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These 23 short pieces take readers on a journey filled with humor and sadness and sex and death.

from the book

Something Like a Walk

I was savoring my second cup of coffee when hiking began to feel like a promising way to spend the day—you know what I mean, really hoof it, put a few more miles on the old boots. I don’t wear boots much anymore, and something always causes me to postpone my next venture along the trail.

There is one problem with hiking—it makes me tired, and right now, my physical conditioning falls a little short of optimum. It occurred to me that instead of enjoyment, my hike would turn into lumbering along fatigued, like after one of those forced marches in my old Army days. Plodding weariness was not what I wanted to feel at the end of this beautiful spring day.

Mustang Sally

Who can love something intrinsically lacking the capacity to reciprocate?

Not me. And so, I lived, seeing automobiles purely as transportation until one day, shimmering in the showroom lights, the Siren, whose name was Sally, lured me closer until I heard her whisper, “I’ve been waiting, just for you.”

Everything but Sally disappeared. The wavering luminance of her glistening emerald body and vinyl houndstooth landau roof drew me closer, inviting my touch. I caressed her controls, and my heart raced with joy. I settled into the enveloping warmth of her soft interior, and she became my world, the one I did not know I was searching for—Sally, the Mustang I was meant to ride.

Detour to Tupelo

She stood with her arms folded below her breasts, and Danny could not see a ring or any other jewelry. He listened as the driver collected tickets and confirmed destinations. The bus was a local, and most passengers were going to small towns along the way. The driver took her ticket and said, “Hattiesburg, Mississippi, change buses in Memphis.”

The eavesdropper smiled. He knew the route, and he knew a lot could happen between St. Louis and Memphis. Danny had a talent. It wasn’t a moneymaking talent, as his uncle Mike often reminded him. Still, in the mind of the almost twenty-two-year-old photographer’s assistant, it was a wonderful gift, and he used it to make himself a very happy fellow.

Sucker Punch

Rayholds his hand to his cheek, more startled than hurt. He has never heard of a sucker punch. All of the other surprises he has ever received were good things, usually from his mother or one of his grandmothers.

A moment ago, he had been talking to his neighbor. Now, standing in the empty hallway, the left side of his face stinging, Ray stares at the brass 3-B on Eli’s apartment door.

The Last Link

Memories of his mother dying in this nursing home still weighed on him, but he was eager to see Jake. His father’s youngest brother had always been the primary source of laughter and tears for the Donovan family. Now he was Ray’s last living older relative. At Jake’s door, he peered in. “Hey Jake, how’s it going?”

“Well, looky here, my favorite nephew, Raymond Donovan. Come on over here.” The old man lying on the bed grinned at a petite, gray-haired nurse removing a blood pressure cuff from his arm. “Hang on to your panties, Glenda. This is the boy I’ve been telling you about. He’ll be after you straight out.”

Facing the Storm

Ray hands a beer to each of his friends and says, “These are the last ones.” He leans on the transom seat, pulls the pop-top on his beer, and waits for the inevitable argument to begin.

Eddie says, “The last beers. Dammit, Terry, I told you two six-packs wouldn’t be enough. You know being on the water makes me extra thirsty.”

Terry says, “Screw you. You’re always extra thirsty and damn near always complaining.”

“Up yours. You sound just like …

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Just like your wife. Why don’t you come up with a new line?”

Time Goes By

She handed him her ticket, “You look wonderful, Paul. Goodness. I can’t believe it’s been so many years. How’ve you been?” His expression did not change, “Fine. I’ve been fine.”

“I know you’re busy now, but I’d love to talk about our college days together.” She leaned close and whispered, “You used to be such a stud, Paul. I’m living in Roswell. I’m in the book—maiden name. Call me.” Still smiling, he nodded slightly and handed her a boarding pass.

Mike’s partner closes the gate behind Jennifer and grins at her co-worker. “Old girlfriend, Mike—oops, I mean Paul? Are you gonna call her?”

Theron’s Breakfast

Theron says it took him five years to admit he was not cut out to work for other people and absolutely not in the city.

Since then, he has been an independent handyman and works on a schedule and terms he sets. He also provides unique insights about life as he sees it.

When the Occupy Wall Street protesters dominated the news, I asked Theron what he thought of the protests.

Continuing his work, Theron said. “Ought to vote.”