Monday, October 3, 2016

Eight Million Stories

"Eight Million Stories" is now available for purchase on and other fine, and some not so fine, website.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Eight Million Stories (over here, look, a sneak preview)

Robert lies across some building, the name of which is unknown to him, on 32nd Street between Seventh Avenue and Sixth Avenue (excuse me, Avenue of the Americas). He stares ahead in shock at the realization that life has brought him to this. He pets his dog Lassie.

“Hey, watch your legs, idiot”, a man in an expensive three piece suit, tells him. The stranger almost trips over his legs,

He had promise, he tells himself. He always knew he could make himself into somebody. All those girls and teachers who thought he was be a nobody, well, he would show them someday. He knew he had skills and a brain.

Robert sits in hopes that no one from his high school walks past.

“Oh, it was so terrible. I saw Robert. He was homeless, without a job, sitting on the street doing nothing good with his life. But then, we all knew it was going to happen.” Robert knows someone, somewhere has or will state words such of these.

Those voices of disapproval rings through Robert’s head. “You’ll never amount to anything.”

Robert tried to get a job. The real world is cruel. “If you do not have your high school diploma, what good are you? Who cares if your have skills? We have lots of applicants with skills, and a high school diploma.”

For six months, he tried to find a job. His resume went through three printings. 300 resumes. He gave them all out. 300 times he got his hopes up. 300 times he learned reality. “Sorry, kid, but we found a better applicant.”

He thinks of the love of his life, Debbie. The one, one only, woman who would go out with him. She has brought him home to meet her parents. He thought Debbie might be the one, even if Debbie was a bit shy and wanted to take things slow. He never got to touch her nipples, but he had thought  that someday Debbie would let him.

One night, after he left her home for dinner and watching television with Debbie and her parents and her bratty sister, he returned because he forgot his coat. It would not have mattered except it suddenly dipped like twenty degrees in five minutes and he was freezing walking home in Stuyvesant. He would need the coat again in the morning He hoped someone is still awake. After all, Debbie’s family were all good Christians and they all retire early.

When he first got back to Debbie’s house, he feared he was too late. The house was dark. Everyone must already be asleep. Then he saw Debbie climbing out her window. For one brief shining moment, he actually thought Debbie was sneaking out to rush over to see him. It excited him thinking Debbie can feel his presence and that she is running up to kiss and hug him. That Debbie and he were meant to be together forever.

Then Robert saw Debbie run up to Slob. Yeah, Slob had chosen his own nickname, and he insisted everyone, even teachers, call him by that name. Debbie climbed onto the back of Slob’s motorcycle, not even wearing a helmet. The drove off. Robert watched as the motorcycle drives away until he could no longer see Debbie.

Robert lived in a daze several days afterwards. He overheard a student in the hallway telling another student, neither of whom he even knows, “Ya hear Slob and Debbie got married?”

Robert became catatonic. The pain was too much to absorb.

“Yeah, I heard Slob knocked her up so she had to get married.”

Robert realized that Slob has probably felt Debbie’s nipples.

And he hasn’t.

Robert failed all his finals.

Robert’s parents insisted he find a job. Robert walked through life as a zombie. Zombies tend not to get hired. “What’s the matter with you kid? You stupid or something?”

“You have two weeks to get a job, or I want you out of the house.” That is not the way Robert ever expected to be woken from sleep. His father was angry. Robert understood it is something the talk shows call “tough love”.

Robert realized that the people who he thought loved him most do not love him. Certainly not Debbie, who was only using him as a front for her parents to show them she was dating some geek nerd who would never even touch her nipple while she was really having wild sex with someone who wants to be called “Slob”. Certainly not his parents, whom he was had presumed were required to love him unconditionally. They couldn’t even do that. Now getting their love has conditions.

There were no jobs available. Two weeks wasn’t enough. Maybe two months wouldn’t be enough. What Robert could not believe was his parents were serious in carrying through their threat. He returned home one day, and his key didn’t work. At first he thought there was something wrong with his key. Then off to his side, he noticed a nap sack. Robert walked over to it and realized it contain some of his clothes.

He quickly ripped through to see what was in the nap sack. It has just clothes. He found himself searching through the belongings for his favorite toy Quacky. It is a toy duck he had since childhood. Surely his parents would have at least let him have Quacky.

Robert burst into tears. When he realized he misses Quacky more than he missed his parents, or missed Debbie, he knew it is time to move along.

“You hear about those panhandlers in Manhattan? I hear they make like a hundred thousand dollars a year.”

The memory of that voice drove him to the heart of Manhattan. Reality is panhandlers are lucky to make enough to eat.

One of the first lessons Robert learns is where to go to the bathroom. Someone without access to laundry services is not welcome in most restaurant or store bathrooms. Robert learns where bathrooms are that someone like him could sneak through without some security or store employee blocking him.

 One day Robert came across a mangy dog that was skin and bones. At first he paid no attention to the dog as he has his own problems. Yet for some reason the dog kept following him. Robert realizes he is probably all this dog has. Robert also realizes this dog is all he has.

He names the dog Lassie. Because it was the only dog name he could think of. He wasn’t even certain if Lassie was a boy or a girl. But then he remembers hearing that Lassie was actually a male dog on TV, so naming a dog Lassie did not really matter if it was male or female, did it?

Robert and Lassie panhandle. This is spent mostly by sleeping all day with a can and a sign asking for money, Having Lassie helped donations. More people care that a dog eats than if a man eats.

Robert sits for hours petting Lassie watching as thousands of legs walked by. He knew most eyes looked down upon him. Robert can not figure out what this tough love was supposed to prove. How does this help him? One does not get a job with jagged, smelly clothes.

Robert awakens and sees Lassie is not by his side. He is worried, but not panicked. This has happened before. Lassie is always nearby.

Robert calls out “Lassie, Lassie”, yet for the first time ever, no Lassie comes running towards him, waving her (his?) tail? A mild panic strikes Robert. He runs towards Seventh Avenue calling for Lassie. He no longer cares about his tin of money. A teenager walking by scoops up the tin and smiles with delight. “Gonna buy me some good dope tonight, sucka” the teenagers thinks.

An elderly man witnesses the teenager stealing the can. He almost calls for a police officer, but realizes nothing can be done about it. Besides, the man wants to catch the red 2 train before it gets too crowded.

Robert runs through the streets crying out nothing but “Lassie!”, “Lassie!” Some people look at this oddball yelling and giggle. Some frightened children and elderly move away from him fearful he might suddenly attack them.

As the hours pass, Robert’s voice is hoarse. His panic increases as he continues running and searching. He is so confused he has no plan. He keeps running around crying out for Lassie in hopes she will appear. Tears run down his cheeks.

Robert runs across Second Avenue at 23rd Street. He has been running giving no sense of what the traffic lights are. After all, pedestrians have the right of way, right? Every New Yorkers knows that.

Robert feels a bump. He first thought is anger that someone is interrupting his search. He falls to the ground and realizes something is seriously wrong. A car has run into him. He figures he has just been knocked again. He tries to get up. He realizes he can not move. Shock sets in. He is hurt, seriously, but he does not know how badly.

He feels something wet and looks at the red liquid pouring from his body. When he realizes it is his own blood, he faints.

Robert awakens. He sees a police officer standing over him. Robert realizes his life is slipping away. Robert looks at the police officer and tells him the most important words Robert has to offer the world?

“Have you seen Lassie?”

Enzo Gallati, Police Corporal, never made Sergeant. Seven years Enzo ate, drank, slept New York blue. Being a police officer was all Enzo wanted to be his entire life. Even as a kid, when he and his friends played cops and robbers, he had to be a cop. The idea of being a robber was unthinkable, even in his imagination.

Enzo thinks back to those days growing up in Brooklyn. Those was the innocent days, weren’t they? Although, they may have been telling. A couple of the kids who always wanted to robbers fulfilled that destiny and are in prison. He even had to make the bust once. He could see the sadness in his eyes as Ernie, friend since childhood from the neighborhood, looked at Enzo as he cuffed Ernie. Ernie probably was hoping against hope that Enzo would give a break to a guy from the old neighborhood. Enzo knew Ernie realized that Enzo was already going to be a straight shooter.

Enzo loved putting on the uniform. He loved his badge. He looked forward to the day when he retired and he could frame his badge on the wall. The badge spoke to him. That badge represented his dreams, his aspirations, his commitment to being able to say to his grandchildren someday “yeah, I did something good for my city in my life.”

Enzo remembers the pride his father, Emilio Gallati, had when he graduated the police academy. His father was a sergeant. Enzo was proud to walk in his footsteps. Enzo wanted to make sergeant someday. There was no rush. Enzo knew if he did his job and kept his nose clean, he would do it. His father would be proud.

Enzo’s mother Myrna died of breast cancer when he was 16. He was sorry she could  not see this. Then again, Myrna feared being a police officer’s wife. She told Enzo she used to have nightmares of a police chaplain arriving to tell her Emilio had been shot to death by some punk. Myrna probably wouldn’t have slept any better knowing her only son also was a police officer.

Emilio retired about a year after Enzo started being a cop. New York City would be safe as long as there was ar Gallati patrolling the streets. Enzo could tell his dad missed the job. After three months after retiring, a neighbor looked through a window and saw his father in a chair, slumped over in his leisure chair. It was a massive heart attack. Enzo was told it must have been quick and sudden.

Enzo knew the code. He never rocked the boat. He got along with all the police officers. He defended a fellow officer, no matter what. When Jack, a fellow police officer tangled with some bum fire fighter in a bar arguing over what number Reggie Jackson wore as a Yankee, Enzo defended the police officer who insisted Reggie wore “32” against the stupid fire fighter who had the correct answer of “44”. Enzo knew Reggie Jackson wore 44. The police are always right, no matter what, even when they are wrong.

Sal’s was a great restaurant. Sal loved cops and cops loved Sal. A police officer’s money was no good at Sal’s. Enzo knew this was wrong so he avoided Sal’s. Yet, when he was with fellow officers who wanted to go to Sal’s, Enzo went along. Enzo placed his order and walked out without paying, along with all the other officers. It was a police thing. You wouldn’t understand.

When some snot nose from Jersey broke into Sal’s one evening, the police were stunned. Who would be stupid enough to burgle a police restaurant? Dozens of police officers jumped into the case. Security tapes were reviewed. Within a few hours, they had the guy’s license plate numbers, the guy’s image, and his name, Julian Gray, from Hackenack. Within a few more hours, Julian Gran found himself face down on the sidewalk. Oops, Julian may have fallen a few times and had some teeth fall out and his nose broken.

What older police are slow to remember is that these young kids have video cameras on their cell phones. Within minutes of the arrest, YouTube had video of NYPD’s finest slamming Julian’s head into the ground. The tape went viral as people wanted to watch the police officers laughing at Julian’s predicament. The video was hilarious, unless, of course, your name was Julian Gray. Julian Gray did not find the video funny.

Nor did Julian’s lawyer. Or the press. Or Internal Affairs. Or the District Attorney. Eight suspended officers identified in the video were indicted by the grand jury.

Enzo was glad he was not among the eight. He knew the eight officers. He liked them, although some of them had a reputation of crossing the line with the rules. Karma had finally caught up with them.

Enzo changes into his uniform. He runs his hand across the badge he loves. .

“Aren’t you glad you weren’t there that day they took that Gray guy down?” his patrol partner Gene Williams asked him once. News of the indicted eight is what everyone in the precinct is talking about.

Enzo thinks about that question. Enzo knows Gene means that anyone would happened to be there was having their career and life ruined. It was lucky not to be there.

No, Enzo thought to himself, he wished he was there. Had he been there, he would have told the others to go by the rules. He also believes they would have listened to and respected the wishes of an honest officer. Enzo would have stopped it from happening, and there would have been no hard feelings. A head bump getting the suspect in the police car, that would have been alright. They all knew what the line was. When another officer calls you out on crossing the line, you don’t cross the line.

“Yeah, guess I am glad I wasn’t there” Enzo replies. No sense is getting into a long debate with Gene over this. Gene liked to find things to argue over. That was Gene’s manner of being.

“I need to talk to you both”, Lieutenant Zack Orno firmly states as he waves Enzo and Gene over.

Enzo is always happy to listen to what Lieutenant Orno has to say. Enzo soaks up what other officers provide, especially those with more experience.

“There are rumors the grand jury is coming down with more indictments in this Julian Gray matter”, Lieutenant Orno announces.

Enzo feels sorry that some more of his friends may have their lives turned around before the day ends.

“The grand jury is looking into cops giving extra favors for Sal’s. They extended the investigation into dishonest cops getting free meals from Sal’s. I hear there may be a few indictments in this precinct” Orno continues, “this is just a heads uo.”

Enzo feels the blood draining from his face. He realizes it could be him whose life is about to be turned around. Enzo, the good, honest, faithful police officer, could well become known as Enzo, the dirty cop. Enzo, the cop who disgrace his family’s honor by going to jail. Enzo, who could be going to jail.

Enzo and Gene start work. They barely speak to each other. They do not have to speak. They already know what each other is thinking. How extensive are these indictments going to be? Neither of us ever gave any special favors for Sal. Granted, we ate some free meals there. But not many, really. Honest. We weren’t like others who ate there all the time.

Enzo and Gene start their patrol.

A call comes through of a pedestrian lying on the street. Enzo pus the sirens and flashing lights on. It makes no difference. Traffic in Manhattan does not move even for a police car. “Their pizza must be getting cold” is probably what most people think when they see those police lights and hear those sirens.

Inching forward, finally some cars in front drive through the red light and pull over to the side to let Enzo and Gene pass. Just as Gene begins to speed through the intersection, a speeding delivery truck barrels through in front. Gene sees the truck in plenty of time and applies the brakes. Maybe the driver was deaf and could not hear the sirens. And maybe the driver was blind and could not see the flashing lights. Gene would have gone after the truck and given him a speeding ticket, but the hurt pedestrian comes first.

The light turns green and the cars around Gene pull forward, even though there is not enough room to make it across. The block is boxed. The sounds of angry horns fill the air.

The patrol car creeps slowly towards its destination. About a block away, Enzo spots the problem. A crowd of people gather in the middle of the street blocking several lanes. “Must be where the HBC is” Enzo notes, using a short term for “hit by car”.

Enzo exits the car. No chance of getting hit in the middle of this stalled traffic. Enzo carries an emergency kit to the scene.

Enzo looks and thinks to himself “same old story”. A crowd of people stare at a bleeding man and not one of them knows how does anything useful. What is so interesting about a bleeding person, anyway? Who really wants to see that? Why don’t these people move on along with their lives.

“Excuse me, ma’am” Enzo states as he rushes past same woman strangely dressed in a bright orange jacket, accidentally brushing against her in an effort to get to the injured person. Enzo looks and realizes the guy looks bad. In Manhattan, cars seldom travel fast. A person usually survives getting hit by a car This guy looks real bad.

Enzo works to stop the bleeding. He has lost a lot of blood.Enzo hears the ambulance sirens in the distance yet he knows the ambulance is also stuck in traffic. The ambulance is not going to make it in time.

The hurt pedestrian regains consciousness. He silently says something to Enzo. Then the guy’s head hits the ground.

He’s dead, Enzo concludes.

Gene rushes up behind Enzo. Enzo checks for a pulse. Gene puts his hand underneath the guy’s nose to feel if he is breathing.

“He’s gone” Enzo announces.

“Yeah” Gene concurs.

Paramedics arrive with a stretcher. “Looks like this one’s going to the morgue” one of them declares.

Enzo and Gene walk back towards their car. “That guy looked really weird” Gene observes.

“Yeah”, Enzo reflects, “must have been some kind of whack job.”

“What did he say to you?” Gene asks.

“It didn’t make any sense”, Enzo, “He asked if I watched some TV show, you know, the one with that dog.”

“You mean Beethoven?” Gene suggests.

“Nah, the other one”, Enzo responds. “It is amazing what people think of in their last moment on  Earth.”

Other than that, the rest of the shift was mostly routine stuff. Today was just like any other day. As the shift ends and they return to precinct headquarters, Enzo tells himself today is just going to be an ordinary day, just like any other It has to be, right?

Enzo enters the police station. Some faces looks solemn. “Who died?” Enzo thinks to himself.

Enzo happily spots an old friend Ernie Rabinsky in the room. Ernie and he were tight together at the Police Academy. He had no seen Ernie much since then. Enzo walks over to good old Ernie. It should be nice to get caught up.

Ernie walks up to Enzo. Ernie looks serious. “Enzo Gallati, you are under arrest, you have the right to...”

At that moment, Enzo knew everything in life he hoped for was over. The words Ernie spoke did not penetrate. Enzo’s brain was too busy crafting the words of his suicide note.

****************************************************************************************************”It will be fun”, Lillian announces, pushing her roommate Francine towards the door.

“These events are your thing” Lillian protests, “you go ahead and enjoy without me.”

Lillian could foretell how the evening would go. Same as it always goes. That would go to some night club. Lillian would dance with lots of hot guys throughout the night. The guys would buy Lillian lots of free drinks. Sometimes Lillian would get a guy to also buy a drink for Francine. Francine would spend the night sitting at a table. Every now and then, some guy would ask Francine to dance. Yet it was a pity ask. They never asked for a second dance.

Francine would pretend to await until Lillian was ready to share a cab ride home. Only Lillian usually vanished Francine would take the cab ride back to SoHo alone. She would sleep soundly until the familiar sounds of Lillian regurgitating in the bathroom would awaken her.

Indeed, this evening went as scheduled.

Francine awakes and makes coffee. Lillian, hair and clothing going in several directions, sits and tells about a guy, an electric blanket, a water bed, and something about sensual electric shocks. Or at least that is what the guy claimed they were.

Once again, Lillian simultaneously gleefully related her latest sexual adventures while sadly knowing she not only would likely never see the guy (and sometimes several guys) again, but she has already forgotten their names. Sometimes she would run across one of them again in a club. She could only remember them by what they did, not who they are. “Why, hello, toe sucker...” was how she greeted the last familiar nameless face.

Francine half listens to some story about tantric something or other as she drinks her black coffee. Even her coffee is bland. “Will I ever find someone?” Francine thinks to herself. “How is it so easy for Lillian to get guys and I never do?”

Then Francine answers her own thoughts. She looks at her body. Her ugly body. Her breasts that are small and different sizes. Her nose that is a bit too big. Her straight hair that lifelessly remains flat at all times. Her belly that could lose those ten pounds that never come off, not matter what. She had tried it all. She had eaten nothing but grapefruit once for a whole week. Lost maybe a couple of pounds, but that was it. Francine now looks with spiteful hatred at the sight of any grapefruit.

Lillian has that vibe. Her shoes scream out “come jerk off on top of my naked breasts while I do naked sit ups blindfolded.” Her dress has hypnotic removal instructions. Her underwear, that is, when she wears underwear, is barely large enough to actually be considered physical objects.

Francine tried borrowing some of Lillian’s dresses. It made no difference. Francine could arrive dressed as a nun and guys would scramble over who got to take her home. In fact, Lillian did dress as a nun once, and scored easily several times that evening. Lillian swears one of the guys was a rabbi in real life. At least the rabbi was open to other views.

Francine leaves for work. She puts on her bright orange jacket. It is cold outside and the orange jacket is best at keeping her warm.

“Why do you wear that awful thing?” Lillian asks, slurring her words, “that thing is so bright you look like a miniature sun.”

Francine wore it to stand out on New Year’s Day. She thought if she wore it and got separated from her friends that they could find her by looking for a bright orange jacket. Of course, when she and Lillian were separated neither could see more than the people around them so they never found each other until each went back to the apartment. Lillian returned with tales of sexual escapes while standing with her suggestively opened coat in Times Square surrounded by a million people. At least Francine had friends swear that when they saw the Times Square crowd on television that they could see a little orange dot on their screen.

The elevator is slow. Elevators are always slow. Francine reads how the elevator inspection notice is available in the office. Francine wonders if anyone ever asks to see the notice. Do you just walk in and announce “hi, I want to read your elevator inspection notice.” She guesses that is how it would be done. She decides to give it and try and see what happens. Then she changes her mind. Wanting to read an elevator inspection notice has to be rock bottom, right?

She exits and sees Kirk. She doesn’t know his last name. Kirk is kind of average but sort of cute. Kirk nods at her. Francine giggles back at him and scurries off.

As she rushes for the subway, she tells herself “stupid, stupid, stupid.” Say “hello” to the guy. Her minds wanders as she passes an elderly heavyset woman who is slowing things down. As she walks to the woman’s right, she bumps into some total stranger. “Hey, watch it, sister” she murmurs to the inconsiderate woman who narrowly pushed her over. New Yorkers are often rude, especially when it gets close to the start of the workday.

So many bosses expect people to arrive to work in time. They accept no excuses. Yet these bosses also go through city traffic. They know somedays it takes twenty minutes to get to work, somedays it takes an hour. “Well, you should have considered that probability when you left for work” is the standard reply to arriving at work late due to some unforeseen subway event.

Once the subway car shut down for two hours. “Well, you should have considered that probability when you left for work”. Well, to do that, idiot, I would have to come to work two hours early every day. Francine hates her boss.

Today is a rarity. The subway arrives just as does Francine. It is crowded and Francine realizes there is not enough room to enter. No problem. Francine shoves herself inside just as the door closes. She feels the door brush against her and prays it closes. If it does not close, some recorded voice coms on telling people not to block the door. If the door reopens, she knows the scorn of anonymous faces will likely shove her off the train. The door closes. Even when there is no more room on a subway, New Yorkers find a way to make room for just one more.

Francine exits the subway at 23rd. She rushes to work. Good, she notes, she is ahead of schedule. Francine notes people are standing in a circle in the middle of the road. None of them are moving despite incessant honking of car horns. They must be looking at something interesting. Curiosity gets the better of her. Francine has to find out what is so interesting.

Francine rushes to the crowd and finds what she guesses it was. Some guy is bleeding. A lot. People move away to not let the stream of blood soak their shoes. “Who wants to see this?” Lillian thinks to herself, mesmerized by what she sees.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a cop brushes her aside. They always brush aside the ugly women. The cute blonde women never get brushed aside by cops. “Excuse me, ma’am” the cop says not even looking at her. “Ma’am, he thinks I am a ma’am?” Lillian seethes at the cop and understands how uncaring cops like this one probably engage in police brutality.

Francine looks at the crowd. They all seem so caring and afraid for the well being of this total stranger. She wishes people she knew would someday look upon her with the same looks of caring for her well being.

Francine glances at her watch and realizes she now is late. She rushes to work. A car almost hits her. “I’m walking here, I’m walking here” Francine parodies to the driver.

Francine enters the building, just missing one of two elevators. She then sees a sign taped to other elevator proudly announcing that the other elevator is not operating. After a wait for an entire eternity of four minutes, the elevator returns. From behind here, a flood of people all talking amongst themselves enter and politely indicate to Francine for her to step aside so they can all fit onto the elevator. At first Francine does not object as she thinks there are only a couple of them. She then looks back at horror as the entire elevator fills with this in crowd. The doors slam shut as one of the group has no room to fit. Even in New York friends will abandon you if there is no room on the elevator.

As the door shuts, someone says to the left behind guy “you should plan ahead for such things like that to happen.” There is laughter in the elevator. The guy left behind is not laughing.

Francine listens to what she assumes are swear words in some language she does not know. An eternity of five minutes passes until the elevator returns.

The elevator doors open. Only Francine and the foreign cursor enter. The morning rush hour to work is over. Lillian is late. The foreigner is still cussing.

The elevator door opens and Francine rushes to her desk.

“You’re late” Francine’s boss announces.

“I could not help it”, Francine responds, “some guy was run over by a truck.” She realizes this is not an acceptable excuse. “I got delayed giving the police my statement.”

“Is the guy OK?” her boss asks.

“How would I know”, Francine answers, “I had to rush off to work.”

The boss finds that an acceptable answer.

Francine sits at her desk waiting for the phone to ring. Today, the phone does not ring. Not even once. Eight million people in this city and not one call? Lillian realizes her job is as boring as her life. Francine spends most of the day repeating to herself the strange words she learned from the foreigner. Her boss walks behind her without her realizing it until she hears him yell “I heard that!”

Well, that word must be effective.

The air is cold but the heat of the masses on a subway is hot. Francine removes her jacket. To her amazement, an elderly gentleman offers her his seat. This rarely happens in New York City, and when it does, it is always an elderly gentleman. Francine feels a bit guilty as it looks more like the old man should be sitting rather than her. Still, Francine is tired enough to take the offer. She knows if she doesn’t act fast some man in a three piece suit will determine the seat is officially up for grabs. Then the guy in he three pice suit, who is also the most healthy person of everyone on this subway, will wind up sitting simply because he believes it should be deemed by social standing that guys in three piece suits should get preferential seating.

Francine falls asleep and awakens just as the doors to her stop begin to close. Francine rushes ahead and stops the doors from closing. The people around her groan at her as the doors reopen along with the canned message warning people not to block the doors, Francine rushes out just as she remembers she left her orange coat on the subway.

The doors close. Any effort of Francine to reopen the doors again is met with group hatred. Goodbye, orange coat. It was nice being with you while it lasted.

Francine returns home bored and dead tired. Somehow Lillian looks like she made it to her job and back and then returned home and then managed to get ten hours of beauty sleep and six hours of applying make up. But then, six hours of make up for Francine is to what is natural for Lillian.

“There is this new underground dance club that opened down the street today”, Lilian announces. Francine believes Lillian will cease to breathe if there ever was a single dance club in Manhattan that she missed entering.

Lillian and Francine enter the new place. Lillian is intrigued by the nuanced artistic decorations this club offers, Lillian looks and determines this place looks sort o like all the others.

Francine sits at a table watching Lillian dance with two men. Francine determines that Lillian is seeking a threesome while the two men are seeking a twosome without Francine.

A slow song comes on. The dance floor clears. No one dances a slow dance.

Lillian returns to the table, minus two guys. “Would you like to dance?” Francine hears the words loudly and clearly and determines the guy needs to speak louder for Lillian to hear them.

“Francine, would you like to dance?”

Francine is startled She looks up and sees Kirk.

“Sure”. For a moment, Francine wonders how she answered that without speaking until she realizes Lillian answered for her.

Kirk grasps Francine’s hand as he helps her to her feet.

Kirk holds Francine close while they dance. No one has ever held her so close. Kirk gently massages her back and pulls her even closer.

The music lifts Francine. Kirk and her may be the only people on the dance floor, but it does not matter. Kirk and her may be the only people dancing in the entire world. Nothing else matters.

The dance lasts an eternity of three minutes. Kirk and Francine last an eternity.

Sandra looks at her bright, new office at the New York Post.

OK, Sandra Post always dreamed it would be the New York Times. But the Post would do. Even if it was ironic that she was now working for her namesake.

Sandra would try and tell strangers that she not only works for the New York Post but that her family, the Posts, owned the paper for several generations. They finally sold it to Rupert Murdoch because they felt sorry for him. Plus, they sold it knowing newspapers would decline. “Our family took the money and run. But I write there and consult because, well, it still is in our family blood.”

Sandra enjoys her moment of glory. There was the two paragraph story on the bike thieves in Queens. Then there was the four paragraph article on the kangaroo that was running wild in Staten Island. Who even has a kangaroo for a pet? How does one even get a kangaroo for a pet? How does one even loose a kangaroo? Do you leave the front door open, forgetting you have a kangaroo?

She almost got to interview the Deputy Mayor once. Yet the evening before the interview he died of a stroke. Her big interview, and the Deputy Mayor messes up her career like that.

One overriding thought consumes Sandra. Repaying the loans for four years of attending New York University frightens her. Some nights it keeps her awake. She does not earn enough as a journalist to repay them. One can not legally default on student debt.It follows you for the rest of your life, and even afterwards it eats your estate after you die.

Is there a future in journalism? The profession not only is not lucrative, it has an uncertain future. Some predict the streets of New York will be littered with the remains of unemployed journalists begging for food. But don’t give them any money. That would only go straight to the college loan company.

Her parents keep telling her to go to law school. They pretend to be supportive by stating “you can always do journalism on the side, maybe write for a law journal after you become a partner.” The thought of going to law school only means one thing to Sandra: Even more student loan debt.

Of course, Sandra really wants to be an author. She wrote a mystery novel. She spent her entire four years of college writing and rewriting it. To her, it had lovable characters placed in ever growing dangers filled with plot twists galore. She could see it as a movie, and then a television series, and then a series of movies based on the television series, followed by several television spin-offs leading, of course, to even more movie deals. This may not be the great American novel, but it was the great Bronx mystery.

Sandra submitted the novel in her Writing class. Of course, they would think she created this masterpiece in a few months. She would keep it secret that she has endlessly tweaked and created more twists and surprises over several years of rewrites.    Sandra then realized what an idiot her teacher was when she received a B+ grade for her novel. She was even more amazed when the teacher actually thought that was a good grade that showed that Sandra had promise. Sandra thought to herself “Promise? I don’t have promise. I have achievement right here in front of me, not promise.”

Sandra drinks coffee at a Starbucks. When she shows off Manhattan to people from out of town, she pretends to point out the first Starbucks she sees by proclaiming “oh, look, a Starbucks.” People from out of town seem impressed whenever a city is big enough to support a Starbucks. Every time she sees a Starbucks, she again feigns a surprised “oh, look, there is another Starbucks” and repeats this until the out of town guests realize that, at least at this time in history, there are a lot of Starbucks in Manhattan.

“Hello?” Sandra answers her cell phone while drinking a venti decaf maple vanilla fudge brownie drink that may actually include some coffee. “Yeah, it was not a celebrity who died in that pedestrian accident” Sandra answers.”Whoever called in and said it was Howard Stern who was killed was pulling our leg.”

Sandra pulls out her notes and relays the information to the writer. “His name was Robert Belloni. He was born in Queens and attended Bedford Stuyvesant High School. His parents told me he was a bright and eager student who excelled in wood work. Some of his works were used in local theater productions. It was tragic. His parents stated he was considering becoming a dentist someday. Well, another promising life snuffed out in this cruel city....”

Sandra realizes her writer has hung up. She is not certain for how long she has been talking to herself. Probably since she announced it was not Howard Stern who had been run over. She has spent several hours working on a story when there is no story there.

Sandra sneaks off to see William Lando, a big Round Publishers book publishing company executive. A few nights ago, Sandra had cornered Lando at a Post fundraiser for something, or maybe it was against whatever it was, and she got Lando to promise to look at her script. Sandra figured to wait a couple of days, so she did not look pushy, and then she would go to William Ladno’s office and give him the script.

As she stands, some jerk bumps into Sandra. Tiny specs of decaf maple vanilla fudge brownie coffee sprinkle across her blouse. “Great”, Sandra thinks to herself, “I am on my way to what could be the most important meeting in my life and I have Starbucks spilled all over me.”

Sandra enters William Lando’s office. William Lando sprints out of his office just as she enters. “William”, Sandra announces “how are you doing?”

The entire secretarial pool and Mr. Lando momentarily freeze at the sight of someone who dares address Mr. Lando as “William”.

“Remember me?” Sandra greets extending her arm, “Sandra Post from the New York Post.”

“Oh, yes”, Mr. Lando recalls, shaking her hand, “what may I do for the New York Post?.”

“You mentioned that I could drop off this submission” Sandra explains as she extends a large sized envelope towards Mr Lando.

“You are an agent? And who is the writer?” Mr. Lando inquires as he grabs the envelope.

“Oh, I am the writer”, Sandra responds, “I don’t have an agent, as yet. but I....”

Mr. Lando hurriedly returns the package to Sandra. “I can not take this” he explains “we have strict, legal procedures to protect ourselves. We accept manuscripts only from agents. That is for your protection as well as ours, to avoid any lawsuits....”

“But you said to bring the novel...”Sandra protests.

“I am sorry”, Mr. Lando continues, “yet I had presumed you were an agent.”

Mr. Lando gently grabs Sandra’s shoulder and slowly glides her towards the exit. “Once you get a bona fide book agent, please have the agent send me your manuscript.”

Sandra feels embarrassment, bitterness, and anger. How can she have fallen for the meaningless promise made at a reception that is never meant to be acted upon? She thinks back and has no recollection of Mr. Lando asking if she were an agent. In fact, she is certain she made it clear it  was “her book”, not,, “hi, I am an agent and have I got a book for you.”

Sandra calls her office. She does not feel well. She is sick and is going home.

Sandra grabs a subway back to Brooklyn. She realizes that several years of her life in total will be spent on a subway, She sees an empty seat held by a bright orange coat. She lifts the coat and asks if this is anyone’s coat. No one claims the coat. Sandra is more interested in the vacant seat than the coat. If the coat belongs to no one, then the seat is hers. She clings to the orange coat, as if declaring that whoever bears the orange coat bears the right to sit in this seat.

Sandra closes her eyes and rests them. She hears a creepy male voice state “nice orange coat.” Wow, she thinks, isn’t that just about the worst pick up line ever?

Sandra partially opens her eyes so she may decide to quickly close them again and pretend she is asleep. She needs to first ascertain that the guy is not some creep who looks like he might follow her home and chop her into many pieces. She also wants to ascertain that the creepy voice might actually belong to some hunk she would want to take him and risk being chopped into pieces.

Her eyes quickly open wide. “You’re Simon Pendlebrook.”

Simon Pendlebrook is surprised because in all his life he has been recognized by, well, this is the first time a total stranger has recognized him.

“You own that mystery publishing house, oh, what is it called?” Sandra tries to come up with the name.

“Simon Pendlwbrook Publishers”, Simo Pendlebrook informs her.

“Yes, thats it”, Sandra enthusiastically agrees, until she realizes that her reaction should not be that enthusiastic as the fact that Simon Pendlebrook knows the name of his own publishing company.

“I attended a seminar you spoke at NYU about publishing mystery novels” Sandra explains.

“Ah, yes”, Simon states, “I definitely remember that particular seminar because, well, that was the only seminar in which I have ever spoken.” Simon laughs.

Sandra laughs, She figures culture and decorum requires her to laugh,

“So you were one of the four students who attended that seminar?” Simon inquires.

“Indeed I was. In fact, you so inspired me that I went off and I wrote a mystery novel”. Sandra tells him. It is a lie that he was her inspiration, but Simon does not need to know that.

“Oh, my”, Simon responds, “I feel responsible, like perhaps I have sent a human being into a mission where there is little reward.”

“No, I loved writing the novel” Sandra explains. This time it is not a lie.

“So, what ever became of this novel?” Simon asks.

Sandra holds up the envelope. “Here it is. Believe it or not, I have it right here. I, ah, was showing it to an agent earlier today and...”

“My, my” Simon notes, “would you mind if I read it?”

Mind? Sandra was about to grab Simon’s legs and plead that he read her novel.

“Why, yes” Sandra replies, “I would love that.”

Simon accepts the package.

Simon Pendlebrook Publishers publishes Sandra’s mystery novel. It sells out five thousand copies.

Sandra goes through life knowing she is a journalist, and a published author. And a debtor.

Sandra always remembers her lucky bright orange coat which helped pay off some of that debt.


Joyce James (yes, that is her name. Her parents thought it was cute. Joyce never once thought it was cute. Especially when she read all the James Joyce books because everyone assumes she knows all about James Joyce, only to realize she hates reading. Anyone. James Joyce. Archie comics.Stephen King. The National Inquirer. Leon Tchaikovsky. Any author.)

Joyce takes another sip of bourbon. She needs to settle her nerves before she leaves da Bronx to catch a bus to catch a subway to work in Manhattan. She spots her bus at the end of the street. Running after it before it pulls away, Joyce bumps into a woman holding a cup of coffee. Coffee spills all over the woman’s dress eliciting a shocked and startled “Hey!?” Joyce doesn’t even look back, shouting back “This is New York, it happens”. Joyce runs and slams against the bus door as it pulls away. The bus ignores her and drives off. Joyce curses. It that stupid woman with the coffee hand’t gotten in her way, she’d have made that bus. Now she has to wait ten minutes to just miss a subway. One second difference in not matching a bus can mean an extra twenty minutes of waiting.

Joyce rubs her coin. A year of pretend sobriety is represented by the coin. She does not tell anyone about her relapses. Not even her sponsor. She always quits after each relapse. She can quit whenever she wants. Which is why she drinks when she feels like it, because she knows she can always quit whenever she wants.

So how does someone who hates reading end up reading for a living? Probably because only a publisher would hire someone named Joyce James.

Joyce has her job figured out. It is her job to read manuscripts. She gets to decide which of these should go to the next level for serious consideration for publication by people who actually know their job. Her part is easy. Manuscript submissions are a huge pile of drivel written by fake intellectuals exposing some secret of their life that no one really cares about. There are two kinds of writers. Those who never learned how to write. Their stuff is just awful. Then there are those who learned to write. Their stuff is unreadable except by maybe a few hundred others who also learned how to write.

Joyce pretends to stare at pages intently, sometimes flipping back a few pages as if to reanalyze something written before. She has the look down perfect. The reality is she is looking at pages that appear double as she is drunk. Good drunks know how to hide they are drunk. It is bad drunks who get caught.

At the end of the day, she takes her piles to the secretaries and announces that they are all trash. The secretaries attach a letter stating how wonderful the script is, but it does not suit the needs of Round Publishers.

Of course, Joyce can not send all the manuscripts back. She has to send something ahead, even if she is among the more stingy at approving moving submissions forward. Here, Joyce has it figured out.

At home, Joyce googles the name of the authors who manuscripts she has been given to read. If they have been published before, then chances are this person possesses some talent. Or if the author is unpublished yet won some writing contest in college, then perhaps this could be some bright new name and she would be the person who actually discovers the next Joan Collins.

Of course, she always guardedly approves sending her approved novels forward to the next level. “There was a spark, perhaps we can work with this author” she would state if the author has published before. Or she might say “this isn’t as bad as all the other rubbish, perhaps with a bit more polish we can do something with this one” she would state if it were an award winning unpublished author.

Joyce once saw her career potentially end in flaming failure. She had recommended a fairly confusing story about vampires that flew in space ships to other planets in other galaxies. She misread the young author’s self congratulatory award for an actual award. Somehow those above her approved it as well. The critics were savage. “This may well distinguish itself as the solely worst book ever published in the English language” declared one notable critic. Of all book reviews, there were none favorable in the print media. Word was around the building that heads were going to roll over this.

Yet there was a strong Internet buzz favoring the book. It seems there was a huge market among young book buyers who liked a incomprehensible plot about people who could both suck blood from teenage necks and pilot crafts that fly at speeds greater than the speed of light. The book became Round Publisher’s best book selling book ever and the movie rights make lots more money, even though no movie had yet materialized. A director and actor argued over artistic differences, both pretending there actually was something artistic about this book. Joyce went from the bottom to the top in the eyes of Round Publishing executives.

Joyce staggers into work. “Wow”, Joyce mutters to herself as she steadies her walking. Maybe she had a bit too much bourbon this morning. She probably shouldn’t have also opened and tasted that bottle of schnapps. She had just wanted a sip, to see what it tasted like.

Joyce twirls her seat to sit on it, sits, and slides off her chair. Joyce laughs, hoping people think she just had some comedic mishap. “Me, drunk, never. I haven’t had a drink in over a year” Joyce is prepared to answer anyone who asks.

Joyce stands and carefully sits in the chair. It is obvious to those around here that only a drunk person is that careful in sitting on a chair.

Joyce smells her breathe. It smells like schnapps. Which is good, she concludes, as that might smell like toothpaste or mouthwash.

Joyce pretends to read something. She does not even know what it is. She falls asleep. If anyone wakes her, she will blame the boring manuscript and toss it immediately into the rejection pile.

Joyce hears someone call Mr. Lando “William”. That snaps Joyce awake. No one, ever calls Mr. Lando “William”. Even when Mr Lando’s wife calls, she asks to speak to “Mr. Lando.”

The only person who could ever possibly get away with calling Mr Lando “William” has got to be his hooker, Joyce decides. Joyce has to see what this prostitute looks like. Joyce sees she wears a hideously jacket. “That must be what hookers wear these days” Joyce concludes, “I hope she starts wearing something else.”

She can’t quite make out the conversation yet she can tell Mr. Lando is throwing the woman out. Joyce whispers aloud “imagine the gall of that woman thinking she could just show up at his workplace.” Those who hear Joyce ignore her.

Joyce laughs to herself.”I bet even Mrs Lando has to call him Mr Lando in bed. Oh, take me, Mr. Lando I’m yours. Please put your little Mr. Lando inside me.” Joyce laughs out loud at her own joke, bending down in laughter. As she rises, she sees Mr. Lando standing in front of her, angry, with his arms crossed, staring right at her.

Joyce tries to think. “Did I just say that out loud?”

“Miss James, will you please step into my office?” Mr Lando commands more than asks.

Joyce quickly decides her panicked plan of action to keep everything as a joke. “OK, William, but only if it is time for my spanking.”

Mr Lando does not laugh.

Joyce follows Mr Lando into his office.

“Joyce, we care about you. I want you to know, first, your job is safe, but on one condition”, Mr. Lando explains “it is obvious you have been drinking. In fact, we have noticed signs for some time.”

Joyce hangs her head in shame.

“I know the recidivist rate of alcohol dependency is high” Mr. Lando continues. “It often takes several attempts to overcome a dependency. Even then, the possibility of slipping back remains. We want to help. Our insurance will cover your stay at rehabilitation. I want you to complete a stay at rehabilitation services. When you have done that, your job will still be here waiting for you.”

Joyce is happy that someone is supportive in her time of trouble.

Joyce completes rehab. She briefly slips again yet quickly rehabilitates herself again. She returns to her job. While no one ever catches on to her schemes, at least she is able to read the pages and every now and then actually does some reading.

She googles the name of a submission by Sandra Post and sees she has been published before by Simon Pendlebrook Publishers. She has submitted something about how a homicide detective becomes a serial killer and solves his murders by always blaming someone else. She moves her submission forward. Mr. Lando was on vacation that week and when he returns he remembers the name Sandra Post yet does not feel strongly enough about her to object to the recommendation they publish her novel. It sells moderately well. The film rights sell. The movie is never made as the director and sound editor argue over artistic differences.


Alice does live here.

Alice Dannenmeir awakens glad to see the sunlight. She could not sleep. New York City is confusing and scary during the daytime. Her fears soared even more during the evening.

Alice dejectedly looks at her apartment. It is old, dirty, and quite small. It does not even come with a shower, which she now shared with total strangers down the hall. Alice is convinced she will be raped someday while showering.

She closes her eyes and hopes this is all worth it. She told herself she would be willing to live in rattrap of an apartment until she made it big in acting. All she needs is a bed to sleep on. She looks down and sees she shares the be with numerous bugs. She quickly jumps up and makes a strong mental note to purchase lots of bug spray.

One thing Alice did not expect was that finding a place she could afford meant accepting a place she could barely afford. This apartment cost twice what her apartment in Des Moines was. Her Des Monies apartment was four times the size of this apartment. With its own shower. And bathtub.

There is no bathtub down the hall.

Alice knows she has what it takes to be a star. She had acted for four years in local and regional Iowa theater. She went to lots of casting calls and almost always won the lead role. Even when she did not win the female lead, she was always offered another decent part. She knew how to handle casting calls. She knew how to dazzle them and get the parts.

Alice peaks down the hallway. She waits until no one is there. She quickly runs to the bathroom wearing sweat pants and a sweat shirt, which smell of sweat, carrying her toiletries. Alice showers as quickly as she believes is the minimum she can do. She considers using the toilet but determines there has to be a cleaner toiler somewhere else. She quickly changes back into the sweat pants and swat shirt and runs back. “Next time, take a clean change of clothes” she notes, although she doubts the half a minute she has them on will matter too much.

Alice dresses and slinks out her apartment building. There are too many “different” people everywhere. Even though they are speaking English, she has trouble understanding what they are saying. She thinks someone spoke to her but she kept walking ignoring whoever it was.

“Oh, look there is a Starbucks” Alice joyfully observes. At least, the first sign of civilization in this neighborhood. Alice enters and asks for the key to the restroom. “Customers only” the barista replies.

“I am going to order something” Alice replies, offended at the insinuation that she is a bathroom freeloader.

“Then order something.”

Alice orders a double shot espresso Columbian bean coffee with strawberry whipped cream. “Something light for first thing in the morning” Alice decides.

Alice picks up her drink and the key to the restroom. She gets to the restroom. A worker places an “out of order” sign on the door. “It is out of order” the employee announces, assuming Alice might possibly not be able to read English.

“But I have to go” Alice whines.

“Then go” the employee responds, “but you can’t go here. It’s backed up.”

Alice wanders outside,trying to determine where the nearest public bathroom might be. She had around observing she has never seen so many blocks and blocks of high rise apartments. “How do people live here?” Alice asks herself. “How am I going to live here?”

A running woman bumps into her, causing her drink to spill all over her dress. She spontaneously responds “Hey!” expecting an apology to be forthcoming. All she hears the woman remark is “This is New York, it happens.” Or, at least she hopes she heard the word “it”. Alice realizes there will be no apology.

Alice looks at the spill and hopes the casting people won’t see the stains. Alice makes her way to the bus stop. She opens her transit map and tries to figure out what to do next.

Alice gets on a crowded bus. She sees people pull on a cord to request stops. She sees her stop and pulls the cord. The bus does not stop. “I need to get off” Alice yells.

“This is an express” comes a voice from somewhere in the crowd. The bus finally stops Alice gets off and walks back to where she wanted to be. Alice studies her map some more. She gets on another bus. She gets off at the subway station. She is confused when the stairs go upwards. She thought subways were below the ground.

Alice gets on a “D” train. After the doors close, Alice studies her map some more. She is confused as she can not find the subway station names on the map. “How long before this train gets to Times Square?” she asks people sitting across from her.

“You are going in the wrong direction” comes the reply, “you want the train on the other tracks.”

Alice gets off at the next station, exits, and goes to the other side of the street. She pays another fare. After she re-enters the station, she realizes she could have walked to the other side at the station without exiting and paying another fare.

Alice exits as Times Square. Having no idea where to go, she follows a large group of people who seem to know where they are going. She makes her way above ground.

Times Square. The most visited place on the planet. She looks around in total awe. She is momentarily paralyzed, This is not Des Moines. How does anyone ever figure out where anything is in this place?

She sees the hugh billboards for various Broadway plays. Alice relaxes. “This is where I want to be” Alice decides, “this is what I have come for.”

Alice excitedly turns and bumps into a total stranger. The stranger appears dazzled. “This is New York, it happens” she explains using what she has recently learned to some obvious out of towner.

Alice arrives at the audition. She is horrified. She has never seen so many people at a casting call, ever. She has never seen so many beautiful women in one place before. Alice is momentarily despondent as she realizes she is no one special. There are lots of good looking talented people here. They all certainly have more experience than she. She imagines them all laughing if she tells them her stage triumphs were in Iowa.

“What were you last in” the woman next to her asks.

“Pippin” Alice replies.

“I was in Pippin” another woman responds. The woman looks Alice over. “I don’t remember you.”

“It was the touring company” Alice answers.

“I was in the touring company” still another woman announces.

Alice moves preemptively. “That was several years ago” Alice explains.

Alice watches as woman after woman vanishes into a room and later emerges. Some appear happy when then exits. Others appear frustrated.

“Alice Dannemaier”.

Alice hears her name. As she walks into the room, she suddenly remembers she has not found a bathroom all morning. She is momentarily terrified her first audition will end in literal disaster. She takes a deep breathe and tells herself to concentrate on what needs to be done.

Alice recites some lines. Alice signs. As Alice pours her heart out singing, she hears the voice of one of the men sitting behind the table yell “a little slower, please”.

Alice’s heart drops. They hate her singing, she surmises Already she is doing it wrong and they are tearing her singing apart. Alice sings a little slower.

“Could you sing it with a little deeper voice?” the same anonymous voice behind the table requests.

Alice realizes everything is a disaster. They hate her voice, they want to change her voice, she is failing, she tells herself.

Alice sings, deepening her voice.

Alice hears the words knowing it is all over. “Thank you.”

Alice leaves the room dejected. She now understands why others look dejected when they leave. One of the happy faces she saw earlier will get the part. Probably one of the really pretty ones.

Alice turns and asks frantically “does anyone know where the bathroom is?”

Alice rushes to the bathroom. She throws up into the toilet.

Alice goes home. She has a pint of ice cream for dinner. Her phone rings.

“Alice Dannemaier?” the voice on the other end of the line asks, “we’d like to offer you the role of...”

Alice jumps up and down with joy and hopes the voice on the other end can not hear her jumping and presume she is some weird jumping woman. It is not the part for which she auditioned. It is a much smaller role.

Still, it is a role on Broadway. She actually got a role on Broadway, on her very first audition.

Alice Dannemaier, soon to appear on Broadway.

Alice decides to get an apartment with its own shower.


Ned rushes to Sal’s Pizza, “the best pizza in Queens”. How Sal claimed that honor is always a mystery as Sal used the same ingredients which distributors deliver to lots of other pizza joints. Maybe they all, together, are the best.

Ned promises every day that tomorrow he will arrive on work on time. As Ned has figured out, tomorrow is always tomorrow.

“You’re late” Ernie Hikabert announces to Ned, something Ernie has take on as his usual role to announce to Ned the obvious.

“Screw you” Ned mumbles back to Ernie.

“If you do”, Ernie retorts searching for a comeback, “be certain you’re wearing a hair net.” Ernie keeps his hair short and shaped by his barber. Ernie’s long hair defies gravity and falls in different directions.

Ned unsuccessfully tries to push out his everyday thoughts. How did he wind up working eight years in a pizza place? Where is his life going? Is he ever going to get out of working at Sal’s Pizza, the best pizza in Queens.” Is he going to be in Queens his entire life? Ned has never set foot in Manhattan. Some day, he plans on doing it. He is no rush.

Ned has a new worry. He owes Vince twenty bucks. Twenty bucks may not seem like a lot of money to most people. Yet after rent, groceries, and heat, and what Ned makes at Sal’s, he is lucky if he has eight bucks a month to just blow on frivolities. It would take him three months to make twenty bucks. Vince wants the money now. Vince is not nice when Vince does not get his money. Vince sees to it that it is worthwhile to pay Vince when he wants to be repaid.

Ned worries about the beating he is going to get if he can’t repay Vince. He has been thinking all month of a way to get twenty bucks. Ned figured he could borrow it from someone else. Ned learned none of his friends have twenty bucks to lend. He asked his deadbeat relatives yet most of them won’t even return his phone calls. Fine family support.

Ned imagined he could find quick work and earn the twenty bucks. He asked around and found nothing. He prayed for a miracle. Maybe he would find the money on the side of a road. He did find a quarter, a dime, and three pennies on the sidewalk. That is not enough.

“Hey, can you help me with this register” Ernie yells, “it’s jammed again.”

Ned knows just where to hit the cash register to get the door to open. For some reason, Ernie has never mastered this skill.

Right as the door opens, Ernie has a sneezing fit. Without forethought, Ned sees Ernie facing away, sneezing his nose off. Ned looks down at the money, and he reacts quickly. He grabs a twenty dollar bill and rolls it into his hand. Ned slowly stuffs his hand and releases the bill into his pants pocket.

“Fixed it” Ned announces, “and bless you.”

A whole shift of making pizzas gets Ned’s mind wandering. What happens when Sal discovers the register is short? Did someone see him take the twenty? Will they figure out it is him? Will he get fired? If he gets fired, he doubts he could find another job quickly enough to pay expenses. He heard maybe one can go three months not paying rent. Yet that means he would become homeless in time for winter.

Ned envisions himself frozen to death in a snow drift.

Vince enters Sal’s. Ned is upset as this is not the time nor place to have this meeting. Vince orders an extra cheese pizza. “Smother it in cheese”, Vince requests. “I love to smother things” Vince announces while winking at Ned.

Vince sit and waves Ned over. “I’m working” Ned replies.

“This will only take a minute” Vince commands. One does not deny Vince.

Ned rushes over to Vince.

“I have to run to Jersey tonight” Vince explains. “and I thought you would have something for me before I go.”

“Now?” Ned asks, “Here? No, let’s go outside.”

“Yes, now, here” Vince states firmly. “We go outside, you’re going to run away. If we have to go outside, you are coming back in with a broken arm.”

Ned quickly reaches into his pocket, pulls out the twenty dollar bill, and hands it to Vince.

Vince grabs the twenty. “Thank you” Vince tells Ned, “nice doing business with you.”

Ned is panicking Surely Ernie saw that. When the register comes up twenty dollars short tonight, even Ernie, not exactly the brightest scholar in Queens, should be able to piece together where the missing twenty went.

Ned returns to work sweating and extremely worried. Granted, he avoided a broken arm. Yet he now fears the worse. Ned’s life is about to be over.

As Ned’s shift ends, he returns home. He has trouble sleeping that night.

Tomorrow finally arrives. Ned arrives to work on time. Ned does not know why, yet he figures every little bit of good work helps.

Sal looks downtrodden.

“The cash register was eighty bucks short last night” Sal announces.

Ned thinks to himself. Panic sets in. Not only has Sal figured out he stole the twenty, but Sal is probably now going to try and get even more money out of Ned. Money Ned does not have and has no hope of ever getting. Ned envisions himself in prison.

“I checked the security camera, and guess what I found?” Sal continues.

Ned quickly debates whether an immediate confession would be helpful or not. Ned can not reach a decision as Sal keeps speaking.

“It showed Ernie taking money out of the register as he began his shift”. Sal announces.

Ned is worried. “Did you see anything later in the video...” Ned can see Sal’s confusion over Ned’s questioning. Ned quickly finds a valid reason for his question. “I mean, did he take it all at once, or in bits through the day?”

“What does that matter?” Sal responds. “We caught him red handed. I called the police. They found Ernie with sixty three bucks on him. When has anyone ever seen Ernie with more than ten bucks on him, ever?”

“Yeah, but if he stole eighty bucks, and he’s got his own money” Ned questions, for some reason feeling guilty and finding a need to defend his co-worker, “shouldn’t he have more than eighty bucks on him, not less?”

Ned realizes his stupidity. By trying to defend Ernie, it is making himself a suspect.

“He probably already spent some of it” Sal replies, “what are you, an idiot?”

Ned thinks to himself. No, not an idiot. A criminal. He stole money and they are blaming Ernie for his crime.

Ned thinks and realizes he has dodged a bullet. Ernie is guilty. Ernie stole sixty bucks before he stole twenty. Ernie got caught on film. Ernie got caught with the money. As long as no one reviews the security any further along---and why should then since they already caught their criminal---he is clear.

The day is busy and Ned and Sal work minus one employee. They have done this before and they manage again.

Ned sleeps better.

Ernie gets probation. Ernie leaves the neighborhood.

Ned makes it to Manhattan a few months later. As he exits the subway at Times Square, without seconds of setting foot on Manhattan, some woman barrels right into him. Ned is stunned that she speaks but does not apologize “This is New York. It happens” is what the woman explains.

Ned walks around for a few minutes with no idea in which direction to go.

Ned sees Ernie selling fake good jewelry to unsuspecting tourists. Ernie holds a box with a ring with a $125 price tag. Ned knows you can buy those rings up the street from Sal’s for five bucks.

“We are running a discount today” Ned tells a woman who has stopped to look at the bracelet, “I am not saying this is hot, you know, but I got to unload this, like fast. For you, forty bucks.”

Ned sees the curious buyer reach into her purse and pull out her wallet.

Ned figures he has seen enough on Manhattan.

Ned gets on the subway back to Queens. Ned never leaves Queens again.

****************************************************************************************************Angelica always dreamed of the good life. Fancy apartment. Nice clothes. Shoes, lot of shoes, of all kinds, all top of the line. Marriage. Three children one of each, male, female, and transgender. Each child going to good private schools.

Being a stockbroker will make that all happen, she told herself through college and graduate school. She did what everyone told her she should do. MBA. New York University. Lots of college debt, yet it will all be worth it once she is swimming in money.

Angelica also thought she would have a great husband. She met Ian at fancy bar in lower Manhattan. Ian was going to be a successful attorney. Ian went to Rutgers Law School. He also has a lot of college and law school debt. Yet, no worries. Ian was working hard, actually working 80 hours a week at his firm. Ian was going to make partner, even if it killed him. Of course, Ian figured he would make partner before it did kill them, and then all would be fine.

Angelica realized it was hard dating someone who worked 80 hours a week and tried to fit as much sleep as possible into the other 40 hours that remained. True, they fit lots of meals in together They slept a lot together.

That is it. All they did was sleep. Both were too tired to do much else. She believes they had sex last month, but that might have just been a dream. She wasn’t sure.

Soon, it would all be worth it. All this hard work would pay off, and there would be plenty of time to enjoy life together, raise beautiful children, and, oh, have sex to create those beautiful children.

Something someone should have told Ian is that sleep is important. All the hard work, along with the commute, and fragile mealtime conversations with a girlfriend who babbled on and on about fashion and shoes, subjects that do not particularly interest Ian, meant Ian was working at long hours and barely awake for too long. Ian did not use his awake time productively. Even in the few early hours when Ian was somewhat alert and productive, his work usually did not rise above the ordinary. Ian was an ordinary attorney at a law firm that did not make partners out of the ordinary.

Ian was not going to make partner. Ian was not getting good recommendations. Ian was looking at long hours with a low paying criminal firm, at best.

This was not the prospect Angelica had imagined.

Not that had Angelica imagined the subpoena to testify before a grand jury. Sure, the brokers had not fully disclosed information to customers. Who ever does that? Aren’t laws more or less guidelines to follow after someone catches someone before doing it wrong? How did a few innocuous moves at increasing profits become a felonious crime?

The stock value of her brokerage was crashing. Angelica looked around her office. The world had lost faith in all she viewed. It was announced that another brokerage had bailed out her firm and bought them at twenty dollars a share.

Twenty dollars a share? That was depressing. A few days ago their firm was trading at 140 dollars a share. All the faces were around her had been smiling. Analysts were predicting her company could reach 200 dollars a share by the fiscal year’s end. A stock split was in the planning.

Angelica froze as she realized she had misread news of the selling price. The company to which she had placed all her expectations in life had not been sold for twenty dollars a share. It had been sold for two dollars a share.

She looked around her. The buildings and furnishings in total were worth about two dollars a share. Her company no longer had any value. Even its name no longer carried any value.

Two security officers walked into the room. Everyone in the room looked away knowing what that meant. Everyone in the room was hoping they were not entering the room for them.

Angelica’s heart raced as she watched the security officers walk closer and closer to her. She closed her eyes and imagined they had walked past her. She opened her eyes and saw them standing in front of her. One of them was holding a box.

“Place all your personal belongings, and only your personal items into this box, and please come with us. We will be watching that you place only personal items in the box” one of the guards announced.

Angelica looks and realizes she has few personal items. There is a photograph of Ian. She puts that into the box. She takes her purse out of her desk and throws into into the box. She hears the glass break on Ian’s picture. She uses a key, opens a drawer, and removes a stash of chocolates.

Angelica pauses. That is all she has. Four years of college, two years of grad school, six years working as a stockbroker, and it all comes down to a purse and a broken photograph. At least there are some chocolate.

Angelica exits walking straight ahead. She knows the others are doing the “look, don’t look” at her. She makes her walk of shame knowing how everyone in the room is glad they are not her. She knows that no one in that room will ever think the same of her again. She hopes she never has to see any of them again, ever.

Angelica exits holding the box. She feels the eyes of everyone around her on her. They know what someone holding a box is doing. She decides she won’t be “that person”. She removes her purse and the photograph. She tosses the box and the chocolates into a trash can. The box does not fit yet she shoves it in.

Angelica looks at the broken photograph. It can’t be fixed. She tosses it into the trash.

Angelica can only think of immediate needs. Tomorrow is Ian’s birthday. He wants to see “The Lion King” on Broadway. “The Lion King”? What is he, six years old? He says everyone tells him it is good.

Angelica takes the subway uptown. She gets off and goes to the theater. 

Angelica speaks to the person behind the ticket counter. “What do you mean you have no tickets for tomorrow?” Angelica asks. This is disappointing.

Angelica realized she needs to find a gift for Ian, and fast. She sees some guy selling something. Obviously, the guy has stolen it and is trying to unload it fast. It is a man’s ring. They guy stole it with the price tag still in the box. Doesn’t the thief know they remove those tags when they sell the ring? Stupid thief.

Angelica looks at the box. “We are running a discount today” the guy tells Angelica. Yeah, the five finger discount.

“I am not saying this is hot, you know...” the guy continues.

Yeah, Angelica thinks, because it is hot.

“..but I got to unload this, like fast. For you, forty bucks.”

Angelica looks around, just in case this is some sting operation. As if she can tell what an undercover police officer looks like. Besides, even if she is arrested, this will be the least of her future legal problems.

Angelica buys the ring.

Ian has great news. He has landed a job with a notorious ambulance chasing lawyer. The guy has posters around town. Ian will be part of a very famous New York City law firm after all.

Angelica gives Ian the ring. It is not an engagement ring, or anything like that. It is a promise ring.

The ambulance chaser represents Angelica for a discounted rate. He plea bargains a two year imprisonment deal.

Ian promises to wear the ring and be there for Angelica when she gets out of prison.

The ring turns Ian’s finger green.


Malcolm checks with the temporary agency. No jobs today.

Malcolm look at his parents and wonders if they are proud or disappointed in him. Here he is, 28 years old and he still lives with his parents, both of whom worked as fire fighters.

It is a nice house. Upper middle class, one of the nicer homes on their Staten Island block. Malcolm’s father has a good job at the post office. His mother never had to work. Not that Malcolm’s father would have let her work even if she wanted.

Malcolm loved football. He was All State his junior and senior years in high school. He led the league in tackles his junior year He was leading the league in tackles his senior year, yet he his missed a game after a head injury and another player who played every game took the league tackling title. The team trainer stated he was alright but they sat him out for a game, just to be safe. Malcolm never forgave the trainer for doing that, as it kept him from being the tackles leader.

Malcolm got an athletic scholarship to Fordham. He was surprised to discover he no longer was just about the biggest player on the field as it was in high school. Now all the players were big. They all were strong.

Malcolm worked hard. He wanted to be the tackles leader in college. He wanted to set the all time college record for tackles. He discovered that, like most freshmen, he did not make the varsity team.

Malcolm made the team his sophomore year yet he was not a defensive starter. He was on the special teams. Malcolm was disappointed that all his years of training, exercising, and practicing was not getting him where he wanted. He realized making the pros was no longer possible. He was hoping to at least make it as a defensive starter by his senior year and prove to his teammates he could contribute.

It seemed like a routine play, It was a kickoff, just about like anyone other kickoff, and the poor kickoff receiver zigged and zagged without realizing that Malcolm had his sights on him. Malcolm tackled the ball carrier so hard he momentarily feared he might have hurt the guy. Then Malcolm could feel all around him slip away as Malcolm lost consciousness.

Malcolm awoke in a hospital. The doctors stated Malcolm had had so many concussions that he never realized he had, and that Malcolm’s brain had been battered so often, that Malcolm could never play football. Ever.

Malcolm realized he would never set any collegiate tackles records.

Malcolm dedicated himself to his studies. Yet he found he found trouble concentrating  on what the teachers were lecturing about. Malcolm kept up with his readings even though they gave him headaches. Malcolm worked hard and for awhile was a B average student. Then he found himself slipping into getting only Cs and Ds. Then he failed a few courses.

Malcolm had several seizures. Doctors examined Malcolm. The damage to his brain was far more extensive than they first realized.

Malcolm could not keep up with his schoolwork. Malcolm found his abilities to think and process information diminishing. It was frightening to Malcolm to know his mind was weakening.

It got harder and harder for Malcolm to hold jobs. It became harder and harder for Malcolm to find employment.

At least Malcolm had strong family support. For that, Malcolm was grateful.

The temporary agency found Malcolm steady work as a security guard. Malcolm could not carry any weapons. Yet Malcolm understood how to check locks and watch for intruders. It was good work. Malcolm got to wear a uniform, just like his parents.

One day, the security company asked him to help a company security guard move fired employees out of the building. The company security guards were told what it was that the employees were allowed to remove from the desks and what had to stay. Malcolm was there to back the guy up. Just in case there was any trouble. Usually when it is one person against two guards, there was little trouble. there may be just cussing and cursing. A couple of people threw things. Yet there was no real trouble.

The company guards would go up to the employees and tell them to place their personal things into a box. The company guard kept a watchful eye on what went into the box. Malcolm would look around for the room for any security hazards, perhaps a friend aggressively rushing to his friend’s assistance. Malcolm never saw any security problems around.

Malcolm did not want to watch the sad process of someone filling a box. Malcolm felt sorry for these people. Malcolm had been fired from jobs before and he knew how much that hurt. Malcolm looked at the people in their three piece suits and fancy dresses. Malcolm figured it must really hurt to lose a job where you have to dress like that.

Once, the company guard found himself losing his voice, He asked Malcolm to speak with the next employee. It was some woman, a total stranger, who Malcolm was about to rip her life apart.

Malcolm looked at the woman. She was a pretty lady. Malcolm knew he could never date a woman this nice. She looked too beautiful to even speak to, but Malcolm performed his job.

“Place all your personal belongings, and only your personal items into this box, and please come with us.We will be watching that you place only personal items in the box.”

Malcolm was momentarily proud he remember what he was supposed to say correctly. Since he had stated those words, he now felt partially responsible to follow up and watch the woman place her personal items into the box, just as he had requested.

Malcolm was shocked witnessing the fear and sadness in this woman’s eyes. What had he done? He had made another human being feel miserable. He watched as she picked up a photograph of a man. Malcolm figured it was her husband. Her husband looked like a nice man. Malcolm envisioned how later today this husband would see his photograph at home and learn how his marriage was being torn apart as his wife had lost her job.

Malcolm watched as the woman picked up her purse. Malcolm thought the purse was heavy. He thought he had better warn the woman to be careful placing the purse on top of the glass. Yet Malcolm said nothing. Malcolm watched as the glass broke.

The breaking of the glass made Malcolm realize that everything in life was fragile. This women’s life is fragile. The life of the man in this photograph is fragile. His own life is fragile. Everything seems to be one step away from being damaged by some unthinking toss or tackle.

Several years of emotions bubbled up inside of Malcolm. Malcolm took a deep breath and held back his reactions. He felt like crying. Yet Malcolm knew he could not cry. No one in a uniform is allowed to cry.

Malcolm helped escort the woman outside the building. Malcolm helped lead a couple more people out of the building. Yet Malcolm could not stop thinking about the pretty woman.

At the end of the workday, Malcolm started his journey home. He looked down and saw the broken photograph of the man sticking out of the trash.

Malcolm grabbed the photograph. He felt bad. Someone had loved this photograph. Now it had been trashed. It was all his fault. He felt a need to save the photograph. He grabbed it and walked off with it.

Malcolm got on the subway to the ferry. He kept looking at the photograph. This photograph had once been someone’s life, someone’s future. Now it was trash. Just like his life had become.

As Malcolm entered the subway station, he felt his brain clouding. He heard ringing in his ears. Malcolm closed her eyes in hopes it would reduce the pain and the ringing.

Malcolm felt himself falling. He opened his eyes and saw himself fall onto the subway rail. He quickly looked around and was relieved no subway was coming.

Malcolm felt embarrassed. At least he had time to pick up the photograph and pull himself back up before the next subway came.

People were running towards Malcolm to help pull him up.

Malcolm heard someone yell “give me your hands” as he looked for the photograph. Malcolm reached over and grabbed the photograph.

The photograph was lying on another subway rail.

Malcolm touched the third rail.


Zach awakens at the crack of noon. He looks at the empty bed which his wife has abandoned several hours ago. Kaitlin works. Zach does not.

Every day the fact that Zach can not find works while his wife has to support both of them races through his mind. Zach knows he is an excellent construction worker. He works skillfully and quickly. Yet few recognize that. In the world of word of mouth jobs, Zach realizes he does not know as many of the right people. Word of his being a good hire has not circulated around much. Even if it does circulate, it helps to be someone’s relative or another person’s best friend. There, Zach often loses out to others when it comes to hires.

Plus, there is another reality. There are few construction jobs. In an employment area that is seasonal, even the times when there are jobs, the employment market has been weak.

Zach tries to find other jobs. Yet when employers see his background construction, they know Zach will leave their positions for a higher paid construction job once one becomes available. Of course he would. So, no one wants to hire someone who might quit on them with little notice.

Zach makes breakfast. Scrambled eggs, toast, coffee, and a beer. It is not that Zach drinks too much. He can quit when he wants, right? Zach drinks because he is bored. Maybe he is a little depressed, but who wouldn’t be, right?

Zach sits on the sofa. He figures he will relax for a few minutes and then search for a job. After all, one needs to be make a good impression on prospective employers. Zach needs to look rested and well, not tired and disheveled.

Zach closes his eyes and rests them. Zach opens his eyes. It is past three in the afternoon.  Well, time to get showered and dressed.

Kaitlin saw a sign that some imitation fast food place needed help in lower Manhattan. For a guy who helped build skyscrapers and repair bridges, it irritates Zach that flipping burgers is the skills the world demands from him. Even that skill is gone, as he realizes this burger place does not even flip their burgers. Just put them in a microwave, hit a button with the correct picture on the button, and presto. Those are the skills society needs.

Zach takes the subway to where he hopes he may find a sub-minimum “training” wage. Because a man who can build skyscrapers needs to be “trained” to use a microwave again, for his second fast food job, because the previous training at a rival restaurant does not count at this estaablishment.

Zach observes there is no “help wanted” sign on the window. “Bet the position has been filled,” Zach thinks to himself.

Zach waits in line with customers and asks to see the manager about a job.

“No, we don’t have any openings” some kid several years younger than Zach tells him. Zach observes a female wait server give him the stink eye, letting him know the job is hers and he should leave. Zach looks at the manager and realizes this youthful manager, who looks like she may still be a teenager, earns more money than does he.

Zach leaves his resume. Zach exits to return home. He can feel the weight of his resume being tossed in the trash can as he walks down the street.

Zach enters the subway station. Zach looks around at all the people around him. These are people with jobs. People who earn money. People who can do what is expected of most people in society, to work. Zach knows they can all feel their being in the presence of a loser with no job.

Zach looks at a man walking strangely, who is crying. Oh, well, someone else is not happy. We can’t all be happy, now, can we?

The man stumbles onto the tracks. A woman screams. Zach rushes over to help the man back up. Fortunately there is no subway arriving so there is time to get him up. Zach yells “give me your hands.”

Zach watches as the man looks at him. Their eyes meet. The man looks scared. Zach nods reassuringly that Zach can pull him back to safety. Suddenly, the man’s eyes dart away and the man turns suddenly. The man touches the third rail. Zach watches at the man jolts from the shock. The man, collapses, dead.

The eyes of the man etch into Zach’s mind. The fact that he was about to help a man who he has now watched die digs deep into Zach’s soul. Zach becomes too stunned to feel. Then Zach feels.

Zach returns home several hours later. Zach is drunk.

“Where were you?” Kaitlin demands to know.

“The subways were closed” Zach responds quietly.

“Yeah”, Kaitlin responds, “I heard something about that on the news.”

Zach looks seriously at Kailin. “I saw it”, Zach tells her, “it was terrible.”

“You saw what?”

“The man commit suicide” Zach responds. “At first, I thought maybe he fell or someone pushed him. There wasn’t a train coming, so I didn’t think he was in any real danger. He was standing there, right in front of me. I reached down and offered to pull him back up. And then...”

Zach bursts into tears.

“It was awful” Zach looks up at Kaitlin, “A man died, right in front of me. Killed himself. I offered to help, but I couldn’t do anything.”

“Poor baby”, Kaitlin responds sarcastically. Kaitlin then asks seriously “you find a job?”

Zach looks at Kaitlin with his usual expression of defeat.

“You always find some excuse” Kaitlin yells, waving her hands in the air.

“The position was filled...” Zach explains.

“It is always something” Kaitlin shouts back. “We’re drowning in debt here. We’re going to lose this apartment. We can’t afford another. Stop your crying, get out there, and earn some money!”

Zach turns towards the television set, ignoring Kaitlin.

Zach picks up the remote and dashes through sixty or so stations. Nothing looks interesting. He is back at the station where he began. He runs through the station until his finds an European football match. Zach can not immediately tell who the teams are.

Zach opens a beer and takes a sip.

A Manchester United player receives a flag.

Zach questions the justice of the penalty.

Sometimes it seems there is no justice in this world.

Miranda wants to act. She dreams of Broadway glory. Or even off-Broadway success. For now, she will accept a non-paying job in a community theater in Queens.

Miranda recalls happy days as a child. She would put her dolls outside in the yard and charge anyone who stopped to see her show one penny. She would sing, tells jokes, and dance. Often she received a quarter instead of a penny.

Miranda pours a cup of coffee for a customer staring at her. She leaves the top buttons of her blouse unbuttoned and hikes her waitressing skirt high so lots of leg shows. Often, instead of a dollar tip, she receives a two dollar tip.

It is time to flash a phony smile. The role is to ask the customers what they wish to order. Her motivation is to earn enough money to afford remaining in Brooklyn.

“I can’t let you leave early” Maria the restaurant manager tells her “Shirley phoned in sick.”

Miranda sighs. Shirley is home with her new boyfriend. Miranda knows Shirley cares more about having fun than working. Miranda is penalized for working hard while some slacker enjoys herself. Miranda will be late for her next audition. She knows they will know she is late. They probably won’t hire her because she will be late. So much for being hired at that theatre. Work gets in the way of a career.

Miranda doubles over in pain. Her initial thought terrorizes her. “Please do not let me be pregnant”, she thinks to herself. “I can’t afford a baby now.” She realizes it is nerves. She stands up, regains her composure, dons her fake smile, and action!

Miranda recalls high school glories of being on the stage. “You will be a Broadway star someday” people told her. She knew they were right. She knows they will be right.

:Hey, babe, you have my check?” Miranda hears these words and snaps back to reality.

Miranda drops off a check to another hopelessly satisfied customer. The fact that half the food remains on the plate uneaten makes her think the customer was not really satisfied.

A bell rings. Like Pavlov, Miranda runs to grab an order from the cook. The smell of hot food repulses her nostrils. Even her nose realizes there has to be something better in life.

Miranda delivers the plate and immediately realizes the french fries are missing.

“Excuse me, miss, but I also ordered french fries.”

Miranda scurries back to the cook thinking to herself how much better the world would be if people eat fewer french fries.

“You missed a fry order”, Miranda yells.

The cook yells something back in Spanish she does not understand. How can the cook understand English but not respond in English? The cook waves her written order as if declaring there are no french fries listed on the order when there clearly are scribbled writings that approximate the words “french fries”.

The cook scrapes french fries from another order onto a plate and gives the fries to Miranda. As Miranda dashes back to the customer, she hears the sizzling sounds of a new order of fries hitting the burning water.

 A child throws mashed potatoes onto the floor. Miranda scrambles to grab a mop and clean the potatoes off the floor. As soon as she cleans the floor, more potatoes land on the floor.

An embarrassed mother looks at Miranda and announces “he’s just expressing himself.”

The Pavlovian bell rings. A new plate needs to be delivered, one with hot french fries and a now cold burger. Miranda knows not to expect a good tip on this one. Hopefully the potato thrower’s mother will leave a decent tip.

The manager walks from her office and looks around. Miranda knows she is expected to look busy. Yet Miranda is too busy doing actual work to look busy. Looking busy would be rushing food to customers. There is no food ready to swiftly deliver. There are dirty tables and a dirty floor to clean, and Miranda does not have time to do both. Good service over cleanliness is what she needs to accomplish.

A guy walks in. Ordinarily, Miranda would seat him. Yet the manager, proving why she deserves the higher paid, gloriously takes care of him. Miranda can not tell what they are talking about. He is not taking a seat. Miranda shoots them both a glance of desperation that no one realizes how hard she works. “No we don’t have any openings” Miranda hears the manager tell the man. Miranda thinks to herself, “who would ever work here?”

Miranda’s shift is over. She has to wait an extra hour covering for Shirley until Ellen arrives.

Miranda dashes off to the subway. Miranda is frustrated seeing police surrounding the subway. The station is closed. Miranda waits and grabs a slow moving bus. Miranda stands frustrated there are no seats while realizing she could walk faster than the bus moves.

Miranda arrives at the theater. She gives her name and can see the sighs as people realize she is very late. Miranda is told to sit and wait until the others have auditioned. Miranda squirms in her seat, waiting for over two hours for her turn to audition. She becomes more and more restless as she watches many women enter the audition room. Miranda deems each woman more beautiful than her, and she knows they are reporting for their auditions at their scheduled times.

Miranda is called into the room. She gives her presentation, placing all her heart into her performance. Yet her eyes belie the frustration and fear confronting her life.

Her audience over, she is politely thanked. Miranda has been keeping count. There is her 214th audition. She has not receive a single job offer.

Miranda takes the subway back to Queens. She checks her emails. The local community theater will not require her services but they thank her for her interest. Miranda realizes she can not even win a role that pays nothing and the competition for the role was one other woman. The other woman got the role.

Miranda fears she will become a woman surrounded by nothing but cats.

As she thinks about it, a cat does sound nice.


“Those people do not deserve to live. They are agents of Satan and they plan to bring Satan to power. God needs you to stop them before it is too late.”

Merrill bangs his head against the wall, hoping that will stop the voices in his head. Merrill remembers his psychologist telling him that when he hears the voices telling him to do something to get a second opinion. The voices do not always know the correct thing to go, Merrill was told.

Merrill takes the medication he hates to take. The voices go away. Yet Merrill feels nothing, literally, nothing. Merrill is a walking zombie. He hates how he feels on his medication. He knows he can feel well without the medication. He just hopes the voices will go away.

Merrill was going to be a great physicist. He was doing well in college. Then the voices came. The voices warned him of people plotting against him, people who were agents of Satan. He saved the world from destruction by destroying a laboratory. Satan was using the laboratory to start an atomic chain reaction that would have destroyed the entire universe. Merrill saved the universe. Only God knew what he had done. No one on Earth appreciated being saved. Merrill hated being surrounded by ungrateful people who gave him no credit for saving their sorry lives.

Merrill suffered greatly for saving the universe. He served two years in jail. It took a few more years to find another college that would take him, but only part time at night.. Merrill got his degree in Physics. Yet no one would hire him as a Physicist. He could find a job delivering packages on a bicycle. Not the best use of someone with a brain full of collegiate knowledge.

“God has another important mission for you” the voices told him. Merrill is tired of listening to the voices. Why do they pick him? He is the one who gets in trouble. He has done his share of serving the voices. Why don’t the voices choose someone else to do their work?

“There are people who must die” the voice continue “if they live, they will establish a base for Satan to begin his attack to achieve world domination. Only you can stop Satan before Satan gains a foothold for his attack on humanity.”

Merrill realizes it is hopeless. This life is not worth anything. Merrill knows God will reward him. Then the people around him will see who was right and who saved them all. Then they will all be sorry.

Merrill places a clip of bullets into his firearm. The law won’t let him have a gun. He bought one on the black market. The black market does not conduct a security check and learn he legally can not own a gun.

Merrill walks into the street. He walks endlessly. He awaits the voices to guide where he should go. The voices know what he is supposed to do.

“Satan’s army is gathering there” the voices tell him. He sees a restaurant full of people. He walks carefully inside, looking at the faces of Satan’s soldiers. He wonders if they know who he is. He fears they may figure out who he is and kill him before he gets the chance to kill him. Merrill knows it is best to blend in and act like a normal New Yorker. Be quiet and do not attract attention, Merrill tells himself.

“Yo, what does it take to get a seat in here?” Merrill yells loudly. A woman walks over and takes him to a seat. “About time.”

“What may I get you to drink?” the wait server asks.

“Don’t waste my time. I want a cheeseburger, fries, a chocolate malt, a vanilla malt, and a root beer float.”

The wait server roll her eyes slightly at the sugar overload order. She has heard worst although this is the first three drink order today.

Merrill looks around. He sees Satan’s lead General. The General has taken the disguise of an old man, probably in his 80s. The man eats a salad, probably keeping what looks like an aging body in shape for the transformation that the General plans. Merrill realizes that is not an old man, it is a body that needs to be sent back to Hell.

Merrill sees Satan’s closest advisor disguised as a little girl. The little girl sees him staring and him and tells him “hi, mister.” Merrill guesses she is perhaps four years old. Merrill knows Satan’s tricks. When Merrill starts killing Satan’s army, Satan’s closet advisor hopes that when the battle comes that a four year old girl will be spared. Merrill knows to shoot the four year old girl first, and then the General.

After that, Merrill decides to just keep firing as long as he can. He brought another clip. He figures he has enough bullets to kill all of Satan’s army. He does not know how much of a chance he will get before one of them kills him. He has the element of surprise on his side. Merrill strategizes how to successfully shoot as many of Satan’s soldiers before they get him.

Merrill’s plans are interrupted by the wait server bringing him his cheese burger and three drinks. Merrill looks at the plate and responds “excuse me, miss, but I ordered french fries.”

“Don’t be nice to hear” the voices strike out at Merrill. “Don’t call her “miss” when she is Satan’s agent. She deserves no respect.”

Merrill begins to panic. The voices are mad at him. He is failing the voices. He must act. Yet he suddenly finds himself frozen. He realizes he is one servant of God, alone, surrounded by cruel, ruthless villains. This is it. These will be his final moments on Earth.

Merrill slowly eats what he realizes will be his last meal. The wait server comes over several times asking if he needs anything else. He orders coffee. He asks for another cup. And then another cup. He orders ice cream. He orders more coffee. The wait server leaves the check. The voices scream at him. He is letting Satan’s army get away. He asks to act now. Merrill still find he can not act.

Merrill takes his medication. It is not working. His anxiety is too great. The voices do not stop.

A woman wearing a name tag reading “Ellen” some new wait server comes and asks if she can take payment on his check. Merrill waves her off. Ellen slowly walks away. He sees Ellen walking over to the manager.

“She knows who you are!” The voices in his head are screaming the loudest he has ever heard them. “She is reporting you to Satan’s messenger. Shoot them all, now. This is your last chance.”

Merrill rises. He places his hand onto his gun’s handle. He quickly plots how he will fire. Women and children first. That’s how Satan disguises his best soldiers.

The medication begins taking effect. Merrill sits down. The voices are gone. Merrill feels unemotional, lost in the universe.

Merrill takes out his wallet and change container. He pays the check to the exact penny. He does not leave a tip.

Merrill stands up and leaves. On his way out, he can hear Ellen pick up the money and see there is no tip.

Merrill hears Ellen’s voice as he exits out towards the Manhattan crowd. Ellen’s words ring through his ears.

“Isn’t that the worst?”


Julie loves bringing her daughter Melody to her husband Grant’s workplace. For one, she can. Daddy is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner. Julie’s daddy is the majority owner and retired CEO. Which means Julie knows that Daddy has to let Melody visit whenever Julie wants.

Life is a struggle for Julie. Just because she has a bit more money than others people presume her life is a breeze. It is not. There are lots of places to be, social dinners, charity events, and, of course, seeing that Melody gets to her play dates, French lessons, and ballet dances.

Julie calls her parents at their Oyster Bay home. She keeps in touch with them. Family is important to her. Julie is dedicated to doing what it takes to keep her family together, and happy. Which is another reason why she brings Melody to work often. She wants to make certain she never catches Grant having a fling. Julie wants Grant and his family to keep him too busy to ever wish to stray.

Julie’s parents are in a crisis. Lighting hit a tree in their yard. It feel and nicked the house. All kinds of people involved in home repairs and tree removal are crawling all over the yard. Lots of drama on Long Island.

Julie ;has her driver take her to Wall Street to bring Melody to visit Grant. She has no appointment, but she does not need one. She does not want an appointment. She wants to keep Grant off balance as to when she appears.

Julie enters the lobby and walks past Alfred, siting at the reception desk who buzzes her through. Others need to sign in. Alfred knows who Julie is. Jules is allowed immediate entrance.

Julie takes an elevator. In the several minutes it takes for the elevator to ride to the top floor where management offices are, Julie wonders if Alfred has alerted Grant.

Julie arrives at Grant’s office. The offices have clear glasses so everyone can see everyone else. While these offices are large and have the latest computers and equipment, there is no privacy. Julie was influential is creating that design.

Tiffani, the secretary, buzzes Julie and Melody through the office. “Have a nice day”, Tiffani tells Julie and Melody. Neither looks back at her nor responds.

Grant’s door is locked for security. This rarely happens, but twice an angry customer who felt cheated made it up to the executive suites and tried to break into an office. While the intruders were quickly subdued and restrained, there were fears of someday something worse happened. It was suggested the offices have bullet proof glass, yet the expenses for that were too much. Instead, more attentive is paid to security. It is now hard to reach the executive offices, unless you are Julie and Melody.

“Hello, how is my little pistachio muffin”? Grant smiles with open arms for Melody to jump into.

“And how is mommy wommy?” Grant asks of Julie. Julie moves her face sideways as Grant kisses her on the cheek.

“Daddy, daddy, guess what?” Melody chimes in, not letting any attention go to mommy wommy?

“What, my precious rose bush?” Grant inquires.

“Ahh...I forgot.” Melody thought she could think of something yet she could not.

Grant laughs. Melody feels offended that daddy is laughing at her.

“I thought we could have dinner together” Julie announces.

“I’d love to, but Roger is flying in from Chicago”, Grant explains, “we need to discuss and sign some contracts.”

“Roger can come with us” Julie pronounces.

Grant overrides Julie’s pronouncements. “It will be all business talk. I don’t think Grant would be comfortable.”

Grant then says the coup de grace, “you understand, don’t you?”

Julie glares at Grant, letting him know it better be business. He is not going to get away with putting one over her.

Julie, Grant, and Melody speak of things of little consequence. Julie looks over Grant’s desk for anything out of place. She sees his schedule book and notes Roger is not listed as arriving. Then again, Grant does no always write things down. Julie has to constantly remind him to write things down so he does not forget. At least he has a secretary for such things.

It is time for Julie and Melody to leave. Julie walks past Tiffani and pretend to exchange pleasantries as Tiffani picks up Melody and holds her on her lap. Tiffani shows Melody her computer keypad and lets Melody type indiscriminate letters onto her screen.

“Grant’s been seeing Shirley” Tiffani whispers to Julie.

Julie shoots a glance across the glass walls down the hall and stares angrily at Shirley. Julie deduces that Shirley looks similar to how Julie once looked. Shirley is everything Julie hates.

“Have Shirley transferred to the Chicago office” Julie whispers to Tiffani.

Tiffani nods affirmatively. Tiffani knows how the system operates.

Julie exits the building. Even if Grant is not available for dinner, she is still hungry. Julie looks for a restaurant to which she has never been. Julie only eats at restaurants she has never patronized. Julie has a desire to feel the full New York dining experience. If she were able, she would eat at least once in every restaurant in New York City.

Julie enters and looks around at the busy establishment. She decides to leave. Before she makes it to the exit, she sees a free table. Julie runs over and grabs the free table. Melody sits on a chair where the top of her head does not reach the table. A wait server leaves a menu and dashes off.

Julie hears Melody say “hi. mister.” Julie quickly admonishes Melody with a stern, loud whisper. “Never talk to a stranger. He could be a kidnapper, or a criminal, or a Democrat.”

Julie orders a pastrami sandwich with Russian dressing and a diet coke with a lime. For Melody she orders the child’s portion of chicken fingers and a diet coke with no lime. Lime is not for children.

Jullie pays the check with a credit card. She adds nothing for a tip. She believes tips are extortion. She refuses to cave in. Besides, she will never return, so it does not matter what they think of her.

Julie grabs Melody and rushes to the door. She sees the wait server pounce of the check. She can hear the wait server sigh “what worse could happen next?”


Wilson looks out his Bronx apartment window. He sees the drug dealers outside his high rise. He prepares himself for their smart aleck remarks. Those dealers seem to enjoy hassling the elderly. Wilson presumes they are just showing what smart alecks they can be in front of their friends.Wilson knows they are mostly harmless even though a number of senior citizens are too scared to leave the buildings when they are out front. Perhaps the dealers want old timers out of the building. Bring in more young residents. The young are their target customers, not old timers.

Wilson dresses in his security uniform. The dealers know he has not a real cop, which is good as they would probably kill him if they thought he was. Still, the sight of a man dressed in any sort of uniform is always a target for a hassling from these dealers. Wilson prepares to put up with it.

Wilson has spent a lifetime putting up being bullied. Gang members stole from him throughout his school days. They would steal his shoes. His parents could not afford to buy more shoes. The school wound not let him enter without shoes. Wilson would skip school until his parents could afford new schools. Only the new schools would then get stolen.

When Wilson would attend school, teachers would hassle him. He could not follow what they were teaching. If he could not follow what they were saying, why would they expect him to be able to answer their questions? School was a tremendous drag. Wilson hated school. As soon as Wilson was able to drop out of school, he did so.

Leaving school was good yet the outside world was even worse. No one wanted to hire a high school drop out. He tried to get into the military but the military would not take him.

Wilson went through decades of rejection and barely surviving the rough Bronx streets. The drug dealers outside probably never did half the illegal things he did in his wild youth. Wilson justifies it as he had to do those things to survive. Those drug dealers are enriching themselves. He has broken  the law because he had to. They are breaking the law in order to buy more bling and fancy cars and stuff. He broke the law to buy food.

Wilson was lucky that he only was caught with a few misdemeanors. They were not enough to disqualify him for obtaining a job as a security guard earning a little more than the minimum wage. The only bling Wilson has is a fancy gold colored security badge that comes with the uniform.

Wilson leaves his apartment for an elevator that stops at his floor but the doors do not open. The elevator does not move. This creates a dilemma that the other elevators are programming to the not stop at his floor as the system believes his floor is already being served. Wilson walks one floor down and calls for another elevator.

Wilson rushes past the drug dealer and runs several blocks to catch his subway, He bumps into a teenager who spills her chai tea onto her dress. Wilson is about to apologize when she lashes out at him with a bunch of obscenities. Wilson turns and ignores her as the curse words continue to flow out her mouth.

Wilson enters a jammed subway. There are no seats. For now, he is the only person on the car standing. He looks at the young man who droopy pants who looks like he is in his late teens sitting in a seat designated for the senior citizens or people with disabilities. Wilson realizes it would take a miracle for the youngster to offer his seat to him.

The subway becomes more and more crowded as it makes it way towards Manhattan, the destination of most riders. Wilson rides through most of Manhattan, exiting in lower Manhattan.

Wilson sits at an office lobby desk. As people enter, he has them sign a book recording who they are and where they are headed. There is a hidden security camera, yet the old fashioned book serves as a back up in case of trouble. While a premeditated criminal will probably not write down a correct name, often a person enters and gets into trouble inside the building. Arguments get heated. Assaults happen. If there is a signed record when the person entered, the chances of then denying being there at that time are diminished.

Wilson knows his job is mostly decoration. It makes people working inside feel better knowing he is out front. Yet there really is little he can do. If trouble wants to get through to them, it is easy to get past him. If Wilson detects trouble, he can stop them. He can decide not to let someone by who obviously does not belong. It is easy to deny entry to the people who dress raggedly and mutter to themselves such that they expect ahead of time to be denied entry. Every once in awhile something thinks they can get in and then walk amongst the offices begging for money. Wilson protects the building employees from beggars. That is his super-power.

A woman and her daughter walk by. Wilson does not know her name but he knows she is the wife of the man who rents the largest offices. He has been told never to hesitate to let her in. Wilson gives her his usual cheery “good afternoon, ma’am” even though experience has told him not to expect a response. Wilson would call and announce to the man that his wife has arrived, yet the man never introduced himself to Wilson and Wilson has no idea what is his name.

Wilson is bored. Sitting behind a desk is far less interesting than sitting at home. WIlson can watch humanity walk by. That is about it. There has to more to life, and Wilson is sure there is, but whatever more there is to life is not available to people like Wilson. Wilson knows this is about as good as it can get.

Wilson’s shift ends. A woman with the same uniform takes over. Wilson looks into her eyes. He sees in her soul a similar lack of expectation that there will be a better life ahead. All one can do is keep one’s head above the proverbial water as the only other option is to metaphorically drown. There is no sight anywhere that higher ground can be reached.

Wilson walks down to the subway platform. Wilson looks at others waiting, spending more time studying humanity. So many people look tired and bored.. Little exciting ever happens on a subway platform. A subway arrives and Wilson gets on and heads back to the Bronx.

Wilson leaves the subway and walks back to his apartment. It is an apartment, not really a home. It serves the function of keeping Wilson away from the elements. It fails in serving as a place where Wilson feels be belongs.

Wilson passes by several police officers gathering around a blanket over a dead body. Wilson gives the scene a quick glance. He has seen such scenes many times before.

Wilson enters his apartment. He sits hoping to relax. He grabs the remote and pushes a button to turn on the television. The television does not work. Wilson struggles with some wires. He checks the remote batteries. Wilson realizes the television has died. He has to buy a new one.

Wilson collapses in his chair. He begins calculating how long it will be before he can afford a new television set. He realizes how long his life will go on without television. He knows his primary source of enjoyment in life will be missing from his life for quite a while.

Even in a life with no happiness, happiness can be taken away.


Cool D awakens with a startle. A new nightmare has startled him. In this one, it started out well. He dreamed a young nun walked by and she looked at him and smiled. For a few brief seconds he felt both handsome, that a young woman was looking at him, as well as feeling approval, as a nun was accepting him as a human being. Then, just as she was about to walk past him out of sight, the nun pulled out a pistol and shot him. Cool D then awoke.

Cool D is hung over and disoriented. As much as he is used to this feeling, he has never learned to like it. It is the penalty for getting high. Getting high lets him live in the moment as if time has stood still with no concern for the future. Now is the future he never considered would arrive.

The near future itself is something he never thought was possible. He always expected through high school and his drug addled youth that he would not live past age 30. Now that he was 29, he was beginning to reassess that. Although, with his aches, not reaching 30 was still a possibility.

Cool D knew it was expected that he be a man, and being a man meant joining a gang. He joined the neighborhood gang. Their main social activity was dealing drugs. And using drugs. While he made a fair amount of money, most of what he earned went into buying and using his own product. Cool D is not dependent on drugs, he tells himself. Those with dependencies mean they have a future life that would be destroyed by their dependency. Cool D was a man living the moment and getting as much joy as he could out of the moment.

Cool D stumbles around and gets dressed. It is time to get to work. People do not realize how hard it is to be a drug dealer. There is inventory, cash control, and sales. Sales is not as easy as people think. You have to push product and get people to purchase more than they intended. Profits are critical. At the same time, one has to both seek new people to sell to and be careful not to sell to the wrong person. Sell to the wrong person, and you go to jail.

Cool D believes he has learned how to tell who are undercover police officers. He has fallen for them twice. He has replayed mentally, thousands of times, the mistakes he made in selling to undercover police officers. He knows what to look for to avoid those mistakes.

Cool D also knows prison is not fun. He was able to get probation and a fine after his After the second arrest, it was discovered he never paid the fine. His probation was lifted and he had to serve the full time. Probation often leads to longer time in prison when it is violated. Cool D would up spending almost three years in prison. He might have spent less time in jail for good behavior. Except Cool D does not do good behavior. He has a reputation to protect, even in prison.

Cool D makes his way to his turf. He stands, watching for regular customers and interested newbies, as well as undercover police. He likes standing near a building. In case of trouble, he knows he can duck into there. Once inside, he knows lots of hiding places. If they have dogs, he knows where to dump the drugs and hide elsewhere. His building is his planned refuge.

A few regulars walk by and quick sales are made. A nosey old woman walks by and mumbles an insult about how he is destroying the neighborhood. “Your dress and ugly dyed hair is what is destroying this neighborhood” he replies.

Right behind the nasty woman some old man runs past wearing a security uniform. Cool D recognizes the man as one who runs past him nearly every day. Sometimes the first glance of the uniform startled him. Then he realizes it is only some lousy security guard. Some days Cool D has some retort such as “book me, dumbo” or “you have the right to keep that shirt silent.” He doesn’t have anything to say today. The uniformed man just runs by.

Things quiet for awhile. Cool D tells himself to remain alert at all times. Yet the effects of drugs, lack of sleep, and boredom win him over. Cool D closes his eyes. Some sense tells him to open his eyes.

Cool D sees a gang member wearing the colors of another gang. The two gangs have been making threats at other over territory. So far, the exchanges have been verbal. Cool D sees the gang banger pulling out a pistol. Cool D quickly pulls out his gun. The rival gang member continues walking towards Cool D.

Cool D fires his son. His automatic bullets quickly drops the gang member. Realizing that police will be there soon, Cool D runs off as fast as he can.

Cool D runs into fellow gang member Martin’s apartment. Cool D explains he just shot someone and he needs a place to stay low. Martin realizes Cool D can’t stay there as the police will be by soon. Martin and Cool D check the Internet for any news.

The guy Cool D shot has died. They catch the end of his mother describing him as a nice boy who was doing well in school and planning on becoming a physical therapist.

The realization that he has killed another human being sinks in. Cool D feels remorse and fright. He knows the life he knows is over. He can never come back to this neighborhood, where he has lived all his life. He will be chased by cops. If they catch him, he will spend the rest of his life in prison. He probably will be on death row, living alone in a small cell. He will live this rest of his life isolated, knowing that he will be forgotten and that anyone who remembers him will do so recalling that he is a murderer.

Cool D knows he must move fast. Delays give the police more advantage. He needs to take off. He is not certain where he is going, but that may be fine. If he does not know where he is going, the police can’t be there waiting for him.

Cool D changes clothes. He wears a hat that pulls down and hides as much as his face as it can. He walks into the street checking for unlocked cars. The second one he checks is unlocked. He quickly gets in and hot wires it. He drives off.

Cool D decides Canada is the quickest exit. If he can someone figure how out to smuggle himself over the border, he can create a new life. Maybe something good will come out of this. He will give up the gangster life. He will study and become someone. He will live a normal life under the radar. He will get a job, get married, buy a house, raise children, and become a good guy.

Cool D turns on the radio. He hears the news report that he has shot and killed two people. Two? Who was the other?

Cool D learns that a baby in a crib was killed by one of his stray bullets. Cool D is stunned even more. Perhaps he can argue that the other gangster deserved to die. He fired in self defense. Maybe he could have beat the rap. That he killed innocent people, including a baby, means the entire world now hates him.

He hears the word of some police spokesperson speaking on the radio directly to him “we will find you, and we will bring you to justice.”

Cool D tries to calm down. Some coherent thoughts reach him. He needs to call a lawyer. He remembers the number of a lawyer he memorized in case he ever got in more trouble.

Cool D is about to call when he sees flashing lights behind him. ‘How did they find me?” Cool D wonders.

Cool D stops the car in the middle of the street. He ignores the car honks. He jumps out the car and runs across a busy street to the sidewalk on the other side.

Cool D has no plan. He can not think. He hears police officers telling him to stop. He pulls out his gun. He reacts instinctively. He turns and faces the officers with his gun pointing towards them.

Cool D hopes there is some way out of this. Think, think, think. What should he do?

Cool D quickly realizes he is about to no longer think ever again.


Liz loves to feed the pigeons.

Liz knows people call her names and make fun of her. Their words do not bother her. She loves her pigeons. She wants them to be healthy.

“Hey, crazy lady, those pigeons poop all over the sidewalk” Liz hears someone complain. So what? We all poop.

Liz enjoys walking and seeing the sights. She feels lucky to have been born and bred in New York City. She has gotten to spend her life in the most exciting city in the world. She feels among the most privileged people in the whole world. Liz feels everyone must do their part for the city. What she knows she can do is see that the famous New York pigeons are fed.

Liz bets most people do not realize she has a Ph.D. in English Literature. She bets if they knew that, they would think very differently of her.

Liz also loves to read to children. She volunteers at a number of libraries. She is known for being good with children. She reads well and keeps their interests. Liz loves children, literature, and pigeons.

Liz enters her Staten Island house. She has overheard others talking about her, as if they really knew her, loud enough that she can hear them. People who pretend to know her claim she never married, lives with lots of cats, used to be a mental health patient, is often homeless, and she once was a Broadway actress. They might be interested to learn she has a nice well kept house with a lawn, she was married for 22 years until her husband passed away from cancer, she owns one dog and no cats, she never was a mental health hospital patient, and she never acted.

Liz glances at the photograph of her husband. Even though it has been 14 years since he passed away, her memories are as if they were yesterday. He has a great husband, she tells everyone. They never had children. That is perhaps her biggest regret in life. Yet the doctors told her she could never have children. She wanted to birth her own child and never wanted to adopt someone else’s birth child. Even she realizes that perhaps she decided to adopt pigeons instead.

Liz loved pigeons from childhood. They liked how their heads bobbed as they walked. She also liked how they came to her when they fed her. For a few brief moments. she was important to some group, even if it was a group of pigeons.

Liz listens to some Sixties rock and roll music as she falls asleep. She likes literature and music. And pigeons.

Liz awakens. She reviews her plans for the day: Walking around feeding pigeons. Reading to children. She’s set to go.

Liz rides the Staten Island Ferry. She loves the ride. She feels lucky that she get to sail to sea nearly every day. Even if the journey is not that very long. The Statue of Liberty continues to amaze her. Every time she sees it, she thinks back to various ancestors. She wonders what they must have felt standing on their boats seeing it for the first time.

Liz spends the morning walking from park to park. She loves the walk. Liz sits down. Pigeons begin forming around her. As much as Liz enjoys walking, she also enjoys sitting and resting. Liz opens a large bag of birdseed. A lot more pigeons appear. Liz tosses birdseed onto the ground. Lots of pigeons and a few sparrows dash around eating seeds. Liz tosses more birdseed. The bulk of birds shift according to where the seeds are.

Liz sees people staring at her. She is used to it. She never understood why people are so judgmental of people feeding pigeons. She would like to think they appreciate what she is doing, yet she knows better. Liz looks over at a man tossing pieces of bread at birds. Liz believes he understands. We are not the only living things on this planet. Compassion extends to all creatures.

Liz goes to a library to read to children. Liz jokes with the children. She reads a book implementing several changing weird voices. The children laugh at each new voice. Liz enjoys her work. For at least a few moments, like with the pigeons, she is appreciated.

Liz enjoys reading the books. She appreciates subtleties of plot, characters, and nuances for which her literature studies provided. Children’s literature is important. There are often very adult messages that only adults can see in books written for children.

Liz sits outside the library feeding pigeons. A child, Lacey, sits next to Liz. Liz lets Lacey throw some seeds to the pigeons. Lacey squeals with joy watching the pigeons chase the seeds she throws. Liz wishes she still had as much enthusiasm as Lacey had feeling the pigeons. Liz recalls that was how she used to feel. She wishes she could feel that innocent happiness once again; Liz knows that as the mysteries of life become known the joy of finding a new surprise decreases.

Cameron, one of the librarians, rushes to Liz. “I need your help”. Cameron explains, “my son David is sick at school. I have to go pick him up. My wife drops me off at work so one of the volunteers is driving me to David’s school to pick him up. Yet no one here has a car seat. Would you look after my little Gennifer for a few minutes? You don’t have to do anything. She doesn’t need to be fed. I’ll take care of anything she needs when I get back.”

“Certainly”, Liz replies, “I would be delighted to watch her.”

Gennifer is in a crib. “You can take her for a walk if you wish” Cameron suggests.

That is a wonderful idea, Liz decides. We would go down the street and search for pigeons.

Liz walks down the sidewalk. Liz looks up at the sky. It is such a wonderful day. She watches bird flying over head. She points to the birds for Gennifer to see. Gennifer may be young, yet she is old enough to be curious. Seeing birds flying could heighten her curiosity about the world.

Liz hears some backfires. She hears that sound all the time in New York. Liz watches as the birds fly away.

Liz looks down. She immediately sees what happened.

Gennifer’s body is torn apart. Those weren’t backfires. Those were bullets. A bullet has gone through Gennifer. Liz instantly knows that the mangled mess in front of her is dead.

Everything from then on becomes a blur. Another body lies dead nearby. There are police statements. A whaling Cameron learns what happened. Someone drives Liz to the ferry.

Liz makes up her mind. Liz never again fed the pigeons. The pigeons don’t deserve being fed.

Karen knows the risks. She also understands the money. More important, she hasn’t found anything else that brings in this kind of money. This is not something she intends to make into a career. Indeed, it is a job that favors the young. She figures she may as well do this work while she is young.

The buzzer to her Manhattan apartment goes off. She looks at the image of who is at the door. She does not recognize him yet his nervousness made her determine this indeed is the client who has made an appointment.

Karen thinks back when she was a little girl. She wanted to grow up and be a model. Everyone told her she could accomplish anything she wanted. She believed that. In a way, they were right. She does earn her living by having people appreciating her for her beauty.

Her photograph indeed is being used for advertising. Only it is not clothing she is selling. It is herself she is selling.

Karen as a child use to change her outfits several times a day. She liked to compare different accessories with different clothes. She would walk around and model her fashions in front of any guests. She liked the attention. She demanded the attention.

Wanting attention has been a big part of her life, and she knew how to get attention. Karen was never afraid to use her looks to get people to turn their heads in her direction . Karen read magazines and experimented with all kinds of make-up.

When Karen discovered boys, she quickly realized she liked boys. She found relationships too difficult. Boys cheat on you. She decided she preferred quantity over quality. She would be the female with whom the boys would cheat on their girlfriends. She enjoyed having that power.

Karen studied Fashion Design. She was talented enough to get into the Fashion Institute as a student yet lacked the dedication to graduate. She enjoyed college parties but not college studying. Every evening she was getting high and having wild flings, she kept it in the back of her mind she could also fall back into prostitution as a career. That fallback plan has become reality.

Karen seeks an alternative to supplement her illegal income. Hopefully she will find an alternative that will lead to another career. Karen tried modeling. She hired two well known photographers that took photographs of her. She created a web site that showcased those photographs. She had a store that used a photograph of her in their window for a month. Thus was the extent of her modeling career.

The doorbell rings. Karen runs and opens it. Everett enters.

Karen ran a quick background check on Everett. He has no arrest record. He has a couple of social media pages. There is no immediate red flags she could find. Chances are good he is not a psychotic killer.

Everett appears extremely nervous. Karen is used to seeing guys nervous, although Everett is on the extreme nervous side. Karen is a little unnerved.

“Nice place” Everett mumbles.

“Thank you”, Karen responds, “so what would you like to do with your hour?” Karen extracts the money upfront. This an important policy, as Karen discovered some men would argue for paying less.

Karen pretends not to be excited over the large amount of cash that is handed to her.

“I have this perversion” Everett finally blurts out.

Karen is momentarily concerned. People with some fetishes or weird requests can be trouble. Karen is willing to do all kinds of unusual things. Yet right when she thinks she has heard of everything, someone comes across with something new. Karen worries how much she may have to degrade herself for money.

“I want you to cut my hair” Everett.

“Cut your hair?” Karen asks.

“Yes,....” Everett answers, not completing the rest of his sentence. Karen waits for Everett to explain what he really wants. Finally Karen encourages him to come out with it.

“Is there more?” Karen requests.

“While you cut my hair, I want you to moo like a cow” Everett responds.

“I don’t have scissors for cutting hair...” Karen observes.

“Oh, I brought my own” Everett explains. He pulls the scissors out of his coat pocket.

“Do you want me dressed any certain way...would you like me naked?” Karen.

“Ah, no,” Everett explains “what you are wearing is fine.”

Everett sits in a chair. Karen takes out the scissors.

“You want me to actually cut your hair, or just pretend?” Karen inquires.

“Cut it off” Everett explains, “you have to cut my hair in order for it to count.”

Karen cuts hair while mooing like a cow.

“Louder!” Everett commands.

Karen moos and cuts hair until the hour is over. Everett gives her a handsome tip. Karen honestly hopes he will return.That was easy money.

Karen looks at her watch and realizes she needs to get to her next appointment. She hurries along her way.

Karen does not get paid on her next appointment. Here, Karen in a volunteer. She helps her local library. Her, Karen is a prim and proper member of society. Karen wants involvement in things to help keep her mind stable.

Right after she drives into the parking lot, Cameron runs up to her. Could she drive him to pick up his son David, who is sick at school.

“Sure” Karen responds. She waits as Cameron leaves his daughter Gennifer with some other woman.

Karen waits as Cameron runs into the school to retrieve one sick child. Karen’s cell phone goes off. It is one of her regulars. He often makes spontaneous appointments and he doesn’t always know when can get away from his wife.

“Sure, I can fit you in”, Karen, “give me an hour and half and I will see you.”

Cameron and David arrive at the car. The school nurse walks with David. David does not look well. Karen asks if she should drive them to a doctor or to an emergency room. David claims he is not too bad. Cameron states David will rest back at the library. Karen drives them back to the library and drops them off.

She is certain they will be alright. Nothing exciting ever happens at the library.

Archie knows more progress is needed, yet he is glad to see the strides made in his lifetime.

Archie knew early in life who he was. Once he realized he was gay, he saw no need to hide it. He appreciated the works of so many before him that allowed him to openly express his essential nature. He joined the Lesbian and Gay Club in his high school. He wanted others to feel comfortable admitting who they were and not feel shame or guilt for being gay.

Archie was glad to see so many schoolmates were supportive. There were a lot snide comments from other guys. Quite a few friends said nice things yet had little to do with him afterwards. There were a few women who chased after gays. He had two. He nicknamed them Betty and Veronica.

Archie wanted to be a nurse. He hates that people see it as a stereotype that gay men seek jobs where women hold the majority of positions. The medical profession deeply interests him. He enjoys helping sick people. He never wanted to be a doctor. He knew he does have the grades or stamina to be a doctor. He also believes most doctors don’t spend enough time with patients. He believes nursing is far more rewarding than being a medical doctor.

Being a nurse was rewarding yet crushing work. The hospitals often expected Archie to work two or even three shifts in a row. He could handle 16 hours working straight yet 24 hours straight was ridiculous. It was difficult to remain awake and nearly impossible to be alert. He feared making a tragic mistake that could hurt or even kill a patient. The stress of that got to him.

Archie quit his hospital nursing job. Instead he signed out to be a temporary nurse as needed. He was willing to accept a lot of jobs. In fact he found he was were earning more money. He did not have the benefits he had at the hospital, but the pay was better. More important, he could set his hours.

A school needed a nurse. Their permanent nurse is fighting cancer and retired suddenly. Archie accepted the position until a new nurse is found. After three months, Archie realized the school seemed happy having a temporary nurse on a permanent basis. The school did not have to pay for his benefits which saved them money. Archie did not object as he enjoyed working with children. Adults made for more difficult patients.

Archie is worried about a fifth grade child Shawn McCloskey. Shawn was seen kicking a dog outside the school. Shawn has a history of being quiet and suddenly lashing out at others by swinging his arms and hitting them over and over until a teacher would separate him for his victim.

Shawn noticed some of Shawn’s drawings. Shawn had numerous drawings of people ripped apart with their blood spattering out their bodies. Archie asked Shawn about them. Shawn explained the drawings relaxed him.

Archie began asking Shawn to see him. Archie knew he is not a counselor yet he believed Shawn needed an outlet for what was bothering him. Archie believed Shawn was showing signs of psychological problems. Archie wants to recommend Shawn receive psychological counseling.

Shawn and Pet are brought to Archie’s office. Shawn has a cut on his leg. Shawn tried to kick a globe and the end of the stand cut his leg. Shawn became angry and kicked Pete in the leg. Pete’s leg is badly bruised. Pete’s injuries are not serious,  fortunately.

Archie asks Shawn to remove his pants so he could see the cut. The cut, fortunately, is superficial. Archie applies medication and bandages the cut. Shawn is sent back to class.

Archie arrives at work the next day. The principal asks to see Archie. Archie is worried as the principal is frowning and looking very serious. Archie sits in a chair in the principal’s office.

“There has been a complaint from a parent” the principal tells Archie.

Archie knows this is never good. Children say things that parents misinterpret. Archie knows he has never done anything wrong, yet any time a parent complains often becomes an overblown problem/

“Have you inappropriately touched a patient?” the principal asks.

“Absolutely not!” Archie quickly responds. Archie is startled at the accusation. Fear sets in as Archie knows even such an allegation could ruin a reputation forever.

“The superintendent claims you took off a child’s pants and looked at the child’s privates”, the principal states.

Archie is confused. “What?” Archie asks. The allegation itself is not necessarily an inappropriate event. There are times nurses have to do such things. What child are we talking about?

“Shawn McCloskey’s father is making the claim” the principal continues. “Shawn McCloskey’s father is the superintendent.”

“Shawn McCloskey?” Archie questions, “he cut his leg. I dressed and banged his wounds.” Archie looks at the principal’s stoic reaction. “It is what a nurse does.”

“Here is the problem” the principal responds. “The superintendent does not want to accuse you of anything.”

Archie feels momentarily relieved.

“Yet, since your position is temporary and at will, the superintendent requested that we hire another temporary nurse. You are dismissed, immediately.”

Archie is stunned. He goes to retrieve his few belongings. He enters the office and sees David sitting in his office, vomiting into a trash can.

Archie determines David has flu like symptoms. He can’t send David back to class. Yet David can not stay in the nurse’s office as there no longer is a nurse. Archie gets a cell phone number for David’s father Cameron to come and pick David up. Archie waits until Cameron arrives and he walks David to the car.

Archie is upset that one parent’s prejudices is preventing him from helping a sick child.

Archie leaves the school, knowing he will never return.

Archie is mad that another incidence of misunderstanding has won.


Everyone hates me. They all want me dead. Well, I will show them.

Those are thoughts consuming a ten year old Pete’s brain.

Pete tries to make friends. All the kids shove him away. Pete has no friends.

“Pete has smelly feet” are among the teased remarks Pete often gets, as well as “Pete in not neat.” It is less the actual words than the intentional rejections that Pete hates. Pete sees best friends making fun of each other. The children around Pete make fun of him and then shove him away.

Pete tries to think of something he enjoyed in life. He comes up empty. His parents never encouraged him. Teachers never encouraged him. No one ever complimented him on his grade, or his art, or his athletic accomplishments.

Pete can not think of a moment when he had fun. Pete can not think of a time when he enjoyed life. He feels like his life has been a waste of ten years.

Pete blames his classmates and his teachers. They don’t want Pete to have fun. They think Pete looks unusual. They think Pete acts silly. They all think Pete is worthless.

Pete sees his father’s pistol in a drawer. Pete knows that if he is found with the gun that his father will get in a lot of trouble for keeping a pistol unlocked where a child can find it. Pete grabs the pistol. He hopes his father gets in a lot of trouble. That’ll show him.

Pete hides the pistol in his book bag. It already is heavy with books the school makes him take home for homework. The weight of a gun is not that much extra to carry.

Pete spends History class looking around deciding who to shoot. There are too many classmates he can’t pick just one. Maybe he should shoot the teacher.

Pete feels sick. He asks to go to the bathroom. He takes out his gun and looks at it.

“What you got there?” Pete hears Shawn behind him. Pete did not hear anyone come in the bathroom.

Shawn grabs the gun. “Cool” Shaw says looking at the gun. Shawn slides the gun into his pants. “Mine now.”

Pete panics. Now what do I do?

Pete sits in class frightened that Shawn may start shooting. Pete knows they will figure out that he brought in the gun. Shawn will get all the fame for shooting the gun and he will get all the blame. Why does the world treat him so badly?

As the class gets ready for lunch, Pete stops in his tracks. Pete sees Shawn walk up behind Shirley, a girl who makes fun of Shawn. Shawn pulls out the gun and pretends to karate chop Shirley with the gun. Shirley does not see him. In fact, no one is paying attention to Shawn. Shawn puts the gun back in his pants, Shawn attempts to kick Shirley. He misses and kicks the globe. Shawn is hurt. Shawn runs into the bathroom.

Pete follows Shawn into the bathroom. Shawn’s leg is bleeding. Shawn passes the gun back to Pete. Pete hides it just in time as a teacher runs in to check on Shawn.

Pete carries the gun. He thinks about what to do. He decided to think things over. He need not act today.

Pete observes a sign seeking students to participate in an after school sculpture class. That sounds interesting. Pete signs up for the class.

Pete goes home. Pete puts the gun back where he found it. It seems no one noticed it was missing.

Pete thinks excitedly about his sculpture class.


Shirley is a mean girl. She knows it. She seeks the role.

A ten year old needs to be verbally tough. She needs to let the world that she will take nothing from no one. She expects everyone to meet her expectations. The rest of the world should have no expectations of her. The world should appreciate her for how she is.

Shirley enters home room. In the few minutes they have before they have to take their seats, Shirley views who deserves to be put in her place. She walks behind classmates and flings out her comments. “Those shoes looked better on the cow, when the cow was sitting in mud.” “That dress makes you look like an old woman who couldn’t afford to live in a shoe.” “You’re not fooling anyone with that training bra.”

Boys are not except from Shirley’s barbs. She particularly likes to pick on Shawn, because he is so weird. “Your parents still dress you, don’t they? And they’re color blind, right?” She walks by Pete and pays him no attention.

Shirley takes her seat. The teacher takes attendance. Rosario is absent. “She’s still sick with the clap” Shirley jokes. The class laughs, even though most of them don’t even know what the “clap” is.

“Shirley, that will be enough” the teacher says.

“That’s what Rosario should have said to the tenth guy” Shirley responds.

“Shut it” the teacher says, running her hands over her lips indicating that lips should be kept shut.

“That’s what Rosario should have done with her legs” Shirley quips. The entire class laughs again, even though most of them still don’t know why.

“Do you want detention?” the teacher threatens Shirley.

“As much as I ordinarily love being along in a room with someone” Shirley responds “I am sorry, but I don’t swing that way. Maybe if you ask your girl friend over instead.”

The teacher pretends to let the comment slide. She continues the roll call.

Shirley pays attention in class, not on the subjects being taught, but on when to pounce. When Courtney guesses incorrectly that the French won the French and Indian War, Shirley jumps. “Gee, Shirley, I thought French-ing Indian boys was your expertise.” The class laughs, even though they are not certain what the joke means.

The class breaks for lunch. Shirley makes it a point to get in front of Shawn. She knows Shawn will scoop up as much food as he can. Many the time she has found Shawn has taken the last of something she wanted by taking more than one person should take. She prides herself in rushing in front of Shawn. She never looks back.

Lunch time is open season for Shirley. Any girl who thinks she is overweight gets a “are you sure you should have taken so big a portion?”. Any girl was is anorexic gets a “I can not believe you are going to eat all that.” Shirley feels she is in fine form.

School is done. Shirley goes home. Her uncle insists she begin her homework. “After you do your homework, you may then play video games or watch television shows” her uncle admonishes. Shirley works, dawdles, gets exasperated, takes a break, returns to the homework, and gets it done.

Her uncle has dinner ready. Shirley likes how her uncle’s dinners taste. He does a good job. Yet the food always makes her stomach feel upset. Shirley does not really like her uncle making her dinner.

Shirley plays some games. It is time for bed. Shirley gets dressed for bed. Shirley gets into her bed.

Shirley’s uncle comes into her bedroom. Shirley’s stomach becomes even more upset. Shirley closes her eyes. She does not want to see anything as her naked uncle lies on top of her.

Justin gives a lot of himself. For over a decade, he spent half a year volunteering as a physician in an area with few medical personnel. He has gone to remote areas of every continent.

“People talk about having a calling” Justin explained, “my calling was to be a doctor. Even as a young boy, I would play doctor with the girls in the neighborhood. Although, instead of getting them to take their clothes off, I would take their temperature and blood pressure.”

Justin had volunteered in hospitals while in high school. In college, he worked on advice lines. In medical school, he volunteered in health centers in low income neighborhood. As a physician, he worked hard and became very successful. He still volunteered as much as he could at helping others. As he became more financially stable, he spent increasing amounts of his time volunteering. He became so successful that he began accepting six month assignments in various foreign countries. He was glad he could provide medical assistance to thousands of people who otherwise would have received no treatment.

Justin receives a call. Would he see a patient who has been seriously hurt? The patient can not go to the hospital or he will be arrested. Justin cancels his next few appointments. Justin has always told anti-whaling activists he would help if needed.

The patient was on a boat. They attacked a boat illegally whaling. They tried to illegally sink the whaling boat. The people on the whaling boat fought back. The patient “Mr. Doe” was seriously injured.

Justin tends to Mr. Doe’s wounds. Had he not, Mr. Doe would have died, and soon. Justin tells Mr. Doe’s friends what they need to do to nurse Mr. Doe back to health.

Justin sneaks out the back. He hopes no one was keeping an eye on this organization. He wants to help, yet he knows to be careful. He wears a hat and puts his collar up high. If law enforcement is watching, hopefully they won’t recognize him nor will they think he is then worth following to determine who he is. Justin walks, runs into stores, exits into alleys, and keeps walking until he is certain he is not being followed.

Justin sees a woman sitting on a curb. She has a bleeding wound on her head. A quick look tells Justin she is probably homeless with some sort of intellectual disability. He can not immediately determine what caused the wound. It does not appear to be a deep wound, yet Justin is worried there could be a concussion.

Justin offers to help the woman. She can barely communicate and is very paranoid about Justin’s intentions. Justin keeps talking to her. His promises of a good meal is what appeals to her. Finally she agrees to go with Justin. Justin takes her to a nearby hospital and admits “Jane Doe” under his care as a charitable case. Justin treats her wounds and takes an x-ray. Justin delivers on his promise of a meal. “Jane Doe” quickly eats the meal, eyeing around guarding against anyone else stealing her meal.

Justin visits his patients. He spends time with each. He listens to what they have to say. He knows many doctors spend a few quick moments, check a chart, and then bill the insurance company for their brief moments of contact. Justin knows that often something a patient says can be more important than what is on a chart. There could be an ache that needs a treatment that is not being given attention. Or there could be a reaction that lets him know treatment needs to be changed. People are different and they react differently to medications. Sometimes a patient knowing that a physician cares makes them feel better, and happier patients do heal faster.

Justin observes a boy’s color is off. Justin is worried that jaundice may be sitting in. Justin sends the boys for tests.

Justin overhears that Dr. Bryant is behind with his patients. Dr. Bryant returned last week after recovering from a heart attack. Dr. Bryant is taking things slower yet has not gotten back in the swing of things. Justin offers to help. Dr. Bryant seems to appreciate the help.

Justin goes to a fund raiser seeking for diabetes research. He is a sponsor of the event. He hobnobs with other donors. He discusses the importance of the research and urges people to donate more. He offers to match any donation made that evening. Selma takes out her checkbook and writes a check for $5,000. Her friend Nikki is stunned. Justin thanks her. The charity raises a lot of money including a lot more with Justin’s matches.

Justin happily drives home. Along the way, he stops in a store. Justin looks around for a familiar figure. A man walks up to Justin and hands him an envelope.

“Are these the photographs?” Justin absolutely.

“They are of me and my niece, Shirley, I mean, Amber.”

Justin enjoys most the photographs of sex with the ten year old Amber.

Nikki likes to have a good time. “Good Time Nikki” is her nickname.

Nikki saw a bottle of alcohol she did not like. Even though it made her feel ill, made her forget things, and made her make stupid decisions. She has had to run out of the bedrooms of many a stupid decision.

Nikki never admits she is an alcoholic. She refuses any help. She claims she lives to keep drinking. It is who she is.

“Alcoholics want to quit drinking’ Nikki explained. “my problem is I want to learn how to drink more.”

Nikki was a “big gal on campus” in junior high. That is when she started drinking, and she let all the others girls know it. She was the cool girl with gin in her thermos. It was fortunate that her alcoholic mother never noticed the missing booze..

Nikki found drinking women were popular in high school, too. Only now it wasn’t other girls looking up to her, it was guys, Her memories of guys and alcohol are a blur, which is to be expected, as it was mostly a blur when it happened.

“Why date two sip Annie when you can have two pack Nikki?” Nikki would advertise, thinking that was a selling point. For some guys, it was.

College was a challenge. Nikki got her act together enough to graduate. She could stop drinking during the week days. Weekends consisted of bing drinking events followed by many black outs and awakenings in places she did not remember having been.

Nikki found a job as a pharmaceutical representative. She enjoyed traveling and hobnobbing with physicians trying to get them to buy her company’s pharmaceuticals. She found she could avoid snatching free samples for herself. What she enjoyed were the three martini lunches and dinners with a few glasses of wine. After all, it is called “wining and dining” clients, isn’ it? Even if she wasn’t supposed to meet up with doctors, she knows there were quite a few doctors who could not mind having a few drinks and some bites of food with a drinking woman.

Nikki loved living in Greenwich Village. There were lots of bars within walking distance of her apartment. There was no need to worry about drinking and driving when there was no need to drive.

Nikki soundly denounced people who drank and drove. They were playing with fire. People arrested drinking while driving should have their licenses taken away, Nikki argued. If they hurt someone, they should be thrown in jail, her argument continued. She knew when she had enough to drink and she would never drive drunk.

Nikki needed a roommate to help with the rent. Greenwich Village apartments can be a bit expensive. Finding convenient places to drink can be costly. Nikki had unusual standards for a roommate. She needed someone who could put up with a mess, both in the apartment and with each other after a heavy night of drinking.

“Have you seen the new themed bar?” Nikki would relate the bar news, “a guillotine comes down over the door as you enter.” Nikki would look at her roommate’s confused look, “of course, they don’t really chop your head off” Nikki reassured her.

Nikki’s roommate knew of a swanky party with a bunch of doctors. Her roommate likes to hook up with doctors. Nikki knows she is someday going to marry a doctor, if only because she will not date anyone other than doctors. Either that, or she will slip one day and allow a sanitation worker to date her, and she will end up marrying him.

Nikki’s roommate discusses whether she will buy a new dining room set or perhaps a new television set. She can’t decide. Nikki advises in favor of getting the television. They can get more use out of that.

Nikki enjoys the party. She has a glass of champaign. She has a second glass. Nikki flirts with a cute doctor. The talk continues until the doctor’s wife joins the conversation. Nikki eyes across the room. Her roommate seems to be zeroing in on another handsome doctor.

Nikki walks over to her roommate. She hears the gentleman announce he will match any donation. Her roommate Selma writes a check for $5,000. Selma whispers there won’t be a new television or dining room set . Nikki watches as Selma aggressively pursues this matching donor doctor. Nikki is disappointed as she watches the handsome doctor leave the party, alone. Nikki hopes Selma did not waste five thousand dollars for nothing.

“I need you to drive us back” Selma explains, “I’m so drunk I just gave away five thousand dollars on a whim.”

Nikki knows she can drive after just two drinks. That is nothing for Nikki. She often gets more blitzed than this.

Nikki drives. Traffic on the highway is moving faster than usual. Nikki likes this. If she speeds a bit, she can get home in time to watch that television show she likes---even if it is on a repeat of an episode she’s already seen, and it will be on an old TV set that will remain there for a little more time.

A car in front of Nikki sideswipes the car in the next lane. The car spins. Nikki immediately realizes the danger. Yet her mind and reactions are clouded by an alcohol daze. She reacts much too slowly as her car slams into the spinning car.

Nikki sees shattering glass and crumpled metal coming to her. She looks and realizes Selma is not going to survive this.

Selma looks at Nikki and realizes Nikki is not going to survive this.

Nikki thinks she should not have had those two drinks.

“I am Santa Clause.”

Nigel Harrison is the name on his driver’s license. Santa Clause in the name on his Brooklyn apartment mail slot. There may be a tree growing in Brooklyn. Tthere is also a grown Santa Clause in Brooklyn.

Nigel Harrison looks like Saint Nicholas. He can see children looking at him year round wondering if he is Santa. He always give them a knowing wink to let them know they are correct. He thus puts a finger to his mouth asking them to keep it a secret. Do not blow Santa’s cover.

Nigel keeps candy canes and photographs of himself in his pockets year round. If a child approaches him, he asks the parent or guardian if it is alright to give the child a candy cane. If the parent or guardian says “no”, then the child just gets a photograph.He wants each child to come away with something. There is no such thing as a “naughty” child, just children with varying degrees of being nice.

In another pocket Nigel keeps candy bars. They are for special children. When he comes across a child who has been very “nice”, the child is rewarded. Nigel knows who is nice and naughty, as he keeps a list.

Nigel learned as a young boy he was Santa. He had a dream and woke up and Santa was standing in front of him. Santa told him that some day it would be his turn to take over as Santa.

For years, he thought it was a silly dream. Then, one evening he suddenly found his body covered in sweat. He could not keep his eyes open as he fought off sleep. He fell asleep for what felt like several hours. He remembers Santa telling him all his duties and what he must do as the new Santa. It was a lengthy instruction course. When he awoke, he looked at the clock wondering how many hours he had passed out. The clock had the same time as when he fell asleep. There was a song of the radio. The song was at the same place as when he fell asleep. He realized what he thought had taken place over several hours had lasted a fraction of a second, if it had lasted any time at all.

What struck Nigel was he knew from that moment on that he was Santa Clause. No, not a Santa Clause who travels around the world climbing into chimneys. That was a fiction story. Yet he was the spirit of Santa Clause, and it was up to him to keep that spirit going.

Nigel began growing a beard on that day. Even though he was 22 years old, he was surprised when his beard came in white. He hair started turning white. If Nigel had any doubts, that proved to Nigel he was Santa.

Nigel was also aware that few would ever believe he was Santa. He also knew that skepticism would come with the job. He accepted that. It was his job to act as Santa would, at all times. As long as he did that, he would doing what was needed.

Nigel checks his mail. He gets a few letters every day and gets hundreds in the weeks before Christmas and thousands a few days before Christmas. Some media has done stories on him. Children and their parents find his address and write to him. He does not hide his address. While the Post Office refuses to list his name as “Santa Clause” many figure out that writing to “Nigel Harrison” in Brooklyn will get to Santa Clause. He also got the Post Office to allow mail addressed only to Santa at his address would be delivered to him. Sometimes the Post Office gives him letters addressed to Santa without his address. He knew some people at the Post Office found certain letters that could use a response from Santa.

Nigel answers every letter with love and compassion. Even if it was a letter denouncing him or using foul language or threatening him. Even if was a letter bad mouthing Christianity or all religion. Every letter with a return address got a nice letter back from Santa. In fact, Nigel saw to it that all the rude letters received nice responses. He hoped that showing kindness to his attackers would help make them realize that being nice at all times is better.

It would sometimes takes a few weeks or months to write every letter. Nigel found himself busy all day long after Christmas well into the new year. Yet he would answer them all.

When he caught up with the letters, Nigel would begin his daily walks. He liked to wave at people and talk with anyone who stopped him. He especially liked talking to children. After Thanksgiving, he would dress as Santa and walk around the city. That guaranteed he would be stopped by many children. He often got many invitations to appear as Santa. He would accept as many as he could. He would accept pay. That along with his Social Security is what paid for his merger living expenses, which he kept meager so he had more funds to spend on being Santa, and for all his Santa expenses. Cards, stamps, and candy does get costly.

Nigel rides on a float on a local Brooklyn parade. He often closes the parade as Santa. Nigel then goes to a store which has hired him to be Santa. Nigel finds a lot of places like someone who looks like Santa and has his own Santa outfit. Of course, he is Santa, but as long as they want him to portray Santa, Nigel finds it very easy to portray himself.

“Are you one of Santa’s helpers” a child asks. He gets that question a lot.

“No”, Nigel responds with a hearty laugh, “I AM Santa Clause.”

A photographer snaps a picture of the child with Nigel.

Nigel wonders how many photographs he has taken with children. He wonders how many of the children realize that they have been photographed with the real Santa. He wonders how many of those photographs remain, even decades later. He likes it when he is told a parent who had a picture taken with him, and then the parent show him the old photo, is now bringing a child to have a photo taken with him. He sometimes has a grandparent and a parent bringing a child. On rare occasions, he has had his photograph taken with four generations of people who have had their childhood pictures taken with him, the real Santa.

“What do you want me to bring you?” Nigel would ask the children. Nigel loves to hear their dreams and only wishes he could make all their dreams come true.

Nigel checks in with his physician. He gets his tests results. “You have an inoperable brain cancer,” Various alternatives of end of life treatments are presented. Nigel only hears the words “a few months” left to live. Nigel realizes he has may make it through one last Christmas, although he does not know in what condition he will be. He is sad, realizing there will soon be no more Christmases for Santa Clause.

Nigel realizes that Santa is going to need all the strength he has. Nigel can not let anyone know that Nigel is having health problems. Santa is forever. Santa needs to keep up his work.

Santa spent more hours meeting children, not less. While the doctor told him to relax and to take it easy, Santa works ever harder. Nigel does this because working hard as Santa is what relaxes him.

Aggressive chemotherapy causes Nigel’s hair to fall out. He is soon bald. He loses a lot of weight and becomes very thin. With each passing day, Nigel sees the image of Santa slowly slipping away from him. Nigel also feels the essence of Santa slipping away from him.

Nigel has a dream. He speaks to a young man he has never met before. Nor does he know where he lives and he never learns who he is. He explains that the young man will awaken as the next Santa Clause. He tells the young man what his duties are as Santa.

Nigel awakens. He does not know if his dream was real, yet it felt real. Nigel knows one thing. He no longer has any desire to put on the Santa outfit. He no longer feels like he is Santa.

On Christmas day, Nigel walks around the streets of Brooklyn absorbing the sights and sounds of his last Christmas. He thinks back to all the past Christmases where he could hear the joys of families together, opening presents, and enjoying each other’s company. He looks at many Christmas lights and appreciates when he can hear Christmas music emerging from open windows. Nigel is glad he gets to see and experience another Christmas.

Nigel tires and sits on a park bench. A little girl, perhaps five years old, sits with her mother on the same bench. Nigel has never seen either of them before.

The little girl looks at Nigel and says “you look too thin.” She hands him a candy cane.

“No, thank you, Nigel responds. “You enjoy it” he says to the girl.

“It is my Christmas gift to you”, the little girl explains.

“Go ahead” the mother chimes in, “she wants you to have it.”

“Thank you” Nigel says as he accept the gift.

The mother gets up and leaves. The little girl gets up and follows her.

The little girl turns to Nigel and waves with a parting farewell,

“Good bye, Santa Clause.”

It is hard owning a restaurant. It involves long hours, investing lots of money, and being in debt with a bank who needs to be repaid while trying to build and keep customers. There are licenses to obtain, employees to hire and train, and more employees to hire and train as turnover is high. It involves a lot of supervision guaranteeing that food is safely prepared and properly prepared and presented to impress customers and lure them back.

Hilda goes to the Fulton Fish Market early in the morning. She purchases the best food available. The early arrivals get to find and buy the best. She drives back to her restaurant. She often notes a man who looks like Santa sitting on a park bench. He hasn’t been there lately, she notes to herself.

Hilda stocks her purchases. She prides herself on having the best quality food.

Hilda checks on her slow cooking ribs. They are slow cooked for a day before preparation and serving. Her restaurant is noted for their excellent ribs.

Hilda warms the ovens. She oversees that the cooks and wait servers have all arrived. 11 am arrives. it is show time.

The lunch crowd slowing comes in. Hilda helps in the kitchen when checking that everything is prepared properly. A wait server, who is pregnant, needs relieving for a few minutes. Hilda takes her section until she feels better.

“Sidewalk Sam” stands in front of Hilda’s restaurant. Sam has never changed his clothes in the three years she has been operating her restaurant. Hilda hates to think how long he has worn them before then.

Hilda tries to chase “Sidewalk Sam” away. His very smell drives customers away. She watches people coming towards her restaurant who take one look at what they had to walk past, which is “Sidewalk Sam”. Hilda sighs as she watches them turn and walk away from Sidewalk Sam and her restaurant, as they walk into another direction.

“I have rights” Sidewalk Sam yells, “you can’t make me leave.”

Hilda feels frustrated. She used to literally drag Sidewalk Sam to another block. Somehow, Sidewalk Sam, who begs for money to buy alcohol, is able to find a lawyer who establishes that Hilda is at fault for illegally pushing Sidewalk Sam to where he does not want to be. Sidewalk Sam has a legal right to stand where he wants, and if Hilda violates that right, the lawyer will charge her criminally and sue her civilly.

Hilda cannot believe that all her efforts and investment is placed at risk because of one person who likes to beg in front of her restaurant.

The restaurant becomes full at 12:30. After 1, the crowd dies out. Between 1:30 and 4, just two lone people come. Hilda is glad to see at least a few people ate at unconventional hours to keep things moving.

The lunch shift leaves and the evening shift arrives. The evening shift is usually busier. The menu is more expensive. More drinks are ordered. The bills are higher. The tips are better. Hilda lets the lunch shift know if they do a good job they are next in line to move to the evening shift. Some of the lunch shift have children and are not interested. Others are.

Hilda notices out the window that not only is Sidewalk Sam still outside but he appears to have made a friend. There are now two people begging for money and driving customers away. Hilda feels frustrated. Her problems seem to only increase, never decrease.

Hilda takes care of the financial matters while the restaurant is cleaned. Hilda goes home and sleeps for three hours. Then she awakens to repeat the process of finding the best food and supplies.

Hilda tries taking brief naps throughout the day to remain alert. For a few years, it works. Yet, as the years have gone by, she finds it getting more and more difficult.

Hilda worries about the finances. Profits, which have been low, have been non-existent in recent months.

Hilda works her job like a zombie. She begins losing her concern about all around her. Sidewalk Sam and his new friend do not bother her. Someone not showing up for a shift and causing her to do her work does not bother her. She has done it before and can do it again.

Hilda works on the day’s finances. Today, instead of leaving cash in the register to make change in the morning, she takes all the cash home with her. Hilda checks on the slow cooking ribs. She does a manipulation to the cooker, here and there. Pure carelessness, she observes, as she changes the heat to what she desires.

Hilda leaves. Her carelessness begins a small fire.

Hilda goes home and falls asleep. As expected, she receives a phone call later that evening. Her restaurant is on fire.

Hilda arrives and watches as the restaurant is a total loss.

It is good I have insurance, Hilda thinks.

Mario had dreams throughout his life. He still has dreams. He just can never figure out how to achieve them.

Mario had an idea of hot dogs outside Staten Island football games. It turns out he needed licenses to sell food. He got the licenses and passed inspections. Then it turns out he could not sell on school property. By the time he could find places he could set up his stand, he was too far away from the game to make any sales. Plus, no one was outside during the game.

Mario got the idea of selling hand puppets in a table at various street fairs. It seems there was less of a demand for hand puppets than Mario had figured.

Mario tried selling encyclopedias door to door. Mario was several decades too late for that enterprise.

Mario produced a low budget horror film. He was proud watching as it was filmed right in Staten Island. A low of his closest friends got to play roles. A local theater showed it for one night. That was its only showing. Mario took a financial bath on that venture.

Mario got a job selling a hair growth tonic over the telephone. The job lasted a week before the authorities shut down the place. At least Mario has no money invested in it. Mario was never paid for his time, though. It was just another notch in Mario’s record of being involved in failed ventures.

There came a time when Mario had no money left to invest in some scheme. Soon Mario has no money to pay rent. Then one day, Mario could not get into his apartment. It seems the landlord expects rent.

Mario was homeless. Mario realized it is hard to even get into a failed venture if you don’t have the right clothes, or, actually, any nice clothes left. Those job interviews do not go well.

Mario hooks up with some guys who know a guy to sell goods that have fallen off a truck. He finds key intersections to sell his wares. He learns how to quickly fold all the goods up in a blanket and walk away. The police may arrest one of his associates, yet a signal is given and all the others quickly slip away.

“These pocket books are the real deals, not knock offs” Mario would yell. He knew the distinctive New York buyer would look for the stuff that fell off trucks rather than the imitation stuff that flooded the street.

Mario was upset to learn that since his sales were down, his suppliers were giving the real stuff to others. He has being given the illegal imitation stuff. That could bring trouble as the companies would prosecute people selling fake stuff with their brand lname isted on it. He was more at risk.

One day Mario was the unfortunate one the police caught. Mario was fined more money that he had. It seems Mario could never get ahead.

Mario learned several tricks of the homeless game. He knew sites that gave out free food. He would eat enough for himself, hide food, and sell food or trade food to other homeless. This got him banned from several free food distributors.

Mario quickly discovered he was not welcome in most of the city.

Mario learned the ‘stealing from stores and selling on the streets’ game. He found some proficiency in the game. Over time, stores began to recognize Mario as the man they suspected was ripping them off. They kept him from even entering. Several police threats were delivered.

“Look, this is a real Rolex, not some fake you, honest” Mario would tell disbelievers that he really does have a real one.

Mario was becoming welcome in less and less of New York.

Mario learned the begging game. Here the law was on his side, as long as he wasn’t aggressive about it. Of course, Mario was aggressive. After all, how many people are really going to complain about a few seconds of hard sell from someone blocking their way down the street. Even if they called the police, how could it be proved that the victim was not just overreacting? Mario felt comfortable and gained success as a “just about the legal limit, maybe a bit more” aggressive panhandler.

Mario would look at a person and decide what charity they would like. He would collect money for that charity. People with dogs were easy as he would beg for funds to help a dog adoption agency. He would be from environmental groups, civil rights groups, religious groups of various religions, or once he even raised money for a group in favor of removing restrictions on stock brokers.

As Mario was run out of more neighborhoods, Mario was finding the places where people do not recognize him and run him away was diminishing. Mario was yearned for friendly human contact.

Mario befriends a man who calls himself Sidewalk Sam. They have had a few similar experiences. Sam never gets much company and he appreciates having someone to talk with.

It is late. Sidewalk Sam goes to a shelter where Mario is banned. Mario sleeps in the doorway of some restaurant. It is the restaurant where they stood in front of for most of the day.

Mario awakens. He whole body feels like it is on fire. To his horror, Mario realizes his whole body is on fire.

An ambulance arrives. Mario is taken to a hospital. Mario has never felt such pain. Mario has burns on over 85% of his body. Mario is told they can give him pain killers. Yet too much of his body has burned for him to survive.

Mario is asked if there are any friends or family who should be notified.

None of them come to see him.

Mario stares at the ceiling. He asks himself a question:

“So this is how it ends?”  


Amy was abused throughout childhood. Her alcoholic mother spent more of the day beating her, kicking her, throwing her into the wall, and yelling continually. This happened every day, every hour she was home. The only time her mother stopped the behavior is when her father came home. Then it was his turn to beat her.

One day they both beat her at the same time. Amy became frightened they were going to kill her. She ran out the house. She had enough money on her to take a commuter train from her New Jersey town to Manhattan. She figured she would be safe in Manhattan. Her parents would never be able to find her there.

Amy feels safe from her parents yet she does not know what to do. Amy figures she will think of something. She mostly sits on the sidewalk for a couple of days. She forages for food from wastebaskets. She finds food yet thinks there has to be a better way.

Amy has noticed a man walking by looking at her a few times. He can not be missed due to his purple pants. He has a sort of weird look to him with an eery mustache. She starts noticing him more and more frequently, and he definitely is looking at her. This time, he stops and speaks to her.

“Would you like something to eat?”

“Sure” Amy responds. Maybe he is a psychotic killer, Amy thinks. At this point, Amy will accept food from anyone. Death for food is a fair trade off.

The man tells Amy his name is Marc, with a c. Marc rescues runaways. He gives young women like her a safe place to stay.

Amy quickly wolfs down the food. Marc lets Amy know that Marc cares for her. Marc will shows her the love she has been missing in her life. Marc shows her a room to stay. She jumps on the top of the bed. It ha been days since she slept on a bed.

Marc cares for Amy. Marc makes Amy feel loved. For Amy, the world has become wonderful.

Marc enters with a friend named Fred. Marc explains that Marc loves her and that he is a close friend with Fred, and therefore Amy has a duty to love Fred back. Fred has a thing for deflowering virgins.

Amy resists. Marc grabs Amy and holds her down. Amy bites and escapes the room. Fred and Marc chase after and grab Amy back. They hold her down again. The announce they are going to beat her until she agrees to have sex with Fred. Amy withstands the beating yet is seems like it is never going to end. Amy reaches her limits and screams she will do whatever they want.

Amy is no longer a virgin.

Amy spends the night crying.

The next morning, three women come to see Amy. They explain the facts of her new life to her. She is to roam the streets of Manhattan and get men to sleep with her. She is to charge the men money. She is to give the money to Marc. In return, Marc will feed her, give her a room to stay, and care for her. As long as her earns a certain amount of money.

Amy walks the streets of Manhattan.

“You want a date?” Amy was told to ask. Never bring up money upfront, she learned. There is nothing agains the law about asking for a date. Once you reel a client in, find out what the client wants, and then announce the price list.

The first night is horrifying for her. She walks past a burning restaurant and sees a man burning on the sidewalk. She throws her sweater over him and puts the fire out. She calls 911 on her cell phone. Then she leaves as fast as she can.

Amy briefly considers calling her parents.

Amy decides to go back with Marc. This is her new life.


Jack enjoys being a fire fighter. He is a third generation fire fighter.

Jack followed in his father’s footsteps as the type of fire fighter who went into structures on fire to rescue people. That is what Jack most wants to do at his job, which is help people in trouble.

“Son, you don’t have to become a fire fighter because I am,” Jack’s father often told him.

“Dad”, Jack would reply, “I WANT to be fire fighter”

Jack’s wife worries about him. She often speaks with Jack’s mother on how she dealt with the stress. They spend a lot of time together bonding over this fear which they know not to discus with their husbands.

“What if you get killed on the job?” one of the wives would ask, each taking turns asking the same fearful question.

The question was always answered with a shrug of the shoulders.

Jack loves the friendship between fire fighters. They spend many hours together waiting for calls. Granted, there is a lot of work maintaining equipment and keeping up on their skills. There is also a lot of down town where they all bond. Many at work are Jack’s best friends. A few years ago, there was concern that a woman added to the mix would ruin the male bonding aspect of fire fighters. As women were added, things did change. Yet things were just different, not worse. The female fire fighters became part of the family. Of course, it took some guys some time to get use to it, but it happened. After awhile, most were wondering what they were worrying about.

Jack has a secret. He has AIDS. He dresses carefully to hide the sores. He has not told anyone at work. He stopped seeing a physician. He does not want to risk any word of his illness to reach his fellow fire fighters.

Jack knows without taking any medicine that death is certain. Yet Jack’s pride is stronger than his desire to live. He has decided he will not tell anyone about his disease.

“Whose business is it, anyway?” Jack would tell himself.

Jack sometimes feel moments of guilt for not telling his wife. Yet he can not bring himself to tell her. He realizes he may very well pass the virus to her. Yet his pride in hiding his secret is more important to him that the health of his own wife.

There is a call. A restaurant is on fire. There is word a person has been burned from the flames. The fire fighters quickly jump into action and respond. It is a fire contained in the kitchen. They put it out in time to save the restaurant. A chef has some minor burns. He is taken to the hospital. The fire fighters learn he was released and went home later that day.

Jack finds he gets tired more easily. He keeps pushing himself to keep going. He is finding it harder and harder to keep pushing himself.

Jack feels ill. He asks if he can go home early. One look at him. and he is told to go home. “Don’t spread your germs.” Jack inwardly laughs, as if they only knew.

Jack does not go home. He goes to a bar. Alcohol is the treatment Jack has prescribed for himself. Jack gets a cell phone. “Sure, I’m interested” Jack responds to the call, “I’ll be over there.”

Jack’s friend has a friend who needs Jack’s help. Jack is more than willing to oblige. Jack slips his friend some money.

Jack and his friend go to see his friend’s new friend who needs Jack’s help. Jack and his friend look at a frightened young woman shivering in her bed.

Jack’s friend tell the young woman “this is my friend Fred, Amy. He has a thing for virgins.”


Not everyone hates a clown.

At least clowns like clowns. Tina loves being a clown. She lives to make people laugh. She went to clown college. She did promise her parents she would complete college. She just did not tell them which college.

Tina toured with a circus for a year. She got tired of the traveling life. She returned home to Queens, moved back in with her parents, and started her business as a professional clown. She found there were quite a few bookings for birthday parties, especially when mothers saw she had been with the circus and that she was a woman. The stereotypical fears of a male clown were reduced by her being female. What she still had to overcome was that some children were scared of clowns, regardless of whether the clown was male or female.

Tina wonders why someone would be afraid of clowns. She has seen babies and very young children scream at the sight of clowns. Even a grown man, a fire fighter named Jack, told her at a fire fighter’s fund raiser that clowns still give him the creeps.

Tina wonders why there are babies after of clowns. They should have no past experience to be afraid of clowns. Is it the make-up? Is there some inherited trait that makes some people afraid of clowns? Were cave people viciously chased by pre-historic clowns?

Tina is a happy clown. Tine believes that should help. Tina can understand how some sad looking clowns may upset children, even though some children empathize with sad clowns. Which is why some clowns prefer to be sad clowns. Plus, that is usually a more natural role to portray. Many sad clowns really are often sad about life.

Tina volunteered at an animal rescue no-kill shelter. She loves animals. She is sorry to see so many abandoned and homeless animals in New York City. How can people move and leave their pets behind? How can someone take in a pet to love and tire of the pet and force it outside? Humans are the ones who are inhumane, not animals, Tina thinks.

Tina helps bath and groom the animals. She helps hold the animals while the veterinarian examines and treats animals. Tina has a soothing touch and talk that helps calm many animals.

Tina works well with both children and animals. Some parents can tell that. Some ask if she would be willing to watch their children during the day time. If she has only a few children she does not have to register as a day care. Tina agrees as she loves the children. Plus, she needs the money.

Tina enjoys watching children. Even though it cuts into her time at the animal shelter, at least this pays better. Tina’s parents are also glad to see Tina working. She can help with the expenses.

Tina feels a lump. She sees a doctor. She gets the troubling news. Tina has cancer.

Tina, the happy clown, realizes there is no guarantee as to how much time she has. Tina has to deal with a life threatening illness while handling life.

Tina finds people rally behind her. The people at the pet shelter visit her frequently. They hold a fund raiser and honor her for her work.

Tina’s parents are supportive. Tina finds much love from friends and family.

With lots of positive support and thoughts, doctors are amazed. Her cancer situation improves. The cancer disappears. Tina is cancer free.

Tina remains the happy clown.

Taryn awakens exactly at 6:13 am. She went to sleep exactly at 11:00 pm. The body operaes best when it has reseted 6 hour and 13 minutes.

Taryn throws a robe over herself. Since she does not expect anyone to come over, there is no need to get dressed. There very seldom are guests so even the likelihood of a surprise visitor is very low. There are occasional solicitors and someone with a petition, yet there is no need to get dressed or even open the door for them.

Taryn brews coffee. She takes out some raw vegetables, washes them thoroughly, and then rewashes them. She eats her vegetables and drink her coffee.

It is time to dust her Brooklyn apartment. She dusts thoroughly, reaching even the furthest reaches inside her apartment. She always dusts and then sweeps, as she presume the dust she doesn’t get rid of through dusting will fall onto the floor, where the broom will then get them.

After that, it is time to reorganize her shelves. This is a puzzle which has perplexed Taryn for years. She considers how frequently she needs to reach for different items and places those she needs the most so they are easiest to reach. This is her personal data that constantly changes as items that seemed more necessary prior lose their privileged spaces near the front of the shelves and are relocated to more distance spots. Items she had stored more in back, for which she has found recent needs, are moved towards the front. Of course, she realizes that is she could establish one set order of where things are, she might be able to better find them. She discovers she often has trouble remembering the new locations where items now are yet she can often better remember where they were, yet now no longer are,

Taryn then sorts her clothes closet. Clothing is color coordinated according to season. Since it is the first day of a new season, this requires removing the last season’s clothing and moving them into the “back up” locations while the current seasoning clothing of each color are moved to the front of their section.

Taryn has lunch. A good yogurt hits the spot. She hates ordering it in the summer as the food store delivery people often include her delivery amongst several other peoples’ orders. She fears the yogurt begins to spoil if it is too hot outside. Taryn does not like runny, spoiled yogurt.

Taryn turns the television set on. Nothing happens. “Is that cable out again”, Taryn wonders. She calls her cable provider.

“The cable is not down” she hears the faceless representative of a large cable company tell her. “We can send someone out to fix it. Will you have home this afternoon between 1 and 5 pm?” She can do that. She had no other plans anyway.

She sits on her sofa and waits. And waits. She listens as her clock chimes one. She waits in anxious anticipation. She listens as her clock chimes two, knowing that one quarter of the allotted arrival time has passed. This increases the odds that the cable repair person shall be coming soon.

Taryn listens as the clock chimes three. Half the time of expected arrival has arrived. The time of actual arrival draws closer.

Taryn listens as the clock chimes four. She then wishes she could have been told that the arrival time would have been between 4pm and 5 pm. She could have dome something more than waiting on the sofa.

As the clock passes 4:30 pm, increasing thoughts whirl within Taryn that the cable repair person is not coming today. Perhaps the person was delayed. Maybe they lost her request. Perhaps the person came and rang the wrong buzzer, left, and is angry thinking she was not home.

At 4:48 pm, the downstairs buzzer buzzes. She rushes to confirm it is the expect cable repair person. The repair woman enters the room, asks what the problem is, looks at the television, fixes the problem inside of a minute, and leaves.

At first, Taryn is glad she is not holding the repair woman from her next destination. Then she feels angry as she waited almost four hours for something that took about a minute. If her problem was so easy, why didn’t they just tell her on the phone how to fix the problem?

She is relieved that her television and cable are working. She spends the rest of the day and night watching ti with a snack of a pint of ice cream.

11 pm arrives. Time to go to sleep.

Another day accomplished for a woman who has not set foot out of her apartment in over six years.


It is important to remain physically fit, Adam always declares.

Why waste money when there is a whole city in which to exercise. Jogging along the river, admiring the view of Manhattan, is a favorite past time.

Parks have places with things to jump and areas to do sit ups and push ups. Adam likes it when the ladies sit on the park benches and giggle as he does his exercises. On warm days, he of course has to remove his shirt. The women just love his body.

Adam loves his own body. He entered a few body building contests. He wasn’t won yet. He is learning what it takes to learn. What it takes is more exercising. And more exercising.

Not everyone appreciates a fit body. There are a few cat calls. Adam believes the dude yelling that he is a “faggot” it is probably a faggot himself. Or just jealous.

Every now and then he recognizes a few familiar faces. The old man who almost always is sitting on that park bench. The blonde woman with the strange stare who watches him pass by who always seems to be hanging outside the liquor store.

Adam likes to wave or nod to those he recognizes, and to a few he does not. It is a good idea to always be friendly. Help spread the happiness. Maybe if everyone was friendlier to everyone else, that friendliness will grow and soon Brooklyn will be the friendliest place in the world. Adam is on two missions: make himself into the raddest body ever. Make everyone in Brooklyn happier.

Today Adam is going to push himself. He is going to jog across the Brooklyn Bridge, jog around an entire route of Manhattan, jog back across the Brooklyn Bridge, and then job home. He is psyched. He has been waiting for the perfect weather: not toocool and windy, not too warm, yet just a bit windy enough to keep him cool.

Adam excitedly runs down his apartment building hallway. He sees a doorway open to an apartment of a neighbor he has never seen. He runs down hoping to finally see what this mystery neighbor looks like. The door closes before he can get there.

Adam runs a few blocks. He sees the old man on the park bench. Adam waves to the old man and smiles. The old man smiles back and waves.

Adam sees the blonde woman with the strange eyes. She jumps in front of him. 
“I need your help.”

“What?” Adam asks, surprised to be stopped.

“I see you, nice strong man, run past all the time” the blonde woman continues, “I am too embarrassed to ask. I need a strong man just for a minute to move my couch”

“I’m sort of in a hurry...”Adam explains.He kind of has his day planned out.

“”I’ll pay you” the woman quickly inserts. To top off the deal, she adds “it will only take five minutes. It will be so helpful to me.”

Adam does not really want to do this, yet, he figures, it’ll be over quick and maybe he will earn some money. Although he intends to refuse her money. Yet, if she insists, maybe it will pay for a coffee or soup break.

“Sure, OK”, Adam answers, “as long as it won’t take too long. I got to run.”

The blonde woman doesn’t respond yet waves for him to follow. She enters a building Adam thought was vacant. Do people live here? Maybe she is a squatter?

Adam thinks to himself “oh, well, not for me to judge.” If she is poor and alone, then she probably does need help with furniture. If she squats, she probably will not pay him much. “That’s OK”, Adam thinks to himself. “I am not doing this for the money. I wasn’t planing on doing this at all.”

Adam follows her up two flights of steps. Of course the elevator in a building like this isn’t running. Adam pretends the steps are part of his exercise regime. He sort of wants to show off to the woman. She is not the most attractive woman in the world, Adam concludes, yet she is alright. Give the woman a little show of his physical abilities. Give her sometime to dream about, Adam decides is his mission.

Adam follows the woman into an apartment. Adam first is amazed that anyone lives here. The apartment looks vacant.

All Adam suddenly feels is pain. He sees a blinding white light as his entire body feels shocked with electricity. Adam finds himself on the floor. Adam grasps for breath as he realizes the crazy woman has stunned him with a taser gun.

The woman with the strange eyes has crazy eyes because she is crazy. Adam is not certain is she is about to rob him, or what. If she wants to rob him, she chose poorly. Adam does not carry much money on him. If she wants to kill him or hurt him, that is another story. Adam knows he could take her in a fight or run away from her fast enough. Yet Adam also knows he is no match for a stun gun.

Adam feels the blonde woman put a cloth to his nose. Before he can figure out what she is doing, Adam feels himself losing consciousness. Adam’s brain screams to itself about the importance of remaining awake, yet the effort is futile. Adam is unconscious.

Adam regains some sensibility. Little makes sense. He realizes the blonde woman is naked on top of him. He is naked. She is naked.

Adam realizes he is being raped.

“Men can’t be raped” Adam always thought. Not that he had thought that much about it before. He now realizes it can happen.

The woman gets off him.

“You tell anyone” she says, “I’ll say you dragged me up here and you raped me.”

Adam’s head swirls and he tries to comprehend all that has happened.

The woman throws a twenty dollar bill towards him.

“I told you I’d pay you” the woman continues, “you male whore.”

Adam scrambles to his feet. He gathers his clothes. He quickly dresses while making his way to the door. Once he is dressed, he runs out the door.

Adam leaves the twenty dollar bill behind.

Adam dashes for the steps. He runs down the steps as fast as he can. He runs outside.

Good afternoon, Brooklyn.

Adam realizes he has lost several hours.

Adam’s first instinct is to report this to the police. Adam sees a police officer. Adam realizes he can’t bring himself to admit that he was raped. Plus, what if he reports it, and they arrest the woman, and she says she raped him. He could go to jail even though he himself was the victim.

Adam thinks of the trial. How much will he be mocked for a being a guy claiming he was raped by a woman? He would become the laughing stock of the neighborhood.

Adam does not smile. The old man on the bench sees Adam. The old man smiles and waves at Adam. Adam walks past the old man without responding back. The old man is taken aback a bit. Adam has never behaved like this before.

Adam no longer cares is everyone is happy. Adam feels violated. The world a big, uncaring place. Adam hopes a giant waves swallows all of Brooklyn and drags the whole borough into the Atlantic.

Adam just wants to sleep. He goes back into his building. Adam sees the door is open where the mystery resident lives. A cable repair woman is entering the apartment. Adam sees the mystery resident for the first time. Adam waves at her, in a desperate hope that  she is friendly. Adam seeks some sign there is humanity left in this world.

The mystery tenant looks at Adam and quickly looks away. She sees Adam wave at her yet she does not wave back. Adam concludes she is deliberately ignoring him. She seems just as cold hearted as the rest of the world.

Adam decides it is a cruel world.


On good days, Ethan remembers many of the Physics equations he used to use while working in the laboratory. Other days, he remembers he was shooting atoms at something, yet he can not remember what he was shooting atoms at nor why he was doing it. Yet it seemed like it was a good idea, as he remembers he shot a lot of atoms. Other days, Ethan struggles and is unable to remember what it is he used to do for a living. On those days, when it comes up in conversation, Ethan responds he was a cab driver. It is a job Ethan can remember, even though he never was a cab driver. Or, as Ethan thinks, maybe he once was a cab driver. Who remembers?

Ethan always remembers how to find his way to his favorite bench. Although one day he could not find it. Yet that was only once. Every other time, Ethan knows where it is. Except for that other time he again forgot where it was.

Ethan feels life is becoming a waste. Just a few years ago he was contributing to the understanding of our physical world. He was an important part of cutting edge research. Now the world no longer needs his years of knowledge and experience. The world now tells him he is supposed to sit on a bench and watch the world go by. The world no longer wants him to shoot atoms back at it.

Ethan likes watching the world go by. Instead of shooting atoms, Ethan shoots smiles. Many people smile back. Ethan mentally records his observations. “The Effects of Positive Facial Expressions Upon Random Subject Matters.”

A little girl runs up to him with a woman behind her. Ethan does not recognize them, although she seem friendlier than most other people.

“Grandpa!” the little girl squeals. Ethan looks around to see whom she is addressing and realizes she is speaking to him.

“Hi, dad”, the woman says.

Ethan struggles to remember. No, he does not recall these people. Is this his daughter and grand daughter? Or are these people trying to trick him out of his retirement money?

The little girl says “I got you a present.” She gives Ethan a tiny statute of some man painted gold reading ‘World’s Best Grandfather.”

Ethan looks at it and a tear comes to his eyes. Someone does remember him and what he has done in this world.

Ethan carries the statue with him wherever he goes. He puts it next to him on the bench so everyone can see it. Here sits Ethan, the world’s best grandfather. Step up and see the best grandfather, anywhere, right here.

Ethan sees his jogger friend go by. Ethan smiles and waves at him. His jogger friend does not smile and wave back this time. This strikes Ethan as odd. The jogger has never ignored him before. Oh, well, I guess some people do not appreciate the Best Grandfather in the  World.

Ethan’s silly friend walks by. This silly friend always calls him “young man” as if the friend thinks it is a compliment that this young man thinks Ethan is still young. Ethan tinwardly takes it as an insult, as if he is so old he needs to be humored by being called “young man.”

Ethan goes home to his Brooklyn apartment. He remembers where it is. He looks at his statute and decides he does not want to risk losing such a precious award. He has carried it around enough. It is time to display it on his prized shelf.

Ethan looks at some of his other awards. He looks at his “Most Improved” bowling trophy. That one made him chuckle. He recalls how he joined a bowling team at work. He had never bowled before, so he averaged around 35. Eventually he was able to get him bowling game averaging above 120. He received his award for achieving that. Ethan smiles as he remembers the fun times bowling.

Ethan looks at a white ribbon and chuckles to himself. He remembers the local arts festival. He could not paint to save his life. He tried to paint a scene of the East River and decided instead to call it some random abstract. He won a third place in a contest where just about every entrant won a first, second, or third prize. Still, he was pleased with the ribbon. It was something he had done with his own two hands, for better or worse.

Ethan looks at some award. He seems to recall it had something to do with work, but he can’t recall what. Oh, well, it is not that important. He throws it in the trash can.

Ethan proudly looks at his shelf. He cries looking at how he is the best grandfather in the world. This is his greatest award ever.

His Nobel Prize in Physics rests in the trash can, underneath some coffee grounds.


“Take my husband, please”, Lani jokes to her Manhattan comedy club audience. She is greeted with silent stares. While this joke works with other comics who get the juxtaposition of a famous old line, “take my wife, please” , here this joke did not work. Perhaps this crowd is not familiar with old jokes. Or, as Lani fears, she is not that talented and the audience is letting her know they do not like her.

“I flew in tonight and I had to hold my carry on luggage the entire flight, and, boy, are my arms tired” Lani continues with reshaping what she hopes are old familiar lines. The silence lets her know this joke did not work, either. Perhaps it was too much of a stretch. She had hoped by reciting it in a humorous voice that perhaps people would at least laugh at her voice even if they did not get the joke. Nothing is working.

Lani switches to the old Roo-roo joke. This is a joke comics often only tell each other backstage. It is a joke where each comic makes a unique story of torturing a captured man. The idea often is who can come up with the most depraved methods of torture while remaining funny. The joke is two men are captured. Their capturers give them a choice of death or roo-roo. The first man chooses roo roo, only to discover that roo roo involves torture and extreme sexual violation that intensifies until the person dies. The next captive person is asked whether he prefers death or roo-roo. He chooses roo-roo. The punchline is the lead captor then announces “but frst, a little roo-roo.” While that is the punchline, the real laughs come from how the person creates and describes the depravity of the roo-roo torture.

Lani describes incredibly detailed descriptions of penis cutting, organ partial removal, numerous plants, minerals, and animals stuck into every orifice, and gouged out eyes replaced with Girl Scout cookies.. Her hand movements indicate where each torture occurs. She rolls around the floor screaming to mimic the tortured man. She is killing it, literally and professionally, she thinks. About half way through her planned descriptions, she realizes she has not heard any laughter. Still, Lani pressures forward, assuming the audience eventually will catch up.

As Lani  rolls on the floor screaming in fake pain, which she finds hilarious, she looks up and sees the emcee standing over her. The emcee announces “let’s hear it for Lani Anders”. Lani freezes in horror as she realizes her routine is being interrupted and prematurely ended.

A voice from the audience yells out “sexual abuse is never a laughing matter, men or women.”

Lani walks the walk of shame off the stage, dejected. Her fellow comics look away and avoid her, as if bombing on stage could be an infectious disease that could spread to them. The club owner runs up to Lani.

“You’re fired” the club owner announces, letting her know that her scheduled three other appearances have been cancelled. “No one does such vulgarities in my club.” She feels a more than gentle nudge from the club owner as she is walked out the door.

Lani considers the irony. The male comics tell penis jokes, use vulgar words, and simulate sexual acts in their humor. Yet, when a woman does it in this club, it is considered vulgar. Lani works in a double standard world.

Lani tries to keep smiling and appear bright and happy as she walks towards her Brooklyn apartment. She yells “hey, surfer dude” to a guy she often sees who she notices always appears to have spent lots of time tanning. She sees a familiar old woman and yells out “hey, how’s the fashion modeling going?” The woman strikes a fashion pose, as she often does when Lani yells that Lani seems an old man she recalls and shouts out to him “good to see you, young man.” The old man nods back at her.

Lani is home. She sits in a chair and sighs. Her dream is be a comic. She believes if she keeps trying she will some day reach her goal. For now, she will keep doing it part time on evenings at any comedy club she can find that will let her perform. For now, she will keep her day job. While her day job bores her and is not her dream job, it pays the bills and keeps her financially afloat.

Lani checks her schedule to see what time she is expected to work. The hospital has her scheduled to perform three surgeries, so she does not want to be late.
Millie arrives for work at a privately funded shelter for battered women. It is at an undisclosed location in Staten Island, although sometimes some abuser finds a way to get the location which often creates all kinds of trouble. Many abusers insist their wives or girl friends should go back with them. Once a man shot one of Millie’s clients. He walked right into the place and while people ran to stop him, he lifted a pistol and emptied it into his girl friend and then turned the pistol on himself and committed suicide. It was definitely the most shocking thing Millie has witnessed. It was also confusing as that couple had only been on three dates before she sought shelter away from his abuse. How a man could react so violently over someone he knew for such a short time keep people guessing. Since he was dead and he left no suicide note, no one knew what he was thinking. Obviously, he had some sort of psychiatric problems that the woman quickly saw yet others around him, perhaps, had not.

Millie’s company also had a residence that housed abused men. Many people did not realize that men be victims. Their were partners, male and female, who abused others, men and women. Trans-genders could be found among the abused. Trans-genders unfortunately seemed to be targets of abuse from closed minded people in addition to the risks of finding themselves, as do others, in abusive relationships.

“I miss Ed”, Janet tells Millie.

“You remember Ed has put you in the hospital with broken bones three times” Mille responds, “This seems to be a part of who Ed is. He is unable to control his anger, and his anger becomes very dangerous.”

“Yeah”, Janet observes, “but I deserved those beatings.”

Millie quickly interjects “no one deserves to be treated like that, for any reason.”

Janet looks ashamed towards Millie stating “I did cheat on him. I want to make our relationship work.”

Millie has heard similar things before. Many abused believe they asked for the abuse. Some see it as a twisted sign that the person who abused them loves them. It is as if they believe the abusers care about them as the abusers took the time out of their precious day to abuse them. Others understand the abuse is wrong yet still believe they did something wrong to cause the abuse, thus the fact they were abused is all or partially their faults. Some though recognize the abuse as abuse and realize they need to get out. Even some of these women, who wish to escape the abuse, continue to retain various loving or caring feelings for their abusers.

Millie wants to educate people that abuse is wrong. Both abusers and victims need to learn this. Potential abusers should learn what abuse is and why they should never do such things to cause such pain. They need to learn how to build relations and how not to explode when things do not go their way.. Victims need to learn not to accept abuse and to realize it is not their fault someone else abused them.

Millie speaks at high school classes, college fraternities, college sororities, civic clubs, and on radio talk shows. She talks personally with people with questions and concerns. She counsels privately for no charge. She earns a living counseling at a shelter.

Millie believes one needs to speak up whenever people discuss abuse. Too often abuse exists because it has some social acceptance because abusers see people often keep quiet when they hear about abuse. Millie wants to shed as much light as she can onto abuse and to let people know that abuse is wrong and that there are people who will stand up against abuse.

Millie attends a comedy show. She hears some comic joking about a man being gang raped and sexually violated. Millie looks around and is glad to see most of the audience similarly appears displeased about their upsetting remarks. Millie yells out “sexual abuse is never a laughing matter, male or female.” The crowd hardly stirs after hearing her shout that. Millie hopes she has won a small victory as a group realizes that abuse is wrong, and not something to joke about.

Millie is home. Her boyfriend Frank has cleaned their Queen apartment. Everything seems perfectly clean, until Millie seems the sink has not been cleaned. Mille becomes enraged.

“I didn’t have time to clean the sink”, Frank explains, cowering against the kitchen wall.

“You know how much I hate dirt” Millie screams out him. Millie picks up the toaster and throws it at Frank. The toaster hits his forehead, opening up a gash that is bleeding.

“Get a bandage on that cut before you start bleeding on the floor” Mille yells.

As Millie has heard before, it is often easier to fight for what you believe in then it is to live your beliefs.


Cisco screams at his employees. Terror rushes through their bodies.

“What idiot messed up this order?” Employees stare at each other confused. No one seems aware there is a problem anywhere.

Cisco removes boxes of plastic forks from a box. “These are all forks. Instead of 500 boxes of spoons and 500 boxes of forks, I have 1,000 boxes of forks.”

Employees look at each other. No one seems to be aware of anyone making a mistake like this.

“Do you spineless jellyfish and you shelled peanuts know how long it is going to take to sell 1000 boxes of forks instead of 500?’

Mo’nique whispers to Andrea “about twice as long?” Andrea stifles laughter.

“You think this dog dropping mistake is funny, do you Andrea?” Cisco shouts at her. “You can just as easily laugh collecting unemployment.”

Andrea looks as stone faced as she can. She does not want to be the brunt of Cisco’s latest bursting outrage.

“How am I going to sell forks without spoons?” Cisco screams as loud as he can. “People buy forks, and what do they buy with their forks?” The room is silent. Cisco sees Irene looking away from him, “Irene?”

“Spoons?” Irene replies.

“Spoons” Cisco confirms. People come into the store, they are having a party, they buy a box of plastic forks and a box of plastic spoons. They do not buy two boxes of plastic forks, now, do they?” No one answers. “Irene?”

Nedra braces herself as she fears being chosen as the target for today’s verbal abuse session. “No, they don’t buy two boxes of forks.”

Cisco kicks the box. He kicks it again, and then again. Several boxes of forks fly out of the box. Some of the boxes break apart. The ground is now littered with forks and boxes of forks. This will now be an inventory problem writing off broken boxes of forks, Irene observes.

“Maybe the company messed up the order” Nedra offers. She is hoping the mistake is theirs and not anyone who is here.

Cisco pulls out the order form from an inside the box. “It says here 1,000 boxes of forks. No spoons.” Cisco waves the order forms in Nedra’s face. Nedra knows the form means nothing. Maybe someone from the company who shipped the order got the order form wrong and then shipped the wrong order. There is no telling Cisco that. “Some gene pool underwater mouth breather put the order in wrong,” Cisco bellows.

“You’re the one who called in the order” Andrea volunteers.

Cisco slowly turns his head towards Andrea. His face has gotten intensely red. “You think I made this mistake?”

“No”, Andrea quickly replies, “I am sure you made the order fine. Someone else messed up.”

“Haven’t you been listening, you half wit moron?” Cisco yells at Andrea “that is what I’ve been saying. Someone who can barely ties their shoes, which is anyone one of you loafer wearing idiots, just cost me an important order. Now we are opening the store with too many forks, and guess what, no spoons?”

“We’ll order the spoons” Nedra volunteers, “They will be here in two days.”

“And what will customers do in the meanwhile?” Cisco demands Nedra to explain. “You think they are going to stand there crapping their pants for two days waiting for a shipment of spoons to come in?”

“We hardly ever sell forks and spoons” Nedra explains, “no one will notice.”


Cisco pauses, yet he is not finished “And how do you expect me to pay for the spoons when I already spent the money to buy them and I got forks instead.”

“We’ll send 500 boxes of forks back” Nedra recommends.

“Are you going to pay the shipping and restocking fees out of your salary? Maybe you should, as you’re overpaid already.” Cisco shouts at Nedra.

“If you are so worried about costs, why are you wasting company time making us stop working and listen to your rants and raves?” Mo’nique yells at Cisco.

Cisco walks over to Mo’nique and stands beside her, almost touching her. “What tree did you swing down from?”

Mo’nique jumps up and put her face right in front of Cisco’s. Mo’nique is enraged. “You calling me a monkey? You racist piece of...”

Andrea steps in between Cisco and Mo’nique. Cisco quickly shoves Andrea away from him. Andrea falls to the ground. Cisco looks at Andrea and kneels down beside her “Do not interfere when it is not your battle, you pea brain, you pee for brains.”

Cisco picks up a plastic fork and holds it against Andrea’s neck. “I bet it was your small brain that could not place that order properly. Now look where it has gotten us.” Cisco presses the fork into Andrea’s skin. “I know five ways I could kill you with this fork.”

“Go ahead, do it” Andrea taunts him.

Nedra looks at the box. “Hey, the boxes of spoons are on the bottom.” The room turns completely silent. “The order is fine. Someone at shipping must have made the form out wrong. The boxes of forks and spoons are all the same price.”

Cisco stands up. “OK, this time is wasn’t one of you airheads who got it wrong.” Cisco looks at the others staring silently at him. “Get back to work.”

Cisco walks out of the room. He kicks a box of forks. “And clean up this mess.”

Cisco leaves for the day. A pounding headache bothers him as he drives along the Van Wyck. He returns home and finds his wife is upset. “Francisco, you do nothing around the house. I have to clean everything.”

“You know how much I hate dirt” his wife Mille yells at him.


“I am sorry, but your cancer is now stage four” Dr. William Larue announces, “the cancer has spread into your spleen and your spine. The tumor is growing and not responding to treatment.”

Andrea closes her eyes dejected. She had convinced herself that she would hear good news today. She had told herself that, her reward for a life of struggle, of 14 hour days working two jobs, and of having little happiness in life would be rewarded today with good health. Instead, the news was bad.

Andrea had tried to convince herself that she was getting better even as she felt her body getting more tired. She was hoping it was just getting older, and not the cancer, that was draining her energy.

Andrea rushes off late to her second job as a receptionist. They had let her arrive early for a doctor’s appointment. She ran quickly, hoping they would not be too angry, while trying to keep a brave and bold face and not let them know her health problems.

“You’re late” Richard, the other receptionist tells Andrea as she enters.

“I told them I would be late” Andrea protests.

“Well,” Richard mentions with disgust, “some of us do not like having to handle two people’s jobs while others of us are often late.”

Andrea holds in her hurt. “I am sorry”, Andrea states,”I had a doctor’s appointment.”

“How often do you need to see doctors?? Richard asked, “Don’t they take patients at hours when you don’t work?”

Andrea tries to explain she had another job as Richard continues.

“Anyway, the Thompsons came in, and their file was a mess. I told them they had to bring in their insurance information and, sure enough, they did not. They insisted we had all that information on file and I explained to them that we do not have this type of information. They held me up for half an hour while three other clients waited, and one of them was Sun Yee. Well, Sun Yee waited just five minutes before throwing a fit and walking out. It was all a mess.”

Andrea is upset at herself that she let the office down. As one contemplates life, one realizes that Sun Yee being upset and Mr. and Mrs. Thompson creating havoc is of little importance in the scheme of things. Or maybe not. It seems that Sun Yee being upset and trying to keep the Thompsons satisfied are the most important things she needs to do in her life. What difference does it make that she has a terminal disease?

Andrea concentrates on her work to keep her mind off of her bad news. For a few hours, that helps. People complaining about the difficulty in completing paperwork becomes welcomed distractions. After a momentarily lull, Andrea feels reality hitting her hard with all its ugliness. Andrea is dying. In a few months, she might not have the strength to make it to work at all. A year from now, she will probably be dead.

The idea of death strikes her hard. She will leave all this behind. She will never see her phone again. She will never again see the porcelain dog Richard kept on his desk. A wave of emotion floods over her.

“I need to go to the bathroom” Andrea announces as her ran for the bathroom.

Richard is holding his phone answering a call as Andrea dashes off. “But this call is for you” Richard told her. Richard shoots an unpleasant face towards Andrea for having to do her work for her, once again.

Laverne walks past Andrea in the restroom and observes her crying. Laverne rushes over to Dominique, who supervises Andrea and Richard. Laverne whispers “Andrea is crying in the bathroom,” Dominique shakes her head, and replies “I fear this job is too much for her. I am probably going to have to replace her.”

Andrea composes herself and returns to her office. “So who was that who called?”

Richard responds with snooty attitude, “Oh, I took care of it.”

Andrea stares at the phone hoping for the relief of another caller, or perhaps another visitor, to keep her occupied away from thoughts about her health, and death. The phone is eerily quiet. Right when she was ready to face the day, the day did not seem ready to face her.

Andrea drives back to her apartment, where she lives alone. The traffic is its usual awfulness. Too many people trying to go through New York at the same time. Life is work, driving, eating, and sleeping. There is not much in life for Andrea. And was it going to end far sooner than she wanted.

Andrea goes to bed, feeling totally drained and exhausted. Yet she can not sleep. She gets out of bed. She dresses quickly, not paying much attention to what she is wearing, and walks to a local diner. She realizes her blouse is on inside out, but figures few would notice and, if they do, this is New York. That isn’t the worse thing one would see in these parts.

Andrea orders a Greek salad and an ice tea. She picks at her food and stares out the window. All kinds of interesting people are walking by. Cars zip past in both directions. She wonderers who they all are and where they were going.

A waiterJose keeps refilling her iced tea and she sits for hours slowly eating her salad. She is not certain if the waiter is upset that she was taking a table away from his station.. Yet there were so few people in the diner she feels it probably does not matter. She is sure she is not the first person to take several hours, especially late at night, to eat a meal there.

Andrea finally feels sleepy. She pays her bill and goes back to her apartment. She is all set to finally get some rest. Yet as soon as she is on top of her bed, she finds she still can not fall asleep.

Her alarm goes off. She does not feel too rested to awake yet she does not feel sleepy. She feels like the walking dead. She completes her usual routine and makes her way to work. She is worried if she would fall asleep. She feels as if she is operating with a lack of full awareness. She is neither tired not awake. She is just there. She is relieved that just being there is all that work seems to require of her. In fact, others probably preferred she have no emotions. She hears her boss yelling.

The walking dead make good employees, Andrea concludes. They don’t mind when the boss yells at them.


The bar scene is getting ugly. It is unhealthy to drink so much every night. It is also getting expensive. It is becoming a mental drain as Juan realizes he is getting older without finding someone who understands him.

Juan understands that he is a complicated man. Juan knows that if he tells women too soon about too much of his life, that he would likely never have any female friends. Yet when he found women who like him, he had yet to find one who had accepted his complications.

He attends gatherings of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender communities. He knows that, there, people are more understanding and accepting. Women are less shocked at who he is. Still, he finds it hard to find an individual woman who is willing to be with him, for who he is. Most of the women there are lesbians. Most of the men are gay. Most of the transgenders were born as men who now identified as female. He was born a woman, knew from childhood he is a man and underwent operations to become a physical man. He wants to date women. Most heterosexual women, even those who are sympathetic to his situation, still want a man who could father their children. They want a man who could financially support them. John, a poorly employed sub-minimum wage waiter at a run down diner, with reconstructed private parts, can not offer what even the most understanding of women wanted.

Juan often feels depressed. He fears feeling depressed. He knows the suicide rate of transgender people is far higher than people of other sexualities. He knows who he is. He also knew that others have trouble with who he is, and he can not help yet find that in itself depressing.

Juan does not want to become just another bad statistic. As much as he feels sad, he feels he owed it to other transgender people, and to himself, to overcome sadness and to keep moving forward. He does not want to end his life. He does not know where his life is heading, yet he wants to find out. He wants to know how his own story will turn out.

“You, like, queer or something” Stewart, a semi-frequent customer asks Juan. “Not that I care, but, you know, you sort of look like you are and if you ain’t, maybe it would help if you know that because if you look queer, people gonna think you’re queer”

Stewart often arrives at the diner drunk . Stewart says whatever thought comes to his mind with no filter as to whether it is appropriate. Stewart is a bad drunk.

“No, I am into women” Juan replies, “not that it is any of your business, Stew.”

“Nothing wrong if you are gay”, Stewart responds, “in fact, if you were, I’d set you up with my brother. He’s a good guy, just has a hard time meeting guys, if you know what I mean.”

“No, I don’t know what you mean” Juan answers “as I said, I am into females But I know about how hard it is to find someone.”

Mike, sitting in a booth behind Stewart, moves to another booth. Mike does not want to hear this conversation.

“I thought so”, Stewart notes. “You look a bit feminine. You need to, maybe lift weights or something.”

“I lift dishes and silverware all day long” Juan explains, “same thing.”

Juan does not want to get into why he has trouble connecting with women. He knows most people are judgmental and that most people take one look at him, a male with feminine characteristics, and presume he is gay. “Not that there is anything wrong with that”, is what they often say when they ask if he is gay, as if it is any of their business, and who even said there was anything wrong with it?

“Do you have a sister? Juan teasingly inquires of Stewart.

“Two, but they’re both married” Stewart tells, “but their husbands are both bums.”

“You should set me up with one of them, then” Stewart offered jokes

“I would, but one lives in Virginia and the other lives in Jersey” Stewart responds.

Juan understands that Virginia is some distance but how far away did Stewart think New Jersey is?

John leaves to give an iced tea refill. Juan returns to bug Stewart some more. “How is your love life, Stewart?”

“Mine?” Stewart replies, “I am so old I think they invented sex after I got married. In my day, we only had ten shades of grey.”

“What does the misses do?” Juan asks.

“You tell me”, Stewart replies. “She sits on the couch all day eating Bon Bons.”

“Bon Bons?” Juan inquires, “what are those?”

“I’m not certain” Stewart explains, “they might be one of those shades of grey.”

After work, Juan goes to a coffeehouse that is transgender aware. A nice looking, shy woman smiles at him. He smiles back. Juan walked up to her.

“I am Juan. Do you come here often? Juan asks.

“Charlene”, Charlene holds out her hand so they could shake hands, “interesting ice breaker. I sort of had you pegged for a guy who wanted to know my horoscope.”

“I don’t follow that hooey horoscope baloney” Juan remarks.

“Too bad, I write an astrology column” Charlene informs.

“Oh”, Juan expressed startled, hoping he had not insulted Charlene. “Hi. I am a Libra. And what is your sign?”

“I am a Capricorn”, Charlene announces before looking around to make sure no one could hear her. “But don’t worry, it all is hooey. baloney. I should know. I write it.”

“So, how do Libras and Capricorns get along?” Juan asks.

“It makes no difference,”, Charlene answers,”What matters is who you are.”

Juan stutterers in nervousness.”May I buy you a coffee?” Juan asks.

“Yes, but before you do, there are some things you should now” Charlene hesitantly answers.”I was born a man and I now identify myself as a woman.”

“I am a transgendered man” Juan told. “And I like women.”

“I should tell you,” Charlene hesitantly adds, “that I also like women.”

Juan looks dejected.

“Although.....” Charlene continues, “I am beginning to think I might be bisexual.”.

“This neighborhood is falling apart”, Mike says. “this used to be a nice, quiet area. We once looked after each other and took care of each other. Our kids could play in the streets without worrying about pedophiles kidnapping them or Jews selling them into white slavery. Blacks and Puerto Ricans moved in and we have to pay for their welfare while we had to work twice as hard to pay for ourselves and for their food.”

Murray the bartender lets Mike ramble on. Not even the insult about his fellow Jews selling children bothers him any more. It is best to let Mike ramble on, make his drinks strong, and know that eventually Mike would either pass out or someone would punch Mike’s lights out.

“Now there are queers running around. These fags all work in restaurants so they can touch our food so they put stuff on the food so we all turn gay” Mike pronounces.

Ian and Shioban, sitting further down the bar, roll their eyes.

“It all started with the blacks coming into the neighborhood” Mike explains his theory. “they wanted to take over the schools and the politics, so they starting turning white kids gay so there would be less white kids.”

Shiban rises and speaks. “the problem is not race The problem is crime. This has become a scary place to live. He thinks it is hard for the Irish? There is far more black on black crime than there is other types of crime in our neighborhood. There are mostly young dudes of all kind, Black, white, brown, purple, who do most of the mugging and robbing.”

“I saw some woman with purple hair”  Mike interjects. “What is she, a prostitute, or a ‘home invader’ or what? Surely she can’t think hat makes her look beautiful.”

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” Shiban observes.

“Then some people need to get their eyes checked” Mike retorts. “Look,I work hard. I pay my taxes. Why should I pay for someone else to get free housing and free meals?”

“Because you are a good man of faith and you do not want to see women and children starving in the streets.”

“The mothers should all get jobs. And why can’ they feed themselves and their kids on their own” Mike asks.

“Because there are not too many jobs for women with babies” Shioban explains.

“Ah, that is just liberal talk” Murray rejects the comment.”You are your commie friends just want to redistribute my wealth to all your socialist friends.”

“What wealth is that, Mike” Shioban asks. “You hiding a million bucks in that rundown place of yours?”

“If I was, I would not tell anyone, because the government would come and tax it away from me” Mike answers.

 “What are you afraid of, Mike” Shoban asks.

“Change”, Mike answers. Mike looks into the air, dreaming of a past he loved that has left him. “Why can’t everything remain they way is was?”

Ian wonders what is happening to his neighborhood. How did so many people become so hateful? Many of them claimed to be faithful followers of the Church, yet how could they hear these lessons of caring and compassion from their Church and turn out the way they have?

Ian has faith in the young. They seem more tolerant and acceptable of others. He often recalled his parents looking at him and his peers when he was young, and they would sigh about the direction things were headed. All they could see was the drugs, sex. violence, and irresponsibility. Ian always suspected the world was not as perfect as it was during the generation before. His generation survived it all. He suspected his generation did not invent drugs, sex, violence, and irresponsibility. Certainly this is not new to the next generation.

The young give Ian hope. He fears they too have had too much drugs, sex, violence, and irresponsibility. He hopes they would figure it all out. Ian guesses someday there may be a generation that fails to figure it out, and that would be the generation that ends it all. Ian does not believe the current young will be that last generation.

Ian works at the local youth center. He can see young people of different backgrounds, many even from different countries, playing together. On the athletic field, there are athletes. It does not matter what they think or what their backgrounds are. It matters that they play together as a team, get along, try their best, and have fun.

Ian looks into the stands and frets. Their parents, guardians, and caretakers tend to sit together in similar groups according to some type of category. People descendent from one country sit together in the bleaches there. People from a house of worship sit over there in their section. Ian wonders if their children will follow in their footsteps and become adults who congregate primarily with others of their own race, religion, and nationality. If he was still working here two decades from now, would these children’s athletic children be sitting in the bleachers according to these or similar categories?

Ian returns home. He is sweating. He is trying to resist, yet all he can think about is that which makes his entire body crave that needle. He had given it up for several weeks, yet like the many times he tried to quit in the past, he realized he could not. The craving was far greater than his will.

Ian feels as if he has no control over his body. As his brain is screaming “don’t do it” his body is reacting totally independent from his brain. His eyes watch as his brain disobeys him. His disobedient hands pick up the needle and his hands inject himself.

Ian closes his eyes as pleasure overwhelmed him. A huge burst of orgasmic endorphin high is the best way he can describe it. His world is complete pleasure. For brief moments, in this world he experiences, there are no troubles. In this world he is free.

And then the good feelings are over. Jim feels violently ill. His entire body aches. He is in extreme misery. This aches so bad he wonders why it is these aches allow him to continue falling back into one again shooting heroin. Ian crawls to his cellphone and calls Jim.

Jim, his sponsor, lives a few floors down, Jim runs up the stairways to Ian’s apartment, bumping into Aida, causing her to drop the cardboard box she is carrying. “Hey” Aida calls out yet Jim pays her no attention.

Ian is still. Jim feels for Ian’s breath and can not feel Ian breathing. Ian can not find a pulse. Jim calls 911 for an ambulance. Ian gets some naloxone. He puts it up Ian’s nostril. Jim squeezes half the naloxone in the tube up one nostril. Jim then squeezes the rest of the naloxone into Ian’s other nostril.

Ian awakes. He aches all over. “You overdosed, man” Jim explains.

“No ambulance”, Ian requests, “I will be fine.”

“You are not fine” Jim stresses. “You almost just died. You need to get help.”

“I can handle myself” Ian argues. “It was only the first time in three weeks. I have this under control.”

“You do not”, Jim counters. “You are going to die if you do not change what you are doing.”

Ian spies the needle on the floor. Jim makes a phone call. While Jim is talking to someone about getting help for Ian Ian moves towards the needle. There is some heroin in the needle. Ian quickly jumps over, grabs the needle, and injects the heroin needle into his arm. “I do not believe this”, is Jim’s reaction.

Ian collapses and stops breathing. Jim begins chest compressions. The EMTs arrived and take Ian to the hospital.

Jim visits Ian after he is stabilized. “OK, Ian when they release you, I am walking you over to a rehab center. The doctor says you need to go there.”

“I am just fine” Ian replies. “See, I am all better. Nothing to worry about.”

“No, you are not fine” Jim stated. “You almost died, twice, today. Your body is going to craze more heroin when you get out. Your brain is diseased; it needs heroin. You have to treat this disease and get your brain back to normal. That will take some time and you help getting there. You have a choice, Ian. Do you want to live or do you want to die?”

“To be honest with you, Jim” Ian tells, “All I want to do is get high. That is all I can think about.”

“Then you are going to die. You get that?” Jim shouts.

Ian only looks to the floor.

“I am going to die, aren’t ?I” Ian realizes.

Ian lets Jim guide him to a rehab center. It takes a few months for his body to detox until his brain no longer crazes the heroin. Ian’s brian moves from a diseased brain that cries out for heroin to one that no longer does. Ian recovers and goes back to coaching and helping out children’s programs. Ian helps lots of children overcome their drug problems, as the drug problems seem to reach to younger and younger kids over time. Ian knows that even though the problem is massive, he also knows he can help, one child at a time.

Aida and Marion looks at the cracked glass on their new clock.

“Well, it is not too bad” Marion observes, “it gives the clock character.”

I don’t believe that guy” Aida explains, “he just ran right by me, knocked the box down, and didn’t even say “excuse me” or nothing.”

“That is New York”, Marion shrugs. “Lots of guys here have no manners. None whatsoever.”

“You meet a cute guy in this town” Aida remarks, “and he either crushes your heart or he breaks your clock.”

“So was this guy cute?” Marion asks. “Maybe we was trying to stop your biological clock.”

“Maybe. It was too hard to get a good view of him while he was pushing me and slamming my box to the ground” Aida replies, “other than that, he may have looked like the perfect guy.”

“Next time a cute guy slams your box to the ground” Marion advises “you should get his number.”

“Nah”, Aida decides, “if he treats a box like that, he probably isn’t much of a nice guy.”

“You’re probably right” Marion decides, “I bet he doesn’t even call his mother on her birthday.”

“Probably because he doesn’t know what day or time it is because he smashes clocks and rips up calendars. Maybe he can’t call his mother. Probably because he was hatched and does not know who his mother is” Aida jokes. They giggle over the jokes.

“Internet dating is the worse” Marion complains. “You would think in all of Queens there would be one good looking guy who actually looks close to his picture when you meet him.”

“Yeah, what is that?” Aida asks. “Guys in Queens get their photos taken and none of them choose a photograph that looks remotely like they really do? They look great the day their photo is taken and then they get ugly as soon as they leave the studio?”

“Or if they aren’t ugly” Marion continues “they think only of themselves and they have no manners, whatsoever. It is like God said to guys, “Look, you are going to be born in Queens, You get to choose good looks or good manners. You can’t have both. Which do you choose?”

“They say to join clubs” Aida notes. “You’ll meet nice guys in clubs. All I see are other women looking for nice guys in clubs. If there are any nice guys, they know not to join these clubs.”

“They say we’ll meet guys at work” Marion declares, “Hah! it is all women, and one creepy pervert manager. You want the creepy manager?”

“Ew”, Aida answers, “You can have him.”

“Not me” Marion answers, “he is so creepy, I would gag if we ever went out on a date.”

“You sure you don’t want to go out with him” Marion asks, “I think he is sweet on you. Although I do think he is the type who would gag you.”

“He is sweet on every women there” Aida notes. “He would go out with anything with two breasts and a heartbeat. And I’m not sure if the heartbeat would be a requirement. You know, for Christmas, I’m going to buy him two breast implants and say here, this is all you want.”

“We meet guys at work al the time” Marion remarks.

“Yeah, but they come and go” Aida responds, “and none of them see to be interested in you for the right reasons.”

“Dating is a good reason” Marion counters.

“Dating and marrying is a good reason” Aida corrects, “dating and ditching is all those guys want. There are two kinds of guys who enter our workplace. Those that you discover are married. And those that are not married but they want sex but not marriage.”

Aida and Marion walks to a club. Aida observes many guys looking at Marion. She is used to this. Whatever it is that men want, Marion has, and Aida does not have.

Aida and Marion sit at a table. Marion turns to Aida and whispers “you see those two men at the next table pretending not to look at us while they try to look at us?”

Aida turns and looks at then. “Yeah”, Aida remarks, “they are cute.”

Marion winks at Aida “watch this.”

Marion turns to the two guys at the next table and announces “Hi, I am Marion, and this is Aida, and who are you?”

Both guys are momentarily confounded by Marion’s introduction. In this club, no woman has even spoken first. Despite their momentary shock, they take this as a positive step. After all, if the woman spoke first, it was because she had spotted them, as men, and that interested her. They take it as a very positive sign that Marion had spoken first and then sits next to them, on purpose. In this club, this was a small step for two men and a giant leap for this club’s mankind.

Both men walk over to Marion’s table. “I am John Quinn and this is my friend, also named John Quinn.”

The second John Quinn asks Aida “would you like to join us?” as he moves a chair back in hopes of taking advantage of anything close to a positive signal.

“I would love to” Aida responds.

Aida sits.

“You are putting me on, right?” Aida asks. “You both have the same name. What are you? Twins?” Aida then realizes the the ridiculousness of her questions that twins would have the same name.

“Noo” the second John replies. “We met and discovered we had something similar, the same name. So we had to talk about that. Then we realized we got along great and we have been best friends since.”

“I can literally say I am my own best friend” the first John explains.

“That is...” Aida starts replying before losing her train of thought..

“I have never dated two people with the same first and last names” Marion interrupts.

“Soo”, the first John cautiously and humorously states, “have you ever dated two guys with the same first names or two guys with the same last names?”

“Both” Marion smiles while answering, “I dated two guys named Louie at the same time, and I dated two Belson cousins at the same time, but I never dated both names at the same time. I never knew anyone with the same names. Except for the two Harold Smiths in high school. You wouldn’t want to date them. I mean, one of them you could, but he was into dating guys, but I sort of think you’re not into dating people named Harold.”

“How did you two meet”, Aida inquires, seeking to be part of the conversation and gain some attention away from Marion.

“I am in construction, and one day a client mentioned there is an accountant he knows also named John Quinn. So, on a lark, I called John for a laugh. John said let’s get together”, the first John tells, “and we just clicked from there.”

“That’s amazing”, Marion remarks. “So, do you pick up women together?”

The second John was swallowing his drink and momentarily choked on the liquid. “We enjoy each other’s company” the first John responds, “and we heard this was a nice club.”

“I did not hear a denial” Marion responds.

Both Johns chuckle.

Aida announces, “We need to powder our noses.” Aida looks over to Marion who appears reluctant to be engaging in nose powdering. Marion looks at the two men and announces “we’ll be right back.”

Marion rushes to the restroom as Aida trails. Marion does not want to leave the two men alone as long as possible. Aida asks Marion, “which do you want? I kind of like the John on the left.”

Marion appears exasperated. “Let’s let them decide, OK?”

“Alright”, Aida notes, “but go after John on the right while I go for John on the left.”

Marion rushes back to the table first. Marion is bopping to the background music. Marion whispers to the John on the left “wanna dance?”

John quickly stands up announcing “sure” and goes off dancing with Marion.

Aida sits down with a nervous twitch while looking second John. Aida questions “what do you do as an accountant?”

John the accountant responds “I keep track of financial transactions.” There is an awkward pause as Aida thought John would say more.

Aida begins to ask a second question when John responds “will you excuse me for a moment?”

Aida replies “sure”.

The second John walks over and chats with his dancing friend John and Marion. Aida can not hear what they are saying, yet all three are laughing at what each other is stating. Aida notes all three walk away from view as she loses them in the crowd. Aida waits a few minutes and then begins wondering where they are. She looks around and can not spot them. Aida walks around the entire club a few times, checks the women’s room, and can not find Marion or either John.

Aida sits at the bar dejected. She spends the rest of the evening smiling at men. One man introduces himself as Ryan and asks Aida if she is alright. Ryan chats with Aida until Ryan states he had to go home, that he has a wife, and he hopes Aida cheers up. Aida goes to the bartender and orders a drink. Aida continues smiling at men yet no other man goes up to her.. Aida watches as all the customers left. At the end of the night, Aida looks around and realizes that everyone had left.

This is another normal night for Aida, Again, she isalone after everyone had left.

Aida sits on her chair and cries.


Ryan awakes with a sense of dread. He knows today is the day his whole life will change, and it is too late to do anything about it. He worries how the day will go. What is this going to feel like? He knows essentially what will happen, but how is one supposed to respond to this? He determines he will be strong through it all. He will try and not think that a new life waits ahead.

Ryan looks outside his window. He takes in the view, one that he has taken for granted for years. He knows he will not see this view for awhile. He might never see this view again.

Ryan looks at his clothes. This is an important decision. What he chose to wear today, he will see again, although he is not entirely certain when that will be. As for the rest of the clothes, depending on how things go, they might be sold or given to charity. His wife Kristin will make those decisions. Kristin and he have separated. He does not blame her for leaving. He feels Kristin is as good as anyone else to make those kinds of decisions once those decisions have to be made and the procedures handled. Kristin would get the money anyway.

Ryan decides some business-like clothing would be good. If he got to wear it again, it might be good to wear something like this. He might need to look businesslike for people once again.

Ryan gets dressed. He sits and wonders what to do next. Should he just sit there? If he takes a walk, would they come looking for him or would they await until he returns? Would they be upset if he makes them wait? He was not sure of the protocols of these things.

Ryan decides to talk a walk. After all, they can not fault him for that. It is up to them to come to him. Ryan believes a walk would be easier to handle than just sitting in anxious anticipation.

Ryan observes people walking and passing by cars. Ryan knows how much for granted people take in the normal movements of their lives. Ryan smiles at flying birds. He wonders if they fell stress, searching for food while avoiding predators, or if they feel freedom in flying where they wish.

Ryan spots a cafe. He always had meant to give the place a try. He decides now is as good a time as any. It might be the only chance he has to be there. Ryan enters and looks at the menu. He laughs inwardly at how every cafe has the same coffee drink menu He reads in hopes of finding something unique, but he does not. “I’ll have a double expresso” he orders. He stands back and listens to the sounds of the steam in making the double expresso. Eventually a woman behind the counter presents him his drink with the confirmatory name written on the side that she thinks his name is “Brian” Ryan smiles and takes the drink For this moment, Brian is close enough to who he is. “Brian” leaves a tip.

Ryan sits and wishes he could transform into Brian. Ryan would be long forgotten. He could start life all over as Brian. Ryan thinks how Brian would have done things different from Ryan. He thinks of opportunities that Brian could explore that Ryan will be able unable to undertake. For a few moments, Ryan prefers to be Brian.

Ryan finishes his drink. He returns to the counter and orders another one. Ryan wonders if the employees think it unusual that someone would drink so much caffeine. He realizes that not only have heard all kinds of orders, but all they care about is sales and tips. Ryan receives his drinks and “Brian” leaves another tip.

Ryan sips his drink He figures he may need the caffeine to stay alert. If this makes him jumpy, that will not be an unexpected reaction. Maybe others would wonder if he did not appear jittery. Perhaps two double expressos is exactly what is required.

Ryan exits the cafe. He walks the streets of his neighborhood. He stops and admires children playing at a park. He wishes he could feel as happy as they seem. It must be nice to be able to run around without a care. He notices some children arguing. He does not know what they are saying. Some children are crying. Soon some other children are crying. Ryan recalls how stressful childhood felt when he was a child and how he thought adulthood was one without stress. Ryan wishes stress did go away for adults.

Ryan makes his way back to his apartment. He observes no one is there. It was fine he went for a walk as he had the time without bothering anyone else. He does not want to intrude on others. He also does not want to get others upset at him, just in case it does make a difference in how they treat him.

Ryan sits and waits. Ryan inhales, realizing this is the calm before the storm. Ryan looks around the room. Ryan observes the ceiling and notes some small cracks. They do not appear new. In all this time, Ryan had never observed them before.

Ryan look at his photographs and paintings. These he remembers well. Photographs of happier pasts. Paintings of things that reminded him of happy thoughts. Somehow looking at them now only makes him sad.

Ryan walks into the kitchen. He instinctively opens the refrigerator door to look at the turned-off, empty insides, as if hoping for a miracle that something good to eat would suddenly appear. He sighs and closes the door, as yet another reminder of his impending future.

Ryan walks to his bedroom. He lies down. Rest might be good, he decides. It may be awhile before he rests in a bed this comfortable. He is not sure what beds are like where he is heading, yet he presumes that his nights will lack the comfort he has for a few remaining moments.

There is a knock on the door. He opens and he sees Pamela.

“Are you all set?” Pamela asks. “They will be here any moment.”

Ryan nods affirmatively.

Pamela continues “do not say anything, I will do all the talking.”

Ryan nods in agreement.

A door knocks. Pamela opens it. A man and a woman asks if Ryan is there. Pamela indicates that Ryan is. The man and woman ask Ryan to confirm who he is. He does.

“You have the right to remain silent...” Ryan is told as he is handcuffed.


The caseload is getting enormous, yet Pamela needs the business to stay afloat. It is getting to be a bit much to keep track of so many clients and handle their legal needs with full attention. Her partner left, taking their legal secretary with her, and she has been unable for find a qualified replacement. In part, she has been unable to afford to find a qualified replacement at the low wages she is able to pay. Thus, she has to do more work than usual.

Pamela looks at frustration at the files of upcoming cases on her desk as well as active cases that will soon add to the list of pressing active cases that soon will become the large files of cases happening in court right now.

The phone rings. Then a second line rings. Pamela choses one line and hopes the other line successfully goes to voicemail.

The call is good news. A Judge has granted a request to reschedule a case as she has to be in court at that time on another case. Pamela sees from the phone number the second phone call is from  a client. She notices the client did not leave a message.

Pamela calls the client, which she does against her better judgement. Since the client did not leave a message, there is no obligation to act. Calling the client back both cuts into the time that could otherwise be spent on pressing cases. Making this phone call likely will result a request that will result in increasing the workload as well as taking time from decreasing the workload while talking during this call. Pamela believes it is important to hide how far behind she is by always being there as soon as possible after a client calls.

Rosario has questions about their upcoming case in bankruptcy court. Pamela reassures Rosario that she is prepared. Pamela will fight to help Rosario.

Pamela makes a mental note to find Rosario’s files to refresh herself as to what the issues are. She knows the case is impending yet Pamela has been concentrating on the criminal cases. A case about the loss of all one owns has been pushed aside for the more imminent dangers cases involving the loss of liberties.

Another call came through while Pamela was talking to Rosario. After talking to Roasario, Pamela listens to the voice message. A judge has scheduled a preliminary hearing in Ryan’s case. Pamela notes it is a half hour before Rosario’s bankruptcy case. The cases are in different buildings. It will be a tight squeeze handling both cases. Pamela is used to this. This is the life of an attorney, running from courtroom to courtroom quickly arguing strenuously for clients’ rights.

Ryan’s case is heard. The cases are delayed as the Sheriff’s bus containing prisoners awaiting trial is delayed in traffic. Pamela reassures Ryan she will fight hard for him. They await their turn before the judge as a number of cases precede theirs. Pamela instructs Ryan to enter a “not guilty” plea. Pamela argues for a lower bail. A young Assistant District Attorney reads off similar warning of endangerments to society that are similar to what the young Assistant District Attorney argued in the previous cases in recommending a larger bail. The judge orders bail somewhere in between. Pamela is happy as Ryan may at least go home for awhile.

Pamela dashes for her car. She curses the traffic jams that are delaying today’s vehicular traffic. Pamela has a few more minutes of delay as she is troubled finding a place to park. Pamela arrives just in time for Rosario’s bankruptcy case. Pamela reads from her files and argues forcefully. Afterwards, Pamela realizes she left some critical facts out of her argument. It is too late. The judge rules against Rosario. Rosario may not file for bankruptcy. Rosario’s debt remains with her. Plus, now she owes legal fees to Pamela.

Rosario is confused as to why Pamela argued as she should. Pamela reassures her that the main points were in submitted written arguments. Pamela lies and tells Rosario that the verbal arguments she made are ones that appeal best to that particular judge. Pamela hopes Rosario’s lack of knowledge of bankruptcy court will get Rosario to accept her lies.

Pamela is upset as she realizes that had she been better prepared she could have won Rosario’s case. She knows Rosario is crushed. Still, that is a part of the legal system. Pamela learned in law school that sometimes life and the law are not fair. A fair deal for Ryan may have cost fairness for Rosario. Pamela realizes she is only human. Pamela can only do so much. It is not as if she created Rosario’s huge debt, so Pamela feels
Rosario’s problems are all Rosario’s, not hers.

Pamela dashes off to another court case. She tries to read documents on the case as she drives. She gets into a fender bender. In a way, this is a blessing. This creates an excuse to ask for a continuance. She can read about this case while waiting for a tow truck.


Rosario wonders what she will do next. She is being evicted from her apartment. She can not afford to move anywhere else. She wants to preserve her belongings yet has no place to put them. They soon will be moved into the street where she may stand over them and try and protect them from looters. Yet that will last only so long.

Rosario looks at listings for jobs. She applies for many jobs. She seldom gets called for interviews. When she is, she realizes she is one of many there for the interviews. She has yet to be offered a job.

Rosario looks at bills. Her electricity was cut off months ago. The electricity company still expects to be paid. Her college debt is enormous and she can’t get out of repaying that. Food and the necessities were paid for by credit cards until the maximum limit on the cards was reached. She obtained more credit cards and maxed them out. Eventually no one would issue her another credit card.

Rosario had expected to find a job. She would then be able to pay her debtors. That was always her plan. She never planned that she would never find an income source.

Rosario is frightened. Becoming homeless is a strong possibility. Losing everything she owns is a possibility. Still having to pay debt that she can’t afford to pay looms. Finding a job would be a solution. Yet she can’t find a job. She can’t find a solution.

Rosario quickly learned one can’t talk one’s way out of this trouble. The individuals she speaks with may feign, or actually be, sympathetic to her plight. Yet all her debtors are corporations and not individuals. All they know if they expect to be paid or else she must face the consequences. Rosario is facing the consequences. It is not at all reassuring knowing she is not the only person in this predicament. Being thrown into the street homeless may happen to many, but she dreads becoming another one of the statistics of the number of people without jobs, without a home, and without an ability to get out of debt.

Rosario is hungry. She has no money to pay for food. She has heard there are places where people may get free food. Rosario has been too proud to ask where such places are and when they give out food. All Rosario knows is she is hungry now.

Rosario walks into a corner store. She spots an apple. She looks around and waits until no one is looking at her. She quickly grabs the apple and puts it into her pocketbook. She keeps the pocketbook open and she steals two attached bananas. Rosario observes the store is now empty except for a clerk who is looking away from her. Rosario grabs a can of sardines and slips it into her pocketbook. She closes her pocketbook shut. The clerk appears to hear the sound of the shutting pocketbook and he turns and looks at Rosario, Rosario realizes the clerk has been looking at a security camera’s view of the store.

Rosario panics. She fears the clerk knows what she has done. Rosario quickly walks to the exit.

“You must pay for what you took” the clerk, Andy, yells to Roasario. Knowing she can not possibly pay, Rosario’s only option is to run. Andy sees her running. Once she has left the store, she has committed a crime.

“Stop” Andy shouts. Andy removes a baseball bat from underneath the counter. Andy runs after Rosario.

Rosario hopes she can outrun Andy or that Andy really has no intention of using the bat. Rosario discovers her miscalculation when she feels the bat connect with her skull.

Rosario lies on the ground unconscious.

Otis tells the press he has no regrets when he is told that Rosario has died. Otis explains to Lou, the reporter, that he is working 16 hours a day and losing money due to theft. He fears for his life at his job where he is losing money. He tells the press Rosario charged him and threatened him and he feared for his life when he swung at her in self defense. He is sorry he could not afford to update the video tape in his outside security camera so he could prove this. He claims he is upset he can not prove he was in danger of his life, which he argues the outside camera would have proven. Yet since his outside security camera does not function as he can not afford the tape, he keeps the outside security there to hopefully hold off thefts. Yet, obviously, even that does not hold stop the criminals.

There were no witnesses to the struggle that Otis describes he had with Rosario. Otis explains that is when robbers do their worse, as they know no one can testify against them. Otis expresses relief that there is one less person destroying the lives of small business owners such as himself. He explains that hardened criminals such as Rosario know to steal and strike when there are no witnesses.

Otis has a family to protect. They need clothes, food, shelter, and some happiness in their lives. Otis goes home and teaches his children about the need to be honest. Otis teaches this even while recalling many of his own lies. Otis feels that his hypocrisy should be hidden from his family. He does what has to be done to keep them alive and happy. They should not be burdened with the truths about the shady things Otis has had to do.

Otis works hard. He is proud of that. Why should he work hard and let people who do not want to work hard to steal from him, Otis wonders. Otis believes he needs to defend his way of working hard in life from those who would take advantage of himself and other hard workers. Otis believes this is similar to a war. This war sometimes needs to be fought physically. Otis is defending what he believes in.

Otis goes to church. He asks for forgiveness for killing Rosario. In his heart, he knows he was wrong. In his courageous front to others, he states he did what he had to do. It was either she or he who would die that day. He chose to live, at least in his lie.

Otis wishes a better life for his children. He hopes they will not have to learn the fearful truths of the word as he has learned. He hopes they never learn how hard it is to survive and what one needs to do to survive, as he has learned.

Otis dreams of Rosario. He dreams of her often. This is a woman he knew so briefly. Now he knows her for the rest of his life. He awakens drenched in sweat. He wishes the memory of Rosario would leave him. Yet it remains.

Otis sees some punk stealing several bags of candy. He yells for the guy to pay. The guy refuses and challenges Otis to do something about it. Otis removes his bat from underneath the counter. The guy takes out a gun and points it at Otis.

Otis realizes this game remains serious.

Lou hates meeting deadlines for a paper fewer and fewer people read.

On the positive side, as much of the paper is now online, the deadlines are often fluid. Once an article is written, it appear on the online edition. The hard deadlines for the print version remain. His editors want a story about the clerk who killed a thief in the print edition. The editors believe readers like to read stories about that. Stories where someone dies. Stories where a victim fought back against a criminal. Stories where a woman ends up dead lying on the ground. Now that sells newspapers.

Lou wonders why people want to read crime stories at all. He would prefer to be digging into stories about misspent public funds. He wishes he were still an investigative reporter digging through thousands of pages of documents looking for those little errors that let him know someone is doing something with public funds they should not be doing.

Lou believes the public would be better served reading about the issues. They should be learning the causes of crimes. They should learn about police operations, the judicial system, the correctional system, and policies that can be done to move people away from crime into non-criminal activities.

Instead, the public loves to read about crimes. Especially where someone is killed. Or, if not killed, perhaps severely hurt, as in a severed limb. The public also likes to read about fires. Especially when someone dies in a fire. Lou decides the public are sick sadists.

When someone dies in a crime scene, that is now Lou’s beat. When someone dies in a fire, that is Hillary’s beat. Hillary knows all about fires. Hillary can usually tell if a fire was started intentionally or not way before any other reporter. Hillary seems to literally be able to smell a fire and tell more about the fire from its smell than anyone else.

Lou does not like the smell of crime stories. The dead do not smell nice. Where people are killed are often not nice places to view. Lou is tired of death and its smells.

Lou’s editor Jocelyn is happy with Lou today. Not that Lou really has any say over this. Yet today Lou has an article about a dead woman strangled in her apartment with her boyfriend as a prime suspect. He has an article about a woman Rosario shot to death while trying to steal from a corner store. He has an article about an unidentified body with a bullet hole in the head found in a parked car. Lou’s readers will have plenty to read.

It especially irks Lou that he writes stories that have no story. At these stages of the story, all he can report is a dead body has been found. The backstory as to how they came to be dead may not be known for days or months later, and sometimes not even then. By then, readers will no longer care. They will want to read about what dead bodies were found that day. The stories of all the past dead bodies will be forgotten by the readers and replaced by the news of fresh dead bodies.

Jocelyn calls Lou into her office. Lou slowly walks in. Lou is tired. He has written three good stories already today. If there is a fourth dead body, he hopes someone else can take that story.

Jocelyn explains that revenues are down. The paper has to make cuts. Lou is a great reporter. Lou is such a good reporter that they can no longer afford to pay his relatively large salary. Lou knows what this means. The paper will hire some recent graduate at a lower salary. In a way Lou understands. It does not take much talent to write how a dead body was found, and the police can’t comment on the situation, and to write this same basic story over and over. A kid could do this work. Now some kid will do this work.

Jocelyn looks at the latest cut on her wrist. Physical pain takes away the psychological pain. She feels the traumatic memories float away as the hurt increases.

Jocelyn feels stress. She is a manager on a newspaper that is circling the drain. People look at her to come up with ideas to save the paper, and to save their jobs. There have been print shop workers, reporters, sales associates, and a host of other jobs who have been with the newspaper for decades. They planned on having their careers at the newspaper. When they joined they never expected that they would have to worry about the newspaper folding. Back then, the newspaper was a sturdy part of New York City society. People would read and discuss what they read. The paper was a leader in setting the tone for what people discussed. Now the public mostly ignores the paper.

Jocelyn is able to come up with ideas. There have been flashy advertisements about cutting edge series. There have been contests for readers. There has been a sharp increase in photographs of sensuous looking celebrities. People have been interviewed on the street in hopes of sparking interest in the newspaper in communities throughout the city. So far, the sales figures continue their decline. With fewer readers, there are fewer advertisers, and those that advertise demand their fees be reduced to reflect the fewer readers. Lower revenues means the paper has to cut back. With each loss of a columnist or a cartoon or a type of reporting that interested some people, the readership declines.

Jocelyn knows others depend on her to save their jobs. She also knows she is unable to do that. On the contrary, management is telling her she needs to reduce costs. There is nothing she has done that has improved the newspaper’s financial situation.

Jocelyn looks at the razor blade. She has found comfort in the physical pain of cutting. It takes away the emotional pain. Jocelyn looks at a bottle of gin. Alcohol does not work as it only intensifies the fears and leads to more physical pain, especially the next hungover day. Jocelyn decides to go jogging. Maybe a runner’s high will provide her some comfort.

Jocelyn hopes a jogging break will allow her mind to more clearly consider options. Maybe there are ways to attract more readers to the paper’s online versions. Perhaps then more advertisers will be attracted to purchasing advertising on the online version. Maybe there could  be package deals of advertising in both the print and online versions. Jocelyn momentarily hopes there are solutions that will save careers and jobs of so many loyal employees.

Jocelyn sees younger people with their phones and computers. She catches glimpses of many young people on social media. Jocelyn realizes that is the present and probably future way many are and will be geting their news. The readership of in-depth written analysis is decreasing as people rely more on quick sound bites and snippets of news posted by friends and the people they follow on social media. It has perhaps been true to some time that many people knew more about entertainers than they do social issues. Yet now it seems many people know even less about both, as much is posted by people with little knowledge of facts about celebrities or news events.

Jocelyn’s phone rings. She answers. Jacob is calling to tell her the newspaper is shutting down in two weeks. All employees are being provided two weeks notice and the paper will print until then. The paper is filing for bankruptcy. Attorneys will fight over its remains. The paper, though, will be no more, including the online edition.

Jocelyn stops running. She feels a panic attack coming on. She breathes deeply and ignores thought of imminent unemployment and financial doom. She has been so worried about saving the jobs of others that she never seriously considered that her own job may soon be gone. Jocelyn feels her heart rate return to normal. Jocelyn decides to walk instead of running some more.

Jocelyn just keeps walking. So does not even know to where she is going. She just keeps walking.


Jacob wondered how attorneys made money specializing in bankruptcy. He then realized the law virtually makes certain they get paid. There is money to be made in bankruptcy. Even broke people have to pay their lawyers.

Jacob knew when he accepted the newspaper as a client that they were looking at how to best declare bankruptcy. Jacob sometimes wonders why he chose a career profiting off of the suffering of people in economic ruin. Someone has to do it. Besides, he did not like criminal law and other types of corporate law were too challenging. Jacob found his bankruptcy law teacher as very inspiring. He wonders if he had found another type of law with as inspiring a teacher if he might have chosen a different legal specialty. Venus walks by. Jacob recalls she was inspired to go into divorce law because she had a great divorce law professor.

Jacob leaves for lunch. Jacob slides into a small bar in a lower Manhattan alley. Jacob knows the odds of someone from the law firm seeing him enter are small. Besides, even if they did, it would be perfectly acceptable to have lunch at a small bar and grill.

Jacob enters lunch. He orders a shot of vodka and a chicken garlic sandwich. Jacob believes the vodka is mostly odorless while the smell of the garlic will overpower any alcoholic smell. Jacob would rather be known for eating garlic than for drinking too much. Plus, even if it was discovered he had a few drinks, he would be in good company. Many of the attorneys in the firm were known for their hard drinking. Isn’t drinking what many lawyers do, Jacob asks himself.

Jacob quickly finishes his sandwich. He needs to rush back to work. Jacob orders a second shot of vodka. Jacob quickly downs the shot. He needs to get back to work. Still, there is time to order a third shot of vodka. Jacob downs that shot, knowing he needs to leave to go back to work. Jacob looks to be the wait server. Mattie is busy with other customers. Jacob worries he may be late getting back to work. Jacob waves to Mattie. Mattie sees Jacob and acknowledges his wave. Mattie runs to the kitchen with her most recent orders. Jacob fumes as Mattie is taking her time responding to his wishes. Jacob does not wish to be late returning to work. Mattie walks ver to Jacob and asks if Jacob needs anything further. Jacob asks for the check, and on further thought, he wishes one more vodka shot

Jacob receives the check and the shot. Jacob figures out a nice tip, and leaves cash. Jacob looks at his watch and sees he is running late. Jacob chugs the vodka shot. Jacob exits the bar and returns to work.

Jacob walks down the hall proud that he feels fine, clear headed, and is walking normally. Jacob admires himself for his ability to fool people that he just had four vodka shots.

Mattie observes Jacob staggering a bit. She smells a whiff of alcohol. Jacob smiles at Mattie and slightly slurs a cheerful greeting. Mattie can’t believe Jacob will ever be approved to be a partner. Mattie believes Jacob is self-destructing.

Abe enters Jacob’s cubicle and asks to speak with Jacob privately. Abe tells Jacob how he recognizes Jacob’s problem. Abe had the same problem. Abe solved his problem with will power and help of others. Abe invites Jacob to join a group.

Jacob joins the group. He stops drinking for good. Jacob becomes a partner and a valuable part of his law firm. Jacob moves to environmental law where his pro bono work advances several environmental causes.

Mattie looks at her client Phil and feels remorse. Mattie had warned Phil that divorce is not as easy as he once figured. Phil and his wife Jessica had agreed to an amicable spilt. They had agreed Phil would keep the house in Queens and continue making the mortgage payments while Phil paid child support while Jessica found an apartment. Phil and Jessica had even developed an agreeable share of time between their two children Andrew and Mayim.

The judge appointed an attorney to represent the interests of Andrew and another attorney to represent the interest of Mayim. The attorneys for both children had both children meet with counselors. The bill for these attorneys and counselors were in the tens of thousands. This was more than Phil and Jessica had expected. Money was tight. Both Phil and Jessica wanted alterations in their original agreement to offset these costs.

Then came some bombshells. The attorney for Mayim announce that Mayim feels uncomfortable living with Jessica because Jessica’s boyfriend Marvin made Mayim feel uncomfortable. The attorney raises the possibility that perhaps Marvin had made inappropriate advances to the five year old Mayim. He recommends that Phil receive full custody of both children.

Phil jumps at this and had Mattie argue for full custody. Jessica’s attorney vehemently denies that Marvin had made any inappropriate advances to Mayim. The evidence is circumstantial, the attorney declares, and is easily explained by the counselor misunderstanding Mayim’s fear of a new adult in her life. The attorney argues Mayim’s words have been twisted by the counselor and by Mattie. Jessica’s attorney further responds by alleging that Phil was an inappropriate caretaker as he had once left Andrew, as a baby, alone in a heated car in summertime. Andrew could have suffocated and died.

Mattie responds that Phil had only run back inside a fast food place for a less than a minute to get napkins. A woman walked by, saw the baby alone in the car, and called the police. Phil had his eyes on the car the whole time and was back within seconds. While arguing with the woman over what had happened and that Phil was telling the woman she was overreacting, the police arrived and an official report had been filed. The police did not charge Phil with any crime. Mattie agrees with Phil that the woman overreacted and obviously the police sides with Phil.

The judge orders more extensive research into the best interests of Mayim and Andrew. Phil and Jessica find they owe more money to attorneys and counselors that they had financial resources. Both have drained their life savings, sold the house, and sold what they could. Still the divorce is not over.

Phil looks devastated. Mattie knows it is small comfort telling Phil he is not alone and cases like this as becoming more commonplace. Phil appears lost and distant in thought. Mattie is concerned as Phil appears to not be too responsive to what she says. Mattie fears Phil is nearing a breakdown.

Phil leaves. Mattie goes home. Mattie calls for a Uber driver. Mark picks Mattie up and drives Mattie home to her upper east side apartment. Mattie enters her apartment and turns on the television. Mattie reads some mail while not paying close attention to the broadcast news until she is startled when she recognizes Phil’s face on the screen.

Mattie watches in horror as she learns how Phil shot and killed his wife and two children before killing himself.

Mark looks at his life. He thought by the age of thirty he would find a wife, be married, have children, and live the life he was taught from childhood was the way life is. He fretted high school when few of the girls would speak to him, or at least speak to him without laughing. None of them would date him.

Mark joined groups at church and social organizations. He was taught he was meant to find his special someone. They would find each other and he should not fret. Mark became very active and gained respect for his contributions and dedications to causes. Yet none of the women ever approached him with an interest in dating. Mark was too shy to approach any of the women. In fact, it seemed all the women he met were married or had boyfriends. Mark wondered how it was he should meet single women when there seemed to be none around.

Mark hit thirty years of age. Friends gave advice that he should try to meet women in bars. Mark hated drinking. Yet he tried it and eventually became a regular at a number of neighborhood Staten Island bars.

Mark found, before he had a few drinks, no woman ever wanted to talk to him. After a few drinks, Mark found the courage to talk to women, yet he did not find a woman where both he or she wished to continue the conversation.

Mark hit 40 years of age. Mark believed he was a loser, and that was hit lot in life. Mark worked several jobs, as a dish washer and building janitor, as well as earning extra income as a Uber driver. Mark met few women washing dishes or mopping floors, at least not women who wanted to speak to him. He met a few women as a Uber driver, but he never saw any of them again. Besides, none of the female Uber customers ever expressed an interested in seeing Mark again.

Mark sits next to Gill. Gill does not say much Gill orders one beer a night and takes several hours to finish it. Gill then leaves without saying anything. Gill at least tips decently. No one bothers Gill. No one bother Mark, either. Mark wishes, though, that a woman would attempt to speak to him.

A short, thin woman with short blonder hair sits next to Mark. Mark does not recognize her. As usual, Mark does not react to her presence. He is used to women sitting next to him and their never speaking to him. That has been his life.

The woman smiles quickly at Mark, then stops smiling with a startle as if she had been caught doing something she is not supposed to do. Mark finds it a good sign that she at least least smiled. Women seldom, if ever, smile at him.

“Welcome” Mark says to the stranger. The stranger relaxes quickly and moves slightly towards Mark. “My name is Mark.”

“My name is Jasmine”, the woman replies.

After a few seconds of awkward silence, Jasmine speaks. “I am not used to this”, Jasmine announces, “you are the first man to ever speak to a bar. I mean, I have spoken to men in my life...” Jasmine fumbles around. “My father was a man. and there were men as teachers and in classes, and I have spoken to men”. Jasmine feels embarrassed fumbling to find the proper words for a conversation.

“Don’t worry “ Mark tells her. “you are not missing much We men generally have little useful to say.”

“Oh, I am sure that is not true with you”, Jasmine replies, “I bet you have lots of interesting things to say.”

Mark stops for a few minutes in panic. He can not think of anything interesting to say. Mark looks at Jasmine and goes with his honest feelings  and tells her, “you are a beautiful woman.”

Jasmine blushes. “I know that is not true”, Jasmine tells Mark. “you don’t have to lie.”

Mark defends his position. “But it is true. You look very nice.”

“Well, thank you for lying so well”, Jasmine notes, “I know what I look like. No man has ever said I am beautiful.”

“They were all wrong”, Mark continues. “I find you...shall I say, to be a very attractive woman. And you seem to have a nice personality.”

“I am too thin for any man to have an interest in me” Jasmine announces/

“You are not too thin!” Mark argues.

“Do not delude yourself” Jasmine explains “I know what I am. I used to be anorexic. Then I got over that. Now I am bulimic.”

Mark is silenced for a few seconds uncertain how to respond. “At least you recognize your problem,” Mark states.

“Yes”, Jasmine explains “for many years I hide the problem from others and myself. I mean, I knew I was not eating enough, yet I would always then get these thoughts that no one liked me because I had put on a few pounds. So I would stop eating and force myself to get thin.”

“How long were you anorexic?” Mark inquires.

“I knew since I was five years old something was wrong” Jasmine continues. “I thought I was too fat at the age of five years old. I thought that is why other kids did not want to play with me. They would tease me about being fat, and I would refuse to eat much for days, weeks, months. I saw photographs of myself back then. and I was skin and bones. Why would other children say such awful things to someone so thin?”

“Children by definition are immature” Mark declares. “You were much too young to understand what was going on with yourself and with them.”

“My mother was no help” Jasmine notes. “My father left before I was born. My mother had four older children. All she ever did was yell at us and ridicule us. She complained that she could not feed all of us. So I thought I could help by letting others have larger shares of food.”

“It is interesting that you felt that way even at an early age” Mark states.

Mark observes a cut on Jasmine’s wrist. “What happened here?”, Mark asks, pointing at the edge of what appears to be a giant welt.

“Oh, I am a cutter” Jasmine explains.

“A what?” Mark asks.

“A cutter.” Jasmine tells Mark. “I like to take a razor blade and slash my wrists?”

“You like to do that?” Mark sounds abhorred “Do you enjoy that? Or are you suicidal?”

“No, I don’t want to die”, Jasmine tries to find the explanation, as she has been in this situation of getting others who do not understand to comprehend her feelings. “I need to feel pain in order to feel alive.”

“I am sorry”, a confused Mark asks “but aren’t you able to confirm you are alive by the fact you are breathing?”

“Not alive as in breathing”, Jasmine shouts out “but alive as in feeling as if I have a purpose in life.”

“What do you get out of this pain from cutting” Mark asks.

“The physical pain drowns out the emotional pain” Jasmine professes. “I feel emotional pain from the scars of years of teasing, neglect, and rejection. It gets so bad in my head, that I need to drown it with physical pain. When I feel the physical pain, the emotional pain goes away.”

“Isn’t it dangerous slicing your wrist?” Mark asks.

“That is part of the fun”, Jasmine, “the flirting with risk. The risk of death. If you are in pain fearing death, you no longer worry about some emotional pain from first graders calling you a pig and your mother being too drunk to care what you did.”

“You need to let go of that past” Mark advises. “There is nothing you can do about the past. You should realize that you can not change what has happened. You can only change what you do now and in the future. Look only at the present and the future. Learn from your past, but improve upon your actions.”

Jasmine thinks as Mark’s advice sets in. She has heard similar words before, but seldom from someone she has just met.

“You can have a great future”, Mark continue.”Maybe you will find someone else who also will tell you you are pretty. If not, well, there is always me. I find you pretty.”

Jasmine blushes. “I have never had a real, or serious, boy friend before, or, at least, one that lasted more than two dates.”

“Me, too” Mark tells Jasmine. “Maybe we were meant to meet other...”

Enrique staggers into the bar drunk, as usual. His clothes are dirty Enrique’s grey hair appears to have not been combed in some time. Enrique sits next to Jasmine.

“Hey, toots”, Enrique greets Jasmine.

Jasmine blushes. Mark is upset by this intrusion. Mark fears the bad smell emitted by Enrique will scare Jasmine away. Or, if not the smell Mark knows how Enrique is. Enrique is prone to say something nasty that will insult Jasmine and make her leave.

“Nice tits” Enrique tells Jasmine, using a line that Enrique has used, and failed with, many times.

Jasmine blushes. “Thank you, but I really do not have any.”

“What you have you gut, then. that looks good” Enrique blurts out.

“You haven’t even seen them, so you don’t know” Jasmine scolds Enrique.

Enrique pulls Jasmine’s blouse towards him and looks down the blouse. “They look good to me.”

Mark is horrified. “Now, Enrique, just listen...” Mark is prepared to defend’s Jasmine’s honor. The poor woman has never had a proper boyfriend and she does not have to subject herself to the rudeness of some bar drunk.

“You want to go to my place and get naked and make love?” Enrique asks Jasmine.

“Sure” Jasmine squeals. Jasmine hops off her chair. Enrique stumbles off his chair and joins Jasmine as they hurry towards thee exit.

Mark is stunned. Here was a woman he thought he was waiting for his whole life. Here was a woman who had seldom heard a meaningful compliment from a man, and he had delivered it. Mark truly does believe Jasmine is beautiful. Mark hopes his advice was helping Jasmine. Then Jasmine totally ignores him and runs off with a much older  crude man.

Mark sits back at the bar. Mark does not understand people.

Gill drinks his beer as his mind processes thoughts. Gill wonders where all these thoughts come from. He knows they come from inside his brain. Yet Gill has been told that most other people have brains that do not create these thoughts. Why does his brain create these?

Gill knows many of the thoughts are delusions. He always knew when his thoughts told him a herd of elephants were charging him on Ninth Avenue that there were no herds of elephants charging up Ninth Avenue. He hears people speak and his brain changes what they say. His brain likes to play word games. He “let go of the past” and he starts thinking about going to cut the grass. Gil thinks it is funny that one could go in the past and cut some grass. Gill almost shared this joke with the others, yet Gill remembered that other people would not understand the joke. Gill knows that most others do not understand him very well.

Gill leaves the bar and walks home. As always, he counts the 18 street lamps on both sides of the street between the bar and his home. He sees a neighbor Charlotte cutting the grass in her lawn. Gill yells out to her his joke “too bad we can’t go in the past and cut the grass.” Charlotte laughs. Gill likes that at least Charlotte understands his jokes. Gill closes her gate door, as Gill knows that door is always closed. It is never open. Gill knows the door must always be closed

Gill walks up the steps to his apartment building. Gill closes his eyes, counts to ten, and opens the door. Gill is home. Gill is safe now. Living alone, Gill is glad there is no one around who will not laugh at his jokes.


Charlotte likes to watch television.

A lot.

Television is Charlotte’s life. Granted, she has a job, and she faithfully goes to her job and does her work. At soon as it is quitting time, she leaves what she is doing on her desk and drives home. As soon as she enters the room, she turns on the television. She makes dinner while watching television Which is why she usually makes sandwiches or something that she can make while watching television. She does not want to miss out on anything while making diner.

Charlotte sits down and watches television until it is time to go to bed. Then Charlotte goes to bed, with the television on.

As soon as Charlotte wakes up, she watches the the television Charlotte watches television while making coffee. Charlotte does not make breakfast. as that would distract her from the television. She knows she can buy breakfast and lunch at work.

Charlotte turns off the the television when it is time to go to work. Charlotte goes to work, arrives on time every day (except on rare occasions where there has been a bad accident that ties up traffic), and Charlotte does her job.

Charlotte speaks to very few people while doing her job. Russell empties her waste basket once a day. On most days Russell and Charlotte spend a few minutes each time they meet discussing what they saw on television the night before. Then Russell empties her waste basket into Russell’s large trash can. Then Russell leaves.

Charlotte leaves at the end of the day. She is late getting home. There has been an accident. She hears on the radio there has been a fatality, which is causing the severe delay. Charlotte feels bad for the person who has tragically died driving the same road on which she drives.

Charlotte arrives home, sad by the recent events. Charlotte walks in her house.

Charlotte turns on the television

Russell never finished sixth grade. That is fine with him. He never liked school. When Russell was 16 years old, he dropped out of school to become a janitor. Thirty-four years later, Russell has been a janitor. That is fine with Russell. He never expected much more than that. Russell is fine with that.

Russell is mostly happy with what he has. True, like most people, he wishes he had more. Yet Russell also knows that he is apt to only get so much. He gets what he needs, and a bit more. Russell is happy.

Russell overpays for his rent. He does not really know that, nor does he care. He does not want any trouble with his landlord. Russell overpays for his car maintenance. Russell knows very little about car repair. He is just happy when it can be repaired.

Russell learns that hie is underpaid. He has not been given a raise in seven years. Russell is paid “under the table”, a concept Russell does not fully understand. Russell knows by not having to pay for health care and other nonsensical things that Russell will never have to worry about such things. That all sounds fine to Russell.

Russell is walking down the sidewalk when a bicyclist hits him from behind. Russell falls to the ground. He feels a sharp ache but figures it is nothing too important. Russell tries to stand up but immediately falls the ground. Russell can’t stand. Russell has a broken leg.

Russell is taken to the hospital by an ambulance. Russell tells Riana, the admissions employee at the hospital where he works. Russell tells Riana and that they handle all his health care documents. Riana, the admissions person calls Russell’s employer who explains to Riana they offer no health care for their employees. Rian, the admissions employee attempts to explain this to Russell, who only understands he is in pain and wonders why no doctor is taking care of him.

Russell is admitted to the hospital. All the doctors, nurses, and people with forms confuse Russell. He does not understand what is happening. He realizes that he has problems when he is handed a large bill that he know she can never pay.

Russell goes to work. Russell curses his boss and does not stop until his boss fires him

Russell feels better. Russell believes he can find some better work elsewhere.

Riana is fed up with the public. Of course, she mostly interacts with them when they are complaining to her about a problem someone else caused that they expect her to fix when she has no ability to fix the problem.

Riana wants to be a singer. She sings in local clubs. Many people tell her she sings well. Riana wonders what it will take to make it to Broadway.

Riana goes to casting announcements. She does not have an agent, nor much experience beyond singing in local Brooklyn bars. That must count for something, Riana believes. She hopes her talents will be recognized, eventually, by someone.

At every audition, Riana believes she showed people how talented she is. Riana also notes how talented so many other people are. Riana often saw her friend Liz at auditions. Riana is amazed as Riana believes Liz is the most talented person at every audition. Yet even Liz is not chosen.

Liz informs Riana of an upcoming audition in a small theater in lower Manhattan. Riana knows the location. It is a dump of a theatre than is also so small it can’t possibly make any money.

Riana returns to her job admitting clients to a hospital. She awaits a call for a job or at least a call back. So far, the call has never come. Riana hates her job. It requires her to converse with people all day, and she hates talking to others. She tires of hearing about their health problems and their difficulties with sick relatives and friends. Why should she care?

Riana offers to sing to patients. Some patients appreciate it. Many decline. Yet some appreciate being cheered with song and conversation. While the clients state they like her singing, Riana also realizes they mostly appreciate the conversations. Riana hates conversing and would rather sing. Yet Riana learns most patients want conversations, not singing. Riana is disappointed; she wants to sing, not talk.

Alice is 102 years old. Riana tires o conversing with Alice as the conversations become repetitive. “What is your name?” Alice would ask.

“Riana”, Riana would answer.

“Where are from” Alice would ask.

“The lower east side” Riana would reply.

“I once lived on the lower east side” Alice would comment.

“Where are we now?” Alice would ask.

“We are in the upper west side” Riana would explain.

“This is a hospital, isn’t it?” Alice would ask.

“Yes, it is” Riana would inform Alice, “you are here getting better.”

“I am glad” Alice would reply. Alice would then look at Riana and ask “What is your name?” The same set of general questions would follow, still another time.

Eventually Riana asks Alice if Riana may sing to her. Alice, as always agrees. Riana sings for Alice. Riana finishes her song for Alice.  Alice comments, as she does every time Riana sings, “you have the most beautiful mouth when you sing.”

Riana leaves. Riana returns to the hospital the next day.

“I am sorry”, a nurse Priyamvada informs, “Alice passed away last night. She always looked forward to your visits and speaking with you.”

“I would always sing for Alice, and she would tell me something no one ever stated: that I have the most beautiful mouth when I sing.”

“That is because Alice was born deaf” Priyamvada explains, “she could read lips. She loved watching people sing. She could tell the beauty of songs through the beauty of their lips.”

Riana is moved by this. She begins interacting with people more. She realizes that people hear her in the own way. She needs to find various ways to reach people and then express herself to them.


Liz is at an audition at a small theater in lower Manhattan. Riana checked out the theatre. It can barely fit 15 patrons, if that. Riana believes the job could not possibly pay enough to make working there worthwhile. Liz disagrees. Liz believes in pursing every role. The more experience one gets, the better becomes, and the more likely another acting job will materialize, Liz believes.

Liz also believes that many others think like Riana. Thus, with fewer people auditioning, Liz might get this role.

Liz auditions. She worries as the director and the producer appear disinterested. Yet they seem disinterested in everyone auditioning, so at least Liz knows not to take their disinterest personally.

Liz leaves, gets a good night sleep, and is awakened by a phone call. She is asked for a  callback.  Liz is thrilled. She has a chance at a role.

Liz gives what she believes is a great performance at the callback. She again is perturbed at the seemingly lack of interest the producer and director provide while she auditions. Perhaps that is their personality, she decides.

The director Dava calls. Liz has the part. She is so excited with joy she accepts the following information telling  her this is not a union guild job, she will not be paid during rehearsals, and the expected pay is going to be minimal.

Liz meets her co-stars. She notices they all are young, inexperienced, well to do, and eager to act. She is glad her enthusiasm fits in with her own.

The director Dava provides little directions. She generally accepts the interpretations each actor has brought to the role. Dava’s directing style is having the actors repeat their scenes with Dava providing little guidance.

The play is rather avant garde. Some of the actors joke privately that the play could have been written by a child. Yet each actor hopes this role will propel their careers.

Liz, realizing she has more experience that the others, takes many of the others under her wings. She gives advice. Many of the roles are up to interpretation. Liz has ideas she believes will improve their performances. Jamie disagrees with Liz’s suggestions. Liz believes she is right and Liz insists Jamie is wrong. Liz decides not to push the issue. Jamie has made it clear she will not change her performance unless, of course, the director says to. Dava says nothing. Liz fears Jamie’s performance is detrimental to the show.

Liz mentions to Maurice how she is disappointed that Jamie will not take her advice. The next day, Jamie confronts Liz for criticizing her behind her back. Liz takes offense, arguing she only repeated when she already stated directly to Jamie. Jamie declares that Liz is a bully and a control freak. Much of the rest of the cast fears a rift that could tear the cast apart.

Liz accuses Maurice of deliberately stirring up trouble. Maurice protests that everything he told others was the truth. Liz stops speaking to Maurice, fearing he likes to gossip and upset others. Maurice recognizes the snubs and snubs Liz back. Liz decides when she is a famous actor she will never recommend that Maurice be hired.

Liz overhears Jamie complain to Dava that Liz is trying to take over the directing. Dava tells Jamie not to worry. Liz is angry that Jamie is undercutting her with Dava. Liz accuses Jamie of being jealous that she better understands acting. Liz shouts that Jamie should not have gone to Dava with her complaints. Jamie loudly defends herself declaring that her interpretation is fine with Dava. Jamie tells Liz to stop sticking her nose where it does not belong.

Roger, the producer, arrives at the rehearsal with exciting news. Another producer has watched some of the rehearsals and is impressed. After the initial run in this small theatre, the producers want to bring the play to an off-Broadway theatre. Liz and the other actors are thrilled with this news. They realize that this play could not only help springboard their careers yet the play itself could put them better into the spotlight. An off-Broadway credit would go a long way towards future work.

The cast rehearses. Jamie makes a snide comment that she could do Liz’s role better than Liz. Liz fears Jamie is trying to undercut her. Liz hopes Jamie’s criticism backfires. Dava shows no reactions and says nothing. Liz wonders what Dava is really thinking.

Roger attends rehearsals more often with Dava. Liz wonders what Roger thinks. Whose performances does Roger prefer? Is Roger happy with how the cast interacts, or does he detect problems? Liz knows people can click well together onstage even if they disagree personally. Yet personal problems can be detected by the slightest emotional reaction on stage, and that could ruin a scene. Liz hopes she is doing well.

Roger provides no feedback. Liz does not see Roger conferring with Dava. Roger sits and lets Dava direct, at least to the minimum degree that Dava directs. Liz worries about the lack of feedback from Dava and Roger.

While rehearsing a scene, Liz observes Roger whisper something to Dava. Liz has no idea what Roger said. Liz is panicked, as see has never seen Roger whisper anything to Dava during any rehearsal. Liz does not know if Roger has said anything critical about her performance. Maybe Roger stated something positive. Liz presumes most likely is was nothing to do with her. Dava did not follow-up with any instructions to anyone on stage that would indicate Roger has recommended something.

In Liz’s worried mind, Liz fears that the negative things being said about her and the lack of guidance or approval from Roger and Dava are indications that her interpretation of her role is troubled. Liz is certain she will be replaced when the show moves to the off-Broadway theatre. Liz is convinced that Jamie has been positioning herself to take over Liz’s role.

Liz mentions her fears to Maurice that Jamie is trying to undercut her and have Liz removed from the play. Liz does this as a calculated gamble that Maurice will likely go to Jamie and tell Jamie what Liz told him. Liz hopes that calling out Jamie will get Jamie to stop undermining Liz. Liz hopes the cast will  sympathize with her in her being attacked by Jamie. Liz hopes the rest of the cast will rally behind her and against Jamie. After all, Liz has helped the other cast members with suggestions that each have taken. Liz is the team player who gets along with everyone.

Jamie explodes. She tearfully cries out in front of the entire cast that Liz is a horrible bully. Jamie shouts that Liz is trying to drive Jamie to a mental breakdown. Several of the cast try and comfort Jamie who sobs and is shaking.

Liz believes Jamie’s reaction was designed to gain sympathy for Jamie. Liz believes Jamie is at the root of all the problems, not Liz. Liz hopes the others eventually realize this.

Liz looks to see how Dava handles Jamie’s outburst. Dava sits quietly and says nothing about the incident. Dava calls for rehearsals to begin. The cast gathers in place on stage. The rehearsal begins.

Liz feels great tension as she rehearses. She can feel Jamie glaring at her as they exchange their lines. She hopes Dava does not notice. If they exchange similar glares of distrust during performances, Liz hopes the audience can not detect this. This would ruin the roles they are portraying as their characters are supposed to be friendly to each other. Every once in awhile, there is an inflection of sarcasm and distrust in their dialogue. Liz fears their performances are suffering. Yet Liz also fears saying anything in fear she will again be called a bully. Plus, she fears her criticisms, which she views as useful recommendations, are offending others.

Liz looks at Dava. Dava still appears uninterested and offers no comments. Perhaps Liz detects the strains in the performances while Dava, and hopefully an audience, will not observe.

Maurice changes the tone of his character in rehearsal. Liz is surprised by this. Maurice has adopted a new attitude for his character. It is against what Liz had advised. Maurice is more boisterous and outlandish. Maurice is stealing the scenes, although Liz does not feel that is appropriate. Liz wonders if Maurice feels this new presentation is more apt to gain him notice once the play hits off-Broadway. Liz also wonders if Maurice is deliberately rejecting her past advice on purpose to get Liz upset. Liz decides not to say anything. Liz fears upsetting things even more than she already had.

There is another rehearsal. Roger appears, and he looks downtrodden. Roger announces that his co-investor has withdrawn from the project. Roger states the theatre wants promised money by the end of the week or else they will book another show into the theatre. Roger is near tears, as he explains this was his, and he knows the others, hopes they could do something grand. He had a hand shake deal that the play would move to off-Broadway after the appearance at this theatre. If the play does not get off the ground, then his, and their, dreams are gone.

Roger states rehearsals until the end of the week are voluntary. He hopes for a miracle. Roger tells how he has applied for bank loans yet has been turned down. Roger mentions how he has put his own personal fortune into this play and he now stands to lose it all  because he can’t make the payment by the Friday deadline. Roger states he will see if he can find funding from somewhere, although he admits he does not yet know where he can find the money. In case he does find the funds, the cast and crew may continue rehearsing until Friday, yet he understands if anyone wishes to give up and leave. Roger leaves, sobbing.

Dava calls the cast and crew together. Dava has an idea. If enough people amongst the cast and crew wishes to be investors, the show can be saved. They have all been working five weeks without pay, and this is the chance to not only get paid yet they can make money on their investment once the play goes to off-Broadway. Maurice announces he can invest one thousand. It is known Maurice’s parents have money and are supporting Maurice’s career. Jamie, perhaps wishing to upstage Maurice, announces she will invest two thousand dollars. Jamie knows that the cast and crew knows she has money saved from her inheritance. Liz closes her eyes and announces she will invest seven thousand dollars. It is all the money LIz has in the world, yet Liz knows she has to step up and save herself and save the others.

The cast and crew cheer Liz, and to a lesser degree, Jamie and Maurice are their heroes. Liz basks in the glory.

The next day, rehearsals go great for Liz. She knows the cast and crew look up to her. She is now an investor and a financial savior of all they have been working on for several weeks along with their hope of their goals of off-Broadway success.

Liz arrives for rehearsal on Friday. The theatre is locked. The cast and crew are confused. They call Dava and Roger. Their phones are disconnected. They call the owners of the theatre who inform them that the theatre had only been rented through the previous day with no extensions afterwards. Liz calls the off-Broadway where the play would go next. No one there has ever heard of their play.

Liz, Maurice, and Jamie call their banks. Their checks have cleared. Their money is gone. And so are Dava and Roger.


Maurice believes he is God’s gift to women. He only wishes his parents thought so.

Maurice is distraught that his career is crumbling. He does not tell his parents that he has been scammed, yet he tells them the play he had been rehearsing was canceled before it opens. Maurice’s father states he is not surprised. Maurice has never heard an encouraging word from his father. Maurice’s father continues and suggests that Maurice lacked the talent to drive the play forward.

Maurice’s father wants Maurice to go into a career with stability. His father believes in the importance of a steady income. Maurice knows that with his good looks and talent he is going to learn lots of money as a famous actor. Maurice also knows that he will have a pick of many women who will idolize him, even if his parents do not.

Maurice is in a small grocery store. Maurice wonders how such a small store sells enough to afford the rent. That probably explains why the owner is there from opening at 8 am until closing at 9 pm. Maurice pities the store owner. Maurice seems him as a man with an uncertain but mostly steady low income who has to work long hours with lots of worries and little time to enjoy himself.

Maurice sees an attractive woman in the store. Maurice goes up and introduces himself and asks if she would like a cup of coffee. The woman responds “go away, you creep.” Maurice sees this as her playing hard to get. After all, she probably does not wish to admit to herself that she is falling for his charm.

The woman walks away. Maurice walks after her with his smooth pitch “it is only coffee. I am sure you will find me very entertaining in addition to my sexy looks. Free coffee. I’ll throw in a pastry. All this for what you will find to be the greatest experience of your life.”

“I have a boyfriend”, the woman replies.

“All the better”, Maurice states with his planned comeback, “you will have a benchmark to realize how much better being with me is.”

The woman puts down the groceries she was intending to buy. She walks out the store “Hey”, Maurice yells at her, “you don’t know what you are missing.”

The store owner notices the woman leaving her intended purchases behind. “Are you harassing my customer?” the store owner asks of Maurice.

“Of course not”, Maurice answers, “I bring customers in. They see me in here, they come in. Words gets around I shop here, your place will be packed with customers.” Maurice walks towards the exit and then turns to the store owner, “I will get you two tickets to the next play I am in. I’ll invite you backstage. You can get a picture and hang it on your wall. That’ll bring you lots of publicity.”

The store owner does not appear impressed.

Maurice walks inside a bar. He scopes the room looking for a woman sitting alone. She has to be attractive and preferably looking a bit insecure. He spots a woman at a table. Maurice sees she is drinking wine. Maurice orders two glasses of wine from the bartender Carl. Maurice looks at the woman he has spotted and tells Carl “that is one hot looking dame, wouldn’t you agree?” Carl replies “I don’t comment on such matters” and moves on to the next customer. . Maurice goes to the woman’s table and places one of the wine glasses in front of her. “Here is your next drink” Maurice announces.

The woman appears a bit confused. “I did not order this” the woman replies.

“No, this is my gift to you” Maurice explains as he sits at the empty chair at the table. “You have fine taste in wine and that should be rewarded with an even better vintage.”

“How can you tell I have fine taste in wine?” the woman asks. Maurice takes this as a good sign that is in conversing rather than indicating she wants him to leave.

“I can tell wines by their color” Maurice lies, “your wine has the distinct color indicating that you are a consumer of life’s finest things. I like people who like the finest things. I only offer the finest.”

“Do you work here?” the woman asks.

“I am Maurice”, Maurice introduces himself, “professional actor and wine expert.”

“I am Nell” the woman replies. Maurice takes it is a good sign that they have exchanged names. By knowing who each other is, they are now a part of each other’s lives. “You say you are an actor. What have you been in?”

Maurice rattles off a list of the obscure plays he has been in and throw in a few he has not been in.

“Oh, you were in “Of Mice and Men”? I saw that on Broadway” Nell comments. “What role were you?”

“That one was an early one in my Broadway career” Maurice explains, “I was only in the chorus.” Nell wracks her brain as she does not think “Of Mice and Men” had a chorus yet maybe Maurice is using some actor lingo she doesn’t comprehend.

Maurice and Nell talk for an hour. Maurice then asks Nell “would you like to come to my apartment and see my etchings?” Nell appears confused. “Oh, I know that is an ancient pick-up line, yet in my case, I really do have etchings. I have an exhibit in Chelsea of my etchings opening next month and I am still deciding which to exhibit. I would love to get your opinion as to which ones move you the most.”

Nell is pleased that Maurice values her opinion. Nell agrees to view Maurice’s etchings.

Nell tells Maurice what she has done in her life and what her goals are as they walk towards Maurice’s apartment. Nell appreciates that Maurice is interested in her life and ambitions.

Maurice and Nell enter his apartment. Maurice offers Nell a glass of wine. Nell at first declines but Maurice insists. It is one of the rarest and most expensive wines in the world, Maurice declares, and now that it is opened it must be soon drunk. Nell tastes the wine. It tastes weird, yet maybe that is what expensive wine tastes like. Perhaps it is one of those expensive older winers whose taste has deteriorated after so many years, perhaps if some air got into the bottle.

Nell feels disoriented. The wine must be getting to her, she believes. She sits down. The room seems like it is spinning. Nell fells very tired.

Nell awakens. She is in a bed. She is naked. Maurice is on top of her. He is also naked. Nell screams “get off me.” Maurice ignores her and continues. “You want this. You can’t take that back now.” Nell struggles yet Maurice, who is bigger and stronger, holds her down.

Nell rolls and pushes herself and Maurice so they roll off the bed. Maurice protests that she stay while she grabs her clothes. She puts her underwear on and runs into the hallway holding her dress and shoes. Nell does not care that people in the hallway see her like this.

Nell dresses down the hall, in front of a few confused witnesses. She hears Maurice coming out the door. Nell ducks down the hall before Maurice can see her. Nell runs down the fire escape stairs in hopes Maurice will take the elevator in searching for her.

Nell exits the stairs and peaks around looking for Maurice. Maurice runs outside. Nell cautiously walks to the door, sees where Maurice is heading, and quickly leaves in another direction without Maurice seeing her.

Nell can’t believe this happened to her. She knew all the precautions. Maurice seemed like a nice guy, if a bit conceited. She did not drink too much, although she did drink. She realizes the wine Maurice gave her must have been spiked.

Nell is certain she never consented and gave Maurice any idea she wanted to have sex tonight. She does not recall what she said, if anything, after she lost consciousness. She does know she wanted Maurice to think they could start dating and get to know each other better. Yet, there was no way she wanted to be attacked like that.

Nell calls her friend Cindie. Nell cries and becomes hysterical. Cindie calms Nell down. Cindie reassures Nell that she did not bring this on herself. Nell did not ask for this. Nell did not deserve this. Sadly, this happens to too many women. Too many women decide not to do anything about it. Too many women did not tell others about it, and they let their self-shame eat away at them. More women, and men, who are sexually assaulted need to report what happened, if only to stop this from happening to others. The vast majority of rapists have multiple victims and they continue hurting others because their previous victims chose to be silent Cindie explains. Cindie convinces Nell to go the hospital.

Maurice can’t believe Nell left his charming graces. The other women he enticed to his bed at least stayed and then slinked out in the morning. Maurice wonders what the neighbors think seeing a half dressed woman running out of his apartment. Maurice is mad at Nell for giving him a bad reputation in the building. If Nell can’t appreciate being with him, then there has to be something seriously wrong with Nell, Maurice reassures himself. Nell must have some sort of disorder. Maurice determines Nell must be a lesbian and not into guys at all.

Maurice hears a knock on the door. He answers it. A few minutes later, Maurice receives his Miranda rights.

Carl pours a drink for a smiling woman sitting at the counter. “Pour one for yourself” the woman states, handing over money for two drinks.

“Sorry, I’m working” Carl replies as her hands her back the money for the second drink. She returns the money. “Keep it, it’s your tip.” Carl lets the money sit on the counter, as he suspects she may change her mind about leaving such a large tip.

“What time do you get off work?” the woman asks Carl.

“Ah, late” Carl replies.”very late. I have to clean up and do the bookwork.” Carl moves on to another customer who has an order. Another woman orders. Another woman smiles at Carl. Carl smiles back as he gives her what she ordered. Carl looks down the bar and stares at Brad, drinking alone. Carl finds it easy to talk to customers who speak first. Yet Brad never says anything other than his order. Carl wishes Brad would speak.

Carl goes home. He lives alone. He feels alone. He wishes he could express who he is. He knows he lives in a city where there is wide acceptance of people with all kinds of sexual preferences. Carl just does not know how to express himself or find a community that supports him. Part of the problem is, Carl is not certain what he wants.

Carl finds he himself staring at lustful thoughts at men. Yet he also can not imagine himself actually being with a man. He believes the social norms still dictate that his life would be less complicated if he found a woman to be with. Yet he also can not imagine actually being with a woman.

Carl wants a friend, of either sex. Yet what happens if such a friend wants the relationship to go further than Carl wishes it to go, and that ruins the relationship? Carl has not had a friendship that lasted so long that it never went the possibility of a sexual relationship, so Carl has not had to deal with this crossroad. Carl, though, realizes he often ruins relationships before he gets to that point. Thus, Carl has no friends. Plus word gets around that Carl is hard to get to know and he can become “ugly” in a friendship, so many friends of his former friends know to avoid him.

Carl finds some satisfaction in his relationships with his customers. Most are pleasant for a few seconds. Several talk for a few minutes. Then they leave, and there is no pressure for the relationship to go beyond that. There are the rare people who ask for his number or ask to meet up with him, yet he has always successfully dodged meeting up later with these people.

Carl’s parents ask when he is going to settle down. They used to ask him if he is dating anyone. Carl is always uncomfortable answering his parent’s questions about his personal life. He wishes they would leave him alone. Carl notices his parents stopped asking if he is dating a woman and only ask if he is dating. Carl suspects his parents have realized he does not prefer women. Carl has not confirmed this with them. Carl also tried to convince himself he has not fully decided what he wants. Carl fears that while his parents may be realizing what he is, and they know him well, perhaps better than he knows himself. Carl wonders if his parents feel let down that he may not be getting married to a woman and giving them grandchildren.

Carl tends bar. A woman orders and gives him a big tip. She smiles and asks what his name is. He tells her he is Carl and then moves on to another customer. Wiley, another bartender, whispers into Carl’s ear “I think that woman is your type”. Carl replies “I don’t get involved with customers” hoping to deflect the situation. Wiley responds “no, she’s perfect for you. She’s a fag hag.”

Carl wonders exactly what this all means. Do his co-workers believe Carl is a homosexual? Not that they would necessarily be wrong, but Carl believes he has successfully hide his private thoughts from everyone. Now Carl wonders if his being gay is so obvious that a complete stranger---this “fag hag”---can walk into the bar and immediately determine he is gay. Plus, what does a fag hag want with a gay man? This is all confusing to Carl.

Carl takes the woman’s order. She smiles seductively at Carl. Carl returns a respectful, professional smile. He makes her drink order. He delivers the drink to her. She thanks him, as she briefly touches his arm. Carl walks away to let her know of his disinterest.

The bar closes. Carl joins in the clean-up. Carl walks outside and sees the so-called “fag hag” walking around. She walks up to Carl.

“Hey, you’re the bartender, aren’t you”, she asks, “My name is Bea.”

“Nice to meet you, Alice” Carl replies in an unemotional monotone. “What brings you out so late?”

“Well,” Alice says, “I was hoping to run into you”, Bea admits.

“Me?” Carl questions, in real surprise.

“I want to know what makes you tick” Bea replies.

“Why what that interest you?” Carl asks.

“I’ve watched you”, Bea explains, “you are very good on the job. Yet you seem all, stiff and distant. I also detect you seem lonely.”

Carl walks towards his apartment. Bea follows.

“Why should any of that be your concern?” Carl questions, “I get by on my own quite well.”

“I don’t know” Bea states, “I just feel as if it is my job to help everyone in the bar.”

“Help them do what?” Carl inquires suspiciously.

“Oh, nothing sexual” Bea notes, “but emotional. Besides, I suspect you wouldn’t be interested in me sexually, anyway.”

“What makes you say that?” Carl asks with a bit of nervous chuckle.

“Oh, maybe I am wrong”, Bea draws back a bit “I hate to presume. Yet, you do give off a bit of a, how should I put this, a vibe that you’re into guys, not gals.”

“What makes you say that?” Carl inquires wondering. Is being gay that obvious? He was trying to not make a noticeable announcement about it.

“It is hard to pinpoint”, Bea notes, “I observe people over time. I note how your gaze is towards the men, not the women.”

“My gaze?” Carl asks.

“Yes”, Bea answers, “I notice how people act. I studied Psychology. I see who looks at who.”

“Are you a Psychologist?” Carl wonders.

“No”, Bea tells Carl, “I never finished my degree. I prefer studying people rather than studying books.”

“So I have a gay gaze” Carl laughs.

“Yes” Bea announces, “you do.”

“So, how may you help me?” Carl ponders, “and what makes you think I need help?”

“Everyone needs help”, Bea replies, “everyone needs friends.”

“How do you know?” Carl inquires.

“Because you are part of everyone” Bea announces.

Carl warms to Bea a little. Carl and Bea talk for several blocks until they reach Carl’s apartment.

“Aren’t you going to ask me in?” Bea asks.

“It is late” Carl answers, “besides, you know I am not interested in you, sexually.”

“I know” Bea states, “that is why I know I can trust you. My apartment is over 20 blocks away. I hate to waste money for a cab. I can just sleep on a couch and leave in the morning.”

Carl wonders what motive Bea has. “I can give you money for a cab” Carl offers.

“It is not the money” Bea tells Carl, “I just feel safer being with you than a cabbie.”

Carl reluctantly lets Bea in. He has a guest room he offers Bea. Carl leaves her. Carl goes to sleep.

Carl awakens to the smell of breakfast. Carl wanders out in his underwear to see if the smell is a strong one from the apartment next door or from his own apartment. Carl sees Bea making breakfast.

“Hello” Bea greets Carl as she is working behind the stove. “I thought the least you could do is to repay you with breakfast. Oh, and don’t worry, I went to the store and bought all this myself. I promise to clean everything afterwards.”

“You didn’t need...” Carl is lost for a response, “thank you.”

“By the way, you look cute in your underwear” Bea informs Carl. “Just to let you know, from a woman’s perspective.”

“I’ll go, shower, and get dressed” Carl tells Bea.

Carl showers. He hears the door open and wonders what Bea is off to.

“Do I mind if I shower with you?” Bea asks.

Carl’s gut reaction is to tell Bea to leave him alone and not to invade his privacy. Carl also fears disturbing this woman who so far has been nice to him. Carl is lost on how to answer while his mouth weakly responds “OK.”

A naked Bea enters the shower. “I know this isn’t exciting for you” Bea tells Carl, “yet a gal has to get a bit of her own jollies somehow.” Bea offers to lather and wash Carl. Carl accepts. Bea asks Carl to lather and wash her. Carl accepts.

Bea exits and dries herself with a towel. Carl, realizing he only has one towel out, reuses what dry areas he can find on the towel.

Carl dresses. Carl goes to his dining room. Carl sits for the breakfast Bea has made for them. He thanks her and makes pleasant conversation for awhile before asking “what is it we are doing here?”

“It is very simple”, Bea answers, “We are being friends. I am tired of guys wanting me only for sex. Not that sex is bad, and not that I don’t mind a peak or two of your naked body. Yet I also want a friend who I know won’t ruin it by trying to force me to have sex.”

“So”, Carl observes, “I am ‘safe’ to you?”

“To be honest” Bea tells him, “that is part of it, yes. Yet the bigger and more important part is I like you. I want us to be friends.”

“OK”, Carl responds with a smile.

Carl walks Bea to her apartment and then walks back as he has to get ready for work. Bea promises to visit the bar later on.

Carl enters work. Brad orders his drink and sits alone reading something on his tablet. Customers come and go. Bea enters and orders a drink. She smiles at Carl. Carl smiles back.

Wiley notices Carl smiling at Bea. Wiey decides to give a dig at Carl. “I believe that is the first time I have seen you smile” Wiley announces.

Bea turns to Wiley and tells him “of course he smiles”, Bea explains, “He smiles just like that when we are naked together in the shower.”

Carl’s face turns beet red. Wiley nudges Carl “you dog, you.”

Carl is not certain if Wiley now thinks thinks Carl is straight, or if Wiley thinks Bea has netted herself another “fag”, or if Wiley thinks Bea was joking, or what Wiley thinks. Yet Carl knows one thing: He now has a bit of a reputation, and not as someone who is focused only on doing his job with no reference to an outside social life.

Carl looks over and sees Brad chuckling to himself. Did Brad overhear all his? Is Brad laughing at him? Is Brad familiar with Bea? Is Carl another feather in Bea’s cap and Brad is aware of this?

Carl wonders if Bea really is a friend or someone who, as Wiley intimated, ‘collects’ male homosexuals for friends. Carl asks Bea if she wishes to come over after his shift tonight. Maybe they could get some coffee or see a movie. Bea says she would love to do all of that. Carl determines Bea’s friendship seems real.

Carl sees Brad’s glass is empty. Carl asks Brad if he would like a refill or another drink. Brad states he would like a refill. Then Brad sticks out his hand. ‘Hi” Brad announces, “I am Brad. You have been serving me for months and I thought it was time I get up the courage and introduce myself.”

“I am Carl” Carl replies cheerfully shaking Brad’s hands.

“Do you like football?” Brad asks.

Carl is not that big a fan and has always wondered exactly what a monster back is. “Yes, I love football” Carl lies.

“I have two tickets to see the Giants this weekend” Brad informs Carl. “My father was going to go with me yet he has to be out of town. I’d hate for the ticket to go to waste. Would you like to go to the game with me?”

“Sure” Carl replies. Carl is happy. Carl has friends.

Jeff remember when he first met Kat. It was on 31st Street.

Jeff walks past the 31st Street store where they first me. A flood of memories swirl around Jeff’s thoughts. There were great, happy times, and Jeff recalls them with happiness and sadness that they are no more.

Jeff finds himself at a restaurant with a view overlooking the spots where he and Kat used to dine, dance, and be happy. The places have changed and some look similar to how they were and others have changed dramatically. Yet Jeff walks past and into them as if looking for the ghosts of what once was. Jeff wonders what could have been.

Jeff has few regrets. He knows that he would decide, based on what he knew then, that he would have made the same decisions. Yet, knowing what he knows now, he despairs over the lost opportunities. He wishes he and Kat had made a life together. She, alone amongst everyone else he met, was who understood him most. She and he clicked like no one else ever had.

Jeff spends many of his retirement hours walking the streets. He remembers how the streets were when he was younger and the many changes they have all gone through since then. Jeff finds himself thinking much about what has happened. Jeff would like to think about the present and future. Yet, at his age, the past is what comes to mind the most.

Jeff smirks when he sees the “famous un-famous” sites captured in novels, television shows, and movies. Just about every block seems to have captured the attention of some writer and inspired a scene brought to life in print or film. This is a city of inspiration. Jeff is glad to live here.

Jeff remembers the friends and lovers who have moved on or who have passed away. A problem with getting older and not leaving is people leave and die. Jeff hopes he is honoring them by remembering him. He wonders if anyone ever thinks back and remembers him.

Jeff crosses the street thinking of good times. He feels a stabbing pain. He does not know what has hit him. Jeff feels a force that throws him on the ground. Jeff sees a man  being tossed into the air. Jeff realizes a speeding motorcycle has hit him and thrown him to the ground.

Jeff assess the damage. His right hand, which he impulsively used to block his fall, is bruised and has some minor bleeding. He feels something on his chin. He notices spots of blood on his shirt. Jeff wipes his chin and looks at the blood from his chin.

Jeff notices a crowd has gathered around the motorcyclist. “Did he break his neck?” someone asks. Jeff realizes his injuries may be superficial compared to what has resulted to the motorcyclist. What a tragedy. A few seconds ago, the motorcyclist was alive and well, probably happily speeding down the street ducking around raffic and pedestrians. Yet the motorcyclist made a split second bad decision, and he is hurt, maybe even dead. The started look of the motorcyclist, alive but probably frightened, is borne into Jeff’s brain. A man, alive in one second, could be dead the next.

The motorcyclist stirs. The crowd breathes some relief as some feared he was dead. He was not wearing a helmet. “I think my leg is broken” the man cries in obvious pain.

A police car arrives. The police assess the situation. They ask the man’s name. “It is Wiley” the motorcyclist replies. “What is your last name” Officer Tuan inquires. Wiley can’t remember his last name. Wiley remembers he is a bartender somewhere, but he can’t remember where.

An ambulance arrives. Wiley is placed on a stretcher. Wiley is driven to the hospital.

A second ambulance arrives. Two paramedics arrive. They look at Jeff’s injuries. They bandage his cuts which they state are superficial. They want Jeff to go to the hospital in case he banged his head. Jeff refuses to go. The paramedics are insistent. They explain that head injuries can result in unconsciousness and even death within 24 hours. Jeff asks why they don’t just state “one day” instead of “24 hours”? Is he safe after 25 hours?

Despite their pleadings, Jeff walks away before the paramedics can get Jeff to be x-rayed. Jeff feels fine, he tells them. Jeff continues walking as they shout at him to call if he feels any dizziness.

Jeff continues walking. Jeff admires the buildings. He wonders what it was like to work on constructing them. He wonders about the many people who have lived and worked in each building. He wonders how many of their life stories are lost to history. He thinks of how many love stories have occurred and how many look back and think of their past histories.

Jeff wonders how Wiley is doing. Should he visit him? Or will Wiley be upset to see him? Maybe Wiley will think he is planning on suing him. Maybe seeing Jeff will bring back this horrible memory and make Wiley feel worse? Jeff still considers visiting Wiley, yet for now, he is not rushing to make the trip to the hospital to inquire about his momentary acquaintance.

Jeff passes another building that reminds him of his times with Kat. Those were the good old days. Why did they have to end? Jeff walks past some theaters and remembers the shows he and Kat saw at each theater.

Jeff sees a group of people behind a police barricade. People are standing looking at nothing in particular. Jeff asks what is going on. Someone explains that the United Nations is meeting and someone of importance may or may not ride down this street over the next several hours. Thus, the street is closed. Jeff asks how far down the street is closed. He learns it is closed for too many blocks, or least too many for Jeff, in either direction. Jeff decides to take a subway and pass underneath by traveling just one station in order to resume his walking.

Jeff waits for the subway. He notes the subway is taking longer the usual to arrive. Jeff believes he is the master of waiting for subways. He believes he has some magic power that must delay their arrivals.

The subway arrives. The subway is crowded. Jeff pushes himself into the subway. Someone announces “there isn’t enough room”. Jeff feels himself being pushes out of the subway. Jeff angrily goes to reenter the subway just as the doors close. The subway leaves. Jeff hopes there will be another subway right behind this one. Jeff discovers there is still another longer than usual wait for a subway.

Another subway arrives. It is packed. The long waits between subways are causing them to be more crowded. Their being more crowded means it takes longer for passengers to get off and on. This delays the subways even more, creating a spiraling result where the subway becomes increasingly delayed.

Jeff asserts himself into the crowd. While no one displays happiness over the subway car becoming even more crowded, at least this time no one pushes Jeff out. A number of people enter in the last seconds behind Jeff. Jeff throws his elbow around a pole to steady himself. Other places their hands on the pole. Jeff wonders how sanitary the poles are with so many germs from numerous hands constantly being added to the pole.

The subway arrives at the next station. Jeff moves to get off. The people behind Jeff seem exasperated that Jeff is getting off so soon. He believes they are wondering why he didn’t just walk the few blocks, perhaps not realizing the street was blocked.

Jeff walks up tiresome steps exiting the subway station. Jeff reaches the top of the steps. A man hands Jeff a brochure and asks Jeff “do you know Jesus?” Jeff replies “yes, they have great appetizers there.” The reply confuses the brochure hander enough that Jeff walks past before receiving a response.

Jeff observes how places that decades ago sold pornography now are family oriented stores. Jeff observes there are more tourists. Jeff hears a police officer announcing “everyone, back away, there is a bomb scare.”

Jeff notices the typical response of those around him is to take out cell phones and cameras. People are photographing the area behind the police officer, as if they may capture something. What do they expect to photograph? Do they want to capture the explosion of a bomb and post it on the Internet in time before the blast kills them?

Jeff knows if someone says to evacuate an area, it is best to go away from the dangerous area as fast as possible. Jeff quickly walks away. Jeff is a few blocks away. Jeff now regrets not taking a photograph. Maybe something big was happening back there. He could have taken a historic photograph. Oh, well, there will be no Pulitzer Prize for Photography for Jeff.

Jeff watches as helicopters fly overhead. They are circling the area of the bomb scare, or perhaps the area where some world leader may or may not be. Whatever the cause of their arrival, Jeff expected them. Helicopters overhead are a part of New York City culture.

Jeff walks past department stores. He recalls the many Christmas lights shows they have displayed over the years. He always made it a point to see their displays every year. He liked seeing the joy they brought to children. He liked the joy they brought to him. Seeing them was one of his annual happy traditions.

Jeff looks up at the clear sky. He remembers a time when the sky was cloudy with smoke. The air was once so polluted he found himself coughing. He is glad he can take long walks without coughing due to the smog and pollutants. Some things in New York City have improved.

Jeff walks past ethnic restaurants. There was once a restaurant of every ethnicity, or just about. A few ethnicities no longer have a restaurant in the city. Jeff used to like several Hungarian restaurants. Now he can’t find a single Hungarian restaurant. As Jeff notes, the city constantly changes.

Jeff walks past the headquarters of a large biker club. Few people know this is where their headquarters are. They do not advertise their offices. They do not recruit members on the streets. Jeff knows he could prove to people their headquarters is there if he were to stand in front of their open window and announce that their club sucks. He would expect a large number of bikers to come out and defend their integrity. Jeff never attempts this. Jeff also fears if he made such a declaration that he would have to defend for his life.

Jeff turns and walks in another direction in other section. Jeff notes the number of beggars and compares the number to past counts. Jeff finds it interesting when the city announces the count of homeless. He thinks they should hire him. He has a good sense of whether the numbers are up and down from his more frequent observations.

Jeff approaches 31st Street. Jeff wonders if Kat ever thinks of him. Does she also miss their good times? He wonders what it would be like if he could run into Kat again. Is she married? Would she be interested in rekindling the romance they once had? Jeff knows the likelihood of running into her and getting back together are close to zero. Yet, sometimes Jeff thinks that small chance might be a part of the motivation that gets him to take his walks. Sure, the walks are healthy. Yet the dream of possibly seeing Kat again, even if that possibility realistically is close to zero,is a possibility that keeps him walking.

Jeff feels a ping in his head. Second later, Jeff feels a massive headache. Jeff worries this is what he was warned about. Jeff reaches for his phone to call for an ambulance, yet a sharp pain in his hand causes him  to drop the phone. Jeff crumbles to the ground.

Jeff sees some people running towards him. Jeff looks up at the woman looking down at him.

“Kat? Is that you?”


Police Detective Tuan had a Vietnamese American mother and a Laotian American father. He grew up learning English, Vietnamese, and Laotian at home. It is said that a child’s mind has the learning capacity to understand seven languages. His parents also had him lean Cantonese and Mandarin growing up. If his parents had known about the seven languages theory, they would have had him learn two more languages.

Tuan enjoyed learning languages. Yet he learned, as do most adults, that is is hard to learn languages as an adult. He took a course in Spanish in college, thinking his mastery of other languages would easily translate into learning another Romance language. He was wrong. He quit after getting a C grade in Spanish One. He never took the next level. Still, he learned some more Spanish later in life to help translate when his work brought him across some Spanish speaking people.

It was Tuan’s fluency in Asian languages they drew the attention of his superiors. They were looking into someone who could gather intelligence on human trafficking of people from overseas to work in poor working conditions that did not follow labor laws at below minimum wages. The factories have no windows, often against health and safety regulations, which made the work even more dangerous and difficult. The lack of windows, though, meant that no one could look in and see what was going on. If they could, they would see unsafe conditions with improper ventilation. They would see workers at the their jobs for16 hours shifts. They would see workers wearing diapers because they were not allowed bathroom breaks. If they were unseen, their employers deduced, no one would know what was going on. If the workers remained hidden, no one would know what they were doing.

Someone was needed who could infiltrate the abused workers without creating suspicion. Workers were often hidden living in the same building they worked. They were seldom seen on the streets. The police could tell by food orders, especially of ethnic foods favored by certain regions, when large numbers of people had moved into neighborhoods, even it was not known where they were living. If the food did not match the rentals and other housing numbers, then there were hidden people somewhere.

Tuan spoke enough of the different languages of some of the ethnic groups suspected of being human trafficked. It was believed that human trafficking would happening around the world. Yet there were indications that many employees were being illegally brought into the city from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. It was good that English was taught in many of these countries. Indeed, English often became a common second language among people conducting businesses between these nations. Yet many illegal employees did not speak English well enough or they were distrusting of Americans to converse with Americans. They did not know their rights nor what legal protections they had. They feared, often with good reason, that if they shared information that their employers could  harm them or, if the American police and legal system helped them, then they and their friends would only be deported back to where they had only earlier had escaped.

Tuan walks around areas where low income Vietnamese, Laotians, and Chinese lived. He would befriend people and then slip into conversations if they had heard any rumors of illegal employees being brought into America. It seemed that many people knew rumors, yet few knew facts. Still, with many rumors, there were some bases of facts that began to create a bit of a picture as what may be happening.

Tuan walked around several buildings with boarded up or bricked in windows. Some of the buildings clearly were abandoned. Some, he could hear noises inside. Something was going on. Public records indicate they were not in use. Tuan believed he was narrowing down possibilities.

Tuan watched the buildings where he suspected illegal immigrants may exist. He observed the same set of people emerge at the same hours. He suspected they were managers or owners. He checked their license plates. The plates were indeed registered to the people he saw driving them. They were all legitimate Americans. None had any serious criminal records. Tuan checked for business loan information. Tuan checked building ownership records. He noticed that two buildings were owned by one man named Al. Al had no business loans, or at least none that Tuan could find. Al was not certain if Al owned the buildings and rented them out, although there were no public records to that affect, or if Al was owning and operating whatever was going on inside the buildings.

Tuan did not want Al to be able to recognize him since Tuan was hanging around the neighborhoods of Al’s buildings. Another police officer made a routine inquiry of Al. Al seemed to have his documentation in order. Al claimed the buildings were used for making high end candles. He listed a few employees and their information checked out as proper.

Tuan noticed some poorly dressed people would sometimes come out of the buildings at the end of what appeared to be their shifts. They would smoke cigarettes and thengo back inside. Tuan decided to befriend them by selling them cheap cigarettes known as ‘onesies’.

When the smokers emerged from their builidng, Tuan held up cigarettes to entice the smokers. They came over. Tuan spoke in Mandarian and then Vietnamese before obtaining a response in Vietnamese. Tuan knew not to ask any questions and scare them off this early in their relationships. Tuan sold the cigarettes for very low prices, which actually cost him money. Yet Tuan suspected the smokers had very little money and hey were probably unaware how much cigarettes really do cost in New York City. If they did know the high prices charged in New York City, he suspected many of them would prefer to give up their habits rather than pay such higher prices.

The crowds quickly increased as word of the inexpensive cigarette dealer spread. Tuan casually asked where in Vietnam they came from. The names of different villagers were offered. Tuan asked their names, and a few gave their names. None of the names given to Tuan checked on an any official documents.

Tuan asked questions as to how much the job paid. He reassured them that they were being underpaid. He told them they had a legal right to demand minimum wages. The workers all stated they did not want to cause any trouble. One worker indicated their boss had their passports, and that anyone who caused trouble was sent back to  Vietnam. Tuan asked how that worked. Some workers explained that they save up money to come to America. They were brought in by ships at night and brought into America hidden from public view. Their passports were taken from them. They were warned they would be sent back with no reimbursement of what they paid if they violated one of many conditions, including causing trouble over work conditions or pay. They knew if they went to American authorities that they and all their fellow workers would be deported. They would lose their jobs. As much as the work was long hours and hard work, it was better than what they had left behind in Vietnam.

Tuan believes much of what they fear is true. While they were being taken advantage of, they may actually be better off. If authorities moved in to protect their legal rights, the end result could be that they would be sent back to even worse working and living conditions.

By chance, Tuan’s investigation receives an unexpected boost. A ship was grounded entering the harbor. Upon being rescued by the Coast Guard, the ship was found to contain hundreds of illegal workers from Taiwan. Tuan interviewed them. He learned they were being brought in to work for Al. Tuan knew he had enough evidence to arrest Al.

Tuan received search warrants for both of Al’s buildings. The police surrounded both buildings and burst in. After they entered, they found both buildings empty.

Tuan delivers an arrest warrant for Al. Al’s whereabouts is not known. No one is home. Tuan speaks to neighbors. They tell of an unmarked van the size of a large moving van parked in front of the house last night. Movers removed lots of furniture from the house into the moving van. One person saw Al enter a black limousine, which was actually a usual sight, although Al seemed to be a particular hurry. No one ventured over to ask to where Al was moving.

Tuan checked records of moving van companies. None of them had records of being hired by Al, or anyone in the middle of last night. Each moving van company claimed they did not own an unmarked moving van.

 Tuan asked neighbors around the two buildings Al owned to see if anyone saw any people or machinery being moved out of the buildings. No one saw anything. They were all asleep and no one saw and heard nothing unusual.

Tuan has the histories of how Al’s operations worked. Tuan does not have Al. Al must have pre-planned a quick exit ahead of time and employed it when disaster to Al struck.

Tuan wonders where Al is. Tuan wonders how many ‘Al”s there are. He has read reports of human tracking around the world. Some other countries invest more resources into cracking down on human trafficking. Tuan suspects the United States may be receiving more than its share of trafficked humans because law enforcement gives it a relative lower priority compared to some other countries. There are some other crimes where it is easier for law enforcement to capture criminals, and these were crimes against existing voting citizens. These easier to solve crimes seem to receive greater priorities over human trafficking, Tuan believes.

Tuan immediately finds he receives more patrol duty. When he can, Tuan tries to find other suspected human traffickers. Stopping one boat put some middle people in prison. Tuan suspects their positions were quickly filled and new ship operators would be taking over their shipments of human labor.

Tuan wanders around neighborhoods attentive to leads. Tuan believes he has learned from his mistakes. Tuan fears the human traffickers have learned from their mistakes. Both sides may be improving their operations. Tuan fears the traffickers are moving ahead of law enforcement. Tuan believes law enforcement needs more resources to stop the human traffickers. The resources are not forthcoming, at least for now.

Tuan is frustrated. The leads seem to be drying up. He doubts the trafficking has decreased, although it might have after the ship was caught. Tuan suspects the traffickers are getting better at keeping their illegal workers hidden and quiet. Tuan fears it is becoming harder to catch them.

Tuan conducts some interviews at brothels. Tuan realizes this is controversial work. He must patronize establishments in order to gain the confidence of the women working there. He learns that the women were sold in auctions. He hears rumors that when they came to America, the younger and pretties women went to one bidder. The younger but less pretty women went to another bidder, who rumor has it works in a chain of restaurants. The rest went to a bidder who rumor has it was involved in industrial work.

Tuan discovers the women are moved around quickly, although within a set number of establishments. It is hard to go after one establishment as his sources often have been shifted away before he could raid the place which often had new ownership by the time the raid occurred. The legal ownership papers changed so often that any past crimes he found no longer applied to the new owner. The new owner, of  course, swore that the operations were all now legal.

Tuan asks for more resources. Maybe in the next budget, he is told. There are other more urgent priorities in a tough budget year, he is told. Keep up the good work, though.  For now Tuan is given other assignments. Tuan works during parades. He is assigned patrol duty more often than before. His assignments concerning human trafficking diminishes.

Maybe in the future Tuan’s work on human trafficking. will find success.

****************************************************************************************************”Can’t you drive any faster?” Al asks of his limo driver, Jules.

Juan responds “traffic is backed up. I can’t go through the cars in front of me.”

Al lies back in his seat and grunts sarcastically “why can’t you?”

Jules knows to be cautiously frightened by Al’s attitude. Al gets into bad moods and starts spontaneously firing people. At least if he gets fired, Jules knows he won’t be yelled at as much. Yet Al pays and tips handsomely so Jules puts up with the outbursts in return for the more than decent compensation.

Jules informs Al some streets are closed for something about the United Nations and there has been a bomb scare. Al believes he can drive around it all at Second Avenue. Jules is correct. The traffic is moving faster in this part of Manhattan. Jules increases his speed. This is met with an increasing smile from Al.

The car goes over a bump around 23rd Street.

“What was that?” Al inquires.

“I have no idea” Jules answers, “I didn’t see anything.”

“Whatever it was,” Al remarks, “I hope it did not damage the tires.”

Jules takes Al to an address. Al instructs Jules to forget the address. If anyone ever questions him, Jules is to state he drove Al to an entirely different location in another part of the city.

Al exits the limousine. Andy, a refuse collector, is moving a garbage can towards his garbage truck. Al yells at Andy to “get out of my way.” Al then turns away, hoping that his yelling did not allow Andy to turn and get a good look at him. Al realizes he needs to lay low and keep quiet so he may successfully hide from the police.

Al settles into his hideout. He is staying with a wealthy friend who has criminal organization connections. His friend and his friend’s family will keep Al safe until he may be able to leave the city undetected. Al appreciates the help.

There is some honor among thieves. Even if they have little honor towards others.

Al looks at the cable television offerings. He grumps they are missing some premium channels he likes. His wishes to be able to view these channels are granted as another better premium package is purchased. Al will be watching a lot of television during his visit. It is best to keep Al happy. Al receives the channels he seeks.

Al complains some kinds of liquor are not available. WIth some eye rolling, the owner of the house runs out and buys the liquor Al requests.

Al worries that the garbage man might identify him. Al asks some investigative friends to  learn the identity of the refuse collector. The investigators get a list of the collectors in the neighborhood. They get photographs of the collectors who have the route where he is hiding. Al looks at the photographs and identifies Andy.

Al is assured Andy will be notified to keep his mouth shut. Al is relieved.

Al prepares his plans for his relocation in another city. Al is happy things will turn out all right for him.

Some hotshot guy in a business suit gets out of a black limousine and yells at Andy to “get out of my way.”

Andy shrugs off the remarks. After eight years on the job, Andy knows this is New York City. People seem to yell indiscriminately. Plus, many people seem to look down on garbage collectors. Andy is used to the abuse. When he was younger, he would yell back. He learned that was counterproductive. It is easy to escalate a conflict between two people who don’t know each other and who refuse to back down on their small points of contention. It is not worth fighting over such little things with people who have few manners, Andy has concluded.

Andy spots a sofa. It is in fine shape. Andy can not believe how much good stuff people throw away. One of the side benefits is he, as the most senior member of his truck’s collecting crew, gets first dibs on such goodies. Andy lays a claim on the couch. It is placed in the garbage truck. Nothing more will be crushed until they get the couch into Andy’s car.

Andy returns home with a beautiful couch. Andy’s wife Alma is not pleased. Their house is full of stuff other people have thrown out. Andy sees this as a side benefit of his job. Alma sees it as a horrid way to avoid her being able to decorate a home as she wants. Their house is full of things other people have rejected.

Alma sits on the couch. Alma jumps up.

“This couch is full of bugs” Alma squeals, “no wonder they threw it out.”

“I’ll just spray it with bug spray” Andy announces as he races for the bug spray.

“No” Alma replies, “you get this things out of here right now, before the bugs invade the entire house.”

Andy knows not to challenge Alma when she is this angry. He is upset that this beautiful  couch has to once again be trashed. He looks at the couch as if the couch can feel the dejection of being rejected twice. “Sorry, poor couch, but out you go” Andy tells the couch.

Andy drags the couch to the curb. Andy knows if he puts a sign reading “free couch” that no one will take it, as people are suspicious of something that is free. Andy puts a sign on the couch reading “Do not take.” Andy knows only something that seems to have value will be taken. Andy goes inside. Minutes later,Andy looks out his window. The couch is gone. Andy hopes someone appreciates a nice, free couch, bugs and all.

Andy hopes his wife appreciates the sturdy chairs he has found. They have a few nicks here and there, but they all work fine. Alma complains none of the furniture matches. Andy wonders why furniture needs to match when it is all useful, and it is all free.

Andy works. He is disappointed he does not find many good things to bring home for awhile. There are no guarantees and what and when people will discard things.

Andy receives a visit from some large burly men who advise him not to remember anything if he gets questioned by the police. Andy has no idea what they are talking about. The men tell Andy to keep it that way.

Andy calls the police and tells them what happened. He has no idea what it is they think he knows.

Detective Tuan is put on this case. Tuan gets a description of the men who visited Andy. Andy takes the sketches to other police officers. They identify the men as enforcers for an organized crime organization. Tuan checks into the Andy’s background. Tuan discovers that people where he works were asking about Tuan and the co-workers along Andy’s route.

Tuan shows Andy a series of photographs of people wanted by law enforcement. Andy recognizes Al. Andy remembers where he saw Al.

Tuan observes the address Andy gives him. At first, Tuan is disappointed that none of the people he notices routinely entering and exiting the address are Al. Tuan gets identifications of the inhabitants at that address and discovers one of them has a criminal record of organized crime activities. This makes Tuan believe Andy was correct that he spotted Al and that must have caused a reaction amongst the mobsters that caused them to react.

Tuan wonders where Al is. Perhaps Al visited there and is long gone. Tuan gets a search order to check the address and see if anyone at that address can provide him any information. Tuan knocks on the door. A child answers. Tuan finds himself staring directing at Al standing down the hall.

Al is arrested. Al refuses to provide any information on what happened to the illegal employees. Al refuses to say anything.

Al is convicted and sentenced for human trafficking. His lack of cooperation yields him a long sentence. Al boasts that prison does not bother him. Tuan is at least satisfied that Al will not be a part of human trafficking again, or at least not for many years.

Lassie sleeps next to the only human who has shown her kindness. As a dog, Lassie does not know what humans call the location of 32nd Street between Sixth Avenue and Seventh Avenue, yet she knows the area well. She knows some familiar smells. Lassie smells the eggs, bacon, and sausages being cooked inside a building where people walk in empty handed and they exit carrying the eggs, sausage, and bacon. Lassie knows that on rare occasions, if she sits beside the door and begs, every once in awhile someone will throw her a scrap of egg, bacon, or sausage. Lassie sits and begs. Today, she finds no takers. Lassie is hungry.

The number of people entering and exiting this place of eggs, bacon, and sausages reduces to a trickle. Lassie returns to see if her human friend has any food for her. He often does not, but sometimes, at some point in the day, he seems to find food for himself which he then shares with her.

Lassie returns to the spot where her only friend was. It is a spot where her friend spends most of his days holding a can and people drop things into the can. He then takes the can somewhere and removes things from the can and returns with food. It is a spot where her friends pet her throughout the day and gives her the only love and appreciation she receives.

Lassie follows the scent of her friend. He has traveled several blocks. Lassie crosses several streets, dodging several automobiles threatening her journeys.

Lassie panics. Her friend has never strayed this far away. Lassie is not familiar with this part of town. The people are not friendly, not that they ever are. Lassie does not know the meaning of the words “mangy mutt” although she understands the tone frightens her. She does know the meaning of “go away” as she has had those words yelled at her many times by people who chase her away.

Lassie hopes she will find her friend and see him again. Lassie fears he has abandoned her, much as others have through her life. She worries that the one living thing has been befriended her has now forgotten her.

Lassie is hungry. Lassie hopes her friend has found food. She hopes she can find her friend. She does not know what has happened to him.

Lassie follows the scent until it ends in the middle of a street near 23rd Street and Second Avenue. Lassie is upset that the scent ends there. Where is her friend? Has he left her for good? How can the scent end there and he not be anywhere in sight? What has happened to the one person she loves? Lassie does not understand any of this.

Lassie is very sad her friend has disappeared. Lassie gives up. Lassie lies down at the spot where the scent of her friend ends. Lassie hopes this may somehow lead her to her lost friend.

Lassie looks up and sees a black limousine headed towards her.

Andy comes by. Andy looks at a mess in the road. He thinks, well, there is the carcass of another stray dog with no collar or tags that no one cares about. He throws Lassie into his garbage truck.