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25 October 2010 @ 08:18 am

Tom Cannone






“What’s up TC?” The voice is booming, unpretentious and welcoming.  It is unmistakable; it’s that of my friend Bob McLaughlin.  

“Same old, same old,” I shout back shaking his hand as I burst into his office and plop myself down into one of his blue cloth cushy chairs.   We are surrounded by CPA accreditations, client marketing trinkets, family photos and a hint of stale air which has plagued the building as long as I can remember.

        “Where we headed?”  he says.

        “I don’t care, wherever you want.”

        Bob looks me in the eye, and in an almost pleading tone; “You want that we should head over to Spasso’s.”

        “Sure” I say. Why should this month be any different than last month.”

        “Or the month before that,” Bob laughs.

He stands at his desk,   fingers in a frenzy, punching   away at his wireless keyboard, very  Keith Emerson-like only without the pyrotechnics of a stadium show or the sequined vest of an aging rocker, just drab khakis and buttoned shirt…cutting edge fashion … for accountants like us.

“Boom- done… gotta enter my time TC.” No tickee-no shirtee, you know what I’m sayin.”

Then he grabs his jacket off the brass rack, and by noon we are taking in the sun, doing the half mile walk up Union Avenue.  This is our little ritual.  Once a month, schedule permitting and no later than 12:10 PM, (Bob is a little obsessive compulsive about time as most accountants are) we lumber in through the front door of Spassos, “nice little Italian joint”, with weathered floors and beat up wood chairs and a flash of elegance added by white linens floated over the small round tables by Latino bus-boys.   We are easy to spot; the six foot two lanky Irishman with a thicket of close cropped reddish brown hair, firm and robust like the head floating atop a frosted mug of Killian’s and the short chubby guy, always hungry, always on a diet, standing alongside him.   It’s like the Blues Brother’s woke up on the wrong side of the bar stool and decided they wanted to be accountants, and instead of dry white toast served up by Aretha Franklin ,  we choke down fragrant  bruschetta, crusty bread, and rigatoni Bolognese.   

“How’s the diet going, TC?”

“It’s going good, except for the eating.”

“Perfect, sounds like mine.  Pass the olives. ”  

“Va Bene,” he says to Lisa as she brings more bread.

“You’re welcome Bob, enjoy.”  As Lisa walks away, I crack one of those subtle smiles and think… not bad for an Irishman.

 And so every month I mark the calendar for my favorite  day, lunch with McLaughlin.  Two friends, eating, laughing, tossing family stuff around and Bob solving the world’s problems all by the time Lisa brings the biscotti cookies and espresso. Bob is an idea guy, a problem solver, with remarkable common sense and he makes it all seem so simple that I wonder when his cardboard face will be planted on neighborhood lawns and his name on a ballot. Then as we push ourselves away from the table and Lisa delivers the check it’s   like; he pays, I pay, he pays, I pay…. 

                    “Relax, TC.  I got this one.”  


                    I first met Bob, had to be twenty years ago, he was popping the filter into one of those industrial style coffee machines.

                     “The best thing about this business, he said, is you learn how to operate every coffee, copy and fax machine on the market.”  He pressed the green ON button and stuck out his logger- like mitt… “I’m McLaughlin.”

                     At the time we were working for KPMG, one of the largest super duper, image conscious, accounting firms in the world.  You may have seen the big blue lettered, white caps on the heads of golfers or NFL quarterbacks, even the ones who allegedly drive into trees and email pictures of their junk to young female reporters.  Of course, if you have ever grabbed your lucky mojo and sat in front of the television with Bob and I, and watched Yolanda Vega announce this week’s newest New York State lotto millionaire,  then you may have heard the shameless baritone plug that ends the broadcast;  The New York State Lottery is monitored by an independent auditor from KPMG.  Now as former employees Bob and I always find it silly how a company pounds its Fortune 100 chest in guiltless self promotion, all because some kid fresh out of school, camps out in the studios of Channel 9 and watches a few balls drop for 10 seconds.   

                    “I’ll tell you what, Bob says, swirling one last scrap of bread in a dipping plate of olive oil and cracked black pepper, Dr. Kirschenbaum watches balls drop all day long and not a promotional peep out of him…and no dopey caps.”

                     We clank our glasses of club soda together, “To the joys of being ex-employees.”

                    Alumni,” he reminds me.


 So there we were, years back,  performing a financial statement audit for J. H. Huber, a commercial ink company in Edison, New Jersey.   You get to know a lot about a person when you work across a conference room table for several months, pouring over reports and documents until two o’clock in the morning.   But Bob was able to coax laughter out of all of us, somehow finding humor, even in numbers. He showed us a lot about auditing and accounting, that on the job training you hear so much about.  Like how to work quickly and efficiently in a business where you are evaluated and paid based on how well you produce in the allotted time. Things I never saw before jumped up in front of me and stood out boldly as if in 3-D.  Like how to spot strengths and weaknesses in a company’s financial statements and to recognize certain trends in a business that made no sense at all.   I learned other things too, more important things like,  he was getting married in a few months, that he loved baseball, football, all kinds of movies,  Led Zeppelin and kicking back with a few cold ones on Long Beach Island.   That he loved carpentry,  collecting tools and spent a lot of his spare time fixing, building and renovating, especially the kitchen of the old house in Hackensack with wraparound porch that he and Sue had bought and would be moving in to after the wedding.    I learned that he loved to travel, was close to his family, wanted kids of his own and was going to do whatever it took to get out of the nutty business we were in.  Surprisingly, I learned that he was just like me.

So it was no surprise one day when the phone rang,

 “TC” the voice was even more jubilant than normal.  “I’m outta here,”


So Bob took a job as a bank comptroller and soon thereafter I was learning the operational ins and outs of Mount Sinai Medical Center.   Different, yet the same… numbers will be numbers. Over subsequent years we both bounced from job to job but we stayed in touch especially to toss work related questions back and forth.  But I was there at the inaugural Bob and Sue McLaughlin deck party where I learned to never get into a drinking contest with an Irishman a foot taller than I was and he and Sue were first in line at my surprise fortieth birthday party where I hobbled in on crutches after blowing out my ACL on some now defunct ski hill in the Catskills. 

“I told you skiing and accounting don’t mix TC, but whatever floats your boat.  Just make sure the life insurance is paid up.” Then he carried my new skis, boots and poles to the parking lot and loaded them in the back of my Chevy Blazer.


Ultimately Bob joined his Dad’s firm and with a handful of clients I started my own, pretty much working off the dining room table …until the phone rang;

“TC, what are you doing?”

“Same old same old, I said.”

“I got extra space if you want it.”

“Really.” I looked around at the dishes I had promised to put away, the upside down , red and blue Little Tikes Bike which had lost in a head on collision with the Barbie Jet-Liner parked on the adjacent runway nearby. There was my computer perched dangerously close to the edge of the table and I thought;  Space….the Accounting Frontier.    No way, I was passing this up.

“Bob, I’ll be there in an hour.”

“Beautiful, TC, freakin, Beautiful….bring some Pledge , rags and a check…postdated.”

So, all of a sudden I had an office, a business address and credibility even though I was flying by the seat of my pants. But it’s okay,  I had a friendly landlord with a safety net, one door down.

“Don’t worry TC,  it’s all about perception.  As long as it looks like you know what you’re doing, you can figure the rest out later.  And don’t forget, get half up front.”    


We had changed from our days at KPMG.  Self – employed, with families of our own, lots of bills to pay, some neither of us could figure out, homework to struggle with and Bob was an officer in the New Jersey Society of CPA’s.  Yet, as busy as he was, Bob always found time to lend a hand or offer advice on something,  

“Don’t go there TC, it’s like mailing an invite to the IRS to come knocking on your client’s door. Tell him too” …..and as always he gave me the right answer.

Then one blustery February morning, I’m rubbing sleep from my eyes, as the coffee brews and I heard loud, scraping noises from the driveway and the whine and grind of a shaky transmission with its fingers crossed.   There he was, behind the wheel of a relic, and I mean relic of a pick- up truck,   like dragged off of some Iowa corn field, red, flared out wheel wells,  CHEVROLET across the tailgate in raised white letters.  As soon as I crack open the front door …

“TC, he yells, leaning his beanie capped head out through the open window.  No excuses get down to Suite B and crank out some tax returns.” The look on his face said he was so at home driving his beat up truck, no income, deductions, emails, phone calls, debits and credits…just gas and K-Rock sun up to sun down.    He drove away grinning, clanking into second gear, tugging at that beanie that was too small for his head. The snow never had a chance, nor did my day off.


We never officially went in to business, afraid we might wind up two bickering old bean counters … like Mortimer and Randolph Duke  who lose it all to Eddie Murphy in Trading Places.

“Whadda you say TC, seats on the Gold Exchange were all taken but I scored two Yankee tickets- bleachers.  Pack it up”

It was really perfect, he ran his firm and I ran mine, and even after I moved my office we were always just ten numbers away; good deduction, bad deduction, how’s the bathroom going? Slow.  Doing the Disney thing this year?  Nah, Jersey Shore, Man Axel Rose really screwed up.  Should we take the Giant’s with the points?…. and what about lunch?


“TC, what’s going on?”

“Mr. McLaughlin,  nothing much.  How about, you?”

“I just wanted to warn you.”

“Warn me about what?”

“I’ve been going through some things, chemo and stuff and I don’t want you to pass out when you show up.”

“Chemo?  I took a deep breath.

“Yeah, I was playing basketball on the driveway and Sue asked me ; Hey Mack what’s that bruise on your shoulder?  So I dragged myself to the doctor.  They think they got everything.”

I was glad Bob warned me, he was gaunt in a green V-neck St. Paddy’s Day sweater, and gone was the reddish brown foam atop the mug of Killian’s.  Hair was growing back in uneven patches of gray stubble. He was tired and struggling with the treatment but in good spirits as always.

“Clever distraction, don’t you think.” He smiled pointing at the scary green sweater.  Funny thing was if I had been blindfolded, I would never have suspected a thing.  He still had the cheeriest of dispositions and like always only positive vibes.  He was bubbling with stories about the new house in Oakland, New Jersey, about framing out the basement with his pneumatic nailer, and chasing Bobby Jr. around the backyard.  He was confident, the doctors were confident and like everything he jumped in feet first, with vigor, common sense and determination.

“Can’t die now,” he said, “tax season is around the corner and some people still owe me money.”

And tax season came and went and another and another and we both worked like mad and   slowly the weight returned, the hair grew back and Bob McLaughlin was …once again the big-hearted guy smiling at the MS charity golf outing photo, framed in glass on the office wall. The lunches at Spasso’s were sporadic since we just seem to get busier by the minute.  Like most kids Bobby Jr. requires an entourage to move him from school, to day care, to soccer practice, to little league, and back home again.  Bob and Sue share the burden as best they can by working their tails off, dress down casual and blue collar ethic.  So he relishes the quiet time of his little down the shore getaways. He owns two small rental condos on LBI.  He’s had them for years and he loves going down there with a tool box and tinkering, with things that don’t need tinkering. I think he loves when they’re vacant though he won’t admit it.  So it was understandable last summer when we couldn’t get together for lunch.  Between trips down the shore, family vacations and racing after Bobby Jr.,  lunch and the problems of the world would have to wait. So before I left for California, I called the office and got the sweet voice of Sue McLaughlin;

“You have reached the offices of McLaughlin and Company.  We are not available   ….and so at the beep I said ,  

 “Eh Mr. McLaughlin, TC.  Haven’t heard, so I guess you’re on vacation, so enjoy Disney’s Old Key West, I hope the Magic Kingdom  lines aren’t too bad, and let’s get together when we get back.   Have a good one.”


So I went to California, and like an old man in a walker, I braked my way around   every hair pin turn, from San Francisco to San Diego, smiling at the NASCAR types in metallic flash, tops down,  waving their middle fingers at me up as they blew past.  I was glad to be back in my office playing catch up, when the phone rang.

“Tom?”  As always her voice was songbird sweet.

“Eh Sue, what’s up.”

There was a slight hesitation, “Bob passed away.”

I was glad to be sitting down as I slumped back in my chair, the breath knocked out of me.  It was like someone yanked the white linen from the table and unlike the full glasses at a no name magic show that teeter and stay, these glasses crashed to the ground and shattered into heartfelt bits.  My eyes wandered around my small room in a meaningless gaze - first to my motivational keep on writing peg board - over to the framed map of the Appalachian trail - to the door on which a blue bandanna from Steamboat Springs drapes lazily over the top urging me to get back out on the hill - across to my Hallowed Ground Calendar of Ballparks Past and Present - back to my desk and down at my lifeless keyboard. 

As my eyes roamed passed these meaningless objects, Sue explained how the cancer had come back with a vengeance. It was pirahanna like, eating away at him with break neck speed, robbing him of every ounce of strength, crippling him with monstrous tumors that attacked, then lodged in his spine, paralyzing him as his heart gave out at the end. 

It was difficult to speak.   My mouth had writer’s block.

“My God Sue, I am so very sorry. When did this happen?” 

“Several weeks ago, I knew you were away and I didn’t want to leave a message….you understand.”

“Sure, but he never mentioned a thing.  The last time we got together for lunch, it was a while ago, but, you know, it was business as usual.”

“Well, you know Mack.” She said it with fondness and love, a quivering at the tail end of her voice.

She was right, I did know Mack,  it was all good, all the time.  He wouldn’t think of burdening anyone with his own crosses, have his life get in the way of yours, it was not his style. No whining,  only bursts of positive energy and if not that then nothing at all.    It was his way but no excuses, I still hated myself for not knowing.

Sue continued, “The oncologist said in all his years he had never seen anything ravish a body so quickly and at least we’re thankful for that.”

 I cringed at the thought of what she and Bobby Jr. were going through.  “Is there anything I can do, anything you need?  It felt like such a meager offering at this stage of the game.

“Thank you Tom, and I truly appreciate it, but we are doing okay.  For now, I think we’ll be fine, we have lots of family around.”

  I felt useless.  After all he had done for me, I could do nothing.

I hung up the phone with a sweaty palm and a thunder like pounding in my ears.  I don’t think I will ever have a stranger or more gut wrenching morning.  McLaughlin was gone.  It was hard to fathom, so young, so unjustified, the angst that a young family endures only to find solace in the quickness of death.  It infuriates me and makes it hard to believe in anything but the moment.  

I went to his office and visited with his mom, Kay.  She was doing her best closing things down, and weeding through old files, books, documents, things of that nature. Bob was a bit of a pack rat. We talked for a while and she handed me some files for a job, Bob and I had done together. I admired how strong she was, so adept at maintaining a stiff upper lip, much stronger than I was. 


 So life goes on, tax seasons come and tax seasons go and I toil away in my office, an office I would not have and a business I would not be in, if not for Bob McLaughlin… but it’s all good.  Sometimes I work, sometimes I write. Writing doesn’t pay but it’s a whole lot of fun.  I try and approach every day now the way Bob showed me, with appreciation and to not let things bother me the way they use to. Things like my son getting thrown out of college twice or my impressionist daughter with key in lieu of brush, etching her feelings across every inch of her ex-boyfriend’s new car. No worries.  We have all heard the saying, when life gives you lemons make lemonade.  Well, the old me thinks the only good thing about that is the part when you get to crush the lemons.  But the new me, the thanks to Bob me, doesn’t think like that anymore.  The new me, shakes and stirs and makes a big tall glass …with a splash of Grey Goose… just in case.  And each month,   I walk over to my Calendar of Ballparks Past and Present that hangs on the closet door in my office, and with a black Sharpie, I pick a day and do my best to enjoy each one with as much life as Bob would, straight from the tap,  filled to the brim, bursting with color,   just like those calendar paintings, the vibrant greens of stadium  grass, orange, red and blues of vintage uniforms,   the packed stands of thrilled faces, the fences an artist canvas of old  time Americana,  selling  Gem Razors, Ballantine Beer and  gasoline at Flying A Service Stations.  But most important, I keep my eye on the X, and finally when that day rolls around, I make sure to think about my friend. Thanks for lunch Bob, thanks for everything.

22 September 2010 @ 07:47 am

I remember sitting by the window

It is my first memory.  I was three.

My Mom is in the kitchen.

Tiny landlord kitchen.

Full of white enamel and tufted vinyl chairs.

My dad’s lap is the cool place

I can see everything

We are sitting by the window

It’s summer, outside and in.

A Peacock is in my Dad’s hand

A lit Lucky Strike in the other.

A gentle touch and the fuse is a glowing sizzle.  Bombs away.

BANG! The airborne sound.

Paper floats softly in the dead, July night air, softly to the ground.

I never saw anything so cool.

You try one he says.

He lights, I throw.

I don’t cover my ears. I love the sizzle and the BANG.

They go together like Lennon and McCartney.

Here,  try another, he says.  Hey Marie, look what he can do.

I am a trained seal.

I stare at the sizzle. It glows. It sizzles some more.

BANG, God my hand hurts. I am screaming, I try and fight back tears

Pyros don’t cry.


My hand is numb; it throbs with an agonizing beat.

Like those coffee shop cats on a Village street.

My swollen fingers are gun powdery silver and sulfur fills my nose.

Burning it, tainting the air I breathe.

Mom races in with ice and love.

She reaches out to take me in her arms.

Not on your life. I back away.

Her eyes plead as I sit tight.

My Dad’s lap is the cool place

I can see everything.


My hand is burning and throbbing

If it were winter I could reach out and bury the pain in frozen mounds of winter white.

I remember snow.

Mounds of  brilliant white cotton.

The kind we don’t get anymore.

Piled against my house in massive drifts. 


On the stoop, against the wrought iron railing, he stands.

My brother and I like puppets in his working man hands.

We fly through the air, so softly we land

Into the drifts we don’t get anymore.

Buried neck deep.

Like two pirates on an arctic beach.

Wind whipped winter crystals, punish my face and cling to my smoking wool cap, 

“Please help us,” they whisper in my ear.

They are hiding from the uniformed men and the rumble of big city machines.

“Stay with us,” I say. You are safe here. Forever.


My hand is better then. No throbbing. The silver washed from my skin.

Like a claw, it pulls at the snow, digging, tearing and climbing.

Climbing I am, in snow blinding light.

I must get back to the hands.

From there I can see everything.

04 April 2009 @ 05:13 pm

 It's All About The E

What is your name, they ask?

Cannone I say.

How do you spell that, they ask?

Cannon plus an E, I say.

That’s simple. Is that Italian they ask?

Only with the E, I say. Without it I am someone else. Just a shadow.

Like cousins, who have stricken the E and moved to the Gulf Coast.

Away from the L overhead and its rusty tracks that rattle their way into Brooklyn dreams.

Away from the wooden crates, purple stained and stacked out front each October.

Away from the green family vines they say strangle them.  

We need a little space, to become WASPS they say.

But space is not always better I tell them.

A little space and a therapist becomes… The Rapist.

Oh…what a little space can do. And the WASP leaves such a greedy, unprovoked,  prejudiced sting .



So drop it if you must, but I am nothing without my E.

The E traveled the ocean,  past Freedoms Daughter,

Tip toed across iron bones, building skeletons in the sky.

Dug and poured, dug and poured, as a city rose to life.

Dug and planted and took harvest from tiny patches of earth which grew fragrant by  Summer’s end, guarded by old men in sleeveless shirts, their chests pressed against

Backward chairs.

Dug and planted sons in the death fields of Europe, and Asia and wherever the red, white and blue death likes to play, sons planted in boxes filled with sadness, sadness which lingers amongst the subtle herbs and flowers in the window boxes of mothers and daughters and fathers and brothers.


So, tell me what does my name mean?

Tell him John, Antoinette says, as I stand in the mud of Saint Mary’s, a little boy with sad eyes, surrounded by stones and happy voices so clear in the stark cemetery wind.

My bones shiver in the October chill, their voices now immune, always warm and soothing. 

Our name means nothing, grandpa says.  It is just a word. Like all words.

But it is a door for you to open and travel and explore and find out who you are and what you will become.

Open this door and run.  Run with the bravado of armed angels  sent by God.

Run with your eyes and mind and heart open to what you will find.

Run through the front door of the Sand Lane Sweet Shoppe.



Where we would go, not for the candies kept in jars, not for the espresso, not for the fountain sodas in emblem glasses with paper straws, but to get a glimpse of the man called Manots... the hand.

The hand, smooth and round like a ball except for one finger, a pinky that stuck straight up like a talon.

The crippled hand with which he fed his family for over half a century, to the chants of Hail Mary’s, Novenas and Prayer of the Faithful spoken  from simple wooden benches from inside of  the simple white church next door.

Run through his store reach in to a jar and help yourself to courage.

Run out back past the rows of tiny houses with wire fences,

Fences that served as  trellis’s  never  barriers, their gates always open,

Run over the Verrazano and glimpse at the city you helped to build.

Run as the sweat drips down, stinging your eyes and you find yourself in the black and white world of a century ago.

Run past the metal on metal scraping of trolleys

and ice men, their horse drawn wagons negotiate cobblestone streets, the women waving to them from tenement windows.

Cross the water and run through the red brick barns, past the uniform man who marked you cruelly with government ink.  Safe he says, the boy is neither crazy or diseased.


Suddenly your world is the deck of The Pesaro, one year before it was turned to scrap iron. Yours is a journey of chance… for a life of dreams.

You are alone. You are scared. But you know the ocean.  It has been your life, your friend.  Your home,


Casteddammari, The Sea Fortress is the guardian of your village.  

Embrace it. Pay no attention to the names made famous by  those born of its dirt,  to the sea of blood spilled by those romanticized in wars fought in the gangster streets of New York City.  

The Pesaro is strong, it will guide you through this red sea.

The sea made red by the Tonnarotti, the tuna fishermen, herding the blue fin in to La Camera Della Morte, the chambers of death.

Sing loudly from the crowded decks of the Pesaro.  Sing  as the Mettanza fishermen have for centuries.  Join them in their celebration. On this day death brings life.


The land comes quickly,  then remove your shoes and run through the Trapani streets.  Follow the salt air as it weaves through the stone buildings,

Past working hands

Past working backs

Past working brows filled with working sweat.

Embrace them. Learn from them.

But don’t stop. Never stop. Never stop running. Never stop working.

Follow the salt breeze inland into the countryside.

Run amongst the vineyards. High above salty white shores.



The vines are work. The vines are lifeblood.

And as the sun casts shadows on the Mediterranean.

Sing your name.  Cannone. Sing your  name. Loudly.

It is a song to be remembered, to be taught, to be loved and shared.

And then as you pass it on,  nurture the smiles on the little faces. 

Teach them to journey

Their smiles are your smiles.  

Precious gifts to be savored,

Like a perfect kiss or a ripened grape plucked gently from the vine.

Then you will know your name. Enjoy it like your evening wine

Enjoy it as you sit back and watch your children dance.

28 April 2008 @ 06:42 pm

Tom Cannone


(201) 483-3949


The End –Written for;   The Other Direction


She stared at the crumbled brick, each piece different and yet the same. So many shapes, yet the same in their reddish color and total lifelessness.  She saw them as she saw herself, an eternity of faceless, nameless days.  Suddenly, she flung the stone like crumbs high in the air and watching them momentarily she grabbed the boy’s hand and together they ran, dodging the clay rain drops. As the bits fell, she could hear for the first time someone calling her name. It was a kind and loving voice. Flushed with excitement she let go of the laughing boy’s hand and continued to run.  She ruffled her hair with her fingers, brushing away the bits of brick, sending them flying to the ground.   Her thoughts of the man left sleeping grew distant with each stride and sprigs of lavender and white roses sprung up from the grey dirt all around her.  The voice grew louder and continued to lead her, far away from loveless mornings and dark doorways, toward the pleasantries of lush gardens alive with sunshine. 


El Stadio


By: Tom Cannone

(201) 483-3949



It’s Saturday afternoon and me and my cousin Flaco are headed to the ball game.  Here Alberto, take the tickets and go, my grandmother said to me. It’s a beautiful summer day.  Get away from that computer and go outside. Get your cousin, get some sun, get a girlfriend or something, just get out! Vamo!

            So courtesy of Mr. Palmer my Grandmother’s boss down at the bank, Flaco and I hop on the train and head uptown with two freebies in our pockets.  The seats are not great, they are way in the upperdecks but we don’t complain.  It beats T.V.  Besides, maybe our hero Ignacio Sanchez, the great “Los Nachos” will send one our way.  He’s got thirty five homeruns so far this season and the All Star break is still a week away, so we got a pretty good chance.

 The train ride takes no time at all.  It’s crowded with fans and everyone is all ready drinking.  The smell of beer dances its way around the train as it sways from side to side along the track. The crowd is rowdy but good natured, not looking to cause any trouble.  Just having a good time.   Finally, it pulls in and as we fight our way out, shoulder to sweaty shoulder, I break free and there it is …El Stadio.  It’s overwhelming with its white granite and team flags flapping around the top in a wind kissed colored circle.   It’s so defiant and pristine.  With the black wrought iron entrance gates at the bottom it looks like a castle or fort or something, providing temporary sanctuary for all those lucky enough to be on the other side of it’s stone walls. It looks so out of place, this impenetrable fortress, next to the burned out buildings and empty lots cluttered with abandoned cars and garbage.  

            Like an angry mob we walk toward Gate B.  It’s like one of those old black and white horror movies when the people of the town are chasing somebody  with rakes, shovels, pick handles and whatever else they can lay their hands on. Everyone together joined by a common thread.   It’s the same with us except we are waving our tickets and shoving them in the scalpers face as if to say keep your tickets Paco, I’ve got my own.

 It’s a logjam at the turn stile but it moves pretty quick, thank God, cause it’s hot on this late afternoon. Real hot.  Luckily our seats have the roof for some shade or we would roast for sure, like two tamales on my grandmother’s stove.   The attendant tears our tickets and Flaco and I run inside.  We jump on the escalator because it’s along way up and the crowd is crazy with excitement. Everyone is laughing, parents hugging their children, friends, hi-fiving with their hats turned backwards.  No one is thinking about the rent, or the job they don’t have or getting riddled with bullets by the cops just for reaching in their pocket to scratch themselves.  There haven’t been any justifiable shootings inside of El Stadio that I can recall.  Although a couple of weeks ago two guys wearing Toronto Blue Jays  caps got roughed up a bit for cheering when the pitcher went up and in on “Los Nachos” to keep him honest. But it was nothing really just a few punches that hit air followed up by some laughs and cold beers.  That’s it.  You know, it really is like a castle.  Inside the sacred walls of the mighty El Stadio we are invincible.

            It takes a while but we scamper amongst the crowd and make or way to upper deck, section 127, row 58 seats 9 and 10. All ready I can smell the pretzels.  As soon as I come out of the runway I stop short…just like always.  My eyes begin speaking before I can say a word.  It is our urban oasis. The field is emerald green, and the bases are bone white, pure like angels taking a nap in the afternoon sun.   The infield dirt is dark brown, sprayed damp by the groundskeepers to hold down the dust.  The sky is cobalt blue and those perfect white base lines from both sides of the plate straight out to the fence, cut perfectly in to the luscious green grass, not carved by a razor on a mirror or piece of glass or to define the subtle turf boundaries like in my neighborhood. And the lines inside of El Stadio, no big deal, you know?  Fair ball, foul ball, that’s it.  The lines in my neighborhood get you dead. Especially the one you can’t see but no one crosses, unless you run with Los Malos.  But that doesn’t matter at least not for now.  We fall in to our seats and quickly shove hot dogs and sodas in to our grinning faces.   

            “ Hey, thank Abuelita for me when you get home,”  Flaco said.  This is what, our fifth game this season?

            “Sixth, I said, and don’t worry you can thank her yourself when you see her.  I told her we were painting her apartment.  Besides you say how much you want to be an artist.”

            The game is only minutes away and the building is ready to pop. It’s a wild array of tee shirts, caps and fans holding signs.  Hand held boat horns are blasting, someone is clanging a cow bell and Richie Valens is singing La Bamba from everywhere.  My eyes circle above, it’s incredible, there must be fifty thousand people.

            “Hey Berto, Flaco shouts in my ear while tugging on my arm.   Look down there.”

            My eyes drift down, several rows in front of us and stop abruptly at the matching set of strapless white tops and perfect tan shoulders.  They are attached to funky cropped dark brown hair and also come with tight,  high cut Khaki shorts.  Flaco and I look at each other and at the same time; Ay Dios Mio!   And if God was here he would say the same thing, for sure.   Then an old guy squeezes through and by the time he finally sits down next to us we thought he was gonna die. He had to be about eighty and he is wearing one of those jet black hair pieces.  I mean, it looked like the rat that chased me in the basement of my building one time, but this one was taking a nap on the old guys head.  And it looked a little crooked, maybe even backwards, I couldn’t tell for sure. Sweat is oozing out from underneath and running down the sides of his face, and he looks really uncomfortable.  But he settles in breaks out a scorebook and some pencils from this red , white and blue flight bag he’s carrying.   Good day boys, he says.  We smile back. Then he reaches back in his bag, takes a couple of peanuts and throws them at the two girls in front, hitting them softly in the ass.  Like lightning the old guy ducks down as if looking for something in that stupid satchel. I don’t know how the hair stayed on.

“Hey old man, this is not the zoo,” Flaco yells at him.  The girls turn around and Flaco points at the old dude giving him up right away.  They smile at us and one of them waves to me as they both turn back around.  What a great day this was gonna be.

            So the game starts and it moves along quickly.  I think we spent more time staring at the girls than watching the game but you don’t have to watch the game to know what’s going on.  El Stadio will tell you.  He speaks in so many voices.  The cheers, the boos, the anger when the umpire blows a call. The low grumble when our pitcher starts to lose it and it’s time for him to go.  The loud disappointing ooooohhhhh, when one of our guys cracks one and it just misses going over the wall and falls short for nothing more than a long out.  The laughter when odd ball things happen in the stands or on the field.  Or when the whole place does the wave.  Things you don’t see or feel on TV. 

 Before we know it, it’s the seventh inning and of course we all do the stretch.  The organ plays and the guys come out on to the field with the air cannons and fire tee shirts into the stands.  People go crazy diving over seats, lunging after one.  Flaco and I have come close a couple of times but close doesn’t count, so we keep trying. Vendors are selling hot dogs, beers and ice cream, wearing those kooky hats with the price tag sticking out of it.  Beer  $7.50.  Hot Dog $ 6.00 and ice cream $5 bucks.  It’s crazy, but we love it.  It’s like we are all little kids and El Stadio is telling us a bed time story.  We are all so relaxed, care free and nothing else matters, at least for the moment.  Not the war, not Hillary, not Obama, the price of gas, or anything.

What matters now is that it is the bottom of the seventh and we are losing one - nothing.  There are men on second and third, one out and strolling to the plate…”Los Nachos.”  The tension rumbles deep in the belly of El Stadio, until a nervous cheer is heard.  Nothing over the top as a lot of finger nail biting is going on.  Their pitcher is so angry and ugly.  If my grandmother was here she would smack him one, drag him to the shower and then down to  Carlito for  a haircut and shave. El Stadio does not like him, not one dam bit and he lets him know it.  The first pitch comes right at the head of “Los Nachos.” He doesn’t even flinch.  The big electric scoreboard in centerfield lights up.   96 MPH.  Ball one.   The pitcher stands tall on the mound.  His eyes sinister and dark.  He rears back and fires, another ball thrown at the face of “Los Nachos.”   98 MPH.  Again the slugger  only moves his head ever so slightly just to avoid being struck. His feet firmly planted in the batters box, crowding home plate.  El Stadio is furious,  he begins to scream and swear in anger  He wants blood, to see the pitchers head on a platter and who better to serve it up but Ignacio Sanchez the patron saint of the whole Dominican Republic.   He leans the top of his bat into the dirt reaches between his legs and grabs his cup giving it a good shake as if to tell the pitcher, you threw two balls at me, but guess what,  I got a lot more balls than you.  You want me, come and get me. He takes his stance and waits, the pitcher sneers and throws from a full wind-up.  Fastball – away.  “Los Nachos” leans in with his trunk like forearms out in front.  The ball explodes off his bat and El Stadio erupts in sheer pandemonium.  The ball sizzles its way though the sky smashing in to the right field upper decks, ping ponging against the seats.  Fans scramble and run for cover shielding their heads.  Then just as quickly race back,  chasing after the homerun launched from the bat of one of the greatest hitters of all time.  The gargantuan  batter goes in to his trot and flashes a shit eating grin at the pitcher, who is kicking dirt off the mound in disgust, as the slugger rounds first.  Then the mystery voice deep and resonating echoes  through the air ;Looosssss Nachooosssss!  As he rounds the bases the Meringues blasts and El Stadio starts to dance.  We are all standing, twisting on the chairs pumping our fists in the air and shaking our asses wherever there is room.  I look to the right and even the old man is standing up spinning his ugly toupee in the air.  And Flaco, he busted a move up front and is dancing with the two girls. He waves to me and I nudge the old man out of the way and quickly join him.  The opposition can never recover from this.  “Los Nachos” had broken their backs and El Stadio has spoken.

            Six quick outs and the game was over.  Flaco and I sat back in our chairs and said goodbye to Elena and Jessie as they walked by.  The building was electric with victory, so why rush out.  We sat there until all the colored hats, banners and giant cotton candy’s were gone and replaced by the empty blue backs of stadium seats.  The grounds crew raked out the infield and rolled out the tarp, carefully covering the diamond like a mother covers her child with a hand stitched quilt.

            “Let’s go fellas, we wanna go home,” the security guard told us as he walked past. So finally we headed for the aisle.  I took one last look at the field.  The lights were still on and it was deserted.  Even the cops were gone.  Who would think that less than an hour ago it was filled with such craziness.  

            “Hey Flaco, I’ll race you down,” I said, eyeing  the slanted walkways that zig zag their way down to the bottom in a skeletal maze of iron railings and concrete.

            “Your on,” he said and bolted past me in a flash.  It took a couple of yards but I caught him just as we reached the railings. 

            “I’m gonna beat your ass, homeboy,” Flaco yelled, as he made the turn.

“Maybe next time, right now you can watch it.”  I passed him and grabbed onto the railings made smooth by more than seventy five years of hands going to ball games.  We zig zagged downward, like two colored pieces in a gumball machine, and I opened up a lead.  I am fast but Flaco used to be faster.  He was shot in the leg standing outside the neighborhood bodega last year, buying a quart of milk.  The doctor says it’s going to take time to heal.  I look over my shoulder as I near the bottom, our sneakers echoing in the emptiness as each step pounds against the cement.  I reach the bottom first and move to the side and take an imaginary picture of Flaco as he passes the finish line.

“C’mon slow poke, I laugh, if we lived on a farm I would have to shoot you.”

“Hey Albertico, shoot this.”  As Flaco passes, he shoves his middle finger into my make believe lens and keeps going, straight to the exit.

“Yo wait up!” 

We meet at the gate and walk past the last security guard, who smiles and ushers us out into the street.  It’s a clear night and it’s a short walk to the train.  We walk up the stairs past the rainbow colors of neighborhood artists.  Their artistic impressions so cool on a canvas of rusted metal and worn brick. To the right, the Tri – City Bridge twinkles in the night sky.  I can see the red tail lights of the cars driving away from the city across the river, to a place, to a life that is probably so different than mine.  The doors to the number 7 slide open and we have our pick of empty seats.  As it quickly pulls away from the station, my face is pressed against the window.  El Stadio looms large and menacing, yet comforting and inviting to those who know him.  Flaco and I stretch our legs out across the hard plastic.  He was faster tonight than last time.  By the end of the season he will beat me for sure, and that will be great, as it should be.  



-----The End-----


13 April 2008 @ 08:35 am
Tax day and your birthday.  Everyone will be celebrating.  I hope yours is a good one.

tom c.
09 April 2008 @ 05:33 pm


(201) 483-3949






Everyone is a character.  Heroes, villains, tragic victims of circumstance, comedic, stately or your average person on the street. It doesn’t matter whether it is fiction or non- fiction, poetry, essay or memoir, as long as there are people or things personified there are characters.  Perhaps, it’s the cigar chomping, cane toting, bull dog faced Winston Churchill quoting his way through the Second World War, or maybe the flamboyant Austin Powers , globe trotting in hot pursuit of Dr. Evil.  Maybe they are classic and timeless characters, created by Faulkner, Conan Doyle and Dickens or even better the characters created write here in our classroom, by all of us.  What they all have in common are defining traits and personalities that make them interesting to all of us as readers.  Things that make them memorable, whether we love them or hate them.

          Chapter six of Shaping The Story by Mark Baechtel focuses on characterization.  Some of his thoughts are summarized below:


Characters Are What They Do

Characters are often best created by their actions rather than through narration.  For example; you can say “he was angry” or you can create a scene where the character squeezes the end of a cigarette between his fingers than tosses it to the pavement and continues to grind it in to the ground as if stepping on the head of a snake. Where describing a person as angry is merely an assertion, the second example creates a picture beginning to let us know who the person is and how he expresses himself. We should try and describe our characters as much as possible, not only basic physical attributes (short, tall, blue eyes, etc., ) but further like their taste in music, movies, food, what they like to read. Maybe their sense of humor, or fashion or different ways of smiling that convey messages.


Avoid Types

We should avoid cliché –characterizations at all times. They are the signs of a lazy writer.  The tough –guy private eye, the mad scientist, the absent minded professor, the bubble headed blond, and the drunken Irishman, are examples given buy the author.  Can you think of any others?


Treat Characters Respectfully

Don’t look down on your characters.  Definitely create characters that we love to hate but don’t deny them their humanity. For example, we all dislike wife beaters and it is easy to encourage our readers to dislike them as well.  What is more difficult but rewarding to the reader might be to create a scenario where the man is not merely evil, but whose evil is mixed with regret, sorrow and sometimes even kindness.  And we all know these guys. We are often shocked when we find out about Mr. X … such a nice guy. You know, Knights of Columbus, Boy Scouts, Doctor of Internal medicine, with a habit of beating his wife over the head with a shower nozzle.  (True story)  By getting beneath the character’s surface it creates complications, interest and mystery.

          We all love humor, but don’t laugh at you characters or humiliate them.  Sometimes, reader’s deepest laughter arises from feelings of sympathy with the characters.  Maybe the guy who drops his keys, down a storm drain or brushes their teeth with Ben-Gay instead of Crest, are things that happened to all of us…not just me…so we laugh when we see or read about it happening to someone else.


Round and Flat Characters

We should pay careful attention to the role each character plays in the story. Not everyone can be the leading man and lady (Round).  Flat characters may walk in to a scene and sell someone a pack a cigarettes or drive a cab and be done. We should try and balance the depth of detail for each character relative to their fit in the story.


Allow Characters to Declare Themselves

Let your characters surprise you and develop as the story unfolds.  Perhaps they change along the way and have different ideas than you first imagined.  Let our characters tell us who they are and they will be so much more interesting and real. Sometimes they can change a story’s direction.  The example given by the author is; you start out writing a story about a somber funeral. Then the corpse’s wacky uncle Mike shows up and turns the whole proceeding in to a drunken party.


Building a Character’s Foundation

We should avoid trying to pack all our characters efforts and personality in the first meeting.   We should offer characterization to the reader by offering several details and then let the character build along with the events of the story, maybe with interesting twists along the way.  It’s like a courtship.  When we meet someone for the first time we don’t exchange biographies but as we get to know one another and become more involved we share more information.  The author describes character building like applying layers of lacquer to furniture. Over time, with each layer you create depth.  In the same way a character is developed scene by scene. Also don’t try and explain too much.  Provide enough information but not too much.  Characters should also develop through their actions.


One exercise you might try (which was an assignment last semester) is to pick a character, any character.  It can be a real person or someone fictional and write a character sketch.  Maybe it’s a relative, or a coach or a nasty neighbor or someone who lives in your head just waiting to come alive.   Try and use all your senses in creating your character as well as delving beneath the character’s surface in creating someone we can all
03 April 2008 @ 06:06 pm

The Farmhouse


(A One Act Play)


                                                                           By: Tom Cannone






It’s late October 1943.   Brilliant red and white flashes illuminate the night sky over war torn Nazi Germany, as Hitler’s anti – aircraft batteries try to repel a constant wave of Allied bombers.   Rudy Schmidt is a twenty three year old pilot in the United States Air Force – 323rd squadron.    The B-17 he was flying had come under fire, a fatal blow administered by a surface to air missile, one of the many advanced weapons in the lethal Nazi  arsenal.  He struggled with the stick keeping the flaming metal structure air born just long enough for the crew and himself to wallow through the smoke and jump to safety, taking their chances in the sky.   He floats downward like a sitting duck, with his fingers crossed and his white silk parachute reflecting in the night as the German searchlights pierce the darkness in an attempt to blind Allied pilots with “dazzle” and “glare.”  It looked like the footlights of a Broadway opening on a grandiose scale, plus the bullets of course.  Remarkably, he lands without a scratch, softly in the shallow snow in a village field somewhere south of Schweinfurt.   He gathers his parachute and covers it with snow as best he can, for the Nazi’s will be sure to be looking for downed Allied “flyboys” to hand over to the Luftwaffe interrogators.   He makes his way across the open field, unseen as enemy eyes are pre-occupied with aircraft at the moment not with foot soldiers.  He braces up against the wall of a quaint farmhouse where inside the lovely Marlena Brauch is sitting by the fire enjoying a second brandy.   With stone façade and smoke billowing from the chimney it brought to mind memories of Hansel and Gretel and the Big Bad Wolf, fairy tales he enjoyed so much as a little boy.  He tries the front door but it is locked.  Walking around the side he sees a window opened slightly, raised  about an inch or so from the sill. He raises it gently, lifts himself up and climbs inside.  As he crouches down like a spider he reaches for his sidearm, his eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness. Suddenly in the dead of quiet, he feels the cold steel barrel of a rifle pressing firmly against his head…..



Marlena: Put down your gun.  Move and it will be my pleasure in killing you. 

Rudy: (tensely) Let’s not be hasty now miss. I don’t mean you any harm.  (easing the gun to the floor)

(She presses the barrel harder against Rudy’s head.) Miss your girlfriend colonel, not me. My name is Marlena Brauch and don’t take me for an idiot. If you don’t mean any harm as you say, tell me then, who is burning down the German countryside.  The planes don’t fly themselves now,  do they colonel? (She swigs the last of her brandy and wings the glass snifter across the room shattering it in the hearth without moving her eyes from Rudy.)


Rudy: (He looks up) No they don’t, and I’m a captain, not a colonel - Captain Rudy Schmidt –United States Air Force.


Marlena: My apologies CAPTAIN RUDY SCHMIDT.  Come. We shall sit inside  by the fire.  (With the gun barrel, she prods him along like a cow in to a pen.)  If you behave yourself perhaps I shall pour you a brandy before I take you outside and blow your head off.  A prisoner’s last request.


Rudy:  Is that really necessary?


Marlena: I am afraid so Captain Schmidt, you are the enemy, even if you do have a very fine name. It means blacksmith, a fine occupation.  Were you aware of that?


Rudy:   (slowly making his way to the sofa and sitting down opposite the fireplace) No, I never gave it much thought really.


Marlena: (Taking a crystal glass and filling halfway with brandy) Well think about and ask yourself this;  with your blacksmith surname why are you flying around blowing people to smithereens instead of  more human endeavors like making new shoes for my two horses,  Fritz and Abigail.   Does it bring you great joy in killing Germans, captain?


Rudy: Oh, I don’t know, not especially. I enjoy taking off, and landing, preferably in one piece.  Other than that I’m just following orders.  It’s war.


Marlena: (Raising her voice in anger) War, huh! Und why is that.  Because the Fuehrer says so?  Or the Congress in Washington. Hitler hides in his bunker drinking schnapps and American lawmakers stroll beneath the cherry blossoms, while Europe burns.  And both sides find brown haired, blue eyed handsome young men like you and my husband Franz to light the matches.  (She points a glass toward Rudy who reaches out with both hands to grab it)


Marlena: KEEP YOUR HANDS UP, DUMB - DUMB UNTIL I SAY SO OR MAYBE I WON’T WAIT UNTIL WE ARE OUTSIDE. (She crudely pushes the glass up against his face and tilts it, sending brandy cascading down the front of Rudy’s chin.)


Rudy: (He spits into the fire and the brandy ignites in a ferocious flare up)

 To hell with you and your Brandy honey. As well as those two old hags Franz and Abigail.  If your gonna kill me, you better do it now, cause’   I ain’t goin outside.


Marlena:  First of all Franz is my husband and Fritz is my horse. And such a potty mouth you are, didn’t your mommy teach you manners on how to act when a guest in someone’s house?


Rudy: I don’t feel like much of a guest with that rifle pointed in my face and the few manners I got were taught to me by the good sisters at St. Dominic’s orphanage. So if you have a mind to, take it up with them.  But don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Marlena:  Raised by the nuns no less. It’s no wonder you mother gave you away.  You will not be so lucky with me.


Rudy: Look lady, your beloved  Nazi’s shot me and my plane out of the sky. But I was able to make it down safely, without so much as a scratch. So you know what that means? It means I get to play again. I was doing my job,  they were doing theirs.  That’s all it means, sort of honor amongst thieves you might say.  Next time round I might not be so lucky.  What it doesn’t mean is that I have to listen to some drunken dame that got up on the wrong side of the bed.


Marlena:  You talk pretty tough for a clay pigeon.  (She hesitates) Put down your hands. This drunken dame as you say is not going to shoot you. I will leave that to the Nazi’s.  I am sure they will enjoy it much more than I will.


Rudy: Well you probably right about that miss…and thanks for the vote of confidence.


(Marlena hands him the snifter and leans the rifle against the sofa and returns his sidearm.)



Marlena:  Your right, I’m sorry. The war has hardened all of us.  Too many nights alone with nothing but bombs and brandy. So tell me about your Saint Dominic’s. Did you have horses to ride and play cowboy and Indians like in the movies?  


Rudy:  (grinning) The only thing I rode was the L.  From Greenpoint to Coney Island.


Marlena:  What does it mean…the L?


Rudy: Why, it’s a train miss. Metal squealing, sparks flying, turn after rickety turn, day and night.  And down below all of Brooklyn, going about its business as if you wasn’t even there.   You’ve heard of Brooklyn, haven’t yuh?  Nathans? Ebbets Field?


Marlena: Brooklyn? Most certainly.  There are German U-Boats off the coast as we speak, spying on all the naïve Americans, who think they are safe and sound across the water. And when they least expect it… boom, the sky will come crashing down.



Rudy: (laughing slightly) You Germans are a crafty bunch, I’ll give you that.   Now that you mention it, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the Krauts took a cruise up and down the Hudson.  Maybe even, got out and took a look around the Battery, stopping in for a sandwich and to chat with a few skirts at the Chock Full O’ Nuts.  


Marlena:  Of course, talking skirts, only in America.  Come now tell me about your girlfriend Captain.  She is waiting for you to go and chase the American Dreamer, yes?  


Rudy:  That’s Dream …and I am sorry to say that there’s no one waiting for me back home. Other than, Sister Mary Franklin Joseph Colleti, at the orphanage.   Sweet lady, quite a looker too, for a nun of course and never once did she pull my hair or whack me across the hind legs with a yardstick.


Marlena:  So what will you do when you get back then?  There’s got to be something you think about to get you through this war.


Rudy: It’s like I said, taking off and landing in one piece, one flight at a time. That’s enough to think about.   Besides (sarcastically) a minute ago you had me staring up stiff at the Nazi’s. 



Marlena: Okay. Okay.  Let’s say you decide to do me a favor and re-shoe my loveable Fritz, when all of a sudden, poof! Somehow when you are bent over to pick up your hammer, Fritz kicks his hind legs und just like that you get a horseshoe stuck up in your ass.  From that moment you are blessed with a wonderful turn of good luck and no one can touch you,  not Hitler, not Rommel, the SS, no one. You make it home… a big shot war hero, no less.  Medals, brass band, the whole works.   What then?


 Rudy: Oh I don’t know. I haven’t given it much thought. To tell you the truth my American dream was to get out of Brooklyn, so you might say I’m living it all ready.   Now mind you, that didn’t take much doing.  Just a few signatures and a kick in the pants from Sister Colleti.  Sure, there are a lot of jobs back home. New opportunities are popping up day and night and there’s plenty of money to be made.   Tons of manufacturing, all kinds of industry…but I love to fly. It’s what I do best.  Maybe I’ll head out to California.  Hughes Aviation or someone like that would love to have someone like me.  Test pilot maybe.  (Takes a sip of brandy)   Hey, how about you?  What are you and  Franz going to do when he gets home?


Marlena: (Sounding surprised) Franz?  Franz came home a year ago.  Would you like to meet him? 


Rudy reaches for the rifle as Marlena turns and reaches for an upside down German combat helmet that is resting on the mantel over the fireplace.


Rudy: Excuse me?


Marlena:  Here say hello to Franz.  (She hands the helmet to Rudy who looks inside at the neat mound of ashes.)  Ashes to ashes dust to dust meet my Franz the stupid putz.


Rudy:  Gee, Marlena…I’m sorry...and don’t talk that way. I’m the one with no manners, remember. 


Marlena:  Don’t be sorry.  The army was the life Franz wanted. I hadn’t seen him in years.  As a matter of fact, since Hitler marched on Poland.  He was hypnotized by the ridiculous principles of the Third Reich.   What started as national pride long ago turned in to barbarism and it will kill Germany just like it killed my Franz.


Rudy: Don’t you think you should put them, I mean him in an urn or something?  Have a little respect miss, the man died in combat.


Marlena:  He died long before that.  (She grabs the helmet and slams it back on the mantel)  His happiest days were spent in his uniform so I’m sure he is happy right where he is.



(Loud explosions are heard and drawing nearer as the bombing raid continues.  Bright flashes illuminate the room, a rumbling is felt throughout and glasses come tumbling out from a cupboard, crashing to the floor.)


Rudy: (Anxiously) Look, the Allies are going to bomb the stuffing out of Schweinfurt until there is nothing left standing. All these factories, ball bearings, small parts, the city is a hardware store for the whole German army.  It’s high on the Allied target list and as far as precision bombing is concerned …well lets just say the more the merrier.



(Rudy and Marlena hear the unmistakable death whistle of a falling bombs overhead.  Rudy leaps from the sofa and grabs Marlena in his harms dragging both of them to the floor and he  falls on top of her.  The explosions are massive and debris fills the room as the wall where the sofa stood is taken out.  They embrace fiercely almost as if to keep each other alive.  The explosions stop.  They look in to each others eyes and kiss passionately.)



Marlena:  You taste so American, like those Hershey chocolate bars the soldiers give to the children.


Rudy: Milk, dark or with almonds?


Marlena: I should think that one kiss is not enough for me to answer that question Captain Schmidt.


Rudy:  You know the last time I saw eyes as blue as yours, I was flying at thirty thousand feet.


(They kiss again and for a brief moment there is no war, no Hitler no anguish.)


 (They struggle to their feet dusting themselves off and stare out at the flaming countryside through the open space where the wall stood jus moments ago.)



Marlena:  My father always wanted a picture window and now he has gotten his wish.


Rudy:  (Facing Marlena) Why are you wearing Franz’s helmet?


Marlena:  All of Germany will soon be ashes anyway, what is a few more, better to protect my head. Don’t you think?  

(Rudy brushes away the ashes from both sides of her blond hair as a German Panzer division churns past the crumbling farmhouse.  He pulls the both of them to the side, out of view.  Marlena races in to her bedroom and returns with an arm full of clothes, handing them to Rudy)


Marlena:  Quick, put these on we haven’t much time.  Death follows the Panzers like a dog chases a bone.  They’ll be looking for you.


Rudy: I’ll head south, take my chances.  If I’m lucky, members of the 3rd Army, Patton’s boys, will be poking around, pick me up and get me back to my squadron. I’ll be back in the air before you know it.


Marlena:  Let’s take our chances together.  We can go to Switzerland, it’s a day’s ride and I have family there. Fritz and Abigail know the way.   We can stay a day, a week or maybe until the bombs stop falling and the killing stops. Then maybe we can pick up the pieces of our lives.


(Rudy takes the helmet off Marlena’s head and places it on the floor.)


Rudy: (Staring at the clothes)  You know I could get in big trouble for being out of uniform.


Marlena: You don’t know the trouble you can get in to… especially out of uniform, especially in the Alps.


Rudy:  Now, there’s a tale for my grandkids. Once upon a time there was a downed U.S. pilot who snuck through enemy lines with the help of a pretty girl, borrowed clothes and a pair of broken down German mules. (Rudy smiles) Maybe I should take my chances with the Nazi’s.


(Together they stare at the devastation that has left behind tiny fires, burning as far as the eye can see, like candles in the night, the air thick with the smell of gunpowder and gelatin.)



……….The End……….





16 March 2008 @ 05:20 pm



As George walks through the door of a dark house, the lights in the foyer suddenly flip on and he is met by his wife Carrie:


Carrie: Where the hell have you been? It’s late, I’m tired and I’m getting sick of this vampire act of yours.


George: Carrie, sit down. I have something to tell you


Carrie: Oh here we go. The “we have to have” a talk speech. Godammit George. I knew it! Who is she? And you can tell her, her perfume sucks.


George: It’s Polo Sport, and her name is Roger. Long pause……I’m gay Carrie.


Carrie: Gay? Cut the crap George. Have you forgotten that we’ve been married for ten years? Maybe one too many vodka tonics or another one of your silly phases.  Shall I name some? Remember the Judo, rock climbing, voice lessons?  They all go nowhere, just like you.   


George: No, I'm not kidding Carrie, .....long

pause......I'm gay. I have been having an affair.  It’s nothing you did or didn’t do it just happened.


Carrie: I can’t believe this George! This can’t be happening. To me, to us, our family! Think of the ridicule the boys and I will face. How will we face our family and friends?  What will we say?


George: Don’t take it personal Carr….


Carrie: Don’t take it personal! How should I take it George! You’re leaving me for the soft embrace of another man.  Now how do you think that makes me feel, huh? Tell me. (Looking away)


George: Carrie, look at me! (turns her around) Maybe you didn’t hear me.  It's



Carrie: Roger? Our Roger? Our best friend Roger...Julie’s



George: Yeah


Carrie: Like that makes it any better! I don't believe you...tell me this is some sick joke! Roger wouldn't do that to Julie…or me…or

us. And what about his kids!


George: He’s kept it from everyone, just like I have.


Carrie: How long has this been going on?


George: 3 years. I'm sorry. It doesn't mean I don't

love you or the kids. I just can't keep living a

lie. Believe me I've tried to deny

these feelings, but it’s no use. It's killing me.


Carrie: Killing you? Oh don’t worry about killing you.  My uncle Rocco will take care of that. He always hated your freakin guts. God I should have listened to him. You had better keep looking over your shoulder you son of a bitch, that’s all I can say. Now get out of MY house before you wake MY kids.


(Carrie opens the door angrily and ushers George out.  He leaves without saying another word.)

11 March 2008 @ 05:23 pm
"My name is Jake Miller, though most folks call me Buckets.  I've been part of the Chicago Cubs organization for over fifty years, getting ice, surgical tape, strippers, and anything else you might find in a professional baseball team's clubhouse.  Of course I have seen some of the greats come and go, but there was something special about that boy... something special indeed."

Wally “Fence” Brannigan



            He sat quietly in front of his locker, just like always after a game.   The relaxed look on his face told me the wooden stool holding him up was as soft and cozy as two seats on a Greyhound from Fresno to Omaha.  And the stories it could tell…damn.  Almost twenty years in the big leagues and I could see that he was tired.  He knew his playing days were almost over, but luckily he was going out near the top of his game.  He opened his locker door, and inside above the neatly pressed clothes were mementos collected over the years; Signed balls, pictures all kinds of things. He loved the game, to him that’s all it ever was.  Taped to the inside of the locker door above the mirror, still in the same spot after all these years was his Chicago Cubs rookie card. He stared at it and smiled quietly. WALTER BRANNIGAN – RIGHT FIELD.  I watched him as he shook his head in disbelief.  Who the hell is that, he must have thought? A baby faced kid from the mid-west with a devilish grin and iron jaw.  Jet black side burns hung down from beneath his cap and his cobalt blue eyes nearly leaped out at you. You’ve got eyes like an Indian, his grandfather would say. Could see a train comin from before it left the station.  All these years later he never touched that card.  Promised himself that at the end he would turn it over and fill it in.  

He rubbed the two day stubble, a grey shadow on his leather like skin.  The black was all gone.  The eyes were still blue but a bit distant and glossed over and wrinkled around the edges, probably from that rightfield squint or maybe one too many scotch and sodas or mojitos down in the Dominican winter leagues. But sure as hell they could still see that train comin.  There wasn’t a pitcher around that he couldn’t turn on, and he was still one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Wally “Fence” Brannigan they called him.  Not only for the nearly six hundred homeruns he’d launched into the stands but for the reckless abandon with which he chased after fly balls.  He had kissed every fence in the majors; Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park, Fenway, The House of Ruth…all of them.  And believe me the fences kissed him right back.  And I mean hard. Broken collar bones, ruptured ACL, bell ringing concussions, separated shoulders, he was a limping medical textbook, but he could still sting a catcher’s mitt from the warning track in right field…on a fly.  Funny thing was, you wouldn’t know it to look at him. He never lifted a weight, used a personal trainer or fiddled around with sports hypnosis. No sir.  Fence was simply blessed with enormous strength and God given talent.  He stayed away from all the steroid stuff too. It just wasn’t his thing. Your game is like a home run Fence would say, when it’s gone…it’s gone. Hell, after nine innings he and the boys would go out for a steak and a few beers, maybe hit a strip club or go back to the hotel and play some poker.  The thought of pulling down their pants and injecting each other in the ass with growth hormone…I don’t think so. 

            He turned away and leaned back on the stool.  An ice bag was taped to his shoulder and both knees were wrapped good and tight.  I walked by and pulled two bottles of Bud from a pile of ice and handed them to Fence. Thanks Buckets he said, and he rolled both bottles soothingly across his knees. A lot of the modern day players would be placed on the DL for aches and pains that Fence lived and played with every day. You gotta give’em what they came for, he liked to say.   And he certainly had throughout his career, no one could argue that.  But it was a different game now.         It was always a business but now it had gotten way out of control.  Too complicated for him, besides most of the guys he came up with were gone. So Wally Fence had had enough.  He was ready to move on and without any regrets. A career with lots of asterisks was behind him. More importantly, he had a wife and two little boys waiting. They had a small working ranch in Colorado. He loved that ranch and rough housing with the boys.  Sitting on the porch with his wife Chrissy and pinching her on the rear end when only the stars were watching. Fences. Can you imagine, twenty years knocking them down now he’ll be stringing them up. It serves him right.

I walked over to him again.   Fence, it’s time.  The press is here.   He nodded, stood up painfully, and dragged his body slowly through the clubhouse, still clutching the two unopened bottles of Bud, his feet barely leaving the ground.   He could hear the fans, God how they loved him and the feeling was mutual. They were still stomping and calling his name after a one out ninth inning walkoff.  Fence!  Fence!  Fence!  He flashed that twenty year old grin as he headed toward the press.  He was happy for whom he had been, but more so for who he was.  Right there I knew how he was gonna  fill in the back of that rookie card.  Forget the stats, records  and all that, it would be plain and simple just like Fence. It would say, Wally Brannigan. Ballplayer.