Chapter 11: Merciful Heavens

See previous posts for Chapters 1-10 of my first (serial) novel, "Bluer Than Blue."

Harold blinked slowly at the steady stream of light coming from the shining bauble constellation overhead, and then lowered his gaze to the expansive swirl of ice cream marble below. So this is what it feels like: The lap of luxury. He was uncomfortably enamored and too wary to smile, but his heart grew large with hope. Maybe this was it. There was a small chance he’d taken the right exit to the pleasure palace. Heretofore, he would have been thrown out of a place like this.

He placed his hands into the lined pockets of his new linen pants, which they purchased at a store call “MAN.” It was ermin to him. It also hang heavy.

Sheila waited at the black mottled marble counter, elbows propped, leaving faint oil smudges on the finery.

I can’t believe I’m doing this.

The concierge approached.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she thought and tightly clutched her wallet. Harold had demands all right, yet she’d long fantasized about staying at the Mercy Hotel. The mere notion had won her over instantly, the mere notion of holing up at the city’s best hotel to write the best of all possible novels, a heart-wrenching and hilarious tour de force starring the dejected now linen-clad Harold.

The concierge parted his thin lips.

“Yes, how can I help you.”

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but this is the time. Now is the time. It’s an investment, it’s an investment. “King Of The Drifters” (that was the working title) is going to be brilliant. It’s going to have screenplay written all over it.

“I’d like two rooms please. Preferably, your least expensive.”

He raised his eyebrows a little.

“Hm, all right. You’re sure you want two.”

“Yes, thank you.”

“How many nights?”

Sheila heard the soft flapping of Harold’s new leather flip-flops in the background. (Remember, it was unseasonably warm.) He eyed his own feet with envy.

“Um…” She winced. It had to be two. No, that’s the whole bank account!

“One – no, two.”


“Yes, please.”

Yeow. I’m insane. I’m totally insane. However, it wouldn’t be the first time that insanity worked well for literary endeavors.

Sheila pushed up her sleeves, looked behind her at Harold awkwardly shuffling, then smiled a genuine smile. This was it. The opportunity to capitalize. The golden plastic card emerged from her wallet. In exchange for a swipe she got a set of shiny keycards to the castle.

Harold had chosen to hang back on purpose. The place made him nervous, its sleek surfaces sexy and streamlined. He could see his reflection on one of the glass tables in the seating area and didn’t recognize what he saw. He too was amazed by his own opportunism. When he said he had demands he was still unclear what he’d meant by that. The voyage was taking shape as they went along.

“Put me up in a nice hotel and I’ll talk some more,” he’d said. It was Sheila who seemed to guide the rest. She had a fantastic vision of her own. His rags to “MAN” makeover was only a small part of it.

As he cautiously sank into the white plush sofa he was aware of his role as but a sidecar in this novel writing business, which is why he didn’t concern himself with divulging the absolute truth. He found it remarkable enough that his scraggly face reflected back at him from a piece of high gloss European furniture.

When Sheila turned and began walking towards him, unnerved herself, he was reluctant to peel himself from that lap of luxury that felt like the smoothest fabric he’d ever touched. And he was sure he’d leave a dirty mark when he rose, but when he looked down the spot was clean. I could get used to this, he thought, and was more hopeful about and dedicated to the success of “King Of The Drifters” than ever.

Sheila passed him a black plastic card that looked like the invitation to some secret society. But it was no secret. The opulence was real for him now.

“Here,” she said. “This is for you – this is where you’ll be sleeping for two glorious nights... Now, don’t lose it. Please. God knows how much it’ll cost to replace it. I mean, it’s just plastic, but still.”

“Nope, I’ll keep a’hold of it. Promise you that. This is – this is beyond my wildest dreams.”

Mine too, she thought. She felt like a famous author except for the fact that she’d only written a few sentences.

“All right. Our rooms are down the hall from each other. Go shave or something. I’ll be in the bar on the top floor – I think it’s called The Aviary. Nice, right?”

“Yeah...This is really the life.”

“Well, this is where I’m going to start and finish this damn novel, with your help of course. Join me at the Aviary when you feel like it. I’ll be there for a while, and hopefully the stream of consciousness will flow.”

Harold kind of raised his eyebrows.

“Okay...Well, I’m truly grateful to ya for this vacation. I’d be at the St. Mary’s right about now.”

“I know...”

And she would have been at home alone in low light.

“...So let’s make the most of this, all right? I’ll be on the top floor, at the Aviary.”

401S. Harold read the gold lettering on the card. They boarded the mirrored elevator and Sheila took the responsibility of pushing the glowing buttons. 4 and 17. Harold looked from side to side and all around, and saw themselves everywhere. Sheila was dressed down and modestly in a black t-shirt and jeans. For all anyone knew they could be high rollers on a casual day. It was tough to tell. Mercy was like that. You could sidle up to the bar next to a screenwriter in sweatpants. No excuses necessary with success or the nerve to blow most of one’s back account on a whim.

“This is your stop, Harold.”


The doors parted for the “MAN.” He inhaled through his nostrils and stepped through.

“See you in a while. Enjoy yourself too much.”

He nodded, in a stupor, then tried to walk down the hushed hallway with purpose.


The gateway to pleasure opened to a soft sumptuous bed, to a giant-sized jacuzzi tub in which for him to stew, to so many reflective surfaces that he began to ignore his own difficult reflections, his difficult days that were supposed to fuel the novel.

He wanted forever to be in that room, and for a moment, it was.

“Merciful heavens,” he whispered.

He slowly pulled the hotel razor down his face. The excess lather fell down into the voluminous sink bowl.


Chapter 10: Rachel’s Rendition

See previous posts for Chapters 1-9 of my first (serial) novel, "Bluer Than Blue."

Fire it up baby

You know it’s time

For the limelight

Fire it up baby

There’s no time

To waste on yesterday

From beneath a Cosmopolitan glaze, Chanteusse gazed out over the Bomb's crowd. They barely heeded her, busy bumping into each other. She felt sweat trickle down her stomach inside the Grecian draped dress. This was her moment to set the club on fire, to belt out with pride her anthem, yet her sweaty stomach was knotted with booze and conflict. Rachel watched as Chanteusse seemed to sway. Was it the music? Was it the influence of several Cosmos? Rachel felt nervous on Chanteusse's behalf. The swaying turned into teetering as the intro chords rang out in space. Rachel inhaled, smelling the laundry detergent aroma of the striped shirt boys, and then gasped! The statuesque singer fell to platform, catching herself with a braceleted arm. The instrumental continued, leaving her behind. Hans the lighting guy scrunched up his face. "Jesus," he muttered, yet failed to conjure any savior for the first single. Or so it seemed at first. Spotlight diverted, Chanteusse pitifully puked into the hand pressed against her face. She barely felt the tears of strain trickle down.

"Oh God," Rachel uttered sensitively, slammed down her drink, and ran over to the DJ booth. DJ Tusk was already helping Chanteusse down the steps, a three-legged race to the ladies room. Rachel had almost tripped over her own feet to intercept them yet they heeded her only with a glance and continued on, leaving her with the dancy beat blaring. The microphone lay on the floor, the cord coiled like a disco serpent. The temptation was great. Rachel looked behind her towards the bar where her friends were ordering more cocktails, oblivious. She knew the song. Ths show must go on? Yes, she decided. Yes. Just like karaoke, just like the family parties. Before anyone could stop her, Rachel grabbed the mic. Her skin quaked at the thrill.

Now / Now is the time

Her voice rang out pure. She'd never smoked really. Well, maybe once and it wasn't enjoyable. And one stiff drink was enough to dissolve her guardedness. She closed her eyes and it was just like another family party. The scattered boos brought on by lack of vocals turned into shouts of approval. Her friends pointed and clapped. The striped boys slapped each other on the back as if to say I know her, sort of. And security stopped in their tracks.

"Woah that chick is good."

They appeared to abort the mission after they listened to a few bars of Rachel's rendition. Back in the ladies room, DJ Tusk perked up his ears. What the hell, he thought. Someone's in the booth.

"Someone's in the booth messing with my selections," he said. "I'll be right back, hun."

"Okay, okay. I'll be fine... Don't worry."

DJ Tusk burst out of the bathroon door only to see the long dark-haired girl they'd almost run into clutching Chanteusse's mic in one hand and the other upraised in some kind of cathartic benediction. He took it in from the dancefloor for a moment and couldn't help but be a little enamoured with the monklike purity of timbre.

"Okay, okay," he murmured, making his way through the happy sloppy crowd. He felt uncomfortable because this no-name so clearly upstaged the veteran club singer, even on a night without nausea. He also felt concerned that his pupils turned into dollar signs when he looked at no-name. Oh well. By the time he reached the booth the decision was made. Chanteusse wouldn't mind or hell, she probably would but hell. The hook resounded.

Fire it up / Fire it up

Hans triggered the laser beams. It was the final repetition before the synth arpeggio outro. When Rachel released her final note the dancers cheered; her friends clapped above their heads. She felt a hand on her shoulder.

"I should be waay upset with you right now -- who the hell are you? This is my booth, get it? I should be upset, you know it. But that was great."

"Thank you so much!" Rachel felt amazing and amazed at her own opportunism. DJ Tusk had an opportunity of his own.

"Do you have a card?"

"No, no I don't." She laughed sheepishly.

"No? Well here's mine. We should record together sometime. I have a studio at home. And that song you just sang - and so well - that's my production."

"Wow - I would love to." Her skin crawled with excitement.

Chapter 9: The Wafting Meat Cloud

See previous posts for Chapters 1-8 of my first novel, "Bluer Than Blue."

In the dead dark of night – well okay, there were street lights – Harold toted a bag of meat back towards the city park, with Marty in tow. Marty was kind of like a sidecar. He carried the crate of produce. And so the two drifters traipsed down the sidewalk, past the temples of consumption, with spoils of their own.

“So Harold, Harold – we gon’ cook that meat?”

“Yeah, sure do. Just a little farther.”

Marty was ready to follow the angel into the depths of hell which he’d probably already almost reached. Trespassing in Oak Park at midnight was no big deal.

The duo meandered along the asphalt path, past the green sign into the grove of sturdy trees. They came to a picnic table and alongside, a charcoal grill. Black chunks clung on to the narrow bars, so Harold grabbed a stick and scraped off some of the residue of previous daylight picnics. Marty sat at the table clumsily sorting.

“Great haul we got tonight, Harold. Lots of stuff.”

“Gather some sticks, Marty. We need to get this fire going.”

“Yes guardian, of course, guardian. Right to it.”

Marty began clumsily hunting and gathering what was easy to find.

In their minds they could both already hear the sizzle of the meat and their nostrils tingled in anticipation of the wafting meat cloud.

“I’m not sure what this is – I’m just going to throw it on.”


“Okay, okay. Looks good, Harold. Here ya go. Fire it up.”

Harold pulled a coveted match from an inner trench coat pocket. It fizzled in the night and cast an orange glow onto their hungry dirty faces. Carefully, with a slight tremor in his right hand, Harold lit the rummaged pile under the grate. Instantly the men began salivating.

“Hoo!” said an owl in the tree, and there was a rustle in the bushes.

“S’okay. Them city creatures just jealous of this haul, right?

“That’s right – leave the owl to the rodents and the roaches to the trash.”

Their minds were made lucid by the wafting meat cloud.

“No, no, no – no scrap for us tonight.”

“This here’s a feast!”

Chuckling, Marty tossed a couple of sausages on the hot charcoal stained grill. The flesh of the beef was turning a dark brown gray with the passage of impatient minutes. The two men were verily salivating at this point.

Harold grabbed another stick and turned the meat to cook it evenly. They didn’t call him “King Of The Drifters” for nothing. Despite the harshness of his lifestyle, he had a certain resourcefulness, and what worker bees would call attention to detail, that defied the pull of depression. It’s true. At St. Mary’s shelter they’d say, “Here comes the King.” Nobody said this to his face in order not to betray reverence and because they thought it would go to his head. But really – go to his head? Seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? To Marty, though, he remained the guardian angel who stuck up for the meeker of the meek.

The immediate air was now thick with the aroma of sausage and beef. Unfortunately, the owl and the raccoon weren’t the only creatures who’d caught wind of the meal. Not so far off a squadcar was cozied up to the curb for night park watch. Really the officers were just chilling out. Officer McGovern had rolled down the window to smoke a joint, out of consideration for Officer Bryant, who was a non-smoker.

“I should report your ass.”

“My ass, huh? I know you’ve been checking it out.”

“Oh Shut. The. Fuck. Up.”

Officer McGovern blew a smoke ring out the window.

“Come on, you know I have certain medical needs.”

“Medical needs my ass.”

“Oh so now we’re on to the topic of your ass.”

Officer Bryant shook her head and they both laughed.

“Lord, please give us something to do.”

She turned up the radio volume. It was the pop station:

“Now it’s time to hear from local club heroes DJ Tusk & Chanteuse. This is the radio premiere of their first single. It’s called “Fire It Up.”

McGovern should have laughed at the title, but the song wasn’t about weed and he was too lost in his fragmented thoughts to register double entrendre.

Sniff. Sniff.

“What’s that smell?” Bryant craned her neck out the window.

“Are you kidding me – I mean, are you shitting me?”

“No, outside. It smells like meat. It smells like someone’s having a barbecue or something.”

McGovern waved away a puff of smoke.

Sniff. Sniff.

“You’re right. That smells delicious.”

“Oh shit! We need to go check this out. I bet you it’s coming from the park.”

“What kind of bozos would be grilling at this hour?”

“Let’s find out.”

“I am so hungry.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you are.”

They both chortled as they climbed out of the squadcar.


“Harold, Harold, what was that?”

“Don’t know – somebody closing a door.”

Harold kept eating. It was the best meal he’d had in a while. The fact that they were trespassing in Oak Park was the last thing on his mind. It had not occurred to him that his sausage fest was about to be crashed.

“Ah hah! Gotcha!”

“Well look, it’s just a couple of drifters.”

The cops had only minimally used their flashlights in order to ensure the element of surprise. They were slightly disappointed at how easy it had been to find Harold and Marty. The wafting meat cloud was so strong, and it led them by their noses to the grill site.

“Spare a sausage?”

“McGovern! We have to take them down to the station.”

“Come on, really? Fellas, this is some feast here. But I gotta ask you to vacate the premises.”

“Okay, just a minute, Officer.”

Harold was busy gnawing on some beef.

“Just a minute??”

“Relax, Bryant. I am starving. I mean, you know. It’s relative.”

“Here.” Marty passed Officer McGovern a sausage.

“Mm, generous of you... Oh yes! This is delicious!”

McGovern bit ecstatically into the juicy meat.

“Here.” Marty reached to hand Bryant a sausage.

“Oh fine. Thanks. What’s your name?”

“Marty, and this here’s my guardian angel Harold.”

“Okay...wow.” The cops looked at each other with funny expressions.

They went back to eating. The meat juice ran down the corners of their mouths.

“We’ll give this a minute - and thank you – but you’re trespassing and we’re going to have to take you down to the station.”

“Come on--”

“No exceptions to the rule, McGovern. That’s protocol.”

McGovern lowered his voice.

“Is it?”

“Yeah, I think so... Actually, I’m not sure.”

The wafting meat cloud had slowed their protocol processing speed.

“We’ll wait until the fire dies out, then take them to the shelter.”

“Fine. That’s jail enough I guess, isn’t it?

“Yeah, locked up in life.”

Their voices were low, yet audible to Harold since he was chewing slowly.

“I can hear what you’re sayin.’”

“Oh...right. Excuse us.”

“Just give us a lift back to St. Mary’s...and don’t forget – we fed you.”

Marty opened his eyes wide at the guardian’s masterfulness.


Chapter 7: Lower The Drawbridge

See previous posts for Chapters 1-6 of my first (serial) novel, "Bluer Than Blue."

The house of Vince’s therapist was pastel yellow. “Holiday House.” Mark had never bothered to re-paint it. He never bothered with a lot of things, such as trimming his beard. On top of that, an unruly moat of vegetation surrounded the house, left untamed by Mark. And in the summertime it was a wondrous breeding ground for mosquitoes. He did, however, have a knack for higher education and accumulating degrees, such as those that led him to practice from his pastel yellow house.

Vince’s dark brown leather business shoes squashed into the gravel of the drive. He rubbed at his bald head with his hand. He was perspiring in the chill air and sunlight. After all, he didn’t know Mark. And those weeds were a little out of control. He left his gray sedan behind in the gray gravel, crunching with every step. Gravel in a city neighborhood? Oh well. And how overgrown it was. Vince tried to push his urban sensibilities aside for the time. He needed to talk to someone.

He noticed, because he almost tripped over it, a clay tortoise. Then, when he pushed the doorbell it played the first few bars of “Claire de Lune.” Hm, he thought. A nice touch. His hands were kind of fidgety.

A woman named Chow Wen answered the door.

“Hello, good afternoon. Please come in. Mark will be with you in a moment.”

She was so pleasant and consistent that Vince didn’t say a word. He smiled and sat down just inside the door in the row of chairs that constituted the waiting area. He picked up an anger management magazine and began skimming it. Hm, he thought. Breathe. 1,2,3. Breathe. There was something about adamancy about breathing that made him anxious and feel even a tad rebellious as if he would just hold it in. But, that never works out very well.

Vince took in his surroundings cautiously. Directly across the room from him there was a large tropical fish tank that burbled and he waited to see if one of the fish would blink, then went back to the magazine for a moment. Let it all melt away. The negative energy of the day melts away. To be honest, Vince didn’t entirely get what the article meant by “negative energy” but he was pretty sure that the fish weren’t carrying much. They flitted about around and through the exotic coral. They poked around in the fish gravel for tidbits and tasty scum. That seemed straightforward enough.

To the right was Chow Wen’s desk and she was typing while on the phone, scheduling an appointment. Vince felt the need to talk, but he wouldn’t engage. He just wanted Chow Wen to say something to him. Anyway, he went back to the magazine. Negative energy carries the force of resistance. Let go and follow your own way. Hm, he thought. It was starting to make sense. He was starting to feel relaxed. Had he taken the Relaxium? No he hadn’t, but it was in the car. Oh well. Maybe I’m fine, he thought. I could just walk out of here, never see them again. “Not so fast though!” The clay tortoise would say if it could talk. That’s what Vince imagined, so he stayed put. He put his hand to his mouth in agitated thought, then rubbed his eyes, exhaled, and crossed his legs. Chow Wen hung up the phone.

“Sorry about the wait. I’m sure he’ll just be a few minutes longer.”

“Oh, it’s okay. I have this magazine on anger management that I’m looking at.”

Shit! That was the wrong thing to say, Vince chided himself. But what was the right thing to say? Is there a right or wrong thing to say? God. I must be crazy, he thought. Shit! That’s it. Negative energy. He suddenly realized that he had plenty of it and that there were plenty of hurdles to cross, such as talking to Mark.

The door on the far wall next to the fish tank abutment opened and a tall lanky guy with a light blue polo shirt and saggy jeans stepped through. His beard was not unlike the untamed wild outside. He had a mad biologist look to him, but mad as in zany, not as in over the edge and amoral. So it was okay, possibly.

Occasionally Mark would braid his beard, but not that day. Thank goodness. That would’ve been far too off-putting for Vince. This was Sunday, after the incident at the library in which Vince found himself surreptitiously reading about recurring dreams while, to those hooligans at the adjacent table, it looked like he was intensely studying the benign faces of 17th Century Flemish paintings. Vince had just studied Mark and thought: This is not fucking helping. But he went along anyway because he needed to talk to someone and let’s face it, he was intrigued.

“Hello Vince, it’s good to meet you. Let’s go back to my office.”

(The previous client had chosen to use the backdoor exit so as not to be seen by the next client.)

In the long yellow hallway of Holiday House there were drawings of angels and buddhas and there was a whiteboard with Mark’s Sunday schedule written out in curly writing. 2:00 PM – Vince.

Mark pushed open the ajar door with the dream catcher hanging on it, and they stepped inside.

This guy’s some kind of hoodoo intellectual, Vince thought as he observed the degrees and certificates on the wall. The winter sunlight shone in from the far window. Mark gestured to a poofy quilted armchair and Vince took a seat. Mark sat down in a swivel chair opposite his rolltop desk.

“So Vince, what brings you here?”

Jeeeesus, this guy cuts to the chase. Come on, no small talk? I just want to talk. What is this, some kind of ambush?


“It’s okay, this is important.”

Okay, okay. All right.

“Well, I keep having these dreams, recurring dreams.”

“About what?”

Come on. Does this guy expect me to do all the work here?

Vince inhaled. Boy this guy is uptight, thought Mark.



“Vince, you’ve got to lower the drawbridge here – let me in. That’s what I’m here for.”

Lower the drawbridge?? What kind of lame-o analogy –

That particular phrasing left a bad taste in Vincent’s mouth, though he hadn’t said it.

Lower the drawbridge? Yeah, you need one to lower over those weeds outside. Yeah, you first, Mark.

Vincent smirked.

Shit! Negative energy. He was full of it.

“I’m a vampire!” Vince exclaimed.

Chapter 6: An Igloo Made Of Sand

See previous posts for Chapters 1-5 of my first (serial) novel, "Bluer Than Blue."

“So how’s this going to work? I just sit here and talk? Sounds like I do all the work. What’m I going to talk about, huh?”

“Well, your life. I’ll ask you a series of questions. We’ll probably have to meet here several times--”

“Who said I’d be up for that?”

“Uh...you seemed interested before.”


“I am interested...”

Sheila lifted her eyes toward the ceiling.

“You any good as a writer? I mean, you seem good.”

“Okay, well, thank you.”

The lecture room was cream from top to bottom, with no windows and a white board hanging on the wall, black and red markers perched on its sill. Maxine had left them for the moment, having feigned she had other important business to attend to. Harold was either less smelly, or those around him had adapted. It was probably the latter. Yet, the door was ajar.

“So – where were you born, Harold?”

“Aaahh! Hee hee.” Jingle-jangle.


“Back so soon. Who’s that little gentleman?”

“Gentleman – oh, I don’t know about that.” Maxine put her hand on the little boy’s shaved head. Thanks to her son Jerome they’d made quite the entrance.

“How are ya’ll doing in here. Say...I’ve gotta go back upstairs...Jerome -- this is...Sheila, and that there is Harold. He lives on the streets.”

Jerome raised his eyebrows. “You’re gonna leave me here.”

“Yes, I want you to work on your homework.”

“Hello, Jerome.”

“Wait – what?” Sheila shook her head with a bit of incredulity. “You’re going to leave him with us? Why in the --”

“I trust you. He’ll be okay in here with you. No trouble, right baby.”

Jerome stuck out his lower lip and then giggled. “Hee hee! No trouble. Why can’t I go with you.”

“I’m at work. You’ll be fine here with these people. Sheila’s going to be here while you do your homework, okay?”

“Okay...” Sheila and Jerome both said okay simultaneously, yet in different ways.

Harold’s forehead was wrinkled.

“Maxie,” he said. “You’re leavin’ your son here with us? Maxie, you gotta--”

“Maxie?? Nobody calls me Maxie. Max, yeah. But Maxie?”

“You gotta take care of your son.”

“Come on, Harold. Harold, he got of school early. I’ve gotta work here.”

“Okay, okay – enough.” Sheila was tired of the scuffle about Jerome in front of Jerome. She gave in, somewhat baffled at Maxine’s sudden trust.

Maxine had since unfurled her braid and twiddled it with her fingers.

“Okay, he’s fine down here. Yes, Jerome – it’s our pleasure. You can hang out here with us.”


Sheila’s manner was inherently open and friendly, and having sensed that, Jerome was inclined to stay.

“But he smells.”

“Ah-heh heh.” Harold coughed uncomfortably. “Yes, son, it’s been a while since I’ve had a shower.”

“You should get one.” Jerome grinned.

It was tough to get upset with this kid.

“Alrighty. I need to head upstairs. Ya’ll have fun. I’ll be back in an hour, then we’ll head home, Jerome.”

Maxine was satisfied that she created a healthy situation for her child and jingle-jangled out the door.

“Shower...yeah. I do need one.” Harold gazed over the table surface as if it were a desert plane of infinite beige.

“So, what homework do you have Jerome?”

Jerome hoisted his bright blue backpack onto the table.


“Math,” he said.

“Ugh, math,” Harold weighed in.

“Hee hee. It’s not too bad. I kind of like it.”

He unzipped the backpack and spread out pencils and papers as if he were preparing for a massive undertaking, or just stalling. The adults resumed their adult talk and Jerome caught sight of the white board.

“Okay – back to my first question: Where were you born?”

“In the desert.”

“No, seriously. Where were you born?”

“Seriously, Arizona. In the desert.”

“Of all the—how in the world did you get out here on the east coast?”

“That’s what all this is about, right – the interview. You’re gon’ have to be patient, let me tell my tale.”

“Oh, so now you have a tale to tell.”

“Well, we’ll see now won’t we?”

“Okay, Arizona--”

“Phoenix! Hee hee. The capital of Arizona is Phoenix.”

“Very good, Jerome. Good memory.”

Sheila sighed.

“Smart boy,” said Harold with a half smile. It could have been that his heart was in defrost mode already.

Jerome had taken to the whiteboard and was drawing a delightfully abstract village. He began to add a cactus to the landscape, because he’d been listening keenly to Harold and Sheila’s conversation.

“Roberta. Roberta’s the name.”

“Your mother.”

“No,no,no – the town. The township of Roberta.”

“Oh...” Too bad, she thought, that the mother can’t have the same name as the town. Hm. Well, why not? It’s my book, she thought. Unless, of course, the truth turns out to be more interesting.

In Harold’s mind the truth was pliable. We’re writing a book here, he thought, and it’d better be goddamn interesting. Like a ladder to the stars.

“Okay – Roberta, Arizona. I’ll have to look that one up.”

I’m going to have to fill in a lot of blanks here, she thought. Then Jerome chimed in.

“The desert? Did you have enough water? What kind of house did you have? Was it like an igloo made of sand?”

Jerome began drawing the dwelling on the board.


An igloo made of sand... Harold checked in with himself to make sure he wasn’t drunk. No, he thought, I haven’t had a drink today. Wow.

Harold was in fact sober and had taken a flight of fancy.

Chapter 5: Bomb Club

See previous post for Chapter 4 of my first (serial) novel, "Bluer Than Blue."

The girls found their pot of gold on the other side of the South Side Diner. Clip-clop, clip-clop. Rachel’s head was ringing with the lyrics to that mega dance-floor burner “I Wanna Be Sexy 4 U.” Or was it “For You?” For You:

Tonight’s the night / I’m gonna demonstrate / My power / Tonight / All right / Feel the hands of fate

I want to be sexy for you / (you heard that) / sexy for you / (won’t hide it)

There was no line in front the place. Bomb, it was called. There were no bodies lined up aside the felt rope, meant to seem like velvet. They fancied it was. It was dark purple felt, to withstand the elements. Large security men stood guard and barely acknowledged the freshly over 21 bunch. They were completely into themselves and their intimidating statures and a supposedly sexy half-stupid aloofness. But “Bruno” cracked a smirk at how early they’d arrived to the club, hearts jittery, heels clip-clopping, excitedly grasping identification, thrusting it forward.

“Just get me inside. It’s chilly out here!”

“Okay – just hang on a second ladies.”

A couple of other college-aged skinny guys in striped shirts pulled in behind them and breathed their hot buzzed breath into the autumn night, hands in their pockets. One guy patted his pointy hair as if to make sure it was still there.

“Who’s the DJ tonight?”

“It’s DJ Tusk, and Chanteusse.”

“Chanteusse? What do-“

“Chanteusse – that means ‘singer’ in French.”

“Oh – live singing. Okay... That’s not all it’s going to be right?”

It was typical line banter in front of the Bomb Club. But Rachel was interested in Chanteusse. They walked through the open door into the sound, and beheld the mostly empty dance floor in the distance. The rotating light machines sent criss-crossing beams across the hardwood. Their spiked heels sank into the hotel style carpet that looked innocuous in the dark.

“Oh God, we are so early. Why did we get here so early? Someone tell me.”

The bartenders were readying their stations for the upcoming assault, stacking glasses and dumping ice into the troughs. For the most part they were lean mechanical people, trained to perform in intense conditions. They could maintain their composure or seem to with people yelling in their faces or whip out large orders, bottles flying and dodging co-workers. For some of them, it was an adrenaline rush. For the ice boy, the empty glass collecting boy, it wasn’t at first, but he loved the throbbing music and the out of control people, the decadence so discouraged but not actually avoided by his family. It grew on him. And he had begun to converse more and more with his co-workers and grew to love their shouts over the club noise. He would work himself up to being one of the glamorous bartenders. Already he’d begun an intense gym regimen during the day and his forearms had started to ripple as he’d imagined and at this he was extremely pleased. There was something within reach. He could be a glamorous bottle-flipping, shot-tossing bartender, serving all kinds of sexified people with panache unparalleled. Anyway, he eyed the girls and striped skinny guys who had just entered as he dumped his load of ice. “Ouch,” he thought. But he could understand their anxious impatience.

The girls looked around Bomb’s expanse. They’d wandered into a geodesic chamber. Refracting light hypnotized their eyes. One moment they were one color, the next moment, another. Then a bright light would pass by and they’d have to squint. They complained and loved it. The sound system wasn’t yet at full tilt, but the subwoofers tucked away in the corners were already warm. Speakers perched in the ceiling corners were tweeting the songs DJ Tusk prepared for the lack of crowd, the warm-up when those few gawkers contemplated their next move.

“So let’s get a drink. Come on. Over here!”

They all shuffled, including the skinny guys, because they saw safety or at least comfort in numbers, over to the counter directly opposite the scene of future action, opposite the elevated DJ booth, so they could turn around or half turn around, leaning on the bar, and watch.

Chanteusse’s curled hair was piled atop her head and dangled beside her glitter-dusted face. She wore green eye shadow and dark pink lipstick. Her white dress was draped, vaguely Grecian except quite short, with a braided tassel around the waist. The girls beheld her. She was quite tall.

“I bet she used to be a man.”

“Come on – what? No, look at her neck. There’s no Adam’s apple.”

She was androgynously appealing, her body curvaceous and her face angular. The shelf was artificial, though, which the gawkers noticed of course.

“Well, her boobs are fake. That much I can tell from over here.”

Rachel rolled her eyes. She had the urge to walk over and talk to this Chanteusse, to ask about the lifestyle of a club singer, to ask her how she started down that path, if it was all she ever imagined. Chanteusse sipped her fruity Cosmo with a curly orange rind that dangled on the rim and looked into the distance in the direction of DJ Tusk. They had known each for a while and also worked together at a strictly gay club, where she was expected to really wail and belt it out. She and Tusk had once dated, just to try it out, but it turned out they were meant to be friends, collaborators. Yet she sat there, staring into the distance, at her friend working the empty room, idling before the masses. She realized how many nights she’d been at the Bomb Club. It was the same old same. She was having trouble reinventing it for herself that particular night. It was a difficult day. “I’m too big for this place,” she thought ruefully and ever so subtly adjusted her sparkling nude nylons.

“Order something!”

“Okay, okay... Umm, I don’t know. I don’t know what I want. What should I get?”

“I don’t know. Just get a drink. Geez. It doesn’t matter.”

“No, I want to order something different, a sexy drink.”

“What, like her over there?”

“Yeah, why not?”

The bartender strolled over.

“Umm...I want a purple drink. Like...like that over there.”

“A purple Cosmo?”

“Yeah, I don’t know. Just make it purple. Look at my eyes.”

“Yeaah. I see... Okay. I’ll make a Purple Iris.”

“Ohh, yes. Yes, that sounds perfect. What is that?”

“Just trust me. You’ll like it.”

Rachel laughed. “Okay, I like the sound of that.” She felt a little buzzed already from the flirtatious exchange with the hawkish, tan bartender.

“What did you order?”

“I don’t know – a Purple Iris?”

“What the hell is that?”

“I don’t know! But it sounds fun.”

The bartender placed the martini glass on a napkin in front of Rachel and it seemed to glow.

“Oh thank you.” She smiled and pushed a dollar bill to the inside edge of the counter.

“Keep it open?”

“Yes. I’ll be back soon.”

Rachel was imprecise and kind of shaky when it came to flirtation with people she found physically attractive. She questioned her impulses. Sometimes she thought she was flirting but outwardly it sounded to many like the usual conversation. Yet, she was considered attractive by quite a few people, including the bartender. It was her imagination that exuded beyond her skin, which was both alluring and unsettlingly mysterious. Her daydream world sometimes eclipsed the one outside. She was not for the faint of heart.

All of them sipped away, hugging and caressing the counter, as Bomb Club began to fill and the volume increased. They laughed.

“Oh my Goooddd. I love this song!”

The first few bars of “Up In Flames” boomed in the geode.

“Oh, look, look! She’s going to sing to this one!”

Chanteusse had stepped up to the DJ booth and took the mic with her strong manicured hands. It takes strength to be a singer. She glistened in the passing lights and her body tensed for the first verse.

Chapter 4: Backdoor Of The Rainbow

See previous post for Chapter 3 of my first (serial) novel, "Bluer Than Blue."

Sometimes Harold viewed the traincar through a plastic flask-shaped kaleidoscope. At the moment it was Komrade, with a bold sickle on the label. It was definitely not bottled in Russia, but was a fair tribute to the malpractices of Russian communism. Komrade turned what could be a harsh worldview into soft focus. The oranges, reds, blues and beiges melted together in Harold's state of quasi-numbness. Some college girls sitting across the aisle, diagonal to him, were sure he was leering at their close to unseemly outfits. Their presence did not register to him as human. He was on a different plane, a plane of suffering that felt to him at the moment like pleasure. They blended into the color scheme like other fixtures of the moving train and passing scenery. He had just enough of a mind to get where he was going.

Harold had only known the Komrade for a couple of hours. There it had been, on the edge of the sidewalk, almost in the street, a beacon in dark gray grit. It was a beautiful day, crisp yellow leaves of city trees upturned by the breeze and the sun gentle. Hardly one drifter to be drunk all the time, since that seemed to complicate survival (and deep at his core he did want to survive; he was wired that way), Harold still could not simply pass this up. The bottle was mostly full, if not unopened. It was a rare occurrence, so he stooped over to retrieve it. He took an unabashed swig, then stowed the Komrade in the pocket of his long black trench coat.

He walked on towards the nearest train station with enough small change for the fare, collected from the sidewalks and from his earlier recorder playing. He had one of those in the trench coat's inner pocket. Not given much of a choice of instruments in grade school so many years ago, he took up the recorder and got quite good at it. Later in school, he progressed to the piccolo and the flute and even the saxophone, much to the dismay of his alcohol-soaked parents. They drank constantly when he was younger: In the morning and in the evening, at hours between shifts and sometimes during shifts, on breaks. Just a swig or two to make the day go by. They complained about Harold's music in their scraggly voices. Harold trained himself to become deaf to their drunken rants, and consequently to many of his own thoughts and feelings. Yet, the music remained. He played mindlessly, and beautifully.

As of the day Harold played the recorder for his next fare, both of his parents had long since died from their toxic lifestyles. Harold had long since been left loveless on earth to wander, and so was on the verge of insanity. Music kept him on the verge, instead of all the way there. Of course this is sad, but remember that happenstance can be brilliant. Harold stood in his preferred reverberant spot of Liberty Plaza. The plaza was mostly concrete and brick, and the sound bounced and carried as if he played in a concert hall. For Harold, it was the best thing he had going on. He lay down his hat on the ground and started in to his repertoire. People passed, their hard shoes clacking and coats flapping. It was a Saturday. A few stopped for a moment, and some for a while to listen with mild delight. What a mild unobtrusive surprise it was for each passerby to see this scruffy guy play with elegance.

And there was something definitely legitimate about playing Baroque music, whether they knew it was called that or not. Something about the counterpoint tickled their synapses into appreciation. If they had change, they gave it up gladly. Harold was glad about this also. He felt a mild sense of purpose. All is relative. It was a glad day for Harold. He didn't speak to people. The music was enough for everyone. No one hassled him. He hassled no one. He was so absorbed by his playing and the outdoors that he had little regard for the passersby, or whether they regarded him as a person or as a zoo attraction. It really didn't matter because he didn't notice.

Later, when he sat on the train, view soft around the edges and slightly blurred in the middle, he felt a measure of satisfaction. The train announcer's voice echoed in a cavern of contentment. All he had to do was listen for the sound of his stop. Unlike some down on their luck, way down on their luck and past the verge of insanity, Harold did not talk to himself unless there was no one around, unless it was nighttime and he was looking up at the mysterious moon. Most of the time, he remembered the futility of trying to start up conversations on the train. But if someone spoke to him, he would answer. He was buzzed this time and focused on his own unreality. The college girls felt relieved that he was keeping to himself, and not looking at them lasciviously, unlike a couple of other tidy and unnoticed guys and gal. In their defense, it was more of a lonely reflex.

The girls had really done their best to sexify themselves. It was mostly a friendly competition amongst their group. There was hot pink lipstick, long eyelashes, very short skirts and tightly crossed legs, and sequins and silk. If one of them carried the look, where the others were uncomfortable, it was Rachel Sharma. Rachel had her reasons. She was headed to medical school, a place for which her heart had no desire. This was her night to be a red hot vixen chameleon, like her daydreams. Her dark purple smoky eyes were painted with the expert intention of escape. She was smarter than she let on to her friends. Yes, medical school. Her older sister married royalty, and it was up to her to choose one of the no-nonsense utilitarian professions deemed acceptable by the family: Doctor, lawyer, scientist, programmer - anything readily perceived as dutiful

that would therefore amount to loads of cash. You could view it as tradition, or as a deeply worn rut.

Neither of them suspected it, that is for certain, but Rachel and Harold had something in common: They both loved music, and it kept them sane. Music, in Rachel's life, had been relegated to a hobby. She performed at special events for friends and family. She felt like a zoo attraction at times, but she loved to sing and write songs. She was still hanging on to some family programming. That is, the lurking feeling that an artistic career, even if chosen by inspiration, is decadent and lowly. This programming was destined to die out with her - that Saturday night she was ready to revel in decadence - but she wasn't quite ready yet. This was just the beginning. She and her friends chatted their way to the club, a revered palace, the escape from the escape. Rachel hoped to try a new cocktail, maybe a purple one inspired by her eyes, behind which the scene was more interesting. She caught an idea for a song inspired by their journey to the nightlife, to the planet of drinks and no expectations. The hook was: "I Wanna Be Sexy For You." Or was it “Fo’ Ya?”

For a moment the train surfaced. The warm glow of the moon filled their pupils with its glory. They blinked slowly at it as if they were clinging to tree branches in the distant past. By this point, the girls had acclimated to Harold's presence in that they ignored him. The only one who looked at him for longer than a split second was Rachel. This was the same guy she and her scientist parents had passed in Liberty Plaza. They'd paused for a moment or two, however a moment is defined. They'd offered up their small change. It wasn't that the scientists didn't appreciate music. They liked it a lot. But they were consumed with carrying on the tried and true methods of monied living. They were scientists, but experimentation didn't often leave the laboratory. They did not regard themselves as living experiments or meta-universes to be explored. In their defense, this was a relatively new-fangled idea. They did not think of their own evolution as still happening. Because of that, certain pathways of awareness just hadn't formed. Leave it to the kids. But leave what exactly, they didn't know. That's the point.

"Soouuth Siide," the train voice warbled. Both Harold and the girls braced themselves to disembark. The girls stood up, kind of teetering on sky high heels. Harold gripped the metal bar beside him and hoisted himself up.

"God, I hope he isn't going to follow us, right?" The girl with the hot pink lips said.

"No, just relax."

Harold wasn't. He had a mission: Food. He was headed to the backdoor of The Rainbow Grocery & Delicatessen. They got rid of the excess after sundown. Employees got first dibs, but there was always a ghastly amount left over. Harold found grocery stores after hours, especially The Rainbow, to be the most dependable and delectable sources of food. He usually met a human comrade or two there - yes, he had partners in destitution - and the proprietor of the joint never ran them off. So the girls scuffled on their way and he ambled on his, the Komrade's buzz wearing off. But he had been where he was going so many times, sobriety wasn't an issue. He could drag himself to the backdoor of The Rainbow half dead, sure as the salmon swims upstream.

Harold pressed his back against the metal handle of the door and rolled out of South Side station. The Komrade had been sucked dry. No question about that. Harold's addled but recovering wits found the large black metal trash bin, filled to the brim, topped with a rotten de-potted plant of all things, and he tossed the plastic flask atop the heap. It was officially night, the sky having totally darkened and the temperature dropped. Harold buttoned the buttons on his trench coat that were still there and flipped up the collar. Meanwhile the girls, a bit farther along in their agenda than he in his, secured their faux fur and puffy jackets and clip-clopped into the neon delineated South Side Diner. Harold was still adjusting himself to the night air. You'd think he was the one destined for the palace of revelry. Well, in a way he was. To him, The Rainbow was a banquet. He washed his face in the water fountain, dried his hands in his hair, pushing it back and tucking it behind his ears. He put his hat back on and set out in the direction of the Grocery. It wasn't far.

He passed under dark overhanging branches of the city park trees and between them glimpsed flickering stars. On some nights, he noticed, some stars flickered and then on other nights, they didn't. They seemed to have moods, to be talking to one another. He wished he could join their conversation or at least decipher the code. He continued to look up now and then as he made his way past shop windows lined with inaccessibles. Most of the items seemed useless to him then, but then it was easy to imagine planting a flag in a huge heap of them. There was a time, though a long while ago, when he had a lot of stuff. He eyed the perpetual shoppers in the cell phone store and thought: 'What the fuck." In his mind the phrase had the same Maxine downturn. As in "what the fuck" this is strange, or "what the fuck" how did I get here on the outside looking in. As in, why the fuck not or oh well, fuck it. There was a couple that looked like they were debating one design over another. He felt bitter and jealous for one second, and then didn't care at all the next. It was all right a few steps further. He saw the warm glow of The Rainbow sign and beheld it lovingly.

No, he didn't enter through the front door. He swung a left down the alleyway alongside the brick building. The alley always seemed damp whether it was or not. Usually some kind of creature, a cat or a rat, scampered away at his approach. That night the roaches were congregated by a tin trash can, but they held their ground. The roaches had mostly given up stealth. There was no need for it. Even the burliest human tended to recoil at the sight of them. They went on enjoying their telepathic food fest when Harold appeared. He watched them poke their antennae around for a moment, hard shells shiny in the streetlight.

"The nerve," he muttered, then shook his head and swung a right down the delivery driveway.

"Ey, eey, Harold! Pot ah gold tonight, yeah pot ah gold!"

It was Marty. And he usually said that, unless he was in a really foul mood. Marty's mind was slightly more addled from previous junkiedom. Destitution had actually caused him to come to a little. It was several months ago that Harold met him at the nearby shelter. Someone had tried to swipe Marty's dinner roll and Harold stepped in to settle the matter. Marty had henceforth regarded Harold as his guardian angel, in a literal sense, and did his best to keep up with him.

"Yep. Any moment now."

The backdoor of The Rainbow was already propped open. Marty watched with his tired eyes as the shadows of employees criss-crossed on the pavement. He was sitting on a blue overturned bucket and propped his chin up with his hand. Harold was just standing there, his coat hanging.

"Found a full bottle ah vodka today. Some Russian stuff. Gotta say - wadn't bad."

"Oh, ahh - yeah. Good for you man, good for you."

"Don't know, but it felt good."

"Gotta say, gotta say. Good to see you, guardian. It's good to see you here. We're gonna have ourselves a fiiine meal tonight."

"Sure we are. Surely. Rainbow's the best in town. Got the right notion, lettin' us be. All that food...? Just surely go to waste, we don't show up."

"Right, yes. That's right. Harold? All them other places...They ain't right, chasin' us off..."

The opposite door opened and the stream of light from inside The Rainbow widened. It was time for the benevolent mothership to share its bounty.

"Got some good eats for you gents tonight."

If only the workers knew the perspective of the drifters. They offered more than good eats; they offered the cornucopia of life. On the landing they laid out bags and crates teeming with produce and meats.

"Pot ah gold, eh Harold? Pot ah gold!"

The workers laughed. They, in their dirtied smocks, laughed with a tinge of superiority, yet also it was laughter of mirth.

Chapter 3: Gears & Oil

See previous post for Chapter 2 of my first (serial) novel, "Bluer Than Blue."

Maxine adjusted a pin in her thick coiled braid and strutted over in her black boots, keys rattling.

"Is he bothering you."

This was a statement rather than a question.

"Well, no - I mean, yes maybe. No, actually. No."

The gears in Sheila's mind were oiled and cranking. Her idea flowered finer than the finest MFA. This Harold. He could be the key.

"Don't worry about it..."

Sheila's eyes drifted to the name tag on Maxine's left breast and focused in.

"...Maxine. He's okay."

Maxine's forehead wrinkled and then flattened. After all, that was a case of practical boob gandering by the same sex.

"You're sure."

"Yes, it's okay. Harold here was just about to tell me his story, how he got to this place - here, at this table."

Sheila was fired up by happenstance.

"I wuz...?" said Harold, suddenly more alert. He leaned forward and looked back and forth between the women.

Maxine was a little let down that she wasn't hauling Harold out the curb, but this exchange was beginning to come in at a close second.

"So you’re a social worker."

Maxine managed to downturn the end of every question so that is sounded like a regular sentence. It was clear, though, that she was curious, much to the chagrin of those civilians nearby trying to become absorbed by a separate literary universe. Those who were not trying so hard to study were interested and left an ear open to the conversation.

"No, I'm a writer."

Harold raised his eyebrows and clasped his hands. Though the gears in his clock were rusty to say the least, he was starting to get a notion of where this could go, and was unsure what it meant for him in material returns.

"Ah yes, yes a writer. I'll tell you what I know."

"A writer, huh. And you don't have anything better to write about than this guy, this vagrant, bringing his smelly smell in here and disturbing the peace."

Maxine was speaking somewhat loudly.

"Hey, hey. I'm just sittin' here and now you're gettin' ugly."

All the attention caused Harold's long fossilized self respect to re-emerge into consciousness.

"Hey!" A bald bespectacled patron a couple of tables over hissed. "You're disturbing the peace right now - all of you! This is a lii-braar-ee."

The obvious. It should have been a strong case but think back on grade school.

Maxine put a hand on her utility belt.

"Please. I own this place."

The patron responded with a stupefied "Really? Come On - Really??" expression on his face. The two were coming from different planets.

"Okay..." Maxine continued. "Ya'll need to take this little getting-to-know-you session downstairs to the lecture room. And you -- "

"I'm Harold."

"Okay Harold. I better not catch you sleeping in the stacks, or the stairwell, or anyplace. Once you're done, you'd better get out and be on your way."

"How long's this goin' to take..." Harold murmured.

Sheila felt she was hanging on to her former reality by a thread.

"Maxine - thank you."

Harold slowly lowered his coarse and creased hand toward the table and slapped it heavily. The bald patron rolled his eyes and heaved a sigh of disgust as he noisily turned his next page. He was reading about seventeenth century Flemish painters, or so it seemed. Inside the outer book was another book about recurring dreams. Recently, almost every night, he'd been dreaming he was a starving vampire. Kind of unsettling, and he hadn't figured out yet what questions he should be asking himself.

Harold looked up from his own hand on the wood grain.

"Woah, woah, woah - wait a minute here. You're sayin' you want to use me, use me as a subject...To write my memoirs? Memoirs they call it? Well... We have to wait just a minute here. I have some demaands."

Chapter 2: La Aruña

See previous post for Chapter 1 of my first (serial) novel, "Bluer Than Blue."

Sheila was sure he'd stare into her breasts at any moment. (They were elevated by the latest "Luxius" boob technology.) No, no, not Harold. Director Aruña. This was yesterday. The Director, known to some and mostly himself as "La Aruña," had introduced Quill & Ink University's graduate studies open house with his lilting and rolling accent. That was earlier in the morning in Ballroom 1 of the Mercy Hotel, one of the city’s finest, though the carpet choice in some places was questionable and the podium a little scratched. La Aruña had shuffled his notecards, exercised his practiced smile and waited a bit long for one the presentation's slides to change over, pushing a button on the small remote repeatedly.

"I'm technically challenged."

Truthfully, he wasn't. No amount of button pushing could've convinced the humming program's crosshatch transition to move any faster. Otherwise, he did what he could to pump up the University's writing and publishing program.

"One hundred and fifty years strong, Quill & Ink ranks among the top graduate writing programs in the country."

Which top five in which publication was up for grabs. So, there was a little truth stretching. Times were tough and the jawlines of the other presenters were tense. They felt the pressure to make the sale and that definitely detracted from the mojo of the message. They didn't look convinced it was worthwhile to spend that much money. Sheila, for one, did not rise that morning planning to spend a pile of dough. Yes, she loved to write, but the great motivating factor that morning was the Mercy Hotel. It was the real star of the open house, and made the University seem more attractive than it was. The light fixtures overhead were constellations of galaxy class baubles, like brilliantly taxidermied sea creatures of the deep, glowing of their own volition. Under the heat lamps, plump croissants glistened, waiting to be devoured. The buffet was quite the spread, so neatly organized by the hotel. "I would go to school at this hotel," Sheila thought. She was in fact being schooled by the situation.

That morning, she'd arisen much earlier than usual. Her feet hit the floor after five rounds of an ethereal alarm ring tone. Through the part in the bedroom window curtains, yellow leaves blew upturned by the wind. It was an idyllic morning. She'd left herself just enough time to disguise the t-shirt she slept in with a sweater, jacket and pants, and get out the door to the Mercy. She was in search of impressions and indirect answers about the future. Grad school, yes. A community of writers. The sound of it was good, but she had no actual intention to shell out for what could amount to creative coddling.

She sat in Ballroom 1, listened to the introductory presentation, and spoke sincerely with a student representative.

"Oh yes, I love to write. It would be wonderful to be among like-minded people."

"Well, it sounds like you would be good for this," replied the curly-haired bespectacled student.

Good, yes. “For a price,” she thought. Truthfully, Sheila was unsure about the program's wonderfulness after the secondary presentation in one of the Mercy Hotel's meeting rooms. The chairs were very uncomfortable. Faculty and alumni and hangers-on took turns "umm-ing" and "aah-ing" at another scratched podium. To Sheila they looked a bit unsure of themselves and uninspired. She viewed them through her emotionally colored glasses. But yes, the secondary presenters were rather quiet and subdued, unconvincing even and their eyes lacked luster. Among the speakers a tall man, a short man, and a woman whose face looked like it belonged in a seventeenth century Flemish painting. They all looked like they could use a nap, due to nocturnal tendencies. One student introduced himself by saying he'd had a rough night at the department party. This illicited a "Really? Come On - Really??" type of laughter from the audience of mostly women with long hair. Sheila winced a little and later skipped the campus tour.

Back at Ballroom 1, through a corridor of textured walls, was another round of snacks. Sheila took a modest amount "To Go." But before emerging into the sunny outside world, she was intercepted by Director Aruña.

"Why hello - how did you find the presentation today?"

La Aruña fancied himself quite the charmer. Nevertheless, he noticed no fur-trimmed parents in Sheila's company, so he kept his social setting on simmer.

"Oh...very nice, very nice. This has given me a lot to think about. And the buffet - very generous."

She glanced up at the large presentation screen and La Aruña's eyes took the opportunity to dart downwards at her Luxius shelf. Truthfully, he wasn't trying to hit on this not so prospective student who'd stowed away Mercy goods in her bag. It wasn't even deliberate. La Aruña had somehow conditioned himself to lightning fast clandestine boob gandering. At times it was a reflex. Generally, he was wired that way. And when it was a problem, he would say, "I am from La Coruña, Spain." La Aruña took pride in his virility as a sign of vitality, that hot blood coursed through his veins and thus - well, you get the idea. He love you long time. It was pride of a special Spanish flavor.

"Do you have any questions I can answer?" He said to her face.

"Oh, well, now that you mention it...Are you a writer?"

Director Aruña raised his eyebrows and kind of stuck out his lower lip. This, he thought, is probably not a sales question. But he liked this interest in himself instead of another statistic.

"Yes. Sometimes I write sonnets."

This was true. It wasn't a come-on. Some nights he would prop up his house slippers on a leather hassock and compose with a great passion inside, unquenched by educational administration.

"Really. That is very interesting. I also enjoy writing poetry, but I've only written two sonnets...One of them was in Spanish."

Now she really had La Aruña's attention.

"I - I write them for my wife."

"Oh, that is so wonderful..." Sheila sensed La Aruña's discomfort. Plus, she'd had her fill of pretend grad school.

"Well, thank you so much. I need to get going."

"Of course. I hope you will consider Quill & Ink for your graduate studies."

"Yes, I will. Thank you."

Sheila had seen what she needed to see and eaten what she needed to eat. She felt like she had done something. Something...

Chapter 1: Bluer Than Blue

At the risk of being plagiarized, I'm going to start posting the chapters of my first (serial) novel, "Bluer Than Blue..."

Chapter 1: Bluer Than Blue

The public library is usually eerily quiet, with the occasional flipping of pages and clearing of throats, and dropping of pens. That particular day in fall, unseasonably warm, the sun cast long across the marble floor and onto the sturdy wooden table where she sat, unemployed, mind hopeful and drifting, with an open book on Buddhism. The scene was strikingly picturesque; exactly ready to photograph with the uplifting lighting and dust particles sparkling in flight. She turned the page to a passage about the virtues of compassion and narrowed her eyes a little in introspection.


There he was. He plopped down noisily with his black shoulder bag, looking disheveled and smelling kind of like a public toilet. "Good God," Sheila muttered under her breath and adjusted herself in her seat.

"What's that - what's that you say...?" His eyes looked relatively intelligent.

Given her reading material, she restrained herself from popping up automatically and scurrying to the other side of the library, or to another level altogether. Because after all, what had she been reading about - forthrightness, compassion, understanding.

"I said 'Good. God.' What's happened to you?"

From a mess of dark hair this more often than not rejected man said, "I'm Harold.”

“...Well, you said 'Good God' ...now which one? Look there - you reading about Buddha right? You said 'Good God' - you James Brown? ... What's happened to me??"

She had hardly expected this verbal barrage from the untidy Harold. People in the surrounding area were starting to look over sympathetically or just plain uncomfortably. A security guard named Maxine was poised to intervene. She'd just had her hair done and was feeling in charge, ready for some action. Harold was oblivious to that.

"What's happened to me is bluer than blue. I've been to school...jail, rehab...jail. No kids, though, no kids."

Sheila settled back into her chair, sort of genuinely interested. He really put things in perspective.


Sunset on the 7:40

Sunset on the 7:40
is quiet, restrained
blue grey
Passing the Summit Press
in Chelsea

A golden stripe hugs the ground
until we're out of sight into
the suburbs

I can't wait to eat, to be
"home" for a spell, before I start
the whole damn thing again

Light carves beauty into factories
and my sports bra is a bit

The sun flickers between
smaller downtowns, casting
stars among their windows

Life is beautiful
and we can learn so much
from the past
says the man in the wheelchair
yet it's been said

Then an airplane flies through
A pair of swans dip into
the muddy marsh
I watch as I wait for
my phone to ring