The Dap

there’s many ways to greet one another

when we get together

hugs and handshakes

have been around forever

there are other ways that are clever

like the dap

which is a slow motion slap

in an intricate pattern of bumps

from one closed fist to the other

a common greeting for a soul brother

the dap

was born in shared strife

as a way of re-affirming life

the dap

a positive way

to get through the day

a comforting display

of brotherhood

back in the day

The Tree of Life

roots from the human tree

go back before

written history

root desires

built empires

root foundations

built nations

roots of war

lasting forevermore

the human tree

rooted in reality

and what we know

continues to grow

as new branches

emerge and get strong

and people learn to get along

on the tree of life

My Iggy

we sit side by side in a state of serenity

my Iggy and me

he, a small version of a greyhound

with brown eyes that are profound

that look into my soul

his presence does console

we spend comfortable hours silently

contemplating many a mystery

my Iggy and me.

Dial for Love

Flash Fiction 400 -words

Deuce McCutcheon went to her funeral a year ago, but was still having trouble believing she was gone forever. Freyja was the love of his life. She was the first, and only, woman who could see behind the hideous mask of his contorted face, which was a result of a terrible childhood injury.

She never hesitated to kiss his twisted lips in public or private. They were soulmates, spending endless hours talking through sleepless nights. Sharing their dreams and inner desires until exhaustion overtook them both. Their years together flew by like days as the lovers languished in the security of one anothers embrace.

As lovers often do, they talked about life after death and what they would do when the horrible time came when one was left without the other. They weighed in on his Christian Heaven, and her Norwegian Valhalla. They explored the concept of life energy moving from one host to the next. They planned elaborate ways of communicating from one realm or dimension to the survivor’s world.

But nothing worked. Deuce grew more depressed every day. On the anniversary of her death he visited her grave. Pulling out a sprig of sage he lit it and passed the smoke back and forth over her resting place. Next, he pulled out his pipe and packed it with a strain of their favorite cannabis, and puffed on it thoughtfully as he looked at her photo which he brought with him.

A thought entered his grief. Hazy and unformed. He realized that he had saved more than just photos of her. He had saved her old cell phone number. He was fumbling for his old-fashioned flip cell phone when the sun parted the dark clouds that hung over the cemetery.

Opening it, he went straight to his address book. There it was. Freyja’s phone number. The chill seemed to go away and he took his jacket off while staring at the number. He was experiencing a strange sense of peace. He pushed her number…and waited. It rang three times. Then he heard Freyja’s high voice…”I wondered when you would call,” she teased him.

The next day a ground’s keeper discovered Deuce’s body, curled up on a grave. He was still clutching his cell phone. Later when asked about his discovery by a reporter, he said, “You should have seen the smile on that guy’s face!”

Cat Man Do

he tries to rescue feral and lost cats every day

wandering streets and every alleyway

prepared to help any stray

that comes his way

the cat man’s house is full of felines invited to stay

he doesn’t mind his sobriquet

his cat friends never lead him astray

as he goes about his eventful day

The Man In The Tower

Little House Kennebunk Maine 1875 Second Empire

1865 Milford, Ohio

When Aaron was born, one of the midwives ran out of the room screaming.

The other women in attendance looked at each other grimly as they wrapped up the howling infant. The mother, Betsy Livingstone, was so weak, and had lost so much blood during the birthing ordeal, the women were worried she would die. She held on for three days. Long enough to see her deformed son’s face. She touched his cleft palate tenderly and ran her fingers over the smear of a nose (two holes actually) and traced the deep creases on the left side of his face that stretched his eye into a slit. He didn’t have ears, just holes where they should have been.

On the last day of her life she dictated a letter to her sister giving her all of her possessions and tasking her with raising the baby boy (she named him Charles after his father who was away fighting Confederates). In the event the baby’s father never returned, she would also get the deed to the three-story house built-in grand Italianate Victorian style. It was the biggest and grandest house in the county. In addition, it had a special tower that rose 5 stories from the basement to the observation room at the top.

Charles was raised away from prying eyes. Only family, friends, and servants ever saw him. As a young boy he wandered through the great house with its lavish furnishings and rooms full of paintings, playing secret little games and living in an alternate world. One where he was accepted despite his terrible appearance, and could play with other children…and things, without censor.

Private tutors taught him to read and write at an early age. He was a fast learner and quickly graduated to math, physics, the social sciences, and chemistry. His aunt Loretta saw to it that Charles always had the best she could provide for him. His father never came home from the war. One of his comrades came by one day and said he was with him when he died at Gettysburg, and gave Loretta his few belongings. She, in turn, made out a will giving everything to Charles when she died. She never considered getting married. She knew what suitors would think when they saw Charles. They’d treat him like a freak.

As the year’s rambled on in a slow but livable pace, Loretta and Charles were inseparable. She was the one person in the world who didn’t cringe when she looked at him. He always saw love in her eyes. Unlike the fear, loathing, and suspicion he noticed in others. Doctors. Tutors. Servants. They all stared at him when they thought he wasn’t looking. He’d caught them all numerous times, and it made him feel like an exotic creature that should be displayed in a zoo.

Charles’ world almost came to an end when Loretta died from the consumption. He refused to eat and had her body displayed in a coffin in the parlor for a week. Never leaving her side. When the family stepped in and took care of the burial arrangements he sat in the top of the tower until the funeral was over, and everyone went home. All but one of his servants elected to leave. Old John lived in the house when Betsy gave birth to Charles and was content to stay with him as long as he lived. Grief became a constant companion, and after a while it descended into anger and bitterness with the world that rejected him because of his looks. He still managed to find a place in his heart for his aging servant who made him meals and did light cleanup. When Old John was too weak to walk up the twisting staircase to the top of the tower where Charles spent most of his time, he came up with a dumb-waiter system that spared him from dutifully hobbling up it everyday. When the day came that Old John couldn’t get out of his bed, Charles stayed by his side and nursed him until he took his last breath. Because he had no known relatives, Charles buried him in a plot in the back of the house where Loretta, and his mother and father were resting. Only a priest attended the funeral. Two young men Charles paid to dig the grave and cover it up afterwards, stood nearby sweating in the heat of the hot Ohio afternoon.

After that, it was just Charles. He paid a nearby farmer’s 11-years-old son to go into town and get him supplies once a month. Money was one thing Charles didn’t have to worry about. The family safe contained the savings from two generations of Livingstone’s who had invested wisely and never trusted a bank. Gold bars. Assorted Bank notes. Golden Certificates backed by the government, cash, and heirloom jewelry was his insurance against poverty. And from going out into a hostile world.

The only time he left the house was at dusk when he would wander through the nearby forest for hours. Long into the night. He grew use to the animal sounds and they to him as he walked through the forest like an apparition. When the weather was too bad to go out, he sat at the top of his tower and watched the wind and rain batter the large glass panels in elemental fury. On some nights he studied the stars through his telescope and dreamed of other worlds. It was a lonely life.

It was a normal quiet day in downtown Milford when the outlaws rode into town. All three had long black dusters on and were carrying Winchester rifles. They rode their horses up to the bank and casually dismounted. After tying them up on the wooden railing they all strolled inside, still carrying their rifles. A keen-eyed deputy sitting outside the barber shop spotted the men and suspected them of being outlaws. He passed the word around to the townspeople.

By the time the outlaws came outside every able man in Milford had a rifle trained on the front of the bank. The sheriff shouted out for the men to surrender and then he saw the little girl in the arms of one of the outlaws.

“Hold your fire!” he screamed. A few shots rang out and then stopped. One of the shots hit an outlaw and he slumped in his saddle as another one pulled up alongside him on his horse and steadied him. The whole town watched them ride out of sight into the dense forest nearby. The sheriff put a posse together, but it was getting dark and impossible to track the outlaws in the night. The girl’s name was Judy and she was blind. Her parents were grief-stricken. Members of the community stayed up with them all night.

Instead of putting distance between the town and themselves, the outlaws chose to stay close and circled around in the forest looking for a place to hide out. Then they saw a light that appeared to be hovering high in the distance. On the outskirts of the forest they stumbled across the Livingstone house. None of the men had ever seen a house that big and were awed by the tower. They could plainly see someone in it. Taking their horses to a nearby barn, the outlaws lowered their comrade to the ground on a pile of straw. He’d been bleeding profusely and lost a lot of blood on the trail. One of the men stayed in the barn with the wounded man. The other, holding Judy tightly by her arm, went over to the house. The outlaw had his pistol out as they walked up the steps of the porch to the front door. It was dark inside. The only light inside came from the top of the tower and filtered down the winding stairs to a faint glow.

The outlaw, who went by Cherokee Pete, stepped inside the dark entryway, pulling the reluctant little girl along with him. There didn’t appear to be anyone else home. He looked at the grand stairway, took a better hold of Judy’s hand, and began ascending the marble stairs. Charles heard them of course. His hearing was very good, despite having no outer ears. He listened to a little girl’s whimper of fear. A man’s low guttural grunt hushing her up. Step, by step.

Charles was unarmed. He sensed whoever was coming up the stairs was armed and was going to make short work of him. All he had was a small element of surprise and the cane he used when his bad leg acted up. He stood up beside the door so when it opened he’d have a clear shot with his cane. He barely had time to react before the door was flung open and a gun, followed by a hand and arm appeared. In that instant he brought the cane down with all of his strength and heard a satisfying crack as the gun fell to the floor! Cherokee Pete howled in pain and let go of Judy to grab his broken wrist. At the same time he looked over at his attacker…and screamed! Ignoring his injury he ran towards one of the glass panels and plunged through the window, his body tumbling down until he made contact with the ground three stories below. Charles turned towards Judy to see if she was all right. He prepared himself for the inevitable scream. As he looked closer he realized she was blind.

“Are you okay?” he gently asked.

“Yes…thanks to you kind sir. My name is Judy and that bad man and his friends kidnapped me.”

“Friends?

Yes. Outside in your barn. There’s two men, and I think one is seriously wounded.

Charles bent over and picked up Cherokee Pete’s pistol. “You stay here. I’ll be back.”

“Wait! What’s your name?”

Pause. “Charles.”

“Thank you, Charles…”

He heard her innocent voice all the way downstairs and out to the barn where he peeked through the partly open door and saw the two men. One was lying down and not moving. The other sat next to him and was drinking from a bottle of whiskey. His rifle lay across his lap.

Charles watched him for a few minutes, pondering on what to do next. He never fired a gun before. He was aware the hammer had to be pulled back before firing, but that was it. Finally, as the man tossed his empty whiskey bottle aside, Charles made his move and charged through the door firing the pistol wildly at the outlaw whose eyes opened wide in terror when he saw him. Then he went for his own pistol and fired once, before one of Charles’ wild shots hit him in the head killing him instantly. The lone shot found its mark and Charles sank to his knees clutching his chest. After the initial shock he got up and slowly made his way into the house. Once inside, he called out Judy’s name and passed out in the parlor.

“Thank you, Charles…”

He opened his bad eye and saw Judy and a woman standing next to her. It was Judy’s mother. He was in a strange house. In a strange bed. And people weren’t turning from him in terror and loathing. As he lay recovering for the next two weeks Judy stayed by his side and chatted gaily about life and it’s wonders.

After a while, she convinced Charles that his life could be wonderful too.

As It Stands, it doesn’t matter how you look, it only matters how you act.

The Marble Champion

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Every kid in the school yard at California Street Elementary in 1955, was watching the marble match.

A third-grader named Billy, was challenging a fifth-grader, named Jack, in a game of marbles. It wasn’t just another game. It was for the annual unofficial marble championship. Both put up all of their boulders, common cats eyes, aggies, and steelys. It was winner take all. Both contestants had captured hundreds of marbles during the semester.

The winner was the first to capture fifty marbles in a three-round contest. Each round featured 30 marbles – fifteen from each contestant. They used their prized aggies, confident that their special marbles would give them a winning edge.

A coin was tossed to see who went first. Jack won. He knelt down and bent over the circle in the sand. Then he calmly lined up his aggie using his thumb and forefinger, and let it go with a force that scattered the marbles in the center of the circle. Two rolled out of the circle. He picked them up and put them in the coffee can next to him. An excited chatter came from the spectators. The game was on.

Jack lined his aggie up again, and sent it careening into a small cluster of marbles near the line. Three were knocked out of the circle. He got to fifteen before he missed his first shot. Billy took up his position and drove his first marble out of the circle while staying inside with his sticker. He finished off the first round with 15 marbles. They were tied, but Billy got to start round two. He lined up his bumblebee sticker, and fired it into the center mass. Three marbles excited the circle so hard they flew into the crowd! A roar of approval went up. Jack looked on nervously as Billy ran the entire circle! As one of the judges drew a new circle for the last round, Billy’s classmates were patting him on the back in admiration. The shy kid in the classroom had finally earned the respect of his fellow students. And at the expense of the school bully!

Before they could play the last round, the bell rang signaling recess was over. According to their rules the game would be played the next day at recess. Billy went back to class feeling better than he had all semester. He was accepted. One of the guys now. His young heart sang with happiness. He spent the rest of the school day thinking how his life was really turning around.

When the last bell rang, Billy and two new-found friends walked home together. They went about a block when Jack stepped out from behind an oak tree accompanied by two of his friends. He towered over Billy, and outweighed him. In a menacing voice he warned Billy that he better lose tomorrow or he’d beat him up! The smaller boy looked up at him, his heart beating like a jack hammer, and said, “I’m not afraid of you. I’m going to do my best to win tomorrow.”

“What did you say pipsqueak? You’re not afraid of me? Bring it on punk!”

“I don’t want to fight.”

“Of course you don’t, mommy’s boy! You just want to go home and put a dress on!”

Jacks friends laughed so hard they were patting each other on the back in glee. They knew what was going to happen next. Jack pushed Billy hard. He stumbled for a moment and then did the unexpected, he lunged at Jack and hit him in the face! Gasps went up from the onlookers. Jack gave ground and held a hand up to his face. His nose was bleeding. Infuriated he waded into Billy and slugged him repeatedly, knocking the smaller boy to the ground. Then he repeatedly kicked him. Billy stayed in a fetal position but didn’t cry out. Finally Jack’s buddies pulled him away from the barely conscious boy. Billy was bleeding from cuts to his face and his right hand – his marble shooting hand. It was swollen because Jack had stomped on it. The fingers were already twice their normal size.

“See you tomorrow loser!” Jack told him before walking away. Billy’s two friends helped him to his feet and walked the rest of the way home with him. His mother was horrified when she saw Jack. Both of his eyes were swollen shut and he had bruises all over his thin body.

“What happened?” she asked him and his friends. Jack was silent. One of the boys told her a bully, a fifth grader, beat him up because he was winning a marble contest.

“Is this true, Billy?”

He mumbled something in answer, and went past her and into the house and his room. When his father got home he went into Billy’s room and sat down on the single bed next to him.

“Tough day?”

“Yea…”

“Your mom told me what happened. You were brave to stand up to the bully.”

“How do you know that?” he wondered.

“Apparently your friends told her everything that happened. What are you going to do tomorrow son? Should I contact the principal?

“No! Don’t do that! I’m no snitch. I’m going to school and I’m going to win the marble contest!”

“Okay, son. Take it easy. Have you iced that hand yet?”

“A few hours ago.”

“Do it again before you go to bed, okay?”

“Sure, Dad.”

“One more thing…I’m proud of you son.”

The next at school.

The word was out. Every kid at California Street School squirmed in their seats that morning waiting for the lunch recess. The big marble game came with an additional element this year. Nearly everyone knew Jack beat Billy up yesterday. The tension created by a possible fight went through the classrooms like electricity. When the lunch bell rang there was a general charge out to the farthest corner of the playground where the marble contest would resume.

Jack confidently made his way through the crowd and stood next to the circle and the two judges. Billy slowly (and painfully if you really paid attention) walked to the circle. With his left hand he took out his prized Bumblebee and knelt down next to the circle. A murmur of surprise rippled through the crowd when he prepared to shoot…with his left hand! Not his normal shooting hand. He only had to capture five marbles and he’d be the champ. One of many things his peers didn’t know about him was he was ambidextrous.

When he shot the marble and it slammed into the center mass, there was a cheer as two marbles exited the circle. He made the next three look easy. The crowd broke out into happy pandemonium as they cheered Billy’s victory. No one noticed Jack, who slung away with no friends in tow.

As It Stands, this tale is a bit of nostalgia sprinkled with marbles and bullies.