Tag Archives: short story

The Importance of Being Inspired

I attended an open mike session last week, a local event where writers and wanderers meet to share their works.  I hadn’t been to one in a over a year and as I sat and listened to a variety of people share their writs, I realized that I had been shorting myself.   Hearing the voices of others and watching their passion burn for the phrases they carefully constructed inspired me and challenged me.  Here is a perspective on love from a young just – twenty- ish man, there is a young woman wrestling with the conflict of how society tells her to act and dress, and what she knows to be true about herself.  An older man muses over a day in the life of a golf ball, a Mrs. Dalloway kind of narration.  The phrase ‘electrostatic syncopation’ is tossed out in the course of a monologue like a bean bag, it was a gem to me. A small opal that popped among the rocks, I wanted to pick it up and bring it home (apparently I did). I left the night refreshed and full of creative energy.  I thought about one of my mantras:  Creativity begets Creativity.  I became acutely aware of the Importance of Being Inspired.


The Bohemian Art Loft

Redding, CA

Inspiration feeds the artist’s soul and without it we will starve.   We give out a lot you know.  Mr. E. Hemingway put it best when he described his take on being a writer, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Any artist can relate, we could well replace the verb ‘writing’ with ‘painting’ ‘sculpting’ ‘composing’ ‘playing’ ‘dancing’ ‘acting’ ad infin. We invest immense amounts of energy in our work and that energy must be replenished from somewhere and on a regular basis.  I made a promise to myself to attend more open mike nights as a means of replenishing my creative wells and keeping my writer’s mind inspired.

Because the Importance of Being Inspired has been foremost in my thoughts this past week, I noticed how often I tend to subconsciously replenish my soul with other creative forces.   Music of course.  Always there is music.  My morning shower and workout tracks are chosen for their ability to immediately quench my thirst for energy, get my neurons firing, and set off ideas to bounce around in my head the rest of the day.  A treasured painter friend will sometimes let us in on what he’s listening to as he delves out himself with each stroke of the brush or scrape of the pencil.

Nature constantly provides Inspiration for the artist’s soul.   Monet fixated on light as his inspiration and painted the same church from the same angle at different times of the day, recording its varying hues and tones, its changing mirage and shadows.  The result is a symphony of paintings that have gone on to do some hefty Inspiring themselves.   How many poems have the stars inspired?   How many similes have we managed to come up with for the movement of clouds across the sky?   Nature is infinite in its beauty, its nuances can be fleeting, a small shadow can make all the difference – we artists agonize over a way to capture them.  What right combinations of words can describe the way a river is lit by the sun?  What color mixture will I need to ensnare the way the sky looks after a summer storm?

monet's churches

Words inspire.  Great speeches have changed the course of history.   Beautiful novels remind us that resolution is always possible.   Poems etch out a new facet to an object or an idea.  Words challenge us to consider a thing.  They challenge us to make a decision.   They challenge our prejudices and our secrets – and whether we agree or not – we are stronger for the challenge.

The strength of an artist, I’ve come to learn, is in his ability to understand the Importance of Being Inspired.   We can not create something from nothing after all. Bleeding and starving, insomniatic and obsessed, agonized and tortured – we must nourish ourselves with the work of others and the work of nature – or we starve.  And the songs start to sound the same, the books end up with the same plot line, or the paintings become the same fruit bowls.

Here’s to Inspiration kids…may we seek it, may it find us, may we be more aware of it.  Who knows what creative wells we might discover?  Who knows what great works might be produced?  Who knows who we might Inspire ourselves?

Peace, Frankie

‘Tis the Season…. For Hero Worship  

For weeks Morcant looked forward to the Winter Feast and it was finally here.  The entire village was gathered around the fire, along with the neighboring villages that came to celebrate the Feast and welcome the New Sun and a new year, “Solstice” they called it.  He loved the big gathering, the tradition of special foods, and this year, because he was five now, he would be getting his first present.  He knew it would be a bow, that was always the first gift, but he was no less excited.  The five year old sat on one side of his mother while his two year old brother occupied part of her lap and suckled at the breast that provided both food and comfort.  “Sit still, and listen carefully Morcant,” his mother whispered, “Brennus is about to begin your favorite story.”

Brennus weaved a beautiful tale of the dark Night that grew longer and overtook the warmth and light of the Sun, and the Sun wrestling for rebirth, and the promise of new year.  Morcant sat mesmerized.  He thought of himself wrestling the same dark Night as the Sun and overcoming them with nothing but strength and a pure will.  The last thing he told his mother before he went to sleep that night was “I want to be like the Sun when I grow up and be strong and obercome ebil too.”

“Ah,” replied his adoring mother, “You have found yourself a hero I see, and a fine one at that.  But remember the real lesson my sweet Morcant, we must let the light inside of us always outshine the dark” And she tucked him with a kind of gentle muse that every mother possesses for her child.  “Sleep well my son.”

Several hundreds of years later, eight year old  Naevius was walking home from the village feast of Saturnalia, where they watched the Temple Priest unbind the god’s feet as a sign of freedom and then ate and drank with, well, everyone.  Endless shouts of “Io Saturnalia!” echoed everywhere.  Naevius was tired from the days of celebration, but the excitement kept him alert and full of questions.  The smell of evergreen wreaths (one of his favorite smells) filled the air as well as every door and window they passed, “Mother, tell me again the story of Mithras.”

“Ah,” she chuckled, “you’ve been listening to your grandfather I see.  Many of the old men still worship him.  Mithras’ story is that of a great hero, not unlike our own Saturn. He is the sun incarnate, protector, watcher of cattle and many celebrate his story at the same time as our Saturnalia.   Both are meant to mark the beginning of a new year because……?” she waited for Naevius to finish the sentence.

“Because the Sun is reborn after the darkest night of the year, promising longer days and warmth, and also giving us hope that all things renew themselves.” He responded without hesitation and with confidence.
His mother laughed out loud, “Well done, Naevius!” and she rustled his long hair, “But do not forget,” her voice changing to a somber tone, “the Sun’s rebirth also reminds us to allow the light within us to overcome the dark within us. This is the most important lesson.”

“Yes Mother.”  And they finished the walk home in a tired, content silence.

Over two thousand years later twelve year old Ava was riding in the back of the family Subaru en route to pick out their annual christmas tree.  She asked her mother a question that was bothering her since last week and the conversation she had with her classmate, Mayzee.  “Momma, what is the war on christmas?  Are there bombs somewhere that go off on christmas day?”

Ava’s mother gave a small laugh and reflexively asked a question or two first before answering so as to get some context for her daughter’s infinite questions, “Where did you hear about that?” she inquired benignly.

“From Mayzee,” she replied with a straightforward voice, “she says that if I say ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of Merry Christmas then I’m participating in the war on christmas.  I didn’t know there was one.”

“I see” responded her mother slowly, giving her time to formulate a logical answer, “Well,  why are we so happy that Winter Solstice has finally come round?”

“Because it means the days will be getting longer again and we can play outside longer.”  Ava replied with just a hint of impatience.

“Right.  And while that was the original winter celebration, there are many other customs and traditions that also occur around the same time of year, and mostly for the same reasons.  What does your Uncle Jay say to you every year?”

“Happy Festivus!” Ava said in a booming voice to imitate her favorite Uncle.

“Exactly, it’s an old Roman celebration.  What does Auntie Sara’s family celebrate?”  the patient mother was leading her child through a thought process.

“Oh, what’sit called?  Hanashka?  Hankannah?” she asked

“Hanukah.” Her mother said. “It’s also known as the Feast of Lights  and remembers a time when their ancestors were freed from captivity.   There are many traditions that celebrate Light and Hope this time of year, most of them for the same reason:  The return of the sun. Which is why it’s quite accurate, really, to say Happy Holidays.   If you break it down slowly and change the ‘o’ to a long vowel sound what do you get?”

Ava took just a second to sound it out in her mind first and then she blurted out “Happy HOLY – days!”

“Right” said mother. “Now, let’s slow down christmas a little bit.  What if we said ‘christ mass?”

“Oooohhhhhh,” Ava said, the proverbial light bulb was coming on in her head now, “Mayzee said her family was going to go to mass on christmas eve.  It’s some kind of church service right?”

“Yes,” her mother confirmed, “it celebrates the birth of Jesus, the hero of their story.”

“But what about the war Mayzee was going on about?” Ava asked, certain there must be killing going on somewhere and she just didn’t know where.

“Well, followers of Jesus believe that there way is the only right way to believe so they think Christmas is only about Jesus, even though our ancestors were celebrating the rebirth of the actual sun for thousands of years before.  That’s why many of them feel strongly about only saying “Merry Christmas” and anything else they figure makes up a ‘war’ on their holy-day.

“I get it now……” Ava said with typical teenage hubris, “it’s not a real war but an imagined one.  Seriously, I thought it was a real war with real bombs and stuff.”  She finished.

“I can see how you can be confused.”  Said her mom understandingly, “Does it make sense now?”

“It does, I think.”  Ava answered.

“And what is the real lesson behind Solstice, Festivus, Hanukah, and christ – mass?” her mother asked, seizing the opportunity to remind her daughter, because she could never remind her enough, of the deeper issue.

Ava thought for just a moment, she was still working on the whole war that wasn’t really a war thing.

“The real lesson,” she finally began, “is that we must always strive for the light within us to outshine the dark.”

“Exactly,” said her mother with a proud heart as she parked their car at the tree lot.  “So, Happy Holy-days!  Now, let’s go get our christ-mass tree!”


May these next days be filled with warmth, hope, and beautiful memories for you and your family….






An Earth Visit

Tsyllus stepped out of his TimeField Transport and took his first breath of Earth air.  Well, to him it was simply Planet st.042 located in the Stellar Formation xin, Galaxy Hrsollyn.  It was a bit of an outback planet, Universally speaking, and was therefore rarely visited by any alien life.  Tsyllus knew this because he was a TimePrince and therefore privy to all alien travel throughout the Universe.  At once.  It was a curse. He was visiting this particular planet because he heard tell (by some unsavory Woolysnx in some shifty bar on the mangy Planet Slaacp) that the inhabitants here had picked up the esoteric idea of a TimePrince.  Tsyllus wasn’t surprised at all that an obscure life form came up with the concept:   “We are, after all, connected.” he thought to himself, “We are all made of the same stardust material and we all possess the same stardust memories.”

He wanted to investigate what they teased out of the ether and how close they came to the reality; this meant an actual trip to Earth to study the imagined TimePrince and its creators.  He correspondingly landed in Trafalgar Square, just underneath one of the lion monuments.  He stepped outside to check his landing position, and taking a small remote control-looking device from his coat pocket he thought for a moment and then pressed a couple of buttons.  It took a few seconds, the Transport had to receive the code and then implement the program, but slowly the vessel seemed to disappear, its high-tech, shiny black rounded shell was blending in to the concrete base elevating the lion. Tsyllus had activated the camouflage program.

“Better.”  He announced to himself and, adding the command “Open Main Hatch” a panel of concrete opened up exactly like a door and Tsyllus stepped into his home. The hatch closed automatically behind him.   “Dlynnar, find local broadcast satellite A113, queue to program “Dr. Who.”

“Request received, finding local broadcast satellite A113, queueing to program ‘Dr. Who,'” replied Dlynnar, the mainframe quantum computer, in a pleasant androgynous voice.   He planned on watching every bit of Dr. Who and anything remotely Dr. Who related; he wanted to see what these aliens got right in the thing and what they got wrong.  He suspected the ‘wrong’ column would far outweigh what they got right, but he was inwardly thrilled that they even came up with the idea.  He wondered if they knew that TimePrince’s were a despised group and not typically amiable.

After hours of The Doctor, and a long tea in a small shop in Leicester Square, from where Tsyllus observed nearly every kind of human behavior and interaction, he was ready to make his report:

“Visit: Planet st.042 located in the Stellar Formation xin, Galaxy Hrsollyn, locally known as “Earth”, date 45 Meleni, year 70412.  Findings as such:

“The local intelligent life, calling themselves ‘humans’ are indeed an interesting and humorous population.  The first thing that impressed me was that I found their quaint bodies to be quite fragile and underdeveloped compared to most other alien life.  Just one small piece of metal slung from a projectile at mass velocity can crush their intelligence centers without resistance.  Indeed, this particular animal has no developed physical defense system such as an exoskeleton or telekinetic abilities to alter their surroundings or regeneration capacity of any kind, which leaves them extremely vulnerable to outside influences.  However, they fall quite short in soliciting appeal from any alien visitations due to their small mental and spatial capacities.  And yet….they seem to overcome their deficiencies in several clever and creative ways.

‘Humans’ have managed to build a variety of quasi-exoskeletons using the scant amount of metals found in their natural Planetary composition.  These exoskeletons include large land tanks, aeroplanes (what are Universally known as IPT – IntraPlanetary Transport) and water borne vessels, both surface hydro and sub-surface hydro.  One might wonder why the Earth creatures even build such protection if, as mentioned earlier in this report, it invites no other alien life form.  This is because Planet st.042 is still very much in its infancy with regards to Universal Awareness and therefore more focused on the varying differences amongst themselves.   Such a focus only sets the stage for intraplanetary warring, as typically seen on other Planets that are in their infancies.

In fact, there is still a large population on this Planet that still cling to archaic beliefs and have not yet progressed beyond Msoolyz’  famous “Illusionary Fixation” whereby their intelligence capacity is still underdeveloped and stifled by early “pre-consciousness beliefs of deism and egocentric thought processes” as Msoolyz states.  On the balance though, the Planet seems to be continuing along normal Awareness progress.  I would adamantly note however that much of their slow development is again due to the lack of any outside visitation or relationship; they have no reason to comprehend themselves as a unit without the face of an outsider to unite them.

Along with creative improvisations to protect themselves, I must also declare a high level of admiration for the human ability to imagine.  The fact that they were able to hone it on the concept of a TimePrince is testimony to their capacity to discern specific ideas and worry them to perfection.  In the case of comparing their version of a TimePrince with actuality, there are a few things eerily accurate.  There are obviously many gaps in these nuggets of truisms, however the ingenuity utilized to deduce what might be placed in those gaps is both entertaining and charming.

While they’ve imagined a TimePrince (their term is ‘Time Lord’) that is indigenous to a particular Planet and alien race, they imagine that everyone from that Planet is a ‘Time Lord.’  They missed the part where there are only a few of us born each generation with the ability to See and Intervene.   Yes, there is a certain amount of status with the gift, but the curse is much greater.  Torn from our families at a young age, denied any childhood privileges and raised by older generations of TimePrinces, our lives are solitary (Humans got that part right) and never our own.”

“It’s no wonder we are an unhappy lot.” Tsyllus thought to himself.  “Dlynnar, delete last to the word ‘Intervene’.”   He waited just a second and Dlynnar replied “Deleted, ready to continue Tsyllus.”

“Whilst this Planet has had scant alien visitors,” he continued, “the imagined life forms humans contrived are grounds for a Msoolyz type examination in their variations of form and character, and presented with an odd fixation on violent, often malicious life forms.  Perhaps this stems from their still primitive views and lack of knowledge thereof, I’ll leave the final conclusion for the experts.  It seems difficult for them on the whole to consider friendly visitors, which is most likely to occur as we all know.

Finally, and in attempt to end on a positive note (although I’ll admit a certain biased toward liking these harmless creatures) they have obtained a decent foundational grasp of space and time.  They are aware that there is probably other life in the Universe besides their own, they have probed neighboring Planets within their Stellar System and have worked the calculations out enough to understand that time and space are in no way fixed and linear but, to the use the words of their imagined ‘Time Lord’ a ‘Big blob of wibbly wobbly timey wimey ….. stuff.’  I myself am highly impressed at this grasp of time and space.”

“Overall, the inhabitants of Planet st.042 are a charming, if naïve, animal and I for one wish them well in their attempts to mature.  I have scheduled a revisit in millennia (Dlynnar, set the date for reminding please) and shall send an update at that time.   For now, this completes my report on Planet st.042 located in the Stellar Formation xin, Galaxy Hrsollyn.   Respectfully submitted, TimePrince Tsyllus.”

He took a deep breath and then addressed his computer, “Dlynnar, send report to the Pynndl council and set course for Planet Scaalp, I need a Norliss to drink before I lose my mind.”

Dlynnar dutifully replied, “Sure thing Tsyllus, sending report into council and setting course for Planet Scaalp, you need a Norliss before you lose your mind.  Estimated time of arrival equals 35 plincks, plus or minus 2 plincks. Allonsy!”

The Value of a Dreamer

Jacob sat crying, exasperated and exhausted because he couldn’t figure out the math problem.
His mom came over to the table, gave him a hug and suggested he take the rest of the night off. “That assignment isn’t due until Thursday anyway, honey, give yourself, and your brain a rest.” She gave a tousle to his coarse, sandy hair and a peck on top of his head to finish. Jacob slowed his crying and his panicked breathing, closed his book and got up from the table to get ready for bed.

As a twelve year old his bedtime routine was fairly quick and ten minutes later his mom went to his room to tuck him in. She noted that his demeanor was still deflated so she implemented her ‘go to’ strategy of offering to tell him a story of one of his favorite heroes. “Which one do you want to hear?”

“Ummmm, I dunno.” He replied, his big blue eyes were nearly full of tears again so his mom, in an attempt to quell another breakdown, dived right in to one of his favorites.

“Remember the guys who dreamed about the teeny tiny particles that would hold all of everything together, hmm? Small, invisible bits of energy that act like glue and if found, would change how we see the world.”

Jacob blinked back the tears forming in his eyes, mostly for his mother’s sake, and nodded in approval at her attempt. “Peter, Robert, and Francois,” he said, “they were big dreamers.”

“Yes they were, and just like you I am sure they struggled over their maths as well. I bet they still do. So how did these dreamers find their dream,” she asked her son, coaxing him out of his misery.
“Lots of people helped.” Jacob replied.

“That’s right, it always takes more than one to make a dream come true. In fact, so many people believed in this dream that they built some pretty amazing things to make it happen, like…..”

“Like the world wide web!” Jacob interrupted, “That’s my favorite part of the story, hundreds of scientists all over the world working on one single problem. They had to have a way to talk to each other, right? So they hooked up their computers to each other so they could talk any time of the day or night!”

His mom laughed. “That’s right sweetie, and now we can Skype grandma because of their desire to fulfill a dream. Who knows what your dreams will create, yeah? What else?”

“The ell – eightch – seeeeeee…..” Jacob shouted out and let the ‘seeeee’ trail off into infinity. “The big
circle tunnel they built underground in…., where did they build that again?”

“Europe son, it’s so big it exists in two countries, France and Switzerland.”

“That’s right, in two countries!” Jacob mused, “That’s a big circle.”

“It is a big circle, but it had to be in order to make Peter, Robert, and Francois’s dream come true. Do you remember why it had to be so big?” Jacob’s mom moved a piece of hair out of his eyes and tucked it behind his ear.

“Cause the atoms hafta get really, really, really, really super-fast for them to crash into each other.” Jacob was sitting up on one elbow now, engaged and enthused.

“Exactly,” said Mom “They have to spin around and around in that big wide tunnel until they build up enough speed to collide. One group of scientists built a camera to take pictures of the crashes so other scientists could study the pictures to see if Peter, Robert, and Francois were right about their dream. But why would it matter so much for them to be right?”

“Because it would answer some questions about our universe,” Jacob chirped back, “or if they weren’t right, they might at least get a clue about what was right. Right?” he smiled coyly at his mom.

“Yup,” she smiled back at his witty use of words, “but what did they find out about the dream of an invisible force that held everything together?”

“They were right! Their dream came true, they discovered the Higgs boson and the math worked out too. Now we have an answer. But we have more questions too.” Jacob rolled over on his side and put his head on his mom’s lap, she rubbed his back.

“Yes,” said his mother, there will always be more questions, but dreamers like yourself… and Peter, Robert, and Francois, and all the other hundreds of scientists and people who work so hard will always find answers to those questions. Now sleep, I bet you’ll get that math problem right off tomorrow morning. And dream your own dreams my dear, who knows what might happen?”

“I’m gonna solve the mystery of black holes.” Jacob announced as his mom turned off the light and closed his door.
“No doubt you will son, no doubt you will.”

author’s note: This story inspired by the Documentary “Particle Fever” and dedicated to the hundreds and thousands of scientists the world over whose diligence and dreams answer questions we all have. Thank you.

Jack: The True Story of a Faithful Servant

He sat up straight, dark brown eyes focused ahead, ears hearing everything.  Anna smiled at his stoic manner as she flipped through her Facebook feed on her phone.  She was in the waiting room of her doctor’s office, an appointment in the middle of endless appointments thanks to a brain tumor.  Her husband hired Jack at the beginning of the ordeal, some six or seven years ago, as a means to keep an eye on Anna while he worked because he feared to leave her home alone.  Jack was an all business sort of guy, by the book, and it was two or three years before they saw him even crack a smile. Now though, Jack was accompanying her everywhere.  Anna’s husband had recently passed due to cancer; Jack devoted himself solely to her immediately.

“Anna Thompson” the nurse chirped out.  Jack was the first one up and he waited patiently as Anna gathered her things and stood up.  He followed dutifully behind, eyes scanning the surroundings, making sure all was well.  “Isn’t he handsome?” the nurse asked softly as they walked through the door she was holding open.  Anna agreed but Jack simply passed without looking and followed his charge around the corner to “room six today dear,”  “chirpy chirpy” was all Jack could hear.

The usual tortuous, silent wait ensued after the nurse took Anna’s vitals.  She knew better than to start a conversation with Jack, he wouldn’t utter a word back to her.  Instead she studied the thick black hair that managed to stand straight up on his head no matter what.  It was always a source of amusement for Anna and she smiled at it for the thousandth time as the doctor finally came into the room to break the silence.  Jack didn’t move or even acknowledge that another human being shared the room with them now. He listened to the mundane dance of their voices for several moments then the doctor announced that he’d  “like to draw some blood today to make sure that new med is working for you.”   Anna nodded in consent but squirmed subconsciously on the table at the thought of another needle.  Jack reflexively moved slightly closer.  “Who’s your bodyguard?”  the doctor asked.

“This is Jack, since my husband died he started coming along with me to my appointments.”

The doctor held his hand out to Jack, but the latter merely stared ahead.  “He’s quite the professional,” the doctor laughed and shook off the rebuff in good humor as he moved towards the door.

“Yes he is,” said Anna and she gave a little wave as the doctor turned around and left the room.  The nurse came back and fulfilled her role as a vampire.   Jack shifted uncomfortably from side to side for a few seconds when Anna winced at the needle prick.   “He’s protective of you isn’t he?” queried the nurse.

“Very protective.” Anna responded.

“Well, at least you know you’re safe,” said the vampiress as she set everything back on the tray and took her gloves off.   “See you in two weeks,” she sang with the same chirpy voice and she was gone out of the room like a puff of air.

They left the room, left the office, left the building, then left the entire city behind as they drove home, stopping at the neighborhood Wal-Mart before calling it a day.   Jack sat silently in the passenger seat (Anna loved to drive, so he let her) and muttered not a sound the entire time.   When they arrived home, they both jumped out of the car and Anna opened the gate for Jack to go through.  Inside the house she picked him up and gave him as many hugs and kisses as he could stand, interspersed with high praise:  “You did so well today, baby!”  “You were such a good boy!”  “Mama’s so proud of you, your first time out and you behaved like a pro!”  Jack gave a shake to put his fur right when Anna set him back on the floor and then graciously accepted the small beef bone Anna pulled out of the fridge.  He took it to his bed and sat stoically for several moments before he began to gnaw gently at its tender middle.   He slept well that afternoon, dreaming of car rides and the chirpy voice of the nurse.

Happy Friday Kids, and go kiss your four-leggeds!

Frankie Wallace

*Authors note:  I dedicate this story all the amazing service animals out there who serve their masters with dedicated and admirable aplomb.  They are treasures of this life to be cherished deeply.  Jack is one of the best of these heros….




Going Back to Work: A Short Story

Carole waited behind the rest of the housekeepers to clock in and then made her way to the cart room with them as well.  Sort of.  She trailed behind with a couple of the older ‘girls’, unable to keep up with the younger generation whose laughter and chit chat echoed along the hallway.

It was her second week back to work and her body was still acclimatizing to the new change.  By that I mean that most of Carole’s sixty something being was aching or paining in some way as she padded along.  Her back was especially sore these past two days since she developed a limp from a blister on her foot due to a new pair of shoes and the limp made her use her back muscles in ways they weren’t meant to be used.  She was exhausted.

About the second or third room into her day she found a rhythm and managed to finish all twelve rooms.  Carole was allotted four hours but it took her four and a half and when she got home she grabbed a glass of ice tea and sat down on the couch to put her tired feet up.

“How was yer day Luv?”  Ed’s gravelly voice reflected her own haggard state and she replied, “Not bad.  We only had twelve rooms today and managed to keep up a bit better.  I am happy that tomorrow is my ‘friday.’ ”

“I am so sorry you have to go back to work Luv,” Ed said as he brought her an ice pack for her back. She knew he meant it.  Ed always prided himself on being able to provide for his family but since his last heart attack he could no longer work.  He had a modest pension, but increasing medical bills, prescriptions and food and everything else made it difficult for them to maintain.  Carole worked just a couple of days a week as a secretary when the kids were in school and that was the extent of her work history.  It took some adjusting within the both of them to see Carole become the ‘breadwinner’.

Ed sat down next to her and opened the bottle of ibuprofen to give to Carole, who upended it to empty three tablets in her hand and then she gulped them down.  As she handed the bottle back to Ed she noticed the tears start to form in his eyes again.

“Now stop Dearest,” she said and wiped the first of the tears from his cheek.  “We are in this together and its really okay.”  Ed could not contain himself any longer and he broke down at these last words.  This was a daily ritual for them since Carole started back to work.  Ed couldn’t help himself.  His dear sweet wife being forced to work at this age and after all this time was a difficult situation for his manly pride to bear.  A part of him was crushed.

Carole found it best to just sit and let the moment pass, she rubbed his hand and kissed his cheeks until he finally composed himself several solemn moments later.    She turned his attention to dinner and asked how the roast in the crock pot was coming along.

“Just fine,” he answered, “and I think I’ve figured out the right way to make the potatoes this time,” referring to the distinct taste Carole always managed to give them – her secret was half and half, lots of butter and plenty of pepper.

“Sounds lovely Dearest, ” she said, smiling adoringly “You’ll be cooking as well as our son in no time!” she laughed.  It was a long standing joke in the family that Sam was even a better cook than Carole.

“Pfffft!”  Ed retorted, “I am not so sure about that, but I do know the value of a good vacuum cleaner now.”  Since his wife went to work, Ed took it upon himself to do all the house chores.  He had Carole teach him laundry and dishes before she went to work so that he could take them over once she did.  It was the least he could do and it helped immensely to ease his guilt and keep him busy during the days she was gone.

The rest of the evening passed as usual with casual conversation about how much things had changed the past twenty years interspersed with the latest family gossip.  They clung to each other mentally and emotionally within this quiet routine and the familiarity of each other.  Ed fixed her plate, the same way Carole use to do for him, and got her bath ready after dinner.   He laid out her uniform for the next day before going to bed.  They snuggled in together, whispering short “I love you’s” in  various form and drifted to sleep together, still holding hands.

At exactly four thirty hours Ed awoke and started the coffee for Carole.  His internal clock never let him sleep past this time for as long as he could remember.   He fixed her breakfast and packed her lunch and tenderly saw her off to work three hours later.  Once her car round the corner of his street, he sat down at the dining table and bawled as if he were three years old again, unbeknownst to his beloved.   Ed would never adjust to the idea of his wife working for as long as he had a breath to breathe.

Meanwhile, Carole waited behind the rest of the housekeepers to clock in…….



Author’s note:  This story is dedicated to the thousands of senior citizens who’ve had to join the working ranks these past two decades as a result of the financialization revolution.  May they find peace……

You Love Me Like XO: the story of the power of a song ….

They fought when he visited her on his lunch break….he was in a completely different place than she, feeling physically fatigued and being mentally frustrated with banks and credit card companies chipping away at their meager earnings….she made the mental note that it was her responsibility to make sure they had weekly conversations about finances to avoid these kinds moments “get with the program gurl” she said as she scolded herself…she let him rant, giving him copious amounts of grace because she knew he had been sick, they both had, it’d been a week since sex because of it, and well, he needed to get it out…he finished up, they chit chatted about their mornings, the mood lightened and when he got ready to leave she asked him for the debit card…”why?” he said…”because I want to buy my sister in law a card for making it through her first christmas without her husband that died a few weeks ago…” …”It’ll only be about three or four bucks” she mentioned, she was still on the clock so her professional, down to business demeanor severely contrasted with his recent rant over money and he couldn’t believe she wanted to go off and spend some….suddenly there was a fight, they departed on angry terms and there followed a flurry of furious texts back and forth “I felt like you didn’t hear me” “we only had a minute and I had to ask for the card, I didn’t mean to be insensitive”…..they spent the afternoon in misery, wondering how they’d be in the evening, hoping they could just both brush it off as an off moment and not turn it into a full on fight….they felt each other out in later texts over the afternoon…”got a ride home with so and so, won’t be waiting for you to pick me up”, “ok :p”, “need anything from the store?”, “yeah, thanks! “……”whew, they might’ve escaped a bad time of it,” she thought….at home she took advantage of her time by taking down christmas and cleaning house, she listened to the newest release of so and so, thanking the technology gods for digital music….the song was played repetitively on her iphone whilst learning the lyrics on her laptop, the beat was catchy, the lyrics simple, the depth endless ….she knew music, having sung in her a cappella choir in high school and spending years on the worship team at a small church, she knew how to pick out instruments, listen for the key changes, all that stuff….the song wasn’t particularly complex, she detected a slight bent from one of her favorite bands, so and so, which pleased her…she noticed that it was one of those songs that could go on forever in a set listing, a tune that lent itself the ability to go off in random impromptu musical anthems, taking crowds on a surf ride of music…she went on many such surf rides as a singer on the worship team, she knew their power and their ability to bring a person to a moment of mental and emotional openness…such was the case now as the new song sunk in and she connected words to music to beat….she thought of her husband, how she’d do nothing to hurt him, he was her equal and fighting killed them both….she thought about her determinedness to make this relationship work no-matter-what-goddammit…she loved that man with every cell of her body, they fit together perfectly in every way, and though things weren’t right now, she’d work it out with him precisely because she loved him….she knew  the difference, she knew a life lived with a man who didn’t fit even though he was the father of her children, she knew the pain of trying to love someone, the disappointment of realizing such a thing can never be forced…she chose the torture of a divorce over the dreary future of an unhappy marriage, a boatload of guilt and a few years later she met him and instantly there was chemistry ….the happiness she found in him made every day of hell worthwhile and even when they were fighting, his face was all that she could see, there was, simply, no one else….she thought of the treasure she had, that such a love really comes but once in a while and not everyone gets it….she thought about the temporariness of life, a lesson she learned all too well recently with the passing of her brother…we never know when our time will run out, and those words struck home to her as she mopped away to the beat of the drums, living in the moment….in a bit of a mental lull, a wave of music came in and sent her memory reeling  further back and her mind into deeper thoughts….like the comparison to relationships earlier, she compared her life now as an atheist to her life then as a christian….here, she had no regrets, only thankfulness to be out of the confines of the four walls rank with conspiracy theories and fear….she thought of her time on the worship team, hours and hours, she recalled the moments of surf rides, the small amount of dancing she could do….now she was free and danced without restraint, allowing herself full expression of her body as it interpreted the music …an earlier thought came to mind and she marveled again at how similar the sounds of music were inside and outside the church, that we all catch the same creative waves, they just get funneled differently …. as she compared inside versus outside, she saw once more that outside was real, raw, and now….a new thought came to mind as she considered all those moments spent chasing a ‘perfect’ supernatural love, coming away unfulfilled, and being told “that was the nature of the thing, we are supposed to be kept hungering”….now, she realized, after discovering deep, true, perfect love in the flesh and she concluded “of course an invisible lover will remain elusive”,  she thought of her lover, that he was her heart’s desire, that they seemed to be made exclusively for each other, that he met her needs in every way, and yet……her heart ached for him to get home so they could embrace one another and forgive each other a thousand times over with a wordless, passionate cuddle…..”yeah,” she thought, “an elusive lover that keeps a girl chasing is ridiculous, in reality a girl can be completely satisfied and wake up the next morning wanting even more, in heat and craving it as if it’d been years,”….”you love me like XO…..” he does, and she does, and it is real and ever so temporary…. she was reminded that her decision to leave religion behind for this moment, for the acknowledgement of reality and true freedom, was the right one…..the house was nearly back to normal and clean, the song fairly memorized, another confirmation of her decision to be free of religion’s chains were all achieved by the time he got home….they spent a quick moment of checking each other’s eyes to determine if everything was okay and the long anticipated hug made everything right again….words and music bounced around in her head as they went about their evening until they finally rendezvoused in the bedroom….tender, apologetic kisses turned to lustful craving quickly and in the end, a new day came round and their love was even deeper, their passion even hotter…..she would hear the song again in years to come and just like any good tune it’ll take her back to that brief moment and remind her of the thoughts she had, the emotion she felt, and the freedom in which she basked…this is the story of the power of a song and the healing virtue of music…..

Peace Kids!  and happy new year…may 2014 be good to you….

Frankie Wallace







Note to Chelsea/Bradley: Your Prison Survival Guide

So yur gonna do time.  Take this note, from one convict to another.  Make it your bible.  God knows you’ll go friggin’ nuts in this place if ya don’t.

Yur probably in shock right now kid.  Probably wondering what the hell your future’s going to be, spendin’  the next few decades behind prison bars.  Stop right there.  Your brain will explode if you try to think about it. Get off that merry go round and don’t think about yur life doin’ time till you hear those cell doors close behind you.  First things first, kid, you gotta go through processing .

Now when you go through processing, you focus only on what yur doin’ at the moment.  On the bus to a new joint?  You focus on that bus ride kid, you pay attention to every little detail out yur window.  You check out the markings on the back of the seat in front of you and ponder them like they’re the very words of christ almighty.  You get to that new joint kid?  You focus on each and every little step.  You do this ’cause you gotta block out all that leerin’ and jeerin’ and catcalls coming from the cells around you, you do this ’cause you gotta tune out those sons a bitches calling you a “fucking traitor” and threaten’ your life, you gotta watch yur feet as if they’re the only thing in your world that exist, ’cause even the guards’ll talk shit to your scrawny ass.  If you let them in, they’ll eat you up. Tune ’em out, kid.  Tune ’em out even when you gotta lift yur nuts and spread yur ass cheeks, you stare HARD at that fucking speck on the floor as if it’s the Mona Lisa.  “Stand up and turn around pussies!”  You get yur issue, that’s yur clothes, you get yur blanket and yur pillow and then they walk you to yur cell.

I’m sorry I gotta be the one to tell ya this kid, but yur gonna be stuck doin’ a lot of time in the hole.  That’s solitary confinement kid.  Yur special you see.  You got fame, you got notoriety, people gonna wanna hit ya just to get the braggin’ rights.  It’s a helluva game I know, but that’s the straw you draw.

Now.  Here’s the thing about the hole, kid.  It gets boring real quick.  You gotta get yurself a routine just like they taught ya in boot camp.  You keep that routine religiously kid.  You live by that routine, that routine becomes the one way to survive.  You got alotta time kid, the trick is to milk everything for time.  That way you stay busy. That way, before ya know it, ten years have passed.  Here’s what I mean.

I knew a kid, sat down to eat his lunch.  Never saw somebody take his sweet ass time makin’ such a pitiful excuse for a sandwich as this prick.  He had what we all had:  two slices of white bread, each wrapped in plastic, a little packet of peanut butter, a little packet of jelly, a five inch piece of carrot, and a bag of Lay’s Potato Chips.  This little punk unwraps each piece of bread and places each one in jus’ the right place on his napkin.  Then he squeezes his peanut butter onto the bread, making sure to cover every damn square inch of that slice of bread.  Then he proceeds to do the same thing with his jelly.  I’m not kiddin’ here.  He squeezes every bit o’ jelly outta that packet and then, all smart and sassy like, takes his time to spreeeaaad it around, making sure that every bit of bread is covered.  Then, you won’t believe what this jerk-off does next.  I about had a coronary just watchin’ ‘im. He took out his little knife.  Now this isn’t any kind of knife you ever saw kid, this is the kind you get in the fed’s house, this knife is really a jacked razor blade.  This puny ass kid had smuggled the single blade we get in the disposable razors they issue us.  Everyone’s got one, by the way kid. Necessity is the mother of invention when yur in the slog. He takes his blade and begins to slice his carrot into looonnnng thin, slices.  Takes him five goddamn minutes to slice that poor little carrot into paper thin slices. Then he places those carrot slices on top of his carefully spread peanut butter.  He opens up the bag o’ chips.  All tender-like, as if their eggs, this little asshole takes out the whole chips and places them separately on a napkin.  He saves them to eat later, one at a time. He crumbles up the rest of those chips and dumps them on top of the carrots, puts the jelly slice on top of the mound of puke he just made for himself and has his sannwich. Takes him twenty, sometimes twenty-five minutes to build that thing.  First time he saw it, my friend Casper flipped his lid.  “Boy, what the fuck’s the matter wit you you gotta take your sweet ass time makin’ your samich?”  Casper had a short ass fuse, but the rest of us knew what that idiot kid meant when he yelled back, “Fuck you, asshole!  I got fifteen years to go in this pig house, I’ll take my sweet ass time makin’ my sand-wich!”

Repeat after me kid:  The secret to doing time is staying busy.  There’s the usual, you read, you write letters, you workout, you jerk-off.  You get obsessed with yur clothes and yur bed.  When yur laundry comes ’round, you might spend an hour folding seven pieces of clothes, but you made sure every fold was just right, every wrinkle smoothed out after every fold.  I mean ya get obsessed over folding, it has to be precise in either halves or thirds or quarters. You focus on brushing each tooth.  You savor every bite of food there is to eat.  You listen to any sound available.   The idea is to be focused on something all the time, kid, even if it’s the smallest little detail.  You make sure you don’t own any watch, or calendar, or anything that you can see like that.  That shit will torture you.  You just stay busy kid, that way, you lose sense of time, and before you know it, ten years have passed.  Shit, I been in fer thirty years so far kid, ain’t nothin’.

Here’s the real snag, kid. Inside the hole is a dull, blank, bland world. Its lifeless and colorless.   Yur brain’s gonna need stimulation and so you start daydreaming.  You let yur imagination get wild kid, colorful, detailed. It’s the one thing that’ll keep you sane.  Hell, you can probably imagine entire episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race and before ya know it five years have flown by.

Yur lookin’ at a long time in the slammer kid.  Remember, the secret to doing time is staying busy.

Good luck kid, god knows you’ll need it.



author’s note:  this is actual advice, taken from my husband who was sentenced to one of the worst prisons in california at the young age of 16…he did 15 years, at one point serving eighteen consecutive months in the hole.   we were discussing chelsea/bradley manning and the sentencing she got, this is his sage advice.  i know its graphic, but what good am i as a writer if i don’t include the reality?   be well…frankie

Book is coming out this week: Here’s an excerpt

From “Maslow’s Triangle: Short Tales of a Homeless Chick”


Chapter 3:  A day in the life of…..

The beginning of each day had to begin before seven or so.  Sleeping until eight meant that I stood the chance of being discovered by an early morning hiker or local law enforcement. I usually woke up fresh and proud of myself in some sick way for having made it through another night.

Starting a new day meant rearranging my sleeping quarters back into a drivable vehicle (my truck was a Transformer!).  The back seats were made upright since I put them down at night to stretch out completely.  All the blankets got folded and stashed neatly in a corner.  Buck knife was re-instilled in its sheath, having spent the night under my pillow. Last night’s dirty clothes made their way into the corresponding pillow-case-hamper.  Bags of makeup, computer, and clothes were relocated – again – from the front seats to the very back.

Using leftover water from the night before, I would brush my teeth and wash my face.  One of a few favorite ball caps kept my hair out of the way and I was off to start my day, Tank positioned nobly in the passenger seat.  He always smiled as we rode along; I couldn’t help but smile as well.

The first errand of my day consisted of taking my boys to school (they stayed at their dad’s during my homeless stint, they have a good daddy).  A couple of times a week I had a house to clean, but when I didn’t the mornings would drag on.  I found myself sleeping a lot.  The sheer exhaustion of being homeless surprised me.  Being on the move all the time zaps one entirely of their strength. Now I knew why I would see homeless people sleeping all day long.  It’s not because we’re lazy, but because we are weary to our very soul from shuffling around.  Like a bird with no nest, we are unable to relax and feel safe within the warm confines of carefully constructed twigs and feathers.  Homelessness is an un-natural state of being, and as such it is relentlessly tiresome.

Afternoons were filled with tutoring and picking up the boys from school. This was my favorite time of day.  My boys are everything to me and amid the brokenness of my life they were my anchor, all that was sane and balanced.  It was hard sometimes, not to feel like an absolute failure around them. I never once shared with the two younger ones that I was homeless.  I didn’t want them to be ashamed. Or disappointed.  Mostly I felt frustration with myself because I wasn’t providing for them in the way I wanted to – I had no home to offer them.

I always had a mother’s love to offer them and so every afternoon was ours together.  Homework, snack, and car time from school.  I savored each minute until I knew their dad would be arriving from work, at which point I vacated the premises. (Their dad and I got along okay; mostly we kept to the business of the boys, avoiding any unnecessary chit-chat, thus my punctual exodus from his house each afternoon.)

It was an eternity from when I’d leave them till bedtime.  Roughly seven hours lay ahead of me, nearly one third of my day, looming before me, leering at me, daring me to buckle. Work at the hotel would keep me busy about half the time.  The other half, Tank and I would drive.  Pearl Jam, U2, and Godsmack supplied the soundtrack while I roamed the rural roads of Shasta County, (it occurred to me once that my vehicle was aptly named; I certainly was Exploring, not just physically, but in a psychological and emotional way that I never dreamed of).  I had Lassen Peak to the east, Mt. Shasta to the north, and the Trinity Mountains to the west, each offering solace to my tired eyes and soul.  I meditated a lot as I watched them from the hills Tank and I hiked.

Eventually we would end up at Barnes and Noble, or the lobby of the hotel I worked at, mostly because both places provided free wi-fi.  Occasionally I would go see a movie.  Sometimes I would park in the lot of a store somewhere and watch people come and go, thinking what lucky bastards they all were because they presumably had a bed waiting for them at home.  (Did they take it for granted, I wondered?  Didn’t I take it for granted once?)  Whatever Tank and I did though, it was only something to pass the time ‘til the inevitable when I would have to decide where I was going to camp for the night and then meander my way there.

The most dreadful of emotions, loneliness, crept up on me during these hours.  I was grateful for Tank; he was the only other pack member I had, the one thing that provided me a sense of belonging.  If not for him, I surely would have crumbled because I knew that within the intimate cell of a roof and four walls, evening time was golden. As always, it was the small things that I missed, causing real physical pangs of ache.  The small things that evoke comfort and security by providing a familiar routine:  the consistency of everyone coming home from work in the afternoon; family members adjusting their moods to each other, the smells of supper blending with the chatter of everyone vying for attention.  T.V., music, cell phones and pets add to the cacophony as households begin to settle in for the evening.  Homework, reading, playing, perhaps arguing, ignoring, outright hostility; however the form, they are part of the finely tuned rituals that create permanence, security, and a sense of belonging; those crucial elements that make up the first two levels of Maslow’s triangle.

Without them  I was floundering.  Without that sense of belonging it became difficult to keep a semblance of self-worth and esteem.  I had no pack to be a part of, I was a lone wolf.  As a coping mechanism, I could somewhat pretend and ignore my plight during the day when I was going about my usual gig with work. But as time passed, homelessness became lonelier and more arduous.  And at night more than any other time, missing the details and the sense of belonging, the struggle to remain rational was greatest.

I found it was best to wait until as late as possible to “go to bed”.  A late arrival meant I could slip into my chosen camping spot without drawing attention to myself.   Our local sheriff is sticky about seeing vehicles in weird places at awkward hours so one had to be stealth.

I had a few favorite spots to park, but the safest was on some Bureau of Land Management property a few miles out of town.  There was a small trail to a stream where the salmon ran and at the head of it was a large parking area.  It was situated well below the road and I could tuck my Exploder up next to the hill that banked it and be nearly invisible.  Certainly I was inconspicuous.  There was also a boat ramp lot next to the Sacramento River where I would camp as well.  I loved it here.  I had a beautiful view of the river from inside my Transformer den and I would watch it for hours at a time, especially when the moon was full and reflecting off the water – eternally a peaceful sight.

So I managed.  My savings was growing and I was pursuing possible residences doggedly.  “Just a few more weeks,” I would think as I laid my head to rest and wrapped my body around Tank’s.  I willed away the dementors of loneliness and fear with a patronus charm of hope, and pure desire to survive.

Class Reunion: A Plausible Fiction

Stephen and Steven came from more or less the same socio-economic background:  two parents, middle-middle class, products of suburbia and a decade we call the 80’s.   Both went to college and shared some courses as well as a dorm wing together.  They became fairly good friends but upon departing the maternal arms of university halls, their lives went separate directions much like a rail can split a train to either one or another destination. 

Stephen always knew he wanted to be a Public Accountant like his father from the time he could run his own adding machine at the age of four.  His infatuation with numbers bordered upon obsessive (Stephen’s mother actually had a few worrying conversations with his doctor about it, privately of course) and he was certain of his path upon entering his freshman year of college.  After a few semesters of business classes though, Stephen’s interest piqued enough that he changed his direction from public accounting to business major and set his sights on Wall Street.

Steven slogged it out with accounting and his degree earned him a spot as assistant finance manager at the great and honorable metropolis of Sacramento, California.  His aspirations focused on the challenge of climbing the corporate ladder, he chose city employment since he felt he could make a difference at the local level.  He was idealistic and convinced that governments wasted more money than they ought – he wanted to change that mentality.  Steven married a nurse, had three kids, and coached their soccer teams while at the same time achieving his goal of securing the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) position of the aforementioned great and honorable metropolis.

At their ten-year reunion, Stephen and Steven had similar stories to share about their success and its amenities:  travel, bonuses, and dwellings (Stephen had a modest Manhattan gig, Steven just purchased one of the newer homes in a gated community outside of Sacramento and was also investing in other building projects).  Stephen enjoyed the growing niches of Wall Street, while Steven reveled in his budget slashing abilities and his ties with city council allowing him development connections.  It was 1998, Billary was in office, and the financial opportunities they shared with each other were promising, invigorating, and…. well, big.  They vowed to stay in touch and left their three-day reunion with a sense of camaraderie and importance:  they were both affecting financial change and enjoying the accompanying adrenaline rush.

The adrenaline rush lasted nearly until the next reunion.  Stephen (always on the lookout for the ‘next big thing’) managed to wiggle his way into a very specialized branch of mortgage bonds, nearly hidden away in the behemoth known as Deutsche Bank.  He spent hours in a similarly reclusive office, poring over numbers and synopsis, participating in conference calls, and directing the purchase of millions of dollars of insurance against the bonds in the unlikely event that the entire housing industry would suddenly collapse.   At the end of a double-digit  workday, Stephen would slink off to the nearest watering hole with a few of his cohorts where they would rant about the insanity of their days’ work and the fact that they were getting away with something they knew wasn’t quite right.

Steven was investing in housing as if it were gold.  Indeed, for a few years, the market grew as if someone had found just the right fertilizer for it.  His connections with the city council allowed him favorable development terms and he borrowed against his own house and the two rentals he owned as a means to further his sub-division – building frenzy.  He bought, built, sold, and extended his credit far beyond what he knew his limit to be…..and his bank was more than willing to throw money at him.  On occasion, Steven would worry about his debt ratio (he recalled his business classes and their logic), but this or that detail concerning the next building project always saved him from admitting there was something wrong with the entire operation.

He was forced to admit it by the time of their twentieth reunion, which he barely made.  He had lost everything except his family and was utterly ruined.  The only reason he decided to check out the reunion was the hope that maybe there were others like him with whom he could commiserate.  Stephen attended the reunion only because he was experiencing some downtime from Wall Street.  The fat cats were lying low after they blew out the housing bubble and many of their underlings had scattered for a time to let things settle.

Stephen barely recognized Steven when he saw him.   Steven spent the previous few months watching his entire life’s effort dissolve in front of him, similar to the way a single, lazy ocean wave can claim a sand castle.  He had lost his job (massive government layoffs accompanied the housing crash), his wife was forced to go back to work, his two oldest sons were sharing a bedroom and their higher education options were severely limited. He was dressed haphazardly, his hair needed a style, his razor had apparently gotten lost.  The overall effect was disconcerting to Stephen.  He rushed to his old friend and scooped him up in a hug, “What the hell happened to you?!” he asked.

Steven mumbled something about the housing market crash and Stephen took off with the narrative:  “I know, wasn’t that some ride?”  he asked and then went on to give the juicy, sick details of buying poorly packaged  mortgage bonds.   He often interjected an excited “We couldn’t even believe they let us get away with this shit.”  Stephen was caught up in his story of Wall Street mania and didn’t notice that his friend’s expression had changed from apathy to a combination of deep interest and ….. recognition, as if a lost memory suddenly made its way to his conscious. “….We had to fight it out a bit, but they gave us our bonuses any way and I am off to my favorite Tahitian island after this reunion.”

Long silence followed this last comment while the two Stev(ph)ens just looked at each other.  ‘Tahiti’ hung in the air like the acrid smoke of a firecracker and refused to go away.  Stephen was first to speak, he sort of cleared his throat and mumbled a poor criticism about the tropical locale as a means to appropriately diminish the enthusiasm he had just moments ago.   He realized that he hadn’t asked Steven about his life the past ten years and lamely inquired about it.

Steven simply laughed a loud, long manic laugh.  It made Stephen uncomfortable – he downed his gin and tonic in one gulp, looking around at the same time for an escape.  What occurred to Steven was this:  here, right before his very eyes was the personification of the entire racket that led to his downfall.  He heard and read reports coming out of Wall Street and understood enough to know that whole setup was one mass rip-off of millions of people by a small group of number crunchers tucked far away in isolated offices and presumably unaware of the devastation wrought by their deeds.  He laughed because he had a chance to tell one of those bloodsuckers exactly what he thought of them – an obsessive monologue he’d rehearsed a million time over in his head.   He laughed because of the absurdity of it all.  He laughed because it was either that or a mental meltdown.  He laughed because he could see it made his friend uncomfortable and that was the only safe revenge he could affect.

He stopped suddenly, catching Stephen off guard once again, and wrapped his big arms around his friend in a hug that could be interpreted a thousand ways.  Holding him at arm’s length, hands upon Stephen’s shoulders, Steven looked his friend in the eye with immense scrutiny and said “We each had a different end of the same stick, didn’t we?”  He turned around and walked out of the reunion without a goodbye to anyone.  Stephen was left holding an empty glass, a shallow plane ticket, and a laugh that would haunt him for years.

(Acknowledgement must be made to author Michael Lewis and his book “The Big Short” which intricately relays the story of the housing bond bubble and the persons involve.  It was a rich resource for this storyline.  No similarities should be drawn from the ‘Stephen’ character in this story and Steve Eisman in Mr. Lewis’ narrative.  I chose the name simply for the two variations of spelling since I wanted to work with the idea of the two characters also having their name in common. I liked the way it provided consistency and delineation at the same time.  Be Well, Frankie)