Tag Archives: Short Stories

Angelique–God’s Messenger

She came among us.

A group of ex-pats, on assignment in Paris, we met each day at a sidewalk cafe near Montmartre to commiserate, and she came among us.

At first, we didn’t notice.

“I’ll have the foie gras,” my friend said. “I’ll have the croque-monsieur,” my other friend said.

“I’ll have the jambon-beurre,” I said. “I don’t have much time, today,” I said.

“Come on,” they said. “A French meal is a cultural experience.”.

We laughed. They said this every day. Three-hour lunches were not uncommon. I would often sit and watch the afternoon light soften into postcard Paris evenings.

“Alms,” she said, her voice soft, barely audible above the noise of traffic and street musicians.

My friends did not hear, or pretended not to hear. They continued their tales of exploits and conquests, stories not yet written, not yet published.

“Alms, she said again, closer.

I lost the train of conversation as I watched her slowly shuffle over the cobblestone, her cup held out, rattling the few coins she had collected, her cane tapping out of rhythm.

“Votre nourriture, les messieurs.” A waiter placed our food on the table and hurried away.


“Allez-vous en,” my friend said, “Go away.”

“Je ne parle pas français,” my other friend said, as if not speaking french would relieve us of guilt.

The woman looked up. She looked at me.  She was old and bent, crippled, and dirty.

“Homeless,” my friend said.

“Smelly,” my other friend said.

Our eyes met. Suddenly, I could not tell how old she was.

“What is your name?” I asked, not sure why.

“Angelique,” she said. Her eyes sparkled. “It means…God’s messenger.” Her voice was light, airy, tinged with a french accent, but with no hint of age.

“Do you have a  message for me?”

“Oui,” she said.

“What is it?” I asked, feeling this moment held deep meaning.

She kept my gaze, then her eyes traveled down over my Columbia shirt and pants and she looked at the cobblestones. It was as if the full moon had set. I could no longer see her eyes.

“Alms,” she said softly. “L’aumône pour les pauvres.”

The moment was gone.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, maybe some great insight from deity, delivered through Angelique, God’s messenger. Perhaps an answer to the perplexing question of what I should really do with my life. I don’t know. I did not receive the grand message I was hoping for.

Gypsy beggar.
Amidst the plenty of Paris, an old woman begs for alms.

The old woman held out her cup, expectantly.

I took a coin from my pocket and dropped it in. It clinked against  the other coins. She looked up again.

“Merci beaucoup,” she said. “Dieu vous protège.” Once again, her eyes were bright, blue. I nodded and she ambled away, clinking and tapping.

“I think Paris should do a better job with the homeless population,” my friend said.

“I agree,” my other friend said.

“Alms,” I heard her softly say. “L’aumône pour les pauvres.”

The Eiffel Tower
A vintage rainy day in Paris.

Moroccan Mint Tea

Women on the Bou Regreg River.
A moment on the banks of the Bou Regreg River in Rabat, Morocco, across from the old city of Salé.

“When did we grow so old?”

Fatima scowled as she handed a steaming cup of mint tea to her sister. Jamila accepted the tea as Fatima settled her bones on the river bulkhead.

“I am not so old as you, sister,” Jamila said, sipping her tea. The tea fragrance carried them back to fall harvest in their mountain  village. As young girls, Fatima and Jamila had worked long hours in their father’s fields.

Now, fall was gone and the damp winters of Rabat pained Fatima’s arthritis. They sat in silence, sipping their tea as the green black waters of Bou Regreg sludged past.

“I do not know why we still come here,” Jamila said.

“Because our husbands do not like it,” Fatima replied and they laughed. There are few satisfying rebellions for a Muslim woman and Fatima and Jamila practiced them often.

“What did the doctor say?” Jamila ventured.

“Youssef is too stubborn to tell me,” Fatima said. She savored a sip of tea. “But I know.”



“How do you know this?” Jamila realized when she asked the question that she shouldn’t have asked the question. Her cheeks colored and Fatima laughed.

“You are too modest, little sister.”

A gusty breeze fluttered the silks of Jamila’s hijab and she drew the scarf tight under her chin. “Mamma had a remedy for such things,” Jamila said, not looking at her sister.

“I know,” Fatima said. “I have been mixing the herbs with his breakfast meal for weeks.

“You have?” Jamila looked up at her sister, eyes wide.

“What our men don’t know…,” and the sisters giggled as girls.

“Has it helped?” Jamila asked and the women laughed again.

“Shush,” Fatima said. “The Imam will see us laughing.”

“As will the All-Seeing-Eye.”

Bou Regreg River.
The Bou Regreg river divides the sister cities of Rabat and Salé, Morocco.

Fatima shivered in the moist river air as the culture of silence settled on the women. She sipped her tea as a lone seagull squawked above.

“How does Saïd at University?”

“Good. Good. He’ll be home in another month.” Jamila watched a fisherman rowing a worn wooden boat against the current. “And how is Asmae and the babies?”

“The babies are noisy, and hungry,” Fatima smiled. “I love having them here. Asmae says that Hakim wants her to come home.”

“It is too soon.”

“That is what I tell her.”

“She must rest, and feed her little ones.”

“So says the Prophet.”

Jamila took a sip of her mint tea and frowned. “My tea grows cold.”

“As do my old bones.”

Hassan Tower Minaret.
Built of red sandstone in the 10th century, Hassan Tower in Rabat, Morocco, was intended to be the tallest minaret in the world

Fatima and Jamila both twisted their bodies and stood up as old women. When the  Adhan call to prayer echoed across the river they looked up to the minaret.

“The Muezzin is in good voice today.”

“He always sounds good on those days when we aren’t required to be there.” The sisters exchanged guilty smirks.

“Next Friday?”

“Until then.”

“You bring the tea.”

They smiled and embraced.

“Allāhu Akbar.”

“Allāhu Akbar.”

The mournful Muezzin’s call echoed across the cobblestones as the sisters plodded toward home.

Rabat, Morocco cobblestones.
Cobblestones, replaced through the centuries, still provide the foundation for streets in the ancient quarter of Rabat, Morocco.

Muslim in Rome

Cedar City Art Walk Image 6.

Muslim in Rome
It can be painful when a pilgrimage is not all it was supposed to be.

Tired, alone and far from home, the Eternal City, can be an unforgiving place. Religious tradition may favor the Catholics in Rome, yet Islam entertains apocryphal hope for ultimate victory in the struggle for religious domination. Global politics and religious ideology lose their import when you are sick and hungry. With no place left to go, a bridge over the Tiber River is as good a place as any to end a pilgrimage.

For more info on my show check out a June 11th article in The Spectrum.


Cedar City Artwalk.
Summer art students visit the Cedar City Artwalk.

Summer art students stop by to visit my show. You can too 🙂

Cedar City Artwalk
Art students read the stories about the photos.

The Stories may be as good as the photos–maybe better 🙂 ArtWalkFlyer

Muse 4–Noir Episodic

Franklin Jones was no stranger to trouble. It followed him around like a storm chaser. The wind was always blowing in the wrong direction to catch a break.

DSC00699_700_701_BrickWall_CroppedIt was 3:00 am on the corner of Hollywood and Wilcox and Franklin could hear the music inside the Playhouse Club beating to the throbbing inside his head. She was in there. He knew she was in there. He wanted to go inside. He needed to see her.

Franklin exhaled slowly. He could see his breath and shivered. People say it never gets cold in Hollywood, but Franklin knew that hell does freeze over. He looked up at the starless sky and cursed his luck.

“Don’t fall in love with a singer.”


DSC00677_8_9_Open DeliJeff’s lips were still moving. He’d been mouthing the words. He was standing on the corner of Hollywood and Wilcox watching Franklin. He shivered.

“Jeff!” She said it again. Jeff’s eyes rose from the glare of the laptop, straining to focus. “It’s three-o-clock in the morning. What are you doing?” Jill stood in the doorway of his office.

The woman pushed open the door to the Playhouse Club. He recognized her immediately. She winked. Jeff closed his laptop.



“Yes, writing.”

Jill took a step closer. “I’m worried about you.” She only came as close as the edge of his desk. “I think we should talk about it.”

Jeff stood up. “I can’t. Not yet.”

The only light in the room was moonlight. Jeff stood in the dark. He could see the shape of her body through her nightgown.

“This isn’t like your other stories,” she said.

“I know. It’s different.”

“You’re different.”

“She’s perceptive, I’ll give her that.” The woman stood in a corner of the room. She still had her dancing shoes on.

“What are you doing here?” Jeff demanded.

“I’m scared, Jeff,” a glint of hurt touching Jill’s eyes.

“Not you,” Jeff said.

The woman in the corner laughed. “Love triangle, Jeffrey?”

“This is not a love triangle.”

“Who are you talking to?” Jill demanded.

Jeff looked at the woman. He had the sense she was beautiful, and, dangerous. He looked back at Jill. She stood there in the moonlight, afraid, vulnerable. They had been together a long time. He wanted them to be together forever. He took a step around the desk and reached to touch her.

Jill stepped back.

Jeff sighed.


“Who, Jeff?”

Jeff shifted his weight to one foot. He was suddenly very tired.


“I’m flattered, Jeffrey.” Jeff held his breath and scowled at the woman.

Jill folded her arms across her chest. “Your muse is a… woman?”

Jeff shifted his weight again. “Yes…but…”

“You used to say I was your muse.”

“You are.”

She doesn’t believe me.

“It’s…just…this story.”

A tear drop caught moonlight in the corner of her eye. “What happened, Jeff? What is happening to us?”

“Nothing’s happening to us.”

“Clearly something is going on with your relationship,” the woman said.

“Be quiet,” Jeff barked.

“She’s here right now?”

“No…” Jeff waved his arms in frustration. “Yes…I guess.” He put his arms on Jill’s shoulders. “You know I’m making this stuff up, right?”

She shrugged him off. “Don’t touch me.”

“But Jill…”

“You can sleep on the couch.” She turned and stormed out.

“How long?” Jeff called after her. She didn’t answer.

“Men are clueless,” the woman said.

“As if you would know.”

“Of course I know, Jeffrey. I’m your muse.” The woman sat down on Jeff’s leather couch, and crossed her legs.

Jeff sat back down at his desk. “Now what?” he said to himself.

“Give me a name, Jeffrey.”

The woman blended into the darkness of the couch. Jeff couldn’t make out her features. Moonlight glinted off her stiletto heals.

“Clara Malloy,” Jeff said. He’d been thinking about her name for a while.

“Clara Malloy,” the woman repeated, slowly. Her voice was soft and sad. She said her name with the melancholy angst of unfulfilled dreams and unrequited love.

Clara leaned into the moonlight. “Thank you, Jeff.” Her eyes were dark, shadowed. Her hair was black with glinting highlights. Jeff could tell her lips were full and moist and dark with lipstick. His eyes lingered, wanting more detail.

“You had better go,” he said.

“But…the story,” she said.

“It’s my story,” Jeff said.

“I’m telling it,” She said.

“Hello there, Joe.” Franklin Jones stood in the doorway pointing a gun at Jeff. “Clara.” Franklin tipped his hat.

“Frank,” Clara smirked.

“What’s going on?” Jeff demanded.

“I saw you outside the club,” Franklin said. “I followed you here.”

“You can’t do that?”

“She’s here. Isn’t she?”



“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You should write this down,” Clara said.

“She’s upstairs, isn’t she?” Franklin demanded.

“You’ve got this all wrong, Frank. Charlotte’s not here.”

Frank’s pearl handle .45 caliber glinted in the moonlight. “You’re lying to me, Joe.”

“Joe? My names’s not Joe. Are you nuts?”

“I saw you talking to her through the window, in her nightgown.”

Realization dawned on Franklin.

“You’re sleeping with her aren’t you?” Franklin pulled the lever back on his .45.

“Not tonight, I’m not.”

“Not ever.” Franklin pulled the trigger. The flash was blinding. The pain was exquisite.

“You should have written this down.”


Jeff opened his eyes. Liquid pooled on the keys of his laptop.


“You’re drooling.”

Five-year-old Hayleigh stuck her finger into the stream of fluid oozing from the corner of Jeff’s mouth and giggled. Jeff sat up. The QWERTY keyboard checkered his face. “It’s time to take me to pre-school.”

“Where’s Mommy?”

“Not here.”

Jeff stood up. His head hurt. His heart hurt. He checked his body for bullet holes.


“I dunno.” Hayleigh scooted out of his office. “Let’s go.”

Jeff tried to wipe the saliva from his keyboard. He wasn’t sure it would still work..

“I’m losing it,” Jeff whispered as he followed Hayleigh out of the room.

“You should be writing,” Clara said.

Jeff looked back. The room was empty.


Muse 3

Jeff signaled and turned left into a gravel lot. He could hear crunching under his tires and immediately felt less substantial. He pulled around back of the warehouse and shut off the engine. It wasn’t quiet. The warehouse was under an overpass. The roar and hiss of cars screeching by just feet above him made Jeff think of banshees howling on the wind.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic.

Jeff stepped out of his car. The ground was wet. It had rained overnight. The gravel sank in the mud just below it.


The warehouse was abandoned. It had been for a long time. Cinderblock walls were stained with moss and filth. Graphiti-artist-wannabes had practiced here before changing careers. Broken glass windows let the inside blackness out. Jeff crunched around the building looking for a door. It wasn’t locked. The corrugated steel man-door was rusted off its hinges. Jeff pulled on the handle and the door groaned, painfully. The door handle was wet and Jeff wiped his hand on his Levis. He hoped it was only water.

“I knew you would come.” A woman stepped around the corner of the building. Her voice had a note of helplessness to it. Jeff suspected it was put on.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded. She was wearing high heels and an overcoat, forties noir. He didn’t think you could even buy clothes like that anymore.

“The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.”

“Oh come on,” Jeff shouted, “I’m trying to be authentic, and all you do is come up with clichés.”

“Oh, please. You’re the one who put the dead body in an abandoned warehouse. Talk about cliché.”

“I didn’t put a body in there.”

“Not yet.”

“Not ever.”

“You will.”

“I won’t.”

“Then, why are you here?”


The woman laughed. “You should go inside.”


“The body. Remember?”

“There is no body inside this warehouse!”

“Do you always talk to yourself?” Jeff jumped and turned around. A large man stood in shadow just inside the doorframe.

“I wasn’t talking to myself.” Jeff looked over to where the woman was standing. She was still there.

She smiled.

I might be losing it.

“Could you give me a hand?”

DSC00544_JD_Warehouse_shovelJeff squinted against the light to get a better picture of the man in the doorway. He could tell the man had a shovel.

“What do you need?” Jeff asked.

“I’ve got this body in the trunk of my car. I could use your help burying it?”


“Now this is getting interesting,” the woman said.

Jeff looked toward the woman. She smiled sweetly. “What are you going to do?”

“Why are you still here?”

“This story’s just getting started.”

“Let’s go.” Now Jeff could now see the man also had a gun.

“You’d better help him.”


“Because you want to know what happens next.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You need to know.”

The large man stepped through the doorway. He had a shovel in one hand and the gun in the other, pointed at Jeff. In the light, Jeff could see he had dark hair, a lumberjack build, three-day stubble and an award-winning smile.

“Cheer up, Jeff. What’s the worst that could happen?” They walked to the man’s car like old friends.

“How do you know my name?”

The man popped the trunk. “I think you know how.”

Jeff didn’t.

The man reached into the trunk and rolled a body over, a woman, blond. The hair on the back of Jeff’s neck stood up. He felt the blood drain from his face. He wanted to throw-up and pass out at the same time. His wife, Jill, stared up at him.

“You take her feet. I’ll take her arms.”

Jeff couldn’t move. He couldn’t think. He turned to look back at the woman.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“You did this. This is your fault. I told you, NOT MY FAMILY.”

“You wrote the words, Jeff. You made it real.”

The man cocked his gun.

Crazy, unhinged, Jeff turned back around and shouted at the man, “YOU’RE GOING TO SHOOT ME?” Jeff took a step toward the man. “SHOOT ME!”

The man smiled. “You’re going to help me.”

Jeff leaped at the man, fury and rage driving him forward.

BOOM. Jeff saw the muzzle flame in slow motion. He watched the bullet enter his stomach, cold, then searing hot. For a moment he felt like he was flying, backwards.

If I hit the ground, will I die?

DSC00548_Warehouse_Leaning“This is my story, Jeff.” Jeff was on his back, looking up. The man stood over him, pointing the gun at his face. “I make the rules now.”

Jeff opened his eyes. It was dark. His heart was pounding in his chest, thumping in his ears. Jeff felt for his stomach, where the gunshot tore into him, slamming him backward.


Jeff could see moonlight through his bedroom window. It was late, quiet. He sat up in bed. Memory of the pain was still there. He wiped sweat from his forehead. He felt like throwing up.

Jill stirred in bed beside him. Jeff tried to calm his breathing, his heart rate.

“You should write this down, Jeffrey.” The woman was silhouetted against his bedroom window, black curves against mini-blinds.

Jeff jumped out of bed, the anger returning, adrenaline pumping.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” Jill sat up, sleepily.

Jeff turned to look at Jill, then back toward the woman. She was gone. He slowly turned back to Jill. “Bad dream,” he whispered.

Jill lay back down. “Come to bed.”

“I will.”

Jeff stepped into the bathroom and closed the door. With the light off, he turned on the faucet and splashed his face with water.

I don’t think I can do this.

He sat down on the floor.

“I’m going crazy.”

In the distance, Jeff could hear the woman laughing.

Muse 2

“What are you doing?” She had an alto’s low, husky voice.

An Ikea Etorre desklamp cast a small, blindingly bright circle onto a mess of three-by-five notecards. The rest of the room fell off into black. Jeff looked up from his desk, into the darkness.


She laughed.

He loved the sound. It seemed to resonate somewhere inside him.

“I’m working on a story.” Jeff tried to sound positive. He could hear the lameness in his voice. He hadn’t written anything of substance for a while. Starts and stops. Never finishing.

“Outlining,” he said again, tapping the eraser of a dull number two pencil on the notecards, “is a key component in developing good story structure.” Jeff was channeling his college creative writing teacher. He shivered. It always felt weird when he did that. He wasn’t sure if it was the channeling, or the outlining.

“The Police are looking for you,” she said.


“Don’t be so naïve, Jeffrey. They found the woman in a warehouse down on 1st avenue.”

Jeff opened his laptop. “You want me to say that I did it.” The laptop screen burst to life, casting bluish light at him.

“I want the truth.”

“You can’t handle the truth.” Jeff chuckled. He thought he did a pretty good Jack Nicholson impersonation.


“Come on,” Jeff said. “You opened the door for that one.”

“Do you want to know what happens next, or not?”

“Not especially. Nothing you’ve said motivates me to care about a skid row dead woman.”

“Don’t you even want to know her name?”

“No! I don’t. Move on to something else.”


“What?” The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.

“That’s her name, the dead woman.”

“STOP IT.” Anger was a gas stove for Jeff. Instant on. White hot. “You can’t do that. You can’t use my wife’s name. You can’t use my name. You can’t use my kids’ names, or my brother’s names, or anyone else in my family.”

“I didn’t do it. You did.”

“Shut up.”

“They say she was shot twice, execution style, in the back of the head, then dumped in the warehouse.”

Two gunshots rang out, POP POP. Jeff jumped up. He could feel the reports through the wall. Notecards skittered off the desk into blackness.

“Leave me alone. Get out of here. Go away.”

She laughed.

The sound was wrong, incongruous. Jeff put his hands to his head and screamed.

The overhead light flared to life.

Jill stood in the doorway. “Jeff?”

DSC00519_Notecard_VertJeff stood in the middle of the small office, notecards strewn about the floor. His eyes were haunted. He looked at his laptop, then, over at the couch, then, he looked at Jill. Their eyes met. He couldn’t read her expression. He knew she could read his–fear. She shivered.

“Are you Okay?”

He didn’t think so. “I’m fine,” he said.

Jill cocked her head to one side. It was one of the things he loved about her. He always knew when she didn’t believe him.

“You don’t look fine.”

“It’s just this story.” Jeff wasn’t sure what had just happened.

“What’s it about?” She asked.

He didn’t think he had the words to explain it.

“You. It’s about you.”

The Muse

So, I’m starting a flash fiction noir episodic (forgive the cheesy self-portrait:). Each episode will be under 1000 words. I’ll post one episode per week, until the story ends. Writers block began the inspiration for this story. I’d love to hear your feedback, comments, questions, and thoughts. If you’re a writer, you may relate.

by James Dalrymple

Jeff Baxter leaned back in his comfortable leather chair and stared at the laptop on his desk. His eyes glazed. He was uncomfortable. The chair was too soft. His wife had arranged his home-office. She said it was for maximum creative output.

She should know.

She was an interior designer.

He didn’t like it–the office. She took out all his books. Now, he was surrounded by post-modern Ikea. It was supposed to fuel the imagination. It didn’t. Clean lines and smooth surfaces seemed to reflect his thoughts, not encourage them. It was all they could afford. Jeff liked clutter. He loved books. His old office had both.

“Come on,” he said, in frustration. He took his eyes off the blank screen and looked across the room. A sultry woman crossed her legs and smirked at him.

“What’s the matter, Jeffrey?

Jeff didn’t like being called Jeffrey. His mother called him Jeffrey when he was in trouble. He’d been in trouble, a lot.

Their eyes met. Now, he was really in trouble. Jeff knew she was dangerous.

“I don’t want you here,” he said. “You should go.”

She laughed.

He looked away.

“What are you waiting for, then?” She leaned back into the leather couch, her low-cut short skirt revealing more than Jeff wanted to see. He was trying hard not to look. She knew it, and laughed again. The sound was like music. He could see the notes, but not the words.

Not yet.

He knew she was teasing him. Even from across the room he knew she could sense his desire, his need. He hadn’t written anything important in a long time.

She leaned forward and the leather couched groaned, in ecstasy.

“Let me tell you a story,” she said.

Jeff put his fingers on the keyboard.

“It was late, when Geoffrey Stone entered her apartment.”

“Jeffrey Stone? Are you kidding?”

“That’s Geoffrey with a G.”

“Just because you spell it with a G doesn’t mean it isn’t me.”

“It isn’t you.”

“Yes it is.”

“No it isn’t.”


“You think every story is about you. Don’t you?”

“No I don’t.”

“Do you want me to tell it, or not?”

“Not if it’s about me.”

“It’s not about you.”

“Are you sure?”



“I said, I’m not sure.”

“What do you mean, ‘you’re not sure?’ Whose story is this, anyway?” Jeff was exasperated.

“Jeff! Are you okay?”

The door to his office creaked. His wife was standing there. Jeff looked up at her. His checks flushed and he looked over at the couch.


He looked back at his wife. “Yeah,” he said, sheepishly. He could feel the heat radiating from his face. “I was… I was just…” He didn’t know how to explain it. He couldn’t. He didn’t think she’d understand, anyway.

“I don’t want to be late,” she said. He couldn’t read her expression. He hoped it held compassion.

“I’m ready. Let’s go.” Jeff slapped his laptop shut and followed his wife. As he closed the office door, he could hear laughing. It sounded like music.


CrosswalkI was late. Sometimes it is just so hard to leave the office—I was about to say ‘on time’—but I never leave the office ‘on time’. I just leave—usually—no—always, late. My cubicle looks pretty much the same without me in it.

I had a headache. By the end of the day, I always have a headache. You probably would too. Day after day of meaningless minutia. Numbers. Numbers. Big numbers. Small numbers. Change the numbers. Move the numbers. Manipulate the numbers. “Hey, they’re not my numbers. Do what you want.” Manipulate the numbers.

Four. It was my son’s birthday. I can’t manipulate that one. I’d missed the first three. He was too young to notice—right? My wife doesn’t agree. She called me an hour ago and suggested—I say suggested because she didn’t yell—her parents were listening in the other room—that I make it home in time for cake and ice cream.

Red light. A low-rider pulled up beside me. Four-beats-to-a-measure. The pulsing bass matched the pounding in my head. Doesn’t that just drive you crazy? When the 10 billion-watt sound system in the car next to you is louder than the screaming talk-radio host in your own car—with the windows rolled up.

Wait. The flashing red hand began a count down from twenty. The low-rider must have been to the drags. For two counts, the engine roared louder than the subterranean thumping. Ten, nine, eight…

There he was. I saw him at seven, stepping off the curb, slowly—well, slowly isn’t exactly the right word. Does a snail move slowly? Is there such a thing as live action slow motion? He was going to cross the street. Seriously! He waited until seven, to cross the street. What was he thinking? Not only that, he wasn’t running. He wasn’t hurrying. He was barely even moving. Three, two, one.

Greenlight. The thumping beside me was gone. The pounding inside me wasn’t. Take a step old man. My head’s going to explode. I don’t think I have ever seen someone walk so slow. He’ll never make it across. The light’s going to change.

Basketball shoes. He’s wearing basketball shoes. That’s funny. Like he needs them. You know, Air Jordan’s or some expensive brand like that. Where’d he get shoes like that? They look brand new. I played basketball in high school. My Dad never bought me a pair of Jordan’s. I could have used them, too. I might have gone on to play college ball. I could have made some real money. Instead, I’ve got this Eight to Seven, sixty-five hour, give it up for the team, sleep deprived, all consuming cubicle. That’s rich. I’m not. He doesn’t even lace them. His pants are tucked into the tops.

Dickies. The pants that never wear out. My Dad used to wear those pants. What do they make them out of anyway—some kind of bullet proof kevlar cloth? This guy had on Dickies. I think they were the drab green kind. Although, they could have been navy. I’m not sure. He might have been an auto-mechanic at one time too. But, they didn’t have holes in them. You’ve got to give them that. He could be the poster old-guy for Dickies pants. Everything else wears out. They never will.

Honk, Honk. The car behind me hit the horn in two—cut time in my head. What do you want me to do, run over the guy? Believe me, I’d like to. He’s taken—what—three steps? I guess you can work up quite a sweat moving that fast with a downless, down jacket on. He must be trying to lose weight. It might make it easier to carry the backpack. Or, the brown paper bag.

Hiking. That’s it. He’s been hiking. I’m sure of it. I had a friend in high school that hiked the Pacific Crest trail all the way from Canada to Mexico—he and his dad. It took them all summer. Junior year. He showed me pictures. They asked me and my Dad to go. My Dad thought they were crazy. “What-in-the-hell would you want to do that for?” My Dad wasn’t much for the outdoors. He was pretty good about carrying the brown paper bag though. And, he did take a hike.

Red light. Again. The old guy stopped. He’s not moving. He’s staring at his feet. What? Got a rock in your shoe? Get your scraggly beard caught in your zipper? Come on, Dude, move. The sun’s going down. It’s your turn. I’m not going anywhere.

Leather. His face. I’ve seen that look before. It hurts. It really hurts. He must have spent way too much time in the sun. I went to the beach once and got so sunburned it hurt just to move. I couldn’t sit down for a week. My Dad’s belt looked just like his face.

Three, two, one. He’s staring at me. Those eyes. Haunting. I’ve seen those eyes.

I’m not going to make it. Am I? The headache was gone—well—not gone, exactly. Just misplaced. I knew it was there, somewhere. I couldn’t find it right now. But, I knew I would, pretty soon. Cheap wine doesn’t last that long. Leaves a pretty bad fruity aftertaste too. I could smell it though. The taste in my mouth matched the sickeningly sweet, fermented odor. I never even really liked the stuff. It just made the pain hide for a little while. Trouble is, it was the other stuff I could never find afterwards.

Where have I seen that face before? On the other side of the glass. On the other side of the street.

I wanted to cross. I wanted to move my feet. I just couldn’t. So, I stopped traffic. I got in the way.

It was my son’s fourth birthday.


The light turned green. He made it. I was late.