Debbie Weiss, the winner of the Klaus Trofobia Flash Fiction Competition

Klaus Trofobia by Debbie Weiss

        “Klaus, honey, your supper is ready.  Come on downstairs.”  Klaus was in his room in front of his computer, his favorite spot. He was studying the local news clips from the surrounding area.  He had his big book of maps at his desk and was searching for local crime scenes. Klaus loved crime and intrigue.  He had a huge scanner radio similar to the ones the police used.  Klaus read up on the police lingo and soon was able to decipher the different codes.  “Honey, your stew is getting cold.”  Shouted his mother from downstairs.  “Yeah yeah.” Klaus muttered to himself.  “Not hungry.” He whispered.

        His mother did not understand him at all.  He was in his late thirties, he still lived at home, was a very shy and quiet young man.   He stayed in his room all the time until his mother forced him to get a job.  So he finally did and applied for the bagger job at the neighborhood “Buy All” market.  Klaus wore his navy blue slacks which his mother still ironed for him.  He felt comfortable in his brown scuffed loafers since he had to stand for his entire eight hour shift.  He wore a starched white collar shirt and a red and white striped apron.  The final touch, a name badge which he proudly wore.  That was his uniform during the day.  He was thought of as mild mannered Klaus. 

        On Friday nights, it was a different story.  He would turn into Mr. Kevin the Magnificent.  When he noticed the last light go off from his mother’s bedroom down the hall, he would begin.  He would crawl out of his second story bedroom window. He had a sturdy rope hanging from the tall oak tree outside the window.   He would reel in the rope with a fishing pole and shimmy down the wall with his feet like he was Spider Man, one of his favorite hero’s.  Klaus was infatuated with Superhero’s.  He had hung his favorite comic strip characters all over his wall. He wanted to be like the man in the fancy suit that got the bad guys and got the girls but he was so shy.  So instead he went to the “Wear It from me” thrift store and created his own costume.  He wore a one piece yellow jumpsuit which made him look like a cross between Elvis and Liberace.  He had on black rubber boots and a silver cape.  Not exactly like the suave man in the comic strip but he had gotten everything for $5.00.  To complete his ensemble, he bought a black face mask that resembled the Long Rangers and a tight white swim cap to cover up his full head of hair.  He would jump onto his old Schwin bike and head out to fight crime.

        One night while out on patrol, Klaus dressed as Mr. Kevin, wondered into the convenience store next to the gas station. He wanted some gum. A friend of his named Mitch worked there.  But Klaus’s costume was so convincing, not even his friend knew it was him.  As he entered the store, Klaus saw a young punk teenager holding a gun on Mitch.  Klaus tapped the teen on the shoulder and when the teen turned around to see who was tapping at him; Klaus immediately went into a full Karate stance.  The kid took one look at Klaus in his bright yellow uniform and said, “Hey buddy if you don’t get outta here, I’m going to kick your ass.”  Klaus stood as still as a statue, not even a flinch.
The teen started to laugh so hard that Mitch grabbed a bottle of booze and knocked the kid out.  White Mitch was calling the police; Klaus threw down a dollar and twenty nine cents for his spearmint gum and ran out the door.  Mitch had trouble explaining what happened when the police got there. “No really, the guy in the yellow jumpsuit.”  The police knew of some costumed stranger but had not ever seen him.  Klaus rescued cats from trees, dogs from abusive owners; he found a bracelet from a missing girl in some tall weeds one day while riding his bike and that led police to locating here.  Klaus knew he did good work.  But he was too frightened to let anyone know it was him.

      Klaus finally turned off his computer and headed down to dinner, to his cold stew.  His mother handed him an envelope. It was hand written on the outside with just the letter K in yellow.  Klaus opened the envelope as he slurped down the stew.  I know who you are and thank-you was all the note said.  Then Klaus noticed a drawing inside the envelope.  It was of him in his costume and mask.  It looked just like a comic strip drawing.  Klaus smiled as he finished his dinner.  He got up quickly.  “No dessert?” His mother asked.  “Not now.” Said Klaus, as he ran up the stairs to his room.  He got out a thump tack and placed the drawing next to the Mr. Travers comic strip.  The newest super hero, he smiled to himself.  It’s me.       
Although slightly anachronistic I think Debbie Weiss’ story is the winner mainly because he made me think of the Seinfeld joke, “That every man thinks that he could become a superhero, all he needs is the training.” I also like how the Weiss’s story seemed like a kinder gentler version of the film “Kick Ass.” 

Very close on Weiss’ heels were the other three stories.

“The Twilight Zone,” “Tales by Saki” and Roald Dahl’s “Tales of the Unexpected” all came to mind in Royce Ratterman’s “Street Level.”  I really liked how Ratterman gave a sense of San Francisco in a sort of alternate 1930’s world in which Chinese Americans spoke in an accent that I suspect never really happened.

Klaus Trofobia – Like Lichtenstein by Gigi DeVault had a cute art historical comic book reference that made me laugh. 

Anthony Galica’s story was a very “Twighlight Zone” homage with a bit of “Sybil” thrown in for good measure.
Read the all here:

More competitions here:


I Will Post the Winner on Wednesday

Sorry, school, grading, student exhibition all conspire against me.  I will put a winner and a new contest up tomorrow!


Friday Flash Prompt: Make a Discovery : FlashFiction.Net

So the other day I was over at FlashFiction.Net and there was this cool prompt:

Under a bench in a park is a duffel bag with an old photo, a cd player, a flash drive, and candle inside. Whom do these items belong to, what do they mean to this character, and how did they end up in the park?

This is what I wrote:

I must have walked by the bag several times without noticing it that week.  The brambles in December are completely covered with snow and they are really creepy. I only noticed the duffel bag after I heard a grunt and small breathy “help.”  Then I saw the old crone festooned in garbage bags  crawling out from under the blue tarp at the edge of the path.  I’m frightened of the homeless but I shuffled through the snow, pulled her up and pushed my steaming cup of coffee up to her lips.  She slurped at the coffee slowly and seemed instantly better.  Her eyes brightened as she looked me over and she laughed.

“Ya know sonny, I’ve asked at least ten people to stop and help me, none of them did.  You’re the first one to stop.  I’m actually fine.”  She paused and pointed towards the snow covered bench and continued,  “Under that bench is a park is my duffel bag. Bring it here.”

I brought the bag to her and she started to pull stuff out onto a dirty red scarf spread on the snow.  “This bag now belongs to you.   I want you to take it and find the building in that old photo, it’s in Cleveland Ohio.  Listen to this cd in the  cd player, it will tell you where the key is and where to find a laptop hidden in that building.  You’ll need this candle to light your way.  Once you have the laptop take it home and turn it on, it will only open up if you put the flash drive in it.  It will make you rich beyond your dreams.” 

You probably know what I was thinking. 

As she stood up and grabbed my arm and shoved the bag hard enough at me that I fell backwards in the snow with the bag across my chest.   I scrambled to my feet and she was gone and that’s why I’m a millionaire today.  Next question?


Write a story about Morry Eale and Win the Drawing on the Right

Write a story about Morry Eale and Win the Drawing on the Right
The contest closes Thursday April 7th, 2011

I will announce the winner at 
ArtHaus 411 Brannan Street  San Francisco, CA  94107
at the opening Reception Friday April 8th 2011 6PM to 8 PM

Morry Eale 20"x16" collage,
oil paint, and graphite drawing
on masonite

Morry Eale

Click on Pictures to enlarge

Buy this painting for $250

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

Renovated Reputations is the result of an internet blogging project in which paintings and assemblages based on vintage and antique vernacular photography are the inspiration for short fiction.

The catalog and monograph are a collaborative efforts between myself, a twenty or so authors such as professor Mark Brosamer,  mystery writer Matt O'Malley, pulp author Steven D. Rogers of PulpFest fame, Dreamworks animator/cartoonist Brian Newlin, columnist Gigi De Vault and others.

The impetus for this project is based in a solo show of paintings in I am having at ArtHaus Gallery in San Francisco in April 2011. 

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

Show up or else!

ArtHaus 411 Brannan Street  San Francisco, CA  94107

Opening Reception Friday April 8th 2011 6PM to 8 PM
Show runs through June 25th 2011

Download the draft of Tabloid Newspaper catalog as a PDF.
Here's a link to the free newspaper style catalog as a pdf:

Here's a link to the book:
(This is about 5MB so if you are using firefox it may stall.  You can right click and save or use explorer.)

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. _______________________________________________

This came in by e-mail:

Cast Away by Patrick Nelson

         I have never had a hangover before because I do not drink. I never drank, that is, until last night. If this is what a hangover feels like, I will never drink again. I will remove my eyeballs with an oyster knife, drop them in a beaker of hydrochloric acid and gargle with it before I do this again. My eyelids will not cooperate with the panicked message I send from my brain. Maybe said message is going to my pelvic muscles because I think I just urinated on myself a little. There we go. The lids seem to be stuck together slightly, making it harder to open them. A little more. It’s like some kind of sticky eye goo. No, that’s not the right word. I am a marine biologist damn it! Mucous, that’s the word. 

         With a pain that is somehow stinging in the back of my head and throbbing dull in the front all at the same time, I begin to focus on a sideways image of a room with white flowing curtains and a naked woman’s back. I am on my side I surmise. I am laying next to a naked woman in what I presume is her bed. I try to make no movement that is strong enough to jiggle the bed as I reach down to feel my lower body.

         I, in addition, have no clothes on.

         I am reminded in this situation of a Mission Impossible episode. Someone must have drugged me, taken me to this location, undressed me and is trying to make me believe that I have been kidnapped. Oh my God! I cannot remember my name! Wait! Morry! Morry Eale!

         My word that frightened me. Now some of last night’s events begin to bully themselves into the arena of earthly delights that is my consciousness. Oy vey. I say bully, for at this moment I want nothing inside my cranium but calm and very little pain.

         What a night. I think. I remember the gentlemen's club that I went to on the pressured invitation of the other gentlemen with whom I work at the lab. We were attending Marcus' "bachelor party". I have never attended a party such as this but after searching the internet, I was soon familiar with the custom. I dare-say Marcus' party would pass beyond the normal stereotypes of debauchery and hedonism even in the glamorized Hollywood sense. Real images and sensations, however, filled my mind as they recurred to me. The pain was already quite intense, but now the emotions: camaraderie, bliss, wanton lust, anger and yes, even rage all began to swim together in the blood red and murky brown of my skull and push against the edges of my psyche. 

         A hellish klaxon suddenly burst through my caustic reverie and I thought I was immediately being whisked before the creator to answer for my blatant disregard for the life he had given me. It turns out it was just an alarm clock on the table next to this woman on the bed. I believe I may have whimpered something to the effect of "please God, father of us all, make it stop" but I could be mistaken. It continued for a few more seconds but in my condition it seemed like the clock itself had become another living thing which chose to pull and stretch all the tendons and muscles away from my neck and head and was now drawing a sinister bow across the taught membranes to create this dreadful symphony. I was a mere second away from clawing my way across this nubile beauty next to me to end the very existence of the torture device harping there.        She beat me to it. She stirred and hit the button. I never loved someone so unconditionally in my entire life. It seems my brain had earned back some of amount of trust from my eyes. With ever widening slits, I took in a little more of the scene: the crisp, white sheet cascaded over the woman's lithe legs and rear end, revealing the cleavage of her buttocks and toned, tan back and shoulders. No tan lines anywhere. She had an impressive mane of luxuriant auburn hair that had undulating curls that reminded me of the waves that trailed a spoon in a bowl of chocolate mousse. I was an amateur chef as well. The sun slicing through the window silhouetted some circles of her hair and glistened through. My eyes traveled down from her head and settled on the small of her back. She had a richly detailed series of small fish scales tattooed in a fanning pattern. They started in a small vee at the fourth vertebrae and spread outward and upward. The color range was amazing: rich blues, frosty greens even blending into bright oranges and reds. Japanese in its stylism, it appeared to be a work in progress, but on her it was stunning and mesmerizing almost as if she where one of the fabled race of merpeople here to lure me to my death on the rocks.

         I already felt like I was dead. Despite my discomfort and agony, I noticed I had an impressive erection. She shifted and leaned back against me. "Whoa. Somebody’s awake" she said. The voice was at once light and sleepy, and yet it had deep edges where I could almost say that a world of disappointment and pain had lived. Maybe I was projecting my subconscious there. She rolled all the way over and tossed her curls out of her face.

         Now the last big piece of the puzzle snapped into place: Gillian. From the club. She had it all: a gorgeous, slightly rounded face, her nose a bit wide and upturned on the end, small and round pouty lips that extended out on each side to an upturned curl and eyes a hazel seen only in an artists palette. These features would have been peculiar on any woman individually, but on her, together, they made the most seductive temptress even more irresistible. If at all possible, my head spun more and my mouth became even drier.

         “Boy, stranger. You sure can’t handle your liquor” she commented. I was hypnotized. “Um” was all I could muster. Somehow in my dominance of the conversation, she found a place to interject “Not a big talker, huh? You sure couldn’t shut up last night. I mean, until y’all passed out. What a handful you are.” 

         Oh no, my secret weakness: a southern drawl. I was really defenseless. She laid there facing me with her arm across her breasts and I had the uncontrollable urge to touch her but I still wasn’t sure where we stood, er, laid. My Ph.D. nudged the back of my brain and asked “Um, did we...are we...where you and I...” Shakespeare and Valentino would have vomited in their mouths if they where to hear. Maybe that was just me again.

         “No, no and no. Let’s start with what you do remember, ok?” she said and I nodded. “Good, that will make it much easier ‘cause I don’t think y’all recall shit sugar.” She pulled the sheet up from her hips to cover her breasts also. I caught a glimpse of her breasts and looked away. “Aw’ ain’t you the cutest think.” She purred. “You remember the club, right? Good. You remember my show? The mermaid routine?” She paused and I searched my memory and had found the fuzzy edges of what she spoke. I had quite a few of the different cocktails and was just then buying a couple of rounds for my friends and the dancers. I remember saying how this was the best time I had ever had. I saw her come on the stage and walk up to the pole.

         I now remember this clearly. It was if she walked in slow motion to the center of the stage. Her breasts bounced slightly as she walked out and her hair bobbed and flowed in a gossamer trail behind her. She had on a bikini top of teal and a sea foam green see through dress or skirt shaped like the body of a cichlid with extended dorsal and anal fins. I can’t remember if it was a dress or skirt because suddenly I was completely transfixed on her face, believe it or not. She began to dance around the brass beam like a gypsy from long ago: she spun in circles faster and faster till I myself began to dizzy. She embraced the pole and just then a crass individual tried to touch her waistband on her costume and I...oh my.

         “Yeah, sweetcheeks! You climbed right over about twenty people to drop that guy like a sack of wet flour. Whomp!” she could tell by my dropped jaw that it was coming back to me. “Don’t you know about tipping the dancers?” She lifted my jaw with the first two fingers of her right hand. It managed to stay shut. “Yeah, they tip me and I keep it and pay for the things I need like rent and food and...” She spoke to me like I was a small child. I was again trapped in the reverie of her gaze. Medusa only not as mean. More events unfolded with her help: How I climbed on the stage to protect her and how the bouncers finally dragged me off the stage. Next an up-close image of the pavement outside the club as I was tossed out. Then how I was saying some things that I would not normally say to any other people especially the large gentlemen who had heaved my drunken carcass in the night. "Thats right , loverboy! I managed to talk old Frederico from breaking you into small, bite sized pieces. He did have to give you a souvenir of your chivalry" she said as she touched my forehead above my right eye.

         Holy Camoley, that hurt! She pulled off the bandage that, due to the pain I already suffered from, I hadn't noticed. "Well, the stitches held and it stopped bleeding, but y'all are gonna need to be cleaned up" my favorite nurse, ever, said. "Where was I? Oh yeah. So all your friends where out in the lot trying to help you and keep Frederico from beating you any more. They all begged and pleaded and offered money. Freddie said he admired the way they stuck up for you, but he couldn't let a man do what you did in his club without making an example of you. You got off lucky though.”

         “Well, after all your friends where done vouching for you and telling us what a good guy you where, didn't ever drink and all that, well I have to admit y'all kinda struck a nerve with me. I mean, you didn't even know me and here you where jumping up and trying to protect me. It was, I don't know, sweet. Nobody's ever done anything like that for me."

         She was a talker and I loved every word. I imagined myself sitting here in her bed naked with her every morning listening to her ramble and falling in love with her more with every word. All this without a hangover of course. I came back to her still talking: "so I brought you back here to take care of you. I mean none of your friends were in any kind of shape to do it. So I got us a cab and called my friend Amos, he's a male nurse who lives in an apartment upstairs, and he stitched you up.  I just want you to know that I have never done that before, y'know? Brought a customer from the club back here like that. Hell, since I broke up with Beau a year ago there hasn't even been a man in my apartment."       I didn't stop her to tell her the closest thing I ever had to even a date in the last ten years was a girl from my building with whom I had arranged a play date with my Yorkie and her Schnauzer. My dog peed in her purse at the dog park and that pretty much washed away my chances. Her name was Goldie, the dog not the woman. I can't remember the woman's name. I don't think I'll need to remember any woman's name again.

         Gillian went on: "You where still pretty drunk and when I set up the sofa for you to sleep on you sort of got, goofy, I guess." She blushed a little which I could not read, so I waited. She continued "you said you wanted to dance with me and talk and get to know me, but I could tell a lot of it was the alcohol."

         "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..." I said but she interrupted.

         "No. Don't be. You were real sweet you know? I get to see the real side of people a lot what with all the alcohol and me getting naked in front of them. They lose a lot of their inhibitions and such. Well, usually all there inhibitions. You really get to know a person then. If they’re an asshole, well that’s when you find out. You weren't like that. I thought you were a complete gentleman. When I told you I was bushed, and wanted to go to bed you didn’t say anything. You just sort of sat there looking dejected. I went to bed and after a while I came out there and brought you into my bed” she said as she took her fingers and lightly traced a line around the edge of my bruised and stitched forehead. She wasn’t actually touching the bruise, just the part near it. It gave me goosebumps.

         “You know what happened next?” she asked. I hesitated. I could lie and tell her it was wonderful and I will never forget that night for as long as I live, or I could tell the truth. My grandfather always said ‘telling the truth is always harder because it is the right thing. Nothing easy is ever worth the doing because it will not last.’ Grandpa was kind of a jerk, but in this case he was right.

         “No, I don’t remember a thing after you came and got me” I swallowed hard as I said it and imagined that I had just pissed in her purse.

         “ I reckon you wouldn’t...” She put a touch of mischievous seduction on the tail of that and finished: “well, first off we both got naked and curled up together in the bed. We kissed and fooled around a little. Then you told me this was only your second time with a woman and you passed out.”

         It took a while for that to sink in. How could I be so lucky and yet have it stop right there? I guess that would be pushing my luck. Gillian just grinned and got out of bed. She looked me in the eye as she grabbed a pair of panties and slid into them. Sick as I felt I knew I had to get it together. Somehow we were still flirting. After all the stupid things I did and said, she was still interested in me. This did not fall into the normal mating ritual description and yet there I was on the verge of breaking into some genetically programmed dance.

         “You know what we all need? The only bona fide hangover cure I ever came across in my whole entire life...” she left me hanging while she put on a bra and snapped the button on her very tight jeans. “In-n-Out burger, large fry and a diet Coke.” She was absolutely beaming as she slipped into a Georgia Bulldogs t-shirt that must have belonged to a small child previously for it clung to her like crepe paper.

         I must have been feeling better for I immediately began to extrapolate the chemical and physical properties of the breakfast: caffeine in the cola would stimulate the system, the protein and starches in the meat and the potatoes would...It all spun away from me as she crawled across the bed and kissed me. When the world started moving again, she backed away and said; “Y’all ever noticed how they put in all those biblical references on the wrappers and stuff? I wish they wouldn’t do that but I still can’t turn down a double-double.”

         It didn’t matter to me for I was now a believer.  

This came in by e-mail:
By Dan Combs

        Morry Eale never knew his father. They shared a house and most of a life, but Morry never quite knew where good old Dad was coming from.
        As a boy, the younger Eale thought his father was a genius of sorts. The old man would sit at the dinner table - after the dishes from a perfectly adequate, middle-class supper had been cleared away - and
scrutinize papers from the family business. At that age, Morry didn’t
have a clue what those papers contained. Perhaps messages from the
companies his father supplied with paper clips. Maybe they were
designs for a new and improved method of holding important documents together, something that would catapult Eale Products into the same league as Intelligent Business Machines or even the mega-gigantic National Stapler. Morry would never know as his father seemed to have no interest in sharing this part of his life with his son. There must have been a reason. Morry concluded that it had something to do with industrial espionage: this information was in the “need to know” category, no one but those at the highest levels of the EP staff were privy to such sensitive topics. It was probably all in code anyway.
        When the Eale lad grew to the size of a teenage boy, he got the
impression that his father was an idiot. The old man rose at a
ridiculous hour of the morning to don a dark blue suit and matching
tie, with brilliantly polished black leather shoes that struck the
linoleum tile of the kitchen so loudly young Morry could barely sleep.
He kept dreaming of his father with a hunting rifle, shooting fish in
the backyard pond. He would often wake in a cold sweat and bolt
upright as his dad’s four door sedan pulled out of the driveway. “Who
cares about paper clips, anyway?” he would think to himself, secure in
the knowledge that he would never allow himself to become snared by
the stupid life his father chose to lead. Morry would play the
electric guitar and have girls swoon in his presence. That was a life
worth living.
        College days brought Morry to a point where he could almost see where his father got all his strange ideas about hard work, diligence, and sacrifice. As the younger Eale began to carve out a path toward his
own goal of working as a public defense lawyer, he became aware of a
time before both he and his dad were born. History had a lot to say
about a certain kind of ethics, a genuine way of behaving as if one’s
purpose in life was to follow those who had laid down the rules, as
closely as possible, so as not to upset the balance of things. There
also seemed to have been a school of thought based entirely on life as
experienced during some Great Conflict, a war or famine or some such
catastrophe, that left the populace fearful of stepping out of line.
Morry seemed more intent on avoiding the line altogether by wearing
his hair long and his trousers flared.
        Morry grew older still. He married and bore two daughters, both of them as lovely as their mother, one of Morry’s first clients. The
elder Eale held fast to his ideals, running the family business with a
firm hand. Until his heart muscles betrayed him and he had to step
aside. There was nobody in the family to take his place. Certainly
Earle didn’t want any part of Eale Products. Even though he had cut
his hair and put on a suit and tie, his world was based on helping
others, not amassing wealth. His father soon died. The company was
sold. And a legal representative came to present Morry with a box of
his father’s belongings. Specific things his dad left him in his last
will and testament.
        There hadn’t been any bedside chat as his father lay ill, no words of wisdom, no family secrets. Now all Morry had of this recent ancestor  were a few odds and ends: some photographs, a few paperweights, several plaques and framed awards for Salesman of the Year, Executive of the Decade, CEO of the Century. And a pair of black leather shoes. Morry removed them from the box, turning them this way and that, catching the light from an open window and watching its reflection  bounce around the room. He put them on. They fit perfectly.
        What was the old man thinking?


This came in by e-mail:

Higher Seas
By Royce A Ratterman

“Finally!” exclaimed Morry as he read the letter from the High Seas Fishing Company to his parents, “Due to your numerous summers as a youth volunteer with the Fish & Game department and . . . therefore, we have accepted your application for a summer internship aboard our prestigious sailing vessel, The Reluctant Mermaid, and hereby extend an invitation of employment to you, Mr. Eale. On behalf of . . .”

“That’s great news, son,” commented a proud father, looking up briefly from his newspaper.

“One step closer to becoming an oceanographer,” asserted his always supportive mother.

Morry’s father promptly added, “I told you wearin’ a suit and tie to an interview displays professionalism, son. If you look sharp, you feel sharp and if you feel sharp, son, you are sharp. As long as all your schoolin’ is in order, that is. And, if you don’t mind me sayin’, it probably didn’t hurt that your great-great-grandfather was a seafaring man.”

“I can’t believe it,” responded Morry, “An internship on a real high seas sailing vessel. Just like the old days. Wow!”

The Reluctant Mermaid’s construction celebrated in conceptualization the Herring Buss, the 15th to 19th century Dutch sea-going fishing vessels. However, this modern sailing ship excelled the former maritime craft in length and displacement tonnage - 26 meters and 115 tons, respectively. Decked out with all its sea-worthy trimmings, including long drift nets, the Mermaid’s upcoming summer voyages would never stand in want.

The weeks passed quickly. Morry studied everything he found at the local library on sailing vessels, fishing techniques and standard fish nomenclature. He visited local fisherman with his net full of questions about everything from fins to the cove’s mysterious tales and folklore. He desired to be as prepared as was humanly possible before actually experiencing what one never finds in books, school, or an instructor’s lectures - the reality of the daily job.

“Ahoy, matey!” greeted the captain. “Welcome aboard, mister Eale.”  The captain, Aaron Dale, had the reputation of the fictional Captain Ahab. His pursuit of the catch echoed the legendary character’s monomaniacal obsession with the elusive whale - Moby Dick. Often ignoring the voice of human reason, his voyages were not for the weak of spirit or the faint of heart.

Morry watched the wild grasses blow gently in the ocean breeze as the ship passed the lone island’s lighthouse. As he held fast to the ropes perched atop the foremast, he reflected upon the serenity and solemnity of a seafarer’s life. A lifetime adventure that can be as labor intensive as it can be lonesome.

An older-than-the-sun shipmate informed the young Eale that, “At night there ain’t nothin’ out here but God and the stars above and Davy Jones’s Locker below, with us smack dab in the middle.”

Feeling the solitude of the man’s words, Morry replied to the man who bore on his weathered face the scars of his trade and the sun’s wrinkling handiwork, “Yep, that’s a fact, sir. That’s a fact.” Though Morry was not exactly sure as to the man’s intended meaning, he felt a response was of necessity.

Returning home between voyages made Morry feel restless. There was something about the sea that grew on him like barnacles on a ship’s hull. He longed to get back out there on the rolling waves, catching fish, dragging nets with all his might, climbing to the top of the ship’s masts and handling the rigging - sails, cordage and spars.

For the seventh voyage that summer, Morry’s mother knitted him a scarf. It was a copy of one shown in an old daguerreotype portraiture of his great-great-grandfather taken in front of the historic ‘Rusty Sailor’ pub down by the docks, a long departed local watering hole for thirsty tempest-worn seafarers from the days of old.

"Me grandfather's great-uncle, a fine sailin' man he was, God rest his soul, was on board the Phantom Princess the night she went down," told the salty old shipmate to the young Morry as they untangled some of the ship's cordage, “Their ship, a fine sailin’ vessel she was, lad, musta been mistaken for a whale, as is the usual case in matters of the sea like this. The creature from the dark murky depths took the ship and all the crew, save two,” he paused shortly to pack his pipe with tobacco before continuing, “. . . me grandfather's great-uncle and a young cabin boy.”

Morry was not sure whether the ancient seaman wished to scare him with another tale from the unwritten pages of oceanic folklore, or was just making sea-worthy conversation.

The man continued, “When pieces of the ship, God rest her soul, washed ashore days later, they found giant suction marks on the planking the size of the captain’s dinner plate.”

The man lit his pipe before chilling the bones of the young Eale lad with more details than the wide-eyed youth desired to hear, “A Kraken it was, a Kraken for sure. I’d bet my left leg on it.”

Morry remembered reading about a twenty-seven foot long cephalopod's arm being found in a sperm whale during the eighteenth century, but this old salt’s tale from the ocean’s depths was much closer to home than the black and white pages written on the subject by Alfred Tennyson or the related facts penned in a Cryptozoologist’s Ph.D. dissertation.

“We’z be better gettin back to work, lad. So much for relaxin’. Ain’t much time for that kind a luxury out here. Looks like a storm brewin’ to the east,” said the old sailor, pointing to the lightning-laced darkness enveloping the distant horizon.

The storm’s costly right of passage fee that eve was but one solitary soul. Morry Eale now swims gracefully in the dark depths of Davy Jones’s realm. On many a stormy summer eve salty old sailors tell tales of hearing a faint whispering scream that rides upon the ocean’s coldest winds.


Jen Reich the Winner of the Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon Flash Fiction Challenge

Buy this on Etsy for $250
 What If  by Jen Reich

Three weeks have come and gone
This time it was my choice, I realize
I asked you to stay with friends and you didn’t protest
What’s more, we didn’t say our usual goodbyes

I just couldn’t stand the shouting and at that moment
I would have given anything not to argue
From the way you looked when you walked out the door
I could tell you were sick, tired and fed up too

After you left I decided a change was in order
So I moved furniture around and took our pictures off the shelf
I was feeling pretty good and once or twice I even thought,
See that! I’m better off by myself

Two weeks ago I adopted a dog
The one I always wanted that you’d never let me own
Oh and I started drinking heavily and smoking again
And a few other minor things you would never condone

One week ago I revisited the bar scene
And started staying out late with friends
I guess I had some childish impulses I needed to relive
Don’t worry, nothing for which I need to make any amends

Yesterday all of this started getting old
Actually, long before that to be true
From the moment you left, throughout all of this time
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you

My reminiscence was complemented by a memoir-box
And I grinned when I saw what was on top
It was a photo of us from 1963
Of our first date which was a borderline-flop

I took you to my favorite Italian hole-in-the-wall
And you kept swearing, Yes everything is fine!
You were thoroughly unimpressed by the lack of d├ęcor
And couldn’t believe they used a water glass for wine

Still, the conversation was stellar and your eyes sparkled
And even though I didn’t think you would say yes
Two weeks later I called you about my brother’s wedding
And asked you to be my guest

And I’m so glad I did because you accepted
And that week my whole world was bright
Still my happy glow paled in comparison
To the beauty and significance of that night

We danced as if we were the bride and groom
Songs like ‘S Wonderful and For All We Know
The Coots tune became “our song” and how fitting it was
Given all the times you’d leave when I was low

The next night you called the whole thing off
You said you didn’t want to be tied down
And ever since then a similar sentence
Has been all too familiar a sound

The reason I grinned when I saw that photo
Was that it was torn very neatly in half
That must have been something you did to spite me one day
Just picturing you doing it makes me whole-heartedly laugh

How did I ever get you to marry me, Shirley
It must have been something I said
Something I did or the way I looked at you
When you were lying next to me in bed

Whatever it was it worked and I’m glad
And the vows I make, I pay
So I meant it when I said for better or for worse
And I will never regret that day

I don’t even regret all of the fights that we’ve had
Without them we wouldn’t be who we are
What I regret is all of the time we’ve spent apart
Never knowing if you’re near or far

We may never meet again – what if –
Coots knew what he was talking about
Tomorrow may never come – what if –
The next day’s certainty I’m beginning to doubt

I’m not getting any younger but perhaps you are
Your spunk never seems to wear thin
That’s one of the many reasons I love you, Shirley
Through that front door I am just hoping you walk in

I found the dog a new owner and put our pictures back up
Now I’m just waiting for you to come home
I let out all of the frustrations that I needed to
And resolved that I don’t want to be without you, alone

No matter how many times we argue
You are my only true love, of that I am sure
And most of our memories make me smile
Despite all of the trials we’ve endured

Three weeks have come and gone
This time it was my choice, I realize
At this moment I wish I could take it all back
What if the next time we’re apart – what if, one of us dies?


Tears were rolling down Shirley Ophanon’s face as she read the poem her husband had left on the kitchen counter.

She crept into the bedroom, laid next to him and with one arm and her body, squeezed him as tightly as she could.

I’m a total cornball and I instantly fell for Jen Reich’s “What if.”  So Reich gets the drawing.  At first I was a little nervous; I’m always suspicious of poetry.  I guess I’m a standard kind of poetry guy.  Some of favorite poems are “My Last Duchess,” “A Certain Slant of Light” and “Raisin in the Sun.” Some of my favorite poets are Ogden Nash, Robert Frost, Langston Hughs and Walt Whitman, so I guess you could say I’m stuck in the past with very traditional prose.  In a way that makes me a little inflexible, but I loved “What if.”  I think I loved it on a couple of different levels.  One level was that it was so familiar and I understood a lot of the thoughts and feelings of the poet, who on another level was not Jen Reich but rather Mr. Ophanon.  I loved the fact that it was a poem within a story!  Good good stuff.

It’s cornball me again.  I loved the romantic sentiments in Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon by Rochelle Wattz.  I’m man enough to admit that I read and liked Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook” and “The Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller (I still haven’t seen the movie yet.)  Wattz’ story had a similar tone and I had the same pleasure in reading it.

“Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon” by Debbie Weiss is one of those stories that has a pathos.  I think most people can relate.  We’ve all been in relationships and saw someone we didn’t know but thought were beautiful.  This story is one of those in which the author spins the story out from that point of departure.

What a great story The Man Handler by Patrick Nelson is!  Have you ever been in a bar and watched one of those weird social scenes between ex lovers and the groups that surround them?  This is kind of the setting but the emotional content is much deeper than that and much more mature of experienced in terms of the way in which feelings are described.   A lot of us have been in passionate but soul draining relationships and some of us have confused passion for the things that surround a relationship with the love of the person in it.  This story takes all those kinds of things into account.  I love the title by the way.

Royce Ratterman’s story was a song that is written in the form of a short story.  I think that the anonymous comment that was posted in response to the story touches on some of the feeling it evoked for me. “This story I liked very much, I somehow pictured my own mom & dad in the story, they never make it to 50, but they still had each other. . . Thanks for a great story and memory.”

“Music to Eat By” by Gigi Devault was a great little vignette by Devault set in a foreign land during the wars.  I always started thinking in sepia tone when I read her stories.  It’s fun that she takes us to distant times and places.

Read them all here:

More competitions on my site:


Got a virus on my harddrive all fixed but delay on story judging till Wednesday!

Stealing Time oil on canvas 30"x40"
I got a nasty little Trojan Virus on my harddrive that turned out to be even more than a hassle than I thought.  It stole my whole day!  It's all sorted out now but I need some time to look over the stories and decide on a winner. 

Used a consultant to destroy it and gave him a painting in exchange for his help!

I'm sending out the catalogs and drawings from last week in the next day or so!


Write a story about Jairo and Win the Drawing on the Right

Write a story about Jairo and Win the Drawing on the Right
The contest closes Monday April 4th, 2011

10"x8" oil and mixed media
on masonite

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

Renovated Reputations is the result of an internet blogging project in which paintings and assemblages based on vintage and antique vernacular photography are the inspiration for short fiction.

The catalog and monograph are a collaborative efforts between myself, a twenty or so authors such as professor Mark Brosamer,  mystery writer Matt O'Malley, pulp author Steven D. Rogers of PulpFest fame, Dreamworks animator/cartoonist Brian Newlin, columnist Gigi De Vault and others.

The impetus for this project is based in a solo show of paintings in I am having at ArtHaus Gallery in San Francisco in April 2011.  

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

Show up or else!

ArtHaus 411 Brannan Street  San Francisco, CA  94107

Opening Reception Friday April 8th 2011 6PM to 8 PM
Show runs through June 25th 2011

Download the draft of Tabloid Newspaper catalog as a PDF.
Here's a link to the free newspaper style catalog as a pdf:

Here's a link to the book:
(This is about 5MB so if you are using firefox it may stall.  You can right click and save or use explorer.)

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. _______________________________________________
This came in by e-mail:

By Patrick Nelson

This has never happened before. I have never had a car come in with a dead guy in it. Never. Jeez. What do I do? Do I go ahead and fix the car? The thing is, this is Don Approvesco's car. The Don Approvesco. Oh man! I am in big trouble. Why am I in trouble you may ask? Even if I didn't kill this guy (which I definitely didn't) I saw this guy, or at least what used to be him. If I go to the cops, I will be as dead as this guy in the trunk here. Heck, they may even fit me in here with him and take me out to the same landfill for Pete's sake. I gotta think fast. Why do I always look in the trunk? There's no working parts in there, anyway. 
 We've been working on the Don's fleet for years, since before we moved way down to South San Francisco. I have actually been the head mechanic for these Rolls Royces of his for about a year. We're the only ones in town who work on the Rolls'.  Tango motors around the corner has the other contract for the local mob boss, Don Musso. I guess we would have him too if he drove rolls, but too many Dons spoils the something-or-other. Really one is dangerous enough to handle. 
I met Don Approvesco  once. Real scary guy.  I'd even delivered a car back to the estate in North Beach. The men at the gate had searched the underside of the car and one patted me down while the other searched inside the car. The Don came out to look at the finished body work I did. I walked up and gave him the keys then he took my hand in both of his and locked them together. He had this way of looking deep in your eyes one then the other. Like he was searching and searing his gaze into each till he found what he was looking for. Creepy bastard, but don't tell him I said that. In my case I guess he found what he was looking for because he grew a tidy smirk on his dark, pitted Sicilian face. His dark eyes became mirthful slits and his salt and pepper mustache arched up slightly on one end. He said in a deep, gravelly voice with a touch of an Italian accent "nice work, my friend. I may call you my friend?" I nodded and he continued "Good. I can tell you are a good man, but I must keep an eye on you. Not that I don't trust you. After all, you yourself said we are friends. No, I think I must keep an eye on you for you are a smart one." 
 Wow. All that from a handshake and a really scary staring match. I couldn't do it right then, but later I had to check my underwear. "Um, thanks. I guess I'd better get back to the shop..." That was all I could come up with without risking a heart attack. He released my hand from his grip and waved me off erratically and turned and went inside. His men who stood on either side of the massive wooden front doors and nodded in the direction of the walled gate. Ezra hadn't come in the truck to pick me up yet, but I wasn't waiting. I slipped through the wrought iron gate and tried not to run down the street. 
 Ah, the old days. The body? Still here. I looked around, but nobody else was nearby. I bent closer to look at the guy. I titled my head and peered at him. He was about my age, 35 or so, with sandy blond hair which was groomed neatly except where a big bloody dent was on the top of his head. His nails where pristine. I always noticed peoples nails because mine where so messy and dirty that I had a sort of thing about them. I felt self conscious about mine. He had no shoes or socks. Funny, there isn't much blood. I always assumed when I saw my first dead-guy-in-the-trunk, he would be awash in blood. Due to the fact that he was resembling a pretzel, it was hard to guess his height. Maybe six feet. He looked about a buck and three quarters heavy. He had on a nice suit; off the rack but altered. How do I know suits? Let’s just say, when I’m not covered in axle grease from head to toe, I clean up real good. 
 So our Mister personality here did alright but not anymore. I picked up a lug wrench and lifted the jacket’s right lapel. A long brown wallet fell onto his chest and dropped to the trunk floor. I picked it up and opened it. Harold Fromunda. Now that's a name. I thought it was a joke. A few checks in his checkbook, no cash. 
 I realized I was wasting precious time and since I didn't know him I didn't feel bad about what I was going to do to him. I wiped the wallet off and tossed it on top of him. I slowly closed the trunk until it clicked and I wiped down everything I had touched on or in the car. Now, Tino, the one they called Tiny (yup, you guessed it, he was huge) had handed me the key earlier. He knew it was me that was going to be working on the car. Damn. No way to work my way around that. To buy myself some time, I raised the car up on the hydraulic and left it up there while I went to smoke a cigarette. I don’t smoke, but its appeal now became a little clearer as it was too early for a drink. 
 The plan I had flashed upon in my mind earlier was now becoming frighteningly clear, but it had to be timed just right or I could be in some real hot water. What was happening to me? I was not finding this as panic inducing as I thought it would be. I mean, my heart still felt like someone was pulling it up through my throat, but I had stopped sweating like a pig at a weenie roast.
First, I took a quick walk around the corner to check Tango motors to see if they happened to have one of Don Musso's cars. I couldn't be sure till I looked at the registration on the steering column, but it looked like one of the Cadillacs he had just bought from Tango's. They did sales and service both. I couldn't check until later after they closed so nobody would see me but that wouldn't delay my next bit of legwork. I walked back to the shop stopping on the way to drop some change in the phone and make a call.
 "Tango motors. We service what we sell, all the others can go to Hello, how may I help you?" a comedian said over the phone in a forced non-New York accent.
 "Yeah, b-b-buddy" I said with a stutter to disguise my voice. I didn't know anybody at their shop, but why take chances? "I am interested in that C-C-Caddy on your left lot. Is it for s-s-sale?"
 "The green one? Um... No siree" he hesitated. His native accent was starting to seep in. "It's in for service."
 I almost said "perfect" over the phone, but injected "goshd-d-darnit! Does it run ok? I might make an offer." I inquired and crossed my fingers.
 The man on the other line replied "not right this moment that's why its in the left lot, repairs. But I am pretty sure the guy who owns it will refuse the offer." 
 "Oh, darn. She's a ba-ba-ba-beaut" I said and added a goodbye then I hung up. Why the stutter? No idea. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I was under a little pressure. That worked out good so far. I finished making my way back to the shop just as Jimmy Victor, Victory Repair Shop owner was just lowering the Don's car. He had a furrowed brow and seemed mildly irritated. Victor was a short, stocky, balding man in his sixties. He wore a black pinstriped suit that was too small and spotted with grease. Even though he no longer worked on the cars, he still had grease in his blood and under his nails. 
 "What's with the Don's car, Jairo? Is she done? Why's it still on the stilts?" he rapid-fired to me.
 "Whoa, not done yet!" I said as I rushed up and took the lift controls from him gently. "got a few things to do still. Hey boss, why don't you cut out? Its gettin’ on five. I'll lock up when I'm done here. Everybody else has cut out..."
 He scratched at a spot on his damp skull and pondered the lift. I had a twinge of panic. Did he suspect something was up? Had the body started to smell?
 "Ah, well. All right then. Just make sure you finish the Don's car before you go. I made him a promise." He gave a short wave and headed out the door. 
 The next step was to finish the repairs. From what I could tell it needed a new belt and some tuning up -oh, and to lose about one hundred and seventy five pounds. The only loose thread was Tiny. If he was as stupid as he looked, I might get lucky and he would forget about the body in the trunk long enough for me to get this repair done and my plan finished. Come on luck, stay with me!
 Later after I finished the repairs, it had grown dark enough for me to move on to the next step. I grabbed the keys to the tow truck and drove it over past the Tango lot. Twice. It appeared that everyone had gone home but just to be safe, I parked across the street and called from the phone box in the line of site of the front office. I could hear the dial tone in the hand piece as well as the slightly delayed ringing from the phone in the office. No answer. Bingo. I got in the truck and pulled into the left lot. The green Caddy was still in the same spot. I thought about the keys, but decided I wouldn't need them for what I was pulling off as long as the doors where open.  I backed the truck up to the mob car and lowered the lift bar. I got out and checked the Caddy's doors. Bingo and open sesame. After checking the registration to make sure it belongd to Don Russo, I hooked the chains up to the back of the Caddy. I looked around to make sure nobody was noticing me. No traffic, no pedestrians wondering why a Victory Repairs truck was towing a car from the lot of Tango motors and most of all nobody running out of the office screaming bloody murder. I finished the hook up and lift. I popped the car into neutral. Ten  minutes later I was backing the caddy into the bay next to the rolls. I unhooked the truck, pulled it out of the garage and lowered the door. Now the sticky stage. 
I pushed the engine block crane, which was on casters, up behind the rolls. Putting on a pair of grease gloves, I popped the trunk on the Rolls and ran the chains from the crane's frame to under the body of my buddy Harry. We were getting to know each other so well. I pulled them the rest of the way through and hooked the ends back on the crane. Slowly I lifted the body out of the trunk and pushed the block crane over to the Caddy. I popped the trunk. Now this was a trunk to put a body in. Heck, you could put a few in there... yeah, maybe mine. That sent a chill down my spine as I lowered my friend in. 
 "Work smarter, not harder" I muttered in a self-satisfied manner. I unhooked him and pushed the crane away. Closing the trunk, I lifted the garage door and backed the truck up to re-hook it to the Caddy. Now I stopped to take the time to wipe my prints off the entire car. Everything I may have touched. Yeah, I was turning into a criminal mastermind! 
 Twenty minutes later, I was back at Victory breathing a sigh of relief. Now the only thing left was to clean out the trunk in the Rolls. I got a small bucket with some warm water and a wheel rim scrubber. I poured a little bleach in the bucket and leaned over the open trunk. 
 Holy kamoley! Harold's wallet! I allowed myself the luxury of a flash of panic. It sat there on the floor of the trunk scaring the life out of me. After a second or two, I put back on one of the grease gloves and scooped up the wallet. I peered out the office door and seeing no one, I went around the back and ran like a crazy bastard down the alley all three blocks till I came up behind Tango's. I was sweaty, out of breath and had a sharp pain I my side. I crept into the lot and snuck up behind the caddy. I opened the door with my gloved hand and popped the trunk once again. My heart was racing as I dropped it in and quickly slammed the lid. After a short stroll of a few minutes (more like stroll then run then stroll, run) I was back I front of the Rolls' trunk cleaning up the small amount of blood there. What a day.
 I pulled the car past the guards at the gate much the same way I had the first time I visited Don Approvesco's estate: they had done their check under the car and gave me the general stink eye. I drove up the gravel drive and parked it in the curved area near the front door. I got out and stretched. The irony of the fact that the estate looked out onto Alcatraz didn't escape me. Escape, that made me giggle like an idiot. I was really nervous. Maybe he wanted to keep an eye on the future. It could be mine too if this didn't work out. No, I wouldn't get that far, the Don would probably just gut me like a fish and toss me out back as chum. The story is he worked his way up from the nearby fishing boat to his current position in life. 
I really didn't want to be here. I put up quite a fight with the boss about this delivery but I didn't want to argue too firmly or it would look suspicious. The whole discussion closed when he told me that the Don wanted me personally to deliver said vehicle. Cue dramatic music. 
I guess the Don had read this morning's paper. The headline read: "Local Don gets grisly body work done. Dead man found in Don Russo's Cadillac at local garage." The meat of the article went on to inform us that the Don's car held the remains of one Harold Fromunda, a well-known local hoodlum who had been arrested for various charges in the past but most recently was charged with trafficking heroine. The victim, it was intimated, was on the payroll of the owner of the car, Don Angelino Russo. An anonymous tip was phoned in to authorities late last night stating: "you all should take a look under Russo's hood at tango motors. Something stinks." That was all the informant said. Police suspect the murdered man must have run afoul of the big boss, was killed and stowed in the trunk. What baffled the investigators and apparently the reporter too was; why leave it in the trunk for someone to discover? 
 That was a good question. Only in my case, why Don Approvesco would make such a blunder. The answer came bounding out of the house like an angry, uncoordinated bull. Tino. He was a little over six feet tall, and had the look of a ring-weary wrestler stuffed into a suit three sizes too small. Cartoonish and buffoonish came to mind with a dash of murderous for flavor. The guards had just finished patting down my privates for bombs, knives, machine guns or whatever when Tino came barreling up to me. I felt like a damsel tied to the tracks with an onrushing train trying to squeal to a halt. He put his sausage like finger in my face and bellowed 
 "Keys. Now!" Even his breath was strong and ugly. 
 "All you had to do was say the magic word." I quipped bravely. 
 Where did this courage to do the insane and dangerous thing come from? I dangled them and he snatched them. He lumbered to the rear of the car and opened the trunk. He bent to look inside. I heard the tools and tire being moved around in efforts to, what? Find the body that might be hidden under the mat or spare? Maybe in his mind, he could imagine it had turned invisible, hell I don't know.
 He circled back around the bumper and back to me as he pulled up his jacket sleeves. “OK, wiseguy! Were’d you put that bum?” He grabbed my shirt with one hand and made like he was going to put my lights put out.
 From the doorway to the house, I heard the familiar raspy voice of the Don. “Tino, I am sure our visitor has no idea what you are talking about. And that is no way to treat a friend of mine...” The Don’s gaze lingered on mine a moment longer. “Tino, mi nipotino. Why don’t you go out back and play with the rabbits? Be a good nephew...”
 Tino...Nipotino. Now it was starting to congeal in my mind like clotting blood. It was all coming together in a sticky mass: Tino was Don Approvesco’s nephew. That is why the rather big mistake of forgetting about a dead body did not result in Tino being stuffed into a trunk too. Well, that and the need for a trunk bigger than an elephant’s. 
 Tino gave me one last shake like I was a rag doll and turned to go into the house.
 “I apologize for the rough treatment from my nephew” the Don walked toward me with his hands outstretched like I was a long lost friend. “He sometimes doesn’t know his own strength. Now, let us have a look at your handiwork, my friend.”  
 There it was again: friend. He shook my hand hard and steered me towards the trunk.
 "You do not know what my nephew speaks of, do you?" The Don asked with his hands in his pants pockets. He rose up and down on the balls of his feet as he waited for an answer. He leaned a little towards the trunk and absentmindedly surveyed the interior. I felt a little ping of panic on my sonar, but not as bad as the first time we met.
 "Look, Don Approvesco, I am not quite sure what to say in this situation, but honesty has served me well in the past." I started strong. Let's just hope I finished that way (and with no extra holes). "I was presented with a problem which your nephew, no disrespect intended, dropped in my lap. After assessing the situation, I created a solution that I believed was beneficial to both you and I. Believe me, I have never been in this situation and I hope I do not find myself in such again." Whew. Let's see if the next few minutes of my life aren't a blur of screaming, running, bullets and blood.
 "Oh, my friend, I wouldn't be so fast to count yourself out" he replied as he stroked his chin and peered at me. "As for Tino, he is my sister's son. What can I do? He's family. I had hoped he would have grown up to have a brain to match his brawn, but alas... My nephew brought you more than one problem. One you knew about and one you discovered upon further inspection of the car. It seems to me that you handled it, without being asked, in a way that a man who fixes things would do." 
 I started to breath and I could feel my gut start to unclench. "While I appreciate the compliment, I must add that I was a little sloppy about it." I said.
 "How so?" he asked.
 "Well, if I had been thinking, I would have disposed of the problem completely and you would not have been the wiser." I dared to confide.
 "Oh, I would have been the wiser. I have had enough dealings with the police detectives to have some of their skills rub off on me" he said. "Let's just hope this automotive problem doesn't cause further complications for me as that would not be good for you either. But, in all I am quite satisfied with your work. I am particularly fond of the creative touch you put on your... how can I put this? Parts disposal method? I enjoyed the irony." He stepped away from the trunk, closed the lid and wiped his hands together. "Did you hear about the unfortunate situation my business adversary Don Russo has found himself? Yes, it was very interesting to me, also. For many reasons. This young man had approached me for a position in my organization a few years ago." He turned and slowly walked in the direction of the house and motioned me to follow him. I didn't like where this was going but I had no choice other than to ride it out. "This fellow approached me about a new business opportunity opening in my own territory" he looked intently at me before he said more: "heroine." 
 He was eyeing me like an old lady in the market testing melons for ripeness. He was not going to thump me on the head, but it was a close call. He continued: "when I explained to him that we did not deal in that poison, I was informed that he went to work for Angelino and it was very lucrative for both. I do not begrudge Angelino this bad business decision. We have a truce of a sort after all. I do, however, have a problem with anything being sold in my territory. Understand?" 
 I raised my hands and started to plead with him about all of this unsolicited information but I was stopped abruptly. "I told you when we first met that you where smart" he said. "Don't make a fool of me now. I tell you these things because you are smart and you no doubt have figured out the nature of my business. I am just making these things clear between you and me." He stopped and reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a white letter sized envelope and handed it to me. "For services rendered. The car repairs are on account with Mister Victor. This, however, is for you. It is only money and I owe you something more than that. I hope to be doing more business with you in the future." He handed it to me and something told me if I didn't take it I would not be fixing anything ever again. 
 The Don broke away from me and started up the steps to his house. Somehow I knew this was where I got off. Before he crossed the threshold, he asked “you always look in the trunk?”
 “Not anymore” I relied. With that, he said something to one of the guards by the door and disappeared. The guard came up to me and told me that he would give me a ride back to the garage. Great. A promotion. As I walked to the car I contemplated the envelope. It was heavier than I thought it would be.

This came in by e-mail:
Full Service
By Royce A Ratterman

“A full service, son,” demanded the stranger emphatically to the ace mechanic pumping gas into his treasured vintage Ford sedan. “No skimping on anything. I expect the best of everything.”

The handsomely uniformed young man simply nodded in agreement to the elderly fellow before opening the hood to check the vehicle’s vital fluids and mechanical stability.

“What’s your name, boy” questioned the man out of his window loudly, “I always like to know who’s working on my vehicle, you know.”

“Jairo, sir, simply Jairo,” came the reply from under the hood.

“What kind of a name is that, son?”

Jairo secured the hood of the vehicle and stepped to the driver’s side window, “It is found most often among Spanish cultures, sir. From Hebrew origin, I believe. It can mean ‘God enlightens’ or what my father meant for it to mean . . . ‘A son to brighten my life’.”

“That’s nice, young man, real nice. How’s everything look under the hood?”

“Just fine, sir. Everything is in order.”

“What’s your specialty, young man?” asked the stranger with way too many questions.

“Specialty, sir?”

“Yes, I mean the types of vehicles you prefer to work on and have a kind of knack for, you know.”

Jairo replied to the curious man sitting behind the vehicle’s steering wheel, “Fords, sir. I am the area mechanic assigned to their driver’s final full service.”

“There’s a lot of Fords here in South SF these days,” replied the man. “You’ve got a lifetime of work ahead of you, son.”

Jairo tipped his black-billed blue service station uniform hat to the man, collected the payment for services rendered, then bid the stranger farewell, “Have a great day sir. I know you will.”

After the stranger drove away from 215 South Maple Avenue in his vintage Ford sedan he was never heard from again.

                    ~ ~ ~

“Paint . . . you do touchup painting, boy?” asked the gray-haired man in the 1941 Ford after he pulled the vehicle with the scraped fender into the gas station’s lot.

Jairo promptly replied, “The best in town, sir. The best in town.”

“Got time today for a touchup?”

“No time like the present, I say,” answered Jairo. “Pull the car in over there.”

“Heavenly,” exclaimed the man as he quickly drove his damaged vehicle into the garage area the attendant had pointed out to him. He never returned home.

                    ~ ~ ~

On another chilly weekday morning a black and white unit pulled into the lot for gas and a full service check. It seemed that the police station’s regular mechanic was out sick and the officers needed to assure that their vehicle was ‘street ready’ before commencing their shift. The two cops received the best service of their lives from Jairo that day. But after they failed to respond to radio calls and did not return to their headquarters, an all out investigation was implemented to search for the two law enforcement officers and their Ford police unit. Headlines days later read, “Tragic Patrol Accident - Local Police Officers Killed.”

                    ~ ~ ~

A top-notch mechanic for as long as he could remember, Jairo always did his best to please his customers and honor his trade.

The old service station had a central entry door accompanied by large windows to each side. Two pumps adorned the tiny entry sidewalk along the two large front windows. Faded white walls augmented with dingy rose trim were the exterior’s decor. A lonely place with an abandoned look.

                    ~ ~ ~

One hot South San Francisco afternoon a tearful young woman entered the service station lot in her beautifully manicured Model-A. She asked the attendant, “Can I get a full service?” to which he replied, “It will be quite some time, ma’am.”

“Busy, huh?” commented the woman.

“Is everything alright, ma’am? You look a bit distressed. Can I help in any way?” questioned Jairo.

“Oh, it’s this letter,” she replied, holding up an official looking white envelope, “I guess telling a stranger is easier than telling my family and friends. I’m afraid to open it.”

“Sometimes it’s best to face life head on and live it to its fullest.”

Looking up at Jairo with her tearful eyes she replied, “Well, mister, last week I got some really terrible bad news from my doctor. Odds are not good for me, you see. My doctor took some tests and the results are in this envelope. That’s why I’m afraid to open it.”

Jairo encouragingly replied, “Ah, ma’am, there are folks down in Vegas right now winning huge jackpots with worse odds than you have. Open it. You’ll ease you mind and heart, miss, trust me. Anyway, no doctor would send bad news in a letter, would they now.”

The woman placed the envelope on the seat next to her and stared at it for a while. Tears flowed as she slowly tore the envelope open. Sighs of relief echoed as she read the good news. “It’s not my time yet.”

When she looked up to thank the attendant she noticed that the station was abandoned. Only cracked asphalt, broken front windows and a missing front entry door remained. The woman exited her Ford and questioned an employee of a neighboring establishment regarding the service station. He simply responded, “Ma’am, that station’s been closed for years. Ain’t been nobody there since I can remember.”

Looking in her rearview mirror as she drove away, the woman caught a glimpse of the same uniformed man standing in the abandoned station behind her. She gently waved her hand . . . the man did the same.

                    ~ ~ ~

“Welcome sir!” greeted Jairo to a teenager in a ’32 Ford Deuce Coupe hotrod, “Full service?”

“Yeah, yeah. Hey, is your boss around, mister?”

Jairo smiled and replied, “You’ll be meeting him very soon, son. Very soon!”