnquist was drinking at the Brown Derby because it was a good place for a semi-washed up actor to get recognized.  Rehnquist was not an actor.  He was a vinyl upholstery salesman.  But, for much of his adult life, he had been told he looked just like the heart-throb movie star, Rock Hunter.  Rehnquist had been using this resemblance to score free drinks over the years.  All it cost him was a few lies and some forged autographs.

Hunter had fallen on hard times recently.  There were rumors of sexual indiscretions involving under-age girls, and old transvestites.  He had been to rehab several times for alcohol and drug abuse.  More troubling, there were whispers he had developed a gambling problem.  He was reported to be in seven figures of debt to the Los Angeles syndicate.  This was a group who would kill you for five figures.  So, things were decidedly on the slide for Mr. Hunter.  But his biggest obstacle to staying on the A-list was that he was aging badly.  This worked well for Rehnquist.  He was aging poorly as well.

When his friend Able spotted the two well-dressed men with dark features staring at them from the booth at the front of the bar, he was concerned.

“Relax,” Rehnquist told him.  “They think I’m Hunter.  In a minute, they’ll be over here buying us drinks and asking for my autograph.  They’re just fans.”

“They don’t look like fans.  They look like serious guys.”

“Nah,” Rehnquist said.  “They’re just business guys out for a cocktail, and to do a little daytime star-gazing.  When they come over here, smile.  I’ll introduce you as my agent.”

When the two men got up from their booth, Able could see they were enormous.  He made eye contact with one of them as they slowly walked over to the bar.  The man had a dead-eyed stare and a face that communicated a malice that was pure, and yet somehow ambivalent. To Able, the look screamed danger!  But, he had no time to alert Rehnquist.

The men approached Rehnquist at the bar.  They stopped six feet away from him, and stood with their right hands in their coat pockets.  Able noticed this and was increasingly discomfited.  Apart from the fact that this was springtime in Southern California, no one wore top coats in Los Angeles.  What Able was more concerned with was what those hidden right hands held.  He didn’t think it was pens and autograph albums.

“Are you Rock Hunter, the movie star?” one of the men asked Rehnquist.

“Yes, I am,” Rehnquist said, beaming his practiced phony-baloney Hollywood smile.

Rehnquist’s head disintegrated and splattered across the mirror behind the bar.  The two men put their sawed-off shotguns back beneath their coats.  The din from the blasts was deafening.  The men casually walked out of the bar, leaving Able with the counterfeit Rock Hunter’s skull, brains and blood smeared all over him.

The award presentation will be this Saturday, October 7th at 1:00 PM at the Emma S Clark Library in East Setauket.  If you find yourself out East, pop in to hear some great short fiction as read by the authors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

THE RIGHT OF FREE SPEECH, AND THE COST OF DEFENDING IT.

I wasn't going to address the NFL National Anthem protests, but the issue is so prominent I feel that I can't ignore it.  To begin with, I must point out that I am a patriot.  I honor my flag and stand at attention with my hand over my heart when The Star Spangled Banner is played.  When I was in uniform, I maintained a rigid salute until the last note sounded.  It offends me deeply to see people dishonor the flag and the anthem, sometimes to protest their perceived grievances, sometimes just because of their own ignorance or ambivalence.  Whatever the reason, it galls me.  It spits in the face of every service man and woman who put their lives in peril to protect the rights and way of life that makes the ability to protest possible.

I spent twenty-four years of my life protecting and serving the people of NYC.  I took an oath.  Along with swearing to put myself in harm's way to defend everyone, whether or not I agreed with their opinions or actions, I also swore to defend The Constitution of the United States of America.  This brings me to our most cherished rights, covered under the first amendment.  The founding fathers felt so strongly about protecting the right of free speech for its citizens, they made an amendment to specifically enumerate those rights, and the inviolable responsibility of the government to protect them.

The first amendment protects other things as well, like freedom of worship, a free press and the right to assemble peaceably, but for the purposes of this argument, free speech is the issue.  The fact of the matter is, in this country everyone has the God given right to voice their opinion.  As citizens, we each have a responsibility to respect those rights even if we don't agree--even if the speech offends us.  This right is so absolute, it makes the idea of hate speech a constitutional impossibility.  So long as no one is physically harmed, and violence against others is not encouraged, we must allow the wrong and ignorant to have their views, unpalatable as they may be.

However, as a citizen, I also have the right to disagree.  On the subject of using the National Anthem as a vehicle to protest anything, I disagree vehemently.  I think it unconscionable that a group of grown men who play a kid's game for a living, and know nothing but wealth and privilege, whose opinions are no more valid than my own, are hijacking their exposure for a purpose that was not intended.  They get to be ignorant on an epic scale.  I do not wish to infringe upon that right.  They can further a narrative of lies and act like imbeciles to their heart's content.  I just won't be paying attention to them.

I will be exercising a constitutional right of my own.  The commerce clause of the constitution protects me from having to do business with anyone I don't wish.  I cannot be compelled to purchase anyone's good or services.  The NFL is now in that category.  I will never again attend a game, even if given tickets.  I will not watch their product on TV.  I will not purchase another article of NFL merchandise, and I will discard the few items I already own.  As a lifelong Giants fan, this pains me deeply, but I will not subsidize a tax-exempt, multi-billion dollar conglomerate that cares so little about me they think they can tread all over my years of service and sacrifice, and besmirch the symbols of my liberty and the virtues they embody.  The NFL can do what it wants, but I will no longer pay for the privilege of being offended.

Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, not only condones this offensive behavior.  He encourages it.  He defends his players' right to express themselves.  He claims to have no authority to curtail the reprehensible behavior, but his slip is showing.  This is the same commissioner who threatened to fine and suspend players for wearing commemorative cleats in honor of the anniversary of 911, for fear of offending Muslim viewers .  This is the same commissioner who refused to allow the Dallas Cowboys to wear a helmet sticker in honor of the five Dallas Police Officers murdered while protecting a Black Lives Matter protest, and this is the same commissioner who refused to allow a player to wear pink cleats in memory of his mother's battle with breast cancer. 

The NFL has since madeOctober the official breast cancer awareness month.  Players are provided with all manner of pink gear to wear in games.  This includes cleats, gloves, wrist bands mouth pieces and towels.  Do not imagine they have an altruistic motive.  The NFL makes millions of dollars selling this gear to gullible fans.  This smacks of mercenary hypocrisy.  It is selective and arbitrary and altogether disgraceful.  If the commissioner wanted to stand on principle, he would do so.  Instead he picks and chooses who he will allow to be offended.  This is little more than vacillating cowardice. 

Before I end, I feel the need to point out one other thing.  President Donald Trump had a right to express his opinion.  Just as the players have a right to express theirs'.  However, his comments were decidedly un-presidential.  He has a responsibility to lead, and he shirked it to pick a fight.  Encouraging the owners to infringe upon the rights of their players simply because you don't agree with the message is a form of bullying.  As the Chief Executive, he is responsible to ensure the constitution is enforced.  Distasteful as defending hatred and stupidity might be, it is still the President's primary duty.  I am sorely disappointed he didn't rise to the occasion to point that out..

The time has come for ALL of us to take a deep breath.  The time to act like spoiled entitled children, intolerant of anyone who disagrees with us has long since past.  Instead of catering to and encouraging insolent children, the grown-ups need to be in charge again.  We all need to adult now. 

THREE LOCAL AUTHORS I LIKE, AND A COACH'S LAMENT

SEPTEMBER 19, 2017

 

     Today I want to take the opportunity to spotlight three local authors from Long Island, whose work I admire and enjoy immensely as a reader.

Vincent N. Scialo is a self-published author of Mysteries.  He has eight books out presently.  His most recent is The Decision, available on Amazon.com. 

https://www.amazon.com/Decision-Vincent-N-Scialo-ebook/ 

Mary A Ellenton is the author of two riveting tales situated on the Island.  Her first novel Flipping, and her latest, Psychic are excellent.

Connect with Mary and her books on her website https://www.maryellenton.com

Dina Santorelli is a transplanted Queens girl now ruling her roost in Massapequa.  She is the author of the highly acclaimed Baby Grand Mysteries.

Connect with Dina and her books on https://www.dinasantorelli.com 

And now, a coaches lament.

          I coach middle school football at Howitt Middle School in Farmingdale.  The Dale is like no other community in Nassau County when it comes to football.  We are a football town.  We identify with our Dalers.  Every kid playing youth football here dreams of one day donning the green and white to play for Coach Buddy Krumenacker, our legendary coach at the high school.  I get them before he does.  That's sort of my problem.

          We had eighty kids try out for the middle school this fall.  We could only keep fifty-five. This put me and the other coaches in the difficult position of having to tell twenty-five seventh and eight graders they couldn't play football this year.  Cut Day is absolutely the worst day of the season for any coach.  Despite making every effort to be fair, impartial and judicious, five days, and zero days with pads almost guarantees mistakes might be made.

          Because we were prevented by state law from padding the kids up and having them engage in full contact drills, we were left to rely on the eye test.  The problem with that is everyone looks good in shorts and a tee shirt.  While a kid might look like Tarzan, he might play like Jane.  One of the kids I cut might have been the second coming of Jim Thorpe, but I'll never know unless he comes back to try out next year.  If I made a mistake, I hope they come back next year and prove me wrong.

            Having felt sorry for myself long enough, right now we have fifty-five terrific young men who are on their way to being Dalers.  I and the other coaches have six games to make it so.  I like what I see so far.