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Recent Thoughts, April 2020

3 Apr

April 3, 2020

Updates to this site are few and far between lately. The easy answer is that I have less time and opportunity to post. Far less than I used to have. But the better answer is that I don’t feel the need. Don’t feel the urge to write. Is it because my job, in which on some days I do nothing but write, satisfies whatever craving I have? I don’t know. I really don’t feel the writing bug much, if at all. But I can tell you that what I want to do with and get out of this blog is very different than it was when I began 10 years ago. That’s a different story for a different time. Long story short, updates to this blog are likely to remain few and far between. You know what? I’m ok with that,

And judging from my stats and comments, you are too.

With the current situation, many people would think that this is a good time to write, to read, to catch up on TV, etc, etc, etc. Unfortunately, for many people it is. It’s really sad that so many people I know are out of work and have no money coming in. I am not showing off or humble-bragging when I say that I am working from home, getting as much work done, if not more, than before this virus hit. Yes, I am grateful for the money coming in, but the stress level is high. There is the general level of stress many of us feel these days due to the virus situation. I’m in New York City, so I assume you’ve seen how bad things are on the news. Add to that the stress of my job, which I will not go into here. Plus there is my wife to consider, and my Job One is making sure she’s happy and OK. (I don’t mean to imply she’s unhealthy. She’s perfectly fine.) She is uppermost in my mind these days, right alongside the rest of my family that it kills me not to see.

I’m not the only one going through these things. Things are bad (and badder and baddest) all over. I’m no martyr, but this is my sandbox so forgive me if this comes off as all about me. It is. This is my blog, after all. If thousands of self-obsessed YouTube and Instagram influencers can have channels dedicated to the minutiae of their ridiculous lives, forgive me this one post on this obscure website.

One thing I am doing to cut down my general stress levels is avoiding Facebook. A timewaster at the best of times, it has become nothing short of aggravating. Luckily, my feed is not full of idiots licking fruit or jerks throwing virus parties and crowding 50 people into their apartments. My friends and the people I follow are smarter than that.

But Facebook is full of funny memes about toilet paper shortages and social distancing, and joke after funny picture after silly cartoon about the coronavirus. And that’s fine. But it doesn’t do a thing for me. Some of these jokes are funny, some of them make me laugh. I begrudge no one for posting these things. No problem at all. I’m not some weird moralist who finds no humor in this. Go ahead, post your jokes, post your memes, no problem. I don’t care, and you certainly don’t care what I think anyway. But I don’t want to see them. I don’t want to know from them.

For me, it is a little too close to picnicking in a graveyard.

It isn’t just Facebook. I make a point of checking the news only one or two times a day, and I completely avoid any news conference by New York City’s buffoonish part-time Mayor. The Governor is controlling him like a puppet anyway.

Before you think I am all stress – work – stress nowadays, I have to tell you that I made time to watch Tiger King.

Wow. Just wow. That is exactly the type of thing I’d love to blog about.

If only I felt the urge.

 

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The Christmas Spirit, A Holiday Tale

15 Dec

December 15, 2018

I’ve been featuring other people’s writing lately and focusing a little more on books and stories, so I decided to shine a little light on myself and bring back one of my own tales from recent years. This is my first Christmas story featuring my own PI, Hollywood Russell. He’s a pulp fiction style of detective, with his adventures taking place in the noir-centric post WWII era, more or less. He’s also a really good guy to know. I’ve written two other Christmas tales with Russell, one of which you can find under the Hollywood Russell tab atop this page along with some other of his cases.

She never wore shoes at home.

Neither did her three children or their father, who only showed up every few days when he needed money. He may have left her with a broken heart, three mouths to feed and a stack of bills, but even he left his shoes outside the door.

It wasn’t that she loved being barefoot. Oh no, during this time of year she wore all four of her pairs of socks and even her not-so-good pair of stockings (the pair with the holes in the heels) to keep out the cold.

The problem was that shoes brought in dirt. Mud. Gum. Cigarette butts stuck to the bottom. They scuffed floors and sullied carpets.

She spent all day cleaning floors at work and sure as the sun shone in the sky, she wasn’t going to spend her time at home doing the same.

She worked nights. During the day she stayed home taking care of her family and at night when the little ones were in bed she trusted the older one (who was not long past being a little one herself) to watch them so she could earn some money so breakfast could be waiting when they woke up.

Winter was her good time of year. The work was harder, the floors were always wet from melting snow tracked in by, yes, shoes, and no, it usually wasn’t clean. This was not the best part of the city, after all.  But what made it good was yet to come. Christmas. And that meant tips from the people who rented the offices she cleaned every night.

Most of those people she saw only in passing. They were usually going out as she was coming in. Locking their doors as she was unpacking her box of cleaning rags and sprays.

“Hello, um, Miss! Sorry about the coffee stain near the desk!”
“That’s ok, I’ll get it out.”
“Merry Christmas, um…”
“Merry Christmas to you too, sir.”

Some people she never saw. The offices of Tick + Hansom (she wasn’t sure what they did) closed at 4:00, long before she got to work. There were a pair of adjoining offices on the fifth floor that she didn’t have a master key for. There was no name on either  door and she wasn’t completely sure they were occupied, but once in a while the shades would be pulled on the frosted glass door windows so something was going on in there.

She also never saw the man who rented the small two-room office on the fourth floor, and though he always kept the light in the office burning, it was empty when she went in. It was also usually clean, so either he or his secretary kept it neat. At least she assumed he had a secretary. The small desk that she guessed the secretary would sit at never had more than a magazine on it.

She cleaned their floors, emptied their trash cans, mopped their hallways and wiped their windows. She didn’t peek in their drawers or go through their papers. If there was an open file cabinet she left it open and untouched. If the jeweler on three had left a bauble on his desk it would still be there in the morning, shining away in the morning light.

She cleaned up spilled liquor and spilled blood. She turned a blind eye to the lawyer who was “deposing” a pretty young client late one night.

She didn’t even eat her dinner at an empty desk, instead spreading her thin meal out on a clean box she kept in “her office,” the janitor’s closet.

Tonight was an easy night. It was only a few days before Christmas and most of the offices had closed early or hadn’t opened at all. The trash cans were empty, the windows unsmudged, the floors more or less free of heel scuffs. Overall, she was going to have a good sleep when she got home, a rare one where her back wouldn’t ache.

By the time she got to the office with the perpetually burning light, she was a good way ahead of schedule and was feeling hopeful that she could be home early enough to get an almost decently long sleep.

She took out her master key, put it in the lock, but the door swung open before she could turn it. Curious, she stepped inside and saw nothing unusual but noticed that the door to the inner office was ajar. Leaving her cleaning cart in the hallway, she went inside.

On a shabby couch, looking like he’d fallen off his sled, was Santa Claus.

She stood there for a moment. Santa’s suit was torn at the collar, his white wig had twigs sticking out at odd angles, his Santa hat was missing, and his beard was over his nose and completely covering his left eye. (The right eye appeared to be black and blue but that was none of her business.)

She wanted to ask if he was OK, she was about to, when Santa groaned and sat up, not much, but a little straighter. He looked at his watch, saw it wasn’t there, then squinted at the clock through his bruised and starting to swell eye. “What time is it?”

She gave a little, startled jump, then looked at the clock and answered “almost 1 in the morning.”

Santa squinted at her, then straightened his beard and looked at her through his now-uncovered left eye. “That’s it? Usually the parties in my head don’t start thumping like that until 3. They better watch out or they’re going to get raided.” He gingerly took off his wig and even more gingerly started to rub the back of his head. “Do me a favor, sweetheart. Take a look back there. Tell me if it’s as bad as it feels.”

Slowly, she moved just close enough to him to see and leaned over. “Well, not too bad…” She leaned back, but the look on her face didn’t reassure him.

He looked at her. She looked at him. He was an odd sight. Short dark hair and a thick white Santa beard. “That bump feels about the size of Patton’s ego.”

She shuffled a little. “Maybe you should call a doctor?”

He took a deep breath. “I’ve had worse.” He shifted a bit on the couch, then an odd look crossed his face. He patted his red jacket and reached into a pocket. His voice changed, a cross between surprise and anger. “They don’t really think…” He trailed off as he pulled out a very thick wad of bills.

She looked away. This did not interest her. She did not want it to interest her.

The man in the Santa suit jumped up. He swayed a little, but his face (what could be seen behind the beard) was set. “He really thinks this will work.”

She looked around the office. It was old. It needed paint. There were two chairs against the wall and one of them looked ready to fall apart. She was sure this man could use the money, just like she could.

He turned to her. “It was nice meeting you, but I have an appointment to return a favor.” Grabbing his Santa hat off the couch (he was sitting on it the whole time) he took a couple of more-or-less steady steps over to the desk, where he took something small and black out of a drawer and slipped it somewhere inside his voluminously overstuffed Santa jacket. She looked away and brushed some of the lint off of her recently mended apron.

Santa stood for a second and looked at her, taking in the full picture, and, she thought she could feel, his keen eyes taking in even more.

“Thank you,” he said. She thought that the way he said it, he meant for more than just looking at his head.

Then he rushed out of the room, but stopped at the office door. He turned back, let out a deep baritone “Merry Christmas!” and a softer “ho ho ho” and left.

She fluffed the near-threadbare couch as best she could, closed the inner door, and wondered what kind of man would get so angry to find so much money.

She closed and locked the outer door and, running her fingers over the painted letters on the frosted glass spelling out DETECTIVE AGENCY, realized that this was the first time she had met Hollywood Russell.

She turned to her cleaning cart and was about to move on to the next office when she noticed that Santa’s beard was lying on top. Maybe it had fallen off?

Probably not. The thick wad of cash was beneath it.

She heard a soft “ho ho ho,” looked to her right, and saw a flash of red disappear down the hall and around the corner.

 The End

 

 

 

 

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