I’m Coming


The boy’s concentration shifted from his knobby fingers, wringing and writhing of their own volition, to long-faced newscasters at their early-morning posts. The school stood quarantined in predawn blackness, pecked with yellow ribbons.

The corner of his mouth curled upward. Look at the little sniveling snobs. They think this is bad.

Only hours before, messages had stopped sizzling their way from his brain stem; his pain had stopped. The cuts on his forearms, the callouses on his index fingers, the blisters on his feet…were now only visible reminders of the past weeks’ preparations.

He hadn’t slept. His stomach had stopped growling two days ago. Now his arms jerked, his fingers twitched. He barely recognized the sight of them, newly skinny and sallow. His mind slid to a time when he’d played Beethoven’s Fifth with those hands, trancelike, until he no longer felt the music, the keys, or even his own fingers. His movements had been automatic, rehearsed – the harmony mechanical, the notes just like breathing.

That familiar, dreamlike state fell upon him like snow.

Yesterday’s punk.

Only got two.


An Amateur.

Now was the time. For his final show, he would deliver a performance more than anyone would expect from a quiet boy of no consequence. Every talking head from LA to New York would know his name. They’d recite his age, the name of his school, his crazy-good, wasted talent…until the data fell off the lips of every spineless, table-diving suburbanite in America.

He would be a star; forever the quick-fingered kid with all the attention.

The boy pointed the remote at the screen. “Bang,” he whispered before blowing imaginary smoke from the business end of the remote. His mother called out that breakfast was ready. He smoothed his sweat-soaked comforter and chirped back, “I’m coming!”


Food for Fiction: Newspaper Funnies

Where do you get your short story and novel ideas? No matter your chosen genre, you might look to authentic life for subject matter…and where better to find real life than in the newspaper? There, you’ll find the best, and most often the worst, of this pack we call humanity. When I have the occasion to generate a short story (the bills aren’t stopping, and therefore neither is my ghostwriting), I like to consult local and national newspapers for help with sparking story ideas.  Today, I stumbled across some funny headlines and couldn’t help searching for some of their twisted cousins. Here are my favorites:

  • One-armed man applauds the kindness of strangers
  • Caskets found as workers demolish mausoleum
  • Alton attorney accidentally sues himself
  • Condom truck tips, spills load
  • Man eats underwear to beat breathalyzer
  • Sewage spill kills fish, but water safe to drink
  • Panda mating fails; veterinarian takes over
  • Marijuana issue sent to joint committee
  • Students cook & serve grandparents
  • Hippo eats dwarf
  • Lost:  African elephant
  • Topeka cemetery clean-up in need of volunteers:  A light lunch to follow provided by Waste Management of Kansas
  • Tight end returns after colon surgery
  • Miracle cure kills fifth patient
  • All you need to know about Obama’s package
  • A-Rod goes deep, Wang hurt
  • Hooker named lay person of the year
  • Blind man denied Minn. gun permit
  • Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25

Deeper probing took me to the police blotters:

  • A deputy responds to a report of a vehicle stopping at mail boxes. It was the mailman.
  • Wal-Mart: Police receive a report of a newborn infant found in a trash can. Upon investigation, officers discover it was only a burrito.
  • The Learning Center on Hanson Street reports a man across the way stands at his window for hours watching the center, making parents nervous. Police ID the subject as a cardboard cutout of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And I have to give proper credit to the classifieds:

  • Human skull, used once only. Not plastic. $200 OBO
  • Full size mattress, Royal Tonic, 20 year warranty. Like new. Slight urine smell. $40
  • Potty chair, solid oak, light brown stain

Quick — grab a pen. By the time your diaphragm stops cramping, you’ll have come up with a storyline involving a Hannibal-Lecter-wanna-be mailman who delivers special-recipe burritos, or a veterinarian who learns to embrace both the yin and the yang. Come on — if you write it, I’ll read it.