Writings and Reflections

Drabbles – Microfiction

• stories containing exactly 100 words •

by Lloyd B. Abrams

Warning: Some of this microfiction may contain words or images
that a reader might find offensive or objectionable.

The reader's discretion is advised.

The Bitch

They warned me the bitch was no damn good. That she'd be my undoing.

I meandered over. I just couldn't help myself.

"How're you doing, baby love?" I asked.

She scowled at me, then turned away.

"C'mon, sweetie. Let me caress you."

Wet eyes stared back at me, eyes that were weary, wary.

I reached out a hand, but she shied away.

"I won't hurt you. I promise."

She glared at me, daring me to come closer.

I was a fool to want her, yet too reckless not to try.

I moved quickly, but her rabid bite was even faster.

Drabble 1 .. Prompted by: "Icarus was warned" .. May 1, 2007   (up to top)



The Old Lawnmower

"You better be goddam careful." Always the same warning about the lawnmower.

"Sure, Dad." I laced up my grass-stained high-tops and went out to the shed.

It took a lot of pulls but I finally got it running. Then I revved up the engine by unscrewing the governor.

Mom had been nagging my father to chop down the mint. I figured I could just as easily use the mower.

I pushed and pulled, back and forth, shoots and sand spraying out.

I tripped and my foot slid underneath, but only the tip of my sneaker got sliced by the blade.

Drabble 2 .. Prompted by: "Icarus was warned" .. May 2, 2007   (up to top)



Rounding Rules

"You stinkin' fuckin' bitch!" he wanted to scream at his boss. But he slunk out of her corner office and back to his cubicle.

He'd had enough. This time, he'd put his plan into action: changing the rounding rules by one-hundredth of a cent; crediting the difference to a new account set up for his boss; then using credit cards in her name for big-bucks items shipped to a warehouse. Four billion trading hands every quarter came to four hundred thousand dollars. Then blow the whistle.

When she caught on, she put out a contract - but not the legal kind.

Drabble 3 .. May 2, 2007   (up to top)



I'll Never Give Up

It had been a while for me, so I asked Sandi out. She had one helluva reputation.

She flirted with me at A&W, and then at the drive-in. Halfway through the movie, I made my move, but I got nowhere.

"What gives?" I asked.

"You just want me to put out."

"Yeah ... so?"

"I'm not that kind of girl."

Yeah, right, I thought.

The next night I took her to Denny's, then to the multiplex. No dice.

The night after, it was to Red Lobster, then parking out at the lake. Still nothing.

I'll get her; I'll never give up.

Drabble 4 .. Prompted by: The myth of Sisyphus .. May 6, 2007   (up to top)



Surgical Exploit

The ophthalmologists had earlier declared the experimental procedure a success. It was time.

Dr. Parson's aftershave had soured; his calm voice belied his apprehension. "Nichola ... I need you to keep both eyes closed."

The bandages were removed, then the ointment was swabbed away.

"Are you ready?"

Forever, she had dreamt of this day.

"Yes."

"Okay. Now slowly open them."

The fluorescents had been dimmed. Unmoving shadow-figures stood hovering, waiting.

"What do you see?"

The obscured faces of trepidation and discontentment: those she could sense before.

Flashes of unworthiness and desperation: these she suddenly felt inside.

She yearned for the night.

Drabble 5 .. Prompted by: Plato's allegory of the cave .. May 7, 2007   (up to top)



Broken Dreams

Muffled by paper-thin walls, her daughter Rachel's weeping was a bitter lullaby.

Rachel had blossomed since the awkward, painful years before Benjamin until, more than a year ago, he snuck outside for a smoke. And never returned.

There were no ransom notes, no communiqués, only puzzlement from his bosses at the agency. Inaction and futility followed rote reassurances by detectives. A promised investigation at federal plaza yielded nothing.

Each month thereafter, Rachel found a padded envelope crammed with hundreds in her Volvo's glove compartment.

She told no one, not even her mother, listening to her whimpering in the next room.

Drabble 6 .. May 8, 2007   (up to top)



Mother's Day Cards

I'd forgotten to buy Mother's Day cards, not to mention a gift.

"Honey, I'm taking Jimmy-doggie for a walk."

"So late?"

"We could both use the exercise."

Red neon PRICE CARDS lit up the window.

Procrastinating browsers crowded the aisle. Hand-printed cardboard headers read: "Wife, Grandmother, Daughter ... Spanish, Blessed, Belated ... From Pet / Cat / Dog" Inside Jimmy's was: "Mom ... The dog-gone best."

I needed one from me. "Because I feel that in the heavens above / The angels, whispering one to another ..." Feh. It was Poe, but still ...

I decided on: "Happiness is sharing our lives together."

I'll pick up flowers tomorrow.

Drabble 7 .. May 11, 2007   (up to top)



Life in the Drop Zone

When I reached for the can of Chock full o'Nuts, I paused a moment to make sure I had a good grip. Yesterday, when it had slipped out of my hand, the coffee scattered all over as the can banged to the floor.

Taking that extra second isn't second nature, yet. I've dropped other things lately: a container of soy milk, a bottle of ibuprofen, a juice glass on the ceramic tile.

To gain a semblance of control, I've kept count, but the number makes me tremble.

So far, I've kept it to myself. I'm terrified what it might mean.

Drabble 8 .. May 12, 2007   (up to top)



Cortically Challenged

I was remembering something. Then I realized it matched a story I'd written. In fact, it was the story I'd written. I didn't know how much the truth had been embellished. I couldn't Google my own history.

I wonder if I write primarily to hold onto memory, a way to thwart the inevitable deterioration of my cerebral cortex storage and retrieval system.

Am I afraid? Hell, yeah. I am nothing more than the sum total of all my short- and long-term memories.

Now, though, I cannot know how accurate or distorted that memory was, and what really happened back then.

Drabble 9 .. May 13, 2007   (up to top)



Volume Control

The concert association president admonished us about unwrapping our candy and exhorted us to turn off cell phones before introducing the solo pianist.

"Can't hear you!" A crude, condescending shout, from amidst the nearly obsolescent who claim the rear aisle seats closer to the toilets, who forget to stop the doors from banging when they prematurely shuffle out.

He looked embarrassed, fumbling with the microphone. Squeals of feedback, then a readjustment. "Any better?" required no answer.

"Yeah!" That same gruff voice, the self-anointed spokesman for the contumacious and unmannerly.

I wanted to have sympathy. But they'd never earn my respect.

Drabble 10 .. May 17, 2007   (up to top)



Ze'ev O

The first night of improvisation class, he sat in our circle, but apart: white shirt, black pants, velvet kippah, tsitsit exposed, body language exposing timorousness. We said our names and then something we've never told anyone.

"Ze'ev Orenstein ... I'm an Orthodox Jewish atheist."

We laughed at the absurdity, but he didn't.

The second class, we watched Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and then improvised the late night brawl.

I was George. Ze'ev donned a scarf and became Martha. We played the scene with thick Yiddish accents and fake obscenities.

Without props, Ze'ev was spiritless. But with, his interpretations were sublime.

Drabble 11 .. May 17, 2007   (up to top)



Lyrical Preoccupation

You thought the leaden winter would bring you down forever ...

Through my MP3 player's earphones, Cream and I were back in '67, when I had little idea about poetry. It was the instrumental, man. Not the words.

Sure, I've missed a lot, growing up, growing older, no do-overs allowed. Now, I'm seeing with different eyes, hearing with different ears, though good peanut butter still tastes yummy.

Gerbil-wheel catching up breeds and feeds on desperation. If I let things unfold, I'll have all the time left in the world.

... But you rode upon a steamer to the violence of the sun.

Song lyrics: "Tales of Brave Ulysses," Eric Clapton & Martin Sharp

Drabble 12 .. May 18, 2007   (up to top)



Lamentation on Darwin's Sieve

Mike and Timmy were like brothers. They were in seventh grade science together and played on the same spring soccer team.

Summer vacation was time for experimentation. They shared Marlboros and a joint or two. They swilled six-packs of Schlitz and then threw up. And they did it with mentally-challenged, twelve-year-old Wanda.

One sweltering afternoon, they wheeled their bikes through a hole in the chain-link fence surrounding an overflowing sump. They skipped rocks for a while, then jumped in, shorts and all. They couldn't swim.

"Such good boys," sobbed one neighbor.

"The best," sniveled another.

"Darwin's laughing," snickered a third.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 37, February 2016

Drabble 13 .. May 20, 2007   (up to top)



Leave ’em Laughing

You're not finishing your salad?

I'm not really hungry.

You haven't even touched it.

I told you. I'm not hungry.

So why'd you order it?

Goddamn. This isn't working.

What isn't?

Us. This.

What do you mean? I thought you were into me.

I was.

So what happened?

You. This place.

This was our place.

Your place. Not our place.

I thought you liked this place.

It's a dive. Look around.

So why'd you go out with me?

I thought we'd have a future.

So now what?

I'm leaving. Take care of yourself.

Hey! What about your salad?

Toss it.

Drabble 14 .. June 5, 2007   (up to top)



Meniscus Tension

Ah-hah! I've got her pegged. The almost imperceptible half-inch knife-score on the Tupperware pitcher revealed her treachery.

It takes only 76 seconds to mix up a half-gallon of Crystal Light but I'm the one who's always got to do it.

Our unstated agreement: If less than twelve ounces remain, then a new batch has to be made. The tell-tale groove, exactly 1⅜ inches from the bottom, marks that level.

Whenever I reach for the iced tea it's always just above that mark. When I'm starving, parched or rushed the chore inevitably falls on me.

Now I finally know the score.

Drabble 15 .. August 2, 2007   (up to top)



Quantum Sufficit

My mother levered the aluminum tray, clacked ice cubes into my Lone Ranger cup, poured Hires root beer halfway and then "que-essed" it from the tap. Frozen orange juice was diluted with more than three cans of water. Powdered skim milk was similarly thinned.

I eventually learned that q.s. came from my father's pharmaceutical abbreviation for "quantity sufficient," but my mother used q.s. as subtextural-laden code. "It'll taste better" and "it's best for you" actually meant "it'll go further and last longer."

Her depression mentality dampened her spirit and stole her fizz.

As for me, root beer tastes overbearingly sweet.

Drabble 16 .. August 10, 2007   (up to top)



Water Fall

Sitting atop the low stone wall overlooking the falls, the lovers were folded within each other.

A flabby man in overalls waddled up the rock stairs, one at a time, and tiptoed right up behind them. They were oblivious.

"What would happen," he stammered, "if I do this?"

He reached out a blubberous hand and suddenly shoved the boy off the edge.

The girl was aghast, speechless, but screamed hysterically as her lover thudded on the boulders and splashed into the plunge pool.

The man roared, "You wanna join him?"

"No, Daddy."

"Then let's go home. It's time for dinner."

Drabble 17 .. August 29, 2007   (up to top)



Psilocybin Blues

Celebrating her nineteenth birthday, Peggy Mason had a night of debauchery munching shrooms, swilling Jack, obsessing over a dancer on a PBS fund-raiser and, as she later discovered, getting pregnant.

Convinced in her gut she'd have a boy, she changed her name to Margot Pasodoble, vowing he'd one day become a ballroom toreador champion.

A scrawny baby girl, however, emerged after her day of agony. When the initial shock subsided, Margot named her Liza Minelli Pasodoble.

Worst, the accursed Liza had no sense of rhythm. No amount of pleading or beating could make the girl connect a metronome to reality.

Drabble 18 .. September 2, 2007   (up to top)



Quad

She was perched on the boardwalk railing - near the flagpole, as usual - with the two men in wheelchairs and a third on a scooter.

Thirty-something, maybe forty - it was hard to tell with her sun-bronzed skin, wrap-around sunglasses and Yankees cap - she parried with them as they good-naturedly vied for attention.

"So who's first?" she'd ask when the time was right.

And she'd go with each to a remote bathroom, or one's tricked-out van, only rarely to their homes, to placidly pleasure them and give them joy.

Her inexplicable longing was only partially appeased by their benedictive showering of love.

Drabble 19 .. September 19, 2007   (up to top)



Taught to Pray

One day I asked my father, "Why do you pray?"

He slapped my face, sent me to my room, and locked the door from outside.

Every night, he came for me. He made me kneel and read aloud from the bible. When my lips were dry and cracking he raised up his cane and made me continue until I shrieked from pain. Then he kicked me to the floor, calling me a blasphemer.

When I was alone, I prayed for real. I prayed for his agonizing death.

When it came, I was finally released.

I had been taught to pray.

Drabble 20 .. October 19, 2007   (up to top)



Conversation with the Deity

So God said to Bobby Croft, "Didn't I fuckin' tell you? You shouldn't've tried knocking off that bodega."

"How was I supposed to know they kept a goddamn shotgun under the counter?"

"Putz. You should've listened."

Bobby lit up a Marlboro. Inhaled. "So what d'ya want from me?"

"I want you to admit - once and for all - that you are a supreme fuck-up. The most supreme fuck-up."

"Nah. Ain't gonna happen."

"You know you're not gonna be allowed into heaven."

"So what else is new?"

"Ya know, Bobby ... this shit's like talking to myself."

"Yep. That's exactly how I feel."

Drabble 21 .. November 12, 2007   (up to top)



Dog Day Morning

As I picked up his poop, Jimmy snorted and said, "Somethin's been buggin' me."

"Ticks? Fleas?"

"Funny guy."

"So what's it this time?

"All this walking. You've got your Merrells and all I've got are my poor paw-pads."

"Poor, poor doggie."

"You're pissin' me off. You know that?"

"Language ... remember?"

"And crappuddy food ... the puppy-size portions."

"C'mon. You get your two squares. And table treats."

"Chicken skin, cartilage. Lousy gizzle."

I hate when he makes up words. "You're not exactly skin and bones anymore."

"Have you looked in the mirror lately?"

"Jimmy ... this isn't about me."

"That's exactly my concluction."

Drabble 22 .. November 14, 2007   (up to top)



Chasing Katz

I was sitting on the park bench, ear-scratching our Wheaten terrier.

"So why do you chase cats?" I asked.

"Better I should chase oxen?"

"Funny. But why cats?"

He ignored me. "Why Torah class?"

Arguing with my dog again. I should be committed. "That calico ... she didn't budge. Then you touched noses."

"Better I should've eaten her? You'd've been pissed."

"But just to touch noses?"

"Biological imperative. 'I am because I chase.'"

"Alright then."

"So ... why Torah class?" Brown eyes stared up at me.

"To find meaning ... understanding ... who knows?"

"Chasing knowledge ... right?"

"Guess so."

"Well, join the crowd."

Drabble 23 .. November 27, 2007   (up to top)



Insidiousness Underground

Kalif swiped his ExperiGen badge but had only seconds to enter the stolen elevator override code before security swarmed. He didn't want to be detained like Muja, whom he never saw again.

He donned a sterile-suit and agonized until the subterranean laboratory's doors swooshed open.

Thousands of compost-filled vats, enhanced with his special admixture, teemed with genetically-engineered Oligochaeta - Kalif's beloved earthworms - altered for size, regenerative and reproductive speed, and omnivorous insatiability.

Kalif stamped his feet and shouted, "Arise!" As one, millions of worms burrowed up from their organic habitats to rush, slithering, towards their master.

Unfortunately, they never learned, "Halt!"

Drabble 24.1 .. August 1, 2008   (up to top)



Cataclysmic Synergy

There was nothing to like about my dead grandmother's foul-smelling calico. Cats grooming themselves? Not this one; he slept in his litter box. Worst? His nasty, self-serving disposition.

But I got three grand every month to keep Friedrich Nietzsche alive and well. A trustee made surprise visits like a random drug tester.

Freddy-baby hated being held, hated being ignored. I got scratched. Bitten. Mauled. But three thou bought a lot of peroxide, bacitracin and filet mignon for two.

During those nine lucrative years, I was married twice, divorced twice. Freddy-baby never approved. Drove them away. Probably did me a favor.

Drabble 25 .. June 4, 2009   (up to top)



Southern State Parkway, Eastbound

Stuck behind a blue-hair in a green Buick Skylark belching fumes, doing 45 in the left lane. Flashed my brights. She slowed to 40. Laid on the horn. Down to 35.

Old bitch wouldn't get out of my way, so I did what I had to. I straddled the median, pulled aside her rear quarter panel, hit her just right, skidding her 180° and onto the center median. Swerved around and sped on. Police call it the P.I.T. maneuver; I'd seen it on COPS. Worked perfectly.

Got to my poetry group in time to read.

Tonight's topic: "Patience and Compassion."

Drabble 26 .. July 7, 2009   (up to top)



Nine Mils to the Beat

Bastards waiting for the green are blasting their speakers. A three-minute red, if the traffic mechanism's working. My windows rattle; my floor vibrates. I can't get any sleep.

Got a silencer from Morty. We go way back - shop class at Eastern District.

Loaded hollow-points into my Glock. Screwed on the silencer. Wore all black. Slipped out the back door, crossed the street to the burnt-out house. Hunkered down behind the uncut hedge.

A white Civic stopped, boom-de-de-boom-de-de-boom. I squeezed off four rounds into the trunk. Knew it when I hit a speaker.

I'm taking back my corner. Word'll get around.

Drabble 27 .. July 7, 2009   (up to top)



Cranial Barricade

I paid premium for two tickets to Les Misérables. Twelfth row center. A full house.

First scene musical interlude. Commotion in the aisle. Usher's flashlight guiding latecomers to seats in front of us. Damn.

The woman was normal-sized; the guy at least six-ten. They plopped down.

Directly before me, a gargantuan, hydrocephalic-shaped head. Every time he moved that monstrous noggin, I had to crane my neck. I was in misérable agony by Act II.

I considered requesting a refund. Asking him to move please!

I imagined shoving my switchblade into his ear.

Where's that guillotine when you really need it?

Drabble 28 .. July 9, 2009   (up to top)



My Annual Ophthalmological Exam

I brought my MP3 player, an attaché with books, magazines and writing pad, a cooler with sandwiches, soda and snacks, and my puffy pillow. I came prepared.

I was scheduled for the first appointment, at 11:00. Got there at 10:05. Three people already waiting. Bastards knew the drill.

Sure, he spends time with each patient. Damn good doctor and takes my insurance.

But I've never gotten out in less than three hours. One time, almost six. A guy could get bored. Hungry. Or downright exhausted.

Bitch and moan? What good would it do?

I'm miserable until "You're next, Mr. Abrams."

Drabble 29 .. July 9, 2009   (up to top)



Just Playing

Vandals had broken a basement window of Old Man Benning's house. It took nothing for Timmy and Rachel to shimmy through it. They made sure to be quiet.

At age nine, in the musty half-darkness, they played hide-and-seek behind mildewed bedding and furniture. At ten, they began kissing, then groping when found. At eleven, they skipped hide-and-seek. At twelve, they graduated to things discovered in a raunchy magazine. At thirteen, Rachel became pregnant.

Timmy forced a wire hanger up into Rachel, but couldn't stop her bleeding on the scummy concrete. Old Man Benning, who'd watched everything through a peephole, chortled.

Drabble 30 .. July 22, 2009   (up to top)



Togetherness on the 10:56

The 10:56 local to Lindenhurst. I'm in a three-seater next to the window. The train's accelerating into the tunnel.

"D'ya mind?"

A young woman in a plaid mini - maybe a college student - is pointing to my attaché.

I lift it onto my lap. With her ass in my face, she maneuvers a wheeled tool box in front of the aisle seat. She plops down beside me.

Our legs are touching; hers is warm. I press against it.

She gives me a look, opens the tool box and pulls out a sculpture hammer.

She caresses its handle.

I fake dozing off.

Drabble 31 .. August 26, 2009   (up to top)



Distance Learning

It wasn't exactly monkey sex, but we did make some noise. The kids were away at camp and Grandma was back in Myrtle Beach.

"Oh, man. That was somethin' else!" I said, panting.

What was different were a couple of things she'd never done before. Things that felt so damn good. Things I'd long begged for but got, "You can't be serious" or "You want me to what?"

We dozed off, spooning, stuck to each other.

I awoke with a start. Maybe it was her snoring, maybe noises outside.

But maybe the thought: Where had she learned to do that?

Drabble 32 .. August 28, 2009   (up to top)



Unhappy Hour at McDuffy's

If it weren't for his breath I would have definitely gone home with him.

We were swilling frozen margaritas. He was buying. When he pulled close in to nuzzle, a cigarette stench so potent made me almost fall off my stool.

I've got nothing against smokers per se. I turned thirty-six last month and beggars can't be choosers. Tick, tock, ya know? But despite his Armani suit and rugged good looks, I just couldn't.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"I ... uh ... can't."

"Why not?"

"I don't ... even know your name."

"You can call me the Marlboro Man."

Great. Just great.

Drabble 33 .. August 31, 2009   (up to top)



Staying the Course

"So, General McChrystal, do you really think 40,000 additional troops will make any difference in Afghanistan?"

"I most certainly do, Mister President."

"The Russians never prevailed in Afghanistan. We're withdrawing from Iraq. Look what happened in Viet Nam."

"You've a question?"

"Yes, General. What makes Afghanistan different?"

"We're battling insurgents, terrorists - the Taliban, Al-Qaeda - who want to destroy our God-given way of life. Think 9/11! Our boys are fighting for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For the love of our magnificent country."

"Our boys, you say. Is your boy over there?"

"Oh, no sir. He's on Wall Street."

Drabble 34 .. November 11, 2009   (up to top)



Premature Withdrawal

"I begged you to take it out," she moaned.

"But it was working for us. Didn't it feel right to you?"

"Damn you! You kept it in way too long."

"Look. I couldn't help it. That's all there is to it."

"Even when I lost interest?"

"Whaddya mean? I thought you were going along with it."

"I only wanted you to be happy."

"Now what? What do you want from me?"

"I want you to think about me. What my needs are."

"I'll always love ya, baby."

"So tomorrow ... are ya gonna close our accounts and get back our money?"

Drabble 35 .. November 11, 2009   (up to top)



Early Morning Confession

I woke with a start. 2:43 glowed on the clock. I turned over. Raina’s eyes were wide open. I tried to reach over, but she fended me off. I pulled my hand away.

“Can’t sleep?” I asked.

“I’ve been up. Thinking.”

“What is it? What’s the matter?”

“It’s you. It’s us. It’s the whole thing.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I just can’t take it anymore.”

“What’s goin on?”

“Did you know I’ve been sleeping with Ronnie?”

“Actually, Raina, I did.”

“How could you? We’ve been so discreet.”

“Well, I’ve been doing him too. And I’d know your smell anywhere.”

Drabble 36 .. July 29, 2010   (up to top)



Fund Raising

I was watching Jerry Springer when the damn phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Mr. Flint? My name is Rupert Donnelly. I’m calling from Save All Our Children.”

“Yeah, and ...”

“Did you know that two hundred thousand children die every week from starvation?”

“Yes, I did.

“Oh ... and did you know that just a dollar a day could buy mosquito netting for hundreds of families?”

“Yes, I did.”

“And a hundred dollars a month could feed an entire village?”

“Yes, I did.”

“So, Mr. Flint ... how much can I put you down for?”

“Fourteen cents.”

“That’s all?”

“Did you know I was broke?”

Drabble 37 .. July 29, 2010   (up to top)



The Way She Talks

“Murray ... I really like Kathleen. But there’s something bothering me.”

“About your shiksa?”

“C’mon Murray. Give her a break. She’s half Jewish. Well, maybe an eighth.”

“So whatsa matter?”

“The way she says things. Fr’instance ‘Did you know?’ ...”

“So?”

“She says, ‘Did JEW know?’ Like she’s an anti-semite.”

“Yeah, and?”

“Last night, she asked, ‘Could you take me to Yung Fat?’ but it sounded like ‘Could JEW take me ...’”

“You know somethin, Shelly? You’re crazy. You’re sick in the head.”

“Murray, you’re not helping me here.”

“So see her. Don’t see her. Waddya want from me?”

“Your blessing.”

“Oy, vey.”

Drabble 38 .. July 29, 2010   (up to top)



Oedipus Rex

She strode up the walk, knocked on the door.

I wished she’d turn around and leave.

Knocked again. Twice, three times. She wasn’t going nowhere.

I picked up a shotgun. Racked it. Approached real wary-like. No telling what she was packing.

I whisked open the door. Raised the shotgun. Yelled, “Drop whatever you’re carrying!”

“I can’t, Jerry. It’ll spill. I brought you some chicken soup.”

I lowered the gun.

“Here. It’s in a cardboard cup. Just like you like it.”

I took a sip. Then another. Quaffed the rest down.

“Not bad, Ma. Thanks.”

Then I started feeling real sick.

Drabble 39 .. December 17, 2010   (up to top)



Dog Days of Autumn

It was ’round midnight. The dogs were at the door, like every night since the summer solstice. They now number seventeen.

They started barking, then howling. A wolfhound reached the doorknocker. And knocked over and over.

I covered my ears with a pillow. Turned on the TV real loud. Nothing worked. The cacophony continued.

So I went down, handed out Waggin’ Train Jerky Tenders. The terriers were the greediest. The mixed-breeds less so.

It’s costing me too much. I’ve already called animal control. They never come out at night.

Tomorrow’s the first day of winter.

I’m praying that it stops.

Drabble 40 .. December 20, 2010   (up to top)



The Homecoming

Dick Clark was counting down the seconds. We were holding plastic flutes, waiting to celebrate. Fifty-three ... fifty-two ...fifty-one ...

Pounding on the door. I went to answer it.

She was in her forties, looked vaguely familiar. Said, simply, “I’m your daughter, Marceline” in a flinty voice I’d heard long before.

I blank-stared at her.

“Remember Lynette Putnam? She was my mother.”

“Oh. Lynette. That was ...”

“Forty three years ago.”

“So you’re, uh ...”

”That’s right.”

“Come on in. You’re just in time. All my daughters are here.”

“I’m not imposing?”

“You’re right on time. We’re celebrating. Here’s some Kool-Aid. Go ahead. Cheers.”

Drabble 41 .. December 20, 2010   (up to top)



We ♥ Grandma

We kept Grandma locked in the cellar. For her safety as well as ours.

Grandma caused trouble. At 77 you’d think she’d outgrown it.

She told lies. Pinched the kids. Kicked the dog. Caused electrical shorts. Loosened plumbing valves. Once yanked out our Toyota’s ignition wires.

She couldn’t be left alone. We hired a live-in care-giver, but Grandma stared at her until she ran out screaming.

So Grandma stayed downstairs with her corduroy La-Z-Boy, a flat-screen bolted to the floor joists, and a plastic cooler.

Everything was copasetic until we smelled smoke ... and heard frantic knocking on the basement door.

Drabble 42 .. December 22, 2010   (up to top)



Unfinished Project

At seventy-eight, Walter Danzig had enough of pinochle and penny-ante poker. He had enough of television and bus trips to A-C and the noisy perfumed broads who always squandered their money on the slots.

Walter had always loved furniture-making, but what’s the use, he thought. His home was already filled with handmade tables and chairs, armoires and cabinets.

But he’d never built a casket. So he purchased cherry planks, then got to work with his planes and sanders, his dove-tail saws and dowels and glue.

Yet he put off staining it, figuring the longer it takes, the longer he’d live.

Drabble 43 .. January 12, 2011   (up to top)



The Wicked Witch of the Workshop

The wicked witch of the writing workshop grabbed her gavel and growled, “The next ass-wipe who abuses me with annoying alliteration will be assessed five dollars for the grovel jar.”

We quaked and quivered, then became quiet. We were horrified, humbled and humiliated by her over-the-top outburst.

“What about self-expression?” asked one, meekly.

“And stating strong opinions,” added another, weakly.

“Not now, not ever. Nevermore!” replied the raven-haired, raving-mad witch. Her shrill speech became a shriek. “We allow only purple prose and powerful poetry. Let that be a lesson!”

We stood, saluted and slinked away.

The wicked witch had won.

Drabble 44 .. July 1, 2011   (up to top)



The Death Scribe Cometh

The stooped man with the misshapen face stood watching. Only his forlorn eyes were visible within his hood.

He waited while interminable announcements were made, while circulars were passed around, while a prompt was proffered, and while the participants hunched over their writing.

When it was time for introductions, four remained silent and refused to share what they had written.

The man gestured towards each of the reticent four and croaked, “It’s time for your final accounting. Your muse ... is yours no longer.”

“But she said it was all right,” blubbered one.

“Who? The purple lady? ... Don’t make me laugh.”

Drabble 45 .. July 6, 2011   (up to top)



A Soldier Returns

Joey Rizzo was Central’s bully. I was his bitch. I swore I’d get back at him one day.

I enlisted after graduation, my only ticket out of a sweltering, dying town. He enlisted, too. It was a choice between hard time or the army.

After my second tour, I’d had enough.

I edged into town on the Greyhound, strode over to Dewey’s itching to get even.

Joey sat crumpled on a stool, nursing a beer, a wheelchair nearby.

A spark of recognition. “Hey you,” he said, his words slurred.

“Just go fuck yourself,” I said, than spat in his face.

Drabble 46 .. August 10, 2011   (up to top)



An Old Flame Still Smolders

I met Linda at McDuffy’s. If the place was empty she’d dance alone to the jukebox. If I was playing pinball, I’d let the ball drain and watch. With those liquid hips, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her.

One night I got up the nerve to ask her out. She talked about abuse and drinking. After I met her family, I knew we’d have no future.

Fifteen years later, I was in Waldbaum’s. I spotted her in the dairy aisle, with a kid in the cart and two holding on.

I yearned to say hello, but just couldn’t.

Drabble 47 .. August 11, 2011   (up to top)



I Used to Love Him

Charlie invited me to my junior prom only the week before. Since I’d always worshiped him from afar, I swallowed my pride and accepted.

He’d been drinking before he arrived. I rushed him from my house after pinning on my corsage.

He vomited and passed out at the table. Friends drove me home on their way to the bonfire on the beach. Ever since, I’ve hated him, hated being humiliated by him.

On my fortieth birthday, I searched on Facebook. He was running a halfway house for alcoholic ex-cons. I posted a private message on his wall:

“I forgive you.”

Drabble 48 .. August 14, 2011   (up to top)



Pillow Talk

Before and during, he moaned he loved me. I said I loved him too. After, he lit a cigarette, but I let it pass. We were going to have a future together.

Before Christmas, he groaned, “She found out.”

“What d’ya mean, she?”

“My wife. Twelve years going on a lifetime.”

“I didn’t know ...”

“I didn’t tell you ’cause I thought it was over.”

“And now?”

“I’ve gotta end it. But I’ll always love you.”

I watched him dress. When the door shut, I cried into my pillow.

I chose to have his child.

I chose to never tell him.

Drabble 49 .. August 14, 2011   (up to top)



Deliver Us from Evil

Jeb Brody’s twins were born bad. I knew Jesse and Wade from when they were young’uns.

Sure, a cougar could’ve come down from the hills and killed a cat here, a dog there. They stole, beat up people. Everybody was too afraid to go to the law.

I was watching from a blind when they dragged Josie-Lee by, screaming, begging them to stop. They tied her with heavy chain. Lowered her into the creek. Demanded she recite the Lord’s Prayer. Swore they were going to drown her when she said Amen.

But my 12-gauge got in the last word.

Drabble 50 .. March 31, 2012   (up to top)



Just Three Little Words

“Why don’t you ever tell me ‘I love you?’”

“But honey, you know I do.”

“But why can’t you say the words?”

“I don’t know, sweetie. It’s …”

“Well, try. Just this once. For me?”

“Okay. Here ya go: I love you.”

“You don’t sound like you mean it.”

“Sure I mean it.”

“C’mon. Say it like you do.”

“Okay. I loave you. I loove you.”

“Now you’re sounding like Woody Allen.”

“C’mon … would you give me a break?”

“I’m serious. Say it!”

“Screw this. I’ve had enough.”

“Oh, please baby. Say it.”

“Okay then. I loathe you. I’m leaving you.”

Drabble 51 .. March 31, 2012   (up to top)



Eulogy at Saint Bibiana’s

“Dearly beloved. We are gathered here together …”

I tuned out. I’d heard this too many times before.

Shady Eddie. McGee and Emma. Then Sandra. Her, I’ll miss.

And now Shorty. They had to get an extra-long coffin for him.

The priest droned on. Then, “Would anyone like to say something?”

I felt myself standing, my legs, unbidden, pulling me forward.

I cleared my throat. Looked around. Dozens of blood-shot eyes from Flannery’s stared back.

“I really loved Shorty. We all did.”

A couple of sniffles.

“But maybe he shouldn’t’ve punched that police horse. It didn’t look anything like his ex-wife.”

Drabble 52 .. April 3, 2012   (up to top)



The House on Happy Street

Culvert had told him about the place and how to find it. He pulled off a fifty and slipped it to the doorman.

A wizened woman in a blond wig and pink negligee wobbled over. “What’s your pleasure, sonny?”

“Whatcha got?”

“Choose one. Then we talk price.”

“How ’bout her?” He pointed to a busty brunette in a micro-mini.

“Esmeralda? You got good taste. She’s three hundred for a taco. Five for the whole enchilada.”

“Nobody said nuthin’ about food.”

“Oy vey, stupido. Mama’s gotta explain everything?”

“But I’m allergic to spicy Spanish cooking.”

“So who says you gotta eat?”

Drabble 53 .. July 27, 2012   (up to top)



At the Franz Kafka Food Joint

“Waddya mean ‘What d’ya got?’” the scar-faced clerk snapped. “Look up. See the menu. That’s what we got.”

I’ve trouble deciding when I’m hungry. A few minutes passed. Then, “Will ya step aside. There’s people waitin’.”

I cleared my throat. “Sir … I think I’ll have …”

“Wait a sec, will ya?”

He took three teenage girls’ order, then a family of five. Finally, he turned to me. “So what’s your pleasure?”

“A bacon cheeseburger rare. Fries and orange soda.”

“Sorry. All out.”

“A hot dog?”

“None left.”

“A cup o’ coffee?”

“Nope.”

“So what d’ya got?”

“Waddya mean ‘What d’ya got?’”

Drabble 54 .. July 27, 2012   (up to top)



The Case of the Carrot Caper

“Eh … what’s up Doc?”

“It’s Lieutenant Columbo to you sir, if you don’t mind.”

“So waddya want?”

“I’m investigating the death of a carrot patch. And your name naturally came up.”

“I absolutely positively got no idea whatcha talkin’ about.”

“Friday evening, Mister Porky Pig’s north patch was consumed. A witness stated that a strange-looking gray animal with immense ears was devouring his carrots.”

“Wasn’t me. Wasn’t there. I was at the Dodgers game.”

“Okay. I guess that’s about all.” Lieutenant Columbo started to leave.

But he turned back. “There’s one more thing. Weren’t the Dodgers rained out that night?”

Drabble 55 .. October 25, 2012   (up to top)



In the CEO’s Office

The rotund man with a pinky ring stubbed out his cigar. “In my language a tanto’s a knife for slicing through body armor.”

“It not ‘tanto,’ Mister Soprano. It ‘Tonto.’ With two o’s.”

The Injun wore a fringed jacket and beaded headband. “It mean ‘wild one’ in Potawatomi.”

“Okay, okay. I’m just fuckin with ya.”

“Your name Soprano … sound like singing squaw.”

“Watch yourself.”

“You got horse to sell?”

“We’re in waste management, fella. We only got dead horses. From the racetracks.”

“Me need fast Pinto.”

“Got none.”

“We no do business. You no kemosabe. You only fat Italian gonef.”

Drabble 56 .. November 26, 2012   (up to top)



Outside Inside

It was Sylvie’s turn to patrol the perimeter. Toting an AK-47 was hardly as exhausting as twelve-hours shifts in the cannery.

She took her sweet time examining the electrified fence for breaches, especially around the orchard, silo and barn. Once, when she fired a salvo of shots over the heads of unknowns approaching the outer fence, no disciplinary warning was issued. No solitary punishments had to be endured.

She stopped atop a rise, lit a cigarette, and gazed down at the city, shrouded in smog. How could those people live like that? she wondered. Up here I can breathe.

Drabble 57 .. March 27, 2013   (up to top)



Cross Country Blues

Robie’s abusive parents were meth heads. Robie’d left Columbus two years before, eating, washing up, tweeking and hitching rides at truck stops along the interstates from Roanoke to Bakersfield.

Robie was seventeen but looked thirteen. Lonely long-haulers grasped his shoulder-length hair while impaling themselves between his welcoming lips, heightened by raspberry lipgloss boosted from Walgreens. Robie often topped a hundred bucks a night.

One driver, a preacher, almost suffocated him while praising the lord. A husband-and-wife team tied and beat him. Slipped him fifty and warned him to keep his mouth shut.

Robie wondered if he’d live to see eighteen.

Drabble 58 .. March 28, 2013   (up to top)



Justice Served

Skeeter, Gonzo and Diesel were muggers and thieves but Roxy loved puttin’ on the hurt. None of them were any damn good.

The boys would drag a know-nothing to the rubble-strewn lot behind the high rise, take what they wanted and then pummel him with pipe and rebar. Roxy’d then carve designs on their bruises with the stiletto she’d boosted from EZ Pawn.

After three straight days of rain they grabbed a meth dealer and did their deeds. The ground underneath gave way and they were all swallowed into a sinkhole.

Despite their screams no one came to their rescue.

Drabble 59 .. July 18, 2013   (up to top)



At Countywide Recyling & Carting

“Da-ad … there’s a guy on the phone who’s got a truckful of rubble.”

“Tell him we don’t want no trouble.”

“It’s not trouble. It’s rubble – with an ‘R’!”

“I ain’t goin’ to no rumble. It ain’t my scene no more.”

“It’s not rumble, Da-ad. It’s rubble!”

“Why’s he want to know about General Rommel?”

“This guy’s got nuthin’ to do with Rommel.”

“Tina … speak up! … and stop mumbling.”

“Da-ad … for crying out loud … did you forget your hearing aid?

“I can’t hear what you’re sayin’, Tina. You sound garbled.”

“Da-ad … I’m afraid I’m losing my marbles.”

“Oh now I got it! … rubble!”

Drabble 60 .. July 18, 2013   (up to top)



Digging Through the Rubble

After the wind stopped howling, after the flood receded, after the authorities allowed residents to return to their homes, Jimmy Burke sifted through the charred remains of his bungalow.

He lifted aside burnt 2x4's, pulled the now mangled triple-hungs onto a pile, carried away chunks of soggy, scorched plasterboard. He peered down into the basement, still half-filled with fetid water. There, floating in his crate, was the bloated body of his beloved boxer, Beau.

Damn her! Why couldn’t Katie’ve taken the dog with her when she evacuated?

I should’ve known to turn off the circuit breakers. I should’ve been here.

Drabble 61 .. August 7, 2013   (up to top)



A Man of Honor

“Watch me, Grandpa!” Katie yelled from atop the slide.

I looked up, shouted, “I’m watching!”

I’d never signed on for this: Picking Katie up at noon, baby-sitting because her mother, Dina was working and Ellen’s sciatica was acting up.

Dina, my youngest, being abused. Last time, Larry had twisted her arm so bad she’d gone to the ER. When Ed and Gino arrested him, he got some extra subduing because he was belligerent.

Despite the protection order, he’ll be back. She’ll sob and bluster, “But I love him.” It makes me sick inside.

But he’ll get his. That’s a promise.

Drabble 62 .. November 7, 2013   (up to top)



Time for a Surprise

Tara and Sofia were strolling along Canal Street carrying Louis Vuitton knock-offs. Their Guccis and Chanel sunglasses were similarly counterfeit.

Tara inspected a watch-seller’s inventory. She wanted a decent Rolex for Marty’s birthday.

Most were crappy but one looked real. “Can I see that one?”

She examined it. It was genuine. She almost wet herself. “How much?”

“Nine hundred.”

“I’ll give you seven.”

“Make it eight. We have deal.”

She counted out sixteen fifties; stuck the watch in her bag.

She didn’t care it wasn’t working; she’d get it fixed.

But she didn’t know that its serial was in NCPD’s database.

Drabble 63 .. November 7, 2013   (up to top)



Four Girls in the Bathroom

Cuttin’ math class. What a waste.

Raina floated in, all preppy-like – outfit, shoes, hairdo – a choir-singin’ preacher’s daughter fo sure.

Big Annie, watching in the hall, strolled in. Said, “Ain’t nobody comin.’”

Raina pulled out a spliff. “Got it from Lucinda. She go to Purchase. Anyone gotta light?”

Wheezie lit it with a pink Bic.

We passed it around. Dragged deep. Blew smoke out the window.

We wuz gettin’ ready for Friday afternoon. Me, watchin’ my violent retard brother. Debbie, dancin’ at the titty club. Annie, being cursed out by her crackhead mother. And Raina, bein’ sexed by her daddy.

Drabble 64 .. November 14, 2013   (up to top)



Along with the Watchtower

Looked out the window.

Walking so slow it’d make me hurt. Jehovah Witnesses for sure.

Inevitable bell-ring.

Years past, I’d be pissed. Tell them proselytizin’ was a sin. No better than the street preacher slash schizophrenic in the city.

Went to open the door.

“G’mornin’, sir,” said one. Always polite.

“Lemme stop ya,” I said nice-like. I pointed to the mezuzah on the door jamb. “You see this?” Puzzled looks.

“It’s a mezuzah. Announces we’re Jewish. And I’m not interested.”

One tried to hand me a pamphlet which I refused.

Heard “Have a blessed day” as I shut the door.

Drabble 65 .. November 16, 2013   (up to top)



Early Morning Encounter

“Robbie, what kinda life are you living?”

My mother, nagging me. Again.

“You come home when you please. Like today. Six thirty in the morning. I heard you sneaking in.”

“I was down at the beach watching the birds. Around dawn is best.”

I know what kinda wildlife you were watching. And it ain’t that kind.”

“C’mon, Ma. I’ll get a steady job. I’ll go back to Nassau. I promise.”

“You damn well better or you’re out on your own. See how you like it then.”

“Jesus, Ma. Gimme a break.”

“If you’re gonna be wild, live your own life.”

Drabble 66 .. March 18, 2014   (up to top)



Every Day in the Backyard

Before breakfast, as the Torah commanded, he filled the feeders and the suet cages. He also rinsed and refilled the birdbath.

For his blue jays, cardinals and red-headed flickers, he tossed out handfuls of unshelled peanuts. His squirrels, whom he collectively named “Bubba,” came for them too. One neighbor, who’d hated squirrels and trapped and released them miles away, was probably turning over in his grave.

He chuckled when he saw how portly his Bubbas appeared in profile. Sometimes a squirrel skittered up close. Then, he’d hand-feed them a peanut.

His wildlife made his life more tamed and less desolate.

Drabble 67 .. March 19, 2014   (up to top)



Born to be Wild

“You’re gonna be a doctor, a lawyer, someone who’ll make a difference,” my father once said.

Got hooked on heroin. Flunked out of Columbia. Bummed around, living day-to-day with Tasha, another smack-head.

Once, when I pleaded for money, my father said, “You’re dead to me,” and walked away.

I shoulda noticed the deterioration. Shoulda done something. But, you know: drugs and alcohol plus unprotected sex plus compromised immune system equals … well, equals death.

My father came to the hospice. I didn’t expect him. He said, “Your mother couldn’t see you like this.”

He sits next to me. Together we weep.

Drabble 68 .. March 19, 2014   (up to top)



Co-winky-dink

Though multilingual, Ruth could be excused her babyisms. Into her nineties, she was well-versed in politics and economics, and read the Times cover-to-cover every day.

She re-met Hans, my wife’s now-deceased father, when she came to the states more than 70 years ago. They had two girls.

Ruth and Walter attended boarding school in Lausanne, then lost touch. Walter’s escape from Germany was grueling, and affected his future health. He was devoted to his parents and remained a bachelor.

They rekindled their relationship after Hans’s death. Soon after, they married.

Supposedly, he waited for her because he’d always loved her.

Drabble 69 .. May 16, 2014   (up to top)



Lightning Strikes Twice

Joey Quinn had it made. A full ride next year at State. Dating the head cheerleader. Doting, generous parents.

But during the playoffs, he tore up his knee. He knocked up Tracy-Ann on her maiden voyage. And his father and mother began acrimonious divorce proceedings.

College was out. His coach got him a job with the school’s maintenance crew so he’d provide for Tracy-Ann and their future bundle of joy.

Joey played the lottery. And drank. Despite huge odds, his numbers hit two weeks in a row.

Joey Quinn had it made. Until, while mowing, he was hit by lightning.

Drabble 70 .. May 16, 2014   (up to top)



Need to Get Even

I hated that bitch. Whenever I walked past, Miss High-and-mighty-fat-ass in her five-dollar garden chair’d spit and call me a puta, a whore. She don’t know nothin’. She don’t walk in my heels.

So what if I make somethin’ extra when Angel’s out pullin’ a job. I got more than one mouth to feed.

I stashed the benjie and just got out of the shower when Angel walked in. Phew … I don’t need no drama.

He was all hot, sweaty and throbbing … just like I like. After, he fell right asleep.

That’s when I took his 9 and went downstairs.

Drabble 71 .. June 27, 2014   (up to top)



Coitus Interruptus

A full moon was rising. Romy and Davida were out on the beach, kissing. Davida pulled the blanket around them, said, “Oh, Romy … I love you so much.”

They usually just made out, maybe a bit more. This time felt different. Romy slipped his hand under her skirt. Part of her wanted to stop him, but she couldn’t. And didn’t. She wanted, needed him inside.

He lifted up, slipped off his shorts, maneuvered on top.

He was throbbing. She was so wet. She guided him inside.

“Don’t hurt me,” was all she gasped, as a rogue wave swept them away.

Drabble 72 .. June 27, 2014   (up to top)



God the Lord; the Strong Lord

Names often become self-fulfilling prophecies. Call a dog Brutus, Hunter, Killer. See what happens.

Elijah, however, was the worst son-of-a-bitch in the school. He dealt drugs. Was a sexual abuser, accused of assault, arson, burglary, carrying a loaded gun. You name it.

But he was a special ed kid with an activist mama and a smooth-talking lawyer. Nobody had the stones to challenge them.

He was found face-down in a pool of blood, his teeth knocked out and black and blue all over. An autopsy determined multiple-system failure.

There were 2000 relieved suspects, but a “rigorous” investigation found nobody responsible.

Drabble 73 .. June 27, 2014   (up to top)



Meditation at 4:11 am

Jonah lay thrashing in bed. Jesus Christ, I’m sixty-eight, he thought. Where’s the time gone? And what do I have to show for it?

His brother’s dead. His dog was dead. He’s such a prick to his wife so she’s hardly around. Calls to his kids went to voicemail.

Maybe I’ll just fuckin’ end it all. Just take out the shotgun and

But I have my health. Many others are worse off. I’m still out riding my bike. Walking. Writing. And I’ve got a couple of long-time friends.

Maybe things aren’t so bad.

Maybe I’ll put it off.

This time.

Drabble 74 .. June 29, 2014   (up to top)



Chopping Down the Family Tree

Victor was accused of slaughtering his four-year-old twin daughters. They had DNA and a deathbed statement from his live-in girlfriend.

They wanted to fry his ass real bad. They went after his character, his friends, even his diabetic mother. His juvie record somehow got divulged. While imprisoned eight months waiting for trial, an inmate’s shank narrowly missed an artery.

Victor claimed he was innocent despite a confession he insisted was coerced.

His conviction was overturned due to gross prosecutorial misconduct.

No one knew he had a more murderous identical twin brother.

When Victor’s brother was found, both were eradicated.

Drabble 75 .. July 1, 2014   (up to top)



Thirty Day Cure

Frank walked into the school. Couldn’t help noticing their stares. Wanted to scream “What the fuck y’all lookin’ at?” but didn’t want to attract more attention. He knew their trepidation.

He’d lost it during eighth period class. Cursed, ranted. Threw a chair through a window. His ninth-graders went fleeing. He was subdued and removed by EMTs, then hospitalized for thirty days, his plan’s limit.

He could taste the bile bubbling up. The chaos and clamor seemed deafening. He took several deep breaths. I can do this he thought.

“Hey, Teach.” It was Rodney, his favorite.

They fist-bumped, smiled.

Frank was back.

Drabble 76 .. July 1, 2014   (up to top)



It's Better to be Safe than Sorry

I’ve been always haunted by my mother’s admonition.

While my friends jumped the brook, I searched for the narrowest place. While my friends rode their bikes with abandon, I stayed to the right and always looked before I crossed. While my friends jumped off the dock in their shorts, I claimed that I didn’t know how to swim, though I did.

They called me names – 1950s equivalents of wuss or pansy or pussy.

One died driving drunk at seventeen. One waited too long to see a cardiologist. One put a shotgun in his mouth.

Who’s the pussy now, fuck heads?

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 37, February 2016

Drabble 77 .. September 12, 2015   (up to top)



Learning Levelheadedness on the Ladder

Until recently, I cleaned our gutters every November. But Japanese maples now wait until New Year’s to shed their leaves.

I feared damaging the slate roof so I’d place our 36-foot extension ladder on our rear patio and pull it up with the rope pulley. I’d slide it sideways to move it, keeping clear of the windows, making sure of firm footing.

My doubled latex gloves would be shredded halfway through. I had to finish quickly before my fingers were frozen.

Once, my fingers were becoming numb. I stopped mid-job.

That one atypical day, my compulsivity did not overcome.

Drabble 78 .. September 12, 2015   (up to top)



Driving in a Fog

Joey and Marcelin were on Ocean Parkway, headed to the hospital in Bay Shore to visit Ozzie who was in intensive care.

Dense fog enclosed them but Joey kept the needle around 90.

Marcelin shouted, “Slow down, for Chrissakes. You’ll get us killed.”

Joey replied, “Fuck you, man. I know what I’m doin’. I ain’t using brights. I’m trackin’ the broken line right down the hood. Just like a fuckin’ airplane.”

A patch of rough concrete. Ba-dum ba-dum ba-DUM. The Camaro started to fishtail. Joey fought for control. But he lost.

They got to visit Ozzie … on the other side.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 37, February 2016

Drabble 79 .. September 12, 2015   (up to top)



My Stevie

I always held my sons’ hands when crossing. Yelled at them to be careful. Never left them alone.

Stevie, my kindergartner, was on the front porch, sipping Bosco out of a straw. His older brother asked, “You like it, squirt?” and slapped the glass upwards. The straw shot way up Stevie’s nose. Stevie started bleeding and writhing.

I remember screaming, “Call an ambulance!” Everything else was a blur.

Stevie suffered brain damage. Was never right afterwards. Walked with a shuffle. Slurred his speech. Couldn’t read. Was ridiculed. Refused to attend school.

Stevie’s forty-two now. Who’s going to keep him safe?

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 37, February 2016

Drabble 80 .. September 15, 2015   (up to top)



Gun Safety 101

Jesse Pugh sat on the front porch, Remington on his lap. He wasn’t about to let any Mexicans breach his perimeter.

“It’s after two. Whyn’t’ya get inside!” Emma, so damn annoying.

“I don’t want none of them fuckin’ wetbacks …”

“Oh stop your foolishness and come to bed.”

He’s gettin’ stupider, she thought. And it ain’t safe, with Sheila sneaking out to see Alejandro.

Leaves rustling. Could be something. He raised the rifle. Scanned through the night-vision scope. Saw a figure approaching. Pulled the trigger. It didn’t fire.

“Hey Dad. What’r’ya still doing up?”

He’d forgotten to click off the safety.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 37, February 2016

Drabble 81 .. September 16, 2015   (up to top)



Self Preservation

Before leaving, Marcia counted her four necessities: keys, wallet, lipstick and pepper spray. When she walked, she cradled the canister in her palm. She’d be ready for any threat.

Marcia was returning home from her six-hour stint bartending at McGilligan’s, her tips wadded up in her push-up. She felt prickles on her skin; sensed she was being followed.

She crossed the street, checked her reflection in a store window and looked back. There was some guy there, but he looked harmless – no hoodie, no pants hanging low. He turned and smiled. She relaxed.

Until she saw the glint of steel.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 37, February 2016

Drabble 82 .. September 19, 2015   (up to top)



Prevent Defense

Nadia always carried a pack of Trojans. She could never trust boys to have one. Her mantra, after her sister Helena got pregnant, was “use it or I refuse it.”

With Robbie it was a different. He was older, more experienced. She ached to feel him naked inside her. But he was always saying, “No way. I don’t want no kid tying me down.”

After finishing a joint in the back seat of his ten-year-old Escalade, they were soon heavily into it. “Please, Robbie. No rubber this time.”

“Sorry baby … as you always said, ‘use it or I refuse it’.”

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 37, February 2016

Drabble 83 .. September 20, 2015   (up to top)



A Dire Warning to the President

Dear President Obama:

I have contacted over a dozen government agencies but none has responded. I am turning to you, sir, to correct a horrible wrong.

I am a textile chemist for the company that produces nylon webbing for most automotive and airline seat belts. We have been using a formula that saves approximately a quarter per foot. Replicatable testing has shown that over time, these savings will result in molecular breakdown and sudden catastrophic breakage.

My supervisors and company officers have ignored my warnings.

You can reach me at the email address above. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 37, February 2016

Drabble 84 .. September 25, 2015   (up to top)



No Way to Make Friends

Willie was throwing sand. Again.

“Hey! Cut the crap! You’re gonna hurt somebody!” his father yelled, then went back to chatting up Janie’s mom.

Several minutes passed. “Hey, Sy … look at your son …” she pointed, got up and ran to the sandbox. Janie, rubbing her eyes, started bawling.

“Don’t rub. Lemme take a look.”

Janie’s eyes were ugly red. She had sand particles on her face, on her lips, in her hair.

She got her cell phone. Called 9-1-1. “I need an ambulance, and the police.”

Then, to Sy: You’re an unfit father and you’re worthless. Just like your fuckin’ kid.

Drabble 85 .. September 25, 2015   (up to top)



Into the Woods

The path through the woods saved Cheryl-Ann ten minutes walking to school.

Danny and Bear were stubbing out stolen Marlboros when they spotted her.

“Look who’s comin’ this way,” said Danny. “I bet you wanna do ’er.”

Bear had a crush on Cheryl-Ann since forever. But he was big, dumb and gawky and he knew it. And nobody let him forget it.

They grabbed Cheryl-Ann next to the big oaks where they’d be out of sight.

But ol’ man Cushing, with his Remington, was watching the grove. He got off two quick shots as Cheryl-Ann screamed.

Damn varmints, he thought.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 40, November 2016

Drabble 86 .. July 25, 2016   (up to top)



A Decision to Pray

I wanted to avoid traffic. A few minutes made a difference.

Outside the school’s gate, a young Chasid emerged from a Mitzvah Mobile, bad-teeth smiled. “You Jewish?” – “Jewish” being one syllable.

This time I responded.

“Tefillin?” For me, his challenge. I avoided shul, even on holidays.

“I’m Menachem.” He led me into the decked-out camper.

He wrapped my arm and head with leather straps attached to black boxes; I repeated prayers he’d intoned.

We shook hands; I slipped a five into the tzedakah box.

On WCBS I heard an illegally-driven gasoline trucked exploded on the parkway. I could’ve been there.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 40, November 2016

Drabble 87 .. July 25, 2016   (up to top)



Riding the Broken Line

Heading to work on my motorcycle. Bumper-to-bumper traffic. Always so freakin’ annoying.

Decided to ride between the lanes. Scanned ahead. All cars where they should be.

Accelerated. Doing twenty-five weaving through. Making good time. Ahead, a car changing lanes. Slowed down to a crawl. Let it happen. Didn’t want to antagonize drivers. Didn’t want to become their target.

Afternoons were different. Too many crazed people rushing someplace. Too many people drunk or stoned. Too much danger. Too much risk.

Sometimes the power felt like a video game – finding the best path through the scrum.

Until that Mercedes slammed into me.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 40, November 2016

Drabble 88 .. August 4, 2016   (up to top)



A Late Night Fork in the Road

Sometimes I’m so stubborn. Sometimes I’m so spiteful I cannot relent.

Like tonight. After the kids were asleep, after the late news, we’d gotten into some kind of bullshit fight. Why? Who the fuck knows.

The hurtful, cutting words kept being spat out. All the hot buttons were being pressed.

Eventually, the maelstrom burned itself out.

We lay in bed exhausted, back-to-back, never touching. Hypervigilant, I could sense her every move.

I felt her hand reach out, like a tendril. I inched further to my side.

I wanted to keep her far away.

I wanted so badly to hold her.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 40, November 2016

Drabble 89 .. August 4, 2016   (up to top)



A Path Not Taken

The first time I saw her I wanted her.

But I was married.

I wasn’t the carousing type. I believed in trust and honesty.

But the heart wants what it wants.

I loved her from afar. I looked in stealthily when I walked by her classroom.

I switched to teaching math. We were now in the same department.

I got up the nerve to talk to her. We exchanged lesson plans. We became close.

After many years, at a retirement dinner, we had both imbibed too much, and we confessed our mutual attraction.

I almost walked her to her car.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 40, November 2016

Drabble 90 .. August 8, 2016   (up to top)



A Reckoning on the Path

Hard-headed, foul-mouthed Billy. He was fun to be around, if you were on his good side, with his jokes, his dirty language, and his stories.

But sometimes he turned nasty. He’d punch us on our arms, sometimes elsewhere. That’s when you said your mother wanted you home. And he’d curse at you as you took off.

One day, Billy was leading us through the swamp towards the lake, our sneakers caked with mud. He shouted, “C’mon you fuckin’ slowpokes!”

And then he rushed ahead.

Stepped into a bog.

Started sinking.

“Get me out of here you bastards!”

We just watched.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 40, November 2016

Drabble 91 .. August 8, 2016   (up to top)



The Making of a Politician

It was Robby Northwell who was accused of knocking down mailboxes, egging Pastor Davis’s home, stealing stop signs up on Larkspur Pike, breaking windows at Milthrop Elementary – all the havoc perpetrated by Jimmy Clooney, Tully Maxwell and crew.

In those years before computers, web searches and shared databases, Jimmy figured he needed only a made-up name and a believable alibi if the cops came a-callin’.

As his degenerate mischief-making accelerated, Jimmy’s imaginary patsies exculpated him through college and law school – even after he bamboozled his way into a partnership at Wilder and Shepherd.

And then Jimmy ran for state assembly.

Drabble 92 .. August 29, 2016   (up to top)



To Execute a Contract

No way Artie Romano could back out of his contract to kill Wozniak. He had cased Herlihy’s, where Wozniak did his drinking. He watched guys slipping out back to smoke or take a piss. The disco’s thumping music next door would mask his pumping a couple of .32s into Wozniak’s belly, not killing him right off, but making him suffer long and hard until he died in a puddle of urine behind the dumpster.

That’s what the contract called for.

But salvation had snuck up on him through that persistent pain-in-the-ass Father Alessandro.

And this time killing didn’t seem right.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 40, November 2016

Drabble 93 .. September 9, 2016   (up to top)



A Not So Blessed Event

“But I want to have my baby,” Carolina insisted.

“You’re only fifteen,” Norma Watkins said. “You don’t know what you want. You’re gonna ruin your life … just like I ruined mine when you got born.”

As Carolina’s tears welled up, Norma realized what she’d said. “No baby … I didn’t mean it. You were the best thing ...” But Carolina had fled to her room. Their single-wide shook as she slammed the door.

Thirty years old and already bone-weary, Norma peered into her future and saw no relief.

Carolina cuddled the teddy that Carlos won at the fair and saw only blessings.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 40, November 2016

Drabble 94 .. September 14, 2016   (up to top)



Double Trouble

Mama called us her twin idiots. Doyle and I would crash our bikes on purpose. Race screaming through the woods. Chase wild animals … plus that one time with a skunk.

We were on a first-name basis at Urgent Care.

Mama’d say, “Boys’ll be boys,” with a faint hint of pride.

Then we got our licenses.

Doyle swerved into a ditch. Flipped over. Car exploded. Never had a chance.

The road’d been dry.

I should’ve been with him. Could’ve done something. But I’d’ve been dead, too.

Now I’m in rehab. They say I’m doing okay.

But part of me is gone.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 40, November 2016

Drabble 95 .. September 15, 2016   (up to top)



Freed from a Fledgling Psychopath

In ninth grade, Bobby and I hung out together. He taught me how to steal 45s from Kresge’s. We played ping-pong but I was afraid to win. He once stuffed a cat in a bag and flung it off the dock. I watched but couldn’t say anything.

Bobby took me out on his boat. We stole a gas can off a yacht. A groundskeeper, who’d traced the registration through his employer, a federal judge, was already in my house when I got home.

Bobby must’ve ratted me out.

My parents forbade me from seeing Bobby again.

I was so relieved.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 40, November 2016

Drabble 96 .. September 17, 2016   (up to top)



I Knew … I Just Knew

Even at six or seven Laurie knew what she was doing. Not consciously, but she knew. We’d visit, she’d cry “Uncle Frank” and jump into my arms. Wearing short dresses and short-shorts, she’d inevitably rub against my crotch.

I couldn’t help getting aroused.

I told my wife. She said it was my imagination.

I tried warning my brother, without sounding like a perv. He lambasted me.

As Laurie grew older, it got worse. I thwarted her every time.

At her wedding, she hugged me really close and whispered, “You know, Uncle Frank … I always wanted you to be my first.”

Drabble 97 .. September 18, 2016   (up to top)



Vengeance and Recompense

Luis was gentle and so pretty. I loved him. I don’t know why they murdered him.

Maybe to send a message: faggot Latinos deserve to die. They should’ve come after me. Luis was an innocent.

They surrounded him and taunted him and beat him to death. This I found out. I know who they were. I’m gonna find them. I’m gonna pick them off one-by-one like stinking rats with triple-aught buckshot. Agonizing yet untraceable.

Querida begged me not to. “Revenge won’t bring my baby back.”

But in Deuteronomy it says, “Vengeance is mine, and recompense.”

I’ve always been a believer.

Drabble 98 .. September 19, 2016   (up to top)



After Forty Years, an Accusation

Energized by an encounter weekend, I dragged myself to a mixer at the temple.

Karen and I hit it off, hot and heavy. That fall, she’d begin commuting to college while I was starting a new teaching job.

Eventually, our relationship fizzled.

On Christmas Eve, forty years later, she telephoned. She sounded morose and unhinged. She claimed she’d been successful professionally, but believed I’d ruined her life. She accused me of calling her a bitch when we broke up, which spiraled her into despair.

I have no memory of that ever happening.

I told her to never call me again.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 40, November 2016

Drabble 99 .. September 19, 2016   (up to top)



At the Frat Party

Long dark hair. Exotic-looking. Drop-dead gorgeous. She was sitting alone.

Why not?

“Hi, I’m Lenny. I guess it’s hard being beautiful.”

She glanced at me. “Yeah. The guys are intimidated and the girls, resentful.”

We got to talking. I nodded, smiled, uh-huh’ed as Martiza prattled on.

We dated a few times. A movie, a pizza, a blues-rock festival in the gym.

Then: “You know, Lenny … I want something more.”

She saw no upside.

I saw nothing inside.

The next time I saw her, she was the centerfold in a porno magazine.

I hope she got what she was looking for.

Drabble 100 .. September 21, 2016   (up to top)



On the Airport Security Line

Felt a weight slide into my cargo pants pocket. Looked around. Several men scurrying away.

Patted my pocket. A gun. What the fuck? Hefty – like a Glock. I’ve held some in my time.

Front of the line. Didn’t want to attract attention. Beckoned over a Port Authority sergeant. Went to shake his hand. Didn’t let go.

Held his gaze, whispered, “There’s a gun in my pocket. It’s not mine.”

He considered, then nodded.

“Could be booby-trapped. Lead me away.”

He grasped my arm, spoke “8-11G” into his walkie-talkie.

Static, then “Take him to control.”

I’m black.

And I’m still alive.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 40, November 2016

Drabble 101 .. September 27, 2016   (up to top)



Backpacker vs. Wolf Pack

Joe Whelan always longed to sleep under the canopy of stars, on a clear moonless night, ever since his dad pulled the Dodge over on a rural road off I-80, told his kids to step outside, switched off the headlights, and said, “Look up.”

He lay on a bluff, for the 360° view. Near him, the cliff dropped off precipitously.

And the howls were growing louder.

He couldn’t outrun wolves. There’d be no escape.

He’d always been good at mimicking. So he started to howl back.

There was silence.

Until he heard their muted footfalls.

And his own screams.

Drabble 102 .. October 27, 2016   (up to top)



I Shall Lay My Vengeance Upon Them

Cecily Duran hated cats. She hated their slinky, sneaky, haughty ways. She especially hated Claudius, whom her girlfriend Emma named after the murderer in Hamlet.

“I can’t take it, Em. The hair all over the place and that damn cat’s attitude …”

“What’re you saying, Cee? You don’t want me anymore?”

“You know I love you. But look at him. He’s leering at me, mocking me.”

“It’s all in your head. Now come back to bed.”

They kissed, embraced.

As they were getting into it, Claudius pounced, embedding his nails into Cecily’s cheeks.

Then he scampered away, to lick his paws.

– Ezekiel 25:17: And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I [am] the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.
Drabble 103 .. October 27, 2016   (up to top)



To Be Buried With a Bear

For over forty years the old man had slept with his ragged Gund bear and wanted it buried with him. But orthodox practices proscribed anything but a shroud in the plain pine box.

“Who could it hurt?” he asked when he made his wife promise to slip in the bear when she “checked” his body before burial.

“What if you outlive me?”

“Then I’ll ask one of the kids. They’ll understand.”

She knew how much comfort the bear had given him. So, at the cemetery, the coffin was opened, and his wife did as he’d requested.

Even God would understand.

Drabble 104 .. January 19, 2017   (up to top)



A Crybaby No Longer

Whenever Mama slammed the closet door in his face, whenever the steel door slammed in juvie, whenever the bars clanged shut in the joint, Dukie Williams’d tear up. He just couldn’t help it.

But nobody in his right mind ever hassled him, not after he shivved the faggot who taunted him one time too many. Homo thug had it coming. Did everyone a favor.

Dukie’d lie on his bunk sobbing into his pillow. Every day, every night. The bulls left him alone. The shrink couldn’t do nuthin’.

Until he resolved to turn stone cold.

Then he was dangerous.

For real.

Drabble 105 .. January 20, 2017   (up to top)



One More for the Stats

After two am.

Toohey and Salvio sittin out back suckin on a spliff.

Black Escalade squealed to a stop. Rear door flew open. Body dumped out. Car peeled away.

“Sal … let’s take a look.”

“I don’t wanna see nuthin.”

“Waddya afraid of?”

“Maybe they saw us. If they did …”

“Asshole … we wuz way back there.”

Toohey stared down at the body. All bloodied and beaten. “Holy shit. It’s ol man Marillo … the pizza guy.”

“Cmon, Toohey. Let’s get outa here.”

“Awright, awright.”

“I wonder what the fuck he did.”

“Don’t matter, Sal. Don’t care. Nobody knows nuthin.”

Nobody ever did.

Drabble 106 .. January 20, 2017   (up to top)



Not All Stories Have to Be About Conflict

Carl and his wife decided early on to spend everything they earned on their children. They both worked two low-paying jobs, never went on vacations, never squandered money on luxuries.

The parents avoided drinking and carousing, there was little drama with the children, no troublesome conflicts, no drugs, no smoking … but there was a lot of love and respect.

Their eldest is now an executive for a multinational corporation, their middle son is a sheet metal worker and a union member, and they’re getting ready to send their daughter off to college.

No dysfunction. No strife.

And that’s the story.

Drabble 107 .. January 22, 2017   (up to top)



Finally, Silence

The operation was successful.

His kids, his wife, his parents, his in-laws, his boss, his underlings, his rabbi, his banker, his creditors, his dealer, his bookie, his loan shark, his mistress … all mercifully silenced.

But with magnificent adaptation, his mutinous body – his whole being – became attuned to the screech of the subways, the thrum of midtown traffic, the hum of his luxury sedan – even the previously indistinct whirr of air conditioning.

Nails on a chalk board. Existential torture.

Suppressing the cacophony would require experimental surgery. And no one would agree to performing that.

He’d find a way.

He had to.

Drabble 108 .. January 24, 2017   (up to top)



A Conflict Without End

The clowns are parading by.

Again.

Giants and midgets. Fat ones and bulimics.

Beckoning and hostile, overly-giddy and overwhelmingly sad.

Wearing misshapen hats atop bald shiny heads.

Rainbow wigs and wisps of raspberry frizz.

Eyes, noses, cheeks and mouths – painstakingly painted and powdered.

Some pretend to ignore me.

Others eye me surreptitiously, malevolently.

I know I’m being judged.

I know they’re waiting, waiting for me to make the first move.

I sit stock still, mocking their anticipation.

I hide my chortling by hocking up a loogie.

I hide my eyes behind tinted glasses.

I hide my uzi under my vest.

Drabble 109 .. January 24, 2017   (up to top)



BINGO!

Ed Bialecki and his cronies were in their usual corner at Tommy’s, finishing their fifth pitcher, waiting for their wives to finish their Thursday afternoon bingo game at Saint Stanislaus.

“Ever wonder what your wife’d do if she hit the jackpot?” Boz, always with the questions.

“Nah,” Ed said. “What are the chances? Even if she did, Iris’d hand over the money to me.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“C’mon … it’s who we are.”

After their next pitcher, their wives showed up, all excited … all except Iris. Boz’s wife announced, “Iris won four thousand dollars!”

“And … she’s not coming home.”

Drabble 110 .. February 7, 2017   (up to top)



A Matter of Respect

Billy-boy always seemed to be off. Not in a bad way, but just a bit off.

Last week, we were in Flannery’s and he asked us to puhleeze stop calling him Billy-boy. “C’mon guys. I’ve had enough. It’s Will – or William – from now on … okay?”

We all laughed. We were all in our seventies, and we’d been calling him Billy-boy forever.

“You guys’ll be sorry. It’s a matter of respect.”

“Respect … ooooh.” Charlie, our own pot stirrer.

Today, Billy-boy walked in, shouted, “You fuckin’ guys!” and yanked a grenade out from his jacket pocket.

And then pulled out the ring.

Drabble 111 .. February 7, 2017   (up to top)



All It Takes Is One

Earl Blackwell was a retired city cop from up north. Earl and Mary embraced their country-style life in Edgewater made easier by his pension and his paycheck.

Instead of locking up gang-bangers and crack whores, he cruised around in an eight-year-old Crown Vic knocking on someone’s door if their dog was loose, stopping at Central High every afternoon to keep things calm, sitting on the juke joints each night to stop drunk driving. He’d even call a cab.

But after nine-year-old Terrence Miles darted into the street all hell broke loose.

Some swore Earl could’ve avoided it.

Some claimed otherwise.

Drabble 112 .. February 12, 2017   (up to top)



The Lone Ranger Rides Again

I loved watching The Lone Ranger on Saturdays, right after The Big Top. My father even bought me a double-holster cowboy belt like his, much to my mother’s consternation.

At ComicCon, the Lone Ranger, in white hat, black mask and silver six-guns strolled alongside Tonto, with his leather boho headband and fringed deerskin jacket. They often paused to pose for photographs.

“Who are they, Grandpa?”

I explained that the Lone Ranger was my childhood idol when I was his age.

“Whyn’t’ya take a picture with them?”

“Sure … why not.”

He snapped several shots with my phone.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

Drabble 113 .. February 13, 2017   (up to top)



Hunting Season’s Just Begun

Whenever shit happened in Elksville – bar fight, break-in, beat-down – Sheriff Koenig headed out to Errol Coggin’s hovel set way off route 181.

“Your sons … where wuz they last night?”

“Fuck if I know. They come ’n’ they go.”

“Why ain’t you askin why?”

“What’s that gotta do with me? With anythin?”

“Means you know somethin. You ain’t being honest.”

“I had it with dem boys. Arrest ’em. Shoot ’em. I don’t give a fuck.”

“Maybe I will. Maybe I will.”

The sheriff strode to his cruiser, opened his trunk, lifted out his Mossberg.

It was time to do some hunting.

Drabble 114 .. February 16, 2017   (up to top)



Sub-zero Enslavement

Every morning at five, Willie dragged himself into the meat-cutting room at the wholesale butcher.

By six, he was chilled to the bone, despite longjohns and his thermal-lined hoodies, despite wool socks and his down-filled vest. Nothing could keep him warm.

Summertime, he got some respite during a smoke break. But breaking a sweat, then going back in, felt like suicide.

“C’mon Willie,” said his foreman, “either you work or you’re gone.”

“I can’t take this shit anymore, man.”

“So why doncha just fuckin’ quit?”

“I owe people money. And I’d rather risk freezing to death then getting gut shot.”

Drabble 115 .. March 14, 2017   (up to top)



Frau Farbissiner at the Shabbos Park

I watch my grandsons running around with their friends, shirttails hanging out, chasing, teasing, carrying on.

There’s one boy in a zipped-up parka standing near a bitter-looking woman who’s bundled in a full-length Persian lamb coat. Probably his bubbe, his grandmother.

I’ve noticed him before. He’s timid, almost anemic-looking. Once he started climbing up the slide. The woman squawked “Get off there! You’re gonna kill yourself!”

The startled boys stopped to stare, then ran off.

Perhaps his ima and abba were home engaging in sexual relations. On Shabbos afternoon it’s a mitzvah.

But this bubbe was no gift from God.

Drabble 116 .. April 19, 2017   (up to top)



A Holy Place

Raphael’s mother was marrying his soccer coach. Hilda and Mariana were bubbling with joy but Raphael was wary. He’d sometimes seen Enrique be joyless and cruel.

“Mami … he’s no good for you,” Raphael once tried to warn her, but she slapped his face and immediately felt sorry.

“You kids need a father and …” and Mami needed … someone.

In confessional, Father Sal told Raphael that nothing was perfect … that he’d have to man up and trust God to create a place where love could flourish.

After the first time Enrique slapped his mother, Raphael vowed to help God wreak his vengeance.

Drabble 117 .. August 7, 2017   (up to top)



A Place in His Life for Her

Olivia was a vivacious redhead, smart and sassy.

She was everything Joey wanted and the sex was great – she was ready and eager anywhere, anytime – even against the dumpster behind O’Flannery’s.

But when they were apart he received countless texts and voicemails: “Joey I miss you so much … I need to see you.”

After she strode into his office and waited outside his gym, he tried to break it off.

“But Joey … can’t you make a place in your life for me?”

“I’m sorry Liv … you’ve gotta stop stalking me.”

“I’m warning you, Joey … you’ll be sorry.”

“I am … already.”

Drabble 118 .. August 9, 2017   (up to top)



Hobbled by Indecision

“Joseph, I haven’t eaten all day. So choose one already – the cheese omelet, the cheeseburger, the salmon, the salmon burger – I don’t care which.”

“They’re so many choices.”

“It’s only a goddamn diner. It’s not like it’s your last meal.”

“But it might be.”

“For cryin’ out loud. Why are you so maudlin?”

“You married me. You know what I was like.”

“Okay … how about eeny meeny miny moe?”

“That’s so childish.”

“And you sitting here making me wait isn’t?”

“I can’t help it.”

“You want me to decide?”

“Sure. Go ahead.”

“So what would do you have in mind?”

Drabble 119 .. August 24, 2017   (up to top)



Discussion Control

My brother really knew how to play me.

I’d be talking about something important, and he’d slightly raise his fingers. Or he’d caress-tap my arm with an expectant look. I’d stop talking and he’d continue.

Evidently, my concerns weren’t subjects he’d wish to entertain –

Consequential issues, like our jobs, our parents. About their aging – and our aging. Our imperfect children. Physical and mental health problems – especially mental.

Our conversations were at his convenience, for he wouldn’t and couldn’t listen, especially when he was off his meds.

I wish he’d confided in me.

There are many things I wish I’d said.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 44, November 2017

Drabble 120 .. August 24, 2017   (up to top)



He Who Holds the Hose

Car-washing on a hot Sunday afternoon.

Our two grandsons, who’d slept over, were “helping.”

After rinsing off the top of the Odyssey, I “accidentally” sprayed Davie, the eleven-year-old. He stared up at me with a “so you wanna mess around?” look.

“Oh … I’m so sorry,” I said.

Jacob, the eight-year-old, had scrubbed the rims. “Hey Papa … can I rinse ’em off?”

I passed him the hose, and Jacob turned it on his older brother.

Davie rushed him and grabbed the hose. It was Jacob’s turn for a soaking … and then mine.

Worth much more than fifteen bucks at the Super-Shine.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 44, November 2017

Drabble 121 .. August 24, 2017   (up to top)



He Who Has the Right of Way

The officer, in an unmarked Crown Vic, grill lights flashing, pulled me over.

Me? I was on my bike.

He said I made a dangerous turn.

I’d thoroughly studied Effective Cycling. I’d ridden tens of thousands of miles. I explained that I was turning left from the safest position at the T-intersection, between the right-turn lane and the left.

He said I should’ve stayed to the right.

I didn’t argue he was spouting nonsense. I just said, “Okay, officer,” then pedaled away.

I continued to make the safest turn, but now I turn right.

My route is smoother that way.

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 44, November 2017

Drabble 122 .. September 11, 2017   (up to top)



Eli and the Bear – an Existential Crisis

My stuffed Gund bear, Moe, was insisting that he was real, and my daughter, then five or so, wasn’t. She got so frustrated that she tried to bite off his nose.

Now, her son Eli, about the same age, on a sleep-over, doesn’t bother arguing with my long-in-the-tooth, threadbare Moe. He just punches him, grabs him, throws him on the floor, stomps on him. Perhaps he has better coping skills.

I say, “Hold it. Take it easy. You’re gonna hurt him.”

He just smiles at me, with an evil, satisfied, almost demonic look … and then laughs.

Boys will be boys.

Drabble 123 .. September 11, 2017   (up to top)



A Slight Detour on the Path to the Inevitable

Early in our marriage, I told my wife I thought she was manipulating me. And I didn’t like it.

She said, “Well I’m not trying to manipulate you.”

I said, “Maybe you don’t mean to, but the things you say and the way you say them … they do make me feel like I am being manipulated.”

“Well, that’s what you think …” getting louder, more intense.

“You see, that’s what I’m saying. How can I argue when you’re this way?”

“This is me. It’s the way I am.”

“Yeah, I know. But I still can’t help feeling the way I do.”

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 44, November 2017

Drabble 124 .. September 11, 2017   (up to top)



A Slight Detour on the Path to the Inevitable

Early in our marriage, I told my wife I thought she was manipulating me. And I didn’t like it.

She said, “Well I’m not trying to manipulate you.”

I said, “Maybe you don’t mean to, but the things you say and the way you say them … they do make me feel like I am being manipulated.”

“Well, that’s what you think …” getting louder, more intense.

“You see, that’s what I’m saying. How can I argue when you’re this way?”

“This is me. It’s the way I am.”

“Yeah, I know. But I still can’t help feeling the way I do.”

-- Appeared in Grassroot Reflections Issue 44, November 2017

Drabble 124 .. September 11, 2017   (up to top)



Eulogy in a Drabble

Today, sitting through a fifty-minute eulogy. Interminable and exhausting.

After I die, eulogies will be limited to 100 words. The funnier the better. The more deprecating, the more insulting, the more truth-telling, the better.

“He was beloved by all …” Bullshit! Some people must’ve hated my guts. The guy in the SUV I gave the finger to. The lady at Speedway I called a “slow sack of shit.” The obliviot father on the bike path who I rightly labeled “a negligent asshole.”

So if you’re brave enough, count your words and expect the heavenly hook at 100.

You have been warned.

Drabble 125 .. November 8, 2017   (up to top)



He Who is Happy with His Lot in Life

Living large implies having a luxurious lifestyle.

For me, living large means being heavyset, seeing the dreaded word “obese” on my medical records.

Mom called me pleasantly plump. Dad called me tubbish, from tub of shit. In Macy’s I was husky or portly. In school I was fatso, flabby or lard-ass. In the mirror, I see a big fat fuck.

I dropped tonnage when I was running. One summer I even hit the “healthy” range on the weight chart. Now, I bicycle for miles or walk long distances.

And, I’ve maintained my weight despite the perfidiousness of our digital scale.

Drabble 126 .. Prompted by living large .. November 12, 2017   (up to top)



The Scar

“You’re such a pain in the ass,” she snarled at Jebediah, squirming in his highchair, grabbing for anything in reach. This time it was the frypan, sizzling with grease.

“You want this? You fucking want this?”

She yanked Jebediah’s hand and forced it against the pan. A moment passed, the smell of burning flesh. Then the scream. The convulsing in the chair. The wailing. The sobbing. The tears.

“Now stop your sniveling,” she sneered. “And next time you be sure to sit quietly.”

Seventy years later, Jebediah’s wrinkled skin and liver spots still failed to hide the ugly, discolored scar.

Drabble 127 .. January 19, 2018   (up to top)



An Empty Shell Left Behind

After six weeks in the ICU, he was barely lucid, barely alive.

Hooked up to tubes and sensors. Necrotic lower intestine. Skin breaking down. Multiple system failure. Blood pressure crashing. MRSA on his lips. Dialysis would kill him. Not having dialysis would kill him.

He’d always said he’d never wanted it to end this way.

It was enough.

It was time.

Morphine drip started. Sedative administered. Respirator switched off.

Thought, speech and actions are the garments of the soul.

It was time for the soul to depart, leaving the body – the empty shell – behind.

And so it came to pass.

Drabble 128 .. Prompted by an empty container .. January 27, 2018   (up to top)



Needing to Be Perfect

I’ve done our monthly bill-paying for almost half a century. For many years I’ve used a spreadsheet I’d constructed and refined.

But lately, I’ve made mistakes online –the wrong Chase account debited or wrong payment or transfer date – even after obsessively checking my computer entries.

I was afraid I was losing it.

But then I realized that I rarely made spreadsheet-based dollar amount errors. Rather, there was something inherently wrong with Chase’s web-page usability, especially involving bill-paying and transfers.

I tried to not sound like an old fool when I called Chase. The representative said she’d pass on my comments.

Drabble 129 .. Prompted by trying too hard .. April 3, 2018   (up to top)


The Sad Family Pentalogy

Harold

{ Part 1 of 5 }

Harold could not remember the last time he felt happy. And he realized he lived in symbiosis with his wife’s emotions.

People called Muriel “the farbissiner.” She was a sullen, embittered complainer and Harold wondered what he’d ever seen in her besides the desultory blow jobs in the back seat of his second-hand Camaro.

To any of Harold’s “Why don’t you’s,” her responses were “Oh really,” or “Give me a break,” or “Not that, again.”

Only when Dana, and four years later, Eli, were born, did Harold feel a sense of elation, but it came more from relief than blessedness.

Drabble 130 .. May 4, 2018   (up to top)



Muriel
{ Part 2 of 5 }

What does Harold want from me? I gave him his two children, burped them, fed them, washed their clothes, went to their concerts, to their dance recitals. I froze my ass off at Sunday afternoon soccer matches. I did what I was supposed to.

My parents were Holocaust survivors who were so gloomy and miserable I wonder how they ever woke up to work in father’s locksmith shop.

And should I mention “missing” my concerts, my graduations, even most of my wedding?

Harold wants me to be happy, so he’ll be happy. Well, fuck happy. I’m not built that way.

Drabble 131 .. May 4, 2018   (up to top)



Dana
{ Part 3 of 5 }

I told Bobby last night, “I’m sorry … I need more than this.”

Don’t get me wrong. Our sex was good, sometimes great. But Bobby’s as shallow as a mud puddle.

An ASPCA Mobil Adoption center was parked near Petco at Union Square. I needed to go in.

In a cage was a charcoal gray Cairn terrier, a two-year-old who I swore smiled at me. I coochie-cooed with him, filled out the papers, bought the leash and collar. All of a sudden, we were a family.

When Scruffy jumps on my bed to snuggle, our connection feels profound.

I feel whole.

Drabble 132 .. May 4, 2018   (up to top)



Eli
{ Part 4 of 5 }

I’ve got it made. Six-figure salary. House in Great Neck. Two point two kids if you count the Chihuahua.

My father sometimes dropped by, always without my mother. He’d have wine with dinner, then maybe some bourbon. I couldn’t let him drive home, so he’d stay over, sometimes for another night.

Dad’d complain about his clients, about politics, about the “goddamn world going to hell in a handbasket.” But never one bad word about the farbissiner.

My wife would say, “Eli … he’s got to go. He’s such a downer.”

I’m so glad I escaped from their resentments and their craziness.

Drabble 133 .. May 4, 2018   (up to top)



Harold and Dana
{ Part 5 of 5 }

My father rarely visited, and, thankfully, never with the farbissiner. Nothing satisfied her – whom I was seeing, my teaching high school English, taking pilates, tutoring kids at the JCC. But Dad accepted me, unconditionally.

I’d picked up Friday night takeout: soup, roast chicken, kugel, rugelach for dessert – foods he loved. He was so happy to be here, especially when he met Scruffy.

I caught Dad passing scraps under the table. “Da-ad,” I warned, but he chuckled, saying, “A little chicken’s not gonna hurt him.”

Later, he fell asleep on the couch, with Scruffy in his arms.

I saw his tears.

Drabble 134 .. May 5, 2018   (up to top)



The Real Him

He awakens with a start. Panicked. Panting.

4:02 on the clock radio.

Who’s gonna write my story? he howls from within.

Who’s gonna write my narrative?

4:03, then 4:04.

He closes his eyes

His breathing slows. His heart is no longer racing.

He recalls the bios he’s written to accompany anthology submissions. So much like meeting someone for the first time. So chit-chatty and bright. So inane.

What does he really feel strongly about? What does he love and what does he abhor? How does his mind work?

Who is he?

He’ll try answering it … in twenty-five words or less.

Drabble 135 .. June 24, 2018   (up to top)



Still Sweating the Small Stuff

You’d think that by almost age 72, I’d learn to stop sweating the small stuff.

We’re having work done on our house. At 5:12 in the morning, I woke up with a start to realize that I hadn’t noticed any “Andersen” label on our new windows, still wrapped in plastic, that I had lugged into the garage.

I lay tossing and turning, kicking off blankets, fluffing pillows, tuning my ear-plugged radio to the sports stations and WBAI. I finally roused myself and shuffled downstairs.

I was wrong. They were Andersens.

I lumbered upstairs.

But I still couldn’t fall back asleep.

Drabble 136 .. Prompted by the word still .. June 27, 2018   (up to top)



Two Tickets to the Dance

Early on a wintry Thursday evening, 1974 …

I was in Manhattan, fulfilling my in-service Human Relations requirement for licensing along with several hundred equally-as-unwilling participants.

A physical education teacher who loved dance had given me two Lincoln Center ballet tickets. But I was exhausted and just wanted to subway home.

A couple, slightly more than just buddy-buddy, were sitting in front of me.

I tapped the guy on the shoulder, gave him the tickets and said, “Why’n’t you two go … and enjoy yourselves.

I’ve always wondered if the tickets were a catalyst for a loving future together.

And I smile.

Drabble 137 .. September 18, 2018   (up to top)



Masks Can Be Deceiving

“Mommy, can we please go trick-or-treating?”

I’d been promising them ever since we moved in. And I had to accompany them.

I was listening to a Ted Talk on my iPhone as we walked through a cul-de-sac several blocks away. They scampered up onto a front porch. The door opened. I was inhaling from my vape as they were ushered inside. I yelled “Hey!” as I ran up the front walk and pushed the front door open.

There was nothing behind it but wood beams holding up the facade.

And a white van was speeding away across the field behind.

— Appeared in Local Gems 13 Days of Halloween email newsletter, 2018, and in the print version published 2019
Drabble 138 .. September 27, 2018   (up to top)



Not Such a Hard Sell

I shouldn’t have boffed Bobby. He was a bad boy, just the way I liked ’em. Well, sorta.

He sold me on banging him just like he sold salvaged cars to suckers at Judas’s Automotive.

Got me soused on day’s old wine. Claimed he loved squeezing my cellulite. But I felt assailed. Me, on the dark side of fifty and him … mmm … like a young Tom Selleck.

But he stole my widescreen, my laptop. Hid them in his cellar then tried to sell them to a fence.

He shoulda known better. Now he’s rotting in a cell.

Time to celebrate.

Drabble 139 .. Prompted by the word sell and its variants .. November 19, 2018   (up to top)



Life Interrupted

His pulmonologist asked, “How many years you guys’ve been married?”

“August, it’ll be our fifttieth,” she said. “But … it’s enough already.”

They’d been glued together by trust and respect, warmth and humor, and by doing routines with people. And, of course, by love.

Later, she lay on the sofa under her favorite Woolrich blanket, hazy sunlight seeping through the windows. Judge Judy was on.

She started crying.

“Whatsa matter, Ceil?”

“Eddie … I can’t believe it. I just wet myself.”

He sighed, leaned over and caressed her cheek. Then he kissed her forehead.

“It’s okay Ceil,” he said.

“It’ll be okay.”

Drabble 140 .. January 16, 2019   (up to top)



The Ed Sullivan Show, Live and in Person

This, I vividly remember:

One Sunday evening in 1970, we drove into Manhattan.

We walked north of Times Square with Heidi, our West Highland white terrier. Someone sitting in the lobby of the Ed Sullivan Theater offered to watch her so we could go on in. We handed over her leash, then sat in the last row and caught the rest of the show.

After, we thanked the man profusely and went home.

My wife argues we would’ve been crazy leaving Heidi with a stranger, and insists she’d never been to a television show.

I’d swear it wasn’t a dream.

Drabble 141 .. January 24, 2019   (up to top)



“You People”

My father, Phil, and Lou and Charlie owned the Rexall drugstore in Islip, where I grew up. The only other Jewish store owner was Sonny, the stationery store proprietor.

Islip had a long history of bigotry. Catholic churches were relegated to neighboring villages. On farmland in East Islip in 1923, 25,000 Ku Klux Klansmen assembled to initiate 1,400 kneeling members along with a cross-burning.

My father despised his customers saying “you people.” Then I thought it was innocuous. But now more than ever, I’ve become livid at its use.

His customers were smiling and cordial but antisemitic, impure and simple.

Drabble 142 .. March 15, 2019   (up to top)



Ride of the Century

I’d joined a four-rider pace line at the second rest stop on the 1999 Seagull Century. I was always the caboose, because my lower-riding recumbent wasn’t tall enough to draft upright bicyclists.

The leader had bungee-corded a boombox to his rear rack. We sped by riders who beamed as Willie Nelson serenaded us with On the Road Again.

We continued eastward together and then over the Verrazano Bridge to the next rest stop on Assateague Island, where “welcome” signs warned us that native wild ponies “bite, kick and charge … keep away.”

It was the best twenty-two miles I’d ever ridden.

Drabble 143 .. April 3, 2019   (up to top)



“Just Do a Little Bit Each Day”

But not for me.

I’ve worked best being completely immersed in an activity, sometimes in four-hour chunks: programming my school; constructing math tests; painting a room; creating a new garden; mowing, raking and snow-shoveling; doing the beginning-of-each-month bill-paying; completing the weekly Times crossword; even writing.

April 2019: filing a Nassau County property tax appeal; calculating required minimum distributions, then contacting financial institutions; creating the yearly spreadsheet of deductions; using TurboTax to compute income taxes; e-filing then transferring money and transmitting electronic payments.

I’ve tried to keep my wife in the loop.

I’ve dreaded what would happen if I suddenly died.

Drabble 144 .. April 14, 2019   (up to top)



So Fucking Exasperating

Every time she says this place is getting her down I wanna scream.

I’m so glad everything’s separate, except two checking accounts and the house. Well screw the house. It’s her main problem.

She says she’s so anxious about all the crap we’ve accumulated she can’t sleep.

I think but don’t say not this shit again.

She asks what’ll happen when we die? It’s not fair to the kids.

I say when we’re dead we’re dead. Five hundred thou can hire a posse of estate liquidators.

She says she feels like crying.

I say let ’em burn down the joint.

Drabble 145 .. April 29, 2019   (up to top)



Well, Maybe Just a Little

We were in Fruit Tree Farm. I wandered over to the freezer aisle.

Häaagen Dazs 14-oz “pints”: $6.49 each. Edy’s 48-oz “half-gallons”: two for $6.99.

A no-brainer.

We shoe-horned two Edy’s into the freezer.

Past midnight, I awoke from the couch. I needed something … cold.

My wife’s was the mint chocolate chip. Took out my Texas Pecan Pie.

Peeled off the top. Started fork-digging around the edge. Promised myself a little’d be enough.

But I had to smooth the gouges; make it symmetrical.

Melting and softening eased the task until half was gone.

The god of gluttony reigns.

Drabble 146 .. Based on the prompt “a little or a lot or both” .. April 30, 2019   (up to top)



Our Timeshare in Forever-Land

Every year, I ride my bicycle to the six-plot ABRAMS gravesite, where my parents and brother are buried. I relate some goings-on, toast them from a bottle of water and recite the Kaddish from a smartphone app.

Mt. Ararat feels too much like the gated community my mother died in, with its strict rules about the size and placement of headstones and footstones and the correct engraving font. It’s so homogeneous that it’s repulsive.

Our bodies, in plain pine boxes, are destined to spend eternity there decomposing under the sandy soil.

We deserve better.

Or maybe it just doesn’t matter

Drabble 147 .. Based on the prompt “the future” .. May 30, 2019   (up to top)



Breaker One-Zero / What’s Your Twenty?

Every day, a beard-scrubbing, a bowl of yogurt and granola, then merging onto the Southern State for the usual stop-and-go to Brooklyn.

I had a CB-radio in my ’86 Camry. I joked with fellow commuters on channel 10 and got traffic updates so I could take a go-’round if necessary. Driving alone, I felt much less isolated.

Once, we road warriors had breakfast at a North Conduit Avenue diner. I felt joyous meeting them in person, chatting static-free.

Now we have cell phones and Waze, but then I enjoyed pressing Tx on my mic and talking to my world.

– “I want to transmit on channel 10” / “What’s your location?”

Drabble 148 .. August 26, 2019   (up to top)



I Knew It Could Never Happen

When Angela Scarpetti sashayed into my English composition class two weeks and ten minutes late, twenty-three heads turned, even the gay boys whispering in the back. Raven hair, scarlet lipstick, clinging white blouse, flared miniskirt. Her boots weren’t exactly shtup-mes, but they might as well have been.

I was only an adjunct, but everyone knew about the student-faculty fraternizing prohibitions.

After class ended – “Take care, Doc” … “See ya next Tuesday” – Angela stood beside me and softly said, “I’m sorry. Family emergency. Anything I need to do?”

I was so tempted.

There was only one thing.

Dominic Scarpetti, Dean of Students

Drabble 149 .. Based on the prompt “only one” .. September 9, 2019   (up to top)



Idiots on Parade

My wife mock-ridicules me: “You’re an idiot. I-D-O-T.”

Her attempt at humor.

Or maybe she’s just stupid. But I keep that thought to myself.

So I play along. “Whyn’t you call me an imbecile like my mom used to? Or maybe a moron? An idiot’s the lowest functioning of the three.”

“But you are, ipso facto, an idiot.”

Latin doesn’t substantiate her logic.

Although I mournfully haha her, her bullshit is getting old.

“Whyn’t just stop being such a bitch?”

That’ll go over well, for sure.

“I’m trying to play nice, and look what happens.

“See? … You are an idiot.”

– Until the 1970s, the three terms – moron, imbecile and idiot – were used as official designations

Drabble 150 .. September 17, 2019   (up to top)



Sometimes, a Weed is Just a Weed

Summers before junior high, maybe, me and my friends played throw-up-and-hit in the street, hung out on the concrete catch basin slab tossing pebbles, snatching clumps of grass, pulling out niggerheads – brown seedpods atop thin green stalks.

Back then, behind closed doors, parents called Catholics catolishe dreck; maids, shvartzes; Jews, kikes; Italians, wops. And much worse.

Because I found no “niggerhead” botanic citation in google to match our seedpods, I wonder, sixty years later, if we had made up the term and were just as oblivious as our parents.

They were niggerheads, ’cause that’s what they were.

Pure and simple.

Drabble 151 .. Based on the prompt “oblivious” .. October 1, 2019   (up to top)



You See What Happens When … ?

On a Rosh Hashanah afternoon, Mom was driving my brother to his piano lesson in Oakdale in the old black Dodge. I was in the back seat.

She misjudged the curve up the railroad overpass and scraped hard against the guard rail. The right side of the car was damaged. Though no one was injured, Mom was hysterical. The police showed up, a report was written, and our calmed-down mother continued to my brother’s lesson.

From then on we were inculcated with Mom’s conviction that her mishap was God’s punishment for violating the prohibition against driving on a Jewish high-holiday.

Drabble 152 .. October 9, 2019   (up to top)



A Longing, Unfulfilled

My therapist asked why I attend the Kol Nidre service on the evening of Yom Kippur. I said, “I dunno.” But, I do.

I want to be reverent, a believer. I want to tap onto fundamental truths. I want to feel moved.

In Israel, I have the same yearning when we trod through the Jaffa Gate, then along ancient passageways, to the Western Wall. I find a spot, stretch out my arms and lean my forehead against the warm limestone. I close my eyes, say the Shema, and breathe in the holiness.

Though my heart is open, I feel unchanged.

Drabble 153 .. October 9, 2019   (up to top)


Last updated October 9, 2019

Copyright © 2007-2019 Lloyd B. Abrams
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