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Dear Cuttlefish, Dear Cuttlefish

Right now there is a magnificent light show going on deep inside Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. With bright, electric flashes and flamboyant patterns, the cuttlefish, a squid-class of cephalopod, meet up for mating, only to die off afterwards as the new generation supplant themselves into the coral. The sadness of their impending doom is far outshone by their brilliant way of showing themselves off. I’ve wanted to see it for years now, but the best I could do was write about it. This story snippet, included in my book of shorts titled Cimarron Man and other stories, is free for the next few days (starting tomorrow the 25th). I hope you download the book, and enjoy the stories. And don’t eat cuttlefish. It makes me sad.


Dear Cuttlefish, Dear Cuttlefish


Dante approached her because he liked the vibrant pink hair and the little tattoo on the left forearm of a yellow star. Elegant. He hooked a sneaker into a stool rail and ordered a beer. Wheat. And then he tapped her on the shoulder, gently, next to the star. But not on the star.

“You here with anyone?”

She turned to sneak-a-peek over her shoulder, yet didn’t make eye contact. “No.”

“So you’re alone?”

“Correct.” Her drink of choice was a Bloody Mary. She tipped her head back and swallowed until an olive came close to her lips, but she didn’t let it slide in. When she put the glass back onto the counter, the olive slowly sunk down into a cloud of red.

“I’m alone too,” he said. The bartender, a rail-thin tattoo canvas with a scraggly beard, slid a beer across the counter to him. The bartender’s fingers read, Love Sucks, but when Dante combined the digits, it read, Luck and two s’s and the ove. Dante wished the extra letters made a real word. “I like the star,” he said.

The girl rubbed a casual hand over it, like it would brush away. “Thanks.”


Not a word.

“Hey,” Dante said, planting his ass on the stool, “what’s wrong? You always this sad?”

“Not always. Just tonight.”

“How come?” He nudged a thigh with a knee. “What’d the world do to you?”

Her eyes were green, like sea glass. Maybe it was the pink hair in contrast, but at that moment they were the greenest green he’d ever seen.

She sighed. “Have you ever heard about cephalopods?”

“Uh, maybe.” He searched his memory. He’d heard the word, but couldn’t recall any facts. Cephalopods, cephalopods.


Dante pictured two trout hugging each other and then cleared his head.

“Yeah, no. I don’t remember.”

The bartender ran a hand through a frizzy beard. Sucks.

“They live in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, and also Indonesia,” she said. “A class of squid.”

She waited for him to look excited, but he couldn’t muster it.

“Sorry, don’t know anything about them.”

“A lot of people don’t,” she said.

Dante took a sip of beer. A long one. Half of it was already gone. He’d just been to his uncle’s wake. And now he was lonely. Lonelier than ever.

Uncle Rev Gone.

How gone was gone?

He eyed the chick again and wondered if he had the drive to ask her home. So what if she didn’t accept? Sometimes he felt so wiped.

In the hospital, Uncle Rev would tell him he was tired, but not too tired to talk. His face had been bone and yellow, jaundice chicken skin. He’d say, Come sit by my bed, Dante, and we’ll shoot the shit. Needle in his arm and nurses coming and going.

Weeks and weeks of chemo, and he’d see something on TV about a dog getting abused by some asshole, and say, Poor thing.


Dante drained that beer like it was an IV hooked to his mouth.

“Tell me more. Tell me about the cuttlefish.”


He motioned to the bartender.


“They survive by using chromatic aberration,” she said. “That means they’re electric chameleons.”

“Oh really?”

Sometimes he felt like a chameleon.

The last three months had been a dry spell. A desert. Uncle Rev. The breakup. Regina hadn’t liked Dante’s new job. Didn’t have the nerve to say she just didn’t like him. Trouble was, she liked someone else.

Maybe this chick could crack it, crazy as she was, knew how to crack the dry spell. If she didn’t, he’d head down the street to Amo’s. Try his luck there. But nothing new happened in that bar, only drinks, a few wings and a fight. Chicks didn’t go to Amo’s.

There was nowhere else to go but here.

“And, oh, my name’s Dante. What’s yours?”


“Nice to meet you, Lola.” He thought of the Kinks’ song. La, la, la, la.



“Why do you like these cuttlefish so much?”

“Because they’re beautiful.”

“Beautiful, like you . . . Lola?”

She didn’t look at him after he said it. And then he wished he hadn’t said it.

“Tell me more about them. I really want to know. Honest.”

She twisted on the stool. “The cuttlefish are a direct symbolic representation of everything in our life, Dante. Once I found that out, it was as if I knew what God was, or Jesus, or Santa Claus. I just knew.”

There were shadows under the sea glass.

“Knew what?”

“That life is short.”

And blue veins showing through pale skin.

But she smelled familiar.

What was it?

What did she smell like?


“Well, yeah,” Dante said. “It is for some folks, I guess. Although, I’m going for a hundred.”

“They live only two years, tops. That’s not very long.”

“Hey, it’s better than a fly.” Gone.

“But to them it feels like forever.”

Another dude walked up and hovered next to Lola on her opposite side. When he whispered something, Dante cleared his throat. “Hey, Lola, can I buy you a drink?” He didn’t like the look of the guy. Scrawny. Strange.

“But I haven’t finished this.” She still had the olive.

“I know, but it’s almost gone. Last chance before I revoke the offer.

“All right, then. A beer this time.”

Dante signaled for the bartender to bring two, one for him and one for her. The other dude got the hint and headed to some other chick. Some chick with normal hair and no star.

Success. “So, they don’t live long,” he said. “That’s how nature works. You can’t be sad about that.”

“But I am. It’s July and July is mating season. They’re all dying now.” Lola rubbed the star again. It played peek-a-boo between her long fingers. “But first, they mate.”

“Oh, really?” Dante asked. “Tell me about that.”

“Well, you see, the procreation field is composed primarily of the male cuttlefish. When a rare female approaches, the men go crazy, flashing their lights and patterns, all in an act to impress her. If she isn’t impressed, she won’t mate. Typically the largest male wins out. But once the female signals an invitation, there’s trouble.

“The males go into battle, grabbing onto each other, pulling and twisting until the weaker one gives up. Then, the winner takes his prize, the female, and off they go.”

Her fingers came together to demonstrate. “The male wraps his tentacles around the female, forcing her to face him, then he inserts a sperm sack into an opening near her mouth. It doesn’t sound romantic, but it is. Sometimes a smaller male cuttlefish who’s disguised his body to look effeminate will come along, and while the larger male is tricked, the smaller one mates with the female too. It’s done to ensure both large and small specie propagate. I figure the larger male understands, or he wouldn’t allow it happen.”

Lola turned to Dante.

“Cephalopods die after procreation. Slowly at first, then in lighting speed. A matter of days. The colors fade, the eyes go cloudy. It’s as if all their life force is gone, just because of that one mating session. But it’s the most beautiful thing. A moment of completion; of purpose. Without it, their entire existence would mean nothing.

“They do it willingly. She knows. He knows. Cephalopods have a very short life cycle. It’s their fate and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Do you see what I mean that we’re all like the cephalopods? Do you see what I mean, Dante?”

Dante slumped on the stool.

“So, Lola, thanks for teaching me about the cuttlefish. Now when someone asks me, I’ll know.”

Goodbye, pink hair. You’re beautiful, but I can’t handle this. I need to be around someone who doesn’t talk about death. Someone that’s here.


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The factor of two

I was watching a dud of a movie last night on Netflix starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and was reminded how much chemistry this real-life off-screen couple had on screen. Despite the poor script these two made every scene they were in something to enjoy. The way he touched her neck, the way she tried to resist yet was drawn closer and closer, all the while both of them speaking their lines as if in a trance, yet perfectly executed. It was magical. I love that these two stayed together until the end, had children, created charities and produced such a vast body of work. It’s totally inspiring. They’re one of my favorite couples from the days of Hollywood’s glitz and glamour. Both of them seemed far too down to earth to be movie stars, and yet it’s clear to see the star appeal.

Here is an early clip of them taking a try in the mystery seat on the show “What’s My Line?” It’s clear to see how much they love each other here.



From The Starlights, free today.

“What happened to your face, Keith?”

“Oh, I—I got in a fight.”

“Another one?”

“Yeah, another one. Sally’s okay.”

“Do you want a ride?”

Do I want a ride? It’s the question of my life, like asking if I want eternal youth or a million dollars. Do I want to get in a car with the other woman I love, or do I say no, because no is the right thing to do, even though it will shove a blade into my heart so big I’ll never recover?

“Why didn’t you call me this week?” I ask. “You could have called. Dialed my number. Looked me up in the Yellow Pages. Once. Not twice or three times or any amount of times, just once. All I wanted was to hear the sound of your fucking voice, just once.”

“Ah, Keith, baby.”

“Don’t call me baby. I ain’t your baby.”

“I couldn’t call, because Sasha came home. I thought you understood.”

I start walking and she’s rolling alongside. “I didn’t know.”

“Well now you do. Are you really that mad at me?”

I am. I don’t love her. I never really loved her. I just wanted her so bad.

I was gonna do the tongue thing. She didn’t even give me the chance.


When your best friend is a zombie

The Starlights is a bromance and a romance . . . and a romance. You’ll understand once you read the book, which is currently free until Friday. I know writers aren’t supposed to say they love their own stuff, but I love this book. Love, love, love. Keith’s best friend attempts suicide, and if that isn’t enough he has to deal with college applications, a needy girlfriend, and that needy girlfriend’s needy mother–sexy Suzanne. Swirling around all of this is his love of the band Rush, which is the only thing he should be concentrating on, IMO.

But first it’s a bromance.


From The Starlights:

I’m outside the front apartment entrance after school, and after taking that test, when Mark’s dad pulls up in an old station wagon. Mark leaves the car, walks over the curb and hits me in the arm. He doesn’t say thanks for saving my life, or glad to see you, or anything like that, but I know that’s what he means with the slug. His hair is wet, like he just washed it, and he doesn’t smell like weed. He smells like Lifeguard.

I hand him the key and we go inside into the hall.

“Is your dad going to sit out there the whole time?”

“Yeah. He’s listening to a game.”

“How much time do you have?”

“He said ten minutes, but I can stretch it to more and he won’t care.” We’re at his door and he sticks in the key and twists the lock. Booger comes running. Mark grabs her and looks around. I feel weird about cleaning the place, but maybe he likes it. I can’t tell. He turns on a few lights and feeds Booger her Kal Kan and then walks around grabbing stuff and shoving it in his jacket pockets. Loose change, chapstick, a comb, a paperback, he’s shoving it all in. He sees the unfiltered Marlboros and looks at me.

“I smoked all yours.”

“These are tough shit, man, but I’ll have one.” He lights up. He opens a drawer in the coffee table that I never knew existed before and slides his hand in. Out comes a little baggie. He shoves that in his jacket too.

“I told Birdie you wanted to hang out.”

“What she’d say?”

“She said . . .” I hate saying it. I’m really gonna give it to that chick next time I see her. She wasn’t the one to find Mark dying in the next room with an empty bottle of pills nearby. She wasn’t the one to call the cops and drag him into the hall. She didn’t have to feed his cat, or see him stuck with tubes and peeing in a bag. She doesn’t know shit about anything. “She said she’s got a boyfriend.” And now I really hate her because she’s forcing me to lie to my best friend.

Mark takes a puff and shrugs. “Those never bothered me. I’ll win her over, wait and see.”

“Man, why do you want to see her anyway?”

“I don’t know. I just like that name. It’s a cool name.”

“But she’s a bitch.”

“Most chicks are.” Mark bends down to grab Booger and gives her a million kisses on her furry neck. “I missed this fucking cat so much.

“So, where’s this girl of yours? Didn’t she come over?”

“Not today. I had to make up a test.”

“Well, you’d better hurry ‘cause I’m back next week. Is she close?”

“Does she live close?”

“No, is she close? Close to doing it?”

“I don’t know, maybe. How do you tell?”

“They can’t stop touching you, that’s how you tell.”

I think of Sally’s hand under the table at school. “She might be close.”

“She must not be if you don’t know. Hold off for a while, make her want you real bad.”

“Man, I can’t hold off. I’ve held off for two years already.”

“Hold off. I’m serious. Give her the cold shoulder a day or two and see what happens. She’ll come running.”

“Are you sure?”


“But you just told me to hurry ‘cause you’ll be back next week.”

“I’ll lend you the place if you need. I’m just trying to help out.”

“All right. Cold shoulder. Shit.”

Mark walks over and looks through the draperies. “Still listening to that game.” He flips on the TV and sits down to watch. “They’re all over me at home. Asking about what I’ll do with my life, where I’m headed. I’m going fucking insane. I just wish they’d shut up and let me finish my week without all the hassle.”

I hesitate before sitting down. It’s hard to pretend what happened didn’t happen. We’re never going to talk about it straight on, but it happened.

“What’s Birdie’s last name?” he asks.

“I don’t know.”

“Well ask tomorrow and then give me a call. I’ll take it from there.”

I change the topic. All this talk about Birdie is making me nauseous. She’ll take Mark, and she’ll wreck him, like a car into a tree. And then she’ll leave. I can’t let it happen. “I learned a new song. A Queen song.”


“I might try to write one tonight.”

“Go for it.”

“Do you think we could still be The Starlights? I got a new guitar.”

“Man, you did?”

“Yeah, to replace the old one. So that means we can still be a band.” I grab a smoke, light up, and pretend not to feel the burn.

Mark shakes his head a lot. “Just you and me? Man, I don’t know. That’s not much of a band.”

“But you said it was a good idea.”

“That was before.”

“Before what?”

“Before I found out life sucked and I was a loser.”

“Who told you that?”

“Oh nobody.”

We both shut up to watch some afternoon game show. A car horn blasts outside. Mark checks his watch. “I guess he’s had it.” He grabs another smoke. Leans back. “What a fuckin’ mess.” He doesn’t say he’s sorry he did it, or that he’s glad to be alive.

“Are you sure I should wait?” I ask.

“Wait for what?”

“With Sally—what if she’s ready now?” I can’t keep smoking the unfiltered. My lungs are fire. I crush it out in the ashtray on top of all those nudie magazines.

“She ain’t. You’d know, and if you don’t know, she ain’t. Give her time. Really psyche her out.”


He finishes that smoke and gives Booger a million kisses. We go outside and I lean up against the apartment’s concrete entrance while he gets in his dad’s car and drives off. I don’t know why I feel lonelier now after seeing him, but I do.


Free Novel Today

A voyeuristic view of life inside a small American town, one household at a time. Free today. Amazon.



The Mickey Mantle

Baseball season is upon us so I felt it appropriate to post this snippet today. I remember well my brother playing baseball May through August, and me, sitting in the stands with my mother who wore a bright yellow t-shirt reading: I’M POOR AND LIVE IN JOHNSON COUNTY. An in-joke, if you know how affluent our zip code happens to be.  And us, scrapping every week, barely making it on government cheese and powdered milk. But alas, there’s always baseball to carry one away from life’s little miseries. This story, from a book of interconnected tales amid a fictional Midwestern town, concerns two brothers, Saul and Pete. Saul is angsty and wants to escape before anyone else makes a grab for his dignity, and Pete, older and wiser, is helplessly tied to the surroundings via Vera, an amazonian sex-starved pistol wielding girlfriend. A missing Mickey Mantle card might be the ticket away from all this chaos, but who’s willing to sell the remnants of their soul to get it?

From ‘Woodsocket, U.S.A.’ Free for download for the next two days. As always , thanks for reading!



The Mickey Mantle


“Bases are loaded,” Saul announced, loaf of French bread raised to an angle. “I’m gonna hit this sucker into the meat department and have myself a home run. You got that, Pete?”

Pete shook his head real slow. He drew his arm back for the pitch then spun forward, releasing a tangerine bullet. Saul’s eyes locked onto the citrus. He took a swing and stumbled. The two of them watched it fly over their heads in a perfect arch. It could get real quiet in the IGA at eight a.m.

In the next aisle a painful cry rang out.

Pete and Saul ran to see.

Mrs. Kuhn stood in a green moo-moo rubbing a hand at the back of her neck.

“You all right, Mrs. Kuhn?” Saul was trying so hard not to laugh.

“I don’t actually know. Something hit me. Out of nowhere. I—I was just reachin’ for a can of tuna.”

There was a red mark the size of a baseball on her neck, and a juicy tangerine at her feet. Saul watched Pete’s boot tip punt the thing so it disappeared under a nearby shelf. “Maybe something fell off a row here, Mrs. Kuhn. You should be more careful.” Pete grabbed some Fish of the Sea and put it in her cart. “Tell the girls up front that this is free, okay?”

Her eyes darted back and forth between the two brothers. “That’s nice of you. How you two boys doing? Your father is sorely missed in this town.”

Pete got real shy when folks mentioned Dad. Saul just felt like smashing stuff.

“We’re just fine, Mrs. Kuhn. Don’t forget to tell ‘em it’s free.” Pete shooed her off and the two of them stood in the aisle for a moment.

Saul hauled up and hit his older brother in the shoulder. “You think we can go to the Pit Stop tonight instead of eating that hamburger you left in the fridge?”

“No. It’s goin’ rotten and we gotta use it up. We can go to the Pit some other time. I don’t wanna be hanging out there anyway, not with Vera coming around with that pistol of hers. She didn’t take so well to me and her breaking up the other night.”

“Well, maybe I’ll go and you can stay home.” Saul really wanted to go to the Pit Stop. He didn’t enjoy hanging around the house every night watching the boob tube. Living with your brother was supposed to be fun, not like being married.

“Go on then, if you dare, but she said she might take aim at you as well. She’s plenty pissed.”

Saul started to rethink his plans. Vera, when vengeful, would torture a man until he’d beg for a kick to the crotch, just for mercy. Just then he heard a shuffle coming from the next aisle. Sharon Wilke turned the corner in heavy white sneakers and pants too tight for someone to be wearing with a rear end like hers. Sharon was the direct opposite of someone like Vera, and was as soft and malleable as veal. He loved to tease her.

“Wallomp, wallomp,” Saul chanted.

She stopped in place and turned around real slow. She raised a nervous hand to her neck. “Good morning, Saulie.”

“You’re too fat for those pants. I can see your underwear.”

Her bottom lip trembled. Saul pretended not to see the starving way she looked at him in his jeans. He threw a fist into his other palm, like an invisible mitt was there. “Don’t ya got anything insulting to say back to me today, huh Sharon?”

She sniffed a second, then threw a hip out and reached inside her shirt. “Yeah. Look what I got, a Willie Mays. A real, honest Willie Mays. Got it in the mail yesterday. Pretty, ain’t it?”

“Ah hell, everybody’s got a stupid Mays. Show me a Mickey Mantle and I’ll get excited.”

“Maybe I have one of those too. Maybe there’s one in my house right now, you never know.”

“I’ll bet there ain’t.” Then he called her something terrible. The worst word of all.


She looked about to cry. “Well, there might be.”

“Might or is?” He was a little worried she might get him fired for using a word like that, but he was almost past caring. She hadn’t earned that manager job, she’d been born into it just because her uncle owned the store.

She stuffed Willie Mays back into her bra and stopped pouting. “You’re right. I don’t have a Mantle. I was just bullshitting you for fun and you almost fell for it. Guess I’d better go open those front registers.” She shuffled off, shoes leaving a squeak with every step.

Saul emptied two boxes of legumes before he said anything to Pete. “I bet she doesn’t have it.”

“Bet you’re right.”

“‘Cause if she did, she’d be waving it in my face.”

“Mmhmm.” Pete was probably thinking about the hamburgers and how he could dress them up with red onions, Vidalias, like they’d put out the day before.

“But if she does have a Mantle, why, I might go have a look in her house just to see. What do you think?”

Pete shifted his legs. “I think you’re crazy.”


Sally Gets the Nerve

A scene from Love and Lust at the Dairy Stop Cafe, available now for purchase online at and The Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Ks.




Holy shit, am I nervous. This feels like a door I’m walking through, one that’ll change the entire world. When I drive by twice without stopping, I get the feeling I might not ever do it at all, so I pull in with a screech of tires and yank up the brake.

I’m not wearing anything special, just a pair of cut off shorts, and a t-shirt with a faded picture of Mick Jagger across the front. Daddy would say it wasn’t enough clothing, but it feels fine to me. I like the way the shorts make my legs look longer. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn them. Maybe I should have put on some jeans instead. I look at my face in the Ford’s rearview mirror and waste a minute or two putting on lipstick and smoking a cigarette in the parking lot because it calms me down. I figure I’m being as yellow as a chicken, so I grab my keys and purse, and head straight to his door and knock three times, sort of quiet.

He answers without saying a word; his whole body just sort of shifts to the side to allow me in.

“Thought you wouldn’t show,” he says as I walk past.

“Then you were wrong.”

He’s rented a single occupancy. One bed. It’s tiny and there’s a suitcase on top. The windows seem to be calling me to come over, so I do. “I’ve always wanted to see what the highway looks like from this section of town,” I say looking through smudged glass. “It’s not very impressive is it? Just a big, ugly stripe of black and little cars going by. It used to be a one-lane, but after a tornado came through and knocked the bridge off, we cut up another lane and paved it with stinky asphalt. I guess that makes us a real town.”

“I guess it does,” he says from behind.

“President Kennedy stayed here once, perhaps in this very room. And Elvis too.”

“What for?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I say, watching a big-rig race by with the words PURE MILK on it. “Any reason. But they only stopped for one night each. We’re a one-night town, I guess.”

I turn and there’s almost nothing to look at but his shoulder, but I look anyway. “Is there something I can sit on besides the bed?”

He walks over and lifts a dark blue suit off the only chair in the room. Its pea-green upholstery almost matches the curtains. I sit. It’s cold near the air conditioning unit and the mist has a musty smell. The straps on my sandals are cutting into my ankles and I’d like to take them off, but the carpet looks stained.

“Would you like something to drink?” he asks, draping the suit over the bathroom door.

I’m about to say no, but a drink would do me good.

“What do you have?”

“Nothing special.” He pulls a bottle of Jim Beam from a paper sack. “I bought it today,” he says and pours us both a glass. Before I can grab mine, he holds it away. “Sure you’re old enough?”

“Of course I am. Don’t I look it?”

“Sometimes you do. But most of the time, you don’t.”

“Well, I am.” I wait for the drink, and when he gives it to me I show off by knocking it down in lightning speed.

“Have you ever let someone take your picture before?” He sits on the edge of the bed, right near me. Like, I can smell his breath. He’s not wearing any shoes. Everything about him is fresh with another white t-shirt and jeans that aren’t faded. He’s washed his hair, or put gel in it or something.

“I’m not here to have my picture taken,” I say.

“Then what are you here for.”

“Just to see what you do. I mean, I want to see the pictures. I don’t want to be in them, just see them.” But that’s a lie, because I do want to be in them. Just not the way he thinks.

“What a shame. You’d be real good, though you don’t have the model look, you have more of a natural look.”

“You make me sound like a raccoon.”

“It’s not a bad thing.”

“Am I ever going to see those pictures?”

He sips on his drink. Just when I think I might as well leave because he’s taking too much time, he gets up and starts searching through a suitcase for something. He pulls out a folder. I may be off on the numbers, but there’s a hundred or something, there’s a lot. With a grunt he hands it to me.

“I like to call it, ‘Tits Across America.’ Don’t get ‘em out of their plastic.”

Sexy girls, women, in clothes, some not in clothes. The ones not in clothes are covered with a shit-ton on makeup. He watches the entire time—to see if I’m shocked, at least it seems. But I’m not. I’ve picked through a Playboy or two before, and these aren’t even close to being as raunchy as that.

“They’re nice,” I say, even though they’re gross. Can’t believe I came here. Can’t believe I’m in the Blue Moon and nobody knows, not even my best friend. If someone saw my truck they could come save me, but then it’s not like I want anyone to see. If they did, I’d say I was here to ask for a job.

I hand him the folder and get up to leave. I got what I wanted. He does take nude pictures, lots of them. I knew he did, and now the fun is over. I didn’t see too many movie star-type girls in there, so I know he’s a liar about working in the film industry.

“Aren’t you going to stick around?” he asks.

“Not really. I just wanted to look.”

“Well, I’ll be damned, is that really all you came for?”

“Yes.” I grab my purse.

“Then, shit.” He tosses the folder across the mattress and comes around to confront me. “I feel cheated.” His hands clamp down on my shoulders. “I stayed in this shit town for you, and now you’re gonna leave. I shoulda known. Some country girl who’s too scared to have her picture taken, is that what it is? I saw you shaking when you came in. I even saw you pass by on the road twice. And I saw you smoking that cigarette out there, just to kill time. And now you’re going to act like all you came for was to look at those pictures.” He grabs the bottle of whiskey and takes a good swig. “Then get out of here, chicken. You aren’t all that pretty.”

Oh how I hate being called a coward, and he’s wrong, I am that pretty. I know, because I look just like my mother. But he’s making it sound like I did him a disservice, like I’m nothing.

I show him the middle finger and start to leave but he kicks me in the rear end toward the door, not hard, but it’s definitely his foot on my ass, and he says, “Chicken. Hick. Hillbilly baby.”

It shocks me, and I almost hate him so much that I want to turn around and serve his face with a good hit. But I don’t, I leave the motel room and head straight across to my truck and rip open the driver’s side door. Too angry to talk. He’s still chanting, and now he’s even laughing at me from the door. “Nothing but a hick chicken. I’ll be glad to leave this town.”

I’m holding onto my truck’s door handle and all I can think of is the picture I was going to give Keith, to make him love me again, and this was the only way to do it. But I’m too scared, that’s the real reason I left after looking through that book. I am chicken, just like this guy says. I’ve never been scared of anything before, not like this, and now I even hate myself.

This guy, Gerald, stands there and watches me cry. He’s still laughing but then after a few he comes to the truck and puts an arm around my shoulders. “It’s okay, honey, I was only teasing. I wanted to rile you up a little because I thought you could take it.”

“Get off me.”

Cars pass by on the road and far past on the interstate. Every car is a set of eyes.

He starts laughing. “Didn’t you know I was kidding?”

“I’m just fine.”

“Sure you are. You’re fine.” He rubs my arm and stands there until I’ve stopped being a pansy-ass crybaby. “I didn’t mean all that. I was just teasing you. Jesus. Some people can’t take a joke, and that’s what it was, only a joke.

“But you meant it,” I say.

“Oh, maybe only a little, but not really. I was mad. You jipped me and all, and listen, do you want to come back in? I don’t want to pressure you. But, honey, you really should think about having your picture done. Just for posterity. I wouldn’t even do anything with it. Just keep it.”

I look at the road, the interstate beyond, and think good and hard. I want my picture taken. But what does it mean if I do? I know what it means, and finally I decide that I don’t care. If it gets me what I want, there’s no reason to care. So we go back inside his motel room, and this time I don’t need a glass for the whiskey, I drink straight out of the bottle. “You were lying when you said I wasn’t all that pretty,” I say, placing the bottle on top of the TV set. I push the ON button because I want to see if I’ve missed any afternoon shows, but he reaches over to turn it off.

“Just like you lied to me about your age, so we’re even. Liars, both of us.”


It’s free for the next few days. Amazon link.



This book is about MEN. The seekers, dreamers, artists, scam artists, construction workers, radio DJs, and even one lucky cadaver.

In Cimarron Man, a nomad photographer named Jack spends one night in the Badlands with a young hitchhiker amid a group of traveling misfits. In The Secret Life of Johnny Cool, a washed-up rock DJ, once part-time lover to Janis Joplin, ponders life in Joshua Tree amid an all-female cult. In Tales of Cyrus, construction worker Cyrus Kennedy battles alcoholism and rage after the suspicious death of his wife and unborn child.

Also included are flash shorts pondering some of the more quirky aspects of the human experience. A young couple is on the verge of a love-breakdown because one lives in a space world and the other in hard, cold reality. Dante is a bar hopper looking for companionship, and escape. After the death of his favorite uncle he meets a girl with a star tattoo who equates love and death with gamma ray explosions and cuttlefish. Saul is the owner of a strange contraption, The Life Wall. It gives him anything he asks for, but to keep it running he must do some downright dirty deeds.

Cimarron Man and other stories is a book about men, all kinds of men. And women. But mostly it’s about life in a sometimes crazy, always changing, world.


The Moonflowers, book 3

When I wrote The Moonflowers I never imagined there would be a second book much less a third, but each character that came out of that novel burrowed itself in me, each one’s spur pricklier than the last. Jane Day was a slow, happy fire. I felt compelled to recount what it would be like to exist as a housewife circa 1970-ish middle America, and I have to admit, writing what was basically marital rape made me depressed; a scene like went beyond my emotional levels. Despite that, I loved the progression of Jane’s tenacity: throughout the novel she managed to kick her husband out, find a job and a lover. Indeed, the summer I wrote The Moonflowers was incredible and fun–the novel itself set in the Bicentennial. And after its completion I thought, hmm, isn’t there something else here?

So then came Keith. His voice jumped out of my brain like a shark; his fire was a mad teenage urgency with zits and burning sexuality. I became Keith, and loved every minute of it. Perhaps I’ve always wanted to be a boy. It sure felt good. But it also felt wild and messy and suffocating. As I slipped away and this primal kid took over, everything became smoking, swearing, guitars, chicks, and trouble (not for me literally, but the essence of understanding was there). Being a domesticated refugee, that was a bit difficult to grip. So I wrote the book quick and brushed my palms together in relief.

And then came Sally. The most urgent of all. The most unwilling, bitchy, bored, cussing, fireball of womanhood in teenage form you’d ever come across. Still exhausted from the last novel, I took her in stride and kept her there in good measure. In intervals I wrote, quieting down the chaos in between. Most surprising was Gerald, the Texas conman with a camera to lure innocents in. Well, Sally wasn’t so innocent, and she went willingly. What got to me was their conversations. A high school senior and an aging divorcee shouldn’t have such compelling banter, but they did. It touched me. In the eyes of the world, both of them were social misfits, outcasts, and perhaps that’s what drew them together.

So, in this last book, perhaps my last in a good long while as I’ve decided to take a sabbatical from writing, I hope you enjoy Sally and Gerald’s conversations. Love and Lust at the Dairy Stop Café is now available on Amazon in ebook form. I hope you enjoy it, and thank you for the love.