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Originally Published in the Blue Moon Review

Gretchen was the one who kept saying she lacked the courage of her contradictions. - - Gary Lutz

         Rearranged neurons and quashed thought.  Shaking her like dice.  That's what Mark Dark (his real name, no doubt!) did as he stood scowling into the camera like he thought he was Jagger or something.  Brittle words out of the corner of his mouth: "I think that's enough."
         Immediately she lowered the camera.  Blinked.  Roll me!  Damn it, let go and see how I land.  I’m betting you lose.  Whistling in the dark, she was.
         Mark Dark pushed a grin in front of his smirk.  Her response to the smile was automatic—a machine. Smiling machine.  Smiling back, with coyness as over-applied as her eye shadow.  Everything is a machine.  Everyone.  And women, especially women, are such easily manipulated machines. Momentarily marveled at his mechanical ability.  But the marvel slipped off like a cheap wrench.  Too easy.  Boring.  Mark forged a yawn just to see her response.
         She looked suddenly apologetic, as if she'd done something, or not done something to inspire the yawn.  

         Drum roll and cymbal crash!  Queen Bange (Queenie to her friends; her parents, hippies from the 60’s) discretely picked up her smile from off the floor, held the camera, and did a little marveling of her own.  Marveled at transformation of brain to wad of putty, and consequently, what little smart-asses her facial muscles had become.  Rebellion.  Wills of their own.
         Surprise assignment this morning!  Stolen assignment, the sweetest kind—photograph a cover for a romance novel.  More specifically, and technically, solo shots of a polished male model for background color compatibility.  What a chuckle she'd got.  And now?  Now it was like: Wide-eyed Teenage Girl Going Ga-ga.  She'd expected him to be all the things male models were thought to be— vain, deep as the proverbial spoon, conceited, the works.  Probably a guy who didn't mind choking on a weenie every now and again, if you get the drift. And he was—well, she didn't know about the weenie part yet—but the rest, yes ma-am, he was every bit of it.  But still, here was her body, dancing her around in provocative little nuances of movement she hoped with all her heart were invisible to him. 
         Guerilla warfare time. "You're satisfied then," she said.  Felt like she was dancing on a land mine.  
         "Satisfied?"  Mark looked up at her, wide-eyed, innocent, wiping his bare, baby-oiled chest with a towel.  Did he shave it?  Romance models, she'd noticed, rarely sported chest hair. 
         "With the shots," Queenie said.  His eyes made her feel so silly.
         "Yeah," he said, "I'm satisfied with the shots."  
         Rolling a couple of dice of her own, she pulled the camera up to her face, and before he could respond, aimed and pushed the shutter button.
         "That'll be the best one," she said, poker-voiced.
         Mark blinked several times, surprised at the camera flash.  Shook his head.  "No way, babe.  No unauthorized pix."
         Queenie stared at him a moment.  "You're not picking up the tab, Sparky.  Your boss didn't say a thing about authorizations."
         Like the head of a striking snake, out came his hand.  "I want that last picture."
         She stared at him a moment.   "What are you scared of?  It'll be the best shot . . . trust me."
         Mark's index finger and thumb rubbed together insistently.
         "Scaredie-cat," Queenie Bange said, marveling once again.  This time at how quickly tides sometimes turn.


         Stines Double, grinning like a dog, watched from the wings.  Watched Mark, his long-time acquaintance, long-time . . . adversary, losing her.  Mark was an adversary because Stines wouldn't dream of having a friend who wasn't.  Now what fun would that be?
         Stines leaned against the door frame in the dimly lit part of the studio as Mark grabbed for the chickie's camera.  She easily dodged him and stepped away, smiling.   "Like a dog through flaming hoops," Stines whispered, relishing the scene.   
         Stines entered the lighted circle a master of ceremonies, arms outstretched, words at the starting line itching for the gun. "Let the boy have his little picture, honey.  He'll pout the rest of the day and be an insufferable lunch companion."  Eyes popped open.  Look of enthusiastic enlightenment spreading across his face.  "That's it!   We'll have lunch and leave him here to pout." 
         Sparky?  She'd called him Sparky.  Mark stood, mind seized up, considering what being called "Sparky" meant.  Thousands of things,  none of them . . .   Stines and this chick were looking at him. Looks of sympathy, as if he were retarded.  His face, on the other hand—a rare-feeling geometry of intimidation.
         "You know what we always say, Mark," Stines said, jutting chiseled chin.  "The strong of the species shall inherit the earth."  Winked at Mark, then offered his mug to Queenie.
         It was as striking a mug as Mark's.  Every bit so.  His hair not as long as Mark's, which cascaded down in raven waves to his shoulders (Raven?  Boy, was she ever infected!).  His hair, the other guy, she hadn’t heard his name yet—almost silver, that striking silver some men's attained prematurely, that looked dignified—a bit on the longish side too, over his ears. He wore wire-rimmed glasses, the lenses slightly tinted. 
         "May I introduce myself?" he said, eyes radiating amusement.  "Stines Double."  Talked out of the center of his mouth, showing piano keys.  "This roughish lout you've already had the unfortunate pleasure to meet." He motioned lavishly toward Mark who still stood, trying to recover.  Thinking about the surprise picture, how, and how far to push the argument.
         "The radio talk-show guy?"  Queenie had heard Stines Double‘s right-wing show, accidentally, always figured him to be overweight, balding, older—the kind of guy that used to get picked on in school.  But in person he seemed . . . well, possibly a younger, more handsome version of William F. Buckley. Lovely, she thought, referring to the source of this adventure—stealing a routine-looking assignment from Sarah, the whiny little waif-with-a-camera down at the agency.   Winding up with a romance-cover model and a radio personality jousting for her.   And who was it said that honesty's the best policy?  She thought of Stines' remark—the strong of the species shall inherit . . .   
         Mark snatched at the camera.  She pulled it out of reach, barely.  Should have seen him coming but was frozen in the headlights of Stines' pale blue eyes.  She clucked her tongue at Mark and made a face.
         "Tell you what," she said to Stines.  "I'll go to lunch if we all go."
         Stines frowned, wondering what she was up to.
         Mark frowned, the newborn feeling of insignificance souring his appetite. 
         To Mark she said, "And I'll give you the negative if you come." 
         Stines leaned forward, found her ear and breathed a ticklish message: "What do you want to take the boy for?"  Strong emphasis on the word, 'boy.'
         "What are you worried about?" she said.  "The strong shall inherit the earth."
         Stines grinned scratchy sarcasm, then slowly turned, aimed the grin at Mark.  "Comin?" 


         While they waited for Mark to change clothes, Stines filled her head with charming lies about Mark.  "Father's a Vietnam draft dodger, one of the original S.D.S. organizers.   Went to Hanoi with Fonda, sat on Ho's lap.  Gave him a blow job."  Raised an eyebrow.   Testing waters with the words, 'blow job,' no doubt.  All sorts of waters. "Mother: Lesbian Activist."
          "Figures," said Queenie, playing along. 
         "Mark," Stines said, his voice dropping a woeful octave, "Heroin addict, bi-sexual, HIV positive.  Never been able to hold down a real job.  Throws his inheritance at ecological causes.  All that fashionable shit.  Guilt for his looks.  Writes bad poetry, self-depreciating in nature.  Reads it aloud when he's drunk enough.  Boo hoos."
         "An odd couple," she remarked. 
         "Us?"  Shook his head in wonder, as if realizing the contradiction for the first time.   "I'm working on him.  Possibly his only salvation."
         "You?" she asked, speaking biographically.
         He waved his hand, dismissing himself.  "What you see is what you get.  The darling of the Darwinists.  That's what I call the right wing."   He grinned conspiratorially.  "But you know what?  It ain't no bullshit.  I buy it all, hook, line, and sinker."  
         Queenie scrutinized him, wondering if he were serious.  Somehow she believed he was.
         "Probably a turn-off, huh?  Independent woman like yourself—career girl."
         Career girl?  She took a long breath, winding up, words at her starting gate, too.  Instead, she breathed, “You rake.”
         Mark came out, saving her a wasted argument.  Mark, wearing a dark, Italian-cut suit.    
         "Be right back," Stines said, getting up. 
         To Mark as he walked past: "Gotta go point Percy at the porcelain."
         Mark sat beside her, looked away.  Still pouting. 
         "Stines gave me an interesting rundown," she said to him, testing waters of her own.  "Your history."
         Mark smiled; how could she have even considered not taking him with them?   Then she wondered if there was a mirror nearby, one he was looking at himself in.
         "Yeah," he said.  "I bet.  And I could tell you he's a child molester or something."  Paused.  "He is what he appears . . . let's see, how does he put it—a 'self-centered egomaniac with morals I compose to fit my needs and a gift for rationalization that would make Johnnie Cochran blush with shame.'"  Looked at her.  Blinked. 
         She'd wanted his perception, not Stines'.  Wondered if he had his own.
         "If he wasn't such a hit as a fascist propagandist, he could have done himself proud as a trial lawyer, so he says.  He's planning a chain of Christian bookstores."
         "An odd pair," she found herself saying again.
         Mark shrugged.  "Never a dull moment with Stines."  Looked like he'd heard it for the first time.  Actually heard his own words.  Lot of that first time stuff going around today; wondering if she were that good an interviewer.
         Mark shrugged again, a shrug this time scratching its own head. 
         "Is Mark your real name?"
          Long pause, silence like after a gunshot. 
         "Michael Jones," Mark said.  Then in reflection: "Curse the parents who give a child the most conventional name of his own tongue.  Make the child seek dangerous unconvention."
         Stines' words, she knew somehow.  Obviously Mark had a gift of mimicry, but not composition. 
         Stines was back, rubbing his hands together.  Looking at the beautiful couple seated in front of him; stopped relishing the possibilities before it became obvious.  "We're ready then?"


         A sound of disjointed harmony worried at Queenie as they walked through the parking garage—like some shrill, climb-the-wall jazz, composed by musicians in electrotherapy sessions.  Music’s like a tatoo, someone once said, and the tatoo application she was bleeding through was one she feared would toss and turn her through the night and shake her awake in the morning with a loud, vulgar remorse.  Violation.  Limp to the bathroom mirror to brush away the ick and say howdy to the real culprit.
         Something about the warm-fuzzy-blankie-of-a-melody she was attempting to make of this felt scratchy.  Was it Stines’ sleek /slimy/chrome/straight-razor/pitch-forked/lying-assed tongue making the melody reek?  Or her own nagging chorus belting out the depths of its owner’s gray loneliness? “Double-check the maestro,” she said to herself, no pun intended.
        Her in the middle, Stines talking rapid fire—scathing attack on something the administration had, or hadn’t, done—voice an amusement of mock wonderment and disdain.  Sounded like he was rehearsing for his show.  Mark, or rather Michael, seemed lost in his own world—in reality, still worrying about how ordinary Queenie's surprise snapshot might make him look.  Like a Michael Jones.       
        Just as Queenie had triple-checked her conscience and felt the stinging responsibility of  co-composition . . . started to . . . well, bolt, they came to a sleek two-toned silver and cream sedan.  Stines aimed a gizmo attached to his key ring at the car and pressed a button.  Nothing happened. He slowed, took better aim.  Pressed again.  Still nothing.  Stines shook the device.  "Dead battery."
     A moment later, they were at the car.  Stines inserted the key into the passenger-side rear door, then stopped. 
     "Would you look at this."  Face rapidly falling into a frown.  Yanked the door open.  
     "Jesus!" said Stines.
     Queenie looked past him. A form swathed in filthy rags lay curled in the back seat.  Street Person Finds Refuge In Warm Car.
     "Jesus fucking Christ!"  Stines throwing up his hands, pacing to the back of the car, staring into the parking garage.  Monster sigh.
     Mark glancing at her, unsure what comes next.  Waiting for the conductor, Stines.
     "It's a goddamned plague."  Stines storming back.  "A fucking virus."   Leans into the car and grabs a frayed gray tennis shoe.  "Come on, buddy.  Out of the car!" 
     Ragman stirs under floppy-eared cap.  Queenie sees through ragman's dull eyes, portholes into his scull, cogs not meshing, fear, loneliness, or maybe some genetic half-sour chemical milkshake completely curdled.  Stines tugs the shoe, hard.  Ragman's eyes widening.  Cornered dog. 
     Stines pulls pants' leg.  Cloth ripping.
     "Stines!" Queenie shouts.  But Stines has to show his possession.  His outrage.
     Then Ragman's a blur of rags, coming out.  Coming out swinging.  Bared yellow teeth.  Grimacing, cowering and swinging at the same time.
     Queenie's pushed backward.  Stumbles, but catches herself.  Mark still standing.  Inertia of reluctance, or something much more complex.  Then he's helping Stines.  Corralling flying arms.
     "He's out!" hears herself shouting.  "Let him . . . "
     But Stines and Mark are pinning him to the car.  Trapped animal snorts.  Another blur: silk suits and rags.  Scuffing shoes on the pavement.
     Suddenly a scream.  Mark's.  "My ear!"
     More scuffling.  "He yanked out my earring!"  Mark stumbling away, holding his ear.  A grimace.  Then the slow-motion realization and look of rage that takes her a moment to  decipher.  Ragman's spoiled his ear.  A trickle of blood in his upturned hand.  From a suddenly imperfect ear.  Michael's anomaly is Mark's perfection.
     Mark's on him again with a fury.  Ragman collapses in a heap, sliding down lacquered silver sheet metal, stubbed fingers splayed across red plaid cap, protecting his head.  But they continue.  Stines steps back and gets good leverage for a kick.  Mark holds
Ragman down.
     Queenie's running, cameras banging at her sides.  Gray concrete blurring at her feet.  Slits of gray sky beyond, over the roof of cars, beneath the upper deck.  Out into the street, waving her hand.  Taxi screeches to a halt in front of her.


     Next morning.  Macmillan Temporaries.  Lobby.  Queenie hunts down Sarah -- Previous Day's Stolen Assignment Victim.  Sarah sitting in a fold-up chair, looking hopeless as usual.  Enthusiastic Victim Waiting For . . .
     Queenie stands above her.  Looks around the empty room.  Announces loudly, "Somebody ought to just hit me in the face."  Waits for Sarah's response.  After a long minute she reaches down and pulls Sarah up.  Pulls her by the shoulder, close enough to see the veins in Sarah's eyes.
     Starts to say: "Don't you ever let me do that again.  Me or anyone else."   Doesn't.  Thinks of Ragman, cowering on the concrete.  Shakes Sarah.  Starts to lecture her: The Strong Of The Species Shall Inherit The . . .   Then stops.  Thinks of how far that piece of theory can be taken sometimes -- how contorted in certain hands.  No use anyway.
     Hears herself sigh.  Figures her best bet is to become Sarah's . . .  Her big sister. Leans forward and plants a fat kiss on Sarah's cheek.  Gives her a big grin, a grin full of thanks for things Sarah would never understand.

     Sarah rearranges herself in the folding chair.  Watches Queenie walk away.  I always suspected she might be lesbian, Sarah thinks.

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Urinal/ Put to Dubious Use by the Dwarf

(Originally published in LEXICON MAGAZINE, Australia, 1997)

The fly sat upon the axel-tree of the chariot-wheel and said, What a dust do I raise!   -­ Aesop

   The dwarf was probably used to being stared at.  Anthony unzipped his pants. Tried to pry his eyes away from the little guy standing three urinals down, in front of the child’s model.   Stared at the ceiling.  After a moment he heard movement to his left, from the dwarf's direction.  Fought the urge to glance sideways.  Continued staring up, but his eyes mutinied, creeping to the left.  From the periphery he saw the dwarf making elaborate shaking motions.  As if he were shaking something substantial.             
         Anthony put two and two together, the substantial . . . whatever that the dwarf was shaking, and the cute, tattooed local chick he'd seen outside, leaning against a coconut tree, obviously awaiting someone's exit.  The dwarf was the restroom's only other occupant.
         Those facts made Anthony’s eyes even more mutinous.  His neck muscles also.  Against his will, they twisted his head ever so slightly to the left.  Anthony felt an embarrassed grin growing between his nose and chin.  When he realized he was staring at the dwarf, and the dwarf staring back, the grin blossomed.
         The dwarf, a gnarled little guy with protruding forehead and chin, resembled a miniature thug.  His stare was unblinking.  After a moment it withered Anthony's grin.  Heard himself clear his throat. 
         "What ya looking at?" the dwarf demanded.
         Anthony emitted what he hoped was a friendly little laugh.  "Nothing, man."
         The dwarf scowled, still shaking lavishly.  Then his expression suddenly changed.  "Oh, I get it." He grinned as he bent slightly, tucked what he'd been shaking into his pants and zipped them. 
           "You're wondering," he said, turning to face Anthony.  "You're wondering just how big it could be."
          Anthony backed away from the urinal, zipped his pants and shook his head.  "No, man."  But he knew his smile, which was back, said otherwise.  "I’m not ..."
         "No," the dwarf said, waving his hand.  "I'm not saying you're gay or nothing.  It's just curiosity, that's all.  I mean, little guy like me. "
         Anthony’s head still shook, but he said, "Well, I have wondered, to tell the truth.  Heard stories . . ."
         The dwarf was grinning now.  "Well now, I'm not taking offense.  I can dig it."
         A moment of silence roared by.  Silence, like after a gunshot. 
         "Wanna see?"
         "Naw," Anthony said.  "Naw."
         But he did.  And the dwarf sensed it, he could tell. 
         "Bet ya twenty it’s bigger than yours."
         "I don’t doubt that."
         "So you ain't curious?  Name me a book you can find that fact in.  'Cyclopedia. Or a medical book even."
         Anthony shrugged. 
         "Cost you twenty to find out.  Pretty cheap."
         Anthony shook his head.  "Naw."
         "Have a good story to tell your friends . . . "
         Anthony glanced around the restroom, even though he knew they were alone.  After another moment he dug out his wallet and withdrew a twenty.  As he stood holding it, he thought what it might look like if someone walked in.  He quickly handed the money to the dwarf.
         The dwarf pocketed the money, paused, and in slow motion -­ in what seemed to Anthony, overly dramatic, elaborate movements -­ began unzipping his pants.  His chest puffed out.  He pulled himself up until he seemed almost the same height as Anthony.  His chin jutted forward importantly, and overall, in the short span of time, it seemed a different man stood in front of Anthony.  Out his penis came.  Held in both hands, arm and shoulder muscles bulging as if hefting an anvil between his legs. 
         But it was little.   Totally in proportion with the rest of the dwarf's body.  It occurred slowly to Anthony that the elaborate presentation was designed to deceive the viewer as to the scale of the presented object.  But he wasn't one of those susceptible to hype.  He started to say, "I should have taken the bet," then he saw the dwarf. Really saw him, in a way that made it almost impossible for him not to wince -- as if a skylight had opened in the ceiling and the new light glorified the dwarf's ugly novelties in all their inglorious splendor.  Maybe the dwarf was susceptible to hype.  His own.  He hoped so.
         "Impressive," Anthony said.  "Very impressive.  Worth every penny." Then he left.  Left the dwarf standing, straining with his load.
         Outside, the woman looked at him.  He gave her a quick little nod, one he hoped was ambivalent. Wished her pocketful of twenties. Maybe she'd told the dwarf his penis was huge.


         Jackson noticed the dwarf when he came into the restroom.  Little dude was standing at the kid's urinal.  Jackson shook his head and tried to keep from smiling.
          "Man," he said to himself as he unzipped his pants, "that's one ugly little white dude."  After a minute something caught his attention.  The dwarf was shaking something . . .

This story was written as a challenge to write a “short-short,” in a contest with an 800 word limit.  I didn’t think it was possible because at the time I was having trouble keeping stories under 2500 words.  Don’t remember if I won the contest but I proved something to myself and . . . learned to use brevity. 

Philip’s Poem

Winner of the 1994 Tulsa Library Short Fiction Award (in another life). 

        Ed was up far too early.  She watched him covertly, his stooped shoulders silhouetted against the window.  He was trying not to wake her, rising slowly from the bed, but the springs gave him away.  He shuffled to the chair and eased into it.  His head went down and he studied the floor for a moment.  Looking for his slippers.
          "They're in the closet," she said after letting him look another moment.
          He grumbled something she didn't hear. 
          He said, "I know that."  Got up, walked into the bathroom and closed the door.
          He'd been forgetting things lately.  Lately?  About the last year or so.  Maybe that was what had happened with Philip.  Maybe he'd forgotten why he'd disowned their youngest son almost twenty years ago.  That might explain the surprise phone call he placed last Wednesday night.  She had walked into the den, and there he'd been, sitting in the recliner, talking on the phone.  After a moment he looked up and said: "Philip wants to talk to you."
          Had he said, "God wants to talk to you," she couldn't have been anymore shocked.  Her knees went wobbly as she stepped forward and took the phone.  She looked into Ed's eyes but he looked away.  Philip was crying, of course.
          "He asked me to come home," Philip said between sobs.
          It was a wet conversation, from both ends of the line.  But not Ed.  He got up from the chair and ambled out of the room as if the phone call was nothing special, as if he talked to Philip on a regular basis.  As if twenty years had never happened. Philip's flight from San Francisco was coming in this afternoon.  Since Wednesday night she'd been in a flurry of subdued preparation.  Everything she'd done had been with repressed elation, fearing that any demonstration of excitement might cause Ed to change his mind.  Remember.      
           She got up and sat on the edge of the bed.  Ed came out of the bathroom and went into the closet.  After a moment of fumbling he emerged with his slippers in his hand.  He stood in front of her in his pajamas with his rumpled hair.  "I knew where they were," he said. 
          "Yes, dear."  She'd give him anything if it meant that today would culminate in completeness.  If he would let her have today.          
          In the kitchen she poured their coffee.  He sat at the table looking out the window.  When she set his in front of him and he looked up at her, she sensed something unusual in his eyes.  In their silver-blue depths she thought she detected something she hadn't seen in a long time.  Excitement?  Anticipation?   Went to the cabinet and got his heart medicine.  Then she made him some toast. 
          Last night she had been brave.  Brave enough to get the old family photographs down from the closet shelf.  Brave enough to take them into the den where she set them on the coffee table and began going through them.  Ed was watching TV.  He got up and went to the bathroom, and when he came back, he stood for a moment in front of her.  She handed him a picture of the two of them, taken years ago on a vacation to The Grand Canyon.  Their honeymoon. 
          "Movie stars," he said, brightening.  "But I can't recall their names."  He was teasing.
          She had been holding her breath.  She exhaled.  "No.  Just two kids in love." 
          Then he sat down beside her.  She had been hoping, and preparing; the handful of photographs were in a particular order, an order devised to warm him up to the ones including Philip.
          "Look," she said, "Mary, on her first day of school."  Mary was their oldest child. 
          Ed nodded.
          "Patrick, at Boy Scout camp."
          "Wasn't that when he thought he got snakebite?"
          "Yes, but remember, it was just two chigger bites, close together."
          Ed smiled.
          She stopped.  His memory.  It seemed very complete tonight. Perhaps she was making a mistake.  She took a breath, then continued.  Five photographs later was one with Philip.  She passed it to him, then quickly passed him another.  But he held it.  She was frightened to look at him.
          "What does he look like now?" Ed asked.
          She swallowed and glanced sideways at him.  "He's got a bald spot like you do."  She knew Ed was aware that she had continued to see Philip.  Years ago they had begun taking separate vacations, and she had always used hers to visit their youngest son.  They had never spoken of it.
          "He liked that bike," Ed said, holding the picture.
          Yes, that's what Ed would like to think.  That Philip loved mechanical things, when in reality, it was the artistry, "the movement and grace," as Philip had said. 
          "Anything with wheels," Ed added.  "Anything that rolled."
          Philip owned a small bicycle factory now.  And he designed the bicycles.  That was his love.
          She became bolder, reaching into the box for more pictures, then she found it—a folded sheet of notebook paper.  She knew what was written on it, a poem.  A poem Philip had written to Ed when he was thirteen.  A poem Philip had left for his father one Sunday afternoon on the kitchen table.  She could never forget the look on Ed's face when he read it; he had stood up, embarrassed, or so it seemed, then averting his gaze from her—a look of such discomfort that it had resembled anger.  He went outside and stayed until long after dark. 
          She had read it.  It was a poem about love.  A son's love for his father.  She never mentioned the poem again; although she didn't fully understand the full scope then, or Ed's reaction, she knew it had had a strong & negative impact on him.  And she'd let it lie.
          Now, as she held it, she realized she was holding it and had been for a moment or two.  She felt Ed's gaze on the side of her face.  He was staring at her with a look she couldn't decipher.
          "My gentle son," he said, then stood up and walked from the room. 
          She thought she had ruined it.  The re-appearance of the poem had brought back his memory.
          But that was last night.  And it hadn't been ruined, she realized as the toast popped up.  Ed was still going to allow Philip to come home.  Somehow she knew.  She sensed it this morning.  And beyond, she sensed anticipation in Ed.  As hard as it was to believe—he had finally accepted Philip and his lifestyle. 
          She handed Ed the plate and said, "Here, take your medicine."  She was expecting the usual grumble, but he said:
          "I'm going to give him the Buick."
          It took her a long moment to form words on her lips.  "Your car, Ed?"  His most prized possession, A '56 Roadmaster.
          "Hell, I never drive the old thing anyway." He looked down into the plate.  "He always loved it.  Remember how he used to wax it every Saturday to get his allowance?  Clean those goddamned wide white-wall tires."
          "He'll be so thrilled," she said.  Not about getting the car, though, about getting his father back.  "He'll be so thrilled, Ed." 
          After breakfast, Ed pulled the Buick out of the garage and washed it.  She watched from the living room window. Then she began preparing Philip's favorite meal, meatloaf, of all things.
          Later, when she looked out again, Ed was sitting on the front porch.  He only did that when he was expecting someone, anticipating their arrival.  Otherwise, he'd be out in the garden, or in the garage piddling around.  A leaf fell from the Oak tree beside the driveway and floated onto the hood of the Buick.  Ed got up, shuffled slowly to it, and with care, brushed the leaf off.
          She smiled.  It was a new smile, one that felt so different.  It seemed as if she'd been drugged these last twenty years—and now she was coming out of it.  She went back into the kitchen and began making the pumpkin pie.  Philip should be here in about thirty minutes. Would Ed really accept him?  Or would Philip's physical presence, something he might say or do, somehow overwhelm Ed's ability to accept him?
          She thought about that as she finished the pie and put it in the oven.  Then she went back out to the front porch.  Ed was sitting in the rocker, his head lolled to the side.  She stood looking at him for a moment, then she realized.  "Oh, no."  He was too pale.  She just knew.
            She grabbed his arm!  His skin was cold.  "No, Ed." 
          She gazed at him, touched his forehead softly, then looked out into the yard, and to the street.  Philip would be here any minute.  The tears came then, and through them she rushed into the house, into the bedroom and into the closet where she kept the photographs.  She threw the box on the bed and tore through it.  She found it.  Philip's poem.
          Outside, on the porch, she opened Ed's hand, placed the poem in it, moved it to his chest where Philip would see it, find it.   Gently she squeezed Ed's fingers closed.  Ed would have had the poem.  If he knew what was going to happen to him, he would have had it in his hands when Philip came.  So it was only right.  She knew.
          She went into the living room where she could see them through the picture window.  There she waited.  Waited for Philip.  And waited for Philip to see his father again.  


Remember, this ebook can be purchased at a very reasonable price from the iTunes store (ibooks), Barnes & Noble, Amazon & other fine ebook sellers.  There are several other short stories included in the ebook.  And, if enough ebooks are purchased I won’t have to kill this helpless little dog.    Itsy Bitsy