Video: Drawing the Skeleton Front View preparation for Life Drawing

A video for my drawing students. This video includes the basic proportions based on a system of even 1/2 units and also includes the armature of shapes that the bones fall into.

More info at:

Write a story about Max Earnest and Win the Drawing of Max

Write a story about Max Earnest and 
Win the Drawing of Max 
Contest Ends Monday December 19th

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

This is the second version of this show!

Stories will be published in a vintage style newspaper catalog and the gallery will be converted into a 1930 or 40's cabaret set and students will be acting the stories out as monologues at some of the events at the college in the art gallery.

More competitions posted on my website at:  

These came in by email:

Max Earnest…The Turnaround! By CJ Jones

“My neck’s on the line, literally. I owed Lex some money so I borrowed from Glenn to pay off Lex. But if I mess up with Glenn I’m not as worried because his apes will give me less of a work over because I dated his sister (the one with the lazy eye, not the one with the harelip.) Here’s how I’m gonna pay off Glenn and turn things around after I win big at the horse track.
You see, there’s this guy I know, lives down the hall, he’s like a mathemagician. He literally has a track record of success, he’s in demand. He knows how to take the bittiest piece of information I get from my ex-brother-in-law, Hap, (who has the inside scoop at the stables) and turn it into pure gold. Now Hap is as dumb as what he shovels, but he’s a good guy and he lets me invest his money. But the Mathemagician is smart, and he isn’t like other eggheads, he doesn’t talk to me like I’m an idiot, and he doesn’t burden me with the scientific details behind his method to gambling success (but I’ll get his secrets eventually.) Sure, he puts junk in his veins (not my sort of thing) but I heard that even Einstein has some off days when he can’t even tie his own shoes.
Sometimes when I find the Mathemagician he’s slumped over by our building’s garbage chute, or unconscious and leaning against the elevator gate, or passed out on the fire escape. I trained the neighborhood kids to keep him propped up to keep him from becoming rat food. It’s like trying to stand up a hot water bottle, he’s got spaghetti legs after he shoots up. If the kids can’t stand him up, they draw eyes on his eyelids so the rats think he’s awake. He’s not always presentable, but so what? That won’t stop me. Even if I have to put him in a wheelbarrow and push him to the racetrack, we’re bettin’ on the ponies!
Now after I win big and pay off the loan from Glenn, I need to get in good with the missus so I can see my kids again. It turns out our daughter is fifteen now (I think) and I hear that she has the chops to be an excellent lounge act, she just needs the right management and that’s where I come in. I haven’t actually heard her sing yet, but Hap says she gave a glass shattering performance at his daughter’s sweet sixteen.
I’m even gonna have an amigo of mine paint a classy sign for my daughter, something with high quality gold leaf and it will say something like ‘Performing live in our lounge, the haunting sounds of Pixie Earnest.’ Then I’ll take the sign to classy joints like Lady Jane’s or The Golden Tiger and they’ll say ‘this guy’s got something special.’ Then they’ll put her on the payroll, (well, more like pay me under the table.) When my kid’s taking cigarette breaks from singing or wanders off to the bar, I’ll keep the troops entertained with my juggling skills (I specialize in juggling apples, oranges, even baseballs) or I might just repeat some jokes I’ve heard (I know my fair share of chuckle busters.) I might even get my son’s flugelhorn out of hock and have him play some tunes, he’s twelve. Heck, we might even take the show on the road as a family, sky’s the limit. You might want to invest in me, because this is a sure bet.
Speaking of betting, when it comes to betting in general, people think that there’s too many variables, and that’s what the people at the track want you to think. But I’m smart enough to learn from Hap and the Mathemagician’s combined knowledge. I’ll coax out the Mathemagician’s betting secrets (I’ll pay him for the goods every time he needs some quick money, you know, for his golden arm) and I’m gonna put these nuggets together in a book after he croaks and title it ‘Horse Track Science: The Max Earnest Method, written by Anonymous’ (I heard that if you publish a book anonymously you don’t have to pay taxes on whatever proceeds you get from the book.) And it’s not all about the tracks, I think people want to hear my philosophies on life in general, I’m good at going off on tangents so I end up giving my insights on everything.
I can see it all come together- the 85% I get from managing my daughter and the profit I make from the book sales, I see a bright future for me. It’s like how the ladies at Linda’s Parlor Amour all call me ‘Mr. Creepy Peepers’ because it’s creepy how well I see into the future. I keep saying ‘Maximilian, makin’ a million,’ that’s my motto. I’m like Leonardo Maxvinci and I’m working on my maxterpiece.
It’s scary how things are finally gonna turn around for me after all the bad luck I’ve always had my entire life, like that one time the crate slipped and fell on my toes or how I tripped on the jack and hit my head on the anvil. So I’ve never been the most physical fella but I can pull this off. What else am I gonna do? Movin’ hot merch hurts my back but I can move mountains with my mouth.
I see my chariot has arrived. Well it was nice talking to you, but I’ve gotta catch this bus and go sell some blood. Cheers!”
The Story of Max Earnest
by Peter Vu
It was a gloomy day in Detroit, in the fall of 1936. Max Earnest sat with his wicked hands clasped around his head, he had now understood the severity of what he had done...             She was charming, intelligent and the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
Betty Mae was everything Max had ever
dreamt of. They had just finished purchasing a small apartment just 2 blocks away from the small coffee shop where they had met 6 years earlier. The apartment was stained with blood as Max sat there rocking back and forth in his chair.
He had been on edge now for the past couple weeks.
            He had recently lost his job and was having difficulty finding a new one. Coming home day after day without a job was getting to him. Betty Mae nagging at him saying there is no money to pay to feed their infant twins was also getting on his nerves. He knew that something must be done. His bills were not going to paid if he didn't act fast. He was also going to get evicted from his apartment.
            Desperate, he went looking for an old friend across town. There, he walked into the Mafia run bar. The moment he walked in, all eyes were on him. Being the only one in a T-shirt and shorts, and everyone else in tuxedos, he stuck out like a sore thumb. His friend, Michael, spotted him and quickly went over to Max. "What're you doing here." "I need money", Max replied. With a devilish smile, Michael walked Max to the back of the bar.
            It was very dark and cold in the office. Michael pulled the light cord and the room lit up. The office was very big. The walls were covered with strong thick cabinets. As soon as Michael opened them, Max realized he was not in the right place. Seeing that Max was backing out and terrified, Michael walked over, poured a glass of Tequila, and gave it to Max.
"Don't be afraid", Michael said in a calming voice. The cabinets were filled with guns, all sorts of sizes. He handed Max a gun and said "Whenever I need you, you come. I don't care if you're fucking your wife, eating dinner, or taking a shit. I call. You come." Max reluctantly grabbed the pistol and left hurriedly.
            As the weeks went on, Max was doing Michael's dirty work, taking out all of his enemies for him. Since Max was so busy trying to make money for his family, he devoted all of his time to his new job, leaving his wife and kids. He usually left early in the morning and came back in the middle of the night.
            Soon, he and his wife were complete strangers now. It was as if the person Betty Mae married was gone. She felt lonely and didn't know what to do. She began talking to a man who worked at the local food market. She went there daily to buy groceries and was always excited to see John.
            As Betty Mae was in the baby's aisle, John approached her and asked her how her day was. She was feeling dreadful that day. Her back was killing her, but she had to clean the house and feed the kids. John offered to take work off early and help Betty Mae clean while she feeds her baby. So that exactly what he did. He cleaned the house, leaving not a single spec of dirt. After Betty Mae put the kids to bed, John was getting ready to leave. He said bye and stepped out the door. Betty Mae grabbed him and kissed him on the lips. He then put her on the couch and the too proceeded to kiss. They ripped each others clothes off and made love until 3 in the morning.
            Betty Mae had forgotten all about Max. She heard him get out of his car and head towards the doors. She leaped off of John and pushed him into the closet along with his clothes as soon as Max opened the door.
            Max walked in as she was standing the naked holding John's pants. Furious, he ran over to the closet and found John, standing there scared to death without any clothes on. He hit John in the head several times and he fell unconscious. Betty Mae was screaming for him to stop, but Max was still pounding on John's face. When he was finished, he looked up at Betty Mae. She was sitting there clotheless and crying, not knowing what would happen next. Heart broken he walked out of his apartment and Betty Mae followed crying for him to come back. Max walked back in his apartment and yelled, "Shut up you whore". He pulled out his pistol and shot his beloved wife several times in the chest.
            She fell to the ground. Realizing what he just did. He dropped his pistol and ran to Betty Mae's side. He held her in his arms as she was bleeding to death. She grabbed Max's face with her bloody hands and said "Sorry Max, forgive me. I love you". She died seconds later. Max sat there crying. With his face covered in tears, he looked up and saw his pistol on the ground. He reached over and without any hesitation; he shot himself in the head while he was still holding his wife.

This came in by e-mail:
Max Earnest-Matt O'Malley

Max Earnest was thinning the herd, culling from his drawer of underwear, the weak in elasticity, the old, the hole filled, the stained, and tossing them onto the trash heap of his floor. When he was through there remained just one sad pair that he devised would last four days of wearing at a time; front wise, backwards, then inside out and front wise and backwards again before he had to wash them.

To wash his underwear, Max would use the sink in his room and a bar of soap. Once washed, he would then turn on the hot plate he normally used to cook his daily meal and place a designated frying pan on his makeshift stove. He would then pan dry his underwear; swirling and sautéing them in the dry pan until all the water had evaporated out and they were left toasty and warm. Electricity was expensive and Max had very little cash to spare and opted to use the little he had to pay his day to day rent.

Max Earnest had been unemployed now for four years. He had lost his job to a company that had outsourced it overseas and then lost his house to a bank that refused to refinance it. Max’s wife had subsequently left him to live with her mother and then the rent for the apartment Max had been renting skyrocketed beyond his means as foreclosed upon homeowners became renters, squeezing the market of all available places. Max then fell to the streets for a time, living off the kindness of strangers until he found a cheap single room occupancy hotel in San Francisco’s tenderloin district on the corner of Eddy and Jones, just above the Yet Wah Chinese Restaurant.

From this hotel, Max would daily leave to pound the streets, his clothing and skin infused with exotic spices, as he looked for work; trudging first over to the EDD offices off of Gough Street to check job postings, then over to the library at the Civic Center where he used the internet to check Craigslist and the various local papers for postings. In both places, Max would fill out forms and endless job applications, boiling his life and experiences down into brief and succinct single sentences or a brief paragraph.

At times the repetitiveness and drudgery of applying for jobs was discouraging, but Max kept his spirits up knowing that someday his life would change for the better and finally it did, on a rainy day as he walked from the EDD offices over to the library.

Outside of the State building on Van Ness Street, Max encountered a group of protestors. The protestors were from Occupy Wall Street and they were protesting cuts, tax loopholes, corruption, and various other causes individuals needed to protest. Max made his way through the crowd, actually pushing his way through until he found himself on the other side of the protest and facing a news reporter.

The well dressed reporter was under a large umbrella and she stopped Max by placing a microphone up to his lips after asking “What are you protesting? It seems so confused. What are you upset about?”

Max paused for a moment dumbstruck, and then watched as the reporter wrinkled her nose; she had caught a scent of Max’s exotic cologne. Max looked into her eyes, squinted back, and then gathered everything he had just seen in the signs and put all of the protestor’s concerns and his experiences on the hotplate in his mind as the cameraman zeroed in on Max’s face.

In that moment, Max explained in a succinct paragraph and to the worldwide television audience, what he and the protestors were “upset about”. That day, Max became the voice of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and this is what he said…  


Max Earnest

By:  Mary C. Charest  

     Max Earnest stalled in the shadows of the smoke filled room.  Maudie Lane was in the middle of a cutting contest; two thundering pianos were making love right there on the stage to her harmonic levitations.  Maudie was notorious for performing at these back street battles, where piano wars rumbled and sent contenders into the spotlight or straight in the gutter.  Venus Frey put a hand on her hip, as Maudie sung out with the heart of Harlem itself.  Venus beamed, “You sure are a Hipster honey, but what’s a white girl doin’ with a voice like that?”

     The new eighty-eight fingers was young and cocky; Maudie liked Ol’ Creole best – he was a pro with the keys.  She gave him a kiss as he walked out the back door.  “Here’s your giggle water Maudie,” said the strong arm as she approached the bar.   “Thanks Guy,” she said with a low sexy voice, squeezing the bartender’s hand.  His great burly mug turned redder then her dress. The rest of the big swing wanna-bes at the end of the bar burst out laughing.  He lowered the bottle of whiskey and snarled, “Scram, will ya!”  They just roared louder.

     Max Earnest noticed how her satin dress followed every move, just as smooth as the tail he had on her all week.   He pushed his hat back.  She was ritzy-elegant – the kid didn’t belong in this joint.  Len Dressler walked past with a bulge in his jacket and a look of resolve.  Max Earnest didn’t flinch, just stood there gaping at Maudie like every other lug.  He had a job to do tonight; to keep Maudie Lane alive long enough to see uptown.

     Max owed one to the dame.  She pulled him out of half the gin mills up and down this strip.  He was just a gumshoe on hooch using her as a poker chip, but she was in love. “I don’t know what she ever saw in me,” he said taking his hat off and scratching a few new grays.  Plunking the fedora back on, he put his mind to business.  Dresser’s a loan shark -- what’s Maudie doing linking up with him?” Max thought resentfully.  “Word on the street is Dresser’s popping off some palooka from Chicago tonight.  Think Earnest…” he said turning his back.  Maudie was making her way towards the front door.

     “Let’s go for drinks canary,” Dresser purred, “I have a surprise – you’re gonna meet Sarah Vaughan’s agent straight from Chicago.”  He smoothed the brim of his grey fedora and his pin stripe suit flowed without a wrinkle.  “Sure, I’ll dip the bill with ya baby,” Maudie answered eagerly.  Len Dresser opened the door and snapped for his car.  Grabbing her fur he draped it around her shoulders, nuzzling her pastel neck.  Max bowed his head, and moved leisurely toward the back exit.

     He pulled his trench coat close and wrapped his mind around the fix.  “If Maudie’s found with Dressler, she’s as deep in it as he is.  And the dame don’t even know it – He’s just a ticket uptown for her, and she’s a pretty pigeon for him.” Max thought rounding the corner of Dressler’s brownstone.  He jimmied one of the dark windows in the back.  “She’s gonna take the heat for tonight’s hit, if I don’t…” Max whispered.  He felt two tons of pressure come down on his head and a deep voice answered, “Mr. Earnest – ya’ll talk too much.”  Max felt two paws grab him, and heard the shuffling of a big man’s feet, then all faded to black.

     Max came to with his head pounding like someone else’s hangover, as Maudie ran her fingers gently through his hair.  “Max baby,” she forced a smile through her tears, “what are you doing here?”  Putting his hat back on he said, “I should throw you over my knee and spank you.”  His blue eyes got misty, and she wouldn’t let him go.  Some pin stripe was tied up tight as a coffin in the chair behind them.  “A woman scorned?  The agent promises bright lights and an uptown stage, and then falls short?  The heat’ll buy it,” Dresser said, “Start with the gumshoe, and then knock off the pin stripe,” he wrenched Maudie away from Max.  “I love a wild woman – the bedroom’s over there baby,” he said, grabbing at the door knob. 

     Much to his surprise, and Max’s, the door swung in.  A big black hand grabbed Dresser by his neck and growled out, “Let the gumshoe go, or he’s a dead man.”  Creole Jones gave Maudie a wink.  “Now, put those pea shooters on the ground.  The heat’s outside.”  He thumped on the ground five times with his great boot.  Max heaved the pin stripe over; causing a ruckus that gave the copper’s the advantage they needed.

     Max Earnest tipped his hat up and Creole rubbed his bristle.  “I heard Dresser’s thugs talking in the alley that night I was cut.  I wasn’t gonna let Miss Maudie take the rap,” Creole said bashfully.  “Did I ever tell ya how much I love those fingers of yours?” Maudie said, giving him a great hug, while Max wiped the sweat from his forehead, “Yup, we could a been a real three for one special – thanks,” Max said to the former piano champ.  Maudie stuck her arms in the crook of Max and Creole’s and said, “Well boys, let me take you out for a cup of Joe.” Max Earnest saw her lip quiver.  He gave Maudie’s arm a little squeeze and she relaxed her head on his shoulder.  A smile emerged from under that beat up black fedora that he just couldn’t hide; yea, he was dizzy with the dame.

By Michael West

Max stares into the mirror.

18 minutes to show time.

36 dates in 43 days.

27 different clubs on a tour spider-webbed across Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, and one long-ass haul to where he is tonight: a one-nighter in Liberal, Kansas. Liberal pays well, but the journey took its toll on the shrapnel lodged in his back. He saw an image of it swimming through his flesh: twisted koi.

The ritual before the first note, staring into the mirror, remains the same because Max believes change is bad. Retain the basics, maintain the structure, everyday retrain the brain. Something of a mantra with him. He doesn’t know what a “mantra” is exactly, not in the sense of “I’ll take mantras for $1000.00, Alex”, but it’s a word used by his tenor sax, a junkie hooked on words instead of heroin. Lemm has been clean for 6 years, 4 months, 18 days, and can tell you the minutes if you ask him, so it must be a useful thing to have, this mantra.

The mirror is difficult to carry from town to town, but no more vexing than lugging a stand-up bass.

When he was asked to identify his grandfather’s body, the only thing in the condo that didn’t look rented or borrowed, aside from the exquisitely maintained stand-up bass clutched in the old man’s hand (yes, the one currently reclining next to Max), were the mirror and the faded clippings. Max has no idea what the clippings mean or why they are in the order they are. He also has no idea who this man called his “grandfather” is. He knows he was in the music business but in what capacity……?

His father only spoke of him in short sentences and the conversation always ended with “Oh hell, fuck him, let’s go get some ice cream.”

Max stares.

Lemm has his mantras, but Max has his beliefs.

Max is not a religious or spiritual man, but he does believe there is a design to the universe based on what it is doing at any given moment.

Where it began and where it ends is not his business. He is a musician. He plays the notes he’s given.

He also truly believes that the human mind can figure out some parts of this design if it stops getting in its own way.

So he stares.

He believes the partial sentences, the picture of the well-maintained woman, and the mirror itself will reveal its meaning if he lets it.It also frees up the part of his brain that stores all the musical notes he needs to make his music.

Art comes when one is distracted. Another of Max’s beliefs.

You chase it and it runs. And it’s always faster. And it will give you the finger if you try too hard.

So he stares.

A knock on the door says it’s time to warm up his fingers.

He picks up the bass and plucks a single note.

And stares.

And he plucks another note and begins the avalanche of music that will carry him onto the stage, through the set, through the encore, through the large tumbler of Makers Mark, upstairs to his room, tumbler and mirror in hand and under arm, onto the bed into that sitting position Lemm says is “Lotus” or something, something good for staring, and he will stare at the mirror and the clippings until sleep or enlightenment bury him.

By Patrick Nelson
          "Ruthless." That's what the parole board said when I sat in front of them...again. Only this time the old gallows gang added, "brutal, unrepentant (whatever that means), and a total lack of social and moral conscience (whatever that means, too.)"

          Why do they do this to me and themselves every few years? I wonder that every time the warden calls me into his office to tell me another parole hearing is scheduled. I don't want to leave. I just want to be left alone. What I did I have to pay for and this seems just as good a place as any. Can't they just leave it alone?

          The first coupla times the dog and monkey show took place, I wondered if it was maybe the warden what set it up--after all, he did say he owed me one.

          I don't see it that way. Those two mooks that stabbed that screw that day was just askin for it. Right outside my cell they tried to start a riot or somethin, I don't know what, and when they took that guard hostage and started screamin and yellin, I could only think one thing: today was meatloaf day in the cafeteria. I love meatloaf. If they just woulda waited till after lunch, I woulda let them take over all of Frisco. Wasn't none of my business, but no,  meatloaf made me go right up to 'em and put their heads together like a coupla bad melons. Sometimes when I get mad like that, I forget how strong I am and, well... I guess I smooshed their heads a little too hard. By the end of the day, those two were in a coma that they never woke up from, the guard that got shivved was dead and I didn't get no meatloaf.

          I did get a visit from the warden hisself. He came to thank me and asked if there was anything he could do for me. I told him nothin, except maybe letting me have my hat back--they took it from me when I was processed after the trial. I liked that hat--no, I loved that hat. My baby girl Charlie gave it to me on my birthday in another life. Hell, I was pretty sure they didn't even have it no more...after all, that was somewhere around twenty years ago and it was a nice hat.

          The other thing I asked him for was meatloaf. He gave me back my hat instead, so I figured we were even.

          For weeks after I got my hat back, all kinds of guys were giving me crap about it, but nobody tried nothin. Even the young kids here had heard about what I done outside to get here. They all either heard about my first weeks here all those years ago or they remember seeing it for themselves. I just wanted to be left alone to serve my time, but when a new guy, especially a big guy like me gets here, every dumb sumbitch thinks it's his ticket to respect and the easy life behind the walls. Take out the big guy and you get big. Big mistake, you ask me.

          Anyways, I ain't one to go lookin for trouble, but if it comes my way, I put it down like a rabid dog. I ain't proud of what I done to all them guys, but like I said, I just wanted to be left alone. After a few of them guys ended up in the Infirmary or worse, they left me alone. Not just cause I was put in solitary, either. Yeah, solitary was just the ticket for  me. I wished I coulda just stayed there for the whole stretch, really. Nobody but me and my books and the memory of what I done. They said it was punishment, but it was like heaven you ask me.

          Now's probably a good time to tell you about what I done to get into all this trouble. It's nothin to be crowing about, for sure, but it's done and over and there ain't no takin it back and I'm pretty sure if it happened all over again, I'd have done the exact same thing except for one little detail. You may be thinkin that detail woulda been not getting caught, but you'd be dead wrong. I done it and I should be punished. Period.

          I could start way back with how I worked on the docks, how I met Gladys, the speakeasys and the whole thing, but I'm not going into that. First off, it ain't none of your business and second, it's mine. It's some of the only good I still got left and I'm keepin it to myself. Under my hat like they say.

          I will tell you she wasn't really no good--even with her looks and her airs, she was just a bad woman. Why she picked a guy like me even for just the one toss in the hay, is beyond me. Bottom line is she had a baby and it was mine. I did what I could to help: money, calling in a few favors for a nice place for the two of them, I even became the one thing a workin bum like me hated, I became a scab. I crossed a picket line when we was on strike at the docks just so I could keep the money comin in for the baby. My baby. By then I had given up any dumb ideas about me and Gladys, but I had to do it for that baby girl of mine. At first Gladys would let me see her and hold her. I figure she thought she owed it to me seeing as how I was givin her all my money. When Charlie, her name was Charlene, when Charlie got old enough to start askin questions about things, her mother told her I was her Uncle Max. I ain't gonna lie and tell you that didn't hurt to the bone, but I wasn't gonna go upsettin the apple cart. I had to keep seein my baby and if all that took was workin my fingers raw and keepin my yap tight, so be it.

          Soon enough, too soon if you ask me, Gladys started seein another guy. I didn't give a spit about that, no, what burned me hot as water was her and Charlie movin in with this bum. He seemed okay on the surface, but even if Charlie thought I was only her uncle, just the thought of her callin another man "daddy" was makin me lose my my mind. Gladys told me she didn't need my money no more and that if I kept comin around to see Charlie, she was gonna have me locked up. I still got to see her though. I would walk her to school every morning on my break. I told her not to tell her mother cause she wouldn't like it. That wasn't a lie, either, so I didn't feel bad. I would even come see her mother's new boyfriend come pick her up every day after school-- it was by break between shifts. Even though my money wasn't goin right to Gladys no more, I had nothin else to do so I kept the second job.

          The day I crossed the line was just like all the rest: the boyfriend pulled up in his fancy white car and got out to wait for Charlie. He was leaning against the shiny fender smoking a cigarette when she came down the steps. They say stuff like this happens in slow motion, but it was all blur to me. He and Charlie started arguing about somethin and he smacked her--right there on the sidewalk out front of the school. Before I knew what was really happenin, I had what was left of his head squeezed in my hands. My thumbs were in the holes where his pretty-boy eyes used to be and there was blood everywhere. I told you already about how I get when I lose myself. Nothin else I remember except that bad, scared look in Charlie's eyes. That look would be more punishment than any prison could ever deliver no matter how many years I was locked up. That was the end of me. Charlie ran away screamin and I just stood there waitin for the cops to come get me. I never saw her again since.

          Funny thing is ever since I been in here, I felt like I had a cancer growin inside me even before they told me I really did have the cancer. I was payin and paying but it would never be enough to bring back that little girl's love--or whatever it was.

          Yeah, that doc in the infirmary...I coulda swore he couldn't find a pimple on his own ass, seein as how he couldn't have been more than twelve, but he found the cancer growin in my spine. I didn't feel no different, except for being a little more tired than usual, but I just figured I was gettin old. Either way, it didn't matter none to me. the important parts all died on that sidewalk out front of the school. What twenty years? Is that what I said?

          When you think about it, it would make more sense for them to just let me out and let the cancer do it's thing. If I was outside, I wouldn't be able to afford no "treatments" or operations, so I'd probably be dead within a few years, but here they just  keep me alive so I can fulfil my debt to society. Keepin me alive when I'm already dead. That makes me laugh and nothing really makes me laugh...

          Thursday was meatloaf day. The one guard I talk to, Kenney, he came and told me I had a visitor. In all the years I been here I ain't never had no visitor. --Wait, there was that one time, but that was just Gladys come by to grind her high heels into me and tell me how the only way I would get what I deserved was to get the gas chamber. Real peach, she was. I just told her that apparently the jury and a certified judge and all decided what I done wasn't so bad and that somewhere along the way they figured the bum she played house with wasn't worth killin me for. She didn't like that, but I sure did. It's the little things in life. Funny. I forgot all about her visit back then. Time slips away don't it?

          Not havin no visitors for so long and all meant Kenney had to go over all the rules and regulations but I could tell his heart wasn't really in it. He knew I wasn't gonna pull nothin funny. He knew I didn't really want to see nobody anyway. I asked him if I was gonna miss the meatloaf and he laughed at that and told me he'd save me a couple a plates.

          I don't get around the prison much. Never have, so the trip to the other side of the  world was a long and strange one. It took me a long time to get there and Kenney even asked if I wanted a wheelchair. I told him to go jump off a cliff. He laughed. I was a comedian.

          When we got there, I was put in a big room with one big row of desks facing each other. There was a six foot high sheet of some kind of clear plastic with wires inside it runnin down the center. I was sittin there mindin my own business, when another guard brings in this woman. She had long brown hair and was real pretty. I wondered if maybe they were tryin to send me another case worker or lawyer or somethin again.

          When I first came here they was always sendin up some poor slob tryin to plead their case about pleadin mine, but I always told the guards I didn't want to bother with em. This time Kenney told me the warden had strict orders that I see this here visitor. Real strange cause the warden usually minded his own business and so did I.

          She sits across the plastic window and that's when I notice her mother's lips. They have that rosy, turned-up-on-the-corners look. Poor girl got my fat, flat nose, but on her it looked right.

          She just sat there with her hands flat on the table for a while and neither of us said nothin. Finally she lifted her hand to the glass and placed her palm on it. I ain't shed a tear for nothin and it took all the walls I put up since that day I saw her for the last time to not break down and start balling like an infant. Here I had gone and thought all my feelins were gone.

          I didn't return the gesture. Instead I said: "Whaddya want, Charlie?" It sounded meaner than I meant it too. I really did want to know what this strange daughter from outer space wanted, but I didn't want to hope for her to actually want to come see me. That would ruin my government sanctioned and self-imposed sentence.

          She shook off my harsh words and painted a faint smile on her face as she said, "I see you kept the hat."

          Like an idiot, I looked up at the brim above my brow and flinched a little in embarrassment. I felt a little crack growing. I took it off and inspected it, turning it in my hands.  "Yeah, it's a nice hat. Well made and lasted forever..." I said as I laid it on the table between us. I hoped it would add to the barrier between us. Didn't seem like the plastic wall was enough.

          "Forever." she said with a chuckle. "Look, Uncle--I mean, Max. Mom told me. She told me you were my father."

          I was surprised, but tried hard not to show it. A strange burning rose up in my throat, but I pushed it back down, "Took her long enough." Again, too mean, but I had to keep it going this way.

          "Max--Dad, she died five years ago. She told me everything. Finally." She leaned forward a little and I swear if she would've put that hand up again, I would've come crumbling down like that wall in Jericho. She went on, "If only I would have known, I would've..."

          "Would've what? Come down here once a month to see the man who murdered a man with his bare hand right before your baby eyes?" Damn, I was losing it. I had to keep it even and get out of here, but I didn't want to. I wanted to stay and talk to her. I wanted to find out what kind of woman she had become, if she was in love and happy, if I had any grandchildren... I saw the gold ring on her finger and felt a wave of hope. Hope for her, not for me.

          "I've hired a lawyer and we've been in contact with the parole board..." she said as she looked into my eyes.

          I tried to keep the feelings off my face, "So you're the one what keeps stirring it up. Save yer money, Charlie. It's too late." I was burning from inside with shame and anger at myself, but I was used to that. It was just the fresh wounds I was opening up in her that were almost too much.

          "Please, Max! It took a lot for me to come here and talk to you about this." Charlie was tearing up. Damn. It was so long ago, but even with all the pleading and gut wrenching heartbreak, it would all come to nothing but more pain.

          "Charlie, I know you think you're doing what you have to do to make up for the lies your mother told you. I know you think you're going to feel better trying to save the old man from crumbling to dust here in this deathbox, but it's too late. I already did the damage between us. I smashed it between my hands that day and now I'm still paying for it."

          I saw that look again from her. It was the faraway look, only this time it came from those angel eyes with a few more wrinkles around them.

          She was shaking her head, but I kept on it, "There's nothing here for you. I'm not her for you. Go on and live your life with that husband and be happy." We both looked down at her wedding band. "Trust me, there's no happiness here anymore. Just that crazy old man who...never mind. Just go."

          "But Max, I know you were just protecting me! I know--" she sputtered.

          "Charlie, you don't know nothin. I would do it again if I had to, but if I did, I would make sure you were a million miles away when it happened. No kid should have to see that and that's why I'm here and you're out there. You're out there so you don't have to see me do that again every time you look at me."

           She didn't say nothin for a while. She didn't even look at me, which was good. It's how it had to be.

          Still without looking up she mumbled, "I never even had a father and when I finally find him, he's..."

          "Yeah, he is." I said as I motioned for Kenney to get rid of her. As he came over and rested his hand lightly on her shoulder, I put my hat back on and rested the crown over my face to cover the tears that had sprung out from the cracks in my wall. Soon it would be more than even the dutch boy could stop, but before that happened I just leaned back all lazy-looking in the steel chair and said from under the brim, "I gotta go, Charlie. It's meatloaf day."

          Kenney led her out first which was a breach in the rules, but he knew I didn't want her to see me hobbling away on my cancer-riddled bones.

          The meatloaf was dry, but I liked it. I had to like it: it was all I had.

Renovated Reputations: A Collaborative Installation of Paintings, Fiction, Music and Vintage Furniture
by Kenney Mencher, Patrick Nelson and others at:
The Art Museum of Los Gatos, California
4 Tait Ave Los Gatos, CA 95030
December 1 - January 6
Reception: Saturday December 3, 2011 5PM-8PM 
Show up in costume and get into the photobooth!  You may end up being my next painting!
Price: FREE
Phone: (408) 395-7386
The Art Museum of Los Gatos presents Renovated Reputations, an immersive exhibition experience featuring works conceived as a collaboration in painting, creative fiction, and design. At once noir, bohemian and pulp in style, the works invite the viewer to step inside and sit awhile, discover their stories and spark engagement.
More info at:

CJ Jones, The winner of the Hamilton and Shelly Beach Fiction Contest!

by CJ Jones

“What names have they given us this time,” asked the woman who wore a boa made of poor little animals she killed with her bare hands in Siberia.

“We will be Shelly and Hamilton Beach,” replied the man with the evil red bowtie.

“The names sound fake. ‘Hamilton Beach’ is a company that makes kitchen appliances for lazy capitalist Americans. So what is our mission, ‘Mr. Hamilton Beach?’”

“We will live in a Washington DC suburb. Our KGB handlers have photos of J.Edgar Hoover looking at a red dress in a store window, so he must have been imagining it on a beautiful woman. They want you to wear the dress, to seduce Hoover and lure him to a motel room where I will be hiding in the closet, with a camera.”

“This plan sounds absolutely foolproof. Do I kill him with a hammer and sickle before or after I make love to him?”

“Nyet. No killing. Just heartless lovemaking. The footage will be for Premier Khrushchev’s viewing pleasure alone.”

Weeks had passed since the Beaches settled in a DC suburb and they still waited for the command to seduce J.Edgar Hoover. Li’l Jimmy, a boy scout and all-around snoop from across the street, gazed in the window of the Beach’s house, then ran home to his father.

“Golly, Dad, I just saw something awful at the Beaches!”

“Goddammit, son, are you still peepin’ in people’s windows? What did you see?”

“The Beaches were wrasslin’ each other, in the buff! There was lots of grunting and slapping.”

“A lotta couples do that, it’s how babies are made.”

“Jeepers, Dad, they were wearing Soviet army hats and pouring vodka on each other!”

“Jimmy, I think you’ve just uncovered some commie sons-a-bitches. I had a suspicion, like when Mrs. Beach cut the hedge in front of their house with a sickle, and the hedge looked a little too much like Stalin’s moustache after she was done. Or how Hamilton knew what ‘KGB’ stands for. Or how they like chess more than checkers. All of these are ‘red flags’. This could be the beginning of a commie invasion. We have to stop it. Before your Mom gets home.”

“Wowsers, Dad, we’ll crush these commies good! What’s the plan?”

“I want you to get the cattle prod and the bullwhip from your mother’s dresser, it should be under her Wonder Woman costume.”

“Oh boy!”

“I’ll get the hammock, which I’ll use as a net. I’ll drag them back here where I’ll finish them. You’ll stay in your treehouse and hoot like an owl if you see anyone coming.”

“Jeepers Dad, wait till I tell the fellas about this! I‘ll be the most popular little squirt in the whole forth grade!”

“Son, you can’t tell anyone. These are some cold blooded commie bastards. They aren’t like us, they were built in a factory and they can’t feel pain. They can only be killed with electricity, because electricity will fry their circuits. We’ll strike at night.”

While Dad laid out his plan, the Beaches drove away. They visited a local college to find young communist sympathizers. The Beaches returned a few hours later. Hamilton scoffed, “Gullible Americans! We will keep planting the seeds of communism and soon all will worship dark lord Stalin and quote the prophet Karl Marx. Nothing can stop us…nothing!”

A loud crash was heard.

“The noise came from the basement,” hissed Shelly. “An American must have broken into our garage, fell through our trap door and into our basement of horror! Let’s rush down the stairs to the basement since the intruder must certainly be incapacitated from the fall!”

When the Beaches entered the basement, Dad was waiting, suspended upside down from a pipe above the door. He used the cattle prod on the commie couple, who then tumbled down the stairs. He used the whip to tie them and bagged them in the hammock. He was disgusted to see a shrine to Stalin, complete with a large Stalin poster, candles, an offering of wheat, and a Ouija board with Cyrillic letters.

Jimmy could not see what had happened and he panicked. He jumped from the treehouse and ran to the phone to call his brother who lived at a nearby dorm.

“Fred, you need to trot, ski, do whatever you can to rush’n over here! No stallin.’ Dad might be in trouble!”

“I’ll be right over, pipsqueak.”

Jimmy felt relieved when he saw his father drag the limp commie neighbors toward the house. In the backyard was a ten foot deep pit that his father dug last week in preparation for a bomb shelter installation. He helped his dad push the couple into the pit. Jimmy retrieved a radio and several cans of soup from the garage. The Beaches awoke when Dad sprayed them with a garden hose.

Hamilton yelled, “You cannot drown us! You cannot drown an ideology!”

Shelly added, “You cannot kill us so easily, we have Rasputin blood! Why is your son throwing soup cans at us?”

“Can it, Commie, my son is doing it to distract you from this!” Dad threw the radio and the Beaches were too distracted to catch it before it landed in the shallow water. “Soup’s on, you sons-a-bitches!” Shelly and Hamilton fried in the electric water as soup cans exploded around them.

“Will anyone miss them, Dad?”

“No, son. All that will remain of them is an expertly painted portrait of the couple, made by the artist down the street, I think his name is Manney Kencher or something.”

Dad felt a cold hand on his shoulder. He turned around to see his expressionless son, Fred, home from college. “Dad, you murdered my friends, Shelly and Hamilton Beach. Today at school they planted communist thoughts inside my head and now I am a godless commie and I want to destroy America.”

Dad raised his fist to the sky and yelled “Nooooooooooooooooooo!”

The End?
Several of the stories shared wonderful sentiments. Shannon Stroud, V. English and Matt O’Malley had some really great ideas. I like the whole idea that this couple were so linked together. These stories were part narrative and part poetic vignettes. Each had that kind of sweet kinda zany but all good quality.

In some ways Michael West’s “Codswallop” was sort of mélange of all the flavors for the stories in this round. The story had a sense of humor and irony that really appealed but also played with ideas concerning life and relationships. One line that leapt out at me was,

“His day/life is so unremarkable that the thought of calling the police makes him a little horny.”
A kind of David Sedaris realism that was at once true and funny.

Speaking of lines that really satisfied I think that CJ Jones’ line, “Fred, you need to trot, ski, do whatever you can to rush’n over here! No stallin.’ Dad might be in trouble!”

So I think CJ is the favorite this week and get’s to take the Beaches home with him. The sense of humour expressed by CJ Jones was right up my alley, well you know what I mean you commies! 
Read them all here:
More competitions on my site:
Renovated Reputations: A Collaborative Installation of Paintings, Fiction, Music and Vintage Furniture
by Kenney Mencher, Patrick Nelson and others at:
The Art Museum of Los Gatos, California
4 Tait Ave Los Gatos, CA 95030
December 1 - January 6
Reception: Saturday December 3, 2011 5PM-8PM 
Show up in costume and get into the photobooth!  You may end up being my next painting!
Price: FREE
Phone: (408) 395-7386
The Art Museum of Los Gatos presents Renovated Reputations, an immersive exhibition experience featuring works conceived as a collaboration in painting, creative fiction, and design. At once noir, bohemian and pulp in style, the works invite the viewer to step inside and sit awhile, discover their stories and spark engagement.
More info at:


"Aliza in the Wind" by Patrick Nelson

A flash fiction story inspired by one of my paintings. 

RENOVATED REPUTATIONS @ The Art Museum of Los Gatos, California
December 1 - January 6
Reception: Saturday December 3, 2011 5PM-8PM 
Show up in costume and get into the photobooth!  You may end up being my next painting!


Mommy Knows Pest by Patrick Nelson

A flash fiction story inspired by one of my paintings.

Renovated Reputations
Art Museum of Los Gatos, California
December 1 - January 6
Reception: Saturday December 3, 2011 5PM-8PM
Show up in costume and get into the photobooth!  You may end up being my next painting!

The totally cool furniture so far installed for the show at Los Gatos

RENOVATED REPUTATIONS @ The Art Museum of Los Gatos, California
December 1 - January 6
Reception: Saturday December 3, 2011 5PM-8PM 
Show up in costume and get into the photobooth!  You may end up being my next painting!