Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Writing Update & A Short Story

Sometimes the grind wears on you and the machine breaks down. My morning writing routine felt stagnant as I lost interest in rewriting Alchemist and the new manuscript floated away from me. I watched it get farther out of my grasp, but let it go without much more than a "meh".

I stopped writing. I didn't stop thinking about writing, though. Poignant vignettes played out in my head. I still derived inspiration from random sources. The brain was receptive. I haven't returned full form from my hiatus, but I did manage to crank out a short story.

It's nothing glorious. It's rough, but I hope you can turn it over in your hands and maybe capture a glimmer or two. I had fun writing it and isn't that half the battle? I hope you enjoy.

A Perfect Game

The beeps and wheezing of the machines faded into the background as Rory sunk farther into the hospital pillow and took his last ragged breath. The first thing that emanated from oblivion was a yeasty smell of cheap beer and a murmur that lifted with a sudden crescendo into a cheer.

“What?” Rory blinked against the sunlight.


He was in the bleachers of lower right field in a ball park that looked vaguely familiar. The woman that had shushed him wore a Twins jersey with the red number 34 emblazoned on the front. The rest of the fans around him were covered in Brewers attire. His papery thin hospital gown crinkled in the summer breeze.

“Milwaukee County Stadium?” That had been shut down in 2000. None of this made sense.

The middle-aged woman in the Twins jersey put her finger distractedly on his lips. “This is it, get ready.”

Rory’s mouth fumbled for words as numerous questions blended into a cacophony of confusion. The unmistakable crack of the bat jarred him to the present. The woman was already standing, the ball coming right for her. She snatched it out of the air as the pockets of Twins fans went nuts.

“What the hell is going on?” Rory rose to his feet, forgetting a moment that he hadn’t stood in a month and that both knees and one hip were shot. Except they weren’t and he felt fine. Well, physically fine.

“Holy Christ, Rory.” The woman smacked the baseball into his open palm. “I’m trying to have a moment here and I got you acting crazy and showing the world your pasty white ass.

His gaze darted around, but no one seemed to pay him any attention.

“You’re trying to have a moment?”

“Yeah. Don’t you remember this game?”

He tossed the ball from hand to hand searching his memory. The usual fog didn’t hinder his thoughts like they had for the last few years. “1991 Season? That was Kirby Puckett, right?”

She rolled her blue eyes that had entirely too much eye shadow and mascara surrounding them. “August 30, 1987. Puckett went 4 for 5 the day before. Today he went 6 for 6. Can you believe it? He even stole a grand slam by doing one of his signature leaps at the wall.”

“Sounds familiar, I guess. But who are you and what am I doing here?”

“Call me, Susan. Have a seat. No one wants to see that show.”

The fans filed out in record time leaving the stadium to them. The warm August evening was a pleasant contrast to the cold metal under his bare ass. Empty plastic cups and peanut shells littered the concrete near his feet.

“Susan, you didn’t answer my second question.”

“I didn’t want to meet you again in my office. It gets repetitious. You always ask the same questions in the exact same order. I wanted to see this moment again. There’s something so pure about baseball. Oh, and Kirby was one of mine.” She dabbed at the tears welling in her right eye.

“One of yours?”

She stretched her short, chubby arms over her head. “Yeah, like you. His first time around the guy had some issues with infidelity, some creepy bathroom thing, and died way too young.”

Rory scratched his chin. “I don’t recall any of that.”

“That’s because he fixed it. Took him three tries, but the guy pulled it off. The others told me no way, that if they don’t get it the second time, the third time is not the charm. But I knew. I knew there was greatness in him.” She wiggled her fingers.

“Wait. Are you saying I get to try it again if I want to? What’s the other option?” Rory’s jaw tightened.

“Oh, honey don’t worry. Hell doesn’t exist. You can join the great chorus in the sky for eternity.” She turned to him. “It’s pretty awesome, trust me. Or you can live your life over again and try not to botch it up this time.”

 “What do you mean, botch it up?” Rory sat up straight.

She looked at the sky. “I know everything, Rory. Every lie, every cruel word, every missed opportunity.”

He cast his gaze on his bare feet.

“You know that Déjà vu feeling?”

Rory raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

“That’s the sign that you’re on the same damn path. Bad thing if you’re feeling that into your 80’s my friend.”

The lights snapped on in the stadium, jolting him.

Susan glanced at her black Casio watch. “I even tried to help you, though the others feel that isn’t entirely fair.”

“What do you mean?”

The middle aged woman was replaced with a young Hispanic man with an acne problem. “You remember this guy?” She spoke in her same voice. “He tried to offer you a ride at your first big high school party, but nope. You weren’t that drunk, right?”

She turned back to her Susan form.

Rory swallowed the lump in his throat. “C’mon, I was sixteen.”

“Yup and earned that cute little limp the rest of your life. Oh and not to mention that derailed your baseball career.”

“What?” He stood up. “You mean I was going to go pro?”

Her head fell forward as she laughed. “Oh, sweetie, you are too funny. Pro? No. But, it would have gotten you into Duke and set you up a little differently. You would have come back though to Minneapolis. It calls you. She calls you.”

 “Maria.” He sat down hard.

She sighed. “Yeah. That one hurts. She was pregnant when you told her to leave.”

“What? Not possible. She would have told me.” His heart galloped and he put his hand to his chest.

“Afraid so. Baby girl. She turned into a great kid. You met her twice.”

“No.” He clenched the ball in his hand.

“She came to your office pretending to be interested in swapping insurance companies. Once after high school and the second time after college. I think she almost told you the second time. I don’t know for certain. She isn’t one of mine. The girl gave up on you though and lived her own life.” She patted his knee.

He stood and paced the cold cement, shells crushing under his feet. A chill ran through him. “I tried before, haven’t I? I remember plenty of Déjà vu.”

“Yes.” She frowned but held his gaze.

“How many?”

“I’m not supposed to tell.”

He dropped the ball, took a knee next to her and grabbed her warm hand. “How many times have I tried?”


Rory closed his eyes. “My god.”

“I don’t know what to tell ya.”

He opened his eyes and got to his feet, a part of his mind relishing how easy it was to go from a kneeling to standing position. At some point his age has reversed. No longer did age spots cover his papery thin skin. It was tan, flush with life and covered with dark hair. He touched his head and almost gasped at the feel of a full head of hair.

“This part always gets you.” Susan sounded a little disinterested. A bucket of popcorn appeared in her grasp and she threw a few kernels into her mouth.

He glanced at the veined muscles in his forearm and the capable, strong hands. “What does this mean?”

“That you made up your mind. Again.”

“Have I?” He seemed shorter and his voice cracked in pubescent frailty.

“Yup.” She dusted off her hands. “Prove us all wrong, honey.”

“Will I remember any of this?”

“Nope.” She walked away.

His tiny body drowned in the hospital gown and that’s when the pain started. He screamed in his child-like voice that transformed into a wailing sound. Everything collapsed into oblivion, then a bright light expanded from the warm darkness.

The doctor held up crying baby. “Congrats, it’s a boy.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Perfect Ensemble

The fantasy writing community has evolved into a more socially aware creature, promoting diversity both in authors and the substance of the story. No longer will the two-dimensional fainting heroine be rescued by the hero without the author being called out for it.  It's a positive thing to recognize these embedded falsehoods that nefariously leak into our writing from our subconscious. But, this spotlight does scare me a little.

Well, more like intimidate. If you don't include every group (gender, race, age, sexual orientation,  religion, disability, etc), then it's a clear strike. How could you ignore X group? But, if you only have one example of that group, then you run the risk of a representation problem. Now that character is the sole representation of that group and everything they do unfairly reflects upon that group. This, of course happens in real life too.

What's the solution then? This is obviously an exaggeration, but it sounds like in order to construct the perfect ensemble, it's going to have to be an immense cast of multiple representations of each group. That is, our diverse cast, needs to also be, well intrinsically diverse.

That's where I get a little hung up. Good news is that I don't think that's the ultimate message here, that every book needs the perfect ensemble. At the very least we need to be conscious of the various forces at play in our in books and minds and what the overt and subvert messages are. Else we fall victim to our books being just another example of our own fallible culture.

It's another layer of thought and review when writing and editing. How does this book depict people? What messages am I sending? We can't please everyone, but at least we can avoid the pitfalls of ignoring the rich diversity of people our own world has. And if we're more inclusive in the author community, that's going to naturally produce more ideas and enrich the culture as well.

I think this continued evolution will reap a stronger and healthier field of books and that every reader, no matter where they are coming from, can find a book that they identify with and recognizes their existence, celebrates their uniqueness and ultimately embraces their humanity.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

First Draft Gems

Whittling a first draft into something resembling a coherent story is tedious but ultimately an enjoyable process. It's easier to work with the words, transforming them into something better, than staring at the perfect vacuum of a blank page.

One of my favorite little games is to find the silly, obvious, or unintended errors. Self depreciating one's work is a time honored tradition and the first draft offers up the most opportunity. Here are some of my recent gems I have come across.

Hegge grabbed a rock in her hand.

-Just in the case the reader would assume she grabbed it with the crook of her arm, I helped them out. Tell don't show! Or wait, was it show don't tell?

“The university doesn’t teach that level of mathematics, my dear pip.” Trude stifled a song.
 -Yawn. Song. Whatever! You know what I meant. Probably.

 "No." She shook her heard.
-Senses can be shaken right?  

The Altum pursed her lisps
-She was, uh, very self conscious of her lisp and would purse it and stuff.

"A thought memory occurred to her"
-Regular memories are so pedestrian. I have thought memories!

The phrase ‘unlimited budge’ made it hard to concentrate
-Sometimes it just takes one letter.

How about you? Have any first draft gems?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Writing Update

Hello there! It's been awhile. I haven't had a burst of inspiration for a blog topic for some time, and I didn't want to dial it in. Hence the silence. I might pick up the pace a bit in a month or so. Until then here is a brief update on the writing.

I had the opportunity to alpha/beta read a couple of novel length manuscripts for friends and provide feedback. That's a glorious experience, being among the first set of eyes on the finished draft, and to help shape, in a small way, the course it may take. Not to mention that it's also a beautiful way to encourage more art in the world and to sharpen my own skills.

That provided me a brief and needed respite from editing Alchemist. As a recap I got that back from the editor with rewrite scribbled all over it early in 2016. I got about halfway through the rewrite and I was burned out on the book. It's standing near the back of the room, clearing its throat at me, but I'm going to keep ignoring it for now. A little separation may do wonders.

In the interim, I began a new fantasy adventure story that I'm enjoying. I don't know if this is just a distraction or a full blown project. That's the beauty and heartache of not having a contractual writing obligation; it can be whatever I wish it to be.

I also have this dream of writing an epic series focused on a fictional baseball player. That idea is in it's infancy, but keeps floating around and kicking spasmodically. That would require a solid year or so of research, which is territory I haven't embarked upon in my writing career yet.

That's the news. Unfortunately this translates into me not likely sending anything out into the world in the near future, but I'm still working away in the shadows, well, technically with my lamp on but you get the idea.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Maddie Part 3 of 3

Chapter 4


Her voice penetrated his light sleep and bolted him out of bed. He snapped on the light, his chest heaved up and down.

Maddie looked up at him, her blue eyes clear and focused.

“Roger.” Her voice sharp and urgent.

He couldn’t move or speak.

Her eyes darted around the room in a panic before dulling over, and the old Maddie faded like a ghost in the night.

“Maddie,” Roger croaked.

He leaned over and grabbed her shoulders. She looked up with a sleepy expression. She smacked her lips a couple of times and continued to stare at him.

Had she not spoken his name a second time he might have convinced himself it had just been a dream. The second time, he possessed his faculties and had been looking right at her. Perhaps even more astonishing, remained the fact that her old self had peered up at him from those blue eyes. She had looked frightened, as if snapping awake from a nightmare.

She closed her eyes. Roger snapped off the light and went to the bathroom to splash some cold water on his face with shaky hands. He tiptoed back to bed and grabbed his cell.

Arty answered on the fourth ring. “What’s wrong?”

“She said my name.”

Roger paced around the dark bathroom waiting for Arty to speak.

“She just doubled her vocabulary. Friday and Roger. Huh. So this Malum guy is working some kind of miracle now?”

“I guess so. But . . .”


“She looked scared.”

Bedsprings creaked as Arty must have sat up or got out of bed. “What would she be afraid of?”

“I don’t know. I just wish I could be in her brain, you know? So I could know what’s going on and help her.” Roger scratched at the stubble attacking his neck.

“Alright, dude. Uh, can I drop by soon? I would like to see miracle Maddie.”

“Yeah, that would be great.”

That morning, Roger woke up before his alarm and got Maddie ready for the day. She seemed less interactive than normal, less cheery. Roger told Carla about the previous night as she hung up her coat.

She peeked around his shoulder at Maddie. “Guarded optimism, Roger. The brain is a mysterious thing.” She gave his cheek a quick peck and shooed him out of the door.

Roger strolled into the office with an occupied mind. He tossed his messenger bag on his desk and hung up his black wool coat on the flimsy hanger. He shoved it into his locker and closed the door to find Chrissy standing there.

She bit her glossy lip. “Roger, I’m going to my parent’s cabin this weekend. They’re out of town so I invited a couple of friends with me, but they both bailed.” She twisted her fingers together and looked up from under her eyelashes, “I was thinking maybe you could come up and hang out with me if you don’t have other plans.”

Roger scratched the back of his head. “Uh, Chrissy, that sounds like a lot of fun, but it’s probably better if I don’t. If I was single, I would already be on the road driving there right now.”

She shrugged. “If you change your mind, let me know. I would love to have you up there.”

“Thanks, that’s sweet.”

Roger reminded himself to breath and sat down hard in his chair, astonished at his own self-control. A part of him registered disappointment at not seizing the opportunity. He called Arty on his lunch break.

“I’m proud of you man, you did the right thing.”

“Yeah,” Roger sighed. “Odd how I feel one part deflated and one part super hero.”

“Use the regret test. If you went up there and shagged this chick, would you likely regret it?”


“There you go. Besides, is twenty two seconds of pleasure worth all that regret?”

“Twenty-two seconds, huh? At least that would beat your record.”

Arty chuckled, “Fuck you, dude. Anyway, I’m glad you turned her down. Keep me posted on Maddie. It’s exciting stuff man. You two deserve a god damn break.”

Roger finished the conversation and called Dr. Malum. He picked up on the first ring.

“What did she do?”

“She said my name.”

It was as if Roger could sense Malum’s frown over the phone. “What else?”

“That’s it. It’s huge. She’s only said one word since the accident.”

“We need to up duration and intensity of the therapy.”

Roger leafed through his castle themed desk calendar. “When do you want me to bring her into the office?”

“No, not the office,” Malum muttered. “Drop her off at my place this weekend.”

“Your place? For the whole weekend?” Roger blinked a few times.

“1247 Gloucester Lane. Bring her Friday night after work and you can pick her up Sunday evening.”


“Roger, this isn’t negotiable.” he hung up.

He set the phone down hard in the cradle and walked away from his cube. Chrissy walked ahead of him, her tight, round ass clearly in a thong, waved back and forth before him like a pendulum of temptation. He sighed. It was ridiculous how attractive she was.

Roger turned around and found another route. A few flights of stairs cleared his mind. He decided he would drop off Maddie and try his best to avoid Chrissy and her base charms.

Friday morning he stopped off at the local coffee shop for a large, black coffee. He didn’t like the frou-frou bullshit, just a nice cup of coffee thank you very much. In line, he sensed someone looking at him. He half-turned and held his breath for a moment. There she sat. The woman from the park. 

She stared right at him.

He forced himself not to look back while he continued his wait and ordered his coffee. He stole a look in her direction. She continued to stare at him and motioned to the empty chair besides her. Roger stood still for a moment, looking at the door and then back to the chair. He swore under his breath and sat down across from her.

The heavily glazed wooden table had an artificial feel to it.

A long deep purple dress covered most of her smooth, dark skin.

“You don’t listen very well, Roger.”

Roger shifted in his chair and blew on his steaming coffee. He squinted over the brim and didn’t respond. A wave of guilt slammed into him.

She looked to the door and her mouth drew in. “I need to go, but you need to stay away from that man. This is your last chance.”

Roger took his fist sip as she stood, grabbed her coffee, and walked gracefully out of the door. Roger rubbed his eyes and shook his head. The guilt and the doubt evaporated as soon as she left. He didn’t care what she had to tell him. He had chosen this path and was going to ride it to the end. The bitterness and boredom of his life demanded it.

As far as Roger was concerned, the weekend could not come fast enough.

Chapter 5

Roger turned into 1247 Gloucester Lane. The horseshoe shaped driveway promenaded in front of a brick beauty from the late 19th century. Roger thought the house had been designed by a locally famous architect, but the name escaped him. A series of ground lights illuminated the driveway and the stone path up to the staircase of the covered porch. A brightly white painted porch swing glided back and forth in the gentle breeze.

A dark muscle car sat in the driveway aimed at the street. It looked like a Camaro and appeared to be in pristine condition. It didn’t seem like the kind of car a doctor would drive. The shadowed darkness tried to cloak its aggressive lines. Roger shuddered. Something about the car both repelled and attracted him. He shook himself back to the task at hand.

“We’re here, Maddie.” He paused a moment with a frown before exiting the car and getting Maddie ready.

“Nice night, eh?”

The voice startled him. Malum smiled and lit a cigar. He wore a flannel shirt and faded jeans, similar to Roger.

The pleasant aroma of cigar smoke dusted over him as he finished strapping Maddie into her chair.

Malum caught Roger glancing at the car. He gestured with the cigar and a hungry look came over his features. “That beauty is a 1969 Camaro, the last of the first generation. It’s got a 396 under the hood and runs like a champ.” Malum nodded to himself for a few moments. “Oh, sorry. Why don’t you come in for drink? I think we should have ourselves a little chat.”

Roger licked his lips. “Uh, yeah. Some place you got here.”

Malum glanced over his shoulder, “I like the history of it. The roots in America haven’t been growing that long, but at least this girl has some story to her.”

Roger nodded and glanced for the easiest route into the house.

“We will have to carry her up,” Malum indicated with his cigar. “They didn’t exactly build these houses to ADA code back then. People made do and that’s unfortunate.”

Malum led the way to the stairs. He stuffed the cigar in his mouth and bent his tall frame over to pick up the front of Maddie’s chair. He lifted it as naturally as standing and took the steps as if he carried a jug of milk. Roger grunted and waddled up the stairs picking up the back of the wheelchair by the handles.

The doctor propped open the thick oaken door and motioned him into entryway. The warmth of the house brushed against his face. Roger took off his coat and hung it on the empty coat rack in the corner. He sat down on the bench to take off his shoes.

“That’s okay, you can leave them on.”

Roger finished taking off his shoes. “Sorry, it’s an old habit and I feel more comfortable without them anyway.”

“Suit yourself.” Malum took a puff on his cigar and pulled it out of his mouth to consider it. “Did you want to try one?”

“No thanks.” Roger rubbed his sweaty palms on his jeans.

“Come with me to the study. I will pour us a couple of drinks and we can chat about Maddie and the future.”

The wall scones cast their yellow light against the wooden panels of the walls. The place looked like it had never witnessed a speck of dusk. A clean lemony smell floated above the polished wood surfaces. He followed Malum into a two-story library straight from a movie with hundreds of books, a lightly crackling fire, and overstuffed furniture facing each other in a conference.

Roger rolled Maddie in and perused the bookshelves. The faded book covers spoke to him in a myriad of languages. “How many of these have you read?”

Malum poured brandy from a crystal decanter. “I don’t find as much time to read as I wish. I always have good intentions, but . . .” Malum walked over and placed a heavy glass in Roger’s hand. “To good intentions.”

Roger clinked glasses and sipped gingerly at the vicious liquid. The oaky smell made his mouth water for more.

With a click of a remote, Malum invited Bach’s Fugue in G into the room. One corner of his mouth rose. He sat down on the couch and crossed his long legs at the ankles. He sprawled his arms and seemed to take in the music.

Roger looked at Maddie. She stared blankly at Malum.

A creaking floorboard pulled Roger’s attention back toward the entryway. He nearly dropped his drink. There she stood. The woman from the park and the coffee shop. She wore an elegant black dress that came down to a shallow V in the front. Pearl earnings dangled from her ears. Her hair was pulled up in a striking manner. She wheeled a black suitcase behind her.

Roger whipped back around to Malum. He had an amused look on his face. “Roger, meet my wife, Gloria. I thought you weren’t going to that retreat.” He sat up.

Gloria’s jaw tightened. She looked at Maddie and refused to acknowledge Roger. “You know I have no choice, dear. I will be back on Monday. I trust you will behave.”

Malum barked laughter. “You know I cannot promise that.”

She looked at Maddie with a pained expression and walked briskly down the hall and out the door.
Roger took a full sip of the brandy and tried to make sense of what he had just seen.

“Now let’s talk about Maddie.” Malum leaned in, resting his elbows on his knees. He took a sip of brandy then put out his cigar in the glass tray next to the couch. “I will be leaving soon, and I want my therapy to be completed before I leave, hence why you are here.”

“Wait. You’re leaving?”


“But, we’re just starting to see real progress. How can you leave?”

“Roger, don’t be selfish. Besides, I am not a miracle worker. I can only do so much. Don’t let that mislead you though, as I can do so much more for Maddie. I can bring her back, Roger. Do you understand? I can bring her back.” Malum leaned back into the couch and watched Roger closely.

“What exactly is it that you do?”

A perfectly white smile spread on Malum’s face. “Some,” Malum’s eyes went toward the front door for a second, “would say that I meddle in things that should not be meddled with. I see before me a world full of broken people. I can restore them. No one is going to tell me that isn’t the right thing to do. That is my gift, Roger. I fix what others cannot. I fix what others discard. I restore hope. Does it always fit the bill? Does it always turn out perfectly? Of course not.” Malum waved the idea away as foolish.

Roger stood and walked toward the fire. The smoke stained bricks seemed to press upon him. “I’m tired of,” he turned around, “all of this. The lack of communication, the diapers, the day care, the hollowness, all of it.” Roger threw his empty hand up.

Malum stood and placed a cold hand on his shoulder, “I know exactly what you mean. No more of that.”

“I’m going to go upstairs for a moment. I want you to finish your drink and say goodbye to this broken Maddie. When you return Sunday evening, she will be fixed and we can both move on.”
Malum pulled the two pocket doors behind him, leaving Roger and Maddie alone.

Roger polished off his drink and set the glass carefully down on the white marble mantle. He looked at Maddie.

“Roger,” her blue eyes darted left and right in wild fear, “Get me . . .” then they washed over to their usual dullness.

He rushed over and kneeled in front of her. She reached out and grabbed his watch. Her eyes roamed the room in disinterest. He rested his head on her lap and cried.

“I can’t wait to see you on Sunday.” He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. She offered him a crooked smile and wiped at her cheek with a balled up hand.

Roger got into his car. He turned the ignition. Nothing. Not even a protesting rattle. The battery had nothing to give.

“Fuck.” Roger gave the steering wheeling a quick jab and looked back toward the house. Malum came out the front door with the cigar in his mouth.

Roger got out of the car. “Sorry, I got to call a truck. Battery’s dead.”

“Nonsense, take my car.” Malum tossed him the keys to the Camaro.

Roger snatched them out of the air and looked at the dark beast. It needed to be driven and he wanted to oblige. Normally he would not ever consider driving someone else’s car, but this was different.

Malum held up his hand. “I’m not going anywhere and I got other cars. I know the guy that owns the shop down the road. He owes me a favor.” Malum smiled. “He can bring a battery out here over the weekend and swap it out. I just need you to trade your keys for mine.”

“Wow, thanks. I appreciate it.” Roger dug the keys out of his jeans, detached the car keys, and handed them over to Malum.

“Don’t be afraid to give in to the speed. She likes it.”

Roger shook his hand and walked around the car to take in every angle. The keys buzzed in his hand. He opened the unlocked front door. It welcomed him with a soft screech of hinges. The spotless vinyl looked slick in the dim light. He sat down in the driver seat and closed the door with a satisfying heavy thud. He felt around the steering column before realizing the ignition was on the dash. The engine turned over instantly and the throaty growl of it filled his ears. He eased it into drive and crept out of the driveway. He looked left and right and goosed the gas pedal. It leapt on command kicking up some gravel. The tires connected with the road and issued a screech when the car lurched forward as it purchased traction.

Roger found himself one hour later in a park. He did not remember driving there. A confusing image of a bloody girl flashed before his eyes. A sickening tug erupted from his stomach and he barely got out of the door before retching the meager contents of his stomach. His shaking hands made a difficult time of starting the car again. He no longer had any desire to drive it. He just wanted to go home and crash.


Chapter 6

Weekends were fleeting things normally; a tiny pillow on an uncomfortable bed. This one however refused to leave and instead lingered for Roger. His thoughts bounced between Maddie and the fantasy weekend he surely could have had at Chrissy’s cabin. He looked at his phone often, aching to call Arty, but he couldn’t make himself do it. How could he explain to Arty that he had left his wife with a near stranger? He poured himself glass after glass of cheap wine.

His drunken mind offered him no release and conspired to induce the same thoughts his sober mind obsessed over, but now at half the speed. He closed the curtains inviting darkness into the room. Sleep evaded him though he clawed for it. No position offered him comfort.

The wine lasted through Sunday morning. A cold shower slapped Roger awake and he mindlessly surfed the net. His phone rang at 6:30 pm.

“You can pick her up now,” Malum spoke into his ear and hung up.

Roger took the elevator down to the underground parking garage. Malum’s Camaro stood ready for him. The engine eagerly roared to life. The 396 growled down the ramp. The car tore into the street with screeching tires. Roger normally would have been mortified at calling such attention, but now he didn’t care. He had a purpose.

He resisted the urge to stamp down the pedal and kept the car below seventy. It hummed along smoothly. Malum’s house loomed in front of him. The car bounced up the driveway. Roger slammed the brakes to avoid hitting into a stone bench. He cut the engine off and closed his eyes. He put his head against the steering wheel, exhaling slowly. The cold metal pushed him onward. The car door opened with a regretful screech.

He jumped up the steps two at a time and before he could knock on the door, it opened for him. Maddie stood there. Not in her wheel chair, but actually standing on her own. Her blue eyes no longer held the usual flatness, but the dullness remained.

“Hi, Roger,” she said in a flat tone. Her dead eyes lingered on his.

His shoulders slumped.

The End

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Maddie Part 2 of 3

Chapter Three

Roger finished the email to his boss and read it over a few times before hitting the send button. The light hum of the air system and clicking keyboards provided the soundtrack of his typical weekday. He stood up in his cube and blinked a few times. It had been a couple of hours since he last moved and his body reminded him that it liked to change position every once in a while.

He walked around the corner to Chrissy’s cube. Her long legs were crossed under the desk and she wore a look of concentration as she typed away. Roger glanced down at her ample chest, forced his gaze back up, and cleared his throat.

Chrissy looked up with a startled expression that turned into a genuine smile parting her thick lips. “Hey, Roger.”

He looked at her pursed lips for a moment. “Never got a chance to ask how your weekend was.”

She crossed her legs towards him. “It was alright. I drove up north to my parent’s cabin and spent most of it up there. How about you?”

Roger shrugged. “It was ok. Took Maddie down to the park then to the doctor.”

Chrissy leaned forward, “You’ve mentioned your wife a few times but I’ve never seen her. Why don’t you have a picture of her at your desk?”

“Ah. . .” he scratched at the back of his head. “I’m not really a picture kind of guy.”

Photos plastered Chrissy’s cube. The pictures showcased all her amazingly good-looking friends, as if they belonged to some sort of exclusive club.

An impulse struck Roger. His ringing phone stopped him short of asking her out for a drink after work. He held up a one-moment gesture and went back to his desk.

“Financial services, this is Roger.”

“Roger, it’s Carla.”

Her voice sounded strained. Roger’s heart jumped into overdrive. “What’s wrong?”

“Uh, nothing’s wrong. Not wrong at all. Uh, I think you need to come home and see this.”

“Is Maddie ok?”

“Yeah, she’s fine, but you need to see this.”

Roger shut down his computer, his mind racing. What could Carla be talking about, and why was she being so cryptic?

His decade old Toyota groaned as he pushed it past sixty-five. He could not get to the condo soon enough. He unlocked the door. Maddie’s familiar shrieking filled his ears as soon as he stepped in the doorway.

He entered the room with his hands in his pockets and his face tight. Carla’s eyes were red rimmed. Roger bent down to kiss Maddie on the cheek and looked her over. Everything seemed normal.

Carla swallowed. “Look at what we colored today.”

Roger walked past Maddie and looked down to the picture of the dolphin family. Roger frowned.
 “Ok, so where is Maddie’s coloring?” He turned to look at the fridge.

“Roger, this is Maddie’s coloring.” Carla nodded and began crying.

He picked up the drawing and walked to the window. The sunlight shone off the perfectly colored page. Instead of a mono color scribble, she had used seven different colors including four shades of blue. She had even drawn an “M” at the bottom of the page. Roger dropped the page and covered his mouth. Through blurry eyes, he looked back to Maddie. 

He wanted to tell her how good it was, but the words lodged in his throat. Carla offered him a short and fierce hug.

“What happened?”

Carla dabbed at her eyes with a wrinkled Kleenex. “It was just like any other morning. I cut out a picture and left all of the colors out for her. She crouched over the drawing so I didn’t see until she finished. I just noticed it took her a lot longer than normal.”

Maddie parked next to the cabinet and started at him expectantly.

“Oh, Jesus I’m sorry. I owe you some candy don’t I?”

He got her an orange sucker, walked back over to Carla, and asked her in a quiet voice, “Did you notice anything else different today?”

“No, it was a normal day.” Carla composed herself and said goodbye.

Roger glanced over to Maddie and couldn’t help think about Dr. Malum. He fished the card out of his ancient leather wallet and put it on the counter. The bone white card seemed like a pustule on the black countertop.

Maddie slurped away on her sucker and pulled herself around the condo at glacier speed. Roger kept looking at the gleaming white card.

“Dammit,” he muttered. He swiped the card off the counter and dialed the number. Dr. Malum answered on the first ring.

“Roger? This is Roger, right?”

Roger didn’t respond.

“What did she do? Did you catch a glimpse of her?”

“She, uh, colored. I mean, really colored.”

“I don’t know what you mean exactly, Roger, but that’s not important. What’s important is that you called me, and I can help.”

Roger stared at Maddie. “What do I need to do?”

“I need you to trust me. Drop her off at my office tomorrow morning at 8:00 and you will stay in the waiting room while I see her. Do you understand me?”

His mouth went dry and his stomach weighed down on him.

“Are you there, Roger?”

“Yeah. Yeah. I can do that.”

Dr. Malum hung up the phone and Roger bolted into the bathroom to vomit up the contents of his stomach. He flushed the toilet and laid his warm face against the cool floor. He looked up to see Maddie’s sneakers right in front of his face.

She smiled at him.

Roger got to his knees and touched her head as he walked past. He dialed up Arty and told him everything. Roger waited for the silence to end on the other line.

“So, this dude shot blue shit out of his hands like the Emperor from Jedi?”

“What? No, man. I don’t know, Arty.”

“Hey, I’m looking at the PDF you sent me, and what Maddie did is amazing. I just think you’re seeing ghosts that aren’t there. First, you have the weird encounter at the park, and now Dr. Feelgood is working some voodoo on her? Nah, man. I don’t care what the reality is, other than, Maddie might be coming back,” the last few words came out in a half choked manner. Arty cleared his throat.

Roger flipped the phone to his other ear. “Yeah, you’re right.”

“I’m not saying that isn’t weird shit, dude. I’m just saying crazy stuff happens all the time. No need to get all metaphysical and shit.”

“Alright. Later, bro.” Roger hung up the phone and reclaimed his wine glass from the top of the IKEA entertainment center. He gave it a little kick when he thought about what a pain in the ass it had been to put that damn thing together. He drained his wine glass and peered out the window at the city lights. From the eighth floor, the city looked to be jumping for a Monday night. Roger poured himself another glass of the sour cab and paced around the room.

He couldn’t find a reason, but his instincts told him not to take her back to Malum.

But this had been her only breakthrough since the accident. He would give the doctor one more chance.

The next morning arose in another blur, and the closer he got to the office the more his unease grew. He glanced at Maddie. Spittle hung from her lip and she nodded off for a second, her blue eyes blinking in slow motion.

“Sorry, girl.”

Maddie awoke fully by the time he got her strapped into her chair in the chilly parking lot of the medical center. His visible breath clouded the bright aluminum of her chair. Roger pushed her into the entryway with a gust of wind that pushed him onward as if in encouragement. The second set of doors opened to them with a whoosh of sterilized, warm air. Maddie received her normal collections of hellos and smiles. Malum himself came out to the waiting room.

“Morning,” he looked over his rimless glasses at Roger. “Now, our deal is still on, right? You’re going to stay here.”

Roger felt like the last statement should have been a question, but the tone rang clear. He shoved his hands in his khakis. “Yeah. I’m going to wait here.”

“Good boy.” Malum smiled and pushed Maddie away while he whistled a happy tune.

“What a dick,” Roger muttered under his breath and pawed over the collection of three-month-old magazines. He settled on a sports themed rag and mindlessly turned the pages. He glanced up occasionally and slid down in the leather chair as the hour dragged by.

Somehow, he fell asleep. He dreamt he sat on the park bench like any other Saturday. Commotion at edge of the park caught his attention. Maddie stood in the middle of Malum and the weird lady. Except Maddie was the Maddie that he had married; the beautiful wistful bank teller that wanted to be a poet. The woman and Malum each grabbed one of Maddie’s arms and began to tug her back and forth. She opened her mouth in a scream and Roger awoke as the magazine hit the floor and Malum rolled Maddie in front on him.

Her chin rested on her chest. She breathed slowly. Malum had looked fresh and full of vigor just an hour ago. Now his hair looked tossed about and dark shadows encased his bloodshot eyes.

Roger stood. “Is she ok?”

“Of course,” Malum flashed a smile and his face returned to its previous youthful state for a moment.

“So what now?”

“I await your second call.”

Roger phoned Carla on his way home and met her at the front of their condo.

“Hey Maddie, it’s not nap time. Did you have a hard time sleeping last night?” She looked to Roger.

“I think she slept fine but the appointment took something out of her,”

Carla frowned and wheeled Maddie into the condo.

After his goodbyes, Roger drove into work. He logged into his computer and poured himself a cup of instant coffee.

Chrissy walked around the corner and stopped at his cube. Her light perfume pricked at his senses. She wore a form fitting gray skirt and a dark sweater that clung to her chest. “Roger, would you have time tonight for a quick drink?”

Roger looked into her green eyes, down to her mouth, and back to her eyes. “Uh, yeah, is everything ok? You look a little distraught.”

“Yeah. Well, no. Glenn has been acting like a total jerk recently, and I need a guy’s advice.”

Roger rotated his chair to face her. “Sure, I can offer you the enlightened modern male perspective.”

“Enlightened male?” Chrissy placed a hand on her hip. “Sounds like an oxymoron to me.”

“Allow me to disprove that over a couple of beers tonight.”

“You’re on.”

Roger felt the blood rush to his crotch. He turned back to his computer and assured himself that his motives were pure. He simply wanted to help her. He sent a text off to Carla that he might be a little late tonight.

Throughout the workday, he thought of Chrissy. He also called home a couple times hoping to hear that Maddie had done something else to indicate that a further step had occurred in her stalled recovery. Carla informed him that everything was normal except that she slept more than usual.

A new bar had opened up a few blocks from their office. Roger and Chrissy walked over there and shared a few office stories along the way.

The neon-infested bar held a full crowd. They found an unoccupied corner. A tiny server materialized from the chaos and took their beer orders.

Roger listened intently to Chrissy’s story about her boyfriend Glenn. He liked how close he had to stand to hear. He caught himself glancing down at her breasts when she looked away. He was pretty sure she caught him once and she smiled in response.

“So, do you think my friends are right about Glenn? I need a guy’s perspective. I have too many friends that are girls.”

Roger picked at the label of his empty beer bottle and motioned at the server for his third beer of the evening. “Glenn sounds like a D-bag.”

Chrissy squinted then broke into laughter, placing a hand on Roger’s arm. He leaned in a little.
“I guess my girlfriends had it right.”

The server swapped out his empty for a fresh one. Roger took a swig from his new beer. “Not only is he a d-bag, he’s an idiot. Any guy would be lucky to have you. I mean, just look at you.”

Chrissy bit her lip, leaned in and kissed his cheek. “You’re sweet.”

Roger, felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He looked at Chrissy for a long time and finally tore his gaze away. His phone indicated that he had two texts and that it was nearly 8:00. “Shit. Time flies when you’re around a gorgeous woman.”

Chrissy glanced down at his phone. “Is that the, uh, woman that takes care of your wife?”

“Yeah, that was Carla and I think she’s getting pissed off.”

“Do you have leave right now?” Chrissy pouted a little and took another step closer.

Roger’s heart beat harder and the heat spread below his waist. “I suppose I can at least finish my beer. Just a second while I text her.”

“So, I don’t mean to be rude, Roger, but can I ask you a personal question?”

“Go for it.” He took a swig of his beer.

“So, are you and your wife able to, you know, be man and wife?”

Roger laughed dryly and set his beer down on the window ledge. “You mean have sex? It’s ok to say the s word.” He sighed. “No. Not since the accident. It wouldn’t be right. She has the mentality of a two-year-old.”

“Don’t you get lonely?”

He nodded and picked his beer up not trusting his voice.

“This is going to sound really bad but I’m just going to say it. I like you, Roger. You’re really cool. If you ever want to, ah, hang out and come over to my place, I would like that. You better get going though.”

She hugged him straight on and she had to notice that he had the beginnings of an erection.

All the way home Roger felt dirty and regretful. You didn’t do anything wrong he repeated to himself.

Carla met him at the door with a raised eyebrow. “Late night at the office?”

“Carla, I’m sorry. I was having a round with the guys and time slipped away from me.”

She frowned at him. “Please be more respectful of my time in the future. Now go in and get Maddie ready for bed. She’s been zonked out all day.”

That night Maddie woke him up by calling out his name.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Maddie Part 1 of 3

For a summer in college I worked at a home for developmentally disabled adults. They had four residents and only one of them was capable of speech. It was difficult to work with them, knowing this was the limit of their abilities and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. I would occasionally run into a person that would resemble one of my boys and I would think, this is what Roger would look like and be doing if his brain hadn't been damaged

It could happen to any of us. Our brains are amazing but delicate things. I wanted to explore the concept of losing someone close to brain damage and poking at the idea of what people would be willing to risk and lose to gain something of the person back. 

That's the spark that led me to write this short story titled Maddie, which I will put out here in three parts. I put some bits of the four residents into Maddie. In a very small way, it's my tribute to them and their struggles. As a warning, it's a rough draft that hasn't seen the care of an editor and I typically don't write in this length or genre. It's certainly not my best writing, but I like the premise. I hope you enjoy.


Chapter 1

Roger arrived at his eighth floor loft. He took a moment to gather himself before unlocking the door. The resounding click started a chain reaction as he walked inside the entryway.

“Maddie, go see who’s at the door. Do you think it's Roger?” Carla asked.

Roger removed his black wool coat and sat on the bench to take off his shoes. Maddie slowly rolled around the corner. She wore her favorite pink tracksuit and matching princess bib that sparkled in the dull light of the entryway. She moved herself in the wheelchair by pulling slowly with her feet. She refused to use her hands to propel herself and was confined to the chair due to severe balancing issues.

As soon as she saw Roger, a crooked smile lit her face and she shrieked.

“I hear shrieking. That must be your husband,” Carla said from around the corner.

Roger leaned down and gave Maddie a kiss on her cheek. She tilted her head to the side and pawed with an awkward hand gesture, but her smile stayed.

“Did you and Carla have a good day?” Roger asked.

He moved out of the narrow hallway and into wide-open space of their loft. The fifteen-foot ceilings made the 800 square feet seem larger than it was. Three oversized windows provided a foggy view of the city. The gray day mirrored his mood.

Carla was their day nurse who watched Maddie when Roger worked at the office. She kept her gray streaked hair pulled back in an old-fashioned bun. It remained a glaring contrast to her otherwise open and liberal persona.

“We sure did. We took a walk in the park and Maddie even colored you a picture. Maddie, did you want to show Roger the picture?”

Maddie’s gaze locked on something outside.

Roger walked across the concrete floors to the black laminated counter tops. The kitchen light captured every scratch and ding in the surface. Carla stepped aside to unveil a page carefully cut out of a coloring book. It was a picture of a dolphin leaping out of the water. It had a euphoric look on its face. Roger wondered what the fuck it was so happy about. The picture had heavy uneven purple crayon lines scribbled all over it.

“That’s very good, Maddie. So good,” Roger hung it on black fridge with a dolphin magnet, “that I think it deserves some candy.”

Maddie stopped looking at the ceiling, let out a small shriek, and began to pull herself over to the cabinet. Roger opened up the door and retrieved a jar containing a hundred identical orange suckers. Maddie shrieked again as he placed one in her sticky hand.

“I got you a little something, you know, for your anniversary,” Carla whispered to him. She handed him a sealed card.

“Thank you, Carla. You didn’t need to do that.”

“Nonsense. A five-year anniversary is something special. Enjoy your weekend.” She gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze and said goodbye to Maddie.

When Carla left, the only sound in the studio remained Maddie’s slurping and the radio quietly playing in the background. The pretentious DJ droned on in a monotonous tone about a little known classical piece. Roger looked around the spotless studio and sighed. Another weekend.

“What day is it today, Maddie?”

“Fwydah,” she answered in a cheerful voice.

Suckers were the only hard substance that Maddie could handle. The rest of her food had to be pureed. Roger retrieved the container labeled meatloaf. He threw the colored speckled mush in the microwave and poured himself a hefty glass of red wine.

Maddie finished her sucker and dropped the stick on the floor.

“Hey,” Roger said.

She wheeled herself back over to the window.

Roger got a new bib out of the cabinet and stirred the concoction that would serve as her dinner. He called her to no avail. He shuffled over and pulled her wheel chair to the flimsy kitchen table and locked the wheels in place. Her blue eyes rolled around the room.

He got a spoonful ready for her. She dutifully ate each bite he wordlessly presented her. She let him know she had reached her limit by spitting the food out onto the table.

“OK, we will wash you up and then we will watch the news.”

Maddie had religiously watched the news after work. Though she seemed to have little interest anymore in the current events, Roger parked her in front of the TV every evening on the beige colored rug that dutifully defined the boundaries of their living room.

Roger drained his second glass of wine and watched the news with her. Maddie began nodding off toward the end of the broadcast.

“Hey, you can’t be tired already, Maddie. What day is it?”

“Fwydah,” she mumbled.

“Indeed, little lady.”

He fished around the closet to get her pink dolphin PJs. He undid her seat belt and laid her on the bed. Drool dripped down her open mouth. He changed her out of her clothes, put her in a fresh diaper, and changed her into the PJ’s. The process took him fifteen minutes. She had her own single bed with rails that laid next to his tiny bed.

The third glass of wine floated him into a fitful sleep. He awoke to her sobbing. He scrambled for the lamp and knocked it over with a clumsy hand.


He picked up the lamp and flipped it on at the same time.

Maddie immediately stopped crying.

“Aw, sorry, Maddie, I forgot your nightlight.” His head bobbed on his shoulders. The sour taste of wine settled in his mouth. He bent over and switched on her dolphin nightlight.

It took him another hour to fall back asleep.

The next morning sunlight blanketed the room through the thin drapery. Roger moaned and threw his arm over his head. He looked over to Maddie. Her blue eyes locked onto his when she caught him looking.

“What day is it today, Maddie?”


“Close, it’s Saturday morning and you know what Saturday morning is right?” He didn’t wait for her to answer knowing none was going to arrive. “It’s park day.”

He rolled over to a sitting position and scratched at the neck stubble that attacked his tender skin. “First we will get you changed, feed you some breakfast, and then head on out.”

The cell phone rang. He shuffled across the unforgivingly cold concrete floor and saw it was Artemis.

“Hey Arty,”

“I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“Nah. What’s up?”

“I figured I would invite myself over and chill out for a while. Oh, wait. It’s a park day right?”

Roger smiled and dumped a packet of oatmeal in a white ceramic bowl. “Yup, wanna meet us there?”

“Yeah, that would be cool. See you there in half an hour?”

“Whoa, dude, what’s the rush? How about an even hour?”

“Alright, Roger, sounds good. I won't be able to stay super long, but it would be nice to see you two.”

“Oh boy, Maddie, I think we're going to see someone special at the park today.” Roger stirred the oatmeal and glanced up. Maddie had one of her blank stares on. “Aw shit, not today.”

Her non-responsive state melted away after he got her in a fresh diaper and dressed. He did her hair up in two pigtails. “We gotta get your hair cut soon, darling, starting to look like a hippie. Me too I suppose.”

After breakfast, he snapped out the footrests on the chair and rolled her down to the elevator. An older couple arrived in the lobby at the same time. They smiled uneasily and didn't get onto the elevator with them. They pretended to await the next one with a special purpose. As soon as the morning air reached her, Maddie wore a crooked smile.

“Kind of chilly today.” Roger pulled a hand off the chair and blew on it. He rolled her the three blocks to the park and positioned her next to the bench and locked her wheels. A bird flew by and Maddie starting screeching.

 “Hey Maddie,” Roger pointed to the slender man with an olive complexion and dark hair walking toward them, “Who is that? Is that. . .could it be? Is that Arty?”


“How’s my favorite girl?” Arty kissed her on top of her shiny hair and plopped down on the bench.

“Sup, dude?” Roger asked.

“Where is everyone today?”

Roger scanned the empty playground. “Inside playing video games.”

“Probably. Awww shit. I totally forgot. It was your five-year anniversary!”

Roger nodded. “Yeah. It was.”

Maddie moved a claw like hand out in front of her.

“What are you pointing at?” Arty asked.

Roger scanned the horizon in the direction but couldn’t see anything.

“Are you pulling our leg, Maddie?”

She offered a crooked smile.

They sat in silence and watched as a family of four claimed the playground for themselves. The two younger kids looked at Maddie a few times.

“You know, Arty, that kind of stuff used to bother me. People looking, or staring at Maddie. It’s like, they’re aiming a giant spotlight at her.” Roger glanced at Arty. He nodded. “Then I realized Maddie, doesn’t care, so why should I?”

“Exactly!” Arty shoved his hands in his skinny jeans and smiled at Maddie. “Too bad everyone else can’t get over themselves, like her damn parents.”

Roger grunted. “Not just her parents. Shit, you’re the only friend we got left. I got a lot of emails and calls the first few weeks and then people, I don’t know, didn’t want to think that sort of stuff can happen. I guess they didn’t want that kind of burden around their unblemished lives. Whatever the reason, they left.”

“Hey man, that’s their loss. Right, Maddie?”

She pointed again.

Roger squinted. It looked like she was pointing at a building behind the park, but he couldn’t tell.

“How’s life at the cube farm?” Arty asked.

Roger shifted on the bench and cleared his throat. “Ah, fine.”

Arty scrunched up his face. “What’s the deal?”

“Well, there’s this new girl and . . .”

“Ah, hell no man,” Arty cut him off. “Dude, you’re married. Keep your shit together.”

“I know. I know.” Roger threw his arms up. “Sometimes . . . it’s hard Arty. It’s like sometimes I get a glimpse of Maddie, like she’s still in there. But other times, I get nothing. Is this what I get the rest of my life?”

Arty looked around. “Just because your relationship has been simplified doesn’t mean it’s bad. What you and Maddie had and still have is good. Besides, you never know what can happen.”

“It’s been two years, Arty, and not a damn thing has changed,” A chill ripped through Roger.

“Stranger things have happened, bro.” Arty wiggled his eyebrows. “Hey, I gotta bolt. See you two later.”

Roger watched him go. Arty turned around once to blow a kiss at Maddie and waved. A few more kids invaded the playground. Maddie pointed again in the same direction, but this time he could see a woman walking toward them.

She looked to be in her middle years. A handsome woman. That phrase popped in his head. He couldn’t exactly explain what that meant, nor would he ever offer that as a compliment, but he meant it as one. The woman walked with a refined grace and confidence. Her dark skin radiated beautifully in the morning sun. She wore a simple dress and no jacket like the morning cold demanded.


Roger laughed. “I think she likes you.”

“Hello, Maddie,” the woman said.

“Oh, I’m sorry, have we met?”

The woman kneeled down in front of Maddie and flashed a wide smile full of perfect white teeth.
“Roger, you don’t remember me?”

He scratched his head. “I’m not that good with names but I never forget a face. Sorry, I’m drawing a blank.”

“Mind if I join you?”

Roger indicated the bench and the woman sat down, her back straight.

“They’re fun to watch aren’t they?” She said, facing the playground.

“That’s one of the reasons why we come here.”

“That, and it’s where you proposed.”

Roger blinked a few times and cocked his head. Now that he thought about it, there was something very familiar and even comforting about this woman. “I’m at a disadvantage, you know our names, and interesting details about us and I got nothing.”

The woman glanced down at her watch then looked to Roger. He could not look away from those intense, warm eyes. “I have to leave soon, Roger.”


“Just listen. He’s coming.”


“I said, just listen. He’s coming and we all know he can work his magic and be charming. But he doesn’t work for free.” the woman said.

For the second time, a chill came over Roger. He couldn’t look away.

“But no matter what he promises you, don’t do it. You hear me? Don’t do it.”

Roger tore his gaze away. He could not handle the intensity of her eyes. She stood up and knelt in front of Maddie. She bent over and whispered something in her ear.

“EEEEEEEEEE!” Maddie said.

The woman walked off at a brisk pace without looking back.

Chapter 2

Roger paced the kitchen and laid the story out for Arty. Several moments of silence filled the air. He could picture the incredulous look on Arty’s face.

“That’s really weird, dude,” Arty finally said.

“She didn’t seem crazy though, that was the odd thing. I would expect someone that talked like that be to be crazy,” Roger said. He glanced over to Maddie, who happily slurped on an orange sucker.

“Don’t actions define crazy? Hey, I won’t fault you if you want to believe in any hoodoo voodoo stuff, but I think she was just plain old-fashioned bat-shit crazy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just saying.”

Roger finished the conversation and streamed a movie for Maddie. She loved anything with a lot of movement and color. She pulled herself around the studio and looked back at the TV often. She dropped her spent sucker stick on the floor. Roger rolled his eyes but didn’t say anything.

He brought up his on-line calendar and groaned. They had an 8:00 appointment with Maddie’s doctor on Monday. “Maddie, you get to see Dr. Klinth on Monday.”

She stopped rolling, glanced at Roger, and continued her track around their small place. He sent an email to Carla to remind her that she could come over later on Monday. Gods knows she should just come with, based on the number of questions she would likely bombard him with about the appointment.

Roger poured himself the dregs of the wine bottle from last night and plopped down on the couch. A fresh bottle filled glasses two, three, and four. He passed the rest of day in a wine induced haze with visions of the woman from the park. The more he thought about her, the more she transformed from mystical to just plain odd. He had to agree with Arty. She had just been a harmless but crazy lady. He almost believed that.

Monday morning came too early and Roger rushed out of the door munching on a breakfast bar. He rolled Maddie down to their sedan, locked her wheel chair in place, and lifted her from the chair into the car. She latched onto his watch, fixated by it.

Roger peeled her hand away and belted her in place. He collapsed the wheel chair and put it into the spotless trunk. It had room for little else. He put the radio on for Maddie and turned the heat on. The fall morning condensed their breath on the windshield.

“Shit, Maddie, I think we’re going to be late.”

He pulled into the half-full parking lot at ten minutes past eight. The receptionist stared blankly at him as he apologized for being late. A nurse walked by. She saw Maddie and came over.

“Well, good morning, Maddie!”


The nurse grabbed Roger’s elbow, “Isn’t she a ray of sunshine?”

Another nurse took them back to the examining room where they waited for Dr. Klinth. The information always seemed the same. Maddie’s condition had not changed in the two years since the accident and coma. Despite her unchanging state, Roger dutifully maintained her monthly appointments.

A younger doctor entered the room. His blond hair had been slicked back like a movie star from the 40’s. He had to be around 6’ 4”. His stethoscope rested against a piano key tie. Roger had not seen one of those since the 1980’s.

“Oh, um, where is Dr. Klinth?”

His cool blue eyes looked up from the chart. “I’m Dr. Malum, I’m taking on Dr. Klinth’s patients. I’m afraid he had an accident on Friday, and passed away.”

“Oh my god. What happened?”

“Car accident.”

“God, that’s terrible, didn’t he have three kids, too?”

Malum frowned, “Four actually.”

“That’s horrible,” Roger shook his head. “I’m Roger, by the way and this is Maddie.”

Dr. Malum’s cool and strong grip made Roger feel a little uneasy.

“Nice to meet you and Maddie. Here’s my card.”

He handed Roger a plain looking business card. Malum sat on the stool, and logged into the computer. “I can never get used to these things. Paper is much more honest than these little ones and zeros.”

Roger cocked his head. The doctor appeared to be about his age. Malum scratched at his neck and Roger got a whiff of a vaguely familiar aftershave. It took him a moment to place it, but images of his grandfather bubbled up from the deep recesses of his memory. Pipe smoke and that particular aftershave always reminded him of his grandfather.

“I read Maddie’s file and I found her lack of progress disturbing,” Malum said.

Roger opened his mouth. The warmness of the blood flow registered in his neck and face.

Malum held up a hand, “No. It’s not because of a lack of effort on anyone’s part. It’s not anyone’s fault.” He leaned in closer and glanced over at Maddie. “What we need here, is a change of perspective. Instead of managing her little symptoms and trying to keep her as comfortable as possible, we need to aim for recovery. We need to have her back.”

“Well,” Roger crossed his arms over his chest, “Dr. Malum, we have already tried that. Her brain is beyond repair. If anything, two years have proven that.”

Maddie fixated on Roger’s watch and tried to grab it. He let her have a hold on it.

Malum looked him straight in the eyes, “I can fix her.”

“The top neuro surgeon at the Mayo, couldn’t fix her,” Roger said with a sigh. “This is the way it’s going to be. It’s not, uh, fair to suggest otherwise.”

“I understand your skepticism. Hope can be a dangerous thing. But, what do you have to lose? You don’t even have to believe this is going to work, just let me try.”

“I’m listening. What’s the plan? Trust me though, we have tried everything already.”

Malum wheeled over on his short stool directly in front of Maddie. She glanced up at him and then back to Roger’s watch. Malum cupped her free hand in his. Maddie stopped playing with the watch and slowly turned her gaze directly on him.

Roger shifted in his seat.

Maddie’s other hand stopped grasping his watch and went limp. Something bright and blue flickered around Malum’s hands.

“What?” Roger stood up.

Malum ignored him and stared at Maddie.

She began to shake.

“Let go!” Roger tore Malum’s hands away and wheeled Maddie out of range. “What kind of . . . is this some kind of joke?”

Malum’s blue eyes narrowed. “Wait and see. I bet she surprises you soon and then you’re going to call me, Roger.”

“Don’t fucking count on it, Dr.” Roger wheeled Maddie out of the room and offered Malum a final dirty look.