George Jensen made it to the top of the best seller’s list with his novel “The Final Ending.” He should be on top of the world, instead, his world is spiraling out of control. He needs to Make it Write.
Tad was a wild and reckless kid. We’ve known each other since middle school, hanging out many afternoons when we cut classes: smoking pot, drinking, and picking up girls. They were good times until we’d get caught. Our parents reacted in different ways to the news. Tad’s father always physically hit him. There were times he came to school with visible bruises. When the teachers questioned him, he always said he got into a fight with some kids who he refused to name. My father never hit me. Instead, he’d sermonize. No, he’s no preacher, at least not in the traditional sense. Dad would sit me down and give me what he called a good talking to or a lecture: why cutting classes is wrong, why it is wrong to lie, why it is wrong to be friends with a kid like Tad. The talks were long, lasting close to an hour each time. By the end of his sermon, I prayed he would just hit me and get it over with.
As time passed, I became more responsible: graduated high school, went to college, and got a good job. I guess my father’s sermon’s sunk in; I did not want to jeopardize my future by having a bad reputation that would follow me through the years. Tad didn’t give a damn. He barely graduated from high school. Had one low-paying job after another, none of which lasted long. Through it all we remained best friends, though he thought I became a flaming pussy. Afraid to take chances I wasn’t, I just grew up and learned that many of those chances were not worth taking, like sleeping with your best friend’s wife. Technically, Jenny wasn’t my wife at the time; we were engaged. Tad later said that still made her available.
Jenny and I married. I didn’t know about their hooking up at the time. Neither of them ever mentioned it. After Jenny and I divorced ten years later, Tad assumed it was okay to tell me about it since Jenny and I no longer were husband and wife.
I never forgave him.
I finally understood what my father told me at the end of all those lengthy sermons which he always finished by saying, “Tad’s a jerk.” That he was. Still, we remained friends. Don’t ask me why? I don’t think I can explain why.
Jerks! There are plenty of jerks around these days. Stupid may be a better word, and unlike COVID19 when someday there will be a cure. There will never be a cure for stupid. After being caged up in his apartment for more than a month, Tad couldn’t take it any longer and decided he needed to get some beach time in now that the county reopened the beaches.
“Tad, I don’t think it’s a great idea, going to the beach,” I said. “There will be hundreds of people there and who knows who is carrying the virus.”
“Hey man, we live in Florida! The beach is what we live for, Sand and surf, watching women strolling along in bikinis, fishing, watching women hanging out in bikinis, what could be better?”
“All these years and you’re still a flaming pussy.”
“People are not going to social distance.”
“The sun and heat kill the germs.”
“Tad, there is no proof of that.”
“The President wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.”
“Listen to the scientist and doctors. You’re better off.”
“You’re coming with me, my friend.”
“No, I’m not.”
Tad laughed. “Fine, I’ll go myself. Sit in your apartment all day, every day, doing whatever you do. I can’t take it anymore. No one in our lifetime has ever had to sacrifice like we’re doing now. This is America, man, we have rights, and we have the freedom to do what we want.”
“You make it sound like staying home is the biggest sacrifice ever. How about the people who went through the years of the Great Depression, World War
i and II? And what about Anne Frank and her family who hid from the Nazis for over two years? No sun, no rain, they couldn’t see the sky or the grass. All we have to do is stay home and watch Netflix, and you can’t do it!”
“That’s all bullshit; this is not a war. And we have our rights.”
“Oh yes, it is a war, and we will lose it, or at least those of us who are reckless enough will lose it. Freedom doesn’t mean you can be reckless and get other people sick and die!”
Tad didn’t pay attention. He called me a drama queen and went to the beach.
That night on TV they showed the crowds on the newly opened beach, hundreds, if not thousands, of people. There was no room for social distancing, even if you wanted to observe it. Tad made it on the news that night. As the local news commentator spoke and the camera scanned the crowded beach, there stood Tad next to this beautiful blonde in a skimpy bikini. They were part of the crowd in the background cramped together with other beachgoers, Tad, the blonde and everyone waving at the camera attempting to get their one moment of TV fame. Less than a minute later, as the commentator wrapped up the segment, Tad and the blonde were hugging and kissing each other as the surrounding crowd egged them on, and giving each other hi-fives.
Tad told me the next day over the phone, since I refused now to see him in person, that her name was Sandy; they met that day. Like Tad, Sandy loved the beach.
That was the last time I spoke to Tad. His father called me a few weeks later; he was crying. Tad was dead from COVID 19.
Copyrighted 2020 by John Greco
You can find more of my short stories at Amazon.
The Late Show and Other Tales of Celluloid Malice, my next collection of short stories will be out sometime in the first half of 2020. No hard date yet for the release, but I thought I’d share the book cover for now. More information will be coming.
If you are a fan of The Twilight Zone you may want to check out my new short story, MAKE IT WRITE. It’s a slight departure from my usual tales tossing in a bit of Rod Serling fantasy along with the usual darker deadly deeds. I hope you’ll like it.
“Another great story by John Greco. This one reads like a Twilight Zone episode. Every author can relate to this creepy story. And what a twisty ending.” Joseph Souza – Author of Pray for the Girl and The Neighbor.
MAKE IT WRITE is available as an ebook on Amazon for only .99 cents.
My latest short story Make it Write has been published and is now available on Amazon for only .99 cents. It’s a slight departure from my usual tales tossing in a bit of fantasy along with the usual darker deadly deeds. I hope you’ll like it.
Extra, Extra! If you haven’t read my short story, The Bombay Hook Incident in A Million and One magazine just click on the link here. Enjoy!
My next collection of short stories is beginning to take shape. I have five stories completed and there are a couple of others I am working on. I don’t know how other writers work, but I need to work on one story, stop, begin another, and then go back to my first story. This process refreshes my head, gives me time to think up new possibilities and ideas that I previously did not. Sometimes it turns my story in a completely new direction.
I generally write best in the morning hours, and do revisions, later in the day. The kitchen table is my office, though sometimes I pick up my laptop and work from a comfortable chair.
I want to hear from others. What is your process, work pattern, what are you working on, etc.?
Holcomb Bridge is a short story from my book, Devious Tales. If you like it and want more tales with a twist, you can purchase the complete book at Amazon (ebook and paperback), Barnes & Noble (ebook and paperback), and Kobo (ebook). The paperback contains two additional stories.
Holcomb Bridge was the sort of small bridge you find in many small towns. This particular one though had little traffic during the day and was even quieter at night. That is except for Friday and Saturday nights when local teens came out here way after dark looking for a deserted area where they could park and neck. As a cop, I knew all this pretty well. I was also a teenager once myself, and having grown up here, I had fond memories of kissing Caroline McKay, Janie Newton, and a few other girls right on that bridge. Not at the same time of course!
It’s a romantic spot. Especially if you got lucky and the moon was full, shining bright and reflecting off the river below. These days, this area of town was part of my regular patrol, and those nights of my teenage lust long gone except for the memories. I am married now to a great woman. Her name is Barbara. We have two terrific sons, Michael and Anthony. Still, whenever I drive by this bridge which is every night I am on duty, it brings back fond recollections of those late nights and early mornings. Today, as a police officer, I always left the kids alone.
Unlike Ray Morton.
Ray Morton was the police officer who patrolled this area back in those days when it was me and Caroline and Janie necking in the shadows of the bridge along with other kids. Soon as he spotted us, Morton jumped out of his car. He would shine a bright flashlight right at us and chase us all off threatening to tell our folks. Like we cared!
Me on the other hand, I just drive by, take a quick gaze at the surroundings making sure nothing looks out of the ordinary and let the kids be. Necking and maybe smoking a bit of weed was not the worst thing you could do.
This particular night though was a Wednesday. It was well past midnight, and the person on the bridge was not a teenager, and he was there all by himself. His car was parked right in the middle of the bridge. I pulled over stopping my car about twenty feet from him. I shut the headlights off and sat there looking at him for a bit getting the impression he didn’t even know I was there. He hadn’t moved. He was just staring down at the water. I quietly got out of my car and slowly walked over toward him until I was a couple of feet away. He still did not move or acknowledge my presence. I leaned over the railing and stared out into the darkness.
“Nice night, a bit cool maybe,” I said.
“I’ve seen better.”
“How long you been here?”
“I don’t know. An hour or so, maybe. Makes no difference.”
“You know, I bet that water is still cold after our snowy winter.”
He turned and looked at me for the first time, just for a moment. He nodded, “yeah, it probably is.” He then turned back to staring out into the dark nothingness.
He pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Put one in his mouth and then offered me one.
I shook my head. “Gave them up a while back.”
“I thought of doing that too, but lately it just doesn’t seem to matter.”
He lit up, took a long drag and blew out a mouth full of smoke.
“You know, life gives you a lot of twists and turns,” he said. “One moment it makes you think everything is finally going to ease up and go well. You could settle down, be happy, and then…then you suddenly, unexpectedly get a big knife right in your gut ripping you apart.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, what happened?”
He took the cigarette out of his mouth and held it in right hand.
“My wife died.”
“That’s what everyone says. They all say how sorry they are, friends, relatives, co-workers. They all offer help, food, comfort, companionship. Everything except for one thing.”
“What is that?” I asked even though I knew the answer.
“How do I get my wife back? She was everything to me, and now she’s gone. I’m alone.”
“Do you have kids?”
“No. Stella couldn’t have children, and that was okay with me. We had each other and always would, forever. At least, that’s what I thought. Forever ended sooner than expected.”
With that, he flicked the half-smoked cigarette into the river below. We were silent for a few minutes.
“You married?” he asked.
I nodded in the affirmative, “we have two boys,” I said.
“That’s nice. Like I said, Stella couldn’t have kids. I knew when we got married that she couldn’t have them. She had a hysterectomy when she was nineteen believe or not. Cancer. But they got it all, and here we were twelve years later, and she was doing great. We were happy.”
“The cancer didn’t come back if that’s what you’re thinking. It was a car accident. Some teenage kid. A seventeen-year-old asshole texting on her phone swerved, not paying attention to the road, slammed head on right into her. The doctors said she most likely died instantaneously. I guess that’s something to be grateful for huh?”
He pulled out another cigarette and lit it up. “Maybe, it was cancer that killed Stella. The stupid human kind. You know what I mean?”
“Unfortunately, I do. Kids, texting and driving. It’s not just kids,” I said. “Not to sound like an advertisement or something, but it’s an epidemic.”
“Stupidity never dies.”
“I’ll take one if you don’t mind.”
“Thought you said you quit?”
“Generally speaking…” I smiled.
He smiled back and offered me the pack. I took one and lit up. We both stood there silent for a while again. This time it was longer though I can’t say how long, but we finished that pack of cigarettes, I know that.
The wind was beginning to pick up a little. It felt good.
“I hated that kid,” he said suddenly. “Lord knows I did. Marcy Stevens, that’s her name. I know you’re a cop, but I’ll tell you anyway. I wanted to kill her. I wanted her not just to die, but to suffer before she died, actually suffer like I have been suffering now.”
“Did you? I asked.
“Did I what?”
He looked at me incredulously. “No, of course not. I had a lot of rage for a long time, and I thought up a lot of bad things. A lot of different ways to make her suffer. Run her down like she did Stella. Then run over her again and again, going back and forth. Then I thought of shooting her or stabbing her. But I…I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do any of that. Stella wouldn’t have wanted me to. She would have wanted me to forgive that kid. That’s the kind of sweet soul she was.”
“Sounds like she was a wonderful person.”
“Oh she was, she was.”
“Have you been seeing anybody? Professionally I mean, a doctor.”
“I did for a while, but I stopped going. I began drinking for a while, but I kept getting sick to my stomach. Never been able to tolerate booze well. I gave up on that too. That’s when I started coming out here to think. Thinking about a lot of things but mostly about,” he stops for a moment, “well, you can guess.”
“Yeah, probably,” I said. “You should go back to the doctor.”
“Yeah, but I have been coming out here for a while now. True, the first few times I came out here, I always had plans to…well, take the dive. End it all. But, somehow, I never did. Then I began coming out here as some sort of therapeutic thing. I’d talk to Stella, and for a while that was good. And she told me it was okay and I should go on with my life. Am I crazy, talking to a dead person?”
“Lots of people do when they miss someone,” I said.
“Well, believe it or not, it helped. I stopped coming here, and I thought I was over it all. You know, I figured I reached a point, with Stella’s blessings, where I could move on with my life. It was all okay for a time. A couple of months went by, and it was good. I even thought of dating. Then came one night when suddenly inside my head I felt all those old emotions and feelings come rushing back. The next night and the next were the same. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to come out here. It all came back. I wanted to jump again. I wanted it all to end. Then you appeared, and we talked. I’m okay now, at least for tonight.”
“Well, I’m glad for that,” I said and truly was.
“I guess it’s like being an alcoholic. You have to take it one day at a time.”
“I guess, but I still think a doctor could help you along the way.”
“You’re probably right. I should go back. Maybe next time you won’t be here to talk me down.”
He looked at me.
“I want to thank you,” he said. “You know, I just realized I don’t know your name.”
“Moretti, Bob Moretti,” I said. “If you ever want to talk or need me, here is my cellphone number.” I took a card out and jotted down my personal number.
“Mine’s Fred Smith.”
We shook hands.
By now, a couple of hours had passed, and the sun was beginning to rise slowly.
“Wow, we’ve been here almost all night,” Fred said.
“Time goes by when you’re having fun…” I said, trying to keep it light. “Like I said, Fred. Anytime. Just call me, and we can talk. I don’t want to come here again some night and find you down at the bottom of that river.”
“I appreciate all this. Thanks, Officer Moretti.”
“Bob,” I said.
We shook hands again, and I walked over and got into my cruiser. I backed up to the end of the bridge and sat there for a moment watching as Fred got into his car. He was heading in the opposite direction from me. His car started up. Suddenly, there was the screech of his tires. Bob’s car burned rubber as he drove right through the railings and off the bridge plunging into the cold river below.
I waited for the rescue team to arrive. It took them a half hour to get here. By then the sun was almost up, and it was no longer a rescue operation. There’s no way Fred could have survived that frigid water, even if he survived the car’s dive into the river. Now, this was a recovery operation.
They dragged the car out of the river. As expected, Fred was dead. Still strapped in with his seat belt which I found ironic since he planned on killing himself. Habit maybe?
Also dead was the teenage girl, Marcy Stevens. She was tied up in the trunk of the car. Her cellphone was stuffed into her mouth and held there with tape.
Andre de Toth’s 1948 film noir Pitfall will be on TCM Friday, September 29th, at 11:45AM. The film stars Dick Powell as John Forbes, a bored insurance investigator, allegedly happily married to Sue (Jane Wyatt). His world falls apart when he meets sultry Mona (Lizabeth Scott) whose lover embezzled money from Forbes’ company. Complicating matters is the P.I. (Raymond Burr) the insurance hired who also has eyes for the femme fatale.
De Toth and his writers weave a downward spiraling tale with elements of suburban discontent, stalking, infidelity and murder. Aptly titled, “Pitfall,” the film reflects the consequences of one man’s actions on many. Forbes infidelity leads to at least one man dead. Mona is in jail, arrested for at least attempted murder, and of course Forbes’ own marriage is now in a fragile state. – From Film Noir at Twenty Four Frames Per Second.
Available at Amazon.
Dance marathons were phenomena that began in the 1920’s. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel is a dark tale of losers desperately attempting to hang on to impossible dreams. Just like in Nathaniel West better known novel, Day of the Locust the characters all have unreachable dreams of being in the movies. Continue reading “Depression Blues and the Dance Marathon”