Thursday, December 31, 2015

Zozobra Burning!

Before I start this week’s post, let me reproduce something I received from Michael Goddard, Software Engineer for Google Friend Connect:

"We encourage you to tell affected readers (perhaps via a blog post), that if they use a non-Google Account to follow your blog, they need to sign up for a Google Account, and re-follow your blog. With a Google Account, they'll get blogs added to their Reading List, making it easier for them to see the latest posts and activity of the blogs they follow."

Then he adds that this change will take effect on January 11, 2016.

Folks, I have no ideas what he just said, but I have faith you readers will be more knowledgeable than I am about such technical computer thingys. At any rate, I’ve done as he asked and sincerely pray Google’s machinations will not result in the loss of readers.

Now to this week. Given my blog of last Thursday advising that DSP Publications had contracted for the three BJ Vinson books, my thoughts have turned increasingly to The Zozobra Incident and The Bisti Business and The City of Rocks. Back in October of 2012, one of my first blog posts was an excerpt from Chapter 15 of Zozobra when BJ was attending the burning of the giant marionette prior to the opening of the Santa Fe Fiesta. Let’s take a further look at the spectacle. The Darrel that BJ is speaking to in the scene is an architect he’s just met at the burning. Let’s watch Old Man Gloom go up in flames:


The crowd grew larger, noisier, and more restive as evening arrived. Booze was banned in the park, but flasks abounded, and they sure as hell didn’t contain sassafras tea. Another band had taken the stage—if anything it was more enthusiastic and louder than the first. Every thump of the bass reverberated inside my chest. It was just like being at an outdoor rock concert. Pretty soon, we’d have to give in to the press of people and stand up, but first, I shared my corned beef sandwich and some water with Darrel.
After that, we stood, and I tried to retrieve my blanket. There were too many people standing on it, so I abandoned it to its fate. Eventually, the decibel level grew to a pitch where conversation became impossible.
We stood and craned our necks to do some more people watching. Just as I figured my back was going to give out, a blare of trumpets heralded the approach of the traditional procession from St. Francis Cathedral. The Conquistador Band approached the base of Zozobra’s stage from a gate that spared them from having to squeeze through the mob. Immediately, the Star-Spangled Banner blared through the speakers, and the crowd sang…no shouted along.
Then the tempo switched from triumphant to funereal. Black-robed and hooded Kiwanis members led the parade bearing the effigy of the Mother Mary in the persona of La Conquistadora. Gloomies, eight and nine year-old children who dance as ghosts around Zozobra, preceded the Fire Spirit Dancer, the Queen of Gloom, Gloom Princesses, handlers, dignitaries and a seemingly endless host of others.
As darkness fell, a synthesizer blared when white-sheeted Gloomies began cavorting before Zozobra. The Fire Spirit Dancer, clad in a flowing red costume, drove away the mischievous children in an acrobatic dance originally created by a New York ballet dancer especially for the burning. A drum crew added to the din of the frenetic synthesizer. A band added brass and reed as the dance reached its tempestuous climax. Then the master of ceremonies stepped forward and whipped the assembled crowd into a chant of “Burn him! Burn him!”
As the demand for his death grew, Zozobra flailed and roared in protest. I could almost believe he was some grotesque human personification facing a burning at the stake. It was eerie.
At last, Santa Fe’s black-suited mayor took the stage to solemnly pronounce the death sentence to the screaming crowd. Instantly, weird green lights lit the periphery of the doomed monster. As the official stepped away, the crowd broke into a chant again. Cries of anticipation reached a crescendo, grown men shouted, women screamed, and children yelled. And everyone pressed forward for a closer look. For a moment, I wondered if I’d be able to draw another breath. The panic passed, although the pressure continued to mount. The noise was indescribable.
Then the Torch Handler gave in to the demands of the frenzied crowd by touching a brand to the skirts of the giant. Old Man Gloom’s grunts and groans became squeals of agony. His arms flayed helplessly as a white-hot blaze raced up his loins. Thousands of throats let out a deafening roar when the first fusies, little containers of black powder concealed in the marionette, fired off. The band struck up the Mexican revolutionary tune, “La Cucaracha.”
The animated creature continued to flail as parts of him began to come apart. Gloom was now totally consumed by flames. His lower jaw fell away, blasted apart by fireworks concealed in his head. The roaring fire reached for the sky. It was a miracle half of Santa Fe wasn’t incinerated by now. Of course, Zozobra’s auto-da-fé came at the end of New Mexico’s monsoon season when the countryside was wetter than usual—at least in theory.
A deafening roar came from the crowd as the personification of Anxiety came apart. A flaming arm fell to the ground in a burst of sparks. The massive fire seemed to exert a magnetic force, drawing spectators at the rear to press even harder against those in front. The conflagration turned the chilly night warm as Old Sourpuss disintegrated before our eyes. I stole a glance at Darrel. His eyes were glued to the dying monster. He trembled from unconcealed excitement.
     The raging inferno collapsed in upon itself and became a mere bonfire. Immediately, the most spectacular fireworks show I’d ever seen began. Rockets flared, shells burst. Vivid, vibrant colors filled the entire sky.


Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into The Zozobra Incident. Make a deal with you: if you will keep on reading, I’ll keep on writing. I’d be interested in hearing from you.

Happy New Year, everyone! Have a safe one.

See you next week.


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Good News … Definitely, Absolutely

On Thursday, November 5, I published a post entitled Good News … Possibly, Maybe saying a friend had recommended I submit the three BJ Vinson mystery novels to DreamSpinner Press. I sent a query and was invited to forward all of the manuscripts to DSP Publications, an imprint of DreamSpinner. I did so with the understanding DSP had no open publication dates earlier than 2017 and their staff would likely require upwards of sixty days to review three manuscripts.

I am pleased—that’s too mild a word—delighted to let you know I signed a contract with DSP for all three books this past weekend. Thus far, I am as happy as my friend by the professionalism of the staff. Prior to forwarding the contract, the publisher laid out in clear terms what to expect. I read, considered, and signed. If nothing else, this is an opportunity to see that The Zozobra Incident and The Bisti Business will continue to be available to readers (although possibly not with those titles) and that The City of Rocks will see the light of the publication day.

The first of the books, Zozobra, is now tentatively scheduled for release in November 2016 with the other two to follow one after the other at four-month intervals. Folks, that’s warp speed for the publishing world.

DSP wants to give the overall series a name so the books can be branded as a set. As to the possible renaming of the individual books, their experience shows that because of the way readers now buy books, titles should “pop” in words that are easier to spell. Such titles survive better in today’s search engine environment. I like my titles but, hey, I’m open-minded.

This post probably isn’t nearly so exciting to you as it is to me; nonetheless, I wanted to let you know what was going on.

Looking forward to working with the professionals at DSP Publications.


Note: I understand The Eagle’s Claw got an uptick in sales… possibly from the other Don’s guest posts on this site. Thanks for responding, guys. Remember, keep on reading… and let me hear from you.

By the way, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all!

See you next week.


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Don Travis: More of THE EAGLE’S CLAW

Don Travis: More of THE EAGLE’S CLAW: A couple of weeks ago, another Albuquerque author, Donald T. Morgan, guest-posted the Prologue to his post-WWII family sage entitled THE E...


A couple of weeks ago, another Albuquerque author, Donald T. Morgan, guest-posted the Prologue to his post-WWII family sage entitled THE EAGLE’S CLAW on this blog. If you recall, we were introduced to the protagonist, Román Otero (or Ro as he comes to be called) as an orphaned child growing up in his spooky grandmother’s wickiup on the Edge of Mountain Apache Reservation in New Mexico. (Well, she seems spooky to me.) We learn a little more about Ro and his grandmother (Cane-Woman) and their way of life in Chapter 1 of the book. Enjoy.



By Donald T. Morgan


After foraging what seemed half the reservation, Román came up with only six empties: three strawberry, two Grapette, and a Coke with a chip in it. If only someone would pay for the beer bottles littering the ground, he’d be full of food and candy all the time. Booze wasn’t allowed on the reservation, but that didn’t stop the bootleggers. He picked up a long-necked beer bottle and put an eye to the amber mouth. Pretty. He shoved his tongue into the opening and sucked noisily. It was as dry as Barranca Seca in June. He tossed the bottle aside.
The store in White Pine wasn’t open yet, so he played in the mud puddle beneath a faucet for a quarter of an hour before it occurred to him to wash his face and hands. When the place finally opened, he swapped the empties for a full bottle of strawberry. Like he figured, the man refused to pay for the nicked Coke bottle.
He collected his scrawny pony and rode deep into Dead Scout Canyon where the mare could graze while he nursed his drink. It was no longer cold, but he didn’t mind. Warm soda pop made him burp, and he liked to burp. The bubbly water filled an empty belly better than anything. And red strawberry was the best of all. A man would never be hungry if he could buy four bottles a day.
For no reason other than his thoughts were so bent, he belched loudly, once in each cardinal direction, beginning in the east as all things begin and proceeding as the hands of a white man’s clock move. The ritual complete, he drained the bottle and dropped it on a rock.
The noise flushed a woolly spider from beneath the flat stone. Román nudged the creature with his toe. It scooted sideways on eight hairy legs and then froze. Cane-Woman said that if you killed a spider, its relatives would try to kill you. And his grandmother knew about such things. He hesitated, his foot suspended above the tiny animal. Abruptly, he dropped his heel.
“The white man at the Agency did it. The one with fuzzy hair that’s falling out on top,” he lied to the dead spider and all its kin. For emphasis, he nodded in the direction of the Indian Affairs Office in the settlement. There. That should fool the spiders. They weren’t very smart.
When he began moving again, he sensed he was not alone in the canyon. The hair on the back of his neck and the faint clink of stone from the deep shadows told him so. In that moment, he felt a kinship with ancestors who lived when danger covered the earth like a blanket. He decided to stay…even though the image of a huge Grandfather Spider bent on revenge crawled across his mind.
After tying the mare to a piñon, he headed for an outcrop where he could hide. Maybe the presence was other than natural. For years, he’d listened to tales of the Mana, the Great-Power-Flooding-the-Universe, and of the ga’an, the Mountain Spirits of his grandmother’s winter stories. Everybody said Cane-Woman knew Eagle, and that he gave her great power, although Román wasn’t exactly sure how that worked. But things might not be the same anymore. Was this world the same as when the Old Way prevailed? He frowned as he recognized the words of Miss Marshall, his last year’s teacher. Did his mind belong to the Indah woman now?
The mare whinnied and danced at the end of her reins. Whatever shared the canyon was near. His eyes raked the tufa above him. He saw nothing that didn’t belong. Ashamed of cowering behind rocks, he rose and poked his head over the boulder. Below him, he saw his “presence.” No supernatural shared the canyon with him. It was only Clarence Wolf sneaking up on his pony. He didn’t like Clarence very much. A year older and almost twice Román’s size, Clare-Ass wasn’t just a Dumbo. He was a bully, to boot.
Feeling cheated his interloper was merely human—and an inferior one, at that—he scooped up a handful of stones and ran down the hill raining missiles upon his enemy. The bigger youngster retreated before the barrage to a more sheltered place. They settled down to throwing rocks at one another with only sporadic accuracy until the morning failed and his stomach began growling again. The sport gone from the half-serious game, he reclaimed the mare and wandered off, leaving his enemy to hurl obscenities at his back.
Abandoning the high canyon to his foe, Román ranged down from the Capuchas onto the edge of the desert. The noise in his gut grew stronger. Chewing a wad of sap from a wounded piñon provided a little relief. He eyed a colony of prairie dogs, but they were such wary little creatures he didn’t even unwind the slingshot tied around his waist.
He rode the mare down the steep side of Split Nose Gulch and came up out of the gully hungrier than ever. He reined in and listened. Had he heard something? No, it was just his head playing tricks on him. His head must be hungry, too.
Then from far away, so faint the wind must have whispered in his ear, he heard a voice. He scouted and found nothing. Perhaps the ga’an toyed with him. Or was it the One-Great-God-Who-Was-Three they talked about at the settlement church? Weird. Three was such a strange number. He preferred four. Four was good and natural. Four was the ritual number of his people.
There it was again. Closer now. A cry for help. He skirted a clump of juniper and cut the trail of a horse. Curiosity set him to following the tracks. The hoof prints made straight for Blind Man’s Arroyo, an enormous ditch snaking down the foothills that carried the spring runoff to the distant river. He dismounted, stepped to the brink, and peered over the edge.


I like to feature the other Don’s book because he loves New Mexico just as I do. South central New Mexico is as much a protagonist in Eagle as Ro is. Besides, I like his cover.

Read, read, read! See you next week.


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dear Mr. Lord, Sir

Courtesy of the Open Clip Library
Do you remember the excitement this time of year brought when you were a child? I was thinking the other day about how I lost my enthusiasm for the holiday season once my sons were of a certain age. Amazing how the glitzy stores and the commercial hype soured so quickly after that. Some acquaintances accuse me of being an old Scrooge, and they might be right. So this year I sought to see Christmas through a child’s eyes anew, and the following came to me.

Dear Mr. Lord, Sir

Dear Mr. Lord, Sir, I’m kinda new at this, so I hope I do okay. Mom and Grams are lots better at it than I am, especially Grams. She can go on and on almost as long as Preacher Pasternack down at church. But she doesn’t get as mad as he does. He shouts and wants You to do this and damn (I’m not supposed to say that) something else. Sometimes I think the pastor wants You to spank everybody’s bottom for all their sinning.
Never heard Dad and Pops praying like this. But I know they talk to You because I’ve heard them, usually when I do something to make them mad or they slam a door on a finger or that kinda crap.
There’s some things I need to say before we come down to the good stuff, so we might as well get it out of the way. Can You bless my folks and the Gramps? And even Suzie, I guess. Yeah, You oughta do that. She’s not too bad for a sister. But You can yank her pigtails, if you want. Mom won’t let me do it, but You can probably get away with it.
Suppose I oughta ask You to bless me, too. Oh, yeah, and forgive me. According to Mom, it’ll take a whole lot of forgiving for me. Suzie says I’m way past re-dem-shun, but I don’t even think she know what that is. If I’m past it, she’s bound to be way down the road ahead of me. So You don’t have to waste any time on that kind of stuff.
We can lump Aunt Helen and Uncle Bosco and Cousin Jim together and get them out of the way. Course, seems like you already blessed Jim enough, ‘cause he doesn’t have a sister to put up with. If You can just bless them, that takes care of that. There are some others I’m supposed to mention, but I’m getting kinda sleepy and we aren’t even down to the stuff that really counts yet. Besides, You know who they are, so just take care of them … please.
Okay, pay attention now. I don’t know how Santa Claus stands with You, but ya’ll both run around up in heaven – at least on Christmas Eve when he’s in that sleigh– so You’re bound to brush up against him now and then. Would You please flag him down and tell him to forget about socks and underwear and things like that? Do You know how embarrassing it is to open up a package and show off your shorts to everybody in the room? Things are bad enough without that.
You might tell him … you know, Santa … to read what I wrote him in the letter this year. I spent a whole hour printing it out. Most of the time he doesn’t pay much attention to what I say.
Anyway, I really, really, really want the air rifle. But I think I’d like it to be a pellet gun, instead. They’re way better, I hear. Mom says I’m too little for one, but I can hold Jeff Bascomb’s Ridley Airgun steady, so I oughta be all right. And if I had it, Suzie wouldn’t pester me so much. She’d be too scared.
But the thing I really, really, really, really want is the Super Spy Skycraft Drone. And if You tell Santa to make it big enough, I could just crawl on top of it and fly myself all over the place. That way, I could get to grade school without running into those bullies from the third grade. Do You know how icky it is to walk to school with Suzie just so they talk to her and don’t pick on me? Ugh!
Suppose I oughta ask you to have him bring Suzie what she wants, even though it’ll be paper dolls and Pick-Up Jacks and sissy stuff like that. I know she’s asking for a big doll house this year, and that might be okay. I can play like there’s bank robbers holed up in it and shoot it full of holes with my new pellet gun. That’s funny. Shoot holes in their hole. That doesn’t sound very nice, so I probably oughta take it back. Mr. Lord, can you back something out of a prayer? Well, You know what I mean.
That’s about all. The important stuff, anyway. Oh, this is Jeremy, but I guess You knew that already. Grams says you know everything. Everything I’m doing and everything I’m thinking. Boy, I sure hope she’s wrong.
And Mr. Lord, Sir, You might want to write all this down so you don’t forget to tell Santa Claus what he’s supposed to do.
Oh, yeah. Amen.


Wish I had been that bold when I was a child. Come to think of it, I’m still not.

As always, thanks for reading. I’m interested in your reaction.


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Short Story This week: Love, Desperate Love

Let's take a look at another short story this week. See if it strikes a chord anywhere within you. But don't let it motivate you to any rash actions. Read and enjoy.
                                            LOVE, DESPERATE LOVE

I lay abed in our cramped guest room listening to my wife bang around in the kitchen. She was simply making coffee, so there was no accounting for the clamor she was creating other than to make sure I was awake and aware of her mood. How could I not be? Her snit had been going on for a solid month. How had it come to this?
Cupping a hand behind my head, I sighed and considered that question. Merilee and I had been high school sweethearts: me a pug-faced footballer and she a cheerleader. The pairing had seemed right and natural then. But after graduation, the roar of my adoring fans had died while she remained the prettiest girl in town.
That didn’t seem to matter to Merilee. We went on just as we had, even after I decided not to go to college in order to take a job as a lineman with the local power company. When she agreed to marry me and became a secretary in a local accounting firm, I realized what a lucky slob I was. Looks and brains and personality mating with a local jock not quite good enough to land a football scholarship.
Looking back over the last twenty-five years, I realized that had set the course of our marriage. I worked and went to sports events and came home. She worked and ran with her circle of girlfriends and came home … and more or less decided how we lived on a daily basis. I was comfortable with that. Even grateful for it until I realized she pretty much controlled our married life. Even then, I acquiesced to most of her wishes – which ultimately became demands – in order to keep a peaceful domestic domain.
Ten years ago, things changed. Merilee’s sweet life caught up with her. And I do mean sweet. While I might occasionally overdo the beer, my wife never met a sugary confection she didn’t fall in love with. Her weight gain was slow but steady. I didn’t see the warning signs, and if Merilee did she ignored them. The day her doctor diagnosed her with diabetes marked her transition from dominate partner to domineering bitch.
Life had been hell on Elm Street since then, and I’m not talking about some movie franchise. Our modest home was located on Elm. I sighed again and stretched beneath the thin sheet. From a rocky heaven to a fiery hell in one short medical diagnosis. I do believe Merilee had been faithful until that day. But condemnation to Diabetes Purgatory had driven my wife – still attractive even with thirty additional pounds – to other men as a way of proving to herself she was still desirable. Apparently, I wasn’t evidence enough.
She had been discrete, and I likely wouldn’t have known if the wife of one of my friends hadn’t complained about Merilee seducing her husband. Confronting my straying spouse was worse than learning about her affair. She threw a hissy-fit to end all tantrums. Naturally, it somehow came out as all my fault.
That wasn’t the last of her peccadillos, but I’d learned to have another beer and go to another ball game and ignore the painful knowledge. But the pounds continued to pile on until she became so gross no one wanted her any more … including me. An angelic face atop a grossly corpulent body wasn’t all that attractive.
I scooted up in bed and leaned against the headboard. No longer being attractive to men opened the next phase in our increasingly troubled marriage. She lost her job, most likely because she was as domineering at work as she was at home. She made no effort to find another, instead devoting her time and our money to seeking reassurance of her feminism with expensive spa treatments and costly cosmetics. Within five years, she had run through our modest savings and even more stingy investments. Once those assets were depleted she turned from shrew to harridan.
Almost one month ago to this day, I’d had enough and reasserted a measure of masculine control that I didn’t even know had survived my smothering marriage. I’d taken away the checkbook, cut up her credit cards, removed her name from our bank accounts, and put her on an allowance. I’d managed to stem the flow of red ink, but there was nothing left at the end of the month beyond a near goose egg in our checking account. Like many American families we were one paycheck away from disaster. Hell, we were a half a paycheck away. And the necessary relaying of the floor in our garage was inching us closer to the brink. The contractor hadn’t even poured  concrete yet, and the cost estimate was inching higher.
And for saving us from bankruptcy, what had I earned? Marlie’s undying enmity. No, her hatred. She could hardly stand the sight of me. She stopped cleaning house, washing herself, laundering our clothing, fixing meals. Crap, I might as well be a divorced man living on my own.
An attractive idea, but impractical. A lawyer friend I’d consulted unofficially pointed out that a divorce would merely mean my paycheck would have to support two independent households rather than a single fractured one. If I took a second job, the thing might have been manageable, but that would mean I’d have no life beyond working my ass off. Well, I didn’t have much of a life right now, but was I willing to go to that extreme just for the privilege of turning my house over to her and existing in some closet-sized apartment somewhere?
No, but I had to do something. Fast. And permanent.
That last thought shook me. Permanent. That would be difficult. Whatever financial straightjacket I put Merilee in, she’d find a way out. Cutting her off from the accounts, had made it harder for her to spend money, but she still managed. And as time went on, she’d come up with more efficient ways of getting around me.
Permanent. A good word. A seductive word. Fascinating. That led to another thought. Merilee had no relatives. She’d driven away all her friends. If she vanished, I imagined a great sigh of relief rising from the whole town.
And there was a hole in the ground right inside my attached garage. A hole that was going to be covered with concrete tomorrow morning.
I thought hard about things for a good fifteen minutes before rising and rooting around in the bedroom closet. I selected a two iron from the bag of golf clubs I could no longer afford to use. The weight was just about right. And it was long enough so nothing was likely to get on me. Nothing. Blood, I guess. Maybe brains. But just to be safe, I stripped off my pajamas. Still I hesitated.
Then I heard Merilee waddling down the hallway and conjured her image. Her dirty blonde hair would be sticking out like Medusa’s head of snakes. Her bathrobe would gape open over her bulging belly and hike up on the sides, caught on hippo hips. I shuddered. She was doubtless coming to see what misery she could inflict. Well, today we’ll see who does what to whom.
Naked, I walked to the door and threw it open, taking her by surprise. Without speaking a word, I lifted the two iron …

Just as she raised the little .22 revolver almost swallowed by her pudgy hand.
Well, how do you think it ended? Was that small .22 caliber gun sufficient to take down a former football player before he could wield his trusty two iron? Was one faster than the other? Or did they both go down? Only you, the reader, can answer that.
Hope you enjoyed the tale. Thanks for reading. I'd like to hear your reaction to the story.



Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Guest Post: Donald T. Morgan’s THE EAGLE’S CLAW

I recently asked another Albuquerque author if he would be interested in doing a guest post on this blog. As a result, this week my readers will get a look at Donald T. Morgan’s ebook novel THE EAGLE’S CLAW. CLAW is the telling of the intertwined stories of two young Apaches – one a mixed-blood and the other a pure-blood – as they grow up on a reservation. The two come at life from very different perspectives in south central New Mexico in the aftermath of World War II. The prologue of CLAW takes a rather unusual approach to introducing us to Román Otero, the book’s protagonist. Read on.
By Donald T. Morgan

The Edge of Mountain Apache Reservation, Southern New Mexico, June 1946

Sleep brought a restless dream. Rather, it was the stitching together of a memory by the boy’s subconscious from scraps collected and then forgotten over the years. There was a man in the dream, a tall Indah with brown hair and sad, gray eyes. A small, tawny woman with long, black hair and a beautiful smile was in it, as well. The izdan, well past school age, yearned to be able to read and write. The man, who taught at the Indian school, helped her learn. They were together often. They talked and laughed and grew toward one another.
They left the reservation and were married in the white man’s way. The woman often returned to her mother’s wickiup, but the schoolteacher never came. This was good because a man gazing upon his mother-in-law risked blindness. The young wife blossomed with health and happiness and child. Strength and pride replaced the longing in the man’s eyes.
One day, more Indah brought a rodeo to the reservation. The Tinneh loved a rodeo. It was great fun to watch the gaunt, pale men flop around on bucking horses. Some of the People rode, too. The crowd cheered when a cowboy rolled in the dust, no matter he was white or tribesman.
Then a hush fell over the stands. A magnificent roan pranced into the arena. A devil horse with fire-eyes and a black mane writhing like a nest of serpents. Its great hooves struck sparks from the earth.
No one could ride him, hooted the rodeo hands. No one ever had. No one ever would. They offered the bribe of money to any who succeeded. The Apache men stirred restlessly, but advised by diyi—the shamans among them—they refused the challenge even though the prize was hefty.
One man stepped forward. The white man with gray eyes. A teacher didn’t make much money, and he had a family on the way. He would claim the reward.
Death stalked the arena. Evil corrupted the air. The cowboys’ flesh turned green from it. The roan danced in savage glee. The smell of horse sweat and manure and hot dogs and dust hung heavy over the crowd. Invisible owls screeched. Whippoorwills cried, and coyotes cackled.
From the uneasy safety of his dream, the boy watched the man mount the haughty horse. The chute gate flew open. The roan shot out, bucking and whirling in a frenzy. The Indah rode him! He rode the wicked beast.
Enraged by the humiliation, the roan flung himself against the fence. The man was hurt. His fingers loosened. The animal twisted savagely, and the rider fell. The demon horse wheeled.
The woman with the beautiful smile ran into the arena, waving her arms to turn the frothy beast away. The horse charged on, driven insane by talons of monster owls buried in his withers.
The man was dead. The dreamer thought the woman was, too, but she moved. Her body strained in birth even as she died.
      And he knew he had seen himself born.

I have always been warned away from dream sequences to open a book, but I think this one works, don’t you? The novel weaves an interesting tale as it follows the orphaned Ro’s upbringing in an old-fashioned wickiup, overseen by a reclusive grandmother with the reputation of a witch. Jose Peyote, who thought himself emancipated through service in the US Marine Corps during the war, runs into another set of problems.

I hope you’ll be motivated to buy the Kindle book and read it for yourself.

As always, I’m interested in your reactions. Thanks for reading.


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Robin Seggblue

How about a little short fiction this week? Sometimes I wonder how much of the fiction comes from the mind and how much comes right out of suppressed memory? Hard to tell. Let me know if you’ve had any experiences like the following.

“You have the most bea-u-tiful eyes, Robin Thackery,” the girl said. ”They mimic your  name. You know, Robin’s egg blue.”
I remembered blushing ten years ago when Marella Hughes had spoken those words. My cheeks had grown so red they’d actually stung, just as if they’d been frost-bitten.
Marella and I were both twelve at the time, and while I can’t claim I was smitten, I was uncomfortably interested. We’d played together most of our young lives, but I think I’d just realized that she was somehow different from me … and the other guys in our little group.
Whatever. But she’d marked me for the next few years. My last name became – outside of parents and teachers and preachers – Seggblue. Robin Seggblue.
In the way of things, we grew up, best friends yet not intimate – beyond confiding most of my secrets to her – and eventually lost touch when her family moved to Cleveland. I remember being despondent most of my high school freshman year. We’d kept in touch for a while until they moved again. Then she vanished entirely from my life.
In the meantime, the years passed. I grew up, went off to college, and returned to my hometown earlier this year to take a position as an instructor of Computer Sciences in the local community college. New life, new interests, new friends, but still no real, lasting, permanent girlfriend … as Marella might have been.
And then this morning, as I walked down the hall toward my cubbyhole office, I heard something I hadn’t heard in six long years.
“Robin! Robin Seggblue!”
My heart tumbled and my mouth went dry as I turned toward the sound of that voice. I almost didn’t recognize her. Still looking for that skinny sixteen-year-old with freckles and pigtails, I saw intead a tall, emerald-eyed, raven-haired, sophisticated-looking woman in a silk pantsuit with sensible shoes.
“M-Marella?” I couldn’t keep the question mark out of my voice even though I knew this vision was my old buddy.
She came forward with arms held out. “Didn’t you know I was coming?"
I shook my head mutely as she clasped me to her, making me take note of another change in this stunning creature. This was a full-bosomed Marella, not the girl with the budding knobs I remembered.
“I took a year’s contract at CC to teach English. I wanted a break before I go for my Master’s next year,” she explained.
I held her at arm’s length. “I hadn’t heard. Great to see you.”
“Let me see if those eyes are still the way I remember them. Yup, pretty as ever. Robin’s egg blue.”
“Yours are pretty great, too.” I glanced at the people swirling by us and wondered if anyone had heard. Not that it mattered … I guess. I dropped my arms away. All I needed was to hear gossip that Mr. Thackery got caught practically making love to this … purrrr … pussy cat in the hallway between classes.
We agreed to meet for dinner that night at Blue Corn Joe’s before rushing our separate ways. I entered my classroom slightly breathless to find the room atwitter. Of course, it was Susan who’d taken notice of my chance meeting and spread the news to the classroom. Anyone else would have let it go, but not her.
“Who was that sweetheart you were buzzing in the hallway, Thackery?”
Susan Horvacs was one of those bright kids who had the brains to start college-level courses while still in high school. Now a year past graduation, she had almost enough credits for her Associate Degree. She was pretty, confident, and full of brass. I couldn’t even get her to call me Mr. Thackery like the rest of the class, including seventy-year-old Mrs. Harper who was determined to get some kind of a degree before she passed on.
“What was it that vision of loveliness called you? Segblew? The “vision of loveliness” part had a slightly sarcastic ring.
Damnation, nosy Susan must have been lurking out of sight and witnessed the entire meeting. I tried to put some authority in my voice. “Don’t know what you mean.”
“Yeah, she called you something like that. Robin. Robin Segblew.” This sharp young woman gazed straight into my eyes, and I saw the tumblers fall into place and unlock the puzzle in her brain. Her eyes widened.
“Blue. Robin’s … Robin’s egg blue. She called you Robin’s egg blue.”
After that revelation, it took a little effort to get the class settled down to Window’s Excel, but eventually I had them working problems with the formula function of the program.
Blue Corn Joe’s is a little classier than its name implies. Originally a Mexican food joint, Joe Reynaldo, the owner, had branched out into Anglo food. Burgers and dogs. Then a few years ago, he’d redone the décor and turned it into one of the better restaurants in town.
I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I arrived a quarter of an hour early. The hostess, dressed in a green and white peasant’s costume with rolled hair fixed firmly in place by a huge tortoise shell comb, had known me for years. As a matter of fact, Ruby, Marella, and I had gone to high school together. Ruby selected a small, intimate table in a remote corner and agreed to bring my date upon her arrival.
Even though I could not see the entry, I knew the moment Marella arrived because there was a lot of squealing and greeting when she walked through the door. Ruby getting reacquainted, most likely. A few minutes later, Ruby returned looking slightly discomfited. A radiant Marella trailed along behind. And two steps behind her traipsed a tall, buff jock with shoulders so broad they threatened to split his form-fitting shirt.
“Sorry, we don’t have another table available,” Ruby said. “It’s going to be snug for a party of three.”
A smiling Marella clasped my shoulders and gave me a brotherly buzz. Then she stepped back.
“Robin, I’d like you to meet my boyfriend, Sam Steffans. Gus, this is Robin Thackery, or as we used to call him, Robin Seggblue. Get it?”
Gus stared straight into my eyes and grimaced. “Got it.”
Worst date ever! The whole situation was embarrassing, but playing kneesies with both of them at that tiny table raised it to a whole other level. Furthermore, she had her pet name for the boyfriend, as well. His eyes were gray, so he was Steelie Sam. Steelie Sam Steffans. The whole image put me off completely. Before it was over, Marella didn’t seem quite so clever, nearly so sophisticated, and not even quite so pretty.
We said our awkward goodnights, and parted – never to see one another again, so far as I was concerned. Of course, that wasn’t true. I’d see her in the teacher’s lounge, the hallway, somewhere on campus for damned near a whole year. Ugh. The thought made Blue Corn Joe’s excellent Tuna Melt on dark rye roll around uneasily in my stomach.
I drove through the night through pool after pool of bluish white streetlights. About five blocks down the road I thought of Susan and what she’d make of the fiasco tonight if she ever heard about it.
Susan. Her eyes were huge. Huge and brown. Elk’s eyes. Nah, too young. Maybe not. She must be at least nineteen. Only four years younger than I was. Yeah. Elkseyes. Susan Elkseyes Horvacs.
It had a certain ring to it.
Drop me a line and let me know how you liked it. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


This week, let’s take another look at THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT. The following scene comes at the beginning of Chapter 5. Our PI, BJ Vinson, has called his client, Attorney Del Dahlman, to BJ’s office for an update on a talk he's had with the gay hustler Del believes is trying to use some racy snapshots for blackmail purposes. BJ derives a bit of pleasure out of delivering the message that the gigolo, Emilio Prada, has been using the photos to “prime the pump” with new johns.
Del still looked like an adolescent—great genes, probably. He was blessed with a comeliness that transcended male and female. It was a blend of both, I suppose. But for the first time since I’d known him, he had bloodshot eyes, a refreshing reminder he was merely mortal. The aroma he brought with him was hot, pungent coffee from the deli down the street, and the unidentified stimulus was a warm Danish.
He struggled to balance two plastic-lidded cups of steaming coffee and a white bakery bag, barely managing to set them on my desk without dumping everything all over my pale green Saxony carpet. I reached for one of the coffees as Del plopped into a chair across from me. Wordlessly, he opened the bag and took out a couple of warm cheese Danish.
“You look like hell.” I took a sip of the brew and laid one of the pastries on a napkin. “Damn, that’s good coffee.”
“Yeah, well, you look pretty, too.” He picked up the other cup and took off the lid.
“Speaking of pretty, I don’t think Emilio’s the one trying to yank your chain.”
Del froze with the cup inches from his lips. He put it back on the desk without drinking. “What are you talking about? He’s the only one who has the pictures.”
“Well, strictly speaking, that’s not true.”
Del shrank with mortification as I outlined my findings to date, alternating the delicious bits of narrative with tasty bites of pastry. His coffee cooled as he slumped in the chair, taking the verbal body blows without uttering a word until I finished my report.
“Harding?” he asked in a small voice. “Richard Harding of Premier Tank & Plating? How did he get his hands on them?”
“I’ll leave that to your powers of deduction. You must have some since you claim to be a lawyer.”
“Come on, I’m paying your bills. How did he get them?”
“That’s not germane to the investigation. I found them and retrieved them, and that’s all that matters.”
“Vince, you’re enjoying this way too much.”
I sobered—or pretended to. “Any reason Harding would want the upper hand with you?”
“None that I know of. I was the lead attorney in his plant expansion fight. Still represent him in a union matter. He ought to be cheering me on, not distracting me.”
“Way I figure it, he glommed onto a couple of the photos when he saw them. For leverage in case you had a disagreement.”
Del nodded. “Sounds about right. But he can’t do that now, right?”
“I recovered Harding’s copies of the pictures and deleted them from his computer. I’m no expert, but so far as I can tell, they’re gone. Before we leave Premier, there’s one other possibility to discuss.”
“What’s that?”
“The pictures were locked in Harding’s office. What if some of the help rifled his files and handed over copies to the union people?”
“Oh, shit!” Del exclaimed. “But wait, wouldn’t they just contact me and threaten to reveal the photos?”
“That makes sense, but maybe it’s like you said; you validate your vulnerability if you pay the five thousand.”
“I don’t think so. Demanding money is a patently criminal act. No law firm would be a party to that.” He paused before shrugging. “But you never know.”
“A law firm doesn’t have to be involved. Maybe the union people are doing it on their own.”
He dry washed his face. “So what do we do?”
“I’ll phone Harding to see if anyone broke into his computer.”
Del seemed to have lost his appetite for the moment, so I confiscated his Danish. No use letting it go to waste.
“By the way, assuming Emilio was the only one with the photos was dumb. He had to get the film developed somewhere, didn’t he? And you never considered he’d use the photos as bait for new johns?”
He groaned. “Never crossed my mind. Damn, who else has seen them?”
“Emilio gave me a few names, but I don’t know if he gave me all of them. He’s pretty active, and having one of Albuquerque’s leading attorneys as a satisfied customer isn’t hurting his rep any.”
“I’ll hurt more than his rep if I ever get my hands on the little shit.”
“In my book it would be justifiable homicide, but the justice system might take another view. Which brings us to the question of why aren’t you returning my calls? If it’s not important enough for you to respond, then it’s not important enough for me to pursue. Maybe we ought to forget about the whole thing.”

How is Del going to react to that veiled threat? You'll have to read on to find out.

I had fun writing this book. Come to think of it, I usually find that I had fun penning a novel – after the agony of the actual writing is over, of course.

Thanks for being a reader and for perusing this post. Remember, I’m always pleased to hear from you.



New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Good News … Possibly, Maybe

I haven’t mentioned it before, but my publisher and I had a parting of the ways several weeks ago. Although I was disturbed by one facet of the breech, I thought ithe literary divorce was  amicable. Apparently, not everyone in the publishing house felt the same way. I got some terse and downright snippy responses to emails dealing with details of the termination .

I wasn’t a good fit for the firm, and I recognized that early on. They, on the other hand, knew right off the bat that I’m lousy at selling myself and my products. Did that make the ending inevitable? Perhaps so, but the lbreakup left me with no way to access copies of The Zozobra Incident and The Bisti Business, much less having the long-promised The City of Rocks ever see the light of day. Woe is me. Alas and alack!

Another Albuquerque author, a friend who occasionally does guest posts for me, recently contracted a book to DreamSpinner Press and suggested I give them a try. Although it is early in the publishing game for him, he really sang praises for the attention the publisher has given him in the short time he’s been working with them.

After some sober reflection, I decided to give them a try. I know it is difficult – if not impossible – to get to get one publisher to pick up a book previously brought out by another house, but perhaps DreamSpinner would be interested in Rocks. If so, I would at least be able to continue the BJ Vinson mystery series. That meant, of course, I’d need to look into self-publishing to preserve the first two books.

My friend provided me with a contact at DreamSpinner, so I queried her at to the possibility they would publish Rocks. She responded by email that this looked interesting to her, but that she was leaving for a vacation and would not return until toward the end of October. Would I be able to wait until then? Of course, I would. Now an expression of interest … or even an invitation to submit a manuscript is a long way from getting something published. Furthermore, I might never hear from the lady again after she returned to work.

As the end of the month neared, I fretted over contacting her again, but I have returned from vacations during my working days to find myself swamped with work. So I decided to wait.

Lo and behold, before October was out, I got an email saying she was back and ready to proceed if I was. I was. So I sent a reply giving more details on the three books and the series I was weaving about this gay, macho, ex-Marine, ex-policeman confidential investigator in Albuquerque. Then I provided some details on my former publisher and gave what I hoped was a fair and measured opinion of our broken relationship.

Then I settled down to wait. But not for long. The next day, asked me to submit. Then she followed that request with twelve perfectly wonderful words: “But I won’t be interested unless I can have all three books.” Then she asked if I had evidence the rights to the published books had reverted to me.

Would you care to guess how long it took me to forward that information?


That post was probably more interesting to me than to any reader, so thanks once again for indulging me. Please remember, I’m always happy to hear from readers.



New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

How to Get Banned from Smiths Food and Drug Stores

My life seems to lurch from one incident to another foible to an outright oopsie. If you don’t know what an oopie is, you’re too young to be reading this blog. I’ve already confessed many of my goof-ups, lapses, and the like on this site. My trials and tribulations with a new computer. My disgust with the Do Not Call Registry. Battling Dragon Naturally Speaking. Embarrassing mistakes with a new washing machine. Brain creep (and not in a good way). A lost driver’s license. The feckless search for just the right digital atomic clock. Playing skip-a-rope with a gas hose and a host of other foolishness.

Now I have learned how to get banned from Smiths Food and Drug stores. A month ago, I told you about falling in Smiths parking lot while failing to mind my own business. Well, this week, I made another trip to the same store. All I wanted was some bread, a little can of peanuts, a package of candy to hand out on Halloween Eve (yeah, right!), and some distilled water. I did my shopping and started looking for a cashier. All busy. Too many in line. So I went to the self-check-out stand. Great. No waiting.

I swiped my Smiths Rewards Card and started scanning the items. Distilled water, 97¢. No problem. French bread, $1.79. Great. It registered just like it was supposed to. But I didn’t want to put the bread in the same sack with the water, so I moved the bag with the water out of the way.

Wrong thing to do. A computerized-voice informed me in an accusatory tone (real or imagined) to remove the last item from the bag and scan it. I couldn’t, of course. Moving the water after scanning the bread had made the device suspect that I was trying to sneak something past it. And the device wasn’t about to get snookered like that.

I called the attendant, a pleasant young lady, over. After checking my bags and the number of items scanned, she scolded the computer and put it in its place. Then I tried to scan the package of Three Musketeers. It wouldn’t scan. After trying four times, I called for aid again. The same young lady came over looking  a little grimmer this time and ended up having to manually put the bar code into her little scanner thingy. That done, she went about more important business.

And then the biggie. As I took out my clip and removed money to pay the final tab of $7.74, a bill flew out of my hand and slipped right down into the hairline crack between the checkout computer and the sensitive platform that keeps tabs on how many items you put into your bag (and sometimes lies about it). Had it been a dollar, I would have slunk off without uttering a word. But it had been a five-dollar bill. Now, I’m not poverty-stricken, but five dollars is five dollars. So I looked up this same young lady and told her what had happened.

She didn’t actually say a dirty word, but each one she uttered had some filth hidden in it somewhere. “You dropped it where?”

“Right there. It went between the machine and the bench. (Highly technical terms, I know, but I made her understand by pointing.)

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, right there.” Then I did the bit about if it had been a dollar bill …

She didn’t seem impressed. “I’ll have to disassemble the whole thing.”

I couldn’t think of a proper response, so I kept my mouth shut.

She began the process with absolutely no trace of that pleasant young woman I’d first seen in evidence. A moment later, she ordered me to hold the end of the stainless steel bench-top she’d lifted. The thing actually complained when I laid hands on it. It let out a prolonged, agonized beep. I felt no sympathy. It had falsely accused me, hadn’t it?

Five minutes later, she had enough of the steel and plastic out of the way to feel around for my money. She found the fiver and handed it over with a sour look on her formerly pretty face. For some reason, she failed respond to my sincere “thank you.”

When I started to leave after paying for my groceries, I realized that all I had left in my pocket was the same five dollar bill the clerk had just rescued. Not good. You see, I wanted one of those dollar lottery tickets … Scratchers, I think they call them. After hesitating a long minute, I turned back and asked the attendant for change.

She complied while managing to keep a false smile painted on her lips, but she also took out her telephone. I don’t believe the picture she took was a selfie. But was it to show her friends the boob she’d encountered at work that day, or did she intend to post it on the wall alongside shoplifters and other miscreants as a warning them to keep off the premises under the penalty of prosecution?

I guess I’ll learn the answer when I run out of milk this weekend. On the other hand, there’s an Albertson’s not far from my place.

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New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dermatophyte, a Short Story

How about another short story this week? We’ve all been humiliated at some time in our lives, and it looks like Toby Gannon is in for his dose – self-inflicted, I might add. Let’s see how he handles it.
After two chicken-outs, Tobias Gannon successfully navigated the threshold of the campus cafeteria with his heart going crazy in his chest. “Keep on walking, man,” he mumbled beneath his breath.
It was a set-up, pure and simple. Damn Lem Holt and his screwy bets, anyway! Toby had no idea what prompted him to get involved in Lem’s shenanigans. Well, yeah, he did. Lem was one of the few he considered a friend. Besides, Toby was salivating over the prize, a rib eye steak from the Roundup he’d never be able to afford on his skinny budget.
After a quick glance at the northeast corner table where Lem grinned like a Cheshire cat anticipating Toby’s coming mortification, he shifted his attention to a particular table in another corner. They were all there: Betsy Moss, Monica Hardy, Rick Wolsey, Hardy Marks, and Linda Helpstrum. The Snob Mob.
“Hi, guys.” His voice came out in a strangled squawk. Not a very auspicious beginning.
“Gannon. What drug you in here?”
“It’s dragged, Wolsey. Unless you’re talking about chemicals, which might be the case with you.”
“Watch your mouth, kid!”
“I just wanta talk to Linda.” His upper lip started itching like crazy, but he wasn't about to swipe it.
“Me? Why?” Disdain, disbelief, and a tiny bit of curiosity edged her voice.
Understandable. He was not, and never would be, a member of this hoity-toity clique. He didn’t even want to be. Most of the guys at Tres Lomas College would have jumped at the chance, but he wasn’t so sure. What was Lem’s position on the matter? Screwed up thinking, Gannon. Concentrate! He hoped the sweat collecting in his armpits didn’t stain his shirt.
“I … uh, could we talk a minute? You know, in private?” He motioned to one of the big windows looking out onto a gloriously verdant quadrangle, empirical evidence of the waste of precious irrigation water in this high desert New Mexico locale.
“These are my friends. Whatever you have to say, you can say it in front of them. But you’d better hurry; I have to go to class in a few minutes.”
“Well, I was wondering…” He paused as his knees threatened to give way. He tried again. “Do you have a date for the prom yet?”
“A date? What’s it to you?” Her voice was sharp, cutting.
“Uh, I thought you might like to go with me,” He almost heaved a sigh of relief. He’d completed his part of the wager.
“Toby Gannon, what makes you think I’d go out with you?”
He felt his ears go pink. The odor from the dregs of a hamburger on Wolsey’s plate reached his nose, making him want to gag. Nonetheless, he plunged ahead. “Why not? This is a classless democracy, isn’t it?”
Linda’s voice turned imperious. “This isn’t a voting matter.”
“Sure it is,” Hardy Marks put in. “We’ll vote on whether you go out with this putz.” Marks was the local tennis star. He also had a name on the soccer field.
“I vote no,” Betsy Moss, the prom queen, rejoined. Monica and Rick quickly raised their hands. They were class president and basketball standout, respectively.
“That makes it unanimous,” Linda announced with a nasty smile. “That’s democracy at work for you.”
Toby knew he oughta leave it at that; he’d won his steak. But resentment overcame good sense. He spoke through a dry throat. “What’s the matter with me? I’m as good as you are.”
Linda’s nose twitched as if she had caught a whiff of something rancid. “I’d prefer not to get into that, if you don’t mind.”
“I do mind!” That came out louder than he intended.
“Let’s just say you’re not my kind of people, and leave it at that.”
“What, I’m not snobbish enough? My folks don’t have enough money? I look like an oddball? What?”
The girl with long, blond tresses stood abruptly. “I have to go to class.”
“Not until you answer me! What’s wrong with me? I have two noses or three eyes or something?”
“Very well, if you insist. You’re a nobody. A nothing.”
“I’m a living, breathing human being.”
“You sure about that?” Wolsey put in. “I like that oddball part you mentioned. You seem kinda odd to me. You know … odd!” The basketball star gave a limp-wristed wave.
Linda had apparently reached her limit. “I don’t know what it is, but there’s something wrong with you. You’re not like the other guys. You’re different.”
“You mean like having brains instead of muscles? And different is wrong?” he kept at it despite the quivers running down his spine.
“Like now,” Linda added. “You’re not being a gentleman. I tried to be nice, but—”
His voice got away from him and rose alarmingly “Nice? I’m not your kind of people. That’s nice?” He grabbed a breath. “Well, for you it probably is. As nice as a snob can be.”
The cafeteria had gone deathly quiet. The heavy odor of food and the cloying aroma of perfume and toilet water rose in the silence, making him nauseous.
Linda’s face turned an unhealthy and unattractive crimson. “If you want to do the name-calling thing, then let’s have at it. You stalk around the campus like a disease.”
“Way to go!” Wolsey cheered.
“You don’t play sports, join the clubs. You don’t do anything except take up space.”
“I study, pass my classes, and mind my own business.” A chip in the Formica tabletop seemed terribly interesting all of a sudden.
“And contribute absolutely zero, Toby. You’re nothing but a ... a virus, a fungus on Tres Lomas’ hide. You’re like that TV commercial. You’re a nail fungus. What do they call it? A dermatophyte. That’s it, a dermatophyte! Something under your nails that you can’t get rid of without a heavy dose of medication. That’s what you remind me of. Now get out of my face.”
“I simply asked you for a date, Linda.”
“A date with you?” she asked in a steely voice. “I’d rather date an actual dermatophyte.”
“That’s a good name for you, Gannon. Dermatophyte Gannon. We’ll call you Dermy for short. Has a good ring.”
“Dermy!” This from Betsy.
“Oh, come on, guys. Just because he’s funny, doesn’t make him a fungus.” Monica tossed in her two cents.
“Naw, more like odd! Course that’s kinda like a fungus, isn’t it?”
The rest of the group rose as one and prepared to parade out the door, probably in lock-step. From the depths of his mortification, Toby grasped for something to preserve at lease some shred of dignity.
“Thanks, guys, you played your parts perfectly,” His voice rang throughout the cafeteria.
“Huh? What?” Wolsey asked. He forgot to close his mouth when he finished speaking.
“Yeah, I bet Lem Holt that I could prove to the whole school what hopeless snobs you are.”
“Hey, wait just a minute—”
“That’s all right, Marks. You’ve said everything you needed to say. Go on to class now like a good little jock.”
For a moment, Toby thought he’d gone too far. Marks’ face turned red and he clenched his fists. He shifted into an aggressive stance. Sweat popped out on Toby’s forehead.
Then Len stood and started clapping. In moments everyone in the cafeteria, including the servers were applauding and cheering loudly. The Snob Mob’s bravado collapsed as if it were a balloon punctured by sharp wit. They turned and slunk out the door as a single organism.
         That rib eye was gonna taste real good!

In the end, he gave as good as he got, thanks to his quick wit. Wish I could think fast enough to turn the tables in the moment. I always walk away and only later think, “I shoulda said …”

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