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I’ll Have Avocado Toast, Iced Coffee and a Lobotomy!

Coffee Milkshake Drink Food Cream Sweet Be

Fiction by Sara Jacobelli © Copyright 2018

NYC Midnight  Short Story Challenge 2018 Heat 71

Genre: Comedy     Topic: Persistence     Character: a Stenographer



A scatterbrained court stenographer moves from Boston to New Orleans and encounters unusual difficulties at her new job. She insists on getting “talk therapy” from a curmudgeonly psychiatrist who prefers writing prescriptions to conducting psychoanalysis.

“I’m afraid that talk therapy isn’t in fashion anymore, Ms. Schadenfreude.  I know you’ve seen it on television and in the movies. Nowadays we mostly prescribe pills. There are some lovely medicines available. Oh yes, Modern Science is wonderful.  So innovative. They can cure practically anything these days with a little pill. What’s that? A session on the couch? I don’t even have a couch, but I suppose. I suppose you could sit in a chair and we could talk. You do have insurance?”

Ms. Ursula Schadenfreude, a court stenographer with the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, started coming for sessions once a week.  She was very insistent about receiving an hour of “talk therapy.” She was thirty-four but looked and acted younger, bouncing around the room like a nosy sparrow.  Each week she dyed her hair a different fluorescent color: blue or hot pink or green or yellow, which contrasted with her court-lady type skirt suits. Dr. Bloom found her nose ring distracting. Sometimes she took off her blazer and unbuttoned the top two or three buttons of her blouse, exposing a tiny tattoo of either a unicorn or a mermaid. This made him nervous.

He was desperate for new younger patients since many of his old regulars had died or moved away. Ms. Schadenfreude was a government employee and came adequately insured. He lost a considerable sum in the stock market crash of 2008 and couldn’t afford not to take a new patient. He perfected a series of concerned looks, which he practiced in the mirror.

Dr. Theodore Bloom, who preferred to just write prescriptions, daydreamed through the sessions. He wished Ms. Schadenfreude had a more exciting life or more compelling difficulties. Her speech patterns irritated him.  She had a habit of ending each sentence on a high pitched note as if it were a question.  I don’t like my job? But one of the ADAs is kind of sexy? He’s married and has three bratty kids? He recalled a discussion on NPR on the proclivities of modern speech. This self-deprecating habit was called “uptalk.” According to the commentator many contemporary young women speak this way, which could lead to less success in the workplace. He felt it best not to mention this to Ms. Schadenfreude, who did not appear to take criticism lightly.

His dream was to have a practice composed entirely of wealthy disturbed patients with exotic mental disorders, like that Sybil woman with multiple personalities.  He would cure her. She would marry an orthopedist or plastic surgeon from Tulane and produce two blonde children with good teeth who would be sent to the best private schools. He would write a book, which would become a Hollywood movie, promote it on the Dr. Phil show. He pictured himself sitting on a couch onstage, pouring a glass of water and laughing with Phil and Oprah and Dr. Oz, more famous than Freud or Jung. Professors would assign his book to earnest psychiatric students, who would devour his dazzling and insightful prose. He would retire, travel to the Riviera. Mrs. Bloom always said she wanted to travel.

“Are you listening, Dr. B?” Ms. Schadenfreude took off her shoes, rested her stockinged feet on a little stool. She was improvising a couch. Dr. Bloom found this rude. He fantasized sending her off for shock therapy.

He frowned, concentrating on the Furrowed Eyebrow look. His eyebrows resembled two friendly, furry caterpillars. He recently came up with the idea to take photos of each of his “wise psychiatrist” expressions, putting them together in a handbook. Maybe he could sell it at psychiatric conventions.

He feigned interest while checking his Facebook account. He typed at a glacial pace, using only his index fingers.  An old college girlfriend, Eloise, had contacted him. She was getting divorced.  He remembered her as a pleasant, buxom, not-very-bright girl who smelled like lilacs. A lovely kisser. Dr. Bloom was intrigued.

“Ms. Schadenfreude, you mentioned you have a coworker who talks too much and aggravates you. Sometimes, when there are qualities about another person that we find offensive, those qualities—traits, as it were, are to be found deep within ourselves. Therefore, a conflict with a coworker, may very well be a conflict within yourself. Now, what is this person’s first name?”

“Mabel. Well, I call her Mabel.”

“Of course, for privacy’s sake, you may give her a pseudonym. Certainly. Now, this Mabel,”

“I call her Mabel, but I don’t know her real name. She has Stenograph Model 6600 stamped on her side.”

“Many young ladies have tattoos these days. Mrs. Bloom certainly doesn’t, but I noticed that you have a tattoo of a well, something, on your left, well, breast, as it were. Not that I was staring or anything, but when you unbuttoned the top of your blouse, it was there and I noticed. Ahem.”

“Mabel is not a person. She’s my stenotype machine.”

“Your what?”

“My stenotype machine. The God-Damned machine I’m chained to all day in the courtroom. Then I have to drag the damn thing home with me at night.”

“Your stenotype machine talks to you.” Dr. Bloom tried out his Mildly Shocked expression.

“Yes, she talks to me.” Ms. Schadenfreude wiggled her toes. Dr. Bloom looked at the stocking-trapped toes, toenails painted purple. It seemed almost intimate, seeing this young woman’s feet.

“Well, of course. Ahem. In our modern, disconnected society, it’s not unusual to feel we have a connection with our computers, our cell phones, our cars. Our TVs. Even our microwaves and blenders. This is a symptom of-”

“No, no, that’s not what I’m talking about. The fucking stenotype machine actually talks to me.” Ms. Schadenfreude sat up, put her shoes on, smoothed her hair. “Where’re my glasses?”

Dr. Bloom pointed at her glasses with his pencil. They were on his desk, perched precariously on his nameplate.

Ms. Schadenfreude stood up, straightened her skirt. “My stenotype machine talks to me? Every morning, in my office when I have coffee and avocado toast?  Before the judges and lawyers show up? Well, I say office-but it’s nothing like this.” She swept her arms around the room. “This is sweet. Do you really have all these degrees?” She moved to the window and watched a Poydras Street traffic jam ten floors below. She considered whether or not to tell him she was afraid to drive, that she preferred anyone in the driver’s seat but her.

Dr. Bloom looked around the room at his framed diplomas, the book-lined wooden shelves, the plants and the paintings. “Mrs. Bloom decorated my office. She calls the theme Understated and Tasteful.”

“Listen, Bloom. My so-called office. It used to be a closet.  So I sit in there every morning, drink my God-Damned coffee with Mabel.  Sometimes she’s in a good mood and sometimes she’s in a downright shitty mood. So-”

“And who is Mabel? Your coworker?” Dr. Bloom tried on his Alert and Interested expression. He peeked at Facebook. Eloise posted a photo. Not bad. He wondered how many years ago it had been taken. If she had put on any weight since then. Mrs. Bloom was a little on the heavy side.

“Quit playing Solitaire on that damned computer and look at me, Bloom!”

He fingered his gray beard, which he grew years ago, in imitation of Freud.

“You’re not, like, listening. MABEL is my stenotype machine. I don’t mind that she talks to me. I don’t know anyone here, I moved down from Boston in September. She was pleasant at first. Good morning. You forgot to take me home with you on Friday. I missed you over the week-end. That skirt looks cute on you. I like your new haircut. The purple highlights are very flattering. We bonded because we have a lot in common. We both married and divorced young. We both have over-bearing parents. We both have dead-end jobs. We both have a little trouble holding our liquor. We both have that thing where we’re afraid of holes, that phobia?”

“Trypophobia. Yes, that’s fascinating. It’s most likely a primal fear, stemming from-”

“But now she’s getting snippy and sarcastic. Saying shit like You’re getting some lines under your eyes and You’re showing too much cleavage and I don’t blame Jake for dumping you. If I wanted to hear shit like that I’d hang out in the lunchroom with the court clerks and bailiffs. It’s a middle school cafeteria in there. Yesterday-you know what that bitch said? She said I heard you got 86’d from the Jupiter Lounge for banging the manager’s boyfriend. You should have more respect for yourself than to screw some guy you just met in a bar. And you didn’t even get a free dinner out of him.

Dr. Bloom tried out a new facial expression. This one he dubbed, I’m Fascinated.

“I said, ‘Listen Mabel. Why don’t you just shut up?’” Ms. Schadenfreude moved her chair closer to Dr. Bloom’s desk. He inhaled a strong whiff of tobacco mixed with perfume. She was an attractive woman, but the type who would have been labeled Hysterical in the 1950s. They would have given her a lobotomy and been done with her. Dr. Bloom had an epiphany: he was practicing psychiatry in the wrong era. The fifties was the golden age of the profession; strait jackets, mausoleum-sized asylums, mysterious operations.

He wished she had three distinct personalities. What was that movie with Joanne Woodward? It was better than the Sybil movie. Seems the woman had one personality that was all nice and housewifey, sort of like Mrs. Bloom. One personality was what they used to call a “loose woman” although nowadays they don’t use such terms. She certainly seemed more fun than the housewife one. Then what was the third personality? A child? A murderess? He couldn’t remember. Perhaps Mrs. Bloom could borrow the movie from the library and they could watch it.

“So I told Mabel that I couldn’t like, throw her in the Mississippi River, because I need this God-Damned job. But if she keeps it up. I’ll kill her. I will. I’m talking murder, Bloomie. I’ll take a hammer and smash the shit out of her. I’ll get a job waiting tables. Fuck my student loans. Give her remains to one of those scrappers with a shopping cart. The bitch deserves it. She’s giving me carpel tunnel.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way. Our session time is over, but I can write you a prescription.”

“Just gimme some Xanax.” Ms. Schadenfreude stood up and grabbed her Hello Kitty purse. She took out her pink cellphone and checked her text messages. Dr. Bloom found today’s young women very confusing. They still liked stuffed animals and played with toys, but drank with abandon and swore like sailors. They acted flirty but could be dangerous. In Dr. Bloom’s day, if a lady went to a hotel room with a gentleman, they both knew what they wanted. Nowadays everything was sexual harassment. He sneaked another peek at Eloise’s photo. Very classy.

Dr. Bloom gave her the prescription and shook her tiny, sweaty hand. Her fingernails were decorated with elaborate press-on blue-green peacocks. “Don’t mix these with alcohol. It’s not safe.” He employed his Concerned Parent expression. He felt an unexpected moment of loss. What would his life be like if he and Mrs. Bloom had a daughter this age?

“These things go down great with Vodka and Red Bull.” Ms. Schadenfreude slipped into her blazer. “Same time, next week, right?”

“Are you sure you want to continue with talk therapy?”

“Every week, as long as my insurance pays for it. I’ve got all sorts of sordid secrets you’d love to hear. I like you. I feel we have a connection.  I think.” She touched Dr. Bloom on the arm. She lowered her voice. “I think Mabel is in cahoots with the copy machine. The two of them are plotting against me.  I know that sounds a little paranoid-”

Dr. Bloom tried out his newest expression, the Caring Country Doctor. “It does sound a bit, exaggerated, perhaps?”

Ms. Schadenfreude shook her head. “That copy machine never liked me. His name is Ralph. First day I worked there, Ralph accused me of being anti-Semitic, because I called a lawyer a shyster. Me? I’ve never been prejudiced against anyone in my life, my parents sent me to Montessori school. My best friend in pre-K was half Mexican. I think. Or maybe half Japanese.”

He opened the door and gently escorted Ms. Schadenfreude to the lobby. “Then perhaps a few more sessions, my dear. And we’ll get it all sorted out, between you and Mabel and ah, Ralph.”

“Oh, no Doc, not just a few more sessions. I’m planning on coming here every week. Forever.” She raised her voice. “Do me a favor. Buy a fucking couch.”

Dr. Bloom patted her on the shoulder, winked at the capable Mrs. Periwinkle, his receptionist. She rolled her eyes. “I’ll see what I can do, Miss Schadenfreude.” He returned to his office, settled into his comfy chair, leaned back, closed his eyes and thought about Eloise. She mentioned coming to New Orleans for her daughter’s wedding. Perhaps they could meet at Café du Monde for café au lait and beignets.

On her way out, Ms. Schadenfreude said to Mrs. Periwinkle, “His wife’s got her hands full with that old coot.”

“Oh?” Mrs. Periwinkle shuffled through a stack of mail on her desk. “I don’t believe Dr. Bloom ever married.”

“But he said-” Ms. Schadenfreude shook her head. “Never mind. I need an iced coffee.” She headed towards the elevator.


“You’re a quack.” His computer Charlie snapped at him. “All you do is take people’s money and nod your head. A total phony. You drive a Lexus you can’t afford just to impress your neighbors. You’ve got no idea what it’s like to really work, like carpenters and dishwashers and garbage men and factory workers. Get a real job.”

Reginald the printer chimed in. “She’d be better off going to happy hour and boring her bartender with her troubles. She’d have a lot more fun for a lot less money.”

Dr. Bloom sighed. He knew they were right.



Author’s Note:

This was my Round One entry in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2018. This was the first time I entered the contest.

For each round , you are divided into heats (groups) Each heat is assigned a genre, a topic and a character. 

For Round One, you have eight days to write a 2500 word (maximum) story. The top five in each heat are chosen to proceed to Round Two. If you make it to Round Two, you are assigned to a new heat and receive a new genre, topic and character, and have three days to write a 2,000 word (maximum) story. The top five are chosen to go into Round Three, where you are assigned your final heat and genre, topic and character, and must write a 1,500 word (maximum) story. Each heat has about 35 entrants and each contest gets over 4,000 entrants The competition is tough!

I didn’t make it to Round Two. Each story will receive feedback. I suspect my problem was that my story didn’t really fit into the comedy genre. There’s a few funny lines, but it’s not really a comedy. I found it to be very challenging: to write in the Genre of Comedy, the Topic of Persistence, and the Character of a Stenographer.  I’ll see what the judges say when I get my written feedback.  If you’re up to the challenge, check out their website. You might want to enter one of their contests. They also have a Screenwriting Challenge and a Flash Fiction Challenge.



UPDATE 3/29/2018: Here is the feedback from the judges. (Each judge is identified by a 4 digit number). 

Dear Sara Jacobelli:

The feedback from the judges on your Short Story Challenge 2018 submission from the first round is below.  We hope you find the feedback helpful and congratulations again on rising to the challenge!


”I’ll Have Avocado Toast, Iced Coffee and a Lobotomy!”


WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {1794}  I love that the woman in this piece talks to her typewriter and that they have the same issues. That is a really funny concept. I also liked the doctor trying on his different facial expressions.  {1842}  I like the small details sprinkled throughout about Ms. Scadendfreude. The dialogue was snappy. It was a fast paced story with a clever twist at the end.  {1807}  Intriguing title, amusing concept, and interesting characters. Dr. Bloom is especially engaging. I love how his internal asides indicate a personality who is disturbed and harbors a deep animosity toward his patients. The series of “looks” he gives throughout the story are clever and spot on. I appreciate the mild irony of the ending…


WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {1794}  While very funny, I felt that each of the characters were lacking goals. It didn’t seem that the woman really wanted anything, other than to be heard and I wasn’t sure what Dr. Bloom wanted- perhaps to not do his job? I think there are ways to make their goals stronger.  {1842}  Psychiatrists are not the same as psychologists, so I didn’t find the aspect of the psychiatrist performing talk therapy instead of medication as very believable. Also, if Ms. Schadenfreude was seeing hallucinations, she would not be prescribed Xanax, which is used to treat panic attacks and anxiety. I also think the story could have worked better if we could have either stayed in Ms. Schadenfreude’s head or the doctor’s head instead of jumping to multiple POVs.  {1807}  …Even if the ending feels a bit easy and obvious. While there are more than a few lively insights into personality, hypocrisy, and lunacy throughout the narrative, the thrust of the story feels oversimplified and slightly glib. Ms. Schadenfreude is, at the conceptual level, a promising character, but the story renders her in two-dimensions. Overall, the comedy is too broad and on-the-nose to spark more than light chuckles. It feels a bit forced and the dialogue is fairly standard.




I agree with most of this feedback. . . but attention Judge 1794: It’s a stenotype machine, not a typewriter!  She’s a stenographer, remember? Judge 1842 called my dialogue “snappy” but Judge 1807 called it “fairly standard.”  I do agree that I should have gone deeper into the characters’ motivations, but I had an eight day deadline to meet and this is what I came up with.  And here’s a link to an article I found in Psychology Today: Judge 1842 is not entirely correct, psychiatrists do sometimes provide talk therapy:


Photo Credit: “Morning Bird Photo: Iced Coffee.” Pixabay Copyright-Free Images.



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Bartleby Snopes Issue Number 15!

My short story, “We’re Ready When You Are” won fifth place in the 8th Annual Dialogue Only Short Story Contest and has been published in Bartleby Snopes Magazine Issue Number 15. You can purchase a print copy, an e-copy, or read a downloadable pdf:



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8th Annual Bartleby Snopes Dialogue Only Short Story Contest!





My short story, “We’re Ready When You Are” won fifth place in the 2016 Bartleby Snopes Dialogue Only Short Story Contest. It was tricky, but fun, to write dialogue without using any tag lines, (such as he said/she said) or descriptive passages.


You will be able to read all of the stories, from first to fifth place, in the magazine, which comes out in January 2017. It will be available for purchase as both a print magazine and in electronic format.







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Da Winnah! Da Winnah! Da Winnah!

Award, Prize, Ribbon, Winner, Win

You can read the first, second, and third place stories on Finn McCool’s website:                 http://finnmccools.com/shortstory

I won first prize in Finn McCool’s Short Story Contest this year!  My story is called, “The Legend of Salty Charlie” and is a bar room tale of legend, lore, the sea, dreams, desire, and some bullshit too.

I certainly enjoyed writing it, and am only sad that Tree, the bartender at Iggy’s—who appears briefly, in the story— is no longer with us in this world. (How fun it would be to walk in the bar and tell Tree not only did I give him a few lines in the story, but that I won!)

I won a keg of Guinness!  Which I can drink at the bar: actually, it’s a well card giving me 80 pints of Guinness at Finn’s, so no matter how broke I am, I can invite my mates for a pint!

The story is published on Finn McCool’s website, along with the second and third prize winners. It will also be published in an upcoming print anthology: the 2015 Finn McCool’s Short Story Collection, and in their newsletter!

2nd prize: The Streets of Purgatory by Beth Sherwood

3rd prize: Ruse by Harry Bruns


Finn McCool’s voted one of top ten Irish pubs in the world outside of Ireland:


Finn McCool’s voted best Irish bar in New Orleans:



Picture Credit: “First Prize,” copyright free image. Pixabay.

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Enter Finn McCool’s Irish Pub 2015 Short Story Contest!

Stories must be between 500-2,000 words

Any genre

Cool prizes!


Clover, Shamrocks, Irish, Day, Luck

You must use these 10 words:











What are you waiting for? I’m working on my story now!


Email your entry by noon on March 7, 2015  to:


and also bring a copy to the pub!

Winners will be announced on St. Patrick’s Day!

In the meantime, stop in and have a pint.

Finn McCool’s Irish Pub

3701 Banks Street

New Orleans, LA



Picture Credit: “Shamrock.”Pixabay Free Images



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First Place Winner in the Drunk Monkeys Summer 2014 Short Fiction Contest!

My short story, “Hustler Boy” won 1st place in the Drunk Monkeys Literary Magazine’s Summer 2014 Short Fiction Contest. I won $50, publication on the website, and publication in a print anthology. The second and third place winners are also published on the website.

2nd Place: “Dictionary of a Timid Lust for Life” by Moneta Goldsmith

3rd Place: “Welcome Back to Waldo County” by Allie Marini Batts

Animal, Animals, Jungle, Lion, Elephant

Here’s a link to the website so you can read all three stories, and check out the other articles. They also feature nonfiction, poetry, book and film reviews, along with articles about popular, (and not-so-popular) culture.


Picture Credit: “Animals-Aminals.” Pixabay copyright free images. CC NonCommercial ShareAlike.


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Along for the Ride

This story tied for 2nd place in the Finn McCool’s 2012 Short Story Contest. The story is included in the print collection, edited by Stephen Rea, “Finn McCool’s Short Story Entries 2010-2012.” It is available for purchase for $15 at Finn McCool’s Irish Pub, 3701 Banks Street, NOLA. (All proceeds benefit St. Baldrick’s Charity to fight childhood cancer).

We had to use the following ten words in our stories:













Published with permission of Finn McCool’s Irish Pub, New Orleans.


Along for the Ride ©  Copyright  2012  by Sara Jacobelli  (First printing rights Finn Mcool’s Irish Pub New Orleans)



I ended up driving away from Round Valley heading into the mountains with Dixon, wild-eyed speed-freak sitting by the open window blasting Zeppelin on the tape-deck smoking Camels and tweaking-tweaking-tweaking, and Winter Hawk, seventeen year old Wailacki Indian kid quiet in the backseat.  Dixon’s plan was to shoot Winter Hawk for stealing ten grand worth of our plants. I was supposed to be the driver, not the shooter, still, Dixon wasn’t talking tomfoolery, he was planning murder. I had no way out.

 Dixon’s idea was to convince Winter Hawk to look at a site for guerilla growing, next season he can be partners with us. We’d provide the indica starts. The kid never knew we solved the mystery, we’re on to him and the rag-tag bunch of Indian and white teenage rip-off punks calling themselves the Mountain Posse.

It wasn’t hard to convince Winter Hawk to come with us. He was just hanging around the Hudda, watching TV, bored. He’s got that fatalistic attitude a lot of the guys on the res have. They ain’t scared of shit. Unlike me. I was scared.


Dixon stared out the window with a vacant expression on his face and bobbed his head in this annoying way to Zeppelin. I was lucky he wasn’t playing air guitar. It wouldn’t have been so scary if I hadn’t known about the hot Smith and Wesson in the pocket of his baggy army coat. His skinny body and pop eyes and stupid fatigues made him look like an escaped POW.

“I’m sick of bullshit rock.” They both groaned, but I stuck Miles Davis in the deck, Kind of Blue. Dixon passed a joint, some of the shit that we grew last season, that strong, sweet, sticky herb that put Mendocino County on the map. “Make sure there’s no roaches in the ash-tray, Kelly hates that.”

Miles. We saw him in Oakland, what year was it? Had to be at least five years ago, 90 or 91. Coming back on the Bay Bridge I was so banjaxed on Ecstasy and Jack Daniels I lost control of our 69 Chevy and almost ran into the concrete blocks that hold up the bridge. Me and Kelly had the same thought at the same time: I’m gonna die right now but at least I saw Miles.


“Can’t you drive any faster Jake?”
Never mind Miles, I had to deal with Dixon. I knew there was a chance he’d change his mind, with his famously short attention span. We drove along the road drinking Budweisers and Winter Hawk spotted a bear.
“Why isn’t that bear hibernating?” I asked.


Winter Hawk bummed a Camel off Dixon. “The bears don’t hibernate here. The snow only lasts a week or two. Been hunting up here with my uncles and cousins since I was a little kid.”


“Too bad Kelly didn’t see it.”
“Kelly likes bears?”
“Shit. Any animals. Saw a bald eagle up here, the day after her mother died. Kelly went nuts, saying it was her mother’s spirit soaring to heaven.”
“A bald eagle. Kelly’s cool.” I never heard Winter Hawk talk much. “My grandma brought me to her house a coupla times, me an my brother. You know, my little brother that got shot in the leg? She tutored us in reading. My grandma likes her. She doesn’t like much Wasichu either.”



“What’s Wasichu?” Dixon interrupted the kid’s reverie.
“White people, it’s what jines call white people.”
“What’s jines?”
Winter Hawk finished his beer. “It’s what Indians call each other. What do white folks call each other?”
“White trash. Except for Dixon. We call him Rich White Surfer Boy.”

“Will you idiots shut up?” Dixon pulled out Miles and shoved in the Stones. He turned up the volume, tapping his fingers in an unruly rhythm against the side of the car as his right hand hung out the window. He fingered the gun in his pocket with his left hand.
“We’ll be in Mad River if I drive much farther.”

Dixon ignored me and turned around to glare at Winter Hawk. “Your grandmother ever teach you it was wrong to steal?”
Dixon, careless and garrulous, when he’s wasted words are effluent.
The kid opened another Bud for me and one for himself. “Hey, gypsies can steal, why not Indians? Anyhow, I was telling about Kelly.”
I turned down the volume so I could hear him.

“That was four years ago. We was just kids. My grandma said we should do something for her, because of the free tutoring and books and videos she gave us. I figured I could chop wood for her or something. She said she wanted me to take her to the Eel River when no one else was there.”
I stopped the car. All three of us got out to piss on a poison oak bush while Winter Hawk told the story.
“She told me she grew up near New York City, in the projects, and never learned how to swim. I guess she felt shamed. I taught her how to float on her front and on her back. She was so proud to learn that, she was like a little kid. I never knew you could teach a grown person something. You got a good old lady there.”

We got back in the car. I could tell we were almost there because Dixon was bouncing in his seat like a dog recognizing the road home. I shifted into park and turned around to look at Winter Hawk. He was an arrogant little jerk, maybe he deserved it. But I couldn’t go through with killing this kid, somebody’s son, somebody’s grandson. I thought about Kelly. She had guts, guts and integrity.


“Yeah, I do have a good old lady.”
“Why’d you stop the car?” Dixon said, turning up the Stones.
“I can’t drive with burnt out rockers singing along to thirty year old songs! How many times have you played that tape?”
Dixon got out of the car, slammed the door. “You can’t drive anyway. You don’t even know where this place is.”
I got out and walked around to the passenger’s side, trying to think of some way I could signal Winter Hawk. Dixon slid into the driver’s seat.


“Come on, let’s GO!” He tap-danced his fingers on the steering wheel, bored, his danger volume on high. His face was so red he looked like a flabbergasted flamingo. “A retard could drive this road.”
“You’re proving that.” I lit a cigarette. “There’s snow on the ground, be careful.”
“You’re a little old lady, this jalopy’s a grandma car.”
It started snowing harder. I thought about growing up in Connecticut. Staying in bed listening to the radio, waiting to hear school was closed for a snow day. Too bad the three of us couldn’t settle our differences with a good snowball fight.

“Here we are.” Dixon pulled over to the side of the road and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper as we got out of the car. “We use bicycles, hide them in the bushes when we come up to check on the plants.”


“But people can see our tracks heading down to the patch.”
“Taken care of, Kemosabe.” He smiled his evil grin. “They got a store in San Francisco, sells these Ninja boots, makes your footprints look like a cow, or a deer, or a pig. Nobody will suspect nothing.”


“Let the cops wear the pig boots.” Winter Hawk said.
“Let’s go.” Dixon scurried ahead.
We followed, first Winter Hawk, then me. I thought of grabbing Winter Hawk and running to the car and getting out of there. But Dixon had the keys in his pocket.

I had no way out. If I tried to change Dixon’s mind he’d kill me too. He couldn’t wait to use that gun. I thought about Winter Hawk’s grandmother, raising all these kids, helpless to keep them out of trouble. Her grandson shot, dead in the snow, eaten by hungry bears.
We didn’t hear Dixon for awhile. The brush got thicker, these prickly things kept getting me. The path grew steeper. Winter Hawk moved swiftly, he knew these woods like he knew the Eel. I wondered why he wasn’t quite keeping up with Dixon. He’d stop every so often to wait for me.

“Down here, perfect, there’s even a spring. Jake, don’t fall on your ass.”
I started to say something and Winter Hawk put his finger to his lips. He held up his hand for me to stop and pulled a small gun from his boot. I attempted to steady my breath. Winter Hawk eased gently through the scrub, down the hill toward Dixon. I stood there drinking in the scent of the pines and the scrub oaks, watching a squirrel scramble up a tree. Kelly would say it was an omen.

Two shots. That was it. I’m glad I didn’t see the blood. I hate blood. I hate bullshit rock.


Story judges are Stephen Rea and Ian McNulty.


Photo Credit: cdfgnews.wordpress.com  Wildlife Conservation Board Funds. Copyright Free Google Images.


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