Looking For Beta Readers

I have a new short story I wrote for a contest. Take a read and let me know what you think.

The Case of the Rose Petal Killer: A Dirk Randolph Mystery

By

Rich Allan

When the phone rang I knew it would be Captain Moran. The news guys had played up the murder as the lead story on all three local TV stations less than twelve hours ago. The anchors in their white shirts, sports coats, and fraternity ties all punched up the same words: Gruesome, Blood Everywhere, Rose Petal Killer Strikes Again.

All of San Francisco had been on edge since the first murder occurred two months ago, a young professional woman, brunette, 26 years of age, was found in front of her apartment, still in her Acura, keys in her hand, driver’s seat laid back, fully dressed in a pants suit, stabbed multiple times in the heart, with red rose petals sprinkled liberally over her face and body. A thorough check of the car and the seat control had yielded no prints, no DNA.

When the second murder happened with the same basic m.o., the media jumped on it and branded the perp as the Rose Petal Killer. Only this time the young woman was blonde and found in Golden Gate Park, several miles from the first murder, dressed in jogging bra and shorts, covered in yellow roses, lying on her back, displayed on a wooden bench for all to see.

Neither woman had been sexually assaulted or touched, except by the piercing of the heart with a four-inch blade. No evidence had been recovered at the scene by the squint squad who had gone over the bodies looking for things like skin fragments under the fingernails and examining all the other areas the serial killer might have touched, assuming the same guy did both women. I also had a suspicion the ladies must have known the guy, were surprised by the attack, and never had a chance to fight back.

I answered the phone. “Captain.”

“Dirk, how did you know it was me? I know you’re too cheap to pay for caller i.d.”

“I watch the news. You still at the scene?”

“Yeah. So get your ass over here, detective, and solve this thing.”

“You want to tell me the address?”

“Sorry, 845 Mason Street.”

“High rent district.”

“Right across the street from the Mark Hopkins.”

“On my way.”

I walked down three flights, exited my humble apartment, and headed toward the bus stop on Dolores Ave., after stopping off at Whole Foods to get that first cup of java. It’s not a bad neighborhood and the best I can afford on a cop’s salary. I don’t own a car because it’s expensive and I hate driving and especially parking on hills, which is basically the whole city. Sure it’s inconvenient but I don’t care and if I have to go out of the metro area I can always grab an unmarked car at the station or catch a ride with a black & white. I could have called for a ride today but figured, hey, it’s a body; Mrs. O’Connell wasn’t going anywhere soon.

*   *   *

I checked out the colorful townhome in front of me, three stories high, contrasting painted wooden scrolling decorations at each level under six-by-five picture window; part of a string of houses connected like paper dolls all the way to the corner. The structure sat in perpetual shadows, dwarfed by the giant hotel across the street, like living on the dark side of the moon. Hard to believe a place like this with no yard, no garage, and no parking could set you back three to four million bucks.

I wondered if the 19 floors, 400 room, historic, hundred-year-old Mark Hopkins was there when they originally built this house, stealing their view of the city and the bay. Probably not, but wouldn’t you be pissed if it happened to you?

Cops had the placed taped off, but I ducked under and asked a uniformed patrolman for Captain Moran. He told me the third-floor bedroom, in front of the house. Great. More stairs to climb. No chance this old home has an elevator. I make the ascent and reach the crime scene. The coroner and the squints are all doing their thing, taking photos, swabbing for DNA and dusting for prints. There on the blood-stained sheet, naked, spread eagle and covered in white roses was a very dead Mrs. O’Connell, early thirties, not bad looking and pardon the crude expression, built like a brick house.

The Captain spotted me. “Where the hell have you been?”

“I took the scenic route.”

“When are you going to get a car?”

“When are you going to give me a raise?”

“You know I can assign you an unmarked vehicle on a permanent basis.”

“I got no place to park. Is there a Mr. O’Connell?”

“He’s sitting in the upstairs parlor being watched by one of our guys. He’s the one who found her.”

“You talk to him yet?”

“Saved him for you. He seems pretty shook up.”

“Any kids around?”

“Nope, second marriage for both.”

I left the gang to finish up and went to look for Mr. O’Connell. I found him sitting on a French style sofa, the kind with the curved arms; he was all bent over, elbows on his knees, holding his head with both hands. The patrolman greeted me when I walked into the room and the victim’s husband partially sat up. He had been crying and looked a little pale.

“How are you doing, Mr. O’Connell?”

“My wife is dead.”

“Yes, I know. Sorry for your loss. Mind if I ask you a few questions?”

“Who would do something like this? Did you see her?”

“How long have you been married, Mr. O’Connell?”

“Call me, John.” The middle-aged man with dark curly hair wiped his eyes with the back of his shirt, a custom job that matched the Armani suit coat lying beside him on the sofa. “About two years now. She worked with me at my company, Wright Brothers Air Freight.”

“The one by the airport?”

“That’s right.”

“Sorry to ask this, but was this a happy marriage?”

“I loved Shirley,” he protested, almost too over the top. “We dated almost two years before I proposed.”

“Were you still married to your first wife at the time?”

“What does that have to do with it?”

“Women get jealous.”

“Ann? Do this? Not a chance. She was getting hers on the side too…with another woman. She was happy to take half my money and go live on a beach somewhere. Besides, did you see all those roses? This had to be that serial killer.”

“Coroner estimates death at three a.m.; can I ask where you were at that time of night?”

“I was at the airport. We had a very important overnight shipment to get out and I wanted to supervise the loading personally. My manager, David Burns, can verify it.”

“Thank you, John. One final question, did Shirley have anyone in her life that she didn’t get along with a co-worker, a neighbor, a relative?”

“Shirley retired after we got married so I didn’t see her much during the day, except for a few lunches when I could get away. I’m not sure what she did, although she mentioned taking some type of exercise class…yoga, Zumba, no wait, I remember, it was kickboxing. She said she could work out her frustrations, build up her confidence, and lose weight at the same time. Shirley always worried about her looks, no matter how many times I told her she was beautiful.”

John started to weep. I again expressed my condolences after finding out from him that Shirley had an office in the house with a computer where she kept her calendar, checked emails, ordered stuff online, etc. I found her office and her Apple laptop and flipped up the lid…password protected of course…but searching through her purse turned up a “Just for Kicks” business card at a nearby address. I called the lab guys to break into the laptop and get me a copy of Shirley’s schedule for the past two months. I then told the Captain what I had found and that I was going to check out a lead at a place called “Just for Kicks.”

*   *   *

The owner, Diane, turned out to be an ex-Marine who ran the place with her wife Joyce, who acted as a receptionist and kept the books, while Diane taught all the classes. I watch her work out a group of six women, all shapes and sizes, while they took turns kicking the crap out of a punching bag that looked a lot like a man. Feeling a little intimidated, I managed to question each one about Shirley and got the same profile from each…nice lady, very friendly, they all liked to hang out together, do lunch, go to matinees, exchange gifts for birthdays and so forth. I asked Joyce for a list of all their members and while I was waiting, noticed on the counter a stack of postcards with a big red heart promising to find prospective clients their true love. The Internet address read www.pinkcupid.com. I stuck one in my jacket pocket.

*   *   *

Back at my desk at the station, I pulled up the site and read the pitch, a dating app exclusively for women. Brandy, another detective, caught me checking out some of the profiles and photos. “Hey, Dirk, forget it, you’re barking up the wrong tree. These ladies prefer mates on my side of the road.”

“Then you can help me out. They won’t give out any names or contact information unless you join and fill out a profile. I want you to sign up and look for a Shirley O’Connell. ”

After reimbursing Brandy the $25 to join, I went down to the computer guy to see how he was coming along. He had cracked the code, her birthday, and showed me the appointment calendar. What caught my eye was a series of three lunches with the same woman, Jane Hanson, including a rendezvous at Top of the Mark the day before the murder.

I found Brandy talking on her phone. “Yes, I’d love to…your apartment…today at 1 pm…sure.”

“What the hell, Brandy,” I said, “Who was that?”

“Jane Hanson. She pinged almost immediately after I set up my profile and wanted to meet. Here’s the interesting part, she shows up as a possible match on Shirley’s profile, as well as Debbie and Sally.”

“Our first two victims; you got an address?” Brandy nodded. “Let’s roll.”

*   *   *

We knocked on the door of apartment 17D in the Mission District.

“Who is it?” A smoky woman’s voice rang out.

“It’s me, Brandy.”

Jane, a wiry, model-tall, comely lady, dress in a see-through blouse and slacks, cautiously opened the door. “A girl can’t be too careful these days.” Seeing me she tried to slam the door shut, but I got my shoe stuck in the opening. Not easy. This was a strong, military-fit lady.

I flashed my badge. “Detectives Randolph and Peron. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”

We were reluctantly invited into the living room, nicely furnished, with a still-life painting over the mantle, a potted plant in the corner, matched set of easy chairs, and an antique mahogany table with a large vase filled with flowers. I felt like Perry Mason solving the mystery at the last minute as Jane’s hateful, hurt eyes flicked back and forth between Brandy and the vase. “You lied to me,” Jane said, and then turned to me…waiting for the accusation to fall…because when I saw the bouquet of seven roses, I knew exactly who had murdered Mrs. O’Connell. And so did Jane.

New Fiction in the New Year

Follow the comic adventures of Eli “I’m not supposed to be here” Jones as he is drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Will he and the cast of characters he meets survive? Will the Army survive Eli?

Here is what the reviewers have said:

“If you enjoyed the movie “Stripes” then you will love the humor of this book.”

“Reading this is like being 17 again and having to face the issue of being drafted into the Vietnam war. It’s funny and insightful at the same time. It was like my own history—being naive and then finding yourself thrown into an adult world of the military during a troubled time in our history.”

“Despite his mantra of “I’m not supposed to be here,” Eli quickly adapts, making many new friends, including the cuddly Harry Horowitz, oil-rich Tex, hometown buddy Steve, the Professor, All-American college running back Sam, and the lovely Army Nurse Sara. They help Eli cope with the insane Battalion Commander (and Sara’s Dad), Colonel Clark, as well as overcome his bully Drill Sergeant “Must kill Eli” Wolinski.

Eli’s adventures continue through advanced infantry training at Fort “Lost in the Woods,” Missouri, as well as Infantry Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia, where he meets up with “Mad Dog” Drummond, whose sole purpose in life is to make the candidates as miserable as himself. Eli keeps his wits about him while trying to survive everything from nude fire drills, a snake-charming stripper – Miss Tiger Tactics, Ranger training, wandering brass pickers and alligators in a Georgia swamp, to being buried alive in a Vietnamese P.O.W. camp simulation.”

“Veterans will enjoy the tale as well as they relive the military insanity and the very real dangerous situations men have to face in both training and combat. Something for the ladies as well, as we meet the lovely Army nurse Sara, and fellow lifeguard, Karen, who both fall in love with Eli and helps him out of several jams.”

Something for the ladies as well, as we meet the lovely Army nurse Sara, and fellow lifeguard, Karen, who both fall in love with Eli and helps him out of several jams.”

Click on the link below and take a peek at this tall tale with the Amazon “look inside” feature.

https://www.amazon.com/Drafted-Im-Not-Supposed-Here-ebook/dp/B01M2BDY7F/ref=as_sl_pc_qf_sp_asin_til?tag=richallan-20&linkCode=w00&linkId=09aea59e350d0456c246bf591121f2c9&creativeASIN=B01M2BDY7F

Christmas Songs That Should Be Banned.

First of all, we need to stop calling them “Christmas” songs. Despite being about the Christmas, it ignores the other yearend celebrations and shows bias toward this blatantly Christian holiday. I suggest  “Popular Non-Religious,” “Holiday,” or “Winter Solstice” songs. To my knowledge, nobody has any objections to “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem (unless it has to do with contested borders or population counts in zero BC and what constitutes a “little town” … ie does that make it a “village?”)

434px-MerryOldSanta

WDOK radio in Ohio, USA, started this debate by deciding to pull “Baby it’s Cold Outside” from its playlist because a listener was offended by the lyric “say, what’s in this drink?” It could be nutmeg, but we should assume it is some type of drug, especially in the version where a woman is singing to a man.

Another writer, I’m not sure of the source, has begun a list of other songs of the season that should also be banned from the airways or if not, whenever you hear them you should put a finger in each ear and very loudly say “na na na na na na na” until the tune is over.

Here is what he/she suggested (with some editing by me) of which songs should be banned and why…

1. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus: Exposes a young child to adultery and PDA
2. The Christmas Song: “Folks dressed up like Eskimos?” Stereotyping Native Americans and making fun of their traditional clothing.
3. Holly Jolly Christmas: “Kiss her once for me?” Promotes unwanted advances
4. Santa Claus is Coming to Town: “Sees you when you’re sleeping? Knows when you’re awake?” The entire song encourages becoming a peeping tom and a stalker
5. Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Demands you “be of good cheer.” What about my right to be depressed during the holidays?
6. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Another sad tale of bullying in school with no punishment for the offenders.
7. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Forced gender-specific gifts: dolls for Janice and Jen and boots and pistols for Barney and Ben. Why should Janice be denied an uzi for home defense if she really wants one?
8. Santa Baby: Paints a sexist picture of a woman as a gold digger and “Come and trim my Christmas tree” lyric…we all know what she is really suggesting.
9. Frosty the Snowman: Sexist…should be Frosty the “Snowperson.”
10. Do You Hear What I Hear?: totally ignores the deaf community
11. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: “Make the yuletide gay?” Just because this time of year we like to dress up, decorate, and host fabulous parties…there is no need for labels…and they repeat it several times.
12. Jingle Bell Rock: “Giddy-up jingle horse, pick up your feet Jingle around the clock” Animal abuse!!!…forcing this poor horse to run for 24 hours without rest or food and in winter, yet. “Rocking around the Chrismas Tree?” Very dangerous and gets the kids all riled up when they are already too excited.
13. Winter Wonderland: Parson Brown asking if they are married…what business is it of his?  Invasion of your personal space. And “We’ll have lots of fun with mister snowman until the other kids knock him down.” Vandalism!

17558

Maybe if we changed the lyrics of these songs to more politically correct verbiage they would be more acceptable (and many more…probably all of them… need to be rewritten to the new standards).

Or we could just stop listening to popular Christmas songs and turn to Gregorian chants in Latin so we can’t understand the lyrics.

Or we could stop whining, evaluating, and assuming every word is sinister and just enjoy the music as we sit by the open fire (hopefully in a safe firepit on a non-windy day), roasting our chestnuts (is that dirty?), and toasting the new year (which has to be better than 2018) while enjoying our Hanukkah bush, Kwanzaa candles, and Christmas wreath, after donning our gay apparel (blame Deck the Halls).

In closing, Happy Holidays, May the Force Be With You, and finally, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Ten things for which I am thankful 2018

As we approach Thanksgiving In this crazy modern world (and I know it is primarily an American holiday), I harken back to my youth, growing up in the 50’s a simpler, more peaceful, probably less informed time without the Internet, fake news, daily messages of violence, political/racial/religious hate, opinionated news media, constant war somewhere in the world, mass killings.

But were the 1950s really that great? Did we truly live a Norman Rockwell existence? There were the McCarthy hearings blackballing creative Hollywood “communists.” The cold war froze relationships between Russia and the USA. We lived in constant fear of nuclear war that would obliterate mankind, practiced hiding under our desks at school, built fallout shelters, and every day at noon and midnight the B-52s with those nuclear bombs inside took off from a nearby airbase rattling the dishes in our cupboard. We lived at ground zero.

Every decade has its ups and downs. Low points that everyone remembers and regrets, like Vietnam in the 60s for me and the military draft that could mean dying before you were old enough to drink, anti-war protests, Kennedy’s assassination.

But every Thanksgiving we would try to pause and reflect on the positive things in our lives for which we are grateful.  The 50s were a breather from the terrors of WWII, a time of unlocked doors, the birth of television, great prosperity, baby boomers, hot rods, flat tops, and sock hops. The 60’s were a time of discovery, race into space, the Beatles, personal freedom…the right to protest, challenge the status quo, free love, Hair. The 70’s brought us Punk Rock, Disney World, end of the Vietnam War, Deep Throat, the Godfather, Secretariat, Saturday Night Live, Elton John. The 80’s introduced personal computers, big hair bands, etc. You get the idea.

Today’s challenge…name ten things you are grateful for in 2018 (in the comments section). Could be big things that impacted the world or just your corner of it. Must be positive, not “I’m glad Hilary lost the election.”  Here is my list:

  1. My wife discovered cancer early and doctors were able to remove, leaving her cancer-free.
  2. My wife and I are finally seeing success in losing weight and keeping it off.
  3. Both our son and daughter found true love and got married this year. Both ceremonies went off without a hitch.
  4. We remain in remain in relatively good health and physically active, especially compared to many friends our age.
  5. We are retired and do not have to get up in the morning until we choose to do so (or to let the dog out).
  6. We are, at the moment, financially secure with a nice home in a nice neighborhood.
  7. I am free to pursue my “hobbies” of acting, music, and writing. This has been a good year for all three and I’ve even made a little money doing it.
  8. We bought our first new (used) car in fourteen years and got a hell of a deal.
  9. Because of the weddings, I got to see my brother and his family for the first time in five years; and my sister for the first time in 11 years.
  10. Thankful for those whose homes and lives were spared in this year’s California wildfires.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pepe

Here’s a short story I wrote that just won first place in the Annual Texas Short Story contest. It will be published soon with a dozen other award-winning stories as an anthology (currently in pre-sales).   https://books.txauthors.com/product-p/tass4.htm.

Pepe

By

Rich Allan

I don’t know how much time I have left. Doctors say they can’t stop it and my skin is already stretched to the bursting point. I resemble a hydroponic tomato overfilled with enough water to reach giant pumpkin status. Last time they weighed me, the truck scale read 1200 pounds.

The bomb squad used a crane when they placed me in the middle of our town’s little league baseball field and taped off an area large enough to keep people at a safe distance. Squinting my eyes, I can make out my crying mother surrounded by the curious and several fellow students from Monahans Senior High School. The number of people who have shown up is impressive; a bigger turnout than the Jaycee’s July 4th fireworks celebration. Maybe I should hold a flare in each hand to make my impending demise more entertaining?

I know I am to blame for my current situation, but I just couldn’t stand it any longer. The kids at my school picked on me constantly. Teasing me online, as well as to my face, with comments like, “Hey runt, stand up when you speak to me,” or “When did they start letting second graders attend high school.” With my tiny frame, bullies had no problem stuffing me into wall lockers or tossing me through the basketball hoop in the gym. I grew tired of always being the last one picked for sports and having girls laugh out loud when I asked for a date.

Jimmy, the bomb squad leader, who helped bring me to my final resting spot, assuming there won’t be enough of me left to scrape up and bury, shouted out, “Tom, how much longer? I’m due at my bowling league in twenty minutes.”

My stomach gurgled and my circumference increased four more inches. A button popped off my tent-sized shirt, flew toward the crowd, and almost put out a spectator’s eye.

I assured him. “Any minute now, Jimmy.”

But, before I leave this life…let me tell you how I got into this predicament. Just outside of my Texas town is the Monahans Sandhills State Park, featuring nearly 4,000 acres of sand dunes. When I am feeling particularly depressed, I go there with my one friend, Harry, to “surf” the dunes. Some students use a real board, but being poor, Harry and I share a cut-up cardboard box we swiped from behind the grocery store.

The dunes average seventy feet high so it takes a while to wade through the deep sand to the top, but coming down only lasts a few minutes. Sliding is a lot of fun…unless you go on a windy day when the fine sand blows hard, stinging your face and body.

Anyway, we had made several runs and were getting tired, when I slipped off my cardboard sled, and plowed into the sand, banging my knee into something hard. Lamenting my injury, I figured finding the only rock in all this sand was exactly the kind of luck one should expect when residing at the bottom of the food chain. But as I sat there, the sun reflected off something metal, revealing the object that had caused my pain. I used my hands to dig out an ancient-looking brass teapot, similar to the kind vendors sell to tourists at the roadside stands near the Tex-Mex border.

Harry joined me to see why I was still sitting in the middle of the dune. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Look what I found.” I held up the teapot.

“What a piece of junk. The lid is rusted shut and the whole thing is tarnished. Throw it away and let’s do another run.”

“We might be able to get a few bucks for it. Let’s see if I can shine it up a bit.”

I used a corner of my t-shirt and began polishing the sides of the teapot. It started shaking as if it was alive, while smoke poured out of the spout, billowing upward like a miniature tornado. Next came a flash of lightning, accompanied by the rotten egg smell of sulfur, and then poof, out of nowhere, right in front of Harry and me, appeared a swarthy-looking man of Mexican descent, sporting a chipped tooth, a three-day growth, and wearing baggy pants topped off with a traditional red serape. “Gracias, Tom, for setting me free.”

Harry and I stared at the apparition in front of us as he pulled off his boots and poured out the sand.

“I hate sand. Two hundred years crammed into that teapot; it gets in your hair, your ears, up your el trasero, and worst of all between your toes…very difficult to scratch.”

I managed to stammer. “Who the hell are you and where did you come from?”

“From the teapot, mi amigo…and you can call me Pepe.”

I turned to Harry to confirm what I was seeing and hearing, but Harry had passed out on his back and had a dung beetle crawling across his face.

Pepe brushed the sand off his clothes. “Let’s get down to business. What are your three wishes?”

“Excuse me?”

“Didn’t your mother ever read the classics to you? Here’s how it works…you rub the magic lamp, the genie appears, and you get three wishes.”

“This is a teapot and you don’t look like a genie.”

“You want the wishes or not? I can always give them to Harry when he wakes up, although technically he wasn’t the one who rubbed the teapot.”

“Hang on.”

My imagination kicked into overdrive. Three wishes! I pictured all the usual dreams…big house, fancy car, hot girlfriend, millions of dollars, rock god…but then I thought about my miserable school life.

“For my first wish, I want to be big.”

“You mean famous like a movie star, captain of industry, or president?”

“No, physically big. I’m tired of being the smallest kid in high school.”

Pepe lit up like a migrant worker on a Saturday night; producing a multi-page contract and a pen from thin air. “Just sign your name at the bottom of page five.”

“What’s this?”

“A standard genie agreement that defines rights, warrants, representations, indemnifications, fornications, and so forth. Don’t worry about it, just sign.”

I didn’t hesitate. Harry, who had regained consciousness, watched me write my name with a flourish. As soon as I did, Pepe, the contract, and the teapot disappeared in another puff of lightning and smoke. We looked at where Pepe had stood, and then back to each other.

Harry said, “What about your other two wishes?”

I shook my head. “I don’t think he’s coming back.”

Harry looked around. “If he was ever here at all.”

As we walked back into town, we decided not to discuss what had happened, since we had no proof and knew our story would only result in more teasing. We wrote off our strange encounter as a result of too much sun and bad cafeteria food.

I went to bed early that night…right after supper. I tossed and turned, dreaming of a crazy Latino in baggy pants, with a chipped tooth, offering me three wishes and a large plate of rice and beans.

When I woke the next morning, I felt the same. Did I get my wish or not? I jumped out of bed and raced over to my height measurement chart.  I had been marking my growth progress on my wall ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Standing as tall as possible, I drew another line, looked at the new mark and hung my head in disappointment…sixteen years old and I remained only four-foot-ten inches tall.

I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. Nothing prepared me for the person who stared back at me in the mirror…a teenager in jockey shorts looking like an elf-sized Santa Claus without a beard. I had grown all right…only out instead of up.

As I watched in amazement, my outline split, flesh blurred, shimmered like a spirit and shook like Jello in an earthquake. The two vibrating versions of me went in and out of focus, until they came rushing back together, like two randy cells under a microscope, merging to create an entity twice as big.

This pattern repeated itself several times during the next two weeks and despite hardly eating any food, boot camp style exercises, visits to the doctor, and trying all the fad diets…grapefruit, low-carbs, jellybeans…I kept gaining weight. Sometimes the shifts were violent, like David Banner turning into the Hulk, splitting out my clothes, and leaving me naked…one time much to the amusement of my coed gym class.

Freak got added to the name calling, along with balloon boy, hippo, tons-of-fun, and so forth. When I outgrew my Dad’s clothes, my parents began buying stuff from the big and tall shop. After I outgrew those, Mother would make my outfits from scratch, buying material in large rolls, because I could change up to two sizes in a single day. Mom practically lived at the sewing machine trying to keep up.

I quit going to school because I couldn’t fit through the front double doors. It got to the point I couldn’t walk, sleep in a bed, or live in our garage. The fire department kindly decided to let me stay in one of their large bays, reclining on a flatbed tractor-trailer covered with several mattresses. I don’t even want to talk about the problems that occurred when I had to go the bathroom, but a fire hose and a dump truck was involved.

Finally, fearing the end was near, they towed me to the baseball field and lowered me gently down… covering the entire infield, including all the bases. Right after arriving, my stomach flip-flopped, my body shimmered, and I expanded another two inches. I could hear the ooh’s and ahh’s from the crowd that had gathered to witness my latest transition. I held my breath and closed my eyes because I did not want to see myself pop like a balloon, scattering pieces of me in all directions.

A minute went by, then two. Nothing happened. I cautiously opened one eye and looked around. The onlookers had covered their ears and were slowly backing further away. The TV crews and paparazzi had their cameras raised in anticipation of capturing the precise moment I exploded…damn piranhas. I just wanted it to be over.

“Hola, Tom,” a familiar voice whispered in my ear. A man stood beside me…clean shaven, a perfect sparkling smile, dressed in Armani and looking like a movie star.

My stomach gurgled. “What happened to Pepe?”

He laughed. “Pepe is only one of my characters. You probably know me better as Diablo.”

“I’m in trouble here. Where have you been?”

“Rooting for the bulls in Mexico City.”

“Help me.”

“You don’t want to be big anymore?”

“What do you think?”

“Is that your second wish?”

“For goodness sakes, yes.”

He crossed his arms across his chest, blinked and nodded. “I always wanted to do that…every since I saw an episode of “I Dream of Jeannie.”

The crowd gasped, as I instantaneously shrank from blimp-size to ant-size and disappeared somewhere near the pitcher’s mound. Diablo knelt down. “You okay there, Tom?”

I push aside a dandelion stem and addressed the giant face above me. “You tricked me.”

“One more wish to go. Make it a good one.”

“Just put me back to the way I was when we first met.”

Diablo smiled, snapped his fingers, and I returned to normal, spitting out some grass that I had almost swallowed during the transition. The crowd once again shouted and clapped their approval.

“No more wishes, Tom.”

I sighed. “So, I’m right back where I started.”

“Not exactly. You signed a contract.”

“What does that mean?” I yelled at him as he disappeared in a flash of lightning and a puff of smoke, leaving behind only the smell of sulfur and a trail of wicked laughter.

*   *   *

The unusually short old man came out of the confessional at the same time as the priest.

“That’s quite a story, Tom.”

“I swear it’s true.”

“I worry about you. Are you eating properly? You look so skinny.”

Tom glanced around the church. “No matter what I eat, I can’t gain weight and everything taste like rice & beans.”

“Are you hitting the sauce again?”

Both Tom’s hands were shaking. He grasped the end of a pew to steady himself. “No more than I need. I keep catching glimpses of him…on the street, at the store…and hearing his creepy laugh.”

“Say three Hail Mary’s and two Our Fathers and you will be fine.”

“Will that give me absolution?”

“You didn’t sign a deal with the devil. You just had a bad dream.”

“For forty years?”

“Go home, Tom, get some rest. And for goodness sakes, eat something.”

Tom, unable to stop the cancer-induced series of hacking coughs, broke out in a sweat as he shuffled out of the church. He hurried down the street, his coat collar turned up against the wind and the cold. Pulling a key from his pocket, he entered the small apartment; ceiling and walls papered in pictures of Jesus and complemented with several large crucifixes. He locked the door behind him, turned the three deadbolts into place and fastened the double chains.

He sat down in his easy chair, turned on a small lamp, and began reading the Bible, as he did every night. Was it a dream? Harry died years ago in a car accident and his Mother insisted she never saw anyone standing near him on the baseball field. The doctors explained his weight “condition” had been caused by a rare gland problem that miraculously cured itself.

Tom put down the Bible and took a swig from the nearby flask. Another round of coughs racked his body, as he used a handkerchief to wipe the blood from his mouth. It wouldn’t be long now, ten days at most, and then he would know for sure…

Copyright Richard Allan Jones 2018

Rich Allan spent 18 years living in Dallas as a member of the DFW Writers Workshop, traveling around the state enjoying the bluebonnets, Cowboys, and BBQ. “Pepe” is a combination of classic children’s stories mixed with equal parts of Rod Sterling and Stephen King.  In addition, Rich is the author of two five-star rated novels, “Drafted,” — the comic adventures of a teenager drafted illegally into the U.S. Army, and an award-winning political thriller, “Identity Check”  – After his mother is murdered, college student Scott and his zany girlfriend Jessie, embark on a dangerous journey to uncover the truth. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and Lily the beagle. http://www.richallan.net/author.html.

 

Old Sayings (that nobody says anymore)

I started thinking about this the other day and decided to start writing down sayings from my youth. How many do you remember? Do you have any to add? Please do so in the comments and I will share!  PART TWO:

  • Cute as a button
  • Cold as a witch’s teat in a brass bra
  • No such thing as a free lunch
  • The devil made me do it
  • You bet your bippy
  • Sock it to me
  • A stitch in time saves nine
  • United we stand; Divided we fall
  • There are no atheists in foxholes
  • The pen is mightier than the sword
  • Two beers short of a six-pack
  • Dumber than a post
  • A penny saved is a penny earned
  • You are what you eat
  • Turn a blind eye
  • As old as the hills
  • Older than dirt
  • Out with the old; In with the new
  • Funny as a screen door in a submarine
  • Funny as a pay toilet in a diarrhea ward
  • Smart as a whip
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
  • Penny-wise; Pound-foolish
  • Can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs
  • Action speaks louder than words
  • People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks
  • Like shooting fish in a barrel
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence
  • Birds of a feather flock together
  • If the shoe fits, wear it
  • The early bird gets the worm
  • If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen
  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease
  • Can’t judge a book by the cover
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder
  • Spare the rod, spoil the child

There are more…should I do another blog on this?  Do you have any of your favorites to add?

 

What’s On My Bookshelf

woman reading harry potter book
Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

I saw this on Naty’s Bookshelf and it looked like fun. Here’s what this tag is all about… looking on your bookshelf and choosing a book which fits each category.

Rules:

  • Link back to Naty’s blog site so she can see everyone’s answers
  • Link back to the person who tagged you
  • Name one book for each category; try not to repeat books
  • Tag at least 5 people

A library book

Ashamed to say I haven’t been to a library in years. I got lazy and either get free Kindle copies or buy them online. I did borrow a paperback copy of “The Stand” by Stephen King, the unabridged version, 1150 pages. Does that count?

A book you got as a gift

Been awhile since anyone gave me an actual book as a gift. Author friends will send me e-copies to read so I can write a review, but that’s more of a trade since they do the same for my books. Last “gift” book I can remember is “Great Political Wit,” signed by the author, Bob Dole.

A childhood book

That’s easy. My first “adult” book I got from the library & read when I was about 8 or 9, was “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain.

A magical book

The Harry Potter series would be the obvious answer, but I first read the “Lord of the Rings” series in the early 70’s, including “The Hobbit” and even attempted to get through “The Silmarillion” all authored by J.R.R. Tolkien.

A romantic book

I don’t do “romantic” books or what some people call mommy porn. I do like romantic comedies in the movies, some of which might have been a book at one point, like “It Happened One Night,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “An Affair to Remember,” and “When Harry Met Sally,” all of which I own on DVD.

A steamy book

“Tom Jones” the story of a foundling by Henry Fielding. This was also a fun movie starring Albert Finney. Rent it and check out the eating scene–erotic and gross at the same time!

An old book

I love the classics and have several on my shelf, some first editions: “Tarzan the Terrible” by Edgar Rice Burrows, “Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemmingway (I have his autograph!), “Great Expectations” and “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens, and “The Count of Monte Christo” by Alexander Dumas.

A book that makes you laugh

“When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops” by George Carlin is a killer.

A book that makes you emotional

Any book that costs over $10 makes me cry unless it’s one of mine on a 60/40 split.

A book whose ending you dislike

I’ve tried to read quite a few of the free monthly books that you get with Amazon Prime, and several I couldn’t even get to the end to see if I disliked it, because I already disliked the beginning and the middle. I’ll list no names because it’s not that easy to write a good book that everybody loves.

A book you wish had illustrations

“The Complete Kama Sutra” by Alain Danielou.

A book or genre you love reading when it’s raining

Well…since it never rains in southern California so I wouldn’t get to read any books very often, so I’ll just share my favorite genres…Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, and Thrillers…really anything with a lot of action, good characters, and intriguing storyline.

I tag…

https://littleblindbookfinds.wordpress.com/2018/07/28/whats-on-my-bookshelf-tag/

https://notsomoderngirl.wordpress.com

https://mariesbookboutique.wordpress.com

@jordanpeterswrites

thebrunettebookwormblog