book reviews and excerpts

Spotlight on Stacey Roberts – Author of “Trailer Trash with a Girl’s Name – Father Figures”

 Excerpt from Trailer Trash with a Girl’s Name – Father Figures

 

Tin Cup on Prison Bars

 

I had more sidebar conversations with law enforcement before the age of sixteen than a hustling middle-aged criminal attorney.

One of the high points was when I conferenced in our driveway with the federal marshals who had just arrested Ted the Drug Dealer in hopes of finding out where they were taking him and what he was being charged with. Layne the Favorite was too busy gloating over Ted’s downfall to worry about logistics, but I knew my mother would want to get her attorney on the case. Also, I had to get to school; I couldn’t spend my whole day on it.

Another was when I got hit by a car crossing the street near our trailer park. The ancient woman who had hit me had no recollection of doing so, even though my bike was pretzeled under the wheels of her Cadillac and there was a smear on her windshield where my face had hit. The police were quite sympathetic to my plight. I’m not so sure justice was served; I never got a new bike.

Then there was the time my Uncle George the Bastard had to come down to my Hebrew school after an unfortunate episode of bullying. He was a police lieutenant out of his jurisdiction, but he made quite an impression anyway. I like to think my involvement prevented some well-deserved police brutality against my oppressors.

Overall, I felt like I had a special connection with those sworn to protect and serve, a calming voice of reason amid the maelstrom of criminal happenings. Or it could be that in each case I was trying to keep my mother from getting involved.

Like the time Layne the Favorite clocked Steve the Rat Fink upside the head with a squeegee.

***

Steve the Rat Fink was fifth-generation trailer trash. His great-great grandfather had crossed the American plains in his Conestoga covered wagon and saw no reason to move out of it just because the group he was traveling with founded Sacramento and built houses without wheels. Steve’s tribe had no need for houses. Having a mobile home meant you could leave in a hurry when your neighbors came after you with pitchforks and torches. If Steve the Rat Fink’s ancestor was anything like him, the other members of his wagon train had likely tried to leave him in the desert or entice a marauding Indian tribe to engage in a pinpointed massacre of one.

It may have been wrong of me to think Steve the Rat Fink’s entire family tree was full of mean-spirited jerks, but I was twelve. Snap judgments are the hallmark of youth.

Also, apparently, of my mother. The first time she met Steve—he had slinked his way over to our Winnebago looking for food and things to steal—she made up her mind about him. She had been handing out titles like a medieval potentate trying to shore up support for her regime for as long as I could remember. It was how Uncle George became a Bastard and my father was anointed a Son of a Bitch. Steve was going to get his.

Mom: “That kid, Stan.”

Me: “Steve.”

Mom: “That’s what I said.”

Me: “He’s a real douchebag.”

Mom: “SSSSSSSSStace. You know what he is? He’s a rat fink.”

I had no idea what that was. I didn’t know it back in 1983, but what I really needed to do was invent some kind of globally interconnected network of computers that would have the sum total of human knowledge on it for easy and immediate recall. The modern equivalent of the lost Library of Alexandria, a world-spanning web of information. I’d call it the Webbernet. Or Interweb. Maybe Cybernet. Or, because it would be an international thing, the Infobahn. My mom would freak out if I used a German name. Better to let her name it. She liked naming things. Like Steve the Rat Fink.

Me: “What’s a rat fink?”

Mom: “SSSSStace. A rat fink! You know! A rat fink!”

Well, that explained it. Good thing the Department of Defense was already hard at work building that Cyberwebbernet thingy I wanted. Years later, I was able to use it to access urbandictionary.com and finally find out what rat fink meant:

Urbandictionary.com: “Rat fink: tattletale, stool pigeon, squealer, snitch, double-crosser, weasel.”

Steve the Rat Fink did look a bit like a weasel, but that didn’t tell the whole tale. Perhaps a more scientific definition:

Urbandictionary.com: “Rat fink: A bastard modifier. A person exhibiting especially abhorrent levels of bastardry is known as a “rat fink bastard.” Alternately, for a milder offense, the term “rat fink” can be used independently of bastard.”

That made more sense. Steve the Rat Fink did, at times, exhibit especially abhorrent levels of bastardry. I was getting there.

Urbandictionary.com: “Rat fink examples: Do you know where Louie is? Next time you see him, tell that rat fink bastard I’m going to tear out his scrotum for knocking up my sister.” Or: “Timmy’s the kind of lazy rat fink that leaves half a sheet of toilet paper on the roll just so he doesn’t have to replace it with a new one.”

 This Interwebobahn invention of mine was going to be a game changer. You’d never have to leave the house. Unless I invented some kind of portable device small enough to fit in your pocket that could access the Cybernetterweb from anywhere. That would be something.

Where was I? Right. Steve the Rat Fink. He was a real douchebag.

Mom: “SSSSSStace. I told you! That Sam, he’s a rat fink! A rat fink!”

Me: “Steve.”

Mom: “That’s what I said. He’s such a rat fink, that kid.”

***

Steve the Rat Fink looked like other trailer park kids I had known over the five years we had been trailer trash. He and I were both twelve but he was small; he was a full head shorter than me, and I come from a long line of short, stubby people. He was skinny and wiry, covered in ropy muscle and sinew. I never saw him wear a shirt, and the whole upper half of his body was burnished permanently brown from sun exposure. His blond hair was close-cropped and his light gray eyes squinted with a huckster’s conniving look. He moved furtively, like a rat, appearing one day at the inevitable grouping of trailer park kids that convened every day after school. We couldn’t stay inside the cramped boxes we lived in, so we stayed out until after dark. The trailer park had a lake at its center as a thin refuge against the possibility of all the bottled propane we used going up in a fiery maelstrom and igniting our stored sewage. We often hung around the shore, throwing rocks and looking for alligators.

My closest friend in the trailer park was Shawn the Black Belt. He lived alone with his father in a decent Airstream a few streets away from our Winnebago. He was lumpy and awkward, and his hair was always flopping all over the place. He had the limpid brown eyes of a nascent serial killer. I suspect his father got him into karate as a possible way to channel Shawn’s latent sideways tendencies, but it might have just made him a more effective killer later in life.

Shawn the Black Belt and I were standing in the shallows of the lake. I was alert, as ever, for the telltale yellow eyes of the gators. Shawn was talking about something, but I wasn’t listening. In my peripheral vision I saw Steve the Rat Fink scurry his way toward us. His head was cocked, his eyes narrowed; it occurred to me that even at his age he had the look of a smoker, but couldn’t get the cigarettes. Not because of age—they were just so expensive and precious to his chain-smoking parents that they wouldn’t share them.

Steve ignored me and glared at Shawn the Black Belt, who was taller than me. Shawn had turned to face the new kid; his arms hung lazily at his sides, but he had a dangerous look of capacity about him. The new kid really needed to tread lightly, make a good impression. That sort of thing.

Steve the Rat Fink: “What are you looking at, fuckstick?”

Two seconds later Steve the Rat Fink was face down in the sand, his right arm bent so far behind him that the backs of his fingers brushed his left ear. He squealed like a baby pig stuck in a blender.

Steve the Rat Fink: “I give! I give!”

Shawn the Black Belt looked over at me with his dead eyes.

Me: “I think you got him.”

Shawn the Black Belt got to his feet and glided backwards. Steve the Rat Fink got up slowly, covered in sand, his right arm held painfully away from his body. He glared at Shawn the Black Belt.

Steve the Rat Fink: “You got the drop on me that time, you fat fuck, but if I was ready—”

Shawn the Black Belt took an economical step forward and chopped Steve’s throat with the side of his left hand. Steve the Rat Fink’s pronouncement cut off with a harsh, choking bark. Shawn swept his right leg and Steve knelt in the sand just in time for Shawn’s knee to hit his nose and knock him flat. Steve the Rat Fink lay on his back, staring up at the sky, blood running down his cheeks. His eyes were wide and dazed. Shawn stood calmly, legs apart, arms up, waiting to see if Steve would get up.

After a minute or so Steve rolled over on his front and got to his feet, blood and snot dripping into the imprint of where his body had been in the sand. He limped away toward home, holding his head with his left hand. The right one hung numbly down at his side.

This was the picture we often had of Steve the Rat Fink—working his slow way home after someone beat the snot out of him.

***

We learned pretty quickly not to leave anything valuable outside our motor home; Steve was a conscienceless scavenger and had no problem taking whatever he wanted. Some of our neighbors who didn’t lock their doors started to complain about missing jewelry, cigarettes and food. After a while, everyone locked their doors.

We came home from school one day to find Steve the Rat Fink riding Layne the Favorite’s bike up and down the street in front of our Winnebago. He had to stand on the pedals because he was too short to reach them while sitting. He was going lightning fast, pedaling for all he was worth. He would suddenly slam the brakes, leaving scorch marks on the asphalt. Layne the Favorite was horrified—he treated his bike as if it had been made by the gods of Mount Olympus and presented to him by winged Mercury himself.

Layne the Favorite: “That’s my bike!”

Steve the Rat Fink skidded to a stop in front of us, smirking.

Steve the Rat Fink: “It’s mine now, shitbag, so shut the fuck up.” He took off on the bike. Layne the Favorite’s fists clenched at his sides and his face turned red.

Me: “When he comes back, let’s pull him off of it and beat his ass.” The two of us could surely take Steve down.

Layne the Favorite: “I’m telling mom.”

***

My mother got home right as it was getting dark. Layne the Favorite stood at the driver’s side of her car as she got out. I didn’t hear what was said, but she patted his cheek while glaring over his head at Steve the Rat Fink’s trailer, where Layne the Favorite’s stolen bike leaned brazenly against the hitch.

I had no skin in this game; my bike had been crushed by an old lady’s Cadillac a few months before and never replaced. There was no chance of me ever getting to use Layne the Favorite’s bike, either.

Mom: “SSSSSStace. That bike belongs to your brother. It’s important for him to have things that are just his.”

Me: “That does sound fun. Any chance I’ll get a bike soon?”

Mom: “SSSSStace. What do you need a bike for? Besides, walking is good for your ssssspleen.”

I was relegated to foot traffic for the foreseeable future. The problems of the bike-borne were above my humble station, but the confrontation between my mother and Steve’s parents promised high entertainment value. I followed my mother as she stalked across the street and pounded on the door of Rat Fink headquarters.

Steve the Rat Fink’s Father’s Common Law Wife, For which there Is No Convenient shorthand: “Just a minute! Jesus!”

The door opened and a blue cloud of marijuana smoke billowed out, revealing a hulking round woman with stringy brown hair dressed only in a shapeless muumuu. Her face was lumped with fat in occasional protrusions, like islands poking out of the surface of a lake. There was a cigarette in her mouth; she must have left the marijuana behind. My mother, her arms folded, her hair and makeup perfect, glared at her.

Mom: “Your sssssson stole my son’s bike.”

Steve the Rat Fink’s Father’s Common Law Wife, For which there Is No Convenient shorthand: “He ain’t my son.”

Mom: “Your hair’s so brittle. Disgusting. Don’t you use any product?”

Steve the Rat Fink’s Father’s Common Law Wife, For which there Is No Convenient shorthand:  “When’s your husband get home? We’re running low on weed.”

This was getting good. My mother was a world-class dispenser of non-sequiturs, and she had finally come across someone operating at her level. It also turned out that Ted the Drug Dealer was the Rat Fink Family’s pot supplier.

Complicated.

Me: “The bike?”

Mom: “SSSSStace. What is wrong with you? You’re obsessed with bikes. I told you: walking is good for your gall bladder. What do you need a bike for?”

Me: “Well, Layne needs one.”

Mom: “Of course he does!”

Me: “And Steve stole it.”

Mom: “Right!” She pointed a long fingernail at the woman in the trailer.

Steve the Rat Fink’s Father’s Common Law Wife, For which there Is No Convenient shorthand: “Take it.” She flapped a hand at the picnic table nearby. It was covered with mismatched items – a lamp, a cigar box with toy cars in it, two bathrobes, and a gravy boat. It looked like a reluctant hoarder’s booth at a flea market.

Steve the Rat Fink’s Father’s Common Law Wife, For which there Is No Convenient shorthand: “If any of that shit’s yours, take it with you. That fuckin’ kid’s always takin’ people’s stuff.”

Steve the Rat Fink appeared behind her. Only his weasel’s head was visible. He squinted at my mother.

Mom: “You! You know what you are, Seth?”

Me: “Steve.”

Mom: “That’s what I said! A rat fink, Scott! You’re a rat fink!”

Steve and the woman looked at us quizzically. I really should start on inventing the Webberinternetwork–these episodes of uncomfortable ignorance could be avoided.

We took the bike and went home. My mother chained the bike to the hitch on our Winnebago and locked it. Live and learn.

I looked back to see Steve leaning against his trailer hitch where the bike had recently been. His not-mom sat at the picnic table full of Steve’s ill-gotten acquisitions. They were the enemy; our families were now at war. After years of trailer park living, I was a full-fledged trailer trash redneck. My family was now one side of a blood feud that promised to be as epic as the Hatfields and McCoys. That night, breathing in the residual marijuana smoke drifting in the air, I could imagine the day in 2183 when my great-great-great granddaughter shot Steve the Rat Fink’s great-great-great grandson down dead in the street with a laser beam, ending our world-famous feud. Bystanders would record it on the devices I had invented, the ones permanently connected to the Webbycybernet.

This was going to be great.

My mother marched past me toward Steve’s trailer, her citrusy perfume trailing behind her. She must have thought of some biting remark, some gauntlet to throw down that would fan the flames of multigenerational clan warfare. I tagged along.

She marched up to Steve the Rat Fink’s not-mom and handed her a bottle.

Mom: “Listen. Rub this into your scalp after you wash your hair. Make sure you get it down to the rootssssss. Then your hair won’t be so stringy and fragile.”

Steve the Rat Fink’s Father’s Common Law Wife, For which there Is No Convenient shorthand: “Thanks.”

I stood there, dumbfounded, as my mother turned on her heel and marched back to our Winnebago. I thought frantically of some witty barb, some cutting rejoinder that would remind all concerned that we had begun a centuries-long battle that would only end with the extermination of one of our family lines. Perhaps with a laser beam.

Me: “Your descendants are so screwed.”

Steve the Rat Fink’s not-mom was studying the bottle my mother had just given her. Steve glared at me and shrugged.

Steve the Rat Fink: “Fuck off, weirdo.”

2183 was going to be a great year.

***

Friday night, nine p.m.

I had been consigned to my bunk an hour before. My mother still cleaved to her notion that I needed more sleep than Layne the Favorite, as if two extra hours a night would round out my rough edges and correct my many flaws. All I got out of it was two hours of staring up at the ceiling while my mother and Layne the Favorite watched TV together. In a house that was only twenty-five feet long, there was no way anyone could sleep if the TV was blaring and the sound of self-satisfied popcorn munching was going on.

I closed my eyes and tried to achieve a Zen-like state of calm. Maybe that was the first step in becoming more like Layne the Favorite. In this way, finally, I might get a bicycle of my own.

I heard a metallic rattle coming from the back of the Winnebago, a disjointed clanging sound. It stopped. I listened harder and heard it again. Someone was at the back of the trailer we towed behind the Winnebago, where all our earthly possessions were stored. I got out of bed.

Mom: “What are you doing out of bed, Buster? I told you. You need your rest. Do you know what will happen to your pancreas if you don’t get enough sleep?”

Me: “Ted. I think someone’s trying to break into the trailer.”

***

Ted the Drug Dealer was sitting opposite my mother and Layne, not watching TV and probably trying to ignore them. He was engaged in his usual nightly inventory—the small tabletop in front of him was covered in cash, coins, and his arsenal of weapons. In addition to his .22 pistol and his switchblade, he had recently gotten a telescoping baton, like the kind the police used. It was about the size of a can of mace, but if you pushed the button on the hilt, it sprang to full size. He gazed at it blearily and belched. Dinner had been a paprika-showered chicken roasted with asparagus and prunes. My mother had found a cookbook at a yard sale and was now adding fruit to the mélange of horrors she dished up every night.

Her chicken with asparagus and prunes tasted like being picked last for dodgeball at recess.

Me: “Ted. We’re being robbed.”

Ted the Drug Dealer stood up, grabbed his telescoping baton and went silently out the door, leaving it open. I scurried out behind him.

Mom: “Get back in bed, Buster!”

Ted went left instead of right once he got outside, going around the side of the Winnebago opposite the picnic table and awning. He meant to sneak up on the intruder from the other side, where the water, sewage, electricity and propane hookups were. I followed. We made no noise. The sound of the clanking got louder as we rounded the corner of the trailer.

There was a skinny, shirtless man wearing a ball cap and dirty jeans with holes in them. He had a crowbar in one hand, prying at the padlock on the back of the trailer. There was a cigarette jammed in the corner of his mouth; his tiny eyes squinted through the smoke.

It was Steve’s dad, Merle—the paterfamilias of the Rat Fink clan. He looked askance at Ted the Drug Dealer, standing there with the small round hilt of the baton in his hand.

Merle the Ratterfamilias: “The fuck you lookin’ at, asswipe?”

Ted the Drug Dealer pushed the button on the baton. There was a barely audible click and the weapon sprang to full size. He reached out and tapped Merle’s right wrist; I heard a sharp crack as his wrist broke and a clang when the crowbar fell to the ground.

Merle the Ratterfamilias howled. He clutched his wrist and hopped up and down. The cigarette stayed glued to his lip.

Merle the Ratterfamilias: “You cocksucking nutsack! You broke my hand!”

He lunged at Ted, who calmly brought the baton down on Merle’s right shoulder. There was another cracking sound. Merle’s face squinched up and he hissed in a painful breath.

Merle the Ratterfamilias: “I give! I give!” He backed away toward his own trailer, his right arm hanging at his side. After a few backward steps he turned around and slunk away with the same halting gait his son used after one of his confrontations. Ted the Drug Dealer picked up the crowbar to add to his weapons cache.

Merle’s common law wife stood outside their trailer, watching his approach, her arms crossed. She stood under the street light, a silhouetted, shapeless behemoth. My mother and Layne came out of the Winnebago to watch, their half-empty bowl of popcorn held between them.

Mom: “Look at her hair. See how shiny it is? She used the product. I know what I’m talking about!”

Some blood feuds were better than others. Maybe we’d get it right over the next couple of centuries.

***

Steve the Rat Fink tried to defend his family’s honor and orthopedic injuries the next day. I was hanging out with Layne the Favorite and Shawn the Black Belt down by the lake. I found out years later that the lake was crawling with alligators and water moccasins. And to think my mother thought the greatest danger to us back then was white flour, red meat and refined sugar. Who knows: maybe her cooking made us unappetizing to the marauding swamp beasts we lived alongside.

Steve the Rat Fink scurried over to me and glared up at me with his squinty eyes. He had not bathed in days; no wetland creature would make a meal of him either.

Steve the Rat Fink: “Your dad broke my dad’s arm.”

Me: “He was trying to break into our trailer.”

Steve the Rat Fink: “He was out of weed, numbnuts! What’d you expect him to do?”

Me: “Buy it?”

Steve the Rat Fink: “We ain’t got no money, shit for brains! Lurleen’s disability don’t come in till the first!”

Me: “So breaking into our trailer was like buying on credit? What kind of—”

Shawn the Black Belt had tried more than once to teach me karate. One of the things his sensei had taught him was strategic silence–apparently a lot of people got punched in the face mid-sentence.

Steve the Rat Fink punched me in the face mid-sentence.

I didn’t feel the hit; I was just suddenly on the ground looking up at the sky. There was a ringing in my ears. Steve the Rat Fink’s face loomed large suddenly. His mouth twisted angrily; he was saying something, but I didn’t hear it. I remember thinking how great it would be if someone punched him in the face mid-sentence.

Layne the Favorite had taken a few steps forward when I got hit, but Shawn the Black Belt was faster. He was always poised and waiting for an opportunity; I think he needed to release some violence on a regular basis or something horrific would befall an innocent person. It occurred to me that perhaps it was time to move to a new trailer park.

Shawn the Black Belt slammed an open palm under Steve’s chin. His head snapped back and the rest of his body followed him to the ground. Shawn stood immobile, legs apart, knees bent, hands up.

I got to my feet and swayed. The world wobbled before sliding back into place. I nearly puked on my shoes.

Steve the Rat Fink got up and faced me. There was a lurid red welt on his chin where Shawn hit him.

Steve the Rat Fink: “That’s it? You gonna let the dough boy do your fighting for you?”

I looked over Steve’s right shoulder, a look of alarm on my face. He turned his head to look and I kicked him in the nuts. His eyes opened wide, his mouth a huge O of surprise. His face crumpled and he folded in on himself, spinning slowly down to the ground.

Steve the Rat Fink: “I give! I give!”

***

We got back to our Winnebago right as my mother was pulling a roast pan out of the oven in a hellish parody of demon birth. It was lamb with an applesauce glaze, black pepper, and mandarin oranges.

It tasted like the pointed, helpless shame one feels at being ostracized by one’s community.

Layne the Favorite: “He got in a fight!”

Mom: “With who?”

Layne the Favorite: “Steve!”

Mom: “SSSSSSStace. You need to stay away from Sylvester. He’s a rat fink!”

Me: “Stuart.” My head was still ringing.

Mom: “That’s what I said!”

Layne the Favorite: “I hate that kid.”

***

Layne the Favorite and I were outside later that evening, trying to escape the wretched fumes of fruity lamb, when Steve the Rat Fink came sauntering along. He walked disjointedly down the middle of the street, shirtless and barefoot, his bruised head turning from side to side, scoping out whatever unsecured baubles might have been left out. Pickings were slim; the villagers had learned the hard way.

Layne the Favorite: “I hate that kid.”

Me: “Give it a couple centuries. There’ll be laser beams. We can’t lose.”

Layne jumped off the picnic table and walked over to the bucket with the squeegee in it. It was sitting next to the back of the Winnebago, because I was supposed to be cleaning the camper’s windows. My mother had been put out by some of the comments I had made about Mandarin Applesauce Pepper Sheep, and this chore was my punishment:

  1. “Is it supposed to taste like an orchard fire?”
  2. “What disease killed this sheep, anyway?”
  3. “Does all lamb smell like sweat?”
  4. “Can I go outside?”
  5. “You know what would be good? A baloney sandwich. Or a bike.”

My head still hurt from my earlier run-in with Steve. I didn’t feel like cleaning windows that were permanently shuttered anyway; my mother kept the curtains drawn. Besides, there was no punishment worse than Mandarin Applesauce Pepper Sheep.

Layne grabbed the squeegee and walked over to Steve the Rat Fink. Steve was preoccupied with his nightly scavenger hunt and didn’t notice Layne standing there until he nearly ran into him.

Steve the Rat Fink: “Holy shit, turdface. Why you sneakin’ up on me?”

Layne swung the squeegee. Steve jerked back, but the scraper edge sliced his forehead open. He spun around and landed flat on his face. I saw blood starting to pool in the street.

Maybe we wouldn’t have to wait two hundred years for the feud to come to an end.

***

One thing about trailer park living: you never knew who it was who called the cops. By the time the flashing lights arrived, everyone was out in the street standing around and affecting a dewy-eyed innocence. No one ever wanted to take the heat for bringing the police into our community. In such ways are blood feuds begun.

I suspect one of Steve’s larceny victims had watched him stagger toward home with his whole face and torso covered in blood and figured the rat fink had finally committed a crime that would get him sent away for good.

Layne the Favorite was sitting on top of our picnic table, the bloody squeegee held in his hand. He glared over at Rat Fink headquarters, where Steve sat at their picnic table. Lurleen held a bandanna to his bleeding head, a cigarette dangling from her lips. Merle the Ratterfamilias, shirtless, his arm in a makeshift sling, chain-smoked and gazed over at us. It was one of the few times I wanted Ted the Drug Dealer to be home; it looked like we were going to need better weapons than window cleaners. I wondered briefly if we could somehow force-feed the Rat Fink clan some Mandarin Apple Pepper Sheep, but there was no nobility in that. It was probably best if I just sat quietly and stayed out of it; I had recently been punched in the face.

The trailer park manager, predictably, showed up in his trusty golf cart.  He was in his fifties, enormous, balding, and sweaty. He always wore an incongruous short-sleeved button-down shirt with a tie. The top half of him looked like a third-rate accountant or substitute teacher. The bottom half of him was a golf cart, canted down toward the driver’s side. He had to weigh four hundred pounds. Despite the wet Florida heat, he kept a tan blanket over his lower half, so his shapeless body ended where the golf cart began.

He was the one we called when the water or electricity stopped working or the machines in the laundry room ate our quarters. He didn’t actually do anything – his right hand man was a mute, nameless Guatemalan, thin as a rail, bespectacled, a genius with mechanical things. The last time I had seen this team in action was when a sewer line across the street broke. The trailer park manager sat in his cantilevered cart while his silent manservant fixed the line, covering himself in unspeakable brown goo.

There was nothing to fix this time, so the trailer park manager showed up alone. His cart zoomed to a stop in the midst of the assembled villagers. He looked over at bloodstained Steve and then at me, sitting on top of our picnic table. He and I had had run-ins before—I was the last man standing at an unfortunate broken window incident, and he had been on the scene when I got hit by a car, which he thought was an appropriate karmic comeuppance for my backsass. His eyes lit up when he saw me. I had no interest in sparring with him today. My head hurt.

Trailer Park Manager: “What’d you do now?”

I was saved from answering by the arrival of a policeman. Interestingly enough, I recognized him. I had dealt with this cop before.

***

The officer was Patrolman 1, who had helped me out after I got hit by the Cadillac. I had served as translator for the ancient driver’s stream of old country invective. Angry Jewish women had been flinging intemperate Yiddish around me since I was a toddler, so it was easy to decipher her ranting.

Patrolman 1 quickly assessed the situation and walked over to where the Rat Fink family sat tending their wounds. Between Steve’s blood-soaked face and chest and his father’s broken bones, they looked like they had been on the business end of a nasty car wreck. Steve’s not-mom kept pointing over to our Winnebago.

Her hair was perfect.

Patrolman 1 headed over. He saw me sitting there and winked.

Patrolman 1: “So. This situation’s kind of facochta.”

Me: “Also a good bit of meshuga going on.”

My mother glared at Patrolman 1.

Mom: “You don’t look Jewish. How do you know Yiddish?”

Patrolman 1: “Your son taught me a few words. It’s come in pretty handy. There are a lot of crabby Jews on the wrong side of the law.”

Mom: “Jews don’t break the law, Lieutenant!”

Patrolman 1: “Sergeant.”

Mom: “That’s what I said! Jews are oppressed! We don’t ever do anything wrong. It’s always the goyim.

Patrolman 1: “It looks like your son hit that boy upside the head with a squeegee.”

Mom: “He was defending himself!”

Patrolman 1: “A couple of witnesses told me your son just swung at him for no reason.”

Mom: “He had a reason! Simon is always picking on him!”

Patrolman 1: “Who?”

Mom: “Stewart! Sheldon! Shane! You know—Spencer!”

Me: “Steve.”

Mom: “That’s what I said!”

Patrolman 1: “Even if they have a history, it’s irrelevant if your son just hits him without provocation. And because he used a weapon, it’s a serious crime.”

Mom: “It’s a squeegee! It’s not a weapon!”

Patrolman 1 gave up on her and walked over to where Layne sat, twirling the bloody squeegee. The officer drew himself up to his full height. All the leather he had—shoes, gun belt, holster—creaked as he walked. He stood in front of Layne the Favorite, his arms folded over his broad chest.

Patrolman 1: “You hit that boy. With a weapon. Unprovoked.”

Layne the Favorite: “I hate that kid. I’d like to hit him again.” He gripped the handle of the squeegee tighter. Patrolman 1 took it out of his hands.

Patrolman 1: “I’m going to have to take you in, son.”

My mother squawked and flew at him, pushing her way between Patrolman 1 and her son.

Mom: “No way, Buster! I won’t let you take my son to jail, you jakbooted tag.

Me: “Jackbooted thug.”

Patrolman 1: “Ah.”

Mom: “My son is innocent! This is not his fault! It’s that gneyvish ganev , az kleyn shtekhn!” Me: “Sneaky thief, that little prick.” My mother glared at me:

Mom: “SSSSSSStace! What is wrong with you? Why are you talking to this beyz khzir?”

Me: “Evil pig.”

Patrolman 1: “I knew ‘pig.’ I’ve been called that one before. Your people really don’t like them.”

Me: “It’s because we don’t know how to cook, and we’re afraid of trichinosis.”

Mom: “And God!”

Me: “Also, apparently, God.”

Mom: “Stop it! He wants to take your brother to jail!”

Patrolman 1: “Ma’am. He assaulted that boy with a weapon. I have to take him in.”

Mom: “Then you’ll have to take me too! You’ll have to lock me up with him!”

Layne the Favorite sat calmly. He seemed to accept the consequences of clocking Steve the Rat Fink upside the head. I liked to think he, at least, understood the gravity of a blood feud. Sacrifices had to be made. Although him and my mother sharing a cell at the Hollywood police station, mom sliding a cup across the bars, shrieking “Attica!” was a bit much. Dignity was a hallmark of the really good blood feuds.  I walked over to Patrolman 1.

Me: “Can I talk to you in private?”

Mom: “What for?  Why do you want to talk to this narish pots?”

Me: “Stupid dick.”

Mom: “Stop telling him what I’m saying! You’re making it worse! He’ll lock us up and throw away the key!”

Patrolman 1 led me over to his squad car. The trailer park manager, half man, half golf cart, grinned.

Trailer Park Manager: “Lock him up too, Officer!”

Patrolman 1: “I see you’re still winning people over wherever you go.”

Me: “It’s a gift.”

Patrolman 1: “You know I’m just trying to put a scare into your brother. And those lowlifes—” he jerked his head over at the clustered Rat Fink family. “—want to press charges.”

Me: “They won’t press charges. Just tell them you’ll need to step inside their trailer to take their statements in private. They’ll fall all over themselves to send you away.”

He grinned.

Patrolman 1: “And why is that? Do they not want me in their trailer for some reason?”

Me: “They do not.”

Patrolman 1: “Interesting. Tell me. Is your brother a danger to himself or others?”

Me: “Probably not. But my mother will be a danger to you if you take them to jail. Can you whip up some sort of hideous kosher meal for them? Will they get to watch TV together? And just wait till her lawyer shows up. She’ll sue you and the city for a hundred million dollars.”

Patrolman 1: “For what?”

Me: “Does it matter? Do we all want to be on the news, for God’s sake?”

Patrolman 1: “Probably not.”

Me: “Besides, if you haul Layne and his mother off to the big house, I’ll be left here alone. My stepfather’s working, and I’m a helpless minor.”

Patrolman 1 (chuckling): “You poor thing.”

Mom: “SSSSSStace! Quit talking to that Nazi!”

Patrolman 1: “I think she wants to go to jail.”

Me: “By now she does. She and her son are going to martyr themselves for the cause.”

Patrolman 1: “What cause is that?”

Me: “No one knows. But they can’t stop now or all will be lost.”

Patrolman 1: “That actually makes some kind of sense.”

Me: “We’ll make a Jew out of you yet. Can I come to your Bar Mitzvah?”

Patrolman 1: “As long as you bring a gift.”

Me: “That’s the spirit.”

I followed him back to where my mother and Layne sat side by side, waiting to be handcuffed, beaten with sticks, and shoved into the back of a patrol car.

Me: “Take them away, Officer.”

My mother glared at me.

Mom: “You’re just like your father, that son of a bitch.”

Patrolman 1: “Ma’am, I’m not taking your son in.”

Mom: “Because he’s innocent! I told you!”

Patrolman 1: “It would leave your other son here by himself.”

Mom: “Oh, him. He’ll be fine, that one.”

Me: “Do you want to go to jail?”

Patrolman 1 looked at Layne the Favorite.

Patrolman 1: “I’m going to let you off with a warning. Never pick up a weapon if you get in a fight. Unless you’re defending yourself.”

Layne the Favorite nodded.  Patrolman 1 walked over to the Rat Fink family, his arms folded. He said something to them. Merle the Ratterfamilias ripped the ball cap off his head with his one good arm and flung it on the ground. I could hear his voice raised as he yelled at Patrolman 1, but not what he was saying. Patrolman 1 gestured at their motor home and took a step toward it. Merle the Ratterfamilias got in front of him, his hand out, a toothless grin on his face. Patrolman 1 shrugged and walked back to his car. The crowd gazed at him expectantly. The trailer park manager kept looking between me and the cop. His face fell when Patrolman 1 got in his car and drove away.

Me: “Better luck next time.”

The trailer park manager glared at me and zoomed away, nearly clipping some of our neighbors with his golf cart. The crowd dispersed after that. The Rat Fink family retreated to their trailer, looking like survivors of a vicious animal attack.  It felt like we were winning this blood feud. We had them on the ropes.

Mom: “Her hair really does look good. I’m going to go ask her to come down to the salon for a conditioner treatment.”  I sighed. Hopefully my descendants would do better.

You can buy Trailer Trash With A Girl’s Name: Father Figures on Amazon.com.  Follow Stacey Roberts on Facebook and Twitter

Bio

Stacey Roberts spent his childhood traveling the country in his family’s Winnebago. They eventually settled in Florida, where he attended Florida State University and the University of Miami. To his mother’s consternation, he pursued a major in English literature instead of finance. He rebelled further by receiving his master’s degree in early-modern European history from the University of Cincinnati. He can now both impress and frustrate the room with obscure references to Roman emperors and English monarchs.

Roberts founded his own computer consulting firm in 1994. He lives in Northern Kentucky with his wife, Nikki, and their Goldendoodle, Augustus.

**********************

Paul De Lancey
www.pauldelancey.com
www.lordsoffun.com

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Spotlight on Wil 3 – Author of “Heartly God?”

Excerpt from Heartly God?

 

Chapter Three

The protestors’ movement, if it can be deservingly titled as such, was aimed at the removal of Father O’Toole from St. Mary’s Parish and the whole Catholic Church. It started with a few unhappy parishioners who didn’t take kindly to Father O’Toole’s most recent and more progressive sermons. A few unhappy parishioners led to a few unhappy families, who then enlisted the help of other, very concerned, non-parishioners who were equally offended by what Father O’Toole had to say. Although they never actually heard it first-hand, but through their friends, which apparently was good enough to cause them to be offended.

At first, the movement was easily ignored by the remaining St. Mary’s faithful and by Father O’Toole. But when it became apparent that it had grown and was not going away, Father O’Toole decided it was time to engage the protestors in dialogue. That was a mistake. The dialogue was short-lived and within a matter of minutes, Father O’Toole’s Irish got the better of him and he had to be physically restrained and separated from the group. The “swear jar” Father O’Toole kept in the office behind the altar was contributed to heavily that day by him.

It used to be easy for Father O’Toole to bridge gaps between those who were with him and those who were against him. He made a short career of that in the Army prior to the priesthood. It seemed to him that he was losing that ability due to his old age in the same way that he was losing his hair and his hearing. Sadly, Father O’Toole’s lack of statesmanship only fueled the fire of the protestors’ movement. The following week, after word got out via social media, the movement doubled in size. The week after that, the local media was at the 9:00 AM. Mass to cover the protestors. A thirty-second clip of the protestors aired on local news the following Monday.

“We are protesting Father O’Toole’s ludicrous message! The Bible says that a man should not lay down with another man. That is a sin. It’s an abomination against nature! Women who have abortions are killing babies! They don’t need forgiveness; they need to be locked up!!”

Once the media coverage of the protestors’ movement aired, the Bishop and other higher-ups in the Church became heavily involved in the situation. The Bishop didn’t necessarily agree with Father O’Toole’s new message or ministry. In fact, he never really saw eye-to-eye with Father O’Toole on much of anything. But more importantly, he did not like to see one of his churches under siege. It was bad for business. Attendance at Mass was down because many of the remaining parishioners felt uneasy trying to navigate amongst the protestors as they tried to get into the church. Accordingly, the weekly collection started to come up short … very short at times.

The stress on the income stream necessitated constant communication, which Father O’Toole equated to constant aggravation, between him and the Bishop. If he wasn’t talking to the Bishop, he was talking to one of the Bishop’s underbosses. If it wasn’t an underboss, it was someone from the Diocese public relations department. If it wasn’t public relations, it was a Diocese lawyer. All the stress and constant watchdogging of Father O’Toole made him physically tired and mentally weak. Making the situation worse was Father O’Toole’s acknowledgment that he simply did not have the time to devote to the parishioners who still needed him, or to those unfortunate sick and dying people that he would minister to in three of the local hospitals.

Father O’Toole was no longer a young man. Far from it. He should have retired years ago, by his age. But he grew up in the Strip District, went to St. Mary’s grade school and he welcomed the opportunity to become the pastor at St. Mary’s when the opportunity presented itself. Truth be told, St. Mary’s was on the verge of collapse before Father O’Toole’s arrival. The Diocese plan was to let Father O’Toole run the parish for one or maybe two years, then close it down and sell it to a developer for a big profit. It was expected that Father O’Toole would retire after that. It was a clever and convenient strategy by the Diocese and their legal think tank. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Father O’Toole actually grew the parish in the short time that he had been pastor. Prior to the protestors’ movement, St. Mary’s Parish had become bigger and stronger than ever. Father O’Toole initially felt a youthful resurgence as the parish grew around him, but in the wake of this protest movement, Father O’Toole was not sure how much longer he could last. He was clearly nearing his breaking point.

The easiest way to resolve the problem would have been to reassign Father O’Toole to another parish. However, the higher-ups in the Diocese thought that move would signal the Church’s acquiescence to the will of the protestors. Besides, reassignment did not guarantee that the same thing would not happen at a different location. The last thing the Diocese wanted was to engage in war on two fronts. The Diocesan leaders asked Father O’Toole to retire, but that conversation was even shorter than Father O’Toole’s attempt at dialogue with the protestors. With all the brain power and money of the Diocese, nobody had any clear solution for resolving the situation. And they also knew that they were dealing equally with a very hard-headed old Irishman who never backed down from a fight before. Thus, they were all stuck and decided nothing could be done other than to ride it out. The situation evolved into a chicken fight between three entities to see just who had the most stamina.

One thing was for sure—the thick concrete walls and enormous oak doors of St. Mary’s that once created a spiritual and a physical safe-haven for the parishioners could no longer keep the din and ruckus of the protestors outside. In calmer days, the only sound that might have been heard from the outside during a Mass was the occasional siren on a police car or ambulance. Now, even the sirens couldn’t be heard over the protestors’ fanatical rants and chanting.

Bio

Wil 3 is a father, an educator and a retired college assistant basketball coach who graduated from Washington and Jefferson college with a double major in Political Science and Secondary Education. He has worked as a teacher and curriculum developer in several school districts and post-secondary institutions.  An advocate to end homelessness, Wil currently sits as a Board Member at “Hearts of the Homeless,” a 501(c)3 non-profit and regularly volunteers at Light of Life Mission in the North Side of Pittsburgh, PA.  Prior to releasing Heartly God?, Wil authored several one-act plays that have been performed by various theater groups in Western Pennsylvania.  Heartly God? is his first full-length novel.  When not writing, Wil can be found trout fishing or on a stand-up paddle board with his son Rider and occasionally practicing law, if time permits.

**********************

Paul De Lancey
www.pauldelancey.com
www.lordsoffun.com

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Spotlight on H.J. Worthington – Author of “Farewell, Amelia Mary: Long Time Looking”

Farewell, Amelia Mary: Long Time Looking

 

The stories and vignettes in this book represent the experiences and memories from World War II veteran H.J. Worthington. A first-time author at the age of 90, Mr. Worthington offers readers a personal journey through some of America’s most important moments in time.

Excerpt

Special Note

Friday afternoon, November 23, 1963 the nation heard the news: President John F. Kennedy shot and killed in Dallas, Texas.  All that day, Saturday, Sunday, and into the next week the event unfolded right before our eyes on our television screens.

I wrote the Kennedy memorial poem while watching the news coverage each day.  It did not matter what your political connection.  World War II was only 18 years back in the collective memory.  We had lost a kindred spirit – a fellow warrior – in the cause that saved the world from a new Dark Age of barbarism in the 20th Century, and possibly beyond if we had not prevailed.  Who knew? The raw emotional scar had healed over but was still tender to the touch of a lingering remembrance.

Robert Kennedy’s killing, less than 5 years after his brother’s, destroyed the possible promise of a bit more peaceful kingdom.  Dream denied.


In Memoriam – John F. Kennedy

On that morning… an hour before his final ride

He spoke of his brother,

Who had gone before him to the war… and died.

And she…when accepting the roses of red,

Held them and kept them,

Til her husband was dead.

 

There he sat and smiled and waved,

All through the ride;

She at his side … holding the red roses,

When there from out the sunlit sky,

A killer bullet flashed and said:

“You must die”.

 

And so; one week before Thanksgiving,

Under the Texas Sky,

She saw him live and smile … and touch,

Red roses that would die.

 

There beneath that Texas sky,

Where the President is dead,

There cries and anguished people;

And some roses that are red.

 

 

Now the lonely vigil,

Of a nation’s grieving heart,

Returned to waiting Washington,

The requiem to start.

She did not leave his lifeless side,

When the Hand of God said “NOW”,

But pleading she touched God’s Hand,

And asked: “Please … keep him here … somehow”.

 

Through the soul-sick shrouded night,

The line of sorrow filed beneath the great Rotunda dome,

Where lies their young and fallen Chief,

Who now has journeyed home.

 

And on that morning,

When they came to bear him slow,

It was heard by all who watched and harked,

His muted whisper softly said:

“I am ready now … to go.”

 

They bore him from the solemn church,

His requiem was done,

And there his little boy saluted him,

And softly back across the hallowed air he whispered:

“Happy birthday … and farewell my son”.

 

And standing there; just six years old,

Was his little daughter brave,

No longer could she run and hug;

Or for him,

All her kisses save.

 

And there on the side of a hill that day,

She whispered her husband’s name.

She took a ray from the setting sun,

And lit their eternal flame.

 

…So now we truly ask ourselves,

What kind of man was he,

What killed our president of tender years,

Who loved the wind and sea.

 

A very few of you may say:

“The man is dead,”

What more is there to say,

The evil plan is naked here before us,

All the certain consequences light the way.

 

Let us here speak finally …

Let us quit our rhyme,

Let us raise our urgent sight,

Let us press our words to freer verse,

Let us set the record right.

 

Yes… he is dead.

His day is done,

His manuscript is closed.

But there remains the reason WHY,

The tragic, wasteful painful reason WHY?

 

The sure and true malignant residue of hate,

Unleashed like a famished phantom in our midst,

Struck down this man.

For he; like the tall Emancipator before him,

Had thrust upon him,

An overburdened share of relentless condemnation.

 

He was struck down,

Not for the way he prayed to his God;

But for the way he prayed to his fellow man.

His warm prayer;

His clear and poetic words of truth and justice,

Fell upon cold hearts and dead consciences;

And they were stirred to anger and fear and despair.

This was his sin,

And it was a sin against those who hate,

For any reason; and in any measure,

And hate triumphed;

And he was gone.

 

 

And what have we lost?

…We have lost the sight and voice,

Of little children in the marbled halls of state.

A generation has lost a warm and kindred mystic spirit,

Who lived and shared a dear nostalgia,

Of younger urgent times.

Gone is a sweet embrace of memories,

Of not too long ago.

We have lost the simplicity,

Of the natural boyishness,

Of a great man.

Some say that he had no emotion.

He WAS an emotion;

And we have lost him.

We have lost the smile of a truly beautiful woman.

We have lost a President.

We have lost our hearts.

 

And so…

Time will go on,

Memory will fade,

The years will pass,

Men will forget.

And the millions of words of eulogy …will,

After a while;

Languish and fade,

On the yellow pages of dusty volumes.

Those of us who now silently weep;

We, who cannot dispel the ache;

We know, that death is but a changing of life;

And we will find our solace and peace in knowing,

That we will see him and greet him,

One day again,

In the long forever of eternity.

 

In Memoriam – Robert F. Kennedy

 

Four years and seven months

Since sad November,

Now sad June; more heartbreak

To remember,

We have loved and quickly

Lost again,

We have dreamed another dream

In vain.

Bio

 

H.J. Worthington is a WWII veteran, father of six and grandfather of nine. He has no publishing credits and this is his first book. He is not looking for fame or fortune. His next birthday will bring him to his tenth decade.

The stories and other offerings in this book are a selection from the archives in his mind from long ago—up to 2016. He finally realized that if he is ever going to see his work in print, he better take his own advice from one of his many vignettes:

Get going or you’re gone!

 

**********************

Paul De Lancey
www.pauldelancey.com
www.lordsoffun.com

 

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Spotlight on Cathy Sikorski, Esq. – Author of “Who Moved my Teeth?

Excerpt from Who Moved my Teeth?

 

CHAPTER ONEfuckingteeth

WHAT SHOULD I HAVE ALREADY DONE?

Here’s a list of things you should do if you haven’t done them already, either for your loved one that you are/or will be a caregiver for quite soon…OR FOR YOURSELF!

  1. GET A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY….ACTUALLY GET TWO OR THREE!

What is a Power of Attorney? This is a critical document that allows someone to take care of your healthcare and business affairs. And everyone in the healthcare and caregiving business will ask you if you have a POA (Power of Attorney).

A Power of Attorney document comes in a few flavors. There are generally two types of POAs and they need to be Durable, kind of like a good pair of Levi Jeans. Durable means that no matter what happens to you, as a living person, the POA stays in effect. That’s a good thing because what would be the whole point of a POA if it doesn’t work when you can’t.  Like my Nana’s orthopedic shoes, she was never without them because she needed them for her health. And, during your life, you should never be without your Durable POAs.

  1. Durable Health Care Power of Attorney

This document allows a person to make all major and minor healthcare decisions for their loved one. The person who signs the Power of Attorney is giving the power to you or someone else to act as if you are the signer. So, if your mom signs a Durable POA, and gives the power to you, she has made you her agent.  You now have the power to act as if you are your mom in all health care situations. If you sign a POA and make your spouse your ‘Agent,’ your spouse now has the power to act as if he is you in all health care decisions concerning you.

This does not prevent Mom from continuing to make her own decisions about her health care. It does allow the agent, the POA, to make decisions, if necessary. Or, at the very least, as the POA you now have the authority to talk to everyone about your mom’s health care.

Does this replace that damned HIPAA form? Yes and yes. There is nothing wrong with you also having your loved one sign a HIPAA form that gives you authority to discuss medical issues, but the Durable Healthcare POA is the best and most powerful document you can have. And it lasts forever, until the person who signed it cancels it in writing. That’s why you need 2 or 3 originals. I always gave my clients 3 originals. In case one gets lost, is never returned, or becomes lining for the cat litter box somehow.

An original Durable POA means it has all original signatures and it is signed and witnessed by a Notary Public. So, if you have three original Durable POAs, you will have to sign in all important places 3 times and the Notary will sign each one separately as well.

  1. Durable Financial Power of Attorney

This document is different from a Health Care Power of Attorney. The person who signs this type of Durable Power of Attorney is giving the power to you or someone else to act as if you are that person in all financial situations. So if your mom gives you a Durable Financial POA, you now have the power to act as if you are your mom in all financial situations. This too, is a very powerful document. Since the agent is in the shoes of the person who assigned the power. The agent can buy, sell, transfer, pay, not pay and clean out every penny and asset there is. It sounds bad and ominous.  And there is no doubt that checks and balances are a good thing when you give a Durable Financial POA to someone. But never underestimate the NEED for this document.

  1. Between Spouses

Unless you have a real problem with your spouse, and I’m pretty sure that’s a Dr. Phil book, or if your spouse is already suffering from mental incapacity or incapable of making financial decisions, you and your spouse under normal circumstances should give each other Durable Healthcare and Durable Financial POAs.

This is a protection in case anything unplanned would happen to either of you. You would already have these documents in place to handle any emergency. I’m talking to you. The healthy baby boomer who is reading this, or the Gen-Xer who suddenly realizes their mom and dad are getting older. Hey! We are all getting older! If you are over 18 years old, you should consider Durable POAs for yourself. When my children went to college, I had them sign Durable POAs. As adults living hours away from home, I did not want any nonsense from a hospital or a college administration saying they wouldn’t talk to me about my child’s condition, be it a health or financial condition.

Fast forward to your own life now. You are 30-something or 40-something. You have kids, a nice house, a couple of cars. You have an accident. You are disabled. You’re in a coma. Your husband can’t sell the house, car, or shares in Microsoft, because they belong to you. The hospital wants to put a shunt in your brain to stop the bleeding but no one has the authority to say “yay” or “nay.” That’s why everyone needs Durable POAs at every stage of their adult life. Not when you’re 85 years old and you think, “hey, something might happen to me.”

DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW.

No one even needs to know you have these documents. You can go to your local wonderful attorney, get the paperwork done, put it in your fireproof box in the basement, and when someone needs to find your important papers….Voila!! There it is. Just make sure someone knows you have important papers and where they are located.

 

  1. A Word on Durable POAs

Besides being the most important document you may not have yet and need to get, POA’s can also be like a Chinese menu. Any lawyer worth her salt will take you through a process where you need to decide exactly how much power you want to bestow. In Pennsylvania, for example, where I reside, there are very strict rules about things like how much money can the POA give as a gift and to whom. So please, find a lawyer. Ask your friends, neighbors, someone you know who has dealt with issues like this. Research lawyers, but find one, and get your affairs in order. It’s that important, because if you need this and you don’t have it, this is what happens next…………….

  1. Whom Do I Choose to be my POA?

 

This question is complicated. Usually, if you are healthy and happy as a couple, you would choose each other as your primary POA. You should always have an alternate POA in case something happens to both of you simultaneously.

If your spouse is unable to be your POA, or you don’t have a spouse, you need to choose a person you can trust completely. This person will have power over your money and your health. You need to choose wisely.

Normally, it would be best to choose a daughter or son or other relative who lives close by. Making these decisions, especially with hospitals and doctors usually needs a person who is available to go to those places or meet with those healthcare professionals.

 

When deciding who to choose as your POA ask yourself some questions:

  1. Do I trust this person completely with my money and/or my health?
  2. Will they be available to make decisions at a moment’s notice?
  3. Are they capable of making these decisions?
  4. Does this person know how to find and ask for help for me?
  5. Do I want to put all the financial or health care power with one person, or do I want to give joint or several powers?

Caution: It can be challenging to have joint POAs because if they disagree, there is no one to ‘break the tie.’ You can have ‘either or’ POA’s. So that if you name your son and daughter as joint POA’s, your son and daughter can make decisions jointly or by themselves (severally). Note that they need to be able to work together for the several powers as they can make decisions without the other’s input. If you don’t see that happening, then choose one decider and an alternate.

 

Bio

cathysikorskiphotoamazon

Author of Showering With Nana: Confessions of a Serial Caregiver, Cathy Sikorski has been a significant caregiver for the last 25 years for seven different family members and friends. A published humorist, Sikorski is also a practicing attorney who limits her practice to Elder Law issues. Her combined legal and humor expertise has made her a sought-after speaker where she tackles the Comedy of Caregiving and the legal issues that affect those who will one day be or need a caregiver (which is everyone). Sikorski is a frequent guest on radio programs and podcasts where she talks about the importance of using humor in caregiving. With more than 30 years of law behind her, she provides critical legal information for our aging population. Her latest endeavor is her humorous memoir Showering with Nana: Confessions of a Serial (killer) Caregiver (HumorOutcasts Press 2015).  Sikorski has participated in memoir writing classes for two years at the prestigious Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She has also participated in the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference where she won a Humor Prize in 2014. Sikorski blogs for The Huffington Post and is a contributing author for HumorOutcasts.com and she can been seen on the West Chester Story Slam YouTube channel.  Known as a “Thought Leader,” her work can be found in the HappinessRecipe Anthology: The Best of Year One, published 2014.  Sikorski maintains an active blog “You just have to Laugh…where Caregiving is Comedy…” at www.cathysikorski.com  where she continues to post absurd yet true stories that continue today.Contact Cathy Sikorski at cathy.sikorski@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at @cathy_sikorski.

 

**********************

Paul De Lancey
www.pauldelancey.com
www.lordsoffun.com

 

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Spotlight on Margie Cherry, Author of “Mom’s Comedy Coloring Book”

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Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms?

 

PresidentMeme2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul R. De LanceyDeLanceyPaul
Future president of the United States of America.

Check out my latest novel, the hilarious apocalyptic thriller, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms? It’s published by HumorOutcasts and is available in paperback or Kindle on amazon.com.

 

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Spotlight on Donna Cavanagh – Author of “How to Write and Share Humor”

Excerpt From How to Write  and Share Humor:

 

PART I: CAN I WRITE FUNNY?HowToWriteHumor(final2

 

Some writers do not know they are funny. Some writers can’t put their funny into words, and some want to use humor to loosen up their audience. How hard is it to write funny?

 

Chapter I: Let’s Talk Humor

A few years ago, while surfing the net, I came across this great quote from author and literary analyst Michael Cart. I found Mr. Cart on LinkedIn and asked him to follow me, but I got no response. However, in his defense, and as anyone on LinkedIn knows, if a person you don’t know asks you to be a connection, that person is probably a stalker. Yep, LinkedIn is the most paranoid social media platform available, and it makes people crazy with suspicion, but I still like it.
Anyway, back to the quote from Michael Cart, which I assume is correct because I did read it on the internet and everything you read on the internet is true so…
“Humor is the Rodney Dangerfield of Literary genres. It gets no respect.”
That quote blew me away. It is so profound that it deserved to be centered, italicized and put in quotation marks. And it is one hundred percent true. We all know we like to laugh. We watch comedians, sitcoms and funny movies. Our Facebook feeds are saturated with funny pictures, headlines and witty sayings. While I have no scientific data to back this next statement up, I would guess that humor is the fourth most popular type of post on Facebook. Posts about puppies, kittens and, of course, the consumption of wine seem to grab the top three spots.
Despite its amazing popularity, humor still is the black sheep of the literary world. It’s a mystery as to why this is. My guess is that those in the “real writing and reading world” put down humor because they struggle writing humor, and that fact ticks them off.

HUMOR IS ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT GENRES TO WRITE

I don’t mean to burst your bubble so soon out of the starting gate, but a lot of people do NOT write humor well. And I’m not just talking about the ability to write jokes or humorous essays. I’m talking about possessing the ability to infuse humor into their work even a tiny bit. It’s a difficult task and not for the weak hearted. Humor, if not done well and even if done well, can be misconstrued, judged or viewed as offensive. So you have to be careful with your words and project how they will affect your life and those in your life.

Who should not write humor?
· Anyone who hates to laugh
· Anyone who finds no humor in everyday life
· Anyone who needs to be liked all the time
· Anyone who is afraid to be offensive
· Anyone who must declare out loud to the world as often as possible how hysterically funny he or she is (if you have to keep telling people you are hysterical, there’s a better than ninety percent chance you are not hysterical).
What are some of the major challenges to writing humor?
· It is hard to translate the cadence of spoken word to written word.
· It is hard to create descriptions that paint your story in a humorous way.
· It is hard to create dialogue that represents the tone of the story you want to tell.
· It is hard to let go of inhibitions that have plagued you since you left the womb.
· Don’t fret. In this book, we will cover many of these challenges for you. So take a deep breath and read on.

 

CHAPTER II: To Niche or Not Niche

I guess if we want to truly understand the humor genre, we should start at the beginning and ask “What is humor?” I could give you the dry dictionary definition, but that’s boring. Instead, I’m going to give you my definition. Humor makes us smile, chuckle or laugh so hard coffee shoots out our noses when we read and drink at the same time. Humor tickles our funny bones and transforms a bad mood into a good mood. Humor is powerful stuff. In case anyone is wondering, comedy is a category under humor and is defined as a humorous art form, which can be written or oral and results in physical laughter. There are also many sub-genres of humor. Some of the more popular include:
· Observational Humor – Finding comedy in everyday life from your neighbor’s habit of walking around outside in his underwear to funny road signs
· Situational Humor – From trips to the emergency room to getting pulled over for a ticket to finding snakes in your bed—sure they sound terrible, but if they are not happening to you, they can be pretty funny.
· Satire – Making fun of culture, society, politics, religion, etc.
· Bathroom Humor – Fart and poop jokes never to go out of style.
· Relationship and Family Humor – Spouse and kids and all that goes with these topics, plus dating and divorce
· Stage of Life Humor – This can sometimes overlap with relationship humor as it encompasses topics such as empty nest, middle age, mommy bloggers, widowhood and menopause.
· Caustic or Snarky Humor (takes no hostages) – No one is protected from witty barbs.
· Melting Pot Humor – In this category I include everything from silly or funny photos with captions to fictional essays.
Do I have to find a niche?
Let’s assume you have the gift for humor but you don’t know what to do with this gift. The number one question budding humorists ask is “What should I write about?” I might be a rebel here, but this is my take on this sensitive topic. From day one in classrooms, kids and adults are taught “WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.” I’m not against this advice for beginners, but I am against that advice if two years down the road, you are still writing only what you know. Talk about boring. Writing is fluid; writing is a journey. Make sure you book the trip and take that journey to the unknown or else you might find yourself stuck in a pile of mediocrity with no hope of escape. That sounds so dramatic, right? Okay, you might not die in a pile of mediocrity, but you will be trapped until you get the guts to try some fresh material. Take some chances!
I hear what you are saying: “I need a niche; I need a niche.” And, yes, to an extent that is true. You are not going to write about being a single dad if you are a polygamist with twenty-two kids. You are not going to write medical humor if you vomit when you get a paper cut. However, recognize the limitation to your niche. You cannot still be a “mommy blogger” when your kids have received their own AARP cards. You cannot be known as the menopause maven when your hot flashes and dry vagina turned cold a decade ago. In other words, it’s the theory of Natural Selection: adapt or become extinct. Be creative, move on, push that envelope and find your funny elsewhere. It’s okay to leave a niche behind so you can grow as a writer.
One other point while we are talking about what to write. Humor does not mean your entire life has to be an open book. Sure, write about experiences, but be careful. Not everyone in your life will delight in the fact that they are put on public display. Learn the difference between writing about experiences in a humorous way and humiliating your friends, family and possibly yourself.

WRITING EXERCISE

Write down what makes you laugh. Why do you find these topics so funny? Can you come up with five subjects that tickle your funny bone? Turn that idea into five sentences.

 

Bio

Donna Cavanagh-2 (1)

Donna Cavanagh is founder of HumorOutcasts.com (HO) and the partner publishing company, HumorOutcasts Press which now includes the labels Shorehouse Books and Corner Office Books (HOPress-Shorehousebooks.com).  Cavanagh launched HO as an outlet for writers to showcase their work in a world that offered few avenues for humor. HO now features the creative talents of more than 100 aspiring and accomplished writers, producers, comics and authors from all over the world. Known for its eclectic content, HumorOutcasts has something for everyone.  As a writer herself, Cavanagh is a former journalist who made an unscheduled stop into humor more than 20 years ago. Her syndicated columns helped her gain a national audience when her work landed in the pages of First Magazine, USA Today and other national media.  She has taught the how-to lessons of humor, blogging and publishing at The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference and the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop. Recently named Humor Writer of the Month by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, Cavanagh has penned four humor books Reality: Fantasy’s Evil Twin, Try and Avoid the Speed Bumps, A Canine’s Guide to the Good Life (which she wrote with her dogs Frankie and Lulu) and the USA Books Contest finalist Life On the Off Ramp. Cavanagh hopes her latest book How to Write and Share Humor: Techniques to Tickle Funny Bones and Win Fans will encourage writers not only to embrace their humor talents but show them off as well.

How to Write and Share Humor is available on amazon.

 

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Paul De Lancey
www.pauldelancey.com
www.lordsoffun.com

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Spotlight on Keith Stewart, Author of “Bernadette Peters Hates Me”

Excerpt from Bernadette Peters Hates Me

 

Free Range BirdBernadettepetershatesmefinalcover

I am obsessed with food, and not in the way that immediately comes to mind when a fat man types those words. I am constantly reading labels and trying to find organic products on my quest to be a healthy person. My normal diet is mostly vegetarian, and I have even considered going vegan (ok, I have read about the vegan lifestyle). I am a member of a CSA—community supported agriculture—farm, which basically means I get large baskets of fresh, locally grown, organic fruit and vegetables each week without having to actually tend a farm.

Regardless of how much I support local farms, I still have to go the grocery store each week for a lot of my food, and even then, I still try to buy organic products. Living in the Appalachian Mountains in a rural Kentucky town seriously hinders this effort. You don’t find much locally grown baby bok choy in the produce aisle at the Sav-A-Lot or the Piggly Wiggly.

As a result, not only do I have to leave the local farms and mom-and-pop grocery stores behind, but I also have to shop at the giant mega-grocery stores. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good outing to Sam’s Club or Costco and buying huge bulk items, usually large pallets of dog food to feed our normal sized Dudley and the horse-who-thinks-he-is-a-dog, Duke. Plus, there is a certain comfort in knowing that I will have enough olive oil to supply my entire cul-de-sac or that I will not run out of toilet paper should my entire household get stricken with a nasty stomach virus.

My main concern about these high-ceilinged superstores can be boiled down into two words: trapped birds. I am deathly afraid of these trapped birds. You all have noticed them. They are always there, lurking. You are minding your own business, trying to decide on which flavor of Hamburger Helper to buy when suddenly it does a fly by. You know the stupid bird is scared to death. He probably just flew into the Walmart supercenter to grab one of those bird-seed concoctions molded into the shape of a bell for dinner when he lost his bearings. He can’t find his way out of the store, and he is now in panic mode. The saying “bird brain” was invented for a reason: they have small ones, and they don’t use what they have that well.

Why be scared of such a tiny bird? Why be so bitter towards a poor, struggling animal? Perhaps I am overreacting, you say? I beg to differ. A couple of years ago, I was accosted by an angry, terrified bird in a Kroger MegaGrand Store. I honestly can say I will never be the same, and neither will that dumb bird. Here’s how it went down:

I ran into the grocery after work to pick up a few items. For convenience, I stopped at the store that was closer to work, so it was not my home Kroger. All the produce was placed in completely different places, and I walked around aimlessly trying to find the organic section, in particular, the celery. I was standing in front of a large display of carefully pyramided cantaloupe when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something dark and ominous. It was a bird, maybe a sparrow, flying at what appeared to be the speed of a fully engrossed Indy car. I stood there and thought to myself, “Huh, that bird looks like it’s flying directly toward me.” The next thing I know I feel something repeatedly beating me about the head and ear, and I hear the FLAP FLAP FLAP of bird wings. “OH GOD! HELP ME!” I yelled, flailing both arms up in the air trying to fight off the crazed bird. I was feeling around for a celery stalk to use as a sword, and in my panic, I jumped back directly into the large display of cantaloupe. At this point, the bird had tired of terrorizing me and had flown away to target its next victim over in the dairy section, but I was still flailing my arms, rolling in the floor with about fifty cantaloupes.

 

After I was sure I was bird-free, I looked around at the scene. Gasping and out of breath, I was on my knees surrounded by a sea of cantaloupe, some still whole but most cracked open and oozing. My hair was tousled, my shirt had come untucked, and I was clutching my organic celery sword as if my life depended on it. The lady who had been restocking the iceberg lettuce rushed over to me while all the other shoppers in the produce section stared as if I’d just decided to do a back flip into the cantaloupe for no reason at all, like I was some sort of freakish, produce trouble maker. “Sir, are you ok?!” the lady asked. I couldn’t respond. I was incredibly embarrassed and just wanted to get out of the store.

I tried to maintain some level of grace, and finally told the woman, “Someone ought to do something about that bird.” She looked around either trying to see the bird or to look for security. Regardless, I could tell she did not believe I had been attacked. “Did you not see it?” I asked incredulously.

“Um, yes sir, yes,” she said as she helped me to my feet.

I made my way to the check-out getting madder with each step. That stupid bird had totally punked me right there in the produce section. He had done it so quickly and stealth-like that no one else had apparently even seen it. Stupid bird. Everyone just thought I was a big goober who had attacked the fresh fruit. Argh, that bird! I knew he was somewhere in the rafters of the store looking at me and laughing. I decided to gather what was left of my dignity and pay for my celery (no cantaloupe) and go home. Thank goodness this was not my home Kroger store.

The entire time my items were being scanned and bagged, the clerk kept looking at my shirt. I thought she had a look on her face that said, “I really want to laugh right now, but I will wait until you leave.” I assumed she had seen the incident, so I just ignored her. When I looked down to swipe my debit card, I noticed it. That bird—that vile, evil bird—had pooped all over my maroon button down. The stark white mess went from my shoulder, down my arm, and glared like it would glow-in-the dark against the color of my shirt. I looked up immediately and scanned the ceiling. I think I said something like, “You people need to get your bird problem under control,” to the clerk and then marched out the door, horrified.

So heed my warning, when you see a bird trapped inside a large store, be very careful. Know that it is stupid. Know that it is vicious. Know that it is ticked off because it’s too dumb to find the exit, and it’s looking to make someone pay. You do not want to end up being on the security camera blooper reel at the Kroger Employee Christmas Party. I have been there, and it ain’t pretty.

Bio

keithphoto

Keith Stewart’s strange adventures usually occur near his Appalachian hometown of Hyden, Kentucky, although he can be just as easily found wandering the streets of nearby Lexington at any given moment. Before he shed his corporate identity, he worked as a certified public accountant for a multi-national company. He now enjoys less stressful work with much less pay, blogs at www.astrongmanscupoftea.com, and is as happy as a clam with his husband Andy, and their two dogs, Duke and Dudley. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and been published in several anthologies, Kudzu, and Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel. He is contributor for HumorOutcasts.com and the GoodMedProject.com.

 

Bernadette Peters Hates Me is available on Amazon.

 

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Paul De Lancey
www.pauldelancey.com
www.lordsoffun.com

 

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Spotlight on Matthew J. Pallamary – Author of “Night Whispers”

Excerpt From Night Whispers

 

CHAPTER ONENight Whispers Front Cover

The sound of a key sliding into the front door lock jolted him out of semi-consciousness. The musty smell of old perfume whispered in his mind, reminding him that he’d been waiting for hours. His feet ached. He strained to see more, but the closet remained shrouded in darkness. Razor thin silver light shone through the door leaving a slice of moonlight across the clothes hanging in front of him.
Disoriented at first, he gradually remembered what he had to do. Part of him didn’t want to go through with it, but the voice wouldn’t allow him to think of anything else.
As if in answer to his thoughts, it whispered in his mind. Remain silent, it hissed. Do not move. You mustn’t be found. Breathe slow. Deep. In measured breaths. You are the divine instrument of God’s will. His hand will guide yours. Sweaty fingers slid over the handle of the sickle at his side.
His back felt stiff. His legs shook. He longed to move, but the sounds from the hall outside the bedroom told him that to do so would mean discovery.
The bedroom light clicked on and a slash of gold stabbed through the crack in the door, stopping inches from his face. He cringed, catching his breath. She came straight toward him. He held his breath, tightening his grip on the sickle. The pretty blonde stopped with her hand on the door as if lost in thought, then turned away and began undressing.
He exhaled slow, studying her through the opening. Cascading blonde hair and smooth curves. When she pulled an angora sweater over her head he saw firm breasts and smooth, delicate shoulders. He nearly gasped when she unzipped her jeans and wiggled out of them. Her panties followed. Seeing her in this intimate way sparked long atrophied desires.
That’s not why you’re here, the voice admonished. Put those filthy thoughts out of your mind. The harsh words made him feel hot and prickly; the way he felt when his mother used to scold him.
She turned toward him again and stared. He tensed, then remembered the mirror on the closet door. She cupped her breasts and turned from side to side, examining herself. His gaze darted between her breasts and the honeyed patch of pubic hair that graced her smooth, toned thighs. If not for the voice, he might have gone for her then, but fear kept him in check.
When he reached the limits of control, she turned and disappeared from view. The sound of running water came from the bathroom, then the toilet flushed. When she passed the closet again he saw that she put on a nightgown, then the light went out.
The dull glimmer of moonlight filled his consciousness once more, followed by the creak of bedsprings and the beeping sound of her cell phone.
“Ken?” She said softly. “Yes, babe, I’m home, tucked in and thinking about you.” A pause. “I know. I miss you too. We’ll spend tomorrow night together. All night.” Another pause. “I’m sorry too. I love you.” Pause. “Goodnight, babe.”
More creaking came from the bedsprings, then the sound of her breathing, strong and regular at first, then slowing.
Soon, the voice said. When the silence nears perfection. God will guide your hand.
He drifted with the voice, trusting it as it strengthened him; an old, reliable friend. He couldn’t remember when he first heard it, only that it gave meaning to his life and promised him happiness and fulfillment. Tonight he would give in to its insistence and it would reward him.
He remained still until no other sound came except her breathing.
Slow and even.
Moving with the patience of a snake stalking prey, his hand glided forward, fingers touching the smooth door, stopping when his hand made full contact. He applied pressure until the closet door swung open noiselessly. The voice had seen to it that he oiled the hinges before settling in to wait.
He inched forward, slipping between her clothes, once again catching the lingering scent of her perfume, extricating himself from the confines of the closet, emerging into the full glory of the moonlight.
Fear, love, frustration, and unbearable longing held him immobile when he beheld the graceful curves of the girl beneath the sheets. If only…
She stirred.
He froze while she rolled onto her back and licked her lips, mumbling something before slipping back into peaceful slumber. He moved closer, pausing again to admire the childlike innocence of her face, stifling the urge to stroke her hair.
Do it! the voice commanded.
He flinched, then raised the sickle, momentarily fascinated at the silver glinting off its blade.
Her eyes snapped open. Wide. A sharp intake of breath. Her mouth opened forming an “O” before the tip of the sickle plunged down, turning what might have been a scream into a raspy gurgle. The stark fear in her eyes dulled as he pulled the sickle out, dimming further with each successive strike.

 

Bio

MattPhoto2

Matthew J. Pallamary’s historical novel Land Without Evil, received rave reviews along with a San Diego Book Award for mainstream fiction and was adapted into a stage and sky show directed by Agent Red, and was the subject of an EMMY nominated episode of a PBS series, Arts in Context.

He has taught a Phantastic Fiction workshop at the Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles, and at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference for twenty five years, and is presently Editor in Chief of Mystic Ink Publishing.

His memoir Spirit Matters took first place in the San Diego Book Awards Spiritual Book Category, and was an Award-Winning Finalist in the autobiography/memoir category of the National Best Book Awards.  He frequently visits the jungles, mountains, and deserts of North, Central, and South America pursuing his studies of shamanism and ancient cultures.

San Diego, CA

 

Connect with Matthew J. Pallamary

 

WWW.MATTPALLAMARY.COM

Friend me on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/matthew.pallamary

Visit my Author Page on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/MatthewJPallamary

Follow me on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/mattpallamary

Connect on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/mattpallamary

Favorite my Smashwords author page:  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Picaflor

 

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Paul De Lancey
www.pauldelancey.com
www.lordsoffun.com

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Second Chances and Other Stories by Wayne DePriest

 

WayneCover
Wayne DePriest’s Second Chances and Other Stories is great. Not only does DePriest write well, but the content of his stories is clever and engaging as well. He does not write mere fluff. We think and rethink his stories long after we finished. The offbeat short story “Janet and George,” my favorite short love story of all time, conveys a subtle, yet masterful poignancy.
This book is one of a select number worthy enough to be read in my bathtub, a place where all that is boring and disappointing must be shut out. DePriest’s worlds are often frightening and unsettling, but when I read his stories, I am in a good place. 

See his book on Amazon.

– Paul R. De Lancey, reviewer

Categories: book reviews and excerpts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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