Therapy Dog

About 10 years ago, when my daughter Allison attended the University of Pittsburgh, she’d periodically call home with updates. Her college experience—you’d be surprised, astonished, and amazed to hear—had been a roller-coaster. Good news, bad news, and the in-between (one assumes). Psycho roommates. Moribund professors. All-nighters. Part-time jobs that kind of paid you, but then … Continue reading Therapy Dog

The Chase

I reach into my back pocket, unfold both copies of the formula and hand them to him.  “Here’s the Fountain of Youth,” I say.  “Golden,” Jake says, squinting at the figures. “Cheryl, you’re amazing.” “Careful,” I say. “Looks like rain.” He leans against his car, gives me a look. He places his hands on my … Continue reading The Chase

1968

A friend’s dad is a ward leader and we get to be on the advance team for Robert F. Kennedy and that means Secret Service clearance and other privileges. When RFK arrives in Philadelphia in late March, we ride in the motorcade out to Our Lady of Czethochowa in Doylestown. Because we have college kid … Continue reading 1968

The Masculine Virtues

“Joe Claimer. Tell us your story.” Claimer shifts in his folding chair, the squeak echoing through the recreation center’s gym. McKinley’s probably reading his body language, because that’s what shrinks do, you know. Hell, that’s what everybody does: cops, clergy, pimps, and poodles. Claimer pretends to get less fetal, uncrosses his arms. I’m ready! Ready, … Continue reading The Masculine Virtues

Confession

“Begin.” “Father, I…” “Look down.” “Father?” “Haven’t been here for a while, right?” “Yeah.” “Well, I’m very happy that you’ve given us another chance. Giving the church another chance. “Father I…” “There’s a plastic card. Right above the hand rest. On the wall. See?” “Yeah.” “That should help.” “Bless me father for I have sinned. … Continue reading Confession

The Valley of the Cats

Name’s Paul Magner, by the way. My work, my house, and my wife, Kate, rest within a five-mile radius. I am an editor/writer at a trade publication for doctors who become businessmen, the people who run health insurance companies. I am also a great undiscovered genius, or at least I tell myself that when staring at an empty screen that dares me to produce a story or a novel or anything that any publisher will want. So far, no go.

Forty Percent

Here’s the setup. Flex’s nephew, Jake (his brother’s son) is married to Paula. Paula’s brother, Danny, kills himself. Danny is—was—artistic, brilliant, funny, and even joyful, but emotionally fragile. Then this manipulative, conniving young woman swoops into Danny’s life. This Stacey Lark. Talk to her and you would think that butter wouldn’t…well, you know. But that’s … Continue reading Forty Percent

Reefer Madness

My very first hit I’m like 13 years old. I never even smoke a cigarette before, but I’m a Kat Borkowski wannabe, and she’s the one hands me that joint. This is at Newt’s on Blair Street back in the day, before it got cleaned up and put on airs with some calling it Shissler Playground, the official name.

Good Night Moon

“You’re new to this, aren’t you?” says he. I swallow. I say: “You are in fact my very first call, sir.” Connect! “Tonight?” “Ever, sir.” Because how can you connect if you lie? Then, hurriedly: “Sir, I could switch you to somebody else if you’d like, sir.” One-Mississippi-two-Mississippi-three-Mississippi. “You’ll do,” he says, and I hear: … Continue reading Good Night Moon

Scented Beans Destroy Themselves

Chick Ernest had been chatting with other parents when his son nearly died. The basketball season ended around Thanksgiving and the Sharks went to Kat’s Kradle, the name on the T-shirts. Coach Taylor made a speech in which Chick, assistant coach, finished his sentences. Everybody got a trophy (they’d won zero games). When Gene Tarantino—Taro—held … Continue reading Scented Beans Destroy Themselves

Evil People Are People Who Love Evil

Uncle Joe fumbles with two cigarettes — one unlit, the other sputtering out — while turning off of Hunting Park Avenue. His long, thin, tobacco-stained fingers conjure a connection. He steers with palms and elbows and inhales before his lips even touch the paper. Ignition. “The torch has been passed,” he says, punctuating with a … Continue reading Evil People Are People Who Love Evil