Thursday, October 6, 2011


This week, I found inspiration in six words offered at Easily Mused. The link gets you to the home page, so that you can explore this terrific forum for writers. You can also bump into some #fridayflash regulars over there. The words I used will be in the labels; I find that telling the words ahead of time detracts from a story. Comments welcome!


"Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes," the contestant sang, botching the melody for the tenth time. Jack threw Jenna a disgusted look. "I don't know how you watch this shit. Reality my ass."

Jenna curled up tighter under the raveling afghan, kept her gaze fixed on the television.

Jack fumbled in the kitchen, complained about the contents, or lack of contents in the fridge.

The contestant walked off the stage to condescending smiles and insincere thank yous from the judges. The host of the show spouted disingenuous platitudes, then issued a teaser for the next segment.

X Factor. X Games. X Box.

A child dressed as Darth Vader tried to make objects move. He flung his hands before him, but the washing machine did not perceive the pint-sized omnipotence. She changed X to EX, tried each one again inside her mind. Yeah, that worked. EX Box got Jenna snorting.

"What's so funny?"

She pointed to the television. Darth flinched, shocked that he started the car. His dad winked at the mom as he held the remote car starter.

Jack sat down, popped the top on a Narragansett. "Shit!"

Jack hopped up as frothy beer foam spewed his jeans. "Aren't you gonna do something?"

Don't giggle, don't laugh, face is stone, my face is granite....

EX marks the spot. Jenna giggled.

"Get me a friggin' towel, whydontya. Geesh."

Jenna went to the bathroom, pulled a damp towel from the bar. She dropped it in Jack's lap. Before she could return to her seat, he grabbed her wrist, pulled her down onto him.

"I remember a time when you woulda dried this for me."

He nuzzled her neck, reached his hand under her shirt.

She slid off his lap. "Hungry?" she asked.

"Huh?" Jack said.

"I'll make popcorn."

Jenna peeked through the cut through. Jack rested his forearms on his knees, stared at the screen. She opened the box of Pop secret, shoved a bag in the microwave, hit the "popcorn" button. Idiot-proof. If only everything was so simple.

The ersatz butter reek filled the apartment. So did feminine laughter.

Jack had changed the channel to HBO. Boobs filled the screen, and a dwarf—no, small person, she'd watched the documentaries, and besides, this guy was considered a serious actor, not a munchkin, not like a token member of a rapper's entourage—he was surrounded by gratuitous nudity until the scene cut to a guy getting beheaded.

"I don't know how you watch this shit," Jenna said, offering Jack the bowl.

He looked at her until she squirmed, then grabbed a handful of popcorn.

Jenna set the bowl on the couch between them, picked up the remote control.

On Demand, maybe there she'd find something they both liked.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Hello again. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions... I'm in the fast lane. Missed last week, but here I am today with a #fridayflash. Thanks for reading. Tell a friend if you like the words.


Carmen pulled the box out from under the bed. ADIDAS. In junior high, that meant All Day I Dream About Sex. Seventh grade. Bangs and octagon-framed glasses, acne and a training bra. Did she think about sex? After Mr. Gauvin spent four months on human reproduction, she tried her best to forget about sex. Learning the difference between clitoris and vulva from a two-chinned biology teacher with Rorschach stains on his tie somehow dampened the ardor. She remembered the boys disgusted expressions every time a girl crossed or uncrossed her legs. Maybe that was the school board's intention—birth control by revulsion.

She never owned a pair of Adidas.

For that matter, neither had Jeremy, as far as she knew. Jeremy was a Nike man. Except for the occasional Chuck Taylors. At least, people referred to the Chuck T's as sneakers. Running shoes, cross-trainers, board shoes, basketball shoes—what was so politically incorrect about the word sneaker? Maybe the "sneak" part. But that was the point of rubber soles, wasn't it? Rubber soles...rubber souls...rubbers...Jeremy always used Fantasy brand....

Adidas. Women's Running adiSTAR Salvation 3 shoes. Size 5½. Medium width. Carmen opened the box. White shoe—no, white sneaker, pink and black treads. Cool design, if one were to run in the mud, or snow, or on thick-piled carpeting. Also inside the box, she found a pair of ankle socks, stretched flat on cardboard inside the cellophane. Fuzzy white socks with pink edging and fuzzier pink pom poms.

Carmen tucked a few stray hairs back under the bandana covering her head. She stared at the dust motes floating lazily on the late afternoon sunbeams. Still needed to vacuum and dust, but organizing the clutter came first. She left the sneaker box on the bed, and slid open Jeremy's side of the closet. She sniffed a suit, relishing his lingering cologne. She missed him so much when he left town for the weekend. But, business was business, and her business this weekend was to tackle the fall cleaning.

Carmen grabbed a garbage bag as she remembered Jeremy's erotic dream, one he'd shared with her shortly after they'd met. Something involving pom pom socks and sneakers. She was supposed to wear that and nothing else. In his dream, she'd, well, she'd done things that even Mr. Gauvin may not have disclosed to a class of pre-teens while stroking the labia majora and labia minora on that female anatomy poster. She laughed out loud, surprising herself at the sharp sound. Labia Majora, that should be the name for an all girl rock band. Imagine what the drummer did with her sticks....

Carmen had always intended to do it, really, she wanted to please Jeremy, but somehow she'd never quite gotten around to shopping for the socks. Had Jeremy intended to surprise her? Bought the dream sneakers, found the dream pom poms, then got shy and shoved the box under the bed? Sure, he was waiting for the right time to pull it all out and ask her to fulfill the fantasy. But before that happened, he stored his suitcase under the bed. The box got shoved deeper, almost forgotten. Sure, that was it. Then he took a trip and Carmen decided to do the fall cleaning and looked under the bed when the vacuum whined on the dust bunnies and she found the box. Maybe, maybe, maybe....

Carmen yanked his clothes off the hangers and stuffed them in the garbage bags. She found Salvation. That was Salvation 3 running shoes. Those sneakers were not her size.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


This story I thought would be longer, and I had started and stopped it several times. Today, I saw my way through to the end of it as a flash. So, for two weeks in a row, I participate in #fridayflash. Some weeks are easier than others, that's all I'm sayin'.


Mike looked out the plate-glass windows to see the bagger leaning against the cart corral, texting. Damn kids. Mike stepped outside to yell at Jake when the moon stopped him. Full and bare in all its pockmarked glory, Mike half expected Elliot and ET to bicycle across the surface. A beat-up LeMans careened into the lot, almost grazing the snaking buggy-line Jake pushed toward the store.

Three doors shot open. The driver grasped his door to pull himself out of the car. He limped to the two reaching arms and helped a hunchbacked woman from the back seat. He got a walker from the trunk, rolled it on its tennis-balled feet towards the gesturing woman. Another old man shuffled around from the passenger side. The trio headed toward Mike.

"Store's about to close folks."

"Are you turning away customers? Back in my day—"

"Shush Frank, let the lolly-gagging boy do his big-boss routine."

He hadn't heard lolly-gagging since nana. The hunchbacked woman's sandpapery voice scratched Mike's eardrums. "Have some respect, boss-man—"

—she pushed her walker closer—

"we'll be gone—"

—the automatic doors swooshed behind him—

"—in two flicks of a squirrel's tail."

He stepped aside to let them pass, breathing through his mouth. They smelled like the last time he was at nana's house, an aromatic blend of mothballs, hamburger grease, and urine with a hint of lavender.

But growing up, her house smelled of strawberry rhubarb pie, and pot roast, and Canada peppermints, and clean sheets and lemon Pledge. Her yard buzzed with bees and dragonflies and the faint whoosh of distant traffic. Mockingbirds and jays called from the edging pines, competing with the chickadees and whippoorwills. Turtles crawled, ants hilled, toads hopped. He had seen rabbits and chipmunks, startled squirrels with bulging cheeks. Both he and the animals would stop, stare, and then the squirrels would flick their tails twice before they'd flit away. Always, two flicks of a squirrel's tail—

Mike lost the old folks.

Marci glared at him from register six. The automatic recording urged shoppers to bring their purchases to the front, the store would be closing in ten minutes. Jake crashed the line of carts against the front wall. Mike couldn't hear the old folks shuffling steps or their querulous voices.

"Goodnight boss. See you tomorrow," Stan from produce said as he headed for the exit. He covered his bald spot with a Boston Red Sox cap, instantly erasing years from his face.

"Did you see some old folks in the aisles?" Mike asked.

"Nope. You all set with me?"

"Yes. Goodnight."

Sam left. The women from the deli said their goodbyes. Mike overheard one comment to the other to wish on the full moon. The other retorted it took more than a full moon. The last two stock boys told Mike all set. None of them had seen any shoppers.

Can I do my drawer now?" Marci asked. She winked at Jake, who lingered at the end of her line. The fluorescent lights flickered and buzzed. The announcement thanked everyone for shopping at Soucy's Market.

"Fine! I'll leave a self check-out open," Mike said.

"How do three gimps disappear?" he mumbled as he walked to the front of each aisle, checking the length for the trio. He immediately felt guilty for the insult; his nana would have boxed his ears for that under-breath comment.

A soap smell wafted, a familiar, fresh scent that he couldn't place. Halfway down aisle eight Mike spotted a spilled box of Calgon. Just as he was about to yell for Jake to get a broom, Marci shouted, "Bye Mike! I left the green thingies on top of my drawer."

The automatic doors swished shut. Mike returned to the front, saw the kids run to Marci's Corolla where Jake trapped her against the door. They kissed. Moonbeams shone on the empty LeMans.

Mike locked the doors, wishing he could have a do-over. No way would he spend his career at the local grocery store. He'd be the one kissing girls in the parking lot, Mike thought as went to Marci's register—an entire sheet of S&H green stamps covered the drawer.

Nostalgia sucker-punched Mike. He remembered licking stamp after stamp, filling up the booklets. He had studied the redemption catalogue, agonized between a camera or binoculars. On his thirteenth birthday, his nana had used all the booklets and surprised him with a shiny red Schwinn.

Mike got the broom and dustpan. Over time, those green stamps had paid for nana's oversized suitcase, alarm clock radio; even her pink floral bedspread.

The walker leaned against an endcap.

"Where are you!" Mike shouted. The Calgon smell wafted stronger, reminding him again of nana. Gosh, he hadn't thought about her since he'd brought her to the nursing home, her suitcase filled with housecoats, and her faded bedspread. The alarm clock radio looked out of place in that utilitarian room. So had nana. He should have visited more often.

Soap powder must have drifted as he swept because his eyes stung. Mike pulled the hanky from his back pocket, blew his nose, then let out a self-deprecating laugh. He hadn't thought so much about nana in years.

Mike bent to pick up the fallen box and slipped. His head slammed against the tiles. Suddenly, the catch phrase came to him.

He shouted, "Calgon, take me away!" and covered his eyes with his forearm, trying his best not to sob.

The fluorescents buzzed louder, then altered into a different tone. Bees, Mike thought. He sniffed. Peppermint and lavender filled his nose.

"My, that was quite a spill, Mikey. You fell faster than two flicks of a squirrel's tail."

Mike opened his eyes. Nana smiled at him. "You're fine. Help me with these groceries. Oh, they had the new catalogue down at Soucy's. Hope you wished for something good on last night's full moon!"

I did Nana Mike thought. Yes I did.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


No rain, hot weather coming our way... I am dreaming of vacation.


For the fifth time today we queued, as my twelve-year-old son said in his best British impersonation. His British slipped into Swedish, but I chuckled nonetheless. At least this queue was out of the burning sunshine.

The air-conditioned holding tank piped in almost current music and even a slide show distraction while we pretended our 3-D glasses were Ray-ban© designer and we were movie stars rather than weary tourists waiting to act as a “shrunken audience.” I hated “True Colors” (it was a morning radio staple that targeted my age group, so it reminded me of Starbucks® coffee and TJ Maxx® deals and Aerostars®), but combined with the poignant (not corny I rationalized) Kodak® images of vibrant families simulating touching milestone moments, I couldn’t help but hum along and wipe the spec that suddenly irritated my eyes (my son said I could get the red out with Visine®) as I gazed upon my own family milling about. With zero chores and clean sheets and ‘top-notch’ accommodations—not to mention loads of family time—it had turned out to be a terrific week. So what if the brochure-promised "family-time" was spent in "queues?"

I chose to think of it as quality time, since we got to really listen to, and laugh with the boys (or at least I found the patience to clench my teeth and smile indulgently rather than scream it's only funny the first time as my son attempted the tired ersatz British accent again). Later we could spend more time together as we waited our turn for Pluto or Captain Hook or Chip and Dale to visit our table while we ate overpriced burgers and paid for the souvenir photograph. We would go to the parade and light the night with the Simba flashlight and Pocahontas glow sticks. Of course, we would order the keepsake dvd of the spectacular(!), and hurry to catch the shuttle so we could spend the last half hour of our day at the Lego® store and maybe get a Ghirardelli® chocolate shake for dessert, and, and....

That’s when I realized; we paid to vacation inside a commercial.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


The lastest issue of Cannoli Pie, "Fresco", features a short fiction piece by me! The editor describes the story as "ornate, sexy and trippy." I can dig that.  Check it out:

Thursday, March 17, 2011



Diane smashed the portrait she'd painted of Tim and herself against her knee. She pulled drawers, swept the night stand, got rid of every memento and gift that reminded her of him. The anger still boiled. I'm just not attracted to you anymore.

She yanked clothes he bought for her from her closet, ripped each into rags. No loss on those; he still bought her clothes from two sizes ago. For when you get back to yourself, he'd said. She slid the wedding gown from the back, but stopped herself in the nick of time. Mom's wedding gown. Diane's first fitting was supposed to be Saturday. I'm just not attracted to you anymore.

He had yet to promise for better or for worse. He had opted out. Her finger throbbed from tugging off the engagement ring. He'd slid that on her finger two sizes ago.

Just when she thought it couldn't get any worse. I'm just not attracted to you anymore.

Tim got her through mom's funeral. So what if she spiraled a bit after that. Missed classes, lost her art students, lost the downtown studio. Lost her figure. She caught her reflection above the bureau.

Frizzy auburn curls framed her splotchy pale skin, lids swollen over hazel eyes, mascara sliming down puffy cheeks—and two chins, neck folds, the beginning of a matronly uni-boob. She couldn't erase his expression from her mind. There was no remorse. Only pity. I'm sorry, I'm just not attracted to you anymore.

She could handle not being pretty to him anymore (though it hurt). She could handle him not loving her anymore (she'd try). But she could not handle him believing her insignificant (a non-person). If she bumped into him on the street, he wouldn't say hello. Only people who thought themselves superior doled out pity. To him, she would be invisible.

She could show him. She mattered. She could be thin again. Pretty again. Diane raced to her attic studio, slammed a blank canvas on the easel. She slipped on her apron, tied her hair into a ponytail. She'd show him the real her, the perfect Diane.

She mixed paints, brushed bold lines across the blank white. First the hair, blue-black and flowing. She added dots of white then blurred them to give shampoo-commercial shine. She outlined a heart-shaped face, widow's peak a point on the smooth forehead.

Her arm tingled as she shaped eyebrows, arched and haughty. Not something she'd felt before, but yes, if she could feel haughty, she could get over the hurt. Cerulean irises under luxurious lashes, only the faintest hint of laugh lines.

Diane watched her hand fly across the canvas. The collar bone, sleek, visible, not cushioned by fat. Sculpted arms, graceful wrists, elegant fingers all appeared. She hadn't felt such inspiration since her mother started chemo. Painting felt good again. She added flesh tones, filled in shadows, gave the Diane in the picture dimension. A warmth spread from her fingertips to her hands, from there to her entire body, exciting her, arousing her, spurring her to give life to the woman on the canvas. Show a part of herself that Tim....

Diane lowered the brush. In her artistic frenzy, she had forgotten. He had dumped her. Pitied her. Deemed her insignificant.

She stared at her self-portrait, the portrait of the better self she wanted to be. The one Tim wanted her to be. One that Tim could be attracted to.

The woman was not Diane.

From the eye color to the erect nipples on melon-shaped breasts, to the perfect cheerios navel dotting the pilates-structured stomach, to the curly black triangle between full hips, to the muscular legs....

Diane could never be the goddess on the canvas. The nude woman looked too real. The woman was taller, shapelier, bolder—Diane realized she had painted a nude Wonder Woman. Diane reached for more blue pigment to cover the nudity. She couldn't believe she had painted every hot-blooded teenaged boy's fantasy woman. Her fantasy.

Tim's fantasy.

How could lines and paint be more attractive than flesh and blood? Diane stared at the statuesque image. Her fantasy, his fantasy—regardless, not real. Not Diane.

She put down her palette. This hurt too much. What was she doing to herself? Before she could become jealous of this non-person, Diane turned around to look for the gesso. Start fresh, begin again, all that happy horseshit—as long as she didn't have to stare at someone she could never be. Gesso—artist's white-out.

Something yanked her ponytail.

Diane screeched and slapped the arm holding her hair. It did not let go. She slammed into the canvas. Another arm reached over her shoulder, snatched the gesso. She recognized the hand. She had just painted it.

"You're not real" she shouted. Diane twisted and pulled, tried to free herself. In a flash, Wonder Woman's leg grew in dimension until it kicked Diane.

She crumpled to the floor. The canvas ripped as Wonder Woman pulled free. Diane crawled toward the door, but the comic heroine was bigger, stronger. She pinned Diane as she coated a spatula with gesso.

Diane balled her fist but before her punch made contact, it disappeared in a smear of white. Two more swipes and Diane's body was gone. The thick white goo touch Diane's cheek. Then she felt nothing at all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Thank you to all who read this story at this spot. I have sold it to Golden Visions Magazine and hope you will go and read (or reread?) this story there, along with the other terrific content. I am keeping the comments here, because on down days, these keep my writing.

Golden Visions also published "Memories Captured", another flash story I debuted in this forum, then felt confident enough to submit elsewhere. Thank you for your encouragement, and for supporting me, as well as the independent publishers.

I am addicted to weight loss shows; Heavy, The Biggest Loser, even MTV's I Used To Be Fat--I can't get enough. On almost every show, after the final weigh-in when it is time to cheer success, someone says "I/You lost a person." I would think, yeah, cool, that is a whole other person but it never inspired, you know? On a recent show, the trainer said, "you lost xxx pounds, that's what I weigh." It was my weight too. Inspiration hit, hence the story above. Oh, and the title meant I had to get the appropriate song. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


He didn't recognize the phone. Or the number on the screen. He answered it anyway. "Hello?"

"Who is this?"

He opened his mouth, but a name didn't blurt. He shouted louder than he intended. "You called me."

The other voice took on a nasty tone. "You’re not Angelo. Who the hell are you?"

Angelo. The name didn't ring a bell.

"Tell Angelo I'm coming." The line went dead.

He looked around the room. Bare. Colorless. Windowless. Doorless. Just him, a table, two chairs and the phone. He checked himself. White tee shirt over a slight paunch. Blue jeans, right knee ripped. Pockets empty. Feet bare. He ran a hand over his head. Smooth. He wondered when he became bald. He wondered when he had hair. Shit, he just wondered.

The phone gleamed under the solitary bulb. The bulb wasn’t here a minute ago. Trauma. He’d experienced a trauma, that’s why his senses were scrambled. He cleared the lump from his throat, fidgeted with the phone. He cleared his throat again. Rubbed his neck. Maybe he was coming down with something. Why couldn’t he come up with his own name?

He scrolled through the contacts, hoping a familiar name would pop. The bulb swayed. Angelo's phone. Angelo's contacts. Angelo knew thousands of people. He scrolled to the M's. M...something. He concentrated, tried to pull a name. Mel—, Meli—. A song replayed in his head, a nostalgic melody, no words until the chorus. Sweet Melissa.

Melissa pregnant, rushed into delivery. His reflection in a security mirror, blue scrub hat covering his bald head, nostrils distorted into caverns on the convex surface. He bent to kiss her perspiring forehead, her grip crushed his knuckles. He brushed dark strands off her cheeks, could not recall her face. Nurses firm, signing forms, scalp itchy under the elastic band, sweat trickling over the goose bumps along his spine.

Pictures. Angelo's phone must have pictures. Maybe Melissa. Maybe... bells tinkled. A text message loaded. A newborn, slimed and bawling, legs curled, umbilical stump clamped. A baby's smile inside smashed peas. A toddler boy pouting on Santa's lap. Picture after picture of his son flashed into view, a slide show of Christian's life.

Christian. Living with Melissa's mother. He saw his son on weekends. Bought him a trike. Took him fishing once. To the movies. They saw one of the Shreks. They shared the bucket of popcorn. Christian puked in the car. He never got the smell out. Melissa's eyes, Melissa's pointy chin, Melissa's two sneezes in a row—weekends with Christian hurt. He didn't visit often. He just couldn't.

Complications. He signed the release. No kiss, no touch, just Melissa screaming, screaming save the baby, please David, DAVID....

She never said goodbye.

David dropped the phone on the cheap wood. A hexagon table, came with two uncomfortable spindle-legged chairs. Something to fill space in the apartment. A breeze. David turned to the window. A stained shade covered the top half.

He jumped away, knocked the chair over. The doorbell rang. Someone pounded his apartment door. This was his apartment. Not a colorless room. The bare bulb shone over the table, because the chandelier broke. The visitor pressed the doorbell, the discordant buzz blending with bells tinkling from the cell.

"Angelo! Open up."

David read the text.

Hold on.

From Angelo.

Black smoke billowed from under the door. David choked. White smoke swirled before him. There was no dangling bulb.

A rope.

The door splintered, then crashed onto the floor. A sigh cascaded from the window. A man-shape burst from the black smoke. A man-shape formed in the white smoke. David's vantage point changed. The ceiling smoke detector's red light blinked at him. He looked down to the visitors.

"Suicides are mine Angelo."

"He's not dead, Nick."

"No one's coming for him."

Angelo glanced at David. David swung, first towards Angelo, then toward Nick. David heard a car backfire. A child's squeal. A dog's bark. Garlic and onions floated on the breeze underneath the smoke and over his own acrid stink. The rope chafed his neck. He couldn't gasp.

Angelo reached toward David.

"Uh-uh, Angelo. The rules."

Angelo smiled at David, nodded toward Nick. "Just giving him his show. Remember the life flashing part?"

Angelo gestured at the table. The phone floated to David. Pictures filled the screen, pictures he'd never aimed or snapped, but pictures of four-year-old him, dad holding him safe and pictures of eight-year-old him sliding into home plate and pictures of him with cousins and friends and at school and at parties and in uniform and feeding Melissa wedding cake and watching the heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor and all the people at her wake and each simple picture of his daily routine so mundane yet profound because it was his last view ever of every thing he had ever hoped or regretted or loved or—

—Christian's face filled the screen—

—despaired. Despair shrouded the rest.

Yesterday he called his son, but the boy never answered. He tried again from True Value, where he bought rope. He tried again after he tested his weight against the hook in the ceiling, the one that used to hold the chandelier. He never said goodbye.

Nick wiped his mouth. Drool sizzled on Nick's knuckle.

Angelo twitched.

"No Angelo. No divine interference."

"Stop me."

Angelo rose. Nick flashed from the doorway, rammed Angelo. Nick's fingertips flickered. Angelo blew. Flames flared to the smoke detector. The alarm bleated.

Alarms sounded in the entire building. The door splintered, then crashed to the floor. A firefighter shouldered between the disappearing Nick and Angelo. Black spots filled David's vision. The room faded.

Melissa's face appeared. He remembered. Freckles on her cheek, gold flecks in hazel eyes. Her easy laugh. Her soft lips. Goodbye David.

Her face blended into his. Mouth agape, cheeks slack, a glare bounced off his head. His reflection transparent on a firefighter's mask. David took a breath.

The End

a co-worker passed this week. he was not only a consummate bartender--he honed techniques, studied the history, and made every single guest feel special--but he was the first person to ask me for permission to quote and post a story I wrote. joey made me feel like a writer.

if only we all could understand the myriad of ways we touch others. he is missed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


After months away, well, I just missed being here. Some good things have happened since I've been here, such as a few acceptences, even a token payment or two. One of my favorite blog posts garnered an honorable mention spot in the Silverthought Online Sparkly Vampire Jamboree Contest (just follow the link and scroll down if you want to read the story). That one earned more than token! But before you think my head is swollen, it's all been tempered by many rejections. Even ones pertaining to writing (snicker). 

Time to write flash again. For #fridayflash (if they let me back in--Peggy who? they are asking), here is:


Eddie drummed invisible fingers against the marble. He remembered when the bar was oak, when whiskey and cigarettes and stale beer perfumed the air, when the burly Hap poured the spirits. To be stuck for eternity with fruity ales and pastel liquids "hand-crafted" by Alana and Zachary and Sergio killed him. Of course, nothing could kill the already dead. Fifty years of purgatory, and counting.

"If you hate it here so much, go to the goddamn light." Benny removed the match from his mouth and flicked its sulfur head with his thumbnail. "Here you go, your way out."

"You're an ass."

Eddie hit the match out of Benny's fingers, knocking it into a martini glass. After the barely audible sizzle, the match disappeared from the liquid, reappearing between Benny's shit-eating grin. Eddie hit that too.

"A ghost of your former self. Didn't feel a thing." Benny laughed.

Celebrating a sale, they had stopped at this hole-in-the-wall for a quick scotch. Three hours later, Hap the bartender poured one more for the road. Eddie couldn't remember who bought the cigars. Last living memory Eddie possessed was slumping to the floor, and Benny laughing. The first memory after that was of smoldering on the floor and Benny laughing. Benny had been sending smoke rings out of all his orifices. They've been arguing ever since about who started the fire. Benny's flame-joke wore on Eddie's nerves. If he had nerves. Or skin. Or muscles.

Before Eddie could summon the psychic energy to really wallop his friend, he heard new bartender Alana ask, "Is something burning?" She sniffed as she squinted at the martini glass, a ripple dispersing on the liquid surface.

"Hey! She saw something," Eddie said, nudging Benny. Eddie hoped so. For what felt like the first time since getting stuck in Hap's Bar/Stanley's Place/The Silver Lining/Antonio's/Park and Fortieth and now Trini'tinies, he started paying attention to time passing. Eddie found himself looking forward to week-ends, when the beautiful Alana with the pert figure and the long legs and the crooked smile and the mole under her left nipple—he only looked through her tee shirt once—worked until last call.

Benny winked at Eddied then glided through the bar. "Think she'll feel this?" He began a slow bump and grind against Alana.

"Now why you gotta go and get dirty with her? Oh, I get it, because I like her." Eddie noticed two pert spots on Alana's tee. Goose flesh had also popped along her arms, pale follicles semi-transparent in the diffused lighting. What he wouldn't give to stroke those hairs down smooth.

"Zachary, Sergio, check the thermostat. It's chilly in here." She hugged herself as she walked away from Buddy's spot. "Too bright too. Where's the dimmer?"

Benny stared. He looked pale, as if he'd seen, well, himself. "D-Did she say it's chilly?"

Eddie nodded. He heard Sergio's lisp, telling Alana about "cold thpots" and how he "thuspecths this place is haunted. It has a hith-story, you know."

"She can sense us." Eddie almost felt his heartbeat. He glided through the bar, through Benny, through Sergio to be near Alana.

Benny glided to catch up. "Should we do something?"

"Like what?"

"Like. Like...."

Benny cupped his mouth. "HEY CHICKIE-POO, WE'RE HERE!"

"Not that." Eddie concentrated and stroked Alana's bare arm. The fine hairs sprang to attention again. She hugged herself as she squinted at Sergio, then at Eddie's spot, then at the rest of the room.

"You're going to scare her," Benny said. "Remember the medium?"

Almost in unison, Sergio said, "We had a medium here once. A fire burnt this place to the ground. Two men died."

Benny snickered. "He has it half right. One man and one pussy died in the fire."

"What's your problem?"

"I want to leave. Can't drink the booze, can't touch the women, can't even get a decent laugh from you. As long as we're stuck here, we are stuck."

Eddie stared at his friend. The match was bopping up and down from between Benny's lips, a sure sign that he was thinking. "Go to the light," Eddie said. "I'm not stopping you."

"Yes. You are."


Benny glided to the plate glass windows. Eddie followed. Streetlights beamed down on smokers, their cigarettes dots of light inside oncoming headlights. Eddie couldn't believe it; he had sensed every thought, every nuance, every inkling Benny had ever since they'd died—how did he not know Benny couldn't find the light?

Eddie felt Benny's gaze. "You can't find it either," Benny said.

"I thought you knew. I thought all your light-comments were cruel jokes. I-I-I thought you liked it here."

Benny shook his head. "We died together, I guess we have to leave together. But you always find a reason." Benny pointed at Alana. She shaded her eyes. "So, we stay."

Eddie wanted to ask another question, but was afraid of the answer.

"No one gets lost on the way to hell. Let's go, Eddie. Find our heaven."

"So, where's that infamous beam of light?"

Benny moved the match from one side of his mouth to the other. Eddie stared. "Why do you still have that?"

Eddie plucked the match from between Benny's lips. Both souls studied the red-tipped sliver of wood. Eddie flicked the head. Flame burst, a wisp of smoke rose.

Alana's head whipped around. "Sergio, LOOK!" She pointed at Eddie and Benny. "I see them!" Her face glowed. Light bathed her body, except for two man-shaped shadows. Eddie and Benny stared at the match, trying to figure out how such a small flame created such an effect.

"Guys! Behind you." She pointed at the window.

Eddie and Benny whipped around. The match-flame leaned toward a passageway of pure brilliance. Eddie grinned, then chortled, then joined Benny in a belly laugh as they floated into the light.