Work in progress

Something I’m working on. Any feedback will be welcomed.

Its early morning and the birds are barely awake. Steve poured all of the coffee into his large mug and walked through the screen door, being careful not to let it slam behind him.  His dogs are with him on the front porch. Since he was little, being the first person to see the sun has been his simple pleasure. Growing up in a house with eight other people had led Steve to dislike noise; commotion set him back into corners. He wasn’t a coward, by most accounts, it was more like an un-easiness. The kind a dog gets before a big storm. He was forty now and being the first to see the start of Apollo’s journey, gave him the ability to make it through to the next sunrise.

As the sun broke over the mountain the two dogs looked first, at each other, then at Steve. She would be up soon. His ritualistic, morning peace could be held permanently, no more than the mountain could hold back the sun. He heard her coming down the stairs and his heart beat a little faster. Ever since they had met she had this effect on him. It was the not knowing if she was going to punch him in the gut or, kiss him on the lips, hooked him and kept him hooked for the last ten years.

He would finish his coffee and before she got up he would head out to walk the dogs. He would return while she was in the shower. He would make another pot of coffee before he headed out to work. She, no doubt would leave a note with instructions for the day. He would simply scribble, “I love you” on the paper and leave in place.

Blair flipped on the kitchen light and reached for the coffee pot. It was empty. This really bothered her. He knew she would want coffee, why would he only make enough for himself? She dumped the old grounds and started a fresh pot. She glanced out of the kitchen window and he was there. The sun had, by now, reached up to the dogs lying on the front steps. She knew that when the sun reached to the top of the steps he would walk the dogs.

She didn’t really care for him when she had first seen him. He just started showing up at parties and it bothered her that he would just sit there. None of her other friends thought it odd but, she couldn’t figure out why someone who seemed on edge around   people would sit in the middle of hundreds of them at one time. It bothered her even more that her friends would just tolerate it. Not a one of them ever questioned him about it. They were even inclined to seek out his advice. This sat wrong with her as well; the only time he engaged was in private yet, in the middle of the room.

She didn’t go to him for advice and because of this she felt left out of his world. He would sit alone and could only be approached as a guru. If you approached him any other way he would reject you. She was never looking for guidance, she was looking for companionship.  She needed him to do things not sit there. He would make the initial step by being present she would press what needed to be done.

For all of his selfish, simple minded and inconsiderate acts, she loved him.  His actions were simple his mind predictable. They saw eye to eye on most things without having to discuss them.  This had become they’re life and they had become quite settled in it. When Steve looked at the note she left. There were no daily instructions. It read, “Dinners with the Neighbors. Don’t Forget!” Don’t forget was underlined.


The Table

The board they played on was a marble inlay table, they had it made the year Declan got divorced. It happened in the fall and as winter crept in, Liam watched as Declan looked deep into the abyss. Liam knew that he had to somehow channel Declan’s negativity the same way the army had done for him before they met. Liam had never really been in charge of any one before but, he was good at it. He showed his friend the artistry of woodworking and Declan let go of his thoughts and focused on the warmth of the wood instead of the cold in his heart. When the snow melted they sat their effort out in the yard among the tulips and have done so ever since.

“Charlie and Hayden… are they well?” Declan asked as Liam began to set up the board.  He grabbed two beers from the cooler, opened them and sat them on opposite sides of the board.

“Hayden is at university and Charlie… she’s… well you know, my little girl.”

Declan smiled and gave a half chuckle. Half because Liam only knew three openings and this was his favorite and the other half because he always liked Charlie. When the children’s mother died she took it the hardest. Declan understood her loss and in secrete supported her Bohemian lifestyle, much to the dismay of her father. Declan had gone on a bit of a quest, himself, after that spring and now was giving lectures all over Europe.

“I see you brought a red head home with you this time” the

sarcasm was thinly veiled and Declan began to laugh.

 “Yeah, I met Siskia in Leiden…” Declan went on to tell the story of Siskia.

The Red head and Declan had met by design, if you ask some. Declan and his dog, where relishing in the sun in the park after, a long grey Dutch winter when, Kimbo bolted off with the frisbee. After 20 min of walking through the park he found the beast sitting next to her. He walked up and with his boyish smile said.

“gootendag das ist mijn hounda… “

She laughed loudly and whispered something in the dog’s ear. Kimbo looked up and gave a dog smile.

“Bent u zeker hij is van de joue?”

Declan blushed because he had exhausted his knowledge of the Dutch language.

“Mijn Nederlandse ist neit goot.  Sprect u Engels?”

“Of course!” she replied and laughed again.

Liam loved these stories.  He was always so amazed at how easily Declan could fall in love.  He was also envious of how quickly he falls out of love.  Liam never remarried… he just couldn’t fall out of love.

“Are you going to keep her around?” Liam asked.

“I think the question is really… how long will she keep me around?” Declan laughed and the two men raised their bottles toasted and took a long drink.

Liam reached into the coolers and pulled out two more beers sat them on the table and then stared intently at the board.  What was Declan doing?  It was hard to play Declan because he had no idea how to play.  Sure he knew how the pieces moved but he had no real strategy.  It was all a mess of rash decisions and random ideas.  It frustrated Liam because every once in a while Declan would win.

“That boy of yours? He still playing ball?”

“Yeah! He got a full ride at University. He wants you to come to one of his games while you’re in town.”

“I would like that.”

Truth be told he would love that.  Declan loved baseball.  His father taught him how to play and it was the only time they got along.  It made Declan sad that the family secret, the knuckle ball slider, would die with him.  Then Hayden started showing interest in baseball.  Declan jumped on this, buying Liam’s son everything a little leaguer could ask for.  Most fathers would be upset with the intrusion, but Liam didn’t know the first thing about baseball and he could see how happy it made Declan.  So all through little league he was Hayden’s coach.  In Hayden’s final game, his senior year, he pitched a no hitter.  it was hard to tell who was prouder of him Liam or Declan. It was hard for Declan though.  He had always wanted what Liam had… a family.  Sure the kids treated him as an uncle, but it wasn’t the same.  Every time he would go to these family functions he would hurt inside reminded of his own failed attempts at happiness.

The two men sat that whole afternoon telling the same stories they have been telling for the past twenty years until, finally as the sun started to go, down Liam made the final move.

“Check mate ole buddy” Liam said calmly

“Damn you Liam!!!”

He knew that his fly by the seat of your pants strategy hardly ever worked on Liam but, he was sure this time he had him.  He stared at the board for a long minute then finished his beer and looked Liam square in the eyes and said:

“Why do we play this stupid game?”

“Because you suck at it.”

A bit of the macabre. Happy Halloween.

Just outside the small town of Corvus, next to the welcome sign, two hoodlums were pulled off to the side of the road. The sharper of the pair, Jimmie, leaned against the fender. The other peed on the sign.

“Sneaks, tie a knot in it. Let’s see if this shit hole has got a beer store.”

Sneaks zipped up his pants and returned to the car. He was a weasel and a bully. After a childhood of torturing animals, he had hooked up with Jimmie. This just made him meaner. Every cruel thing he did just impressed Jimmie who, egged him on. Though he was better looking, Jimmie’s sadism was uglier than Sneak’s. He got off on manipulating people. With an encouraging smile he would urge Sneaks to take things further and laugh. He got all of the sick pleasure out of the evil without getting his hands dirty.

The two sped down the main road. The one stop light in town brought them to a halt. The sun was going down and the town was empty. Sneaks noticed a statue of a large Crow that, stood in front of the town hall.

Struggling to pronounce the inscription sneaks sounded out, “Cornix cornice oculos non effodiet.’ What the hell language is that?”

“Sneaks, you’re an idiot, that’s Latin.”
“Well, what’s it mean, Jimmie?”

“How the fuck should I know? Do I look like a priest?”
“Jimmie, you the farthest thing from a priest.”

Sneaks laughed.

The light turned green and Jimmie stepped hard on the gas. Halfway through the intersection a large black bird slammed into the windshield. Jimmie hit the breaks; bringing the car to a screeching halt.

“What the hell was that?” Sneaks shrieked.

“I think it’s a crow.” Jimmie replied, getting half way out of the car to check for damage.

“Is it dead?”

“Yeah, it’s dead.” Jimmie looked around. The streets were empty except for a single crow, perched on the light pole, above the scene. Jimmie looked up. The crows black eyes held no emotion but, the cry it let out sent a chill into them.


“What? You stupid bird! It was an accident.”

The crow let out another scream and landed on the hood of the car. Its black eye stared at Jimmie without emotion and its beak cawed out another accusation. He tried to shew it away but, it wouldn’t budge. Sneaks snuck out of the car and smacked the bird off the hood. It bounced across the pavement and squawked back at them.

“Ha!” He laughed. “We killed your buddy! What are you going to do about it? Nothing, Stupid bird.”

“Sneaks, shut up and get back in the car.”

“Did you see me smack that stupid bird?”

“Yeah, I saw it.” Jimmie smirked. “Let’s get some beer and push on.”

All the shops were closed in the small town but, the general store still had the light on. The two pulled up to the curb. As they reached the steps a crow landed on the roof of the shop and stared at them.


“What? Leave us alone!” Jimmie waved his arms. Sneaks picked up rocks and threw them at the bird until it flew off.

Inside the store the two split up and slowly walked to the back. The shopkeeper was the only person in the store.  The two looked at each other when they reached the beer. The plan to rob the old man was silently agreed upon.

“That be all for you boys?” The man said, as he rang up the sale.  A racket could be heard outside. The crow had returned, relentless in its cawing. The old man didn’t seem to notice.

“Old man, you all, got a crow problem in this town.”

The man looked up puzzled. “Oh that’s Lucius. Usually he’s with his mate Domina but, I don’t hear her. Those two have been round this town for years. Crows mate for life, you know. I’ll tell you another story about crows…”

Just as the man looked up, Sneaks hit him hard in the face, knocking him to the ground. Jimmie grabbed the cash out of the registered. The man struggle to get up but, sneaks jumped over the counter and stomped on him.


Speeding down the road, the two men laughed while they guzzled the stolen beer.

“Stomped him good huh, Jimmie?” Sneaks slammed his foot against the floor board.

“Yeah Sneaks, you done good.”

With a beer in the hand that was on the steering wheel, Jimmie tried to light a cigarette with the other. The flame pulled his eyes of the road. When the flame vanished there was a crow on the hood. Jimmie swerved hard, sending the car into a tree

When Jimmie opened his eyes he saw that Sneaks had been sent through the windshield. The crow was perched on Sneak’s head, pecking at his eye ball. Jimmie opened the door and stared at the crow in horror.


Jimmie got out of the car. The crow paused then pulled the eyeball out with his beak and flew at Jimmie. He fell backwards hitting the concrete hard. Jimmie got up and scanned the darkness for the bird. All he could hear was crows, taunting him, as he headed back into town.

Crows filled the town when Jimmie got to the edge of it. . He walked through the streets screaming for help. As he neared the store he saw the old man sitting on the steps. He walked towards him.

“Please, help me sir.”

“I had a feeling you’d be back.”  The man said, as he stood up. “I think it’s time you hear that story now boy.”

The old shop keeper began to speak as a crow landed on the railing next to him. Jimmie stared into the crow’s black eye. Sneaks eyeball was squished in its beak.

“There was once a pair of crows that were bred by a god, way up on top of a mountain. When the crows were full grown they flew to the town below. They took up residence on a shopkeeper’s roof. The town’s people brought the crows gifts and in return the crows brought good harvests. The crows kept century at the edge of town, alerting the town with caws when, anyone approached.”

The man paused a moment and looked at the town’s people that began to gather.  Jimmie didn’t turn around. He was locked on the crow that now had Sneak’s eyeball under his claw and was pulling on the end trail.

The shopkeeper continued, “One day an evil man came to the town. When the crows started to caw, he killed them both. When the town’s people found the dead crows, a mob formed. They chased the man and when they caught him, they drug him to the center of the town, ripped his eyeballs out, and crucified his body at the edge of town.”

Jimmie looked up horrified. The man’s eyes had turned soulless and black. Jimmie spun around to see the mob that had gathered, all of them with eyes black as ravens. They closed in on him.

“Do you know what you call a group of crows, boy?”

“A murder?”

The shop keeper grabbed  him.

“Not in this town we don’t.”


A week before, was my eleventh birthday.  My stepmother had made a chocolate cake for me.  My stepbrother and stepsister were complaining that we couldn’t eat any of it until my father came home.  We waited for hours, the whole time my stepmother was on the phone crying.  She did this every time my father didn’t come home.

I knew where he was, he’d take me there when my step-siblings would go visit their dad.  I always loved when he would take me there.  He would hand me a hand full of quarters and I would play the video game or the pool table.  He would just sit there at the bar watching the game and drinking.  When it got late more people would come in and when he ran out of money, he would have me sneak around and steal beer people’s tables.

When he finally came home, my step mother flew from the back room and started beating him.  My father was a stout man who, I had never seen let another man hit him but, my stepmother was not afraid of him.  He never once hit her back he just stood there and took.  She quit beating him when he fell on the couch and passed out.

When I woke up the next morning my birthday cake was still on the kitchen table, an envelope with my father’s name on it laid on top of it.  I moved the note and cut a piece of cake.  My stepmother was gone, my brother and sister too.  The icing on the cake had become hard and when I swallowed it my stomach hurt.  Later that day, my dad said we were going on a camping trip, I never saw my brother or sister again.

We had been at this camp ground for a week and despite my father’s best efforts, I knew we were homeless.  Every day my dad would get up and walk to the little store they had on the camp ground and come back with four forties, some beef jerky, and potato chips for breakfast.  The rest of the day he would sit by our camp fire and drink.

At night he would have me walk through the campgrounds with him and sneak food out of people’s cooler while they slept.  One night he noticed that the lady at the end of our site had not been there for three days.  He had me go through her tent and take whatever I could find.  She had a ton of nice stuff, IPod, a mine-stove, and some money.  When we got back to our site he had me stash all of her stuff in my tent.

The next morning I heard footsteps walking toward our tents.

“Hello!?” the footsteps said. It was a man’s voice and it reminded me of my principle.

“Who is it and what do you want!”  I heard my father grumble.

“It’s the sheriff; do you have a boy about ten years old?”

My heart started pounding so hard I was sure the sheriff could hear it.  My father stumbled around inside his tent and then, I heard the zipper opened.  My stomach was in knots and I squeezed my eyes shut and hoped the man and his voice would go away.  I could barely hear them talking, then my father yelled.

“Boy get your ass out here!” I shot out of the tent at once.

“Did you take some lady’s stuff?” As he asked this the sheriff pulled back the flap to my tent and saw all of her things. I stared at my father.

“Damn it boy! What did I tell you about stealing! I’m sorry sheriff, rest assured he’s going to get an ass whopping for this.”

“Now I don’t think there is any call for that.” The sheriff interjected. “So long as he admits it and says he sorry, I’m sure the lady won’t press charges.  Well boy?”  He looked me dead in the eyes.

“Yes sir, I did it and I’m really sorry.”

“Well then, boys will be boys.  Son you just load all that stuff in my car and we’ll call it settled.”

My father shook the sheriff’s hand and thanked him for letting me off the hook.  An hour after the sheriff pulled away, we packed up and left.

Arms of Another

They sat only feet apart but, the distance between them had never been greater. The power had been shut off, due to lack of payment, as a result the house was dark and silent she wished he would say something, anything. He never got mad. Her transgressions would throw most any other man into a fit of rage but, not Jay. She begged him to blow up. She pleaded with him to break things, slam his fist on the table, anything that would show him to be a man or, at least human. He didn’t, he never did. He just sat there.

Despite all of it Jay loved her. He loved her more than he had loved another person his entire life. He was angry, furious even but, letting any of that out would take them to a place neither of them was prepared to go. Jay put his arms across his. He thought about the other man, whose arms would be open and waiting for her.  It was these arms, which finished the destruction of Jay’s world. It was a world, in which he lost his job, his house, and his wife.

Sharon screamed, threw things, slammed doors, all in an attempt to invoke some sort of reaction. Jay did nothing, just sat in his chair. When she stormed through the threshold, he was left alone, in the dark. Would she be back? Did he want her back? This time would be different. This time there wouldn’t be anything to come back to. The house, car, furniture, all had to go back. The credit cards would be destroyed, the next time she tried to use them. These were the only things he had to offer her. Without these she would see him for what he really was; an impotent man.

She parked the car around the corner. Her head lay collapsed in her hands, sobbing. The phone was in the empty seat next to her. She desperately wanted to call him. He listened to her, talked to her, held her. She was willing to give up everything and run to him but, his instructions were clear, never call him again. The man she loved wanted nothing to do with her and the man she hated was at home waiting for her. The thought of him sitting there, in his chair, alone, was pathetic. She knew he was there, he was always there. All the other times she left and came back, he was there. He never asked where she had been and she never told him. He was there right now; all she had to do was turn the car around.

The Big Ten fall Could give The MAC a chance.

The media, as of late, has been analyzing the woes of the Big 10. Criticisms ranging from an outdated style of play to an overall lack of talent, in the Midwest, have been all over the internet. Michigan State’s loss seemingly put the nail in the coffin when it comes to, the Big Ten’s relevance in college football. Selection committee member, Tom Jurnstedt explains, “Strength of schedule will become such an important factor… that if you want to be under consideration, you need to have a more meaningful schedule than perhaps you’ve had in the past.”  The new Championship system may provide an environment that would allow the MAC gain relevance and become a showcase for Midwest talent. To accomplish this, schools in the Mid-American Conference will have to do a couple of things.

First, stop playing the Big Ten. Replace these power conference games with an SEC/ACC game. The other non -Conference games should be against west coast and southern teams.  If the critics are right and the Big Ten’s philosophy is past its prime, learning these systems and being able to implement a strategy to win, is the only way to have a chance for selection.  Next, they need to take advantage of the expanded ESPN coverage of college football. With non-conference games played away, they can open up recruitment in new areas, including the Big Ten’s.  They need to win. They do not have to upset the big boys but, the MAC has to prove that they belong on the same field. They must become a conference possessing teams that add to other’s strength of schedule.

MAC teams have had modest success against the Big Ten so far this year, winning three games. Their efforts in the ACC and SEC have not all been as bad as, Eastern Michigan’s decimation. Akron won over PITT in a close match and Western Michigan made a good showing against VT (in the first half at least…) Strength of schedule having more influence on post season play, The MAC would do better to stay away from a conference with the growing reputation of being sub -par. The correct turn on the road to a MAC team making the Championship playoffs, goes through the ACC/SEC, not the Big Ten.

The Hammock




The rustle of the palm tree was barely a whisper but, it roused Tom. He opened his eyes and looked at the ocean through his feet. His drink was warm and watered down. He wondered how long it would be before the waitress returned. She was long, blonde, and her firm body reminded him of his youth. In the seventh grade he noticed how pretty girls, like her would hang on his every word. A few years later he would be blessed with a strong body, that would take them all night long.

He looked at his reflection, in the glass of his watered down drink and thought, the only reason a pretty girl would talk to him now, would be to offer him another drink. Tom had not let his body fall to the ills of age, far from it. He worked out three times a week, ate healthy, and even ran a charity marathon a year ago. Even when he considered these things, fifty was a hard pill to swallow.

After a watered down sip, he decided the bar was far too great an expedition and laid his head back into the hammock. His slip back behind his eyelids was interrupted by the waitress’s footsteps in the sand. When her shadow was over him he smiled, without opening his eyes, and nodded for another drink. He hadn’t moved from this spot all day and could think of no good reason to break precedent.

Tom had been to this island before. His wife had insisted the honeymoon here. A hurricane blew in the day they arrived and did not let up until the day they left. The young couple clung to the romantic notion, weathering the storm together was proof they could last. That proof was negated the day the papers were signed.

The waitress returned with his drink. This time he opened his eyes when he smiled. She smiled back and Tom’s urge to speak was overcome by his lost for words and he began to stutter.

“Ok buddy, you just go right ahead and spit out whatever lame pickup line, you are trying to think of. I see a thousand of you every season, trust me I’ve heard them all. I’ll laugh, bat my eyes, and then bring your drinks in awkward silence.”

Tom gathered himself, grinned, and gave her the coolest voice he could muster,

“Well, I got nothing so, we can skip right to the awkward silence.”

She let a smile crack her face, (Tom took it to be genuine), sat his drink down, and left.

Tom thought about what she had said. A thousand seemed a low number. He figured that, four months out of the year, it was wholesale creeps around here. She was probably hit on by every middle aged guy with a bad hair piece and a wife, not within ear shot.  Hell, for he knew she could already have a sugar daddy and had no problems taking his money. He imagined this was not what she had planned for her life. A singer or, a dancer no doubt. With the way she talked; she was clearly not a local. Perhaps she was the lead in some god awful dinner play on one of those cruise ships. She landed here on this island and is just waiting for some rich guy to come and save her before the only thing she has going for her fades.

The wind picked up and swayed the hammock side to side. Tom relished every pass like a child wanting the playground swing to go higher. Storm clouds gathered and when a thunderbolt struck just off shore, the expedition to the bar, could no longer be pushed back. He let the hammock make one final pass, then lept from it. Putting on his shirt, he surveyed the storm, it was going to be a nasty one. Tom grabbed his hat, he headed to the shelter of the bar.