Starting at dawn to beat the heat got them to lunch by ten-thirty. They lounged on the crude temporary front steps, ate sandwiches from paper sacks, drank Gatorade or beer, and smoked. Gabe tipped his head back, looked up the front of the still-skeletal structure, and asked, “How are you with heights?” Jack shrugged. “Spent half my life on rooftops. Why?” Gabe looked skyward again. “Good, ‘cause way up there on the third level, this layout has a row of clerestory windows. If Ray had his way, we’d be working off ladders, but I’m gonna break his balls to rent some scaffolding.”  He pronounced it ‘clear story’ and Jack was thrown. He knew what they were, but just last night he heard it pronounced clair-RES-tory by a guy he’d stabbed and thrown off a moving train. “What did you call them?” Gabe repeated, “clerestories. Big, fixed-pane fuckers. Heavy as shit. Expensive.” Jack dragged his tongue along the new sharp edge on his lateral incisor. “Just another day at the office. Clear stories

Jack gets a medal.

  Jack knew little of his mother and less than nothing about his father. The dark green sweater with the name tag “Bridget” could have been borrowed. Or stolen. The rest of her clothing, a shapeless house dress and worn out Keds, were shabby and ill-fitting. She was probably Catholic, given where she was when Jack’s birth overtook her. Sister Agatha would describe her to him just once. Once was all Jack would need. “Tell me about my mother.” Sister Agatha sat across from Jack at the chipped, enamel-topped table in the convent kitchen. Jack, perched on the step stool in his pajamas, was eye to eye with her over a glass of milk and a peanut butter jelly sandwich she’d slapped together for him. He was just seven; the so-called Age of Reason, with an appetite that had no off switch. He was the worst student with the best grades in Holy Spirit’s third grade. Ag taught reading and writing and she knew Jack’s apparent brilliance was some kind of trick he was playing on all of them, but it

writers rituals

                      She was not accustomed to driving in commuter traffic which made her a menace. While everyone else was rolling on autopilot, she had a death grip on the wheel and was riding the brake, hanging back from the car in front of her. Being stoned did not help the situation. It was cold and the car's heater was mocking her, blowing cold air in her face, or was that the AC? The controls made no sense.  He was slouched down in the passenger seat, ankle crossed over a knee, foot keeping time with the music from the cassette player, oblivious of her jitters.   Traffic slowed to a crawl then stopped, and she started groping in the depths of her bag. “What are you looking for?” “Lip gloss. My lips are chapped.” “C’mere. He put his hand around the back of her neck, pulled her toward him like he was adjusting a lampshade, and planted a firm kiss on her mouth.  “There. You got the last of it.” His mouth, and now hers, were slicked with something faintly greasy and medicinal.

Pillow Talk

  The phone rang four times before I was able to grope the handset out of the cradle. Groggy and hoarse, a muffled “Lo?” was as much as I could offer, my head still on the pillow.   “Is Kitty there?”   I heard the door of a phonebooth screech a few inches and thud shut. I needed to hear his voice again. Immediately. “Who did you want?”   “Kitty. I don't know her last name. We met at the Hi-Lo the other night.”   “Hmmm. The Hi-Lo, huh? She gave you my number?”   “914-232-5646?” He was off by one. Close. So close. The acoustics of the phonebooth was intimate. His voice was like melted butter and dark syrup swirled together. Salty, sweet, smoothly overwhelming.   “No. No kitty here. Just me.”   I yawned. If I could purr, I would have.   “So what number is this?”   “And why would I give you my number if you weren't looking for me in the first place? I snuggled deeper into the warmth of my nest. “Hmmn?”   “Solid point but can I have some slack cause I’m gla

The ground floor

 "Evil draws dark hearts like a corpse draws flies."         ~the Caretaker from "The Monkeytown Murders. It's time to start rounding up the rabbits. Culling, sorting, putting some on ice. This may not be the most efficient way of writing a novel, but it's how I do. No wonder they tend to get out of hand. I was gifted this 4ft wide roll of paper years ago. It's what's leftover when gift cards are printed- the backside coated with a shiny, waterproof plastic. Great gift for big ideas.


  I took a set of the paperbacks over to my son's house yesterday. As I handed the books to Missy, Charlie said "Oh. Prophets Tango!"  He held it close as if he was trying to see the rest of the woman's face. Put his finger on her cheek. "Is this Bea?" "Yes, but she's all grown up in this one. Calls herself Anna. Annabea or Bea was her little girl name." He took that in without comment. I was writing this with my right hand while I held him cradled in my left arm. He turned seven last week. I've been storytelling with him. Making up adventures for Little Bea and her invisible sidekick Ace who is a smart-mouth Barbary ape. They get up to all kinds of no good and get away with most of it.  The story I'm stealing from is actually not for children although I may have to write one just for him. I dearly hope his parents keep him from reading this one until he's old enough. Like 21. If I'm still around, I'll have some explaining t

Prophets Tango

Disco was the least of the 70s. It was the lipstick on the pig of an out-of-control wedge of years caught between the wishful thinking of the 60s and the heart-wrenching chaos of the 80s. A truncated decade limping on platform soles between the wild abandon of Woodstock and the Death Card whispering "AIDS" from every dark corner. The sex cost too dearly, drugs took more than they gave, and rock 'n roll waited patiently in the wings.   But not everyone was standing behind velvet ropes desperate for approval. Not everyone spent their last dime on the latest polyester guaranteed to get them In. That was in the movies.  The economy was in free fall, the oil crisis strangling the working class the hardest. People dropped their credit card bills in the trash, unopened. Goals were sketchy, mutable. For a few, survival on their own terms was slipping through their fingers.  Prophets Tango—S1: Out of Step      What happens when a drug-dealing psychic with a side gig