Flash Fiction Contest: Write a Story about May Bea Later

Write a story about May Bea Later
The contest closes Monday November 15, 2010

May Bea Later
11"x14" oil and mixed media on masonite

Click on pictures to enlarge.
The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words.  Please post the story in the comment section, you will have to provide your name and an email address in order to be qualified to win or you can e-mail me at with your info.  There is a problem with how many characters can post (only about 4,000) so if you cannot post it.  E-mail it to me at

The contest closes Monday November 15, 2010.

Go to my website for more contests:

Winning flash fiction stories will be integrated in with an exhibit in San Francisco at ArtHaus Gallery (April 8th for the reception).

The show is called:
Renovated Reputations: Paintings and Fiction inspired by Vintage Portrait Photographs

The exhibit will include a series of 20-40 paintings and mixed media works ranging in size from 8”x10” to 18”x24” framed with thrift store and vintage frames.  In addition to the exhibited works ArtHaus is publishing catalogs signed by me and as many of the authors as possible.

Catalogs/books will consist of image of the painting with the text of the “flash story” surrounding the image.  If I can get the authors to come to a book signing/party, authors would sign their pages for some of the printed stuff.

We're going to have a photobooth for the show for participants
to play with and vintage costumes.

Of course I'll send the authors free copies of the catalogs. I will announce the winners the day after the closing deadline for the competition. I'm planning on doing one flash fiction competition a week every Monday from now until April. 

(If the conditions in the side bar are not to your liking, I'm totally flexible.  Send me a contract that you like and I will mail it back to you.  I just don't want to chase people for signatures when I publish the catalog!)

Go to my website for more contests:
This was sent in by e-mail:

Countdown to Zero by Jennifer Mills Kerr
            "May?  Are you in?"  Frau Hessen knocked at the back door again.
            May smiled through the window from her bedroom, peering down on Frau Hessen's finely etched part, a tiny slice of skin amidst her dark, lustrous hair.  The back door creaked open.  Frau Hessen's figure slid out of sight; she had come inside the house.  May shivered with pleasure as the woman's footsteps clicked along the kitchen linoleum that May's mother had mopped that morning.  It was 1920; the war had ended.  But her mother repeatedly scrubbed the house as if to set Germany right again. 
            May faced herself in the mirror.  She had just turned eighteen.  Her chestnut-colored hair was pulled back from her face, revealing her cheeks' peachy glimmer and blue eyes that glinted with resolution.  Now was the time.  She could feel it.  She ran her hands over her breasts slowly.  I'm beautiful, she whispered, a flush of heat filling her body.  Beautiful.            
            "May?"  Frau Hessen's voice resounded in the kitchen, more loudly now, more urgent.
            May began to count down from ten.  Her mother had always encouraged this in an attempt to instill patience in her restless, impulsive child, often called a tomboy, and occasionally, to her mother's mortification, "boyish".  She encouraged May to grow her hair, pluck her eyebrows, always wear stockings.  She instructed her on the benefits of long walks, regular hair brushing, the properly fitting bra.  All in the purpose of May finding a man so those in their acquaintence could never, would never, allude to her being like one.         
            Frau Hessen moved about the kitchen in small, ruffled movements, reminding May of a bird rustling its wings in a cage.  She had lost her husband in the war.  Not quite thirty, Frau Hessen wore snug wool skirts with heels and plum-colored lipstick which May imagined tasting like plum.  Now, her heels ticked along the floor like a bomb waiting to go off.  A drawer squeaked open—Frau Hessen was searching now—and she began to hum softly, just as May's pediatrician did while inspecting the private corners of her body. 
            May leaned on one foot so the floor creaked.  The sound was subtle, but distinct.           
            "May?  Is that you?"  Fright in Frau Hessen's voice—but excitement too.  For the first time, they were alone in the house.  Three months before, Frau Hessen had befriended May's mother at church, but she latched onto May, hunger in her dark eyes.  The war had taken so many men.  Like other widows, Frau Hessen went to church to quell the flame of anger and bereavement, and there, she had discovered May, the sweetness of her, the youth of her, the decency of her, a young woman who attended church, volunteered at the hospital, tutored the neighborhood children.  She began to knit May sweaters, one the color of sand, one sky blue to match May's eyes.  She brought her pies—blackberry, peach, green apple.  It seemed so innocent, May thought, all so innocent. 
            Then Frau Hessen's visits became more frequent, and longer.  She began to ask May if she had boyfriends, what body cream she used.  She even touched May's hair sometimes, commenting on its silkiness; how did May create such a shine?  Women could ask the most intimate questions without suspicion.    
            May leaned on her foot again; another creak from the floorboards.  Would Frau Hessen dare climb the stairs?  Would she come into May's bedroom?        Ten, nine, eight… May began to count as Frau Hessen's legs whispered as she approached the stairs.  May felt a heat glowing inside of her.  Still, she waited, pressing up against the discomfort until she completed the countdown
            …three, two, one.  Ready.  She left the shelter of her bedroom and found Frau Hessen, at the bottom of the stairs, pale face upturned.  Her hand lay on the bannister, her high heel was poised on the first stair.
            "That is you," she said, fingering the buttons on her dress. 
            May didn't move.
            Frau Hessen said,  "I brought you a pie."
            "Thank you, Frau Hessen."
            "You're not wearing any shoes," she said.  "My dear, it's cold."
Her eyes lingered along May's bare feet and calves.   
            "My mother won't be returning for a few hours," May said.  She lay a moist palm against her thigh.  Slowly, she drew her hand upward, lifting her skirt slightly.  "We're all alone."
            Frau Hessen's gaze drifted to May's face.  Her lips parted.  "Young lady, I—"  she stopped, swallowed.
            "I'm eighteen," May said.  "Not that much younger than you."
            "That's true," Frau Hessen phrased it like a question.
            "I have the same desires,"  May said.  Her body pulsed in a warm, delicious heat.  Would Frau Hessen climb the stairs?  The woman's eyes travelled along May's skirt, tucked about her thighs in a firm embrace.  May began counting.  Ten, nine, eight… What was Frau Hessen waiting for?  May had seen the hunger in her eyes dozens of times, her need to believe there was good in the world, and that desire for one sweet, convincing taste.  Four, three, two… Now was the opportunity for Frau Hessen to have it.  If she would dare. 
            Then May saw the squint about Frau Hessen's eyes, the flash of hate. 
            "You're disgusting," she whispered, twisting away, rushing from the stairs.  May heard the indelicate clap of her high heels against the clean, shiny linoleum, tended by her mother's hands.  The door slammed.  May's heart swelled with sadness—not for herself, but Frau Hessen.  Retreat was failure.  Every German knew that. 
Before you read this next story you have to know the following to get it!  This is from Wikipedia (I never thought I'd ever admit to using something from it!)
The Alderson drive, named after Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Dan Alderson, is a fictional device that enables instantaneous interstellar transportation. It is featured in the CoDominium series of science fictionnovels by Jerry Pournelle, including the Mote series by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Dan Alderson helped Pournelle work out the notional science behind the drive, and how it should work to be a useful plot device.

It Didn't Matter Anymore by Ron Slattery
It was a warm night. We stood outside the hanger doors. The clouds filled the sky with a dull glow.

He asked me the question again. "Do fortunes ever change on their own?". I looked into his unblinking eyes. Head turned slightly to the left, he seemed puzzled. He repeated the question. I knew the answer that he wanted to hear. It wasn't time.... yet.

I drew a breath and decided to burst his balloon. No easy gifts would come from me. I said one word "Always".

The muscles of his jaw grew tight. He seemed to grow larger. "Then what happened to our fortune" His voice was low.

"It changed" I said grimly. I held out my hand. The tube from the Alderson Drive.

As if on cue, the clouds parted and the moon shone like gold our faces. He reached for the tube. I let it fall. It shattered on the tarmac. There would be no return trip. Not this year.

He spat on the ground and walked toward the security building. He'd be back with others.

I looked up at the moon in a dream. I could hear her voice from the other side. It didn't matter anymore. 

By the way, Ron runs the most awesome blog in the world called 
Big Happy Fun House.  

A flash fiction piece based on a bunch of the characters in the paintings

This story was e-mailed to me, but, the story is not directed to one particular contest I've posted.  It's got a kind of "Wizard of Oz" kind of feeling or a little like the novel "A Brief History of the Dead."  I hope you like it as much as I do.  Even though this hasn't won any of the competitions (I'm not sure which one to apply it towards) I'm sending Ms. Millmore a drawing for writing this.

The Welcome Home by Margaret Millmore

I drove slowly through the old neighborhood admiring the well tended bungalows and cottages that make up Elysium Park.  It was the first day of summer; the skeletal tree branches of winter were now a luscious canopy of green. A gentle breeze whispered through the leaves allowing sunshine through in fits and starts. Flowers filled every yard and in many cases overflowed from window boxes. I pulled the car over, deciding to stroll awhile, inhaling the aromas of a successful spring growth.  The comforting fragrances reminded me of years past, why did I ever leave I wondered.

The sound of music, laughter, and people talking floated through the air and I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.  I turned the corner and stopped abruptly, I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was a sight so wonderful I could only gape.  The sidewalks were lined with tables covered with checkered cloths and loaded to the point of collapse with cakes, cookies, punch bowls and all sorts of other delightful treats. Lawn chairs and beach chairs were scattered throughout front yards and along the street, my neighbors all preparing for the stick ball game, kids against adults, the kids always won. Dogs sniffed at the BBQs laden with hamburgers, hotdogs and tinfoil wrapped corn on the cob.  The annual neighborhood block party was in full swing and all my old friends and neighbors were there. As I inhaled deeply the most delicious memories and smells filled my head and my eyes filled with tears, oh how I missed them all so much.

A boy was quickly approaching, a baseball glove in one hand, the other hand waving spastically. He was smiling and calling my name and I recognized him immediately.  It was little Edgar, his chestnut hair was still cut a little thick on top, but today it was neatly parted on the left and pasted down with gel. His Alfred E. Neuman smile and too large ears were the same as always and I could swear the boy hadn’t changed a bit.  He stopped in front of me, a little breathless and said “why Mr. Jones, I can’t believe it’s you, thought we’d never see you again, come on” he smiled as he grabbed my hand and dragged me towards the party.

As Edgar pulled me through the crowd I smiled and waved at people I knew, there was Owen D. Bank standing next to Tara Tory and I wondered if they’d gotten together, or was Owen still too shy to ask her out?

Tara Tory

Melba and Burt Toast

Melba and Burt Toast were ladling out glasses of homemade lemonade and Pat O. Butter was puckering her lips as she sipped the deliciously tart juice. Edgar didn’t let me linger though and I soon saw why, standing at a BBQ wearing a ‘kiss the chef’ apron was my closest friend when I lived in Elysium Park.
Bob Frapples

Bob Frapples stood motionless, the spatula suspended in his hand as he stared at me, a slow gentle smile filling his face. He laid the utensil down and came towards me, arms open to embrace me. We were like long lost brothers and more tears of joy fill my eyes as I returned the brotherly embrace. When we separated he said “well now Jonesy, it’s certainly a pleasure to see you again.” I had no response, how long had it been, I didn’t know, but one thing I did know, Bob hadn’t changed a bit either. He still had that youthful tan, his face free of wrinkles or worry lines, and not a speck of gray touched his perfectly coiffed brown hair.

After catching up with Bob, I headed over to the sidewalk to say hello to my old friends Hans Zoff and Bea Ware. They were seated snuggly on an iron garden bench, Hans wearing his signature brown velvet fedora, Bea with her head resting lightly on Hans’ shoulder.
Hans Zoff and Bea Ware

Hans smiled as I approached, his was a smile that started at his lips and crept up his face until it radiated from his eyes, it was infectious and I happily reciprocated. Bea smiled too, the glow of a woman still deeply in love lighting up her face. We talked, reminisced and after a bit I moved on to say hello to others.

Hope Ferterbest

I ran into Lucy N. DeSky, who was chatting with Hope Feterbest and May Bea Later.

May Bea Later

Then there was Betty Million who was complaining about something to Hammond Cheese and so many others whose names escape me but I smiled and said hello and was glad to see them all.
Betty Million

Hammond Cheese

I left as the sun was beginning its slow decent, feeling happy and fulfilled for the first time in a long time. The goodbyes were sad but sweet and we all promised we’d see each other again soon. It was a long drive back to the city where I lived, but the sweet memories of the afternoon and smiling faces made the time fly by.
When I woke the next morning, I could still feel the warmth and happiness of the previous day, and I didn’t want it to end. I dug through my closet until I found an old photo album, the one from my days living in Elysium Park. Once I had it I sat on the bed and slowly turned the pages, smiling at each new picture, they all looked the same, no one had changed a bit.

On the last page I found a yellowed newspaper clipping from the Elysium Park Gazette, it was dated June 21, 1966. Small individual pictures of my friends and neighbors covered the first few rows, and the headline read ‘All but one perishes in neighborhood fire’. I looked down at my wasted, cancer ridden body, was it a dream or were they welcoming me home? I closed my eyes and took my last shallow breath; happily embracing what I knew would come next.


My Use and Abuse of Photo Reference

People always ask me if I work from photos.  I sure do.  I've actually had to develop my skills as a photographer but it also helps to look at the pictures in Photoshop on the computer screen.  Here's my painting called "It is What it Is" oil on canvas 36"x48"
Here are some of the reference photos I used.

Similar blog posts about technique and the use and misuse of art history:

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"Morry's Memento" story by Brian Newlin painting by Kenney Mencher

"Morry's Memento" written by Brian Newlin painted by Kenney Mencher

"Could you come in here for a moment, Stephenson"?
"Of course, Mr. Abbot. I'll be right there.", I replied. Rising up from my chair, I wondered why Mr. Abbot wanted to see me this time. The man had always made me nervous, especially after his last visit to my workstation just days before. "A cluttered desk reflects a cluttered mind. And cluttered minds are not what we need here at United Conglomerated Industries.", he had snapped, staring at me with his steely blue eyes.

"Yes, sir. No, sir." I had replied, quickly removing the framed photograph of Lillian and the "World's Greatest Dad" coffee cup from the desktop.  "You're a jerk, sir.", that's what I wished I had said. But I hadn't.
"Please shut the door behind you.", said Mr. Abbot. As usual, his hair was impeccably combed to the side, and his monogrammed handkerchief was folded with military precision to a sharp square. Mr. Abbot had moved into his own office after being with the company for only 2 years, swiftly rising up the ranks to a Regional Manager position. I still remember the day he took over Bud's job, and how quickly he had cleared out every stick of furniture aside from the desk and chair and painted the walls hospital white. I been summoned into this stark office dozens of times over the past year, and was mildly shocked to see something new: an unidentified man sitting in one of the two folding chairs that had been set up in the room.
"Thank you for joining us." The older man motioned to the chair next to his. As I sat, he leaned forward and I caught a whiff of Aqua Velva and stale cigarettes.
"I, ahem, you're welcome. What can I do for you?", I stammered. My mind raced. Had Mr. Abbot found an error in my last inventory report? Was this visitor from the Head Office, here to fire me? Despite no wrongdoing that I could think of, the penetrating gaze of these two men already had me feeling guilty.
"We're hoping that perhaps you have some insight on this.", Mr. Abbot replied, standing and sliding a piece of paper across his desk towards the stranger.
The man plucked the page from the desktop and held it up to me.
I squinted to make out the light blue symbol drawn neatly in the center of the otherwise blank sheet of typewriter paper. "Ahhhh...what is this? Some sort of game show quiz? What's going on here?"
"Let me explain, Stephenson. As you recall, Morry Greenberg was found dead in his office last week. Heart attack. Terrible shame, a great loss to United Conglomerated Industries.", Mr. Abbot responded.
I nodded my head. "Yes, I know. He was a nice guy. We bowled on the same league for years. You... you don't think I had something to do with his death, do you?"
"No, Stephenson. Don't be absurd. Morry was a dedicated worker, pushed himself hard. Maybe a little too hard, for a man his age. He was just about to unveil a breakthrough new product for the company, but his research was incomplete. When the cleaning staff found him on Tuesday morning, they found this on his desk."
"I still don't know what this has to with me, sir....", I shrugged.
Mr. Abott continued. "It seems as though he was trying to leave a final message for us, and it might be the only clue we have to deciphering his research notes. Now, take a close look at this symbol and tell us what you think it means."
The older man impatiently tapped the paper with his finger.
"Well, obviously it's the symbol for ohm, the unit of measurement for electrical resistance.", I said. "It's also the symbol for the Greek letter omega. One ohm represents the resistance in a circuit when one volt maintains a current of one amp..."
Mr. Abbot slammed his fist down on the desk. "Dammit, Stephenson! That makes no sense! We're a snack cake company, for God's sake!"
"I'm sorry, sir, but I don't know what else to tell you. Morry never spoke to me about his research, and without the rest of his notes as context, I can only guess...", I blurted.
"Enough. Get out, Stephenson. As usual, you're no help at all.", Mr. Abott snapped.
"Sorry, sir. If I think of anything.." I started, then realized that the two men had already forgotten me.
"Perhaps he came up with some sort of electrically charged cookie.. the 'Zapper'!...or maybe cupcakes that make your tongue tingle... ", whispered Mr. Abbot to the older man, who simply sat in his chair nodding.
I closed the door behind me and walked slowly back to my cubicle, pausing for a moment outside Morry's vacant office, wondering what it all meant. None of it made sense, and I realized that I didn't want to end up like Morry: alone and overworked, found dead at my desk. As I turned away, I glanced back to look at Morry's office one final time. The room behind the frosted glass door was dark and silent, but I was comforted by the familiar sight of Morry's cute young secretary still stationed behind her desk, reading a magazine and endlessly brushing her perfectly bobbed red hair.


Themes in Art; Sequential Art

When I was a kid the artists I most wanted to be like were illustrators and comic book artists.  I would spend hours poring over and copying illustrated books of “Treasure Island,”by N.C. Wyeth “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe,” and of course “Spider Man,” “Batman,” “Strange Tales” and horror genre comic books.  I love both the stories and the drawings.  As a twelve year old I designed my own comic book characters (Catman) and borrowed from the library all the books they had on comic art.  These guys were so good and I was so unable to draw what I had in my mind that by high school I had convinced myself that I did not have enough talent to draw figures well enough to make a good comic book or even a passable illustrator.  I actually was an Art History major in college and in went for an MFA in so called “fine art” as one of my graduate degrees.  Now at the age of forty-five I’m a “fine artist” who is still trying to make my own comic book, my latest series of paintings called “Sequential Narratives.” are my own monumental comic book pages.  This time however, I need you, the audience’s help to tell my story.

The stories in paintings are left deliberately ambiguous or open ended enough that the viewer has to have a stake in interpreting the story and adding meaning to it.  Even though the paintings are painted realistically with a lot specific details, in a definite narrative sequence, I invite the viewer to interpret or negotiate their own story or meaning for the painting or series of paintings(s) as in “The Party.”  You may know exactly who those people are and what they are talking about, but, you may want to check with your friend to make sure you agree.  You may not though.  

More on sequential art later.
To see more of my sequential paintings please visit:

Similar blog posts about technique and the use and misuse of art history:



Flash Fiction Contest: Win this drawing of Bob Frapples

Write a story about Bob Frapples and Win the Drawing on the Right  
The contest closed Wednesday November 10, 2010

The winner is Jamie Divina Erickson for her story Bob Frapples and the Apple Incident.

Bob Frapples 
11"x14" oil and mixed media on masonite
(found letter, yoyo, ephemera, and drawing)
Click on pictures to enlarge.
The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words.  Please post the story in the comment section, you will have to provide your name and an email address in order to be qualified to win or you can e-mail me at with your info.

There is a problem with how many characters can post (only about 4,000) so if you cannot post it.  E-mail it to me at

Go to my website for more contests:

Winning flash fiction stories will be integrated in with an exhibit in San Francisco at ArtHaus Gallery (April 8th for the reception). 

The show is called: Renovated Reputations: Paintings and Fiction inspired by Vintage Portrait Photographs

The exhibit will include a series of 20-40 paintings and mixed media works ranging in size from 8”x10” to 18”x24” framed with thrift store and vintage frames.  In addition to the exhibited works ArtHaus is publishing catalogs signed by me and as many of the authors as possible.  Catalogs/books will consist of image of the painting with the text of the “flash story” surrounding the image.  If I can get the authors to come to a book signing/party, authors would sign their pages for some of the printed stuff.

We're going to have a photobooth for the show for participants to play with and vintage costumes. 

Of course I'll send the authors free copies of the catalogs.

I will announce the winners the day after the closing deadline for the competition. I'm planning on doing one flash fiction competition a week every Monday from now until April.  You can preview the works I have so far completed here:

(If the conditions in the side bar are not to your liking, I'm totally flexible.  Send me a contract that you like and I will mail it back to you.  I just don't want to chase people for signatures when I publish the catalog!)  
A story sent in by e-mail

by pheyos

Sam paused at the typewriter. He could start with the bad news first. Get it out of the way. Maybe he should work up to it. Better for the family.
No, the boss was a born Pinkerton. Sam decided to run down the timeline and give facts as he had learned them.
The mother had come in pieces held together by makeup a week ago. She had seen the police, but had only given them a day before coming to the San Francisco office. The boss had listened sympathetically and learned the following: Robert von Appel, age 12, disappeared after school. He was a clean-cut kid and never got into trouble. The mother lived practically alone with him and his two younger sisters. The father was away most of the time, on business. She had no idea where Robert could have gone.
The boss assured her agents would handle the task. Sam was fresh off his last case and had been assigned immediately. He borrowed the office car and drove the mother back to her home in Palo Alto. Along the way he ran over the basic facts again. At the house he asked to look through Robert's room. The mother reluctantly agreed.
The boy's room was normal for a 12 year old. He was a Phillies baseball fan, with memorabilia about the room. On the nightstand was a stack of Goudey baseball cards: Phil Collins, Jim Elliot, Eddie Farrell, Joe Sewell, Sam Byrd, Lou Gehrig. He kept no journal, and had nothing hidden away.
There was a stack of schoolbooks on the desk, but no book bag. Sam flipped through the books, and found two folded pieces of paper inside the math book cover.
The first was a letter, written in a childish hand and with skull faces on it. It was a Love/Hate letter, with instructions to leave the letter at a play structure with the answer facing out. The second piece of paper was a sketch of a man, roughly 40 years old, mustached, with a hard look on him. There wasn't a name written or anything to indicate who the man was.
Sam pocketed the papers and went back to the mother. He inquired about Robert's school, and if she knew a few of the names of his friends.
Robert attended Addison School, which Sam visited the next morning. He spoke to the principal first, then Robert's teacher. They were dead ends, with only good things to say about Robert. Sam inquired about close friends and was told to speak to Duncan.
Duncan Donnett was a pudgy kid with a sour attitude. He didn't care who Sam was, but once Sam mentioned Robert was missing he gave up the dirt.
Sam showed him the Love/Hate letter.
“Know anything about this? Robert not get along with anyone?”
Duncan looked at him. “You kidding? Everyone calls him Bob Frapples and he just smiles like it ain't nothing.”
Duncan looked at the letter again. “Probably from Chris Eyed. She likes him but he don't pay any attention.”
Sam produced the sketch from his pocket.
“I'll be damned, he actually did it.”
“Did what?”
“Go to find his father.”
“What do you mean?”
“That jackass left the family when Bob was 6 or something. Said he was gonna go to find him. Said he even found his address. Bob sketched this from a picture he saw in the newspaper. I bet that's where Bob is now.”
Sam gave Duncan a quarter and went straight to Robert's house. The mom was shy at first, then indignant, when he started questioning her about her husband. She said the father had a mistress when the family lived in Pennsylvania and that she had left him and didn't know where the bum was. Then she threw Sam out.
Back at the office Sam sent a telegram to the Philadelphia office asking them to track Robert's father. The kid was slick, Sam mused, to find his father from across the United States. How long had he known? He must have dwelled on the knowledge for some time. There must be something in his room that—Sam smiled when he figured it out.
Sam wired the New York office, asked them to track Robert's father and to contact the police about a young kid alone and loose within the city. He caught a Union Pacific Overland to Chicago via Omaha, then a Pennsylvania Limited to New York.
When he arrived bad news awaited him. The operative who met him said they tracked Robert to his last dwelling, a hostel, but that he had disappeared. They did manage to find Robert's father, Carmel, a prominent businessman in the city.
“Can't miss him,” said the op. “Picture of his new tower ran in every paper nationwide.”
The op took him to the tower. It was Saturday, but the op said Carmel was working in the office. No one stopped Sam as he took the lift up.
He entered the office without knocking. Carmel was sitting at the desk, reading papers.
“Who the devil are you? Leave this instant!”
Sam flashed his buzzer.
“I'm a detective. Your son Robert is missing. I believe he's here in New York.”
“No, he isn't. Now leave.”
“You haven't seen him?”
“Then what's with his yoyo on your desk?”
Carmel bought it, his eyes tracking to the orange yoyo.
“How did you know he came to New York?”
“He collected baseball cards, but only the Phillies and Yankees. If he wanted to come to here, he'd start learning everything he could.”
Carmel grinned. “Okay, so the runt was here. I sent him packing.”
Wrong answer.
Sam paused at the typewriter on the von Appel secretary's desk. He nudged the handcuffed and hogtied Carmel at his feet.
“Okay, Frapples. How should I explain you sent your son on a train to Palo Alto, Pennsylvania?”

Here's a story sent to me via e-mail

Moving On by Heather Ryan

Bobby Frapples stared at his math notebook, doodling a skull and crossbones with his teacher’s face.  The teacher was droning about something, but he had lost Bobby fifteen minutes ago, and as he showed no signs of slowing his demanding pace, Bobby gave up on trying to follow along.  He would ask his younger sister Karen to show him later.  He could always count on her for expert math tutoring; she had taken this class last year.
A sketch of his father stared up at him from inside his notebook.  Normally, Bobby loved to look at this sketch, as it was one of the last pieces his mother had drawn before she had gotten sick.  Now, he just wrinkled his nose at his father’s dark, serious eyes.  He had barely crossed paths with his father in weeks, since Bobby’s school afternoons were spent working at the toy shop.  Every payday, Bobby brought home a yo-yo to his youngest sister Patty.  She loved yo-yos and wanted to collect one in every color of the rainbow.  Bobby did have most of his Saturdays and Sundays free, which used to be spent with his family.  He was one of those rare teenagers with a really fun family that he didn’t even feel embarrassed to be seen with … at least not in the old days.  Now, ever since Shirley came along, Bobby’s father wasn’t around much on the weekends.  The neighbors whispered about this new girlfriend, saying words like “mistress” even though Bobby’s mother had passed three years earlier.  The older two liked independence, but Bobby could tell nine-year-old Patty was hurting.  He and Karen kept Patty safe and entertained, but they were no mother and father.  It made Bobby sad to think that Patty barely remembered their mother.  She had been so creative, so vibrant and full of life.  Then, seemingly overnight, she just faded away …
Who did this Shirley think she was?  She couldn’t just walk into a family and steal away the father!  Bobby was going to get rid of her.  As his math teacher finished the lesson, Bobby was miles away hatching a plan …
That Friday, Shirley checked her mailbox to find the usual assortment of bills and junk, until she came across a strange handwritten envelope with no stamp.  The envelope was covered in distinctly male chicken-scratch handwriting.  On the back was a drawing Shirley couldn’t identify until she saw the words “I love to walk the plank!” and, with a giggle, recognized it as a pirate drawing.  The front of the envelope seemed to contain some kind of scavenger hunt instructions leading her to nearby Addison School.  Curiosity finally got the best of Shirley and she opened the envelope to find a note that read “You should be in the movies.  Move to Hollywood immediately and call me when you get here at 310-555-3785.  You’ll find a map and some travelling money at the location specified on the envelope. Yours sincerely, Joe Tinselton, Director.”
Shirley felt a pang in her heart as she realized who the note must really be from.  She kept telling Robert this would happen!  Maybe now he would finally listen.  This was going to require a woman’s delicate touch, Shirley thought, reaching for the telephone.
Luckily, Robert was agreeable to her plan and Shirley quickly set out for Addison school.  Sure enough, at the designated spot, there was another envelope (this one at least lacking pirate doodles).  Shirley sat on a bench and tore open the envelope to find a map of Los Angeles and twenty-five dollars cash.  Suppressing a little smile, she glanced around her, then up into the tree branches above.  Was that an orange yo-yo she saw through the leaves?  It must be payday.
“Bobby?” Shirley called.  The tree leaves rustled, then were still.  “Bobby, it will be much easier to talk to you if I can see your face,” she implored.  No response.  “Okay, then.  Bobby, your father and I are so sorry for these past few weeks.  We’ve been acting totally irresponsible, and that is not fair to you and Karen and Patty.  You should know that your father loves you three so much; you are his entire world.  He wanted to keep me away because he was afraid you would think he was trying to replace your mother.  It sounds like your mother was a truly amazing person.  You were so lucky to have had her, and I wish I could have known her too.  I think we might have been great friends.  I will never, ever aspire to take your mother’s place, but I care about your father very much.  I’d like to get to know all four of you and see if we all have room in our hearts to make space for each other in our lives.  What do you think?”
There was silence and stillness from above for a few moments, but finally Bobby’s head emerged from the leaves.  He wrinkled his brow and stared at Shirley for a minute, then nodded very slowly.  Shirley held out Bobby’s money as a peace offering, and he jumped down from the tree, brushing leaves out of his hair.
At that moment, Robert Frapples appeared on the other side of the playground with Karen and Patty in tow.  His face lit up when he saw Shirley and Bobby looking reasonably friendly with each other.  “My four favorite people in the world, all in one place!” he exclaimed.  “Why don’t we all go to that burger place around the corner?”
The mention of burgers received an enthusiastic response from three of those four favorite people.
Robert went on: “Let us not forget your beautiful mother, may she rest in peace, for bringing three of these amazing people to me.  I could not be a luckier man.”
All five bowed their heads in a brief moment of appreciation and remembrance, then turned toward the faint scent of French fries that reached the playground.
Another story sent by e-mail:

by Dee Turbon

He don’t mind boys takin what’s lyin in the grass, them as has fallen early, fallen before they’s been picked. He don’t mind boys takin them windfall apples. He says so every year, old man Tucker, sittin on his porch and a shotgun laid across his knees and his cur curled at his feet.

‘Jes don’t be takin them as is still on the tree.’

He says them apples belongs to him, the pick of ‘em does. His trees, his apples, he says, and the fruits of his labours is what he says them apples is. Only Bob don’t see it that way. It’s the tree what’s done the labourin. All old man Tucker’s been and done is sittin in the sun watchin the apples ripen, and sometimes not watchin cos he’s sleepin. Ain’t no labourin in that, Bob says, and I sees his point. Bob figures that sittin in the sun’s the opposite of labourin.

So it’s Bob’s idea for us to raid old man Tucker’s apple trees, one day when his back is turned. He plans the whole thing. Plans it like we was robbin a bank or a store, all whisper and lookin over his shoulder like he might be heard. And he’s a map of old man Tucker’s yard, and he pushes the table to one side and spreads that map out on his kitchen floor. It’s a map he drawed hisself and it’s a good drawin. I’m impressed. ‘Sgot all the apple trees and red dot-apples on the green, and you can see old man Tucker’s porch and the curl of his cur, and the chair with old man Tucker asleep in it, his head tilted back and his eyes closed but his mouth open. Bob’s even drawed a silver-spittle thread trailin from the old man’s mouth and I seen it just like that once.
Bob tells us what’s what and what will be. He’s got it all worked out, the times and the positions. And I says I don’t like it none. Bob thinks I mean the drawin, which I don’t cos as I says it was something good. I don’t like the dog, I says. I don’t like nothing to do with dogs. They’s all teeth and growl and bite. And old man Tucker’s cur is no different.

And I sees Bob smilin then, like he’s got somethin up his sleeve, which it turns out he has. He’s been doin some experimentin with meat and sleepin powders. He shows us a small glass phial and he shakes it so we sees the powder inside. Somethin he stole from his granpa’s veterinary, and he speaks in smaller whispers then, cos he lives with his granpa now, see. Three years he’s lived with him on account of his ma bein in the ground since the day he was born and his pa bein away jes for now. And Bob tells us how old man Tucker’s dog will be sleepin like a baby – only I still ain’t so sure, cos I heard babies crying fit to burst and I knows they’s usually awake when theys should be sleepin.

Then Bob asks if I’s chicken or somethin, and I ain’t chicken, no ways. So I agrees to go along with his plan. And we does it, jes like Bob said. Old man Tucker’s cur gets a free meal, meat that Bob stole from his granpa’s fridge and it’s been stuffed full of his granpa’s sleepin powder. Enough to fell a horse, Bob says, and some. And Sure as eggs is eggs, old man Tucker’s cur is felled and it’s sleepin like no baby ever slept before. You could fart in its face and it wouldn’t do no more’n sniff in its dreams.

And old man Tucker, well he’s sleepin too, jes like in Bob’s drawin, and I reckon Bob’s put some powder in something the old man’s been drinkin. The light is goin down and we sneaks about, hunched like the sky is pressin heavy on us from above, and we picks all the apples we can reach from old man Tucker’s trees. Strippen ‘em bare as near as. Bob’s got old sacks, the smell of dead leaves on ‘em, and we fills those sacks so they’s hard to carry. And we gets a bit silly then. Laughin and singin, you know. And that’s our undoin, see. Cos old man Tucker wakes then and he yells into the dark where we is and he kicks his no-good cur and he cocks his gun. Only he don’t fire, cos there ain’t nothing in the barrel. Jes an empty gun is all. And we’s only laughin all the harder. And that’s our greater undoin.

‘I knows you Bob Frapples,’ hollers old man Tucker. ‘I knows you anywheres, even in the dark, jes like your pa. And you’ll get what’s comin to you, boy, I’ll see you do. You’ll get jes what your pa’s got. Cos there’s a wall someplace with your name scratched above a metal-frame bed, and that bed in a prison cell dark as shoe-black, and it’s jes waitin.’

And then we aint laughin no more and I says we should take the sacks of apples and leave ‘em on the old man’s porch. And Bob spits into the grass and says he ain’t afeard of old man Tucker’s threats.

‘The apple don’t fall far from the tree, Bob Frapples, and I knows it’s you out there.’

And I still thinks we should take back them apples. And I says as such. Only Bob says we all got alibis, see, and he tells us what they is. Only again I ain’t so sure, cos his pa had an alibi too and it din’t do him no good, but I don’t say that, not to Bob. And we hides the sacks of apples in the dark under his granpa’s house, and we waits for old man Tucker to come callin.

Here's another story submitted by e-mail

Bobby Frappe by James Thibeault

I can’t make a frappe, but I wish I could. Mr. Thompson won’t let me use the machine on account of me breaking the old one. On top of that, he makes me work the late shift at the diner. It’s nothing but truckers and raccoons. Usually, it don’t mind cleaning white countertops when I’m all alone—except when Big Wilkins, with his red beard and plaid shirt, slumps down and almost bends the stool.
“Hey Bobby! Bobby Frappe!”
“It’s Frapples, Mr. Wilkins.”
“You come down here and shut your mouth.”
He slams a couple dimes on the counter. Big Wilkins only stops here about every three weeks. Because of all the diners he’s stopped at from here to Tennessee, he never remembers what we charge.
“You go on and get me a burger and two shots of bourbon.”
We’re not suppose to serve alcohol at this hour—especially to the truckers, but Mr. Thompson tells me if they can drive till six in the morning, then they can handle a little bit of liquor.
“I reckon there’s gonna be some left over change, so you go on make yourself a burger. I worry about you, Bobby Frappe. You skinny and you never get a woman if you look like one.”
Mr. Wilkins laughs to himself and takes a swig from a flask while I throw two patties on the skillet. I know the joke’s coming, so I pour him the two shots and turn around. I try focusing my heart on the skillet—hoping to God watching two burgers sizzle’s going to make Mr. Wilkins not say it. But as the grease spreads along the metal…
“Hey Bobby! Bobby! You go on a make me a frappe too.”
The grease keeps spreading until the meat’s practically swimming in it.
“Hey Bobby,” he grins while bit of liquor trickles down his beard. “Why aren’t you making a frappe for me?”
“You know why, Mr. Wilkins.”
“Shoot boy, I’ve been all over these states and I always forget. How come you can’t make me a frappe, Bobby Frappe?”
I flip the burgers and watch as their other sides soak.
“Little Bobby, why aren’t you making me no frappe, Bobby Frappe?”
“Mr. Wilk—“
“Make a frappe damnit!”
He throws a shot glass at the Coca-Cola clock.
“I can’t make them!”
Mr. Wilkins laughs like he’s some wicked St. Nick and drums the counter with his hands.
“Boy! Bobby Frappe can’t make no frappe. That sure is something.”   
He would have laughed until dawn came up, but the diner door creaks open and a black man strolls in. The man sits down on the other side of the bar.  
“Bobby,” Big Wilkins whispers, “Is that there a Negro?”
 “I think so, Mr. Wilkins.”
“You let them into this diner?”
We didn’t get any blacks around this part, but if we did I’m sure Mr. Thompson would let them eat. He’d probably he put them near the corner though.
“Hey!” Mr. Wilkins shouts like he was a football field away. “What you want here?”
“Just waiting for the boy,” the black man says.
“He ain’t no boy. You the boy.”
“Let him come down here please.”
“He’ll come when he wants to come. Ain’t that right, Bobby Frappe?”
I put the burgers on a plate and approach. The way Big Wilkins shouted at him, I thought the black man might bite me.  
“What would you like?”
“He would like to get out ‘cause he scared. Scared of the white man.”
Mr. Wilkins laughs and steals the bottle of bourbon from under the counter.
“Would you mind making a frappe for my daughter?” the black man says, “She’s in the car and won’t fall asleep. I told her since she’s been really good on this drive, I would get her a frappe.”
“Better take a step back, Bobby. That boy there’s gonna kill you and take your money.”
“I just want a frappe for my daughter.”
“Where’s your daughter then, Mr. Negro?”
“In the car.”
“Why didn’t you bring her in here?”
“Why do you think?” the black man shouts.
Big Wilkins didn’t like that much. He stands from the bar, relieving the metal stool, and advances toward him with the bottle in hand.
“Bobby, I’m gonna tell you something good. You don’t serve this thing nothing cause he’s a Negro and that’s all you need to know.”
“Bobby,” the black man whispered, almost pleading “It’s for my daughter, we’ve been driving all night and I just want to make her happy.”
“I’m sorry,” I say to him. “I can’t make frappes.”
I was sure he was going to make a fuss, but the black man stands and heads to the door.
He turns around, “Maybe there’s another diner,” and simply walks out.
Big Wilkins wobbles out the door too.  I look out the window and see the black man’s Ford back up while Wilkins slams on his hood. Wilkins shouts, but with the diner door closed it’s only drunken grunts. I look at the passenger side and see his daughter in pigtails. She had closed her eyes and cuffed her hands over her ears. As they drive off, Big Wilkins throws whatever he can at the car: empty coke bottles, papers, dirt. Wilkins comes back into the diner but still shouts to the car in the distance
“You stay in the dark where you belong. You never come back here ‘cause me and Bobby be waiting for you. Bobby ain’t never gonna give you a frappe!”
 Big Wilkins slams the door and smiles.
“Bobby Frappe, you a man now. You don’t let anybody tell you what to do, especially that there Negro. We’re drinking this here bourbon and eating them burgers.”
I’ve never seen Big Wilkins so happy. He would never mention again the fact I can’t make frappes, but I wish I could. I still wish I could make them.

This story was submitted by e-mail

Commencement  by Matt O' Malley

My mother was an alcoholic. It’s what eventually killed her. She would drink all day long and into the night. But she wasn’t always that way. I don’t remember her ever drinking when I was first growing up. And I guess, I guess that’s why I’m back here to see you again, seeking professional help as they say. I don’t drink now, well, not heavily, but because of my current divorce situation, I’m scared that maybe I’ll slip into alcoholism like her. 
It’s like this. I remember my mother as being a very, hmmm, how can I say this, a very meticulous woman. She kept her home spotless, immaculate. The dishes were always clean, clothes ironed, floors swept. Every month the whole house would be washed, ceiling to floor, baseboards to chandeliers and by the time she was done, a month had passed and it was time to start all over again. She knew where everything was in the house for everything had its place. I think that’s why she never really liked me: too messy for her. And I admit, I wasn’t like a lamp, you know. I wouldn’t stay in the place I was put. Like any kid, I wanted to run around, have fun.  

My father, as I remember him, had been the opposite. He would shed articles of clothing as he walked around the house after work: a hat in the kitchen, shoes in the hallway, jacket over the living room chair. He would empty his pockets onto any table that was closest to him at the time, which often led to him running around in the morning like a madman as he searched for his keys and wallet. He was an artist, a freethinker: he’s the one who painted this picture of me that I brought today.

And he was so much fun. He was always smiling and willing to play games with me that my mother refused to play, like hide and seek. My mother absolutely refused to play it, yet he would. And when I think of it, it really was so childish of him to play. I mean really. I can see my mother’s point. A grown man walking around the house wondering out loud on where I was hiding when I was always in a place that barely concealed me: behind the pillows of the sofa. But he always played that game the same way, acting as if it was a miracle that he found me at all. He would pull me out from my hiding place and tickle me and throw me into the air.  I remember he always said how much he had worried and missed me while he had searched the house.

But that’s about the extent of my memory of my father. My parents divorced when I was a child and my father disappeared, to my knowledge, without a word to either me or my mom.  This drawing I made is how I remember of him. Maybe I put too much of myself into it, the eyes, but who knows. Guess I got some of his talent.

Anyway I guess what brought me here to see you, what triggered me to think I should see a psychiatrist for a possible alcohol problem is that I just now have gotten to emptying an old wooden chest I found in my mother’s attic. Basically I knew where everything was in the house so naturally I had assumed I had found everything there was to set out for the upcoming estate sale. But I had completely forgotten about the attic ‘cause I never been there. In my whole life, I had been everywhere in that house except the attic.

So it was dark and dust was everywhere and when I flicked on the light switch, all I saw in that room was this old wooden chest and a rocking chair, and I immediately got this image in my mind of my mom rocking in that chair looking at the contents of that chest. It was so eerie. The image I had was sort of a cross between that movie the Sentinel and that painting of Whistler’s mother.

So I undo the leather straps on the chest, lift the lid, and inside is this painting and my yoyo and all these books, diaries, diaries my mom had kept and had written in for years since she was a child. And as I dig through the chest, I begin to read bits and pieces of her diaries and they tell of her dreams: wanting to meet Clark Gable, wishing she could sail on the Bay with Humphrey Bogart. There was a listing of chores and a recipe for a warm cider drink. And then I realize the diary on top is from the year my mom and dad got divorced.

So I open it up and out falls from between the pages of my mother’s diary, this letter. I had written it when I was a child and had given it to her to send out for me to my dad. And here it was, in the original envelope I had placed it in, unopened and never sent. And now it’s yellow. You can’t even tell the paper was this special egg shell white stationary I had purchased with my allowance at the time.

It’s funny. I can still remember placing that thirteen cent stamp upon it as if it were yesterday. I had spent nearly an hour getting that damn stamp in the right position, evenly spaced in the upper right corner, hoping at the time the postman would see the careful work I had done and would deliver it with all the expediency he could muster.

Anyway, I brought it here to read to you so you can tell me what you think. If you think I’m crazy for thinking I may become an alcoholic.

And maybe I should also say, I guess, I’ve been having bad thoughts of late.