Category Archives: Writing

The Death of Patsy McCoy

DofPMdlcoverimage I know I’ve posted this before, but in honor of its upcoming release as an ebook, here’s the first chapter of

The Death of Patsy McCoy



Farm Boy

Approaching your hometown after twenty years, to attend the funeral of a childhood friend, I guess your thoughts are pretty much destined to run backward. There was a time when I knew beyond any reasonable doubt that my life was going to be wasted. That it was, in fact, already wasted. I’d sit alone on the back porch, reading some crime thriller or space opera, and I’d feel all the same urges that have united sixteen-year-old boys since crime thrillers and space operas were invented. I’d be a famous detective, or a fearless astronaut, or a brain surgeon, or a quarterback; something, anything, if only I didn’t live in Bumhole, Kansas.

     Fifty years earlier, a hundred and sixty acres would have been a lot of land. When I was sixteen, it was small enough my dad could work it by himself, just him and a few machines, and still work at the mill.

     Twenty years sooner, and I might have been busy enough in the work of the place to have been ok. Twenty years later, and I would have had MTV and MySpace and Google to keep me company. We had neither, and we found our own trouble. That summer, we found Patsy McCoy.

His death began the moment we saw him. It just took a long time to consummate that death. We began to kill him when we first saw him, walking slowly up the road that led past Stud’s place, his eyes flicking away from us and shifting from bush to chimney to tree, and then flicking away from us again.

     Stud got up like he was going to go talk to him, his basketball trapped under one arm, but then he just stood there. We didn’t get many new guys in Bumford. Sometimes somebody’s cousin would show up for a visit, but that was it. We were sitting there on Stud’s steps, all five of us, doing nothing, not even talking much, just wasting our lives and not really caring. What else was there to do in Bumhole?

     The new kid slowed, but he kept coming. Pudgy and doughy, sweating like it was hot out, squinting a bit. His eyes began to flick away from us a little later, a little more slowly. He began to lick his lips as he approached, like he thought he’d get a chance to speak, like he thought he had anything to say.

     “Think fast!” Stud said, launching his basketball at the new guy’s stomach. He didn’t think fast enough, grunting wheezily as the ball bounced off onto the road.

     “Hey! Pick my ball up, stupid! Don’t let it bounce on the ground like that! Who do you think you are, Fatso?” Stud shoved him a little with both hands. We circled around behind him, surrounding him. He began to shift around, like he was trying to keep tabs on all of us at the same time, but we had some kind of group-think going on, and we sidled around and around so he couldn’t track us. It was like we’d been harassing new guys all our lives. That was Stud. He could do that. He’d get some plan in his mind, and it’d spring full-blown into the minds of all of us, like he was some kind of god or something. He thought he was, anyway.

     He stood there spread-legged like the eye of our storm, not following us as we circled, his eyes on the new guy’s, his arms crossed high on his chest.

     The new guy stooped down over his baggy belly and groped for the ball, but it rolled away from him a bit, and he had to stand back up to go after it. He bent down again, and Spittle kicked it to Stud just as his fingertips brushed it.

     “Hey! Don’t kick my ball, Fatso!” Stud said, trapping the ball under his foot and smacking Fatso on the arm. “Who do you think you are?”

     “I didn’t

     “Don’t argue with me, Fatso,” Stud said, dead quiet, and Fatso fell silent.

     “I’ve asked you twice, now, Fatso. Who do you think you are?”


Fatso licked his lips again, his eyes flicking from one face to another, back to Stud’s.



Um my butt! Pay attention! Your name, Fatso! What’s your name?”

     “Uh, Patrick, Patr

     “Patricia? Your name’s Patricia? My little sister’s name is Patricia!” Stud looked around at us, demanding laughter.

     “No, it’s Patri

     What’s that? What’s that you say, Patricia? Patsy? It’s Patsy? Ok, it’s Patsy, then. Guys, meet Patsy!” and Patsy McCoy was born. We created him. We created him, and then we began to kill him.

     “Come on,” Stud said, turning away, three-pointing the ball into the porch swing on the way by. Patsy stood there a few seconds, like he wasn’t sure he was supposed to come along, but Bowels was behind him, and he gave him a shove to get him started.

     “Come on, Patsy! What’s the holdup?” he demanded.

Patsy took a couple of steps, but then he stopped and looked behind him. “I, um, uh, I think I’d better

     Stud, almost into his side yard by now, stopped and turned toward us. “Look, Patsy,” he said, and his voice was almost friendly, almost helpful. “School starts in six weeks. You want to be the new guy then? You want to see what that’s like, going to our school and not being one of us? Come on. You gotta do this.” He turned and walked away, confidently, like he knew he’d be followed, like he knew we’d all troop along behind him, like we always did. That was Stud.

     Across the big gravel farm yard, down behind the barns, there was a wide, shallow gully, choked with willows and cottonwoods, scrub forest up the slope beyond it, a slow muddy stream at the bottom. We called it the river, but I don’t think it even had a name. There was a place there that we called the swimming hole, but if you’d tried to dive there, you would have broken your neck. We had a rope swing that went out over the water, and if you dropped off of it, you had to do a cannonball, or you’d hit bottom. Sarah Gilbert had broken her ankle, the summer before, when she was twelve, because she didn’t tuck quite hard enough. She let me sign her cast, and after the first couple of letters, I pretended I had to hoist her foot a little higher, but it was only so I could see more of her leg under her yellow skirt.

     We weren’t headed there, though. We crossed the river on the old log bridge, one at a time, arms stretched out to our sides for balance. Patsy went last, and we threw sticks and rocks at him, urging him to fall in. He made it, but it was a close thing.

     Downstream a few yards, on the far side of the river, a big birch tree stood alone among the cottonwoods, and we had slowly put together a pretty decent treefort up there, dragging pallets and planks from any construction site we could find. There was a ladder of sorts up the side of the tree, and remodeling the treefort was one of things on our minds that summer. Not that we’d done a whole lot about it.

     Patsy went last again. We’d get used to that, before the summer was over. He almost always went last. When we were all up in the treefort, gathered on the big uneven platform we called the deck, Stud said there’d have to be an initiation for Patsy. All that went through my mind was the thought that none of us had had to undergo any initiation, but I didn’t argue. We’d been born to it, so to speak.

     Babyface goes “Yeah, we should put a sack over his head, strip him naked, and beat him with blackberry vines!” He had that avid look he always got when he talked about stuff like that, but we were used to him, and we all ignored him. Except Patsy. Patsy looked pretty worried. Babyface would have been about fifteen then, but he looked like he was twelve, and I could see how it might spook a stranger to see this little kid talk about beating a naked guy with blackberry vines, especially with that look on his face.

     “Hold your arm out,” Stud said. “We all get to hit it three times, as hard as we can. Just our fingers, open, like slapping. Like this,” hitting the air in front of him like it just lost at rock, scissors, paper. Patsy hugged his arms against his ample stomach, but Spittle and Bowels were both between him and the ladder, and there was no railing, and he looked a little scared. I admit, there was a slow stirring of some lurking evil, deep down within me, knowing we had him trapped up there until we felt like letting him go. There was a power there, there was something there that said Your life is wasted? No, look at this. Look what you can do!

     “Hold your arm out, Patsy,” Stud said, and he slowly put his arm out to his side, his other hand clutched below his bicep like he could keep the pain from climbing up through there. His eyes were clenched, but there was still a tiny slit of wet glimmer in them as he looked from one to another, not looking at Stud at all.

     Babyface went first, of course, his hand sweeping down so fast and so hard his heels came up off the boards, his open fingers sliding from the inside of Patsy’s forearm in that welt-raising lash he’d developed for rock, scissors, paper. There were tears in Patsy’s eyes before Babyface’s three strikes were all laid down, but still, there was that tiny watchful gleam.

     I went next, think. Either that, or I went after Bowels. I remember my fingers stung for twenty minutes, afterward. I know Spittle was next-to-last, and then Stud took his turn.

     “Look at me, Patsy,” he said. “If I have to do this for you, the least you can do is look at me. Why are you crying? Baby. Crybaby. Now I have to do this, just because you’re a crybaby,” he said, slowly licking the fingers of his right hand. Patsy’s eyes widened in fear, like he couldn’t have closed them if he’d wanted to, as Babyface started in about getting to go again. We should all get to go again, he said, because we hadn’t licked our fingers.

     “No,” Stud said, “that wouldn’t be fair. That would just be cruel,” and he slowly laid down his three lashes.

     Afterward, we went inside. There were only five seats, though, two old car seats and the Woolsack, Stud’s broken recliner. We’d hauled them all up on a block and tackle. Patsy had to sit on the floor. He sat there and snuffled and sniffed as Stud laid out the plan. We’d see to it he was one of us by the time school started, so he wouldn’t have to go through that alone, and all he had to do was put up with a little hazing. I was watching his eyes, and I think he thought he already had, that it was already over. It hadn’t even begun.

     “Have you moved a lot?” Stud asked, sounding almost like he cared.

     “No, this is the first time,” Patsy mumbled, rubbing his arm. The welts were pretty impressive, but I knew from rock, scissors, paper that the pain would go away quickly, and I wasn’t sure he wasn’t already starting to milk it.

     “Well, then,” Stud said like that settled something, his hands out like there you go, then. “Do this, you’re in like Flynn, dude! You’re one of us by the time school starts. You’re in, not out. You’re accepted, not a new guy. Believe me, you don’t want to be the outsider. No parties, no girls, no nothing. What’s a little hazing to all of that?” and he looked around at us, demanding our agreement.

     We taught him the secret handshake, made up on the spot by Stud, explaining our own fumbles by telling him it wasn’t the one we used. It was the Lesser Secret Handshake, only used by initiates, and we’d teach him the real thing when he became one of us. After his hazing was over.

     He’d get his new nickname then, too, we promised, his cool nickname like the rest of us. Patsy was just his initiate nickname.

     It was late by the time we left, walking through the gloomy woods to the bridge, and we didn’t even try to make him fall as he shuffled across behind us.

Oh, I know. Believe me, I know. I knew even then. Even while some small part of me was enjoying it all, I knew it was wrong. It was like signing Sarah’s cast on her front porch. Even though I hardly knew her, even though she was just a friend’s little sister, even though she was two years younger than me, I squatted there on the steps in front of her, her foot in my lap, lifting her knee farther and farther off the porch trying to see her panties, and the thrill I felt was mostly shame. I don’t think she ever did catch on, but she reached down by some female instinct and tucked her bright yellow skirt in under her thigh before I ever got that flash of white, or baby blue, or lavender. I was almost as relieved as I was disappointed.

     The hazing of Patsy McCoy was the same thing all over again. I knew it was wrong. I’m pretty sure Stud knew it, too, even though he was the force behind it. Bowels I don’t know about, Spittle was too dumb to know the difference, and I think Babyface thought it was all great stuff, but I knew it was wrong, and I still think Stud knew. But for months after that day on the Gilbert’s porch, I dreamed long, detailed dreams of her, asleep and awake, and for all those weeks we persecuted Patsy, I lived in a thrill of secret pleasure.

     We rebuilt the treefort that summer, after two years of saying we should. We’d talk about how we’d learned all the things not to do, all the ways not to build a treefort, but we never did anything about it until Patsy came along. Until we had a grunt to do our grunt-work.

     We made him haul on the block and tackle, hoisting things. We made him tote the heavier pallets and planks we stole from construction sites. If we had nothing for him to carry, we’d make him walk ten feet behind us, or we’d make him walk in front while we made fun of his rolling waddle.

     Every time he began to grow a little bit of backbone, saying it wasn’t fair, saying that surely, by now, he was one of us, Stud would go into his routine again, about how soon school would start, and how badly he needed to be one of us by then. He’d always fall silent then, pushing his wire-rimmed glasses up and staring off into the distance, or down into the fire, or at the boards at his feet.

     When we first saw him, on the road in front of Stud’s place, he wasn’t really fat. He was pudgy. He was well-padded. We hounded him so much about how he ate like a pig that he began to eat like a pig. We called him fat so often, he got fat to earn our approval. We mocked his waddle until he began to waddle.

     I don’t know how it would have ended, had things just gone on the way we all thought they were going to. If we’d all gone back to Bumford High School like we thought we were going to, would he have been one of us at last? Would he finally have earned that? Or would we simply have taken it all to school with us, to recruit all the other students into the I Hate Patsy McCoy Club?

     They closed the mill. A week before school started, the owner made the announcement on the local radio station that the mill was closing effective immediately, the end of day shift today. If you’re scheduled to come in tonight, or any time after that, don’t. We’re closed.

     I don’t know how it would have ended.

     All of our fathers worked at the mill. All of us except Patsy lived on places that could be called farms, but none of them really paid off, and all of our fathers except his worked at the mill to try to make ends meet. Stud’s old man had been going along pretty well, till the energy crisis spiked the fuel costs up into the sky, and then he had to work, too. Now, with the mill closed, they all congregated down at the diner, talking about the places they could go and the things they could do to try to make up for it. Talking about losing places that had been in the families for generations.

     One by one, all the old places would be boarded up and emptied. Most of us would never see the inside of Bumford High that fall. Stud’s old man took a night job driving a milk tanker to Topeka and back, and Patsy’s dad had been working for the city, anyway, but all the rest of us would leave that fall.

I haven’t been back since.

My fingers clench harder and harder around the steering wheel as I close on Bumford for the first time in over twenty years. I’ve called around a little. I’ve googled a little, and I know the diner’s still there, still the social center of this backward-looking ex-milltown. I know Patty, Stud’s little sister, works there now. I’m hoping we can forget, or ignore, the string of quickies in the big barn behind their house.

     Stud went on and on all the time about his kid sister, how she was the definition of sweet and pure, and it was almost like Patsy and his waddle. The more I heard about Patty and how pure she was, the more I wanted her, until I decided to make a try for it. Looking back now, I think she had an awful lot of knowledge for being so pure. I think she knew what to do just a little bit too readily for being so sweet. Actually, I’m pretty sure Bowels was doing her, too, but at the time, I thought I was the only one. I thought I was in love. I tried to keep it from Stud.

     When Stud thought Patsy’d been staring at Patty, he made a big deal of asking us for suggestions on how to help Patsy not let that happen again. We all looked around at each other, and I don’t know what the others were thinking, but I was thinking along the lines of making him spend one whole day in his house, not coming out at all, or something stupid like that. Not Babyface.

     “Sew his eyelids shut!” he shouted, leaping eagerly to his feet. “I’ve got this sewing-kit thing I got from my grandmother! We can sew his eyelids shut for a day, and then he’ll learn not to stare at girls!” He was serious, and he got Bowels and Spittle on his side pretty quickly. We didn’t let him do it, but the look in Stud’s eyes as he thought about it made me even more determined not to let him ever catch me with Patty.

     The place is called Danny’s Diner, although no one seems to have any idea who Danny might ever have been. I can’t even begin to tell you how she ever tracked me down. When she emailed me out of the clear blue, about the funeral, I went on Google to see what I could find out about present-day Bumford, and I tried to reverse the process, just to see what it would be like. I found thousands of Patty Fishers, Pat Fishers, and Patricia Fishers, and of course, I had no way of knowing whether she might be married, with a new name by now. Without her email address to help me, I certainly never could have tracked her down, the way she found me.

     But I did find a website for Danny’s Diner in Bumford, Kansas, and most of the pictures showed Patty, a little older, a little more worn-down looking, but still Patty. Not as skinny as she was then, but still sleek and fit-looking.

     Park the car. Shut the engine off. Sit there with one hand on the door handle, remembering the way the heat would hit like someone had opened an oven, or a sauna, any time you opened a door. I can see Patty’s face at thirteen, stacked up on the face from the internet pictures now. Her damp parted lips from then, stacked up on the hard grim line from now.



The Dinosaur and the Dragon Lady – a novella

My first Smashwords upload is ready, and I have no idea what it looks like!

I need your help.

I have uploaded my first Smashwords book, a novella titled The Dinosaur and the Dragon Lady. This is entirely new for me, and I need to see how well the conversion turned out. If you have an e-reader, either hardware or software, please take the time to download the appropriate version of this book and let me know if anything is wonky. You can set your own price on it, which I realize is going to mean most downloads will ne free, but I can live with that.

This novella is available as a PDF, RTF, or plain text, as well as in ePub and formats for the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, and Palm devices. It can also be read online, but what I really need to know is how it looks on the hardware devices. If this worked, I have several others I’d like to get posted as well.

Of course, if you want to actually take the time to read it and post a review, that’d be good, too! I think you’ll like it.


County Fair – an excerpt

An excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Blood Bonds

(c) 2009 Levi Montgomery

Lucy wanders alone down the midway, watching the ground slide past her feet with the sound of a thousand people walking on sawdust. Candy wrappers and torn ticket stubs and bits of random trash litter the ground, drifting like windblown snow in the untracked corners and the narrow spaces between game booths. The people around her fade away like a driving rain when you’ve grown used to it, their shouts and voices and footsteps and rustlings becoming merely an insistent whisper of questions. “Why are you here? Why did you come? Why do you do this?”
Every year, she says that was the last time. Every year, she changes her mind. Every year, she decides to give the county fair one more try, and every year, she’s disappointed again. Fifteen next month, you’d think she would have learned by now.
There is absolutely nothing here for her. People are fine, in small groups, but this is just a crowd. The rides are either boring or scary or both, and she wants neither. The games are all rigged. The cows and rabbits and horses and the guy selling cowboy hats and the woman with the hand-painted saw blades you’re supposed to hang on the wall are all the same things from last year. There’s some big storage place somewhere, some giant version of the shed in the back yard, and they just roll this whole thing in there and leave it for fifty-one weeks. Then they drag it out again to fool the unwary who didn’t learn their lesson last year.
Like her.
She stops and digs her foot down into the dirty sawdust put down to protect the grass, trying to see how deep it is. Like she didn’t do this last year. Like it’ll be any different this year. Just deep enough she can bury her shoe, that’s how deep it is. A shadow crosses her foot, and she looks up.
Denny Martin stands there, alone, and she looks instinctively past him for Dave Laufer. He’s nowhere in sight, and that’s so weird she almost shivers a little. Dave and Denny are like twins. Conjoined twins, joined at the hip in some tragic post-birth mixup at the hospital. Some of the snottier girls at school say they’re gay, but she knows better. She’s seen the way they look at girls. Even her, sometimes. Especially Denny.
“So how come you don’t have a big bag full of stuffed animals?” he asks her, as she’s opening her mouth to greet him.
Because I think the prizes are stupid and the games are rigged. Because I don’t have a boyfriend to try to win them for me. Because I don’t have any money, and I only came to look at the cows and rabbits and the guy selling cowboy hats. “Mmm, uh…” is all she can manage, looking down again. She shrugs.
“You don’t even have a bracelet,” he says. “Are you paying for the rides separately? That gets expensive.”
No, I’m just not going on rides. The bracelets are eight bucks. That’s not expensive? She shrugs again, not looking up. There’s sawdust on her shoe, and she taps it against the other one, looking off down the fairway so he won’t see it.
A bolder girl would look up and grin at him, and that grin would say everything she needs to say. Buy me a bracelet. Win me a teddy bear. Hook your fingers oh-so-casually through mine and buy me kielbasa on a stick and elephant ears, and let’s pretend we’re boyfriend and girlfriend. A bolder girl would look up. She’s known for years now that he wants all those things as badly as she does, and she can’t do a thing about it.
She shakes her head a little, not knowing why, and manages one quick squinted look at his eyes, but the sudden weakness in her forces her gaze down again.
Watching her face, watching her eyes watch her toes, he thinks of asking her to come on some rides with him, but he lets the thought die alone. Dave hasn’t talked about her since that day two years ago, when they swore the blood brothers oath, but he’s felt this odd hands-off taboo ever since.
“Well… have fun, ok?” he says, and she nods her head a little, looking down at her toes.
As soon as he turns away, she can raise her eyes, cautiously, watching his rear view as he moves away toward the rides. Come back and ask me, Denny, she shouts after him, but it’s only in her mind, and she buries a gum wrapper in the sawdust as he walks away.
Kielbasa on a stick. She can afford that, barely, and it’ll feel like fair food, sort of, and she turns the other way, toward the food stands. If you walk between the two rows of back-to-back tents along the commercial display, you have to dodge past piles of boxes and empty hand carts and step over the stakes and ropes, but at least you don’t have to look at people.
Six inches of kielbasa impaled on a wooden skewer and covered with sticky barbecue sauce, and a can of Coke from a cooler with no ice in it. Lunch exhausts what’s left of her allowance, and she sits in a corner of the noisy table area, wondering why she does this and watching the crowd go by. Chests and stomachs and legs, swinging arms and strollers. If you look higher than their shoulders, then you might have to see their faces.
A girl from school and a boy she doesn’t know sit down at the table next to hers with an armload of food that would feed a horse, hamburgers and Cokes and a block of curly fries the size of a loaf of bread. She turns her back and nibbles her kielbasa even more slowly. If she can make it last longer than their pile of food, then she wins, and she closes her eyes to make time slow down.
The bench shakes suddenly, and she looks up, startled. Dave Laufer. It’s so odd to see either of them without the other, and now she’s seen each of them alone in one day. Maybe they’re fighting. Maybe it’s some odd male-bonding ritual.
He landed straddled on the bench with such force that it’s still shaking as she turns her gaze away to the tent pole in front of her. All that silent shouting, and he’s the one that shows up?
“Hey! What are you doing?”
What’s it look like? Eating my last two dollars. Three, counting the Coke, but she can’t say anything. She shrugs her shoulders, picking up the Coke can from the bench beside her.
“That’s not your lunch is it? ’Cause I was thinking, I could buy you some of those curly fries?” and she chokes on her Coke, barely not spewing it out all over the pole. She stares at her shoes. Buy me a bracelet. Win me a teddy bear. You’re not the right one, but can we pretend?
“Hey! Where’s your wrist band? You didn’t get a wrist band? You can’t pay for rides one at a time, you know. You go on like six rides, and you’re losing money after that.” She doesn’t look at him, but she can feel his eyes on her.
“I, uh, don’t really ride the rides much,” she manages, talking only to the tent pole, and then she gropes for her straw again, watching her toes squirm inside her shoes.
“Well, come on! Let’s go fix that. It’s only like two o’clock, lots of time left. Come on!’ and he’s got her elbow, tugging her to her feet. She walks away with him, glad she has the can to occupy her hands. You’re the wrong one, but you might be a step closer.
He takes her back to the front gate, where he buys her an all-you-can-ride wrist band in neon purple. They walk the length of the midway, where anything that remotely resembles throwing a baseball falls prey to his pitching skills, and she lets him talk her onto the Ferris wheel, but that’s all. He’s not giving up, he assures her, but he needs food to argue on, and they retreat to the food stands again, three of them now, Dave, Lucy, and a big green bear with a goofy grin.
The bear’s not eating anything, but Lucy and Dave claim one end of a bench and start in on a pair of steak sandwiches and a big block of curly fries. With drinks and assorted extras, they have enough food between them to feed a small army for a week. Well, a very small army, perhaps, but still, it’s more fair food than she’s ever eaten in any one year.
The passing stream of people holds not just her friends, but his as well, people stopping to greet them and ask if they’ve ridden this ride or that, or did they see the giant pig, and how stupid are those hand-painted saw blades? If she ignores the crowd and pretends she’s in the lunchroom at school, it’s ok. She can see the people as though they’re people, not as units in some zombie locust horde, intent on devouring this entire event. She can sip at her soda straw and smile and greet the girls from school, and not quite look at the boys, and sometimes, she can catch a look in an eye that she’s never seen before, as one girl or another notes the closeness of his hand to hers, on the table between them.
In a still moment with none of their friends around, a sparrow comes hopping alone and intent along the narrow aisle between the row of awning posts and the parking-lot fence. Eyes on the ground, he searches for crumbs among the straggly weeds there, and Lucy gropes along the table’s edge for French-fry remnants to toss him. His bonanza instantly noticed by all his buddies, he’s joined by a dozen more, flitting through the chain-link fence when she reaches for more crumbs, swooping back in when they hit the ground.
Dave joins her, tossing bits of bread and broken chips, and when she reaches blindly to the table, watching the birds and groping for more, her fingers are met by his and the whole world crunches to a stop around her. Unable to look up for a long second, she watches the birds. When she does finally look up at him, she still can’t quite reach his eyes. Her gaze stops at his chin, watching the movements there.
There is absolutely nothing in the mundane feel of his fingertips tangled in hers to account for the sudden stillness in her. Perhaps he’s not the wrong one after all. She draws her fingers away from his, taking refuge in the need of another sip of Coke, and now she can get her eyes all the way up to his. Brown. Why didn’t she know that? Why has she never noticed that? Why has she never seen the way his hair shifts in the soft breeze like that? When did his chin acquire that tiny little juttedness, that firm masculinity?
“Maybe when school starts,” he says, looking down, looking for more to toss to the birds, “maybe we can, uh…” She waits, but there doesn’t seem to be any more. She looks past him to where Denny’s turning away, turning to the line at an ice-cream place.
“Spend some time together,” he whispers finally, but she doesn’t answer. Maybe you’re the wrong one. Maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re just one step closer. Take me on more rides, and let’s find out. Dangle your fingers ever so casually through mine, and let’s see if you’re the one or not.
Except for the mindless crush of the rides and the casual push of the crowd, they spend the rest of the day without touching one another, her fingers trembling off and on all afternoon from that one throbbing moment of tangle. Waiting in the dark outside the front gate for her mother’s car, she finds all of her fingers gathered up again into that mundane stillness. His eyes are even darker now than normal, hidden in the deep shadows of the street lights. Puddling into her own stillness, she looks up at him, at where eyes would be if he had any.
Kiss me. Don’t kiss me kiss me, just kiss me a little, just kiss me a sweet soft first kiss, but when he leans toward her a tiny spanless way, she shifts her weight backward, away from him, and he recedes like an ebbing tide, like a sigh, like regret, and she breathes again.
“School’s in, what, three weeks?” he asks her. They haven’t touched that since he first dropped it, there in the shade of the awnings, in the smell of grease and barbecue sauce and smoke, in the sight of the birds. We should spend some time together, he said to her, and they haven’t said anything about it since.
“Five,” she says, “almost five,” slipping her fingers from his. Take them back. Link them through yours and let my mother see. She steps a tiny inch away from him. Her mother can’t see them like this.
He can’t seem to decide where to put his hands now, dangling alone there in the dark beside him, flitting and hovering like the birds at lunch time. They settle finally in the edges of his pockets, birds landing so neatly in the diamonds of the chain link. She watches the skin wrinkle across his knuckles, tiny canyons of shadow. There seems to be nothing at all left to say, perhaps ever, and she says none of it.
He looks past her, across her shoulder, and a tiny, reluctant movement of his head tells her that her mother is here.

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“Blood Bonds” Excerpt – the Sundial Passage

Partly because I’ve been pestered asked nicely, and partly because if I don’t post something all three of my readers will assume I’ve died, to discover their mistake only after they’ve thrown the wild celebrations (and just imagine the despondence of that clean-up), here’s the sundial passage from my work in progress, Blood Bonds:


     When he drained the glass, he set it down as carefully centered on the end of the bottle’s shadow as he could, and now he watches the slow hypnotism of dwindling time. If he stares long enough, he can actually see the movement, watch the creeping darkness capture each tiny feature of the woodgrain, every hill, every valley, every fleeting instant. Six weeks ago, two weeks ago, yesterday, just this morning, that shadow would have been slow, plodding, excruciating, the impatience welling up in him like a flooding creek. Now all he wants is to hold it back, to stop that crawl.
Do you want…
When the shadow finally clears the empty shot glass, he fills it again, carefully, setting the bottle back where it was, the label toward him, carefully. He drains the glass and sets back it down on the end of the shadow, carefully. Soon, the shadow will be pointing right at him, and he thinks for a moment of switching seats, but there’s no point. You can smash an hourglass, rip the hands from the face of a clock, cast down all the bells from all the towers in the world, but you can’t touch a shadow. You can’t hold back what isn’t there. You can’t stop the ominous sweep of God’s sundial.
Do you want…
He slowly twists the bottle, the gnomon of his life, one slow full circle, stopping it centered toward him again.
     15 years of age, it says.
French Oak Reserve.
He’d give everything he’s ever had to be fifteen again. He’d trade every single thing he owns to stand once more in that dawn.
     He shoves the chair back and rises in a sudden rush of movement that ends as swiftly as it began, leaving him standing without motion or the desire for motion, staring out the window across the lake so far below him. Sliding slowly, stone on stone, across the room, pulled by the same tidal force that drives the shadow, he presses his fingertips to the glass. He suddenly wants to press his fingertips to every surface in the room, to every window and every wall and every face in the world, to soak up what he can, to say… to say something. He doesn’t know what.
     This glass, these walls, this floor and ceiling, he built all this to protect him, to keep all that he has and all that he is separate. Inviolate. Alone. But now, he’s all alone.
Do you want the long slow…
His fifteen-year-old single malt, his careful blend of all the right antiques and all the right avant garde pieces, his prints and sculptures and first editions, his shelves and shelves and shelves of books… all futile. Useless. Empty. The house was built to hold him, the belongings lined up carefully like walls to hold him in, and now it’s all empty. There is nothing left to define him except that creeping shadow, and then nothing at all forever.
     Do you want the long slow buildup, the doctor asked him, or do you just want the bad news?

Three Useless Sentences

I have a directory on my computer called “outlines.”

The title’s a lie. It’s not really outlines, or at least not just outlines. It’s got all kinds of things in it, and one of them is this. I have no idea who she is. I have no idea why she’s so angry. Maybe someday I’ll write her story, but in the meantime, here’s today’s quick glimpse into my mind:

     The air’s so still, the mist so eerie, the newborn morning so quiet, that when she slams the front door, the startled echoes fly back from every house, kicking drowsy robins into short little gusts of flight, to land confused and rattled. Every angry footstep echoes clapping back until the grating rasp of her key in the lock echoes nothing, not a thing, not a whisper. The staring windows, the taunting garages, all are silent, breathless, waiting for the final shouted insult of her car door slammed shut as hard as she can, as loud as she can, as door-slamming angry as she can.

The Zombie Awakens – the Resurrection of a Blog

In May of 2009, I moved my primary blog to

I did this primarily to gain additional options that I did not have available to me here, and I’m fairly pleased with the result, except for one thing. I had been assured that my posts would continue to show up in the listing at, and that turns out not to be the case. So I’ve been wondering what to do with this blog, sitting here idle.

I’ve signed up for an Author Page at Amazon’s Author Central, which claims to have a blogging capability, but it is rather, um, let’s say rudimentary. They do offer the ability to import an RSS feed, though, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one blog, so to speak.

I’m going to resurrect this blog, and feed it to Amazon.

Assuming this test works, of course. I’ve gotten away from the original goal of my blogging, at my main blog. That is, I’ve moved away from blogging solely about the things that make me a writer, and gotten into technology, and social networking, and all kinds of things. But I don’t want to abandon any of that. So this blog, hereby renamed “The Write Ramblings,” will serve to act as a glimpse into the more creative side of me.

I will post excerpts from my books, both published and in progress, as well as short stories and even occasional responses to the “writing prompts” that can be found in so many places around the internet. I would welcome the chance to answer any questions you may have, so feel free to leave your questions and comments.

With no further ado, then, the opening scene of my novel-in-progress, Blood Bonds:

     “Dare me!” Davey commands, the brown bottle shard poised in midair. His grubby palm shakes only a bit under the threat of its hovering edge. “Dare me, you chicken!”
     No way! I’m not daring you anything! You’ll do it. You’ll do it, and then you’ll say it was because I dared you, and then I’ll get in trouble. If you’re gonna do, just do it. You’re the chicken.”
     I’m no chicken!” Davey shouts. “You’re the chicken! You’re too chicken to dare me to do it!” He brings the edge a little lower, but his other hand drops by almost as much. “I’ll do it if you do it,” he says.
     Denny just shakes his head and turns away. Only because he’s bored. Only because he’s moving on, not because the sick fascination of that razor edge is making him queasy.

The late spring wind shifts suddenly, and all the trees on the edge of the bluff above them roll their leaves over and back again in a long soft sigh. Denny looks up, wary, looking for crows startled from the branches, but there are none, and he paces slowly up the coils of a rotten bedspring, his arms waving like seaweed.
     “You’re gonna do it, just do it,” he says again. “Don’t try to blame me.” He steps up onto the side of a toppled rusty freezer and turns back toward Davey. From here, you can’t see the wickedness of that shard, the perfect curve where a thin slice like the edge of an obsidian arrowhead reaches so eagerly for Davey’s skin. From here, he can look. From here, he can breathe.
     Bet you could make arrowheads out of beer-bottle glass,” he says.
     We should both do it,” Davey says, lowering his hands to his sides.
     You’re supposed to wrap it up, like in leather or something, all but one edge, and then you push on the edge with something hard. Bet you could push with a sharp rock.”
     Chicken. Bawk! Bawk! B-daw-w-w-k!” 
     You got any leather?”
     No, you got any guts?”
     Denny drops to the ground again, kicking at the gravel, searching for the right rock to use to make arrowheads out of bottle glass. There’s plenty of glass here. As soon as he saw the strange bellied curve of that shard, he thought of arrowheads. Not Davey, though. Nothing so tame for Davey.
     No, really,” Davey insists. “I’ll cut my hand, and you cut yours. Ok?”
     Why?” Denny asks, not thinking. “We going to become blood brothers?” As soon as the words are said, he feels a certainty drain through him like ice water. Exactly the wrong thing to ever say to Davey.
     Yes!” Davey says, stepping closer, pushing his sudden advantage. “We should! We should make up a vow and promise to be blood brothers forever. Till death do us part.”
     That’s weddings, stupid. I’m not gonna marry you. I’m not even going to make any stupid blood brothers vows. That’s only in books and movies.” He’s still kicking the gravel around, but he’s stopped looking for the perfect rock. That moment’s gone. He’s just kicking the gravel to not be looking at Davey.
     No, really,” Davey says, “we promise to, like, never leave each other in the lurch, and never take each other’s woman, and stuff like that, and then we cut our hands and rub the blood together, and then we’re blood brothers for life.”
     Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve seen all the same stupid movies you’ve seen.” He turns toward Davey, counting off on his fingers. “Ok, first? We’re eleven. We don’t have any women. And second? The lurch? Where is that? I’ve never been anyplace called the lurch, so you already can’t leave me there, and last? You gonna go home with blood all over your hands, and say oh, yeah, we found this sharp piece of glass, and we cut ourselves, and became blood brothers, but it’s ok, we don’t need stitches or anything like that because we’re blood brothers now, and we’re going to sew each other up with straightened fish hooks and fishing line?” Done counting, his hands wave once, dismissively, then jam themselves into the safety of the pockets on his jeans. He begins to scuff through the gravel again.
     Davey spits on the ground at his feet. “Oh come on! Don’t be such a chicken! It’ll be like a paper cut. It’ll heal up long before we get home. You’re just scared.”
I’m not scared, Davey – I’m just smart, that’s all. Smart enough to not cut myself up for some stupid vow. We’ve known each other all our lives already, and we’ve never done any of those things. We don’t need a vow. We’re like brothers already.” He’s been watching his feet sort through the gravel, still hoping for that perfect rock he’s not looking for any more, but now he turns back to Davey.
     Look. You don’t want to do it either. You’re smarter than that, and you know it. Cutting yourself doesn’t make any sense. Hey,” swooping down suddenly. “This one’s good. A nice big fat back to push on, and a sharp tip right here. Where’s a good piece of glass?”
     So, are we going to do this or not?” Davey asks. “’Cause why am I carrying this stupid piece of glass around, if we’re not?”
     Denny stares at him for a moment. He’s known Davey all his life. He can see further in than Davey thinks he can.
     Ok, yeah. Sure. I’ll do it if you do, ok?” and it looks like he’s given in, quite suddenly. He tosses the rock back on the ground, stands and watches Davey think. “Cut your hand, and I’ll cut mine,” he says to the first faint doubt. Davey lowers his hands again, slowly, not looking back at him. His eyes, down among the weeds and junk, flick swiftly toward him, but they stop short and drop down again. He looks at the edge of the shard a moment, looks away.
     I swear, Davey,” Denny says, pushing it. “Cross my heart and hope to die, I’ll cut my hand, if you cut yours.” He watches as Davey lifts his hand and stares at the dirt grained into the palm of it.
     Deep. As deep as you do. Deep and bloody, I promise. I’ll cut as bad as you do, ok? If you go first,” Denny says, and Davey suddenly tosses the glass in a long glittering arc high into the pile of junk and trash at the base of the bluff.
     Think I’d cut myself?” he scoffs. “No way! I was just testing you. You almost flunked, too, but you didn’t. Blood brothers is a stupid thing, anyway. Spit brothers, that’s cool. Not blood.”
     What’s a spit brother?”
     Spit in your hand, like this,” Davey says. He spits into the palm of his hand and holds it out to Denny. Denny spits into his hand, feeling a wave of revulsion, but nothing compared to the dread of having to cut himself. The two boys clasp their spitty hands together. Denny’d thought it would be like a handshake, but Davey holds on.
     We have to vow,” he says. “Put your other hand up like this. I vow
     I vow” Denny says, holding his left hand up.
     to be spit brothers forever
     to be spit brothers forever
     to never leave my spit brother in the lurch
     to never leave my spit brother in the lurch, which I don’t even know where it is
     Hey, come on! This is serious. Don’t mess with it. I vow never to take his woman
     I vow never to take his woman, which he doesn’t have…”
     or his liquor
     which he also doesn’t have
     Just say it!”
     or his liquor
     or his horse
     Come on, you’re messing this all up! Or his horse.”
     Whatever. I vow I won’t take your horse, either. Or your kangaroo. Or your giraffe, or your hippo, or your crocodile. Are we done vowing now? Can I have my hand back now?”
     So help me God.”
     So help me God. Ok, good. Let’s go.” Scrubbing his hand on his jeans, Denny leads the way up the narrow rain gully that serves as a path to the dead-end street above them.
     I would have,” Davey says, as they pass the guard rail at the top. “I would’ve done it.”
   “I know,” Denny says, his hands in his pockets, his fists closed up tight. He watches the crows lift from their accustomed perches above the pile to scatter like thrown paper through the bright spring sky, a dust devil of black paper settling back to Earth below the bluff.

FREE STUFF! Twelve Short Stories and One Novella! FREE!

Just a reminder, mostly, but all of my short stories are free to download and read. Here are some links:

Short Story: "A New Beginning"

Short Story: "A Reason For Living"

Short Story: "Darkness Like an Ocean"

Short Story: "Love’s Last Sacrifice"

Short Story: "Night Moves"

Short Story: "Persephone’s Wine"

Short Story: "Remembering"

Short Story: "Snake Oil"

Short Story: "Sunny Grove"

Short Story: "The Big One"

Short Story: "The Meadow"

Short Story: "Yellowbird Diner"

In addition to these short stories, the following novella is also available:

Novella: "The Dinosaur and the Dragon Lady"

These links will open PDFs.  Please remember that
the fact that technology allows you to copy my
work does not give you any ownership in it, and the
fact that I have allowed it does not mean I have
given up any rights to it.  These are, and will
remain, my copyrighted work, and all rights are

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