Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the category “Fear”

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Ten

 

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

 

 

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

 

The street level flat served as a reception area. People met there and decided where their tastes would lead them. It was Conversation and Drinking on the First Floor.

The second floor was holding two special interest parties. One side was devoted to getting stoned and people were doing so vigorously. The other side was dedicated to the pleasures of the flesh.

Spider’s top floor flat was by invitation only and the attraction there was the music.

People moved from floor to floor by using the back stairs. Spider led her group through each floor acting as tour guide and Protector. “Things can get a little grab-ass on the stairs,” she warned them.

Marlee situated herself in the middle of her group as it moved through the building. On the second floor, as they passed through the dining room, a naked man, covered with tattoos, walked past them. He was busily chatting on a cellular phone. Luco tapped Marlee on the shoulder. “How’s it going? You OK?”

Her eyes were wide open and there was a somewhat stunned look on her face. “I’m fine, Luco, but I think I understand how Dorothy felt on her first day in Oz.”

On the landing between the second and third floors Spider gathered her brood around her. The music pulsed through the walls. The stairs vibrated.

“Ladies and gentleman, we’re nearing the end of our guided tour. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop on the way out. Now, you’ve seen that the main floor is an open house. On two it is sex and drugs and on three it is ROCK AND ROLL!” She let out a piercing rebel yell and ran up the steps with her fist raised.

Marlee wasn’t quite sure what to expect upon entering the third floor. The first two had taken her to worlds as alien as the surface of Mars and now she was venturing into “The Center of the Web.”

Coming in off the back steps and into the kitchen, Marlee walked into…a kitchen. It was a kitchen with sparkling white appliances, a wooden island and cafe curtains on the windows. It looked normal, or it would have if it weren’t for the people filling the room. Seated at the small glass table was a woman with spiked hair and dark blue lipstick. She was holding a very young baby. The baby’s hair was also spiked. Its wispy brown hair was gelled into four short peaks. The mother waved to Marlee and motioned her over to the table.

“Hi, Honey. I could use your help.”

“Hi. My name is Marlee. Your baby is cute as a bug”

“Yeah, well, he can be a real pisser if he ain’t fed. Sit down for a second. I’m Scar.” Marlee pulled out a chair sat next to the young mother. “Here, hold him for just a minute. My arms are frozen in place from carrying him all the time.”

Marlee reached over and took the infant, cradling him close to her body. It made Marlee smile and she felt her body respond to the feel of the baby in her arms. He looked up into Marlee’s eyes and gurgled.

“He likes you. Normally he screams like a bad Heavy Metal band when anybody else touches him. Hang on, Lucifer, it’s on the way.”

Marlee looked up to see that Scar had dropped her black cotton tunic and was naked to the waist.

“Alright, I’ll take him back now. Thanks, Marlee. She reached out and Marlee laid the now squirming baby back into his mother’s arms. Marlee started to get up to give them some privacy in the middle of the chaos.

“Oh, one more minute, Marlee. Wait.” She transferred the child to her other arm. While Marlee and fifteen other people watched, the mother used her free hand to remove one of her solid gold nipple rings.

“Don’t want the little pisser to choke. Here hold this for me, will you? I set it down and one of these freaks will cop it.”

Marlee held the nipple ring and spent the next ten minutes watching Scar nurse Lucifer. It moved Marlee to her soul to witness this most personal moment between a mother and child in the middle of such noisy chaos.

                     

*** 

 

Leaving Marlee behind in the kitchen, Spider led the crew and friends from the People’s Cafe deeper into her web.

Passing through the dining room, with its crystal and brass chandelier, Luco reached up and ripped a bagel from the crisscross of wires that were strung from the ceiling across the room. Hundreds of bagels were threaded on the wires, dangling down,  offering savory treats to the crowded room.

The front room of the flat was Ground Zero of Spider’s party world. The furniture would make anyone think he had stumbled into the living room at the Cleaver household. The early American style sofa and matching loveseat and end tables seemed lost and the Laz-e-Boy recliner looked downright mystified to be there. The only thing about the room that would hint that a woman like Spider lived there was the array of speakers mounted in the four corners near the ceiling. “Ambient-Techno” music was shaking the drywall.

This party was the first time Pete, had visited Spider’s home. It was more and less than he expected. The second floor both repulsed him and made him want to pay another visit. The third floor was a confusing paradox to him.

He grabbed Spider by the arm to get her attention over the din.

“Spider, I have a question.”

“What’s that, Pete?” Her head was bobbing to the fuzzy beat coming from overhead.

“Your apartment…the furniture. It’s so…”

“Ozzie and Harriet? Yeah, I know. I used to date a guy who owned a furniture store. He loved me,” she said as she wandered off.

Pete hadn’t heard a word of her answer. When Spider walked away and left him adrift on this sea of options, he shrugged his shoulders and decided to go back to the second floor. He wanted to sample whatever he could before morning.

Marlee, still smiling from her experience in the kitchen, came into the main room and saw Zephyr standing by the window overlooking the park. The music had turned soft and electronic.

“Hi, Zephyr. Mind if I join you?”

“So, what do you think? Pretty cool, right?”

“It’s amazing, but don’t the neighbors complain about the noise when you throw one of these parties?”

“No, not at all. We make sure to invite them to the party. They’re all here. See?” Zephyr pointed to the sofa. Marlee looked over and saw an elderly Chinese couple nibbling on bagels and sipping from bottles of Tsing-tao beer. They were chatting with each other and with the young man dressed as Wonder Woman seated at their feet.

“We invite everybody within bitching distance. It eliminates a lot of trouble.”

“Well, I know that you invite the police too. I met one earlier tonight who said he would be here.”

“Was he the one you were talking with outside the cafe?”

“Yes. He seemed very nice.”

“Pretty blue eyes? Thighs like a bullfrog?”

“Ummm, yes.” Marlee was a bit embarrassed that she had noticed those details.

Zephyr indicated with her chin for Marlee to turn around. She did and there was Mike the bicycle officer standing in the doorway, his right hand on his hip.

He was dressed in a dazzlingly white tuxedo shirt, complete with studs and cuffs. He had on a pair of snug fitting black slacks that emphasized his muscular legs.

Zephyr looked him up and down. “Oh, I gotta get me some of that. See you later, Marlee,” she said as she walked across the room, her eyes more than undressing him.

Marlee watched as Zephyr reached her tattooed arm up and around Mike’s neck and gave him a kiss that could double as his semiannual dental exam. He seemed a bit surprised, but not displeased as he put his arm around her waist and lifted her off the ground without breaking the kiss.

With her body in his firm grasp and pressed against his, Zephyr finally withdrew her tongue from his throat and put her lips to his ear. Marlee couldn’t hear her words, but she could read his lips when he spoke back. “Hi. My name is Mike.”

Now it was Marlee who was standing alone. The group from the van had dispersed throughout the house. Spider was busy playing hostess to her eclectic guest list. Zephyr was fast being absorbed in Mike’s arms. Pete was down on floor number two busily breaking four commandments and Luco was…nowhere to be found.

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Nine

 

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

 

 

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

 

 

 

After showering and putting on her makeup Marlee stood in front of her open closet door.

“What does one wear to a midnight party hosted by someone named ‘Spider’?”

The answer was obvious and she lifted the hanger holding the cream colored silk top. It had a scoop neckline that accented her slender neck. At the cuffs were silk covered buttons; each showing a small black stitched F-Clef.

Marlee picked up a short gold chain and held it up to the silk. “No, more color.” Picking through her modest jewelry box she found the perfect pieces: a turquoise teardrop pendant and matching earrings. The turquoise glowed against her skin. “That’s the look.” Black slingbacks completed the outfit.

With the creamy silk over simple black slacks and Marlee was satisfied with what she saw in the mirror.

The night was chilly and the fog was down to the ground. Marlee tossed on her turquoise blazer. It looked good and it would keep her warm enough for the short walk to the cafe.

A few minutes before midnight Marlee was making sure that the building front gate was latched.

“Miss? Excuse me.” The voice from behind startled her. She turned and saw two San Francisco Police officers straddling mountain bikes.

“Good evening. Is something wrong?”

“Not at all, but are you walking very far to your car? It is rather late and the streets can get rough at night.”

“I’m just walking up to the People’s Cafe and then on to a party.”

“At Spider’s? You’ll have a lot of fun. Still, let us walk with you.”

Together the three of them ambled through the fog past the glowing neon sign at the Head Shop and sending a pair of street predators slinking off to find some deeper shadows.

Both officers were in their 30’s and incredibly fit. Patrolling the hilly streets of The City on bicycles gave them superb cardiovascular systems, incredible stamina and muscular thighs that put power to the pedals and steamy fantasies in the minds of a large number of the women on their beat.

The officer who walked on Marlee’s left weighed his chances with the slender blonde. “Ever been to one of Spider’s parties before?” He had lively eyes.

“No, my first time tonight. Everybody seems to know about her parties. They must be something. What’s her secret?”

“She knows how to invite just the right mix of people. Interesting, outgoing and a few who are downright freaky.” Even in the fog his eyes twinkled.

“Oh, my,” said Marlee. “I wonder which quota I’m there to fill?”

“We’ll see. I’m sure I’ll bump into you there.”

“You’re coming to the party? Both of you?”

“No, just me. My partner here has to get home to the wife and kids. Right, Sherlock?”

The other officer who had been silent up to this point finally spoke. He had a slight New England tang to his voice. “That’s true, Miss. Gloria and I have six little fingerlings in the pond, so I don’t get to too many of Spider’s parties. Not off-duty anyway.”

When they approached the brightly lit exterior of the People’s Cafe Marlee turned to her guardians.

“Gentlemen, thank you for the escort. I feel very safe knowing you are around.”

“Our pleasure, Miss,” said Sherlock. The officer with the glint in his eye leaned across his handlebars and extended his hand. “My name is Mike and I’ll see you at the party.”

Marlee shook his hand. “My name is Marlee and maybe we’ll get a chance to chat. Bye now.”

The policemen silently pedaled off into the fog.

The cafe was almost empty. A young couple was leaving just as Marlee reached the door. She saw that some of the early morning regulars were engaged in an animated debate, probably over some arcane point of San Francisco history.

Behind the counter, Marlee saw Pete, the owner; Zephyr, her hair a vibrant orange tonight instead of pink, Spider was dressed all in black, as usual, and Luco. Marlee was used to seeing Luco dressed in a confidently casual black T-shirt and black denim pants. Tonight he had on a light blue chambray shirt and chinos. The light colored shirt made his complexion take on a coppery tone. The sterling silver and lapis choker on his neck emphasized this even more. Marlee thought that he looked like an ancient Aztec chief vacationing in modern day San Francisco.

“Marlee,” Luco called out. “You’re right on time.” He smiled and came out from behind the counter to welcome her.

“I just finished cleaning up and we’ll be…you look beautiful, if I may be allowed an observation.” He moved closer to her. “That turquoise is just perfect.” He reached out and lifted the blue teardrop from the pale skin just below her clavicle. Marlee felt the roughness of his fingertips, but was surprised by the gentleness of his touch.

Luco studied the pendant for a moment and, just as delicately, laid it back above Marlee’s heart. “It’s Mexican, I think. Very pretty, Marlee.” He turned toward the counter. “Hey, Zephyr, look at Marlee.”

Zephyr lifted her orange head from her accounting task at the register. Her eyes took the scenic route around Marlee’s body and then, lifting two fingers to her mouth, trilled an enthusiastic wolf whistle.

“That settles it, Marlee,” said Luco. “If Zephyr whistles, you are officially the best looking woman in the room.”

Marlee looked around and saw that she was one of only three women in the cafe. There was herself, Zephyr with her Magic Marker orange hair and Spider who looked like Darth Vader in drag. It wasn’t much, but she’d take it. “Thank you, Zephyr.”

In the kitchen the overhead lights were switched off and Pete, the owner of the People’s Cafe, turned off the neon window signs. Luco went into the office and returned in seconds, slipping into a chocolate brown soft leather coat.

Everyone was headed for the door.

Spider counted heads. “OK. Everybody who can cram into my van, get in. Leftovers: go with Pete. And just like always there is one ground rule for a party at my place: If you don’t dance, don’t take up space. Let’s go.”

They all piled into Spider’s shiny black van. The van had only one seat. The rest of the space was covered in thick, black carpeting. Zephyr scooted up next to Spider, a place of honor, while Marlee and everyone else found a bit of black space to claim.

Luckily, it was only a 15-minute drive from the cafe to Spider’s “Web” as she called it. During the ride, conversation was impossible. Spider had installed a stereo system that screamed out sound that could loosen your fillings and muss your hair. The music blasted out of 12 hidden speakers from the moment she turned the ignition key.

Marlee sat up straight against the wall, feeling the music in her spine as much as hearing it with her ears.

After a few blocks Marlee leaned over, tapping Zephyr on the shoulder. “What is this song? It sounds familiar.”

An electronic roar traveled from speaker to speaker. When it hit the one behind Marlee she laughed out loud. “That tickles!” No one heard her.

Zephyr moved over next to Marlee. “What did you say?” she asked, bouncing her head to the machine gun beat.

Marlee tried again. “I said, what in the world is this music? I feel like I’ve heard it before, but I can’t place it.”

Her head still chattering to the music, Zephyr put her mouth next to Marlee’s ear. “It’s the theme from the Flintstones. Great, ain’t it?” She gave Marlee a quick peck on the cheek before sliding back up to her spot next to Spider.

Luco crawled over next to Marlee. He was laughing. She was not. “Welcome to San Francisco” he shouted. Think nothing of it. She just thinks you’re cute.” Marlee’s head was picking up the beat. “And she’s right,” added Luco.

“What did you say? I just love this music,” she yelled to him. Luco looked at her, blinked and said, “’Cartoon Music.’ It’s called ‘Cartoon Music’.”

“Yeah, I’m catching on.” She pointed to the roof speakers as a bouncy riff made her giggle. “Speed Racer! I love it!” Luco nodded and went back to the other side of the van. He could feel a headache starting.

Spiders “Web” was a large flat in a three-plex near 25th Avenue, across from Golden Gate Park. She lived on the top floor with Zephyr and two other young women: “Bullet”, a militant vegetarian who worked in a fast food restaurant at Fisherman’s Wharf and “Patrice” who was a legal secretary by day and an exotic dancer by night.

The party was already in full swing as Spider pulled her van into the driveway. This was a major event. All three floors were partying.

Spider turned to her passengers. “Listen up, especially any first-timers we have with us tonight.” She winked at Marlee. “This is my home. I live here. I have only one rule.” Her voice dropped half an octave. “Take no prisoners!”

Je Ne Suis Pas Un Cheval

I SCARED A WOMAN THIS MORNING. I didn’t mean to. It was accidental and unintentional. If I’d meant to do it you’d see it on the 7 O’clock News. I was just trying to be polite.

It was early – too early, and not all of my societal filters were in place. You know, my Uber-Macho, Harley riding (if I had a Harley), Twinkle in my eye, self. I hadn’t had my coffee and I was little more than Organic Matter wearing shoes.

I had ordered my coffee from the Barista and I was lurching back to my seat in the corner when I was faced with a woman who was coming in the other direction. She had a carrier tray full of coffee.

“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.”

Read more…

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Eight

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

Luco put his head down on the book, kissed it and closed his eyes. Outside his window he missed the flashes of pointed movement across the street. The growl of a turning diesel-powered bus covered the gargled scream of a 20-year-old addict from Apple Valley, New York.

***

The sound of Steve Perry’s soaring voice from the clock radio shook Marlee from a warm and dream-filled sleep.

When the lights go down in the City, and the sun shines on the Bay. I want to be there in my City.”

It was a love song to San Francisco and after only a short time in the City, Marlee understood the infatuation.

San Francisco is a small city, only 49 square miles. As a result, the people living there strive to cram everything into and get everything out of the limited space. Any piece of vacant land will turn, overnight, into a garden or neighborhood farm. Rows of vegetables and flowers appear as if by magic.

The Victorian houses that line so many shady streets look like the work of finger painters run riot. Playful color combinations make the homes leap out to meet your eyes halfway. Yellow with magenta trim. Azure blue and fire engine red. Primary colors and subtle hues that come from a tropical plant’s dreams appear around every corner.

In this shirt pocket size city everything and everyone seems to be competing for attention. The peaks rise to outdo each other to get more sunlight. Hillsides, filled with narrow houses built on slivers of land, have steps instead of sidewalks. Streets twist and turn, inviting analogies that are doomed to fall short.

San Francisco is a city where, every May, 100,000 people dress up as buildings, bridges and sea serpents and run through the streets. They race from the busy shore of San Francisco Bay across the outlandish terrain to the Pacific Ocean at the western edge of the continent.

Hundreds of people race in the nude, braving the cold winds and the critical scrutiny of half a million eyes. They run knowing that in San Francisco their exhibitionism will be viewed with mild amusement rather than reproach.

The only thing about San Francisco that avoids excess is the climate. When the weather is warm and bright with skies too blue to imagine, the residents rush outside to take it in as fast as possible. They know that after 3 or 4 days of sunshine “The Fog” will come roaring in like a runaway train and cover everything with a speeding wall of salty white. It was this fog that greeted Marlee as she peeked outside her bedroom window.

When the clock radio roused her with Journey’s theme song for “The City”, Marlee sat on the edge of the bed, getting her bearings, preparing to start another day. She felt a misplaced chill. The floor was cold. The air had a familiar iciness, but for Cleveland in late autumn, not San Francisco in the spring.

Stumbling over to the window she poked two fingers through the white slats expecting to see the flowerbeds in Buena Vista Park. Instead of salvia and Golden California Poppies her eyes were met by solid gray. She pulled up the blind and wiped her hand across the glass. The fog was in and the world had disappeared.

The sun was struggling to make its presence known by the time Marlee had pulled herself together and headed up Haight Street. The fog was low over the tops of the buildings. The spires of the church up on the hill were invisible. So was the hill. Marlee felt like she was living inside a glass ball wrapped in a gray silk curtain. The horizon was a five minute walk away. It all made her a little depressed. Not quite a case of the blues, but just a bit out of balance.

Inside the People’s Cafe, however, the mood was almost like Christmas morning. Everyone was laughing and smiling, even the usually crabby customers. The bearded writer was grinning like a fool. He was normally quite morose this early in the day. Marlee wondered if today was some kind of local holiday.

“Marlee,” called Luco when he saw her standing there looking confused. “Good morning to you.”

The waitress called “Spider,” with her red dreadlocks, and young “Zephyr,” with a short, pink Pixie haircut and pierced eyebrows and even Armando the busboy, as if on cue, all called out, “Marlee!” The cook ran out from the kitchen waving his metal grill brush. “Marlee,” he yelled, turned around and hurried back to his duties.

Now totally lost, Marlee looked behind herself to see if another Marlee had walked in after her. It was confusing, but the boisterous greetings lifted her spirits and put a smile on her face.

Luco’s warm eyes welcomed Marlee as she walked up to the counter. “Are all you people psychics?” she said. “Did you know I was feeling kind of down? But all of you shouting my name sure took care of that.”

“Marlee, you may be new to Haight Street, but you’ve quickly become a member of our family.” His smile was genuine.

“Thank you, Luco, all of you. You sure know how to make a girl feel welcome.”

“We don’t let just anybody into our family, right John?”

The writer in the corner held up his bagel in salute. “Luco tells you true, Marlee. It took two years for them to even acknowledge my existence.”

“Spider” peeked over the glass pastry case. “Eat your bagel, John or I’ll withdraw my invitation to the party.”

“You need me there, Spider. Without me it’s just a party, but with me there it’s a celebration of life, a bacchanal.” Again, as if someone was giving cues, the entire crew shouted out, “Eat your bagel, John.”

The pink Pixie cut came up behind Luco, her hands on his hips. She weighed no more than ninety-five pounds. Looking around his tanned and muscular arm, Zephyr said, “Marlee, Spider is tossing a party and you have to come, as my guest.”

“Me? Why thank you.”

“I figured I better ask you because it looked like Ricky Ricardo here was too shy.” Zephyr slapped Luco on the rear and walked back into the kitchen to pick up an order.

Marlee looked at Luco and she could have sworn that he was blushing, just a little. Teasing him would have been fun, but she decided to let it pass. She was still too much a newcomer to get into that.

Luco was blushing. He didn’t like being teased in front of anyone, most of all a customer, and a pretty one at that.

“The party is this Saturday night at Spider’s place over on Fulton, near the Park.”

“Luco,” Marlee leaned close, “I’ve been meaning to ask you – “’Spider’? ‘Zephyr’? What’s with the crazy names?”

Luco leaned closer to Marlee. “Spider: her name is really Martha, but she prefers Spider. It has to do with the tattoo on her….” Marlee held up her hand, cutting him off.

“Spare me, Luco. I’m still too green for all the details of life in San Francisco.” It was her turn to blush.

“Fair enough, Marlee. We don’t want to scare you away. And Zephyr? That’s her real name. Her folks were a couple of old hippies. Go figure.

“Anyway, my dear, Spider’s bashes are the best. Not too weird, I promise. You’ll come to the party?”

“I’d love to, Luco. It’ll be good for me to get out and kick up my heels a bit.”

“That it will, Marlee. Be here at the cafe at midnight.”

Marlee wasn’t used to parties that started at midnight. Classical musicians aren’t known as party animals. Even in college, most of their parties were over by midnight. Tonight at Spider’s would be different and “different” was one reason Marlee was in San Francisco.

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Seven

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

Luco Reyes played a central role in the vacation reveries of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of women, and of not a few men. He was their fantasy fling, their Latin Lover. Only in such fantasies do clichés seem reasonable.

For them, a night of passion nestled in the taut and muscular arms of the barista from San Francisco would be enough to eliminate the need for other souvenirs. The sound of his musical voice, warm in their ear, making promises that only he could keep, would let them forget the braying of their children – at least for a moment.

Snug in their minds with the memories and rueful second thoughts of these travelers, the dark-haired man with the gray eyes was someone they could carry with them. The facade of Luco Reyes was a conveniently portable orgasm.

When Luco left the counter at the People’s Cafe, Luco the fantasy lover stayed behind. Away from the levers and the steam jets, the reality of Luco Reyes walked up Haight Street alone.

He didn’t mind living above the bicycle shop. They weren’t yet open when he left for the cafe

and he returned home long after they were closed for the day.

The apartment was typical of many in The Haight. The rooms were small and narrow. They were designed for maximum comfort in the days before universal central heating. The layout made a lot of people feel that they were living in a railroad car.

Luco was satisfied with the apartment. It was close to work and across the street were the trees, lawns and lakes of Golden Gate Park.

He had five rooms from front to back, sharing the second level of the building with an identical suite occupied by a retired Filipino shipyard worker.

The bedroom at the back was quiet and cramped, almost filled by the Japanese futon and an old dresser. A full-length mirror was glued to the closet door. For a nightstand there was a small barrel that once held roofing nails. Now a clock radio and a boudoir lamp with a peach colored shade sat on its upturned end.

The bathroom was overdue for modernization with the old, but once again in vogue, pedestal sink and claw-foot tub. A medicine cabinet had been bolted to the green painted wall. It held only a straight razor and a can of shaving foam. On the sink was a single toothbrush propped up on a half-rolled tube of Colgate gel.

When he moved in five years before, Luco painted the kitchen walls a bright, daffodil yellow. Along with the white appliances and red oven mitts and dishtowel, the room was cheerful and inviting. It was the only redecorating he had done.

While it was rather whimsical in the kitchen, the dining room was strictly utilitarian.

The large table and four mismatched chairs were Goodwill retreads in need of refinishing.

On the floor under the table were boxes, taped shut with “Dining Room” block printed on the unbroken seals.

The overall impression was that most meals were eaten while standing at the stove.

The temporary feeling of the dining room was carried into the living Room. There were similarly neglected taped cartons along one wall.

A large sofa, covered in a tightly woven brown fabric, hugged the far wall. It had the look of something from a hotel lobby. On the wooden frame, hidden beneath the durable upholstery, was stenciled the word “Sheraton.”

In front of the large picture window overlooking the busy street below, was a gray metal desk. The kind you would find in millions of offices worldwide serving as the platform for commerce large and small. The matching chair was tucked, efficiently, in its place.

The apartment was…a place to live. It had only one thing about it that made it seem more like a “home.”

On the wall above the sofa was an oil painting of Mission Dolores – the original Spanish settlement in San Francisco, a whitewashed adobe surrounded by a riot of rhododendrons. The Mission bell, glinting its pear-shaped brass in the bright sun, stood outside the wrought iron gate, ready to call the faithful to God’s table.

The placement of the picture ensured that it was the first thing that Luco would see as he came up the stairs at night.

Down in the corner, near the frame, the artist’ name was neatly printed: Alicia Reyes.

It was after two in the morning and he still couldn’t sleep. He had to be ready to open up the People’s Cafe at 7 AM. It was getting close to that time when it would be better to just stay up and avoid sleep altogether.

Sleepless nights used to be the norm, but in the last few years, things had gotten better as the memories lost their freshness. Now they were back. Once again there were nights when his brain wouldn’t slow down. The scenarios playing double-time in his head – what might happen if I do this or that? What might have happened if I had done this or that? What if…everything.

Luco knew that replaying the dark days of his life wouldn’t solve anything. Those ghosts were, more or less, at peace. Staying up all night and working to exhaustion didn’t work then and it wouldn’t work now. He knew that.

He had found comfort in writing his poetry ever since his childhood in a crowded frame home near Mission Dolores.

In 1776, Father Junipero Serra created Mission Dolores, the sixth in his chain of twenty-one missions along the California coast. On a sunny bluff overlooking the icy waters of San Francisco Bay it dominated the landscape.

Almost 195 years later, to the day, Luco Reyes was born five minutes away from that same mission.

Over time the shoreline of the bay was filled in to accommodate a growing population. The water was lost to sight and, eventually, Mission Dolores became a tourist attraction. Luco moved to the foggy streets of The Haight and left the sunny Mission District behind, a remnant of another life.

Fewer than ten people in San Francisco knew why he had left the old neighborhood.

Looking at the wall clock and seeing the hands creeping up on four o’clock, Luco resigned himself to no sleep, followed by a long day of mixed up orders, incorrect change and a quiet sadness in his heart. There would be no charming repartee with smitten tourists today.

Instead of his usual bedtime cup of relaxing chamomile tea, he brewed himself a full pot of Irish Breakfast tea. It would be a better stimulant to get him through the rest of the night until he could pull a double espresso for himself at the cafe. Some days, caffeine was enough. Some other days it wasn’t, but you do what you can with what you have.

With a steaming cup and saucer in hand, he moved over to the small desk by his front window. Sitting in his chair he could look out over Stanyan Street and the entrance to Golden Gate Park. There was always someone out there, regardless of the time or the weather.

Luco pulled his spiral notebook from the desk drawer and opened it to a fresh, blank page. He avoided looking at it and took his time selecting a pen. The stark whiteness of the empty page was always a bit terrifying. Once he got the first few words down on paper he would relax and let the juices flow. At least that was his hope.

The sun and moon are dark.

Days are black and nights are

absent of any comforting glow.

They left the sky despite my pleas.

They took all life and promise of tomorrow.

With a desert in my life. Featureless, arid. I see no horizon.

Is this my fate? To walk without a path.

A vacant here, a solitary now? Traceless.

He looked at the page and closed the blue paper cover. One more page among a hundred, filled with the same sense of isolation and marrow-eating pain.

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Three

 

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Three

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

“Now I know why tigers eat their young.”  —  Al Capone

 

Once the night faded away the streets were wet and the sky promised more. Terry Jarosz was at his Boss’s office at 8:30. He had slept on Gloria’s couch for a few hours using the three grand as a pillow. He dreamed that the money was his, but he knew it wasn’t and now he was at the office to turn it in and get his cut – five percent. The Boss was waiting for him.

“Did you get it all, Terry? Three grand?”

Terry nodded and emptied his pockets out onto the desk.  The last two dollars was in quarters. “I got it all, Mr. Walker.”

“Good job, Terry.” He looked at the Boxer’s bandaged fists. “Jesus H. Christ, what happened to your hands? Was he hiding the money in a meat grinder?”

Terry looked at his bandages. They were feeling tight. He was swelling.

“No. He got physical with me, him and one of his boys. I’m OK. I’ll take it easy for a day or two and I’ll be OK.”

“I hope so. You look like you went twelve rounds with the Marines.”

“I’m OK, Mr. Walker. A hundred-fifty dollars?”

Walker peeled off a couple of wrinkled Fifties and the rest in Twenties and Sawbucks.

“Five percent of three thousand – a hundred-fifty dollars.” He threw in an extra Twenty. “A bonus – to cover the cost of your bandages, Terry. Take your girl out for a nice dinner.”

“OK. Thanks Mr. Walker. I’ll do that. I’ll be ready to go again in no time.”

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Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Two

 

Boxer  —  Part Two

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

 

“You’re either at the table or on the menu.”  —  Al Capone

 

And that was where Mike Walker came in. He was a fan of The Sweet Science.  He’d liked watching Terry fight because he knew it wasn’t just “entertainment.” He respected Terry’s work as a boxer and rewarded him by throwing some jobs his way. Mike Walker had a “Private Security” business. He was an ex-cop, a bad one, who did background checks, provided an extra pair of eyes for shopkeepers when inventories grew legs, and he collected overdue debts. Terry Jarosz entered the picture when payments got slippery.

 With ninety-five out of a hundred people who missed a payment or two it was just one look at Terry and wallets opened up. With the other five per cent – they got stupid before their money finally came across the desk. Stupid is what sent Terry to see Doc. Doc never charged Terry for helping him. He knew that The Rules were never fair for either of them.

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I May Just Skip Lunch

THERE ARE DAYS WHEN I WONDER why I get on to the internet at all. I am eternally hopeful that I will find something interesting and/or enlightening. I know that out there in the cyberworld there is something that will make me want to jump for joy and break into my happy dance. I want to be educated, inspired, entertained and feel that I am connecting with the finest fibers of the universe singing of the wisdom of humanity – and then, before I have even had my first sip of coffee, I run into this.

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It’s Better Than A Gooey Tongue

THE OTHER DAY SOMEONE SUGGESTED that I needed a hobby. A Hobby? Like Stamp Collecting or Pickle Ball? I’ve had people tell me that I am their hobby. I’m not sure, but I think they meant that as a compliment. I suppose it could have been a diagnosis.

If I was to get a hobby of some sort I would want it to be something a little different, nothing mundane or unworthy of blogging about. It must have blogiosity.

I’ve spent most of yesterday and today doing some research into some things that I might consider taking up as a hobby. Here are a few of the things I have moved over to my “short list.”

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School Boy Heart

I’M A FAN OF JIMMY BUFFETT. I’m not a fan to the point of calling myself a “Parrothead” which is similar to avid fans of the Grateful Dead calling themselves “Deadheads.” No, I’m not a “Parrothead.” I don’t hitchhike around the country to attend Buffett concerts and I don’t have any Buffett tattoos. I can’t afford the ticket prices and I’m too old to start siring kids named “Cheeseburger” or “Margaritaville.”

I guess I’m more of a “Parakeet” than a “Parrothead.”

I just like his music and I admire him because as a man of 70 he can still take his show on tour without the need for a fulltime medical staff.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… THE CONCLUSION

Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… THE CONCLUSION

 

Chapter Thirty-Nine

 

The sunset over Lake Pend’Oreille was a soft orange color, going to red. It promised calm waters and good sailing come morning. A few lights were beginning to switch on in the houses near the waterline. The smells of wood smoke and family suppers being cooked mixed and drifted over the lakeshore.

There were few tourists left with the holiday season approaching. Only those people who were planning to winter over remained. For them, this part of Idaho was home. It was a place where your thoughts, your opinions and your past were your own business and nobody else’s.

On a quiet, tree-lined street, a few blocks up from the small business district, a young boy on a bicycle pedaled along the leaf-strewn sidewalk. He passed the white frame house with the steeply pitched roof and lobbed a rolled-up newspaper onto the front porch.

The screen door opened and a woman wearing khakis and a wool shirt stepped out. The air was cool, yet inviting. The first hard frost was still a week or two away in this part of the state. She sat down on the top step and unfolded the Sandpoint Mountain Tribune.

In the remaining light of the autumn day, she took her time reading the front page and then turned to the national news section. Her breath caught in her throat as she looked at the photograph in the center of the page. She had seen that picture before. Tears began to flow down her cheeks as she read the accompanying story.

“U.S. Calls Off Womanhunt”

 

“Department of Justice and DEA officials announced today that they were calling off their nationwide search for Beverly Deltino, the fugitive wife of New York crime figure, Dominic Deltino. FBI Regional Director Morris Bland said that Mrs. Deltino, who was wanted in connection with the death of an undercover DEA operative, was herself, deceased. ‘We are satisfied that she was killed while attempting to flee the country, in a shootout at the U.S. – Mexican border, near Tijuana. We are no longer looking for Mrs. Deltino and we consider her case closed.’

“It was also announced that Mrs. Deltino’s husband, a suspect in a number of underworld enterprises himself, was also deceased, apparently, by his own hand.”

The woman stood up and crossed the porch toward the door. She opened it and walked into the rented house, wiping a tear from her eye. She cleared her throat before calling out.

“Davis, let’s eat out tonight.”

 

Fear Not!

I GET A LOT OF EMAIL EVERYDAY. Very little of it is worth the electrons it’s written with. A good portion of it all comes from people trying to sell me something; Sunglasses, Art of questionable quality, Books (lots of books), and classes and seminars. I guess that means that they feel I am in desperate need of education – a point hard to dispute.

I also receive a bunch of things about writing; classes, communities, and handy dandy tools to transform me into the next big whatever.  I already have the tools – a pen, paper, and coffee that have catapulted me to the bottom rung of the ladder of commercial success.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 37 Continued

As they passed it, they both looked over into the alcove. The dead man seemed so very small. Davis walked over and pulled the pistol from Lizard Boy’s waistband and started to stick it in his belt. Laura stopped him and held out her hand. He passed it to her. They left the bundle of cash locked in the dead man’s hand.

It was only another fifty feet before they saw a set of steps rising toward a carpet-covered door.

They slowly climbed the steps and listened. They couldn’t hear anything coming from the other side.

“Well, if nothing else, we have the element of surprise,” whispered Davis. He reached for the knob.

“We hope,” said Laura and pulled his hand back from the door. She would go first. The Mexican’s pistol pointed up. 

“Let’s go, my dear,” she said. They both took a deep breath of the warm and stale air.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Seven

 

       Lizard Boy smiled as Laura and Davis walked over to the metal storage shed.

“Things are better at the border. They’re opening up again,” he said to them in his usual staccato style.

A small, stocky man with strong Mayan facial features, held open the door to the shed and motioned them all inside. His face exhibited several prison tattoos. He was bare-chested and wearing a leather vest. His coppery skin showed a number of scars. He had a large knife sheathed on his belt and over his shoulder was slung an AK-47, the Third World’s weapon of choice. In his left hand, he held a fresh caramel Frappuccino.

“I’m glad you liked my coffees,” he said. “Just like I used to make at Starbucks. Good, huh? Well, bien viaje, amigos.”

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 36 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 36 Continued

pull-tijuanaOutside, the sun was beginning to go down and an offshore breeze was finally cutting through the hot and hectic city. The shopping-mad tourists were heading home and the drinking-mad tourists were arriving. The mood in Tijuana was changing, like it did everyday at this time, from commercial cordiality to alcoholic depravity. The zebra-painted donkeys that pulled small carts along the avenidas so tourists could have some unusual pictures to take home to Iowa, were being replaced by other donkeys for another kind of entertainment that Tijuana was famous for.  

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 36

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Six

 

warehouses“It’s at number 162, Tomás. Drive past it and let us out down the block,” said Laura, scanning the fronts of the small warehouses and workshops.

The cab slowed while Tomás craned his neck out the window looking for the address.

“There it is, Señorita. That’s it, with all the doors.”

The structure at 162 Avenida de Negocios was unlike anything Laura or Davis had ever seen before. It was built entirely out of garage doors.

“What the hell is that?” she asked.

Tomás smiled. “We Mexicans can be very resourceful. There are a quite a few buildings like this in Tijuana. They are made out of recycled garage doors from LA and San Diego. A few Mexican entrepreneurs have been importing them by the truckload. Actually, there is a whole neighborhood near here made of doors. Very clever, no?” He steered the cab over to the curb about fifty yards past the all-door structure.

“Well, Tomás,” said Laura. “Thank you for your tour of Tijuana and for your help. Bless you.”

“My pleasure, my friends. I wish you both good luck.”

Davis patted Tomás’ shoulder.

“Bless you twice, Tomás.”

Laura and Davis stepped out of the taxi onto the empty sidewalk. The cab turned at the next corner and was gone.

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Dear Me !

I HAVE NEVER WRITTEN A LETTER TO DEAR ABBY or to whoever it is who is actually doing the column now that the original Abby is among the Dearly Departed.

Just like everyone else, I’ve had personal problems to deal with, but when I have a question 90% of the people I know are lined up to give me “The Answer.” The other 10 % are usually the cause of my problem.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 34

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Four

 

pull-molinas-bldgIn the darkroom at Ernesto Molina’s photography studio a new person was being born. Years of experience in creating false documents for many of the Earth’s most dangerous people had made Molina a very wealthy man. His home was an opulent, yet tastefully decorated, house by the ocean, near Rosarita Beach. This cheap-looking studio was a place to do his work undisturbed. He owned the building.

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It’s Not About Cats

MEMORIES? WHERE DO THEY GO TO HIDE? Why do they pop back into your conscious mind after a lifetime stored in the folds and wrinkles of your brain?

I had such a memory bob back to the surface the other day and, when it did, all of the details were as fresh as if it had just happened yesterday.

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Fiction Saturday Chapter 32- “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Two

 

pull-taxiThe cab was festooned with bobble-head dolls of Elvis, The Beatles, and Ricky Martin.  The Virgin Mary held the place of honor in the center of the dashboard.  Red and gold dingleballs circled every window and lying on the rear window deck was a three-foot-long crucifix.

The cab driver, dressed in a crisp yellow shirt, was doing his standard sales pitch to yet another pair of Yanqui tourists.

“Buenas dias.  Let Tomás be your guide for the day.  Only two hundred dollars—well  worth the price.  Tomás knows all the best restaurants and shops.  And I can get you the best seats for the bullfights.  My cousin is a matador.  Deal, okay?  Best price in Tijuana.” His accent made him sound like a parody of Cheech and Chong.

Davis looked at Laura, who was still holding the brochure outlining the benefits of membership in the San Diego Skyscrapers.  She shook her head.  This was a business trip.

“No, not today,” said Laura.  “Just drop us up on the main drag.  Maybe next time we’ll get the tour.  Okay?”

“Okay, you the boss, but, I can show you where to get genuine Armani suits for three hundred dollars, with free alterations.  Best price in Tijuana.”

“Another time, my friend,” said Davis.

Laura pulled a piece of paper from her pocket.

“Say, do you know any good photographers?” asked Laura.

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