Tag Archives: Flash fiction

One-Sentence Stories

I have two stories in this anthology published by Muddy Puddle Press, compiled and edited by Val Dumond, who also wrote the introduction: “Make Your Pet a Celebrity” and “Dear Mr. Lucarelli.” You can purchase a copy on Amazon.com,

https://tinyurl.com/n2a68ux

You can also buy a copy directly from me for $15.  Just email:

sarajacobelli at hotmail dot come

The stories are by forty-three different authors, and range from 101 words to 1531  words. The catch is that all the stories are just one sentence. These stories composed of run-on sentences are fun to write and fun to read. She’s going to publish more of these, so if you are interested in contributing to the next one, go to Val Dumond’s website: http://www.valdumond.com/

 

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What Do You Want To Be?

cabin-in-woods

Fiction       Copyright © 2016 by Sara Jacobelli

Jim didn’t want to come see the cabin where they found him. Said he’d rather keep his memories.  But I had to. One of those things you have to do in life. I figured once I see it, it’ll be like closing a door. Time to move on.

This place is smaller than I expected. Never been in a place in the woods like this before. Never seen nothing like it. There’s a few things left here that are his. I’m not going to take nothing.

I never knew why he did it. Killed all those people. He was a happy, fat baby. Dark wavy hair. When he was born Mama said, “I don’t like the eyes.’ But she always said stuff like that. We just laughed it off. When he was born, I just remember feeling tired. When you have your fourth baby it’s not that exciting, believe you me. It might be exciting for those cute movie stars with nannies, they have all these babies and keep their slim and trim figures and the nannies do all the work while they run around skiing and sailboating and going to parties. Sounds nice. But for me, one baby after another was no big thrill. I’d get a few beers in me and tell Jim, “Hey, call Father Riley and tell him to come babysit these brats. It’s cuz a him we got all these kids.”

He seemed OK as a little boy. Quiet. Different from his brothers and sisters, that’s for sure. Dr. Goulash said I never bonded with him. Bonded.  That’s the word he used. Everything nowadays is about bonding to your child or bonding to your husband or bonding to your God Damn pet. Seems like when we were kids our parents never worried about stuff like that. They just had kids. Fed em, clothed em, raised em. Seems like stuff wasn’t so complicated. Sure, they loved us in their way, but Mama said they didn’t make a Federal Case outta being a parent.

Jim and I never saw nothing different about him, til he was about ten or eleven. The kid started having nightmares. Kept to himself more.  Didn’t want to be around the rest of us. Jim called him a Lone Wolf. I’m sure the other kids called him much worse. But I was working at the dry cleaners and Jim was working at the plastics factory. We had seven kids in a third floor walk-up and a grouchy landlord and a crummy car and no money and no time.  Dad died and Mama moved in with us and then Jim’s mom too, and of course they couldn’t stand each other. Their drinking and fighting and swearing and card playing wasn’t too good a influence on the kids, but hey. You do the best you can. You go to work and you come home from work and you cook dinner and you watch TV and you spend your God-damn day off at the laundromat and you hope your kids turn out OK.

Your eleven year old’s moody, that’s normal, right? We didn’t have no money for psychiatrists and all. Jim always said that boy just needed to get the belt more. Jim always said kids nowadays are spoiled.

One day his teacher Mrs. Popovich, calls. She says, “Your boy’s stealing things from the other kids’ desks, he’s drawing strange pictures, he’s scaring the other kids, he chased after the Tarinelli twins with a pair of scissors.” She wanted me to come in for a parent-teacher conference. Like I have time for that. Like I can afford to take the morning off of work and take the bus over to the school for nonsense.

One day he’s sitting at the kitchen table, drawing dragons or something. I’m at the sink washing dishes.  I look at him and think, well, that’s not so bad. He’s acting pretty normal. Maybe he’ll grow out of this phase. That’s what they called it when we were kids, a phase. You’re going through a phase. He touches my shoulder, leans in close. I never liked it when he touched me.  His skin was clammy. “Guess what I want to be when I grow up?”

“Oh, what do boys want to be nowadays? When I was a kid, they wanted to be astronauts, ball players, cowboys, race car drivers, movie stars.”

“I want to be,” he pressed his mouth against my ear and attempted a rough whisper. “A serial killer or a mass murderer. Don’t know which one yet.”

*************

 

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The Recruiter

briefcase-1316308_960_720

© Copyright 2016  by Sara Jacobelli

At first I thought he was one of the dads. Dads nowadays are so involved, you know, compared to our fathers who just went to work and went out drinking and playing cards and shooting pool and figured taking care of kids was women’s stuff.

He was just sitting there, staring off into space. Figured his kid was playing on the swings or slides. Then this girl runs up to him and I think it’s his daughter. She says something to him, hands him what looks like several pieces of paper and runs over to a parked car. She jumps in the car and the driver, a woman, starts the car and takes off.

Must’ve been her mother in the car. The funny thing is, he doesn’t react at all. Just stuffs the papers in his briefcase.  So then I figured it’s not his kid. He’s not watching and waiting for his kid on the playground. He’s just sitting there with his briefcase.

Then I figure he’s one of those people who lost his job and is getting up and going to work and pretending he still has a job. You hear about them. The displaced folks. Funny thing is, I can’t figure out where folks like that get their money. You get on a bus, you get off the bus downtown and buy a coffee and a newspaper, you go to the movies and you go to lunch. That all costs money. Maybe they get unemployment.

Then I think maybe he’s got brain damage.

Or maybe he’s waiting for a woman.

I have a lot of time to think because I’m always walking dogs. I walk Rich People’s Dogs for a living. I make between forty and a hundred bucks a day, depending on how many dogs I walk. And  I charge extra for the wiener dogs, you ever walk one and you’ll know why. I walk them and I play with them and I feed them and yeah, I scoop their poop. You gotta, The City gives you big fines if you don’t.  I don’t mind scooping the wiener dogs’ poop but the Great Dane, whoa. Those are some big logs. But all in all it’s not a bad way to make a living and it’s all cash too.  Beats waiting tables. And the people-watching is fun. Just wish I made more money, living with four roommates and taking the subway from the Bronx gets pretty old.

That’s how I started watching this guy. I call him Bond, like James Bond. Just Bond. I figure maybe he’s a spy. Or maybe he’s having an affair with some exotic woman.  They’re both married to other people, and they rendezvous every day in this park. That’s their bench. They meet, go to a hotel. Someplace expensive like the Plaza or the Waldorf. Order room service so no one sees them together. Me, I’ve never stayed in a place that fancy. Never had room service. They sure don’t have it at Motel Six.

Funny thing is, I never see the woman. I pass by with my first dog in the morning and he’s there. I pass by with several more dogs at noon and he’s still there. I pass by in the late afternoon with more dogs and there he is. I see him again at my last round after dinner, when I take a trio of wiener dogs out for their evening stroll.  It’s always just him.

So last night I got up my nerve to approach him. Used the wieners as an excuse. I let Suzi off her leash and she ran wild in circles while I try to hang on to Stella and Sylvie. I run up to him and ask him if he can help me catch Suzi. He grabs her and hands the squirmy sausage dog to me.

“Thanks! She’s a mess. I don’t want to get fired for losing a dachshund. I need this job.”

“I bet you do.” He has a slight accent. Can’t put my finger on in. Canadian? Australian?

“You must be a fellow dog walker. But I don’t see any critters.”

“No. No critters.”

“Are you a nanny then? Never seen a male nanny before.” I pointed at the shrieking kids on the playground. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

He shook his head.

“You’re a devoted dad then. Well, good for you. It’s nice to see a man take his kids to the playground. Dads nowadays are so involved.”

“No. I don’t have any kids. If you must know, I’m what you call a Recruiter.

“For jobs? What kind of jobs?”

“It’s like this.” He motioned me to move closer to him. I attempted to sit on the bench and untangle the wiener dog leashes while they yapped their hearts out. “I keep an eye out for kids under ten that look smart. Smart, fast, agile. Ten’s too old, by then they just want to play games and watch TV. We don’t want them playing video games, for Christ’s sake, we want them designing the games.  I give them a brief IQ test. They turn in their answers, and if they are what I’m looking for, I recruit them. With their parents too of course. Then the whole family moves into our Compound, out in California, and the kids go to work.” He sipped his coffee and winked at me. “One bright kid, say seven or eight or nine years old, can be trained to be better at software development, video game and app design, even IT security, than any adult. We used to recruit at the colleges, then the high schools, then junior high. But the playground is by far, the best spot I’ve found.”

I looked at the snot-nosed kids chasing each other around the playground. “How much can one like that make?” I pointed to a chubby boy in a striped shirt using a stick to draw in the dirt.

“Two, three hundred grand a year, easy. His parents, they’ll never have to work again. They’ll never have to pay rent or buy food either. Everything’s provided for at the Compound. Medical, dental, vision care. They don’t need a car, we have everything delivered, or we can take them in our bus. They don’t need to pay for summer camp for the kids or a family vacation, we’ve got it all there. Swimming pools, bowling alleys, movie theatres. When they get old they just stay there and move into our Assisted Living Center. We’re even working on a way to use the old folk’s brains somehow. There’s theories that when the memory fades, you can actually reprogram the brain to perform new tasks. Like a second childhood. We might be able to get the old folks to design more apps, who knows?”

“Do you give any finder’s fees? If I find a smart kid and you hire him or her, do I get a percentage?”

He opened up his briefcase and took out a business card. “You just get a flat fee. Two thousand, if the referred child passes all the tests, the parents sign the life-time contract, and the while family moves into the Compound.”

Two thousand a pop! Dollar signs started multiplying in my head.  I looked at the card. “That’s you?”

Mr. Harrison

The Recruiter

GOOGLE

 

“That’s me.”

The wiener dogs were getting hungry so I left the park to finish their walk and bring them home and feed them. I’m always looking for more ways to make money. If I find a few smart kids every month, I can ditch the roommates. Maybe get a little pad of my own in the Village. Take taxis instead of riding the subway. Eat sushi instead of off the McDonald’s dollar menu. Things are definitely looking up.

Fiction (or is it real???)

**************

Photo Credit: “Briefcase.”  Pixabay copyright-free images. Public Domain. https://pixabay.com/en/briefcase-handbag-bag-case-luggage-1316308/

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Flash Ficton: The Art of the Short Short Short Story

I’m teaching this workshop at the Jambalaya Writers Conference in Houma, LA, Saturday, April 2nd, 10:30 am.  Make a trip to the bayou and check it out! The conference is being held at the Terrebonne Parish Main Library, 151 Library Drive in Houma, across from the Courtyard Marriott.

http://mytpl.org/jwc/

You can attend most of the workshops for free, including mine. Workshop topics include the Pains and Pleasures of Writing Historical Fiction, Getting the Word out (publicizing your book), Community Writing, So You Want to Write a Cookbook? and Publishing with a University Press. (plus a bunch more!)

For $35, you also get to hear the keynote speaker, Author Neely Tucker, and lunch.

from the Terrebonne Parish Library Website: ABOUT THE KEYNOTE
“Neely Tucker writes non-fiction by day at the The Washington Post, where he has been a staff writer for fifteen years, and is currently assigned to cover the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign. He writes fiction by night at his house, where it isn’t frowned upon to have a friendly glass of bourbon by the keyboard.

A seventh-generation Mississippian, he was born in Holmes County, then the poorest county in the poorest state in America. The first newspaper to hire him was the Oxford Eagle, the smallest daily in the state (and possibly the universe). They gave him the much envied job title of “Yalobusha County Correspondent.” He has since worked in more than sixty countries or territories, covering civil wars or violent uprisings in Bosnia, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as the U.S. Embassy bombing in Kenya. This work inspired crime novelist Elmore Leonard, a longtime friend, to use him as the basis and namesake for a foreign correspondent in “Cuba Libre.” “

 

 

Typewriter, Book, Notebook, Paper, Writing, Write

 

Photo Credit: “Typewriter.” Pixabay Free Images. https://pixabay.com/en/typewriter-book-notebook-paper-801921/

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Strangle Your Darlings, Dahlin!

Memo, Note, Notepad, Office, Paper

 

© Copyright  2015 by Sara Jacobelli

 

New Orleans Writing Marathon

(part of the Greater New Orleans Writing Project 2015 NWP Urban Sites Network Conference)

French Quarter Mini Marathon

Friday, April 17th, 2015, 1-5 pm

I signed up to participate in this mini Writing Marathon. Most of the participants paid to be in the whole program, which included various writing workshops held at UNO. (most of these sessions are for teachers, to improve their confidence in teaching writing and to improve their own writing skills)

It was scheduled to start at 1:00 pm. First I had to scramble around the apartment looking for a notebook with some empty pages in it. Of course, being a New Orleanian, I was late, and being me, I got lost. (Yes, I got lost in the French Quarter. Never mind that I walked those streets before most of my fellow marathoners were born, but we were supposed to meet at 916 North Peters, and I can never figure out where North Peters and South Peters start and stop. I had to stop at the tourist info center on Decatur Street, walk in and say, “This is embarrassing. I’m a Local but I’m lost, I can’t find this place.” Turns out it was at that little Jazz Heritage Park behind the Café du Monde. I had to walk by the statues, including MY statue, but I realized that you can’t live in the past and no one at this thing wants to hear about MY statue and my Quarter memories. (There used to be a fountain by Café du Monde, and some of us on drunken crazy nights used to put laundry soap in the fountain to make bubbles spill out. Guess that’s why they took the fountain out, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear about that.)

So I walk in about 1:30 and a nice young guy hands me a bottle of cold water in a New Orleans Writing Project koozie. Richard Louth, the lean gray haired easy going moderator, tells us how the writing marathon started—inspired by Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones. The idea is to write in spurts of seven or nine or ten minutes, read aloud and share, without compliments or criticism, to just say “Thank you” as each reader is done.

The longer session takes place in the summer, costs about a hundred bucks and lasts about five days. (This one was $16.82) Most of the thirty five or so people are from out of town, many of them are teachers. (So many are from Portland I almost feel I’m in an episode of Portlandia. OK, I only saw one episode, but I been to Portland. I get it. I tell all the Portland folks how lucky they are to have such good public transportation. I’m not sure if they appreciate their wonderful fast efficient light rail system. Maybe you have to do what we do: wait two hours for the bus, get to work in clothes dripping with sweat and smelling like funky stale dog, get written up for being late, then wait another hour and a half in the rain and the dark for the bus ride home. Maybe you have to experience the RTA on a daily basis— until you can appreciate the zip-zip-zip of the Portland system. But I digress. . . )

It’s not clear to me if any in the group are already writers or wanna be writers or published writers. (I think most of them are teachers.) Then Mr. Louth tells us that an important part of the program is to start calling ourselves Writers, and now we need to state, “I’m a Writer” to anyone sitting nearby. (Reminds me of that awkward old “Peace be with you thing” from the Catholic Church. And no, I haven’t been to church in a lotta years.)

The “I’m a Writer” thing seems to make folks happy, although I feel silly saying it. Maybe it’s because I was a newspaper reporter for three and a half years, or maybe it’s because I’ve been writing long enough and published in enough places that I shouldn’t have to say it. Then it dawns on me, we’re not saying it for others, we’re saying it for ourselves. OK, that’s a good idea, a good way to boost people’s confidence. I get it. (I still don’t have to say it. Some people love my stories and come to my readings and some don’t give a shit and some have never read them. I still write.)

 1) Jazz Park   916 North Peters  While at the Jazz Center building Mr. Louth directed us to pull out our notebooks and write for ten minutes. There was no time to read these out loud in such a large group. Here’s mine:

The Foster Home

She called herself Foster Mother. He didn’t really like her. She smelled like old root beer bottles. He wondered what he should call her. Not Mom. He decided not to think about his Old Life, that would make him Sad. He would think only about this New Life. There would be a New School and maybe New Friends.

Foster Father wasn’t home much and seemed kind of Mean anyway. There had to be something to like about this New Life. Foster Mother turned on the TV and sat back in her big chair. “Gonna watch my stories, then take a God Damned nap.”

“I don’t want to. I’m not tired.”

“Not you, kiddo. Me. I’m tired. All these God Damned kids wear me out. Gettin too old for this.” She closed her eyes. “The money’s good though. I get seven hundred bucks a kid.”

She’s going to sell me? He wondered. Who would buy a used seven year old boy who stayed back in second grade? Who would pay seven hundred dollars for me?

It’s not really fair, he thought. It’s not fair at all. He lay on the rug. It smelled like cat pee. He didn’t see a cat anywhere. “She probly sold the kitty too,” he mumbled. “I gotta figure out how to survive here. I gotta figure it out.”

 

2) Croissant D’or    617 Ursulines

We divided up into small groups of six or seven. They gave us maps of the Quarter with various places highlighted. I felt silly again, a local saddled with a bunch of clueless tourists. Couldn’t I just do this by myself? Spend the $16. 82 on booze and go to bars and write by myself? I decide to be a good sport and play along. We have a young moderator in our group, a charming smiling guy with long hair who suggests Croissant D’or on Ursulines.

After we introduced ourselves, we write for about twelve or thirteen minutes. I write two pieces. The first piece of flash fiction is loosely based on a time I was held up at gunpoint. The second piece is a blur of fiction and nonfiction about my days as a Quarter Street Kid. (Before the Dirty Kids, before the Gutter Punks, we were just Street Kids.)

I have many memories of sitting in this courtyard, listening to my pal Little Jimmy whining about how hard his life was. Jimmy is long gone but the place is still there, cheap enough that the locals can afford to buy the coffee and the soups and sandwiches. (I think they make their real money off of the gourmet French pastries that the habitués of the nearby boutique hotels buy.) I get an iced coffee—I have sixteen dollars and some change to make it through the day. I write one piece about an armed robbery—then start another piece and find myself lost in writing about some of my adventures with Jimmy Fontaine. I can see how the “no comments just say thank you and no criticism thing” can help the shyer, more sensitive types. (Having been a reporter, not only did I receive criticism from the editor, my colleagues and the public but I also got angry letters, had irate readers screaming at me over my scrambled eggs in breakfast joints, death threats, attempted physical assaults, and my reporter boyfriend—now my husband—was brutally attacked by a speed freak with an ax.)

Here’s the first story I wrote at Croissant D’or:  (I didn’t read this one out loud)

The Hold-up

He stuck a gun to her head and all she could think about was the rent—she was late on the rent and now she wouldn’t have to worry about it. The Entergy bill too—they were about to turn off the electricity. Now that didn’t matter either.

“I said, give it up. Girl. You don’t listen.”

“I only have two dollars. Two. Fucking Dollars. You should be robbing the Rich People on Wall Street. Not poor people like me.

“Two dollars, that’s all?” He stood there, young and confused and angry and nervous all at once. His partner on the corner got agitated.

“Hurry the fuck up, Big D. Get the money and let’s get outta here.”

Big D looked at her. “Give it up, then.

She threw the two dollars in the street and he scrambled to scoop them up. She didn’t give him her ID, which was scrunched deep into her other pocket.

He ran to meet his partner—turned around to look at her. “It’ll get better,” he said.

She walked back to Markey’s. “Somebody’ll buy me a drink, they hear this story. Somebody’ll buy me a fucking drink.”

Here’s the second story I wrote at Croissant D’or. (This is the one I read out loud.)

The Last Ride

Sometimes when no one was making any money panhandling on Dauphine or hustling on Bourbon we’d break up into groups of two or three and head out to the highway to do some interstate hitch-hiking—east to Mississippi or west to Texas—in a last act of desperation hoping lonely travelers would buy us truck stop meals. Little Jimmy whistled the tune of “Riders on the Storm” as we climbed into a van driven by a middle aged crew-cutted guy with a scar across his neck that looked like a zipper. Jimmy whispered, “There’s a killer on the road” and I smacked him to shut him up but hated myself for ignoring the funny feeling in my gut. My stomach betrayed me by growling louder with hunger.

Crew Cut didn’t talk—he just chewed gum and drove—chewed gum and drove— and Little Jimmy rolled his eyes while I looked out the window at the empty gas stations cheap motels greasy diners zipping past —and thought of all those cross country hitch-hiking days—Boston Denver Miami Cleveland—and wondered if this was my Last Ride. I was seventeen.

Everyone read their stories. They were well written and interesting to hear. Some wrote about the past and some wrote about sitting here in a New Orleans courtyard. No one else wrote fiction. The young long haired guy wrote about his wife’s experience teaching sixth grade in a New Orleans public school, which I could relate to, since I attended similar schools and taught special education for four and a half years. Keeping with the program’s focus of free writing and “no criticism” we all said, “Thank you” as each reader finished.

3) Harry’s Place      900 Chartres

I have a lot of memories in this bar, dating back to before Buddy and Cindy bought it and it was owned by Beachball Benny. I didn’t want to bore anyone with my life story, so I sat at the bar and chatted with a charming old duffer. (OK, I must admit. I was embarrassed walking into Harry’s with a bunch of composition-book carrying visitors.) The duffer and me chatted about Bob Smith—who used to work at Harry’s but now bartends over by BJ’s in da Bywater. Then we talked about the recent Times-Picayune article about the impending no-smoking ordinance, complete with a photo of harmonica player/ bartender Bobby Lewis—who this guy didn’t know. Then he says, “an ken you believe that ole Jimmy LaLa got quoted in that article? He’s so full a shit.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I was over in Florida after the storm and they quoted him in every article I read online and saw in the newspaper. Jimmy LaLa. Jimmy God damned Lala.”

I bought a well drink vodka cranberry and sat by myself at a window table. I got inspired to write about some of my old Quarter character cronies. Everyone huddled and wrote for about twenty minutes. When I was done, I joined several ladies at a table that were part of the group. One local—the rest from out of town. A bar patron crashed the party—chatted up the ladies—then one of his buddies wanted to play a game on him and pretend to get one of the lady’s phone numbers. I said to just play along. That led to a discussion among the women about how they can’t even go into a bar without guys trying to pick them up. I disagreed, said it was just part of the camaraderie of bars, and I grew up in bars and worked in bars and spent more than half my life in bars, at which point I realized, hey I’m a fuckin bar fly and no one wants to hear this.

Here’s the story I wrote in Harry’s Place: (I did read this out loud, but since it was noisy in there we didn’t read our stories until we got back to the Jazz Park.

You Remember Bob Cass, Dontcha?

“Bob Cass useta live upstairs”, the old guy said, adjusting his baseball cap. “He had that Jazz magazine, Climax? You remember? He lived upstairs from the Rue Royale Coffee Tea and Weed store rightchere on Royal Street. Back when rent was cheap—the seventies, the eighties. He sold weed too but they weren’t really rivals. All kinda folks useta come inna place lookin for em, buyin weed and reminisin. They knew him from back in the old BeBop days—the nine-teen fifties. Even the comedian Mort Saul come in one day lookin for em. Sure he did.”

He coughed, lit another cigarette and downed his whiskey. “You buyin? Gimme nother Jameson’s. So, I was tellin bout the Rue Royale. It’s a fuckin yuppie art gallery now. Useta have jazz music playin on the record player and all kinda folks comin in and out. Characters. All kinda characters. Crazy. It was some kinda crazy. If I’m lyin I’m dyin. One time these two ladies come in—they was lookin to buy them some weed. They was lookin for Bob Cass—the upstairs dealer—or Red Headed Ray—the downstairs dealer. Well Ray had alla these post cards for sale on this here rack. And one a them post cards had a famous pitcher a that broad—that pretty broad—who was it? Married Kennedy?”

“Joan?”

“No, no, not that Kennedy. The president. First she married JFK. Then he got shot, ya know. Jim Garrison had him some kinda trial about it. Then she married that Rich Greek, what’s his name?”

“Onassis?”

“Onassis. Yeah, you right. So anyway, these two ladies—they see that famous pitcher a the First Lady onna post card and they say, “Who that?” So Red Headed Ray’s girlfriend, Saratoga, she says, ‘That’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.’ Figurin ever-one inna whole wide world has heard a her. So one of em says, she says, “Kenny who?” and the other one, she says, “Oh I seen her—she live in da French Quartahs.”

He choked, guffawed, sputtered. “Saratoga—she loves to tell that story. Tells it alla time. Always gets a laugh. “Kenny who? Kenny who?”

4) Jackson Square

One of the members of the group said it was too noisy to write in there and asked if I wanted to join her in Jackson Square. We walked over to the Square, sat on a bench. I wrote a short piece about a long ago moment in that very spot.

Perry Como Said Hi To Me                      (I didn’t get to read this out loud)

One time I watched them film a Christmas TV Special in Jackson Square starring Perry Como. His music was just Old People’s Music to me—but I watched them film the show anyway.

Perry walked by. Me—-All skinny and scraggly, tough street kid sittin onna bench.

Him—some kinda big singer wearing a sweater making a dumb TV special.

He said “Hi.” I said “Hi” back to him. I thought of asking him for money—then thought better of it.

Decided to save the moment. Perry Como looked at me—treated me with respect—didn’t just walk right past me—but stopped and said “Hi” to me.

Me—a skinny straggly hungry ain’t-got-no-money ain’t-got-no- home but got-a-lotta-attitude street kid. I wasn’t invisible. Not to Perry Como.

Not sure why I never forgot that day. The day Perry Como said “Hi” to me.

Thanks, Perry.

5) Jazz Park   (outside table) 

        

Our group met back at the Jazz Park and ringed our chairs around a table and read some of our work. Once again, the stories were well written, the writers were very earnest, everyone was very nice. I am so grateful that the writing was pretty angst-free. (I don’t like-a lotta angsty. All that angsty make-a me feel kinda icky. But I digress.) Richard Louth read about when he first came to New Orleans, sat in a window at Molly’s on Decatur, writing and people watching. He was funny and affable and entertaining.

As we walked through the Quarter. I stopped to chat to folks we passed by: uniformed restaurant workers standing outside on a smoke break, panhandlers, falling down drunks. I spent so much of my life on these same streets, yet every time I pass by I see or hear or smell something new.

Some of the participants had cars so we piled into them to go to Big Class on St. Claude, where we had free pizza and wine. This was part of the Pizza and Poetry Project, the pizzas each had poems written by elementary school kids. (Good poems, too!)

I think the writing marathon is a great space/format/idea for beginning writers, shy writers, nervous writers, and for people who have never read their work out loud in front of others. For me? I need a tougher workshop with lots of constructive criticism. (I was a reporter, I can take it! I’ve been screamed at about everything from school board reports to murder trials.) Criticism isn’t so bad. Some of my fondest memories are when I wrote for the AVA in Mendocino County, Northern California—and The Editor would scream at me over the intercom that connected his office to the newsroom: “If the movie is so God Damned bad, why is the review so long?”

(And once my husband told me that a character in a short story I was writing was “too annoying.” “He’s supposed to be annoying,” I said. “Yeah but he’s too fucking annoying. You’re being too cute with it. You’re going too far.” He was right. As a reporter he interviewed Jessica Mitford, author of “The American Way of Death”. She told him, “Kill your darlings.” “What?” he asked. “Murder your darlings. Get rid of any unnecessary words in your writing. Or anything you’re too crazy about that you like too much.” That, and the fact that she could read his notes upside down, truly amazed him. (There’s some controversy as to who originally said “Kill your darlings” or “murder your darlings” but it’s sage advice. Advice that we all need to hear.)

The idea of just saying “Thank you” after each person reads is too much like the “Everyone gets a trophy, everyone gets a prize” bit. I do like Natalie Goldberg’s book, “Writing Down the Bones”—there’s great ideas in there for teaching writing, holding writing workshops, or just getting started. And I do believe that just writing and writing and writing and letting your first draft flow without interruption is really the way to go. (Save the rewriting and editing for later. That’s how I write stories. Write. Write. Write. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite.) And I like the idea of the whole project. I want to support writers and writing. (Warning to participants: when you do a public reading, the audience may or may not be supportive. They may be loud. They may be drunk. They may laugh in the right places. They may laugh in the wrong places. Reading for an audience is tough, but I get through it by reminding myself that it’s not nearly as hard as being a comedian. Now that’s hard! Say something that’s supposed to be funny and they just sit there? Whoa baby, where’s the tissues, I’ma gonna cry.)

But I don’t have much money, so if I don’t sign up for the workshop next time, I could spend the whole $16.82 on drinks. (Three vodka cranberries plus tip—or two vodka cranberries and a better tip. I used to be a bartender so I better give them a good tip.)

The next day I received an email telling me that my short story “Half Moon Bay” is going to be published in Fiction on the Web. I get another email, asking if I want to sign up for the Summer New Orleans Writing Marathon. (This one is longer and costs $150.)

No way can I afford to pay for the workshop and take five days off of work. I need the money. I got to eat. I got to pay rent. And I got to buy those vodka cranberries.

Keep writing. But don’t get too sensitive about it. Sometimes you gotta kill your darlings, dahlin.

************

Greater New Orleans Writing Project:

http://gnowp.org/

New Orleans Writing Marathon: (Registration for the July 13th-17th Summer Retreat is Now Open:

http://www.writingmarathon.com/

Who Really Said “You Should Kill Your Darlings”? Slate Magazine Article:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/10/18/_kill_your_darlings_writing_advice_what_writer_really_said_to_murder_your.html

Jessica Mitford’s Obituary in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/1996/07/24/arts/jessica-mitford-incisive-critic-american-ways-britishupbringing-dies-78.html

 

Mitford. Jessica. “The American Way of Death.” Fawcett. 1963.

Mitford, Jessica. “The Making of a Muckraker.” Michael Joseph. 1979.

Mitford, Jessica. “The American Way of Death Revisited.” Vintage Reprints. 2000.

At BJ’s Lounge, Smoking Cigarettes Keeps the ‘Atmosphere’ Going:

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/smoking_ban_bjs_lounge.html

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Picture Credit: Pixabay Copyright Free Images.

 

 

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The Kickball Game

 

 

Copyright © 2013 by Sara Jacobelli

In our neighborhood, kickball was king. This was before video games, cable TV, home computers, iPhones, iPads, cell phones. We had TV but it was nothing but Divorce Court and soap operas in the daytime, what my grandmother called, her “Stories.” The good stuff was on at night, like Star Trek and Garrison’s Gorillas.

We played kickball in the side street, and we played all the time. All day in the summer, unless we got invited to the Tattaglia’s to swim in their pool. They were the only ones in our neighborhood who had a pool. It took up every inch of their back yard. You stepped from their back stoop and there you were, in the pool. Mr. Tattaglia supposedly made enough money in his construction business to move out of the neighborhood into one of the nearby suburbs, but the Tattaglias seemed content to stay here on the East Side, where they could lord it over the rest of us.

We played after school, too, and stayed out until the street lights came on. I was a good kicker, but my strong point was my running. I was a tomboy and could run faster than most boys, never mind the girls.

Foster Square was the street we played on. There was no way we could play anything on busy East Main Street. On Foster Square the rules were simple; first base was a sewer grate, second base a metal garbage can lid, third base another sewer grate, and home plate another garbage can lid. You had to merely touch a base to claim it. You could either touch a kid when you caught the ball, or throw the ball at him or her to knock them out. If you broke a window you had to pay for it, while everyone else ran away screaming.

There were quite a few large Catholic families, so we usually had plenty of kids for both teams. If we were short and needed a kid, someone would even knock on the door and ask Danny Fritz to play.

Red headed Danny was an Only Child. His parents were older, never went bowling or attended barbecues. They lived in one of the few one family houses on our block, at the very end of the dead end street. His mother never went to Tupperware parties, Bingo games at the Church Hall, or wedding or baby showers. His father never went to Paolo’s bar on the corner, or joined in any poker games.

Danny was two years behind me in school. We all assumed he was spoiled because he didn’t have any brothers or sisters, and his mother dressed him in cute little matching outfits, which the other kids made fun of. “He looks like Little Lord Fauntleroy,” my mother said one time, as Danny’s mother walked him past our apartment building. Everyone else walked the twelve blocks to Beardsley School and back with a gaggle of friends. Danny was the only one escorted by his mother, who held his hand crossing the street. One drop of rain and his feet were shod in huge rubber boots while his mother held an umbrella over his head.

I told my friends the “Fauntleroy” name and it stuck. After that, everyone called him Fauntleroy. His mother’s name was Ethel and his father’s name was Herbert, which for some reason caused all of us to roll on the ground in hysterics. Danny’s bright red hair and painfully pale skin didn’t help matters any. He was weak and skinny and terrified that we’d make fun of him. Whichever team got stuck with Danny would insist on making a deal, such as two extra points for being handicapped by the weird kid.

One day we were short a kid, and it was my turn to go get Danny, the Extra Kid. By now, we all called him Fauntleroy. I banged loudly on the door.

“HEY, FAUNTLEROY! LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY!!!” I screeched.

“Go ahead, Danny. Go play with your friends,” Ethel Fritz said, gently pushing him out the door. He looked so scared I thought he was going to pee his pants.

“You guys want me today?” he whispered.

“Yeah, come on!” I grabbed him roughly. Then I thought of something.

“You think your mom would give us some snacks?” Danny didn’t say anything, but Old Ethel Fritz heard that one, and she shuffled inside. I dragged him down the street to the game.

“Listen, kid,” I lowered my voice. “Everyone here’ll be nicer to you if your Mom gives us some snacks and drinks.”

His pale face turned red and his nose started to run. “OK. She will, I know she will.”

It was my turn to kick, and I forgot about Danny. I kicked the ball hard and it went flying down the street. Greg Riccio clambered after it, and I smoothly made it to second base.

Our team won. Danny was on the other team and was useless, as usual. He went back in his house to go to the bathroom three times. He couldn’t throw, catch, kick, or run. He didn’t even try to defend himself when anyone made fun of him. He just hung his head and sniffled softly. We didn’t feel sorry for him. He was just there.

Old Ethel Fritz came through with our snacks. She even set up a little card table. She brought out a pitcher of grape Kool-Aid, and a stack of plastic smelling red and blue cups. She piled a plate high with Oreos. She even included napkins, though none of the kids bothered to take one.

“Hey, are you ‘dopted’?” Tina Tattaglia asked, her mouth full of Oreos. At thirteen, she was the oldest kickball player. She kicked, threw, and ran like a girl. But everyone had to be nice to the Tattaglias, because summer was coming and they had that inviting pool.

“No.” Danny hung his head and took a tiny bite of an Oreo. I noticed that his skin was so pale, you could see his blue veins protruding.

“What’s ‘dopted” mean?” Kevin Ruggerio asked. He bounced the kickball rhythmically against the stoop.

“It means,” I said, “that your parents aren’t your real parents. Your real parents didn’t want you, and they gave you away.”

Danny started crying.

“Well,” I added. “Your parents are really, really old, so they probably couldn’t make a baby.”

Everyone laughed. “Yuck, Ethel and Herbert DOING IT! That’s gross, Carmen,” Greg said.

Danny looked at all the laughing kids. He ran back home as fast as he could.

“Wow! Look at him go!” Tina said, gulping some Kool-Aid.

“Yeah,” I added. “My team’s lucky he didn’t run that fast when he was playing.”

That got a few laughs. Kevin swiped some cigarettes from his mother, and we hung out on the Riccio’s stoop, smoking, until the street lights came on.

*****

I didn’t see Danny much after that. He was two grades lower than me and he was absent a lot. Then my mother came home from work with a bit of gossip.

“Mrs. Fritz came in today. She said her son has been sick, in and out of the hospital.” “Oh, no, Fauntleroy is sick. He probably has a cold and she brings him to the hospital.”

I laughed. My younger brothers and sister joined in, chanting, “Fauntleroy! Fauntleroy!”

“Well, it sounds like it’s more serious than that.” My mother lit a Lucky Strike. She sat at the kitchen table reading the classified ads in the newspaper. “But, we have our own troubles. If they close the cleaners, I’ll need a new job.”

“”I’m gonna knock on Danny’s door to see how he is,” I said, running out the back door.

“Carmen, just leave them alone,” my mother said, absent mindedly.

No one answered the Fritz’s door anyway.

*****

A few months later, my mother showed me the obituary in the Bridgeport Post. I read it out loud: “Daniel Joseph Fritz, age eleven, died of childhood leukemia early Saturday morning, after battling the disease for two years. He is survived by his parents, Herbert and Ethel (Gunther) Fritz. Services will be held at the German Lutheran Church on Boston Avenue.”

“Hmmm,” my mother said, sipping her coffee. “German. No wonder they never fit in.”

“What’s wrong with being German?” I asked.

“Nothing. It’s just that, well, everyone around here is Italian. Or Irish. Or even Polish.”

“I didn’t know he was eleven, like me. I mean, he was only in fourth grade, and he was so scrawny.”

“He probably missed a lot of school, being so sickly. Thank God you kids are all so healthy. Healthy as horses.”

“I’m gonna go play kickball,” I said as I ran out the door. Before I joined the game, I ran to the end of the street to look at Danny’s house. It looked empty. A bright red and white “For Sale” sign was planted in the neat front lawn

. ******************************

 

Author’s note:

This story was previously published in The Story Shack. http://thestoryshack.com/drama-stories/sara-jacobelli-the-kickball-game/      

Garrison’s Gorilla’s was an American TV series that was on during the 1967-68 season, loosely based on the movie The Dirty Dozen.

(And I’m sure you’ve heard of Star Trek!)

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The Sound of Tinny Speakers

My latest flash fiction piece was published in 50-Word Stories:

Eviction notice; drive-in nights.

Swings and slides til the sky darkened, the movie started.

Feet crunching gravel to Poppy’s ancient Cadillac, a grand ship sailing the seven seas.

Joanie in pajamas, gulping hot dog and Coke, asked, “Is this our home now?”

Pillows, blankets, brothers, laundry, in the back seat.

©  Copyright 2014 by Sara Jacobelli   (Flash Fiction)

The trick here is that the stories have to be exactly 50 words, not “50 words or less.” So go ahead, write one!

http://fiftywordstories.com/page/2/

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Photo Credit: “Drive-in speakers are now memorabilia items.” (Photo from Willard Library (9PC-83)

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