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Redemption Book Cover
Redemption Book Cover

 

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I Once Had a Girl

karina iv

I once had a girl, her name was Karina. She was from Norway, but we met in New Your City at a jazz club on the West Side. My friend Lane had dragged me there; he told me that the sax player would really send me. I know, that is 60’s lingo, but Lane was a good friend, so I went with him that warm August night. It was a night that changed my life.

Lane and I were from upstate New York, we were friends in high school. We were both going to be writers and write the Great American Novel. And here we were, Lane wrote copy for an ad agency and I wrote short stories that no one would buy.

I was twenty-years-old, I had just dropped out of college. I wanted to be a writer and I did not think college was the way to go about it. I thought that the only way to be a writer was to write. So I headed for the big city, found myself a roach infested apartment and opened my laptop. I got lucky and sold my first short story to a weekly newspaper. It was a free paper, but they did print fiction. They paid me all of $25.00 for it.

After that, I figured it would be only a matter of time before I had The New Yorker knocking at my door wanting me to write my genius fiction for them, and if not the New Yorker, then at least the Village Voice. Well, things did not work out that way. Six months later, I had not sold another story. The newspaper that had bought my first was long out of business as I contemplated my future. I was nearing the end of my savings and something would have to break soon or I would have to get a job. Something did break and her name was Karina.

Unbeknownst to me, Lane and his girlfriend (her name was Sally) set me up with a blind date. When we got to the club, I saw Sally sitting at a table with a blond girl. I immediately grabbed Lane’s arm and halted his progress toward the table. “What’s the deal?” I asked in a low voice. Then I added, “If Sally is trying to set me up again, I’m leaving. You know I don’t have any money to date.”

With a phony and shocked look on his face Lane said, “No, no, it’s nothing like that. It’s just that the poor girl is in town and doesn’t know anyone. Sally’s mother and her mother are friends. Sally’s looking out after her, that’s all. Don’t worry; she’s not your date. And she’s got plenty of money; she can pay her own way.” Lane was one of the worst liars that I ever knew.

With a sigh and a shake of my head I said, “Lay on Macduff.”

We seated ourselves at the table and I was introduced to the blond. Sally started right off yakking away, but I heard nothing she said. I was looking into the eyes of the blond. They were green, the color of emeralds, and they were sad eyes. She was good looking in a not glamorous sort of way. There was something about her, something that made me want to put my arms around her and tell her everything would all right. That night I fell in love, head over heels. To me she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. But it wasn’t her looks that got me, it was her soul. She looked vulnerable and she had those sad eyes. I know that’s a cliché, but that is what it was, plain and simple. I was hooked, and as you might have guessed by now, her name was Karina

We talked, and ignored both the music, and Lane and Sally. When Sally saw where things were going she nudged Lane and said, they had to go, but that we should stay. As they left, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lane hand some money to our waitress and point our way. He had made sure that I wouldn’t be embarrassed for lack of funds.

The music was really too loud to carry on a conversation, so I suggested that we go somewhere more conducive to getting to know one another. I had no hopes that she felt toward me as I felt toward her, but I just couldn’t let her go out of my life until I knew everything about her.

We settled in at a Starbucks and talked until the early morning. Her parents were both dead and left her relatively well off. She was in the States because she owned a cabin in North Carolina, up in the mountains, and she had come here to sell it. At twenty-two, she was two years older than I was. But that was okay with me, I liked older women. I prattled on about my writing and she said that she would like to read some of my stuff someday. Someday? I wanted her to read it right then and there. But I held my tongue.

As I walked her to her hotel, she slipped her arm through mine and we walked on in silence. My feet never once touched the ground.

We said goodnight in the lobby of her hotel. She looked at me with those big sad eyes. “Please, may I see you tomorrow and read some of your stories?” Now normally, I would let anyone read my stuff at the drop of a hat even if I had to drop the hat myself. But in this instance, I was reluctant to say yes. I didn’t want her to see how I lived. I mean she was staying at the Plaza for God’s sake! After a momentary hesitation, I told her I could bring my laptop over the next day and that I would be proud to have her read a few of my stories. We set a time and I left. We shook hands, we did not kiss goodnight.

Well, the short of it is she was as smitten with me as I was with her, why I don’t know. She postponed her trip south and stayed in the city. We saw each other every day and Sally must have told her about my financial situation because Karina always insisted we go someplace that cost no money. We hit the art galleries and the museums, among other venues, and our favorite, the park. As we walked through the park, I always saw a little bit of the sun in her hair and I fell more in love with her every time I saw that. By the end of two weeks, we both knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.

Karina liked my writing and she told me I should be writing a full-length novel. Then when that sold, I could put out a book of my short stories. No wonder that I loved her, she believed in me, more so than I believed in myself.

One day, a Sunday, as we lay on a blanket in the park holding hands (we still had not made love, I was so much in love, I wanted to take it slow), Karina asserted herself. She told me in no uncertain terms that she was taking me to North Carolina, to her cabin, and she would cook and clean for me while I wrote my novel, and then when it sold, I could take care of her.

I told her that I would have to think on it. She then stood and took my hand. I raised myself from the ground, and forgetting the blanket, we went back to the Plaza. We made long, slow love all that afternoon. And then we did it again that night.

We hit the mountains of North Carolina as the leaves were changing. It was the perfect metaphor. Our lives were changing; we were melding into one entity. We were so in love.

As the snows came, I wrote and Karina loved me. I didn’t want to write, I wanted to make love to my girl, but she made sure I stayed at the computer at least six hours a day. The rest of the time was devoted to loving her.

As the snows melted and the leaves slowly returned to the trees, my book took form. Karina would read what I had written each day. She would correct my mistakes and give me input as to the characters and the plot. As I sat there in the evenings, seeing the firelight reflected in her eyes while she read my daily output, I fell in love with her all over again.

When spring was in full bloom, the book also bloomed. I had completed my version of the Great American Novel. I emailed my query letters to agents. Within a month, I had a signed contract. When summer came around, the book had been sold and I had money in the bank. Now I could take care of my Karina. But it was not to be.

It was August once again, almost to the day that Karina and I first met. We were leaving the next day for New York. My agent needed to meet with me and she wanted me to meet with my editor. There was still work to be done. Writing the story is one thing, getting it out there is another. However, before leaving I wanted to buy something for my love. I went into town and bought Karina a ring. Nothing fancy, it was a simple band of gold. I was going to ask her to be my wife. I couldn’t wait to get back to the cabin, get down on one knee and tell her of my love for her.

I saw the smoke long before I turned into the drive to our cabin. Then I saw the flames. I pulled the car to a stop,
rushed to the cabin, and heard her screams. Those screams will never leave me.

“KARINA!” I shouted as I rushed the door.

When I pushed open the door, a blast of flames knocked me on my ass. I got up; nothing short of hell was going to keep me out of that cabin. And that is exactly what kept me out . . . hell. I could not penetrate the flames. On my third attempt, the burns and resultant pain caused me to pass out. When I awoke, I was in a hospital’s burn ward.

Karina was gone and I was alone.

I sold the rights to my book to my agent. I couldn’t edit and work on it with anyone else now that Karina was not with me. I took the money and bought a sailboat down in Miami. I had painted on the sides “Karina” in large letters the color of her eyes. I now sail Caribbean, going from island to island, looking for nothing. Because I once had a girl and her name was Karina, she is all I ever wanted.

Turkey Shoot

imagesCATU6DK6

On a cold December morning in 1890 with snow on the ground, three hundred and fifty unarmed Lakota Indians (120 men and 230 women and children) were massacred at Wounded Knee Creek by soldiers of the 7th Cavalry, Custer’s old outfit.

The Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded to twenty-three men of the Seventh. This is the story of one of those brave men.

Just then a shot rang out. At first no one made a move, all was quiet. Then the Hotchkiss guns, which could fire forty-three rounds per minute, started to rake the tipis, going through their skins as though they were not there. The people inside the tipis, those that were not killed instantly, ran out in panic. The Lakota men who had given up their guns ran towards the pile in an effort to retrieve them, but most were cut down by the fire from the Hotchkiss guns.

Running for his life the Indian known as Yellow Hair jumped over the lip of the ravine and almost landed on a dead woman sprawled on the incline. Next to her sat an infant, still alive, that was oblivious to the horror going on around him.

As he passed, Yellow Hair plucked the child up and made for the bushes at to bottom. When he made it to where there was cover, he found a woman and a small girl hiding there. The girl was crying and the woman was shaking from head to foot. Yellow Hair handed the infant to the woman and said, “Do not worry mother, neither you nor your child will die this day.” He then made sure that his gun was fully loaded and prepared to shoot the first soldier that stuck his head over the rim of the ravine.

They were the only ones in that area, but about one hundred yards to the north, men, women and children were huddled at the bottom while soldiers stood above and shot down at them. And every once in a while he could hear someone shout, “Remember the Little Bighorn!” The Seventh was getting some of its own back.

While that was going on at the ravine, the men behind the Hotchkiss guns continued to fire at anything that moved. Unfortunately for some of the soldiers before their guns that meant them as well. In the frenzy, soldiers were killing soldiers as well as Indians.

Not all the Lakota ran to the ravine. Some ran to the open prairie in an effort to escape death. None of them had weapons; they were just running for their lives. Some of the soldiers made for their horses, mounted and ran down the fleeing people as if they, the soldiers, were on a buffalo hunt. As they approached the people, mostly women and children, they would cock their guns and fire. If they missed they would turn their horse for another try. One trooper was heard to exclaim, “Great fun, I betcha I get more than you!” When the carnage was over some Lakota bodies were found as far away as five miles, which led some to speculate that the soldiers toyed with the Indians to prolong the hunt.

Back at the ravine, when targets became scarce, one of the soldiers on the rim started to make his way in Yellow Hair’s direction. His name was John Dinneen, a private in the Seventh. So far that morning he had killed fifteen unarmed people, ten of whom were women and children. And now he was looking for more turkeys. That is how he thought of the cowering Indians. At one point he yelled to his compatriots, “Come on boys, it’s just like an old fashion turkey shoot and I’m a gonna win me a prize!”

As Dinneen made his way toward Yellow Hair, he scoured the bush looking for Indians. He walked slowly and purposefully, he did not want to miss any turkeys. Because of his slow progress, the tension built within the woman and girl. Finally it became unbearable and the girl bolted from their hiding place.

When Dinneen saw her, he smiled to himself, and under his breath he said, “I outta git two points for this one. Them small ones is hard to hit when they’re movin’ so fast.” As he raised the rifle to his shoulder to take aim, Yellow Hair stood. It was his intention to draw Dinneen’s fire, but Dinneen was so intent on sighting the girl he did not see him. Yellow Hair yelled to get Dinneen’s attention, but with all the gunfire, he did not think he could be heard. So, Yellow Hair did the only thing left to do, he sighted Dinneen and fired.

The bullet, though he aimed for the man’s heart, if he had one, plowed into his left shoulder before he could fire at the girl. With a shout of pain, Dinneen dropped his gun and then he saw Yellow Hair. The look of astonishment on Dinneen’s face made Yellow Hair smile. He cocked his gun for another try at the man’s heart, but Dinneen turned and ran before he could sight him. Yellow Hair looked for the girl, but she was nowhere to be seen. Looking down at the woman he said, “Do not worry, she got away, she is safe.” He did not know if it was true, but it was all he could say.

One last point on Private Dinneen:

His wound was not life threatening, though because of nerve damage he did lose the use of his left arm. But other than that he lived a long, if not particularly fruitful, life. He, along with twenty-two other brave men of the Seventh, was given the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery at Wounded Knee. His citation read in full: “For conspicuous bravery in action against Indians concealed in a ravine.”

It seems as though Private Dinneen did indeed receive his prize for the turkey shoot.

 

REDEMPTION: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer

Available on August 20th.

Three men come together in the town of Redemption Colorado, each for his own purpose. Huck Finn is a famous lawman not afraid to use his gun to protect the weak. He has come to right a terrible wrong. After his wife’s death, Tom Sawyer does not want to live anymore; he has come to die. The third man, the Laramie Kid, a killer Huck and Tom befriended years earlier has come to kill a man. For these three men Death is a constant companion. For these three men it is their last chance for redemption.

Redemption Book Cover
 

 

 

 

Three Steps

cowboy

I am three steps from meeting my maker. Three more steps to the noose. I am ready to die; I think I deserve to die. I have killed before, but never for such a frivolous reason as brings me to these last three steps.

The whole mess started down El Paso way when I walked into the cantina. It was a bucket of blood, a real dive. But I had a thirst and it was the first saloon I saw as I came into town. Once inside, it took my eyes a moment to adjust to the gloom. When I could see again, I saw a bar against the far wall with only two men at it. They had their elbows upon the bar, staring into their drinks. A few tables separated me from the bar and they were all empty. It was mid-day, so that was no surprise.

I made my way to the bar and put my foot on the rail. The barman was a little slow in coming my way. I had just rode twenty-five miles and the dust was thick in my throat. I had no patience for a slow movin’ barkeep. When he was opposite me at the bar, I grabbed his shirt and pulled his face to mine. Looking him dead in the eye I said, “Give me your finest rotgut and if you dilly-dally, I’ll put a bullet in your leg.” As I said it, I drew my .44 from its leather and pointed the barrel at his right leg. His eyes widened and he reached under the bar and came up with an almost full bottle of some good stuff. “Here mister, it’s on the house,” he said.

Now that that was taken care of, I leaned my back against the bar, and leaving the glass where it was, took a good pull from the bottle. I had rode my horse almost to death. I had to move fast, they were on my trail. I mean the posse. Yes, I had killed two men, but they were trying to kill me. I finally lost the posse in the badlands. Now I’m only a few miles from Mexico and freedom. But as it turned out, I might as well have been a million miles from the border.

I don’t know what she was doing coming into that hellhole of a bar, but when I saw her, my plans changed. She pushed through the swing doors as though she owned the place. And in a way she did. She was tall and blond. Her hair was up and her smile could kill. Her figure had more curves then a coiled rattler. Her eyes were gray and they looked my way.

She came right up to me and said, “Ain’t you the big one.”

Without a word, I took the empty glass from the bar and poured out some of the amber liquid into it. She took the proffered glass from my hand and said, “My name is Rose and I like a man that will buy a girl a drink.”

When the bottle was half-gone, she told me to grab it. Then she took me by the hand and led me to the stairs. We ascended to the second floor to a door at the far end of the hall. “This is where I call home,” she purred. By now I had forgotten about the twenty-five dust coated miles, the posse, the killings, everything.

Once in the room with the door locked, she pointed to a table and said, “You’ll find some glasses over there, pour us a shot. I went to the table and found the glasses, blew the dust out of them and did as I was told. When I turned around with the glasses in hand, she was sitting on the bed. Patting the mattress she softly said, “Come and sit by me.”

Well partners that was all she wrote. We had our booze and food sent up, and for the next three days we did not leave that room. I have never known a woman like her. I’ve mostly only been with whores, but she was no whore. She told me that she loved me. We spent three days exploring every inch of each other’s bodies and I fell in love for the first time in my life.

It was on the morning of the fourth day that my head started to clear. We were lying in bed, I was on my back and she was propped up on one elbow running her finger down my chest when she said she wanted to go to Mexico with me. I told her that was fine by me, but there was no rush. That’s when she got a funny look on her face and exclaimed, “No, we have to leave today!” Before I could say anything there was a knock on the door. I got out of bed and slipped on my pants. I knew who it was; it was the little Mex boy who had been bringing us our food and booze. I usually took the tray at the door and handed him a dollar. But this time was different. He beckoned me out into the hall and asked me to shut the door. When the door was closed behind me he whispered, “Senor, you have been good to me so I must tell you that you are in great danger.”

I took the tray from his hands and said, “Don’t worry son this is the kind of danger I like,” and winked at him.

I started to turn, but he grabbed my arm. “You do not understand. She belongs to another man, a bad man. She has done this before and three men have died. Her man will be back tomorrow, so today she will ask you to leave and take her with you. If you are here tomorrow José will kill you.”

I put the tray on the floor and asked the boy to tell me all that he knew. He told me people were making bets with each other if I’d get away before José got back or if I’d be planted up on the hill with the other three. It seems Rose, my great love, was using me to get away from José. In this country a woman can’t travel alone. And besides, the boy told me José leaves her with no money when he goes away.

The news kinda punched me in the gut. I gave the boy a five-dollar gold piece and thanked him. Picking up the tray, I entered the room with a smile on my face.

“Where have you been? I missed you big boy,” she intoned.

Still smiling, I placed the tray on the bed and told her to have some breakfast. I was going to have a drink. I had me some thinking to do.

As I sat in the chair and watched her eat, I weighed my options. We could leave together and avoid this man José, or I could leave alone. Or, we could stay and I’d have it out with José. The problem was I didn’t know if she was worth it. She had played me. If I took her with me would she ditch me once we were in Mexico?

I was still thinking on those thoughts when she broke my reverie by saying, “I want to be out of here by noon. I’m going to take a bath; you pack and then settle our bill. I’ll meet you at the livery stable.” Still smiling I answered, “I’ll see you at the livery.” She gathered up some clothes, got herself dressed and left to take her bath.

When she had gone, I sat there in thought and added another option that I could take. I could just kill the lying bitch and be done with her. What to do? What to do?

I put on my shirt and boots and went downstairs still undecided. By the time I reached the livery I had decided that I’d leave without her. She was a fine looking woman and the sex was good, but I had enough trouble and I didn’t need no crazy man after me. I saddled my pinto and started down the street at a slow pace. As I passed the saloon, Rose pushed through the swing doors and saw me. She dropped her bags and ran up, grabbed ahold of the saddle and walked along side. Looking up at me she implored, “Where you going? Wait, I’ll get my horse.”

“I’m sorry, it was nice, but this here is where we go down separate trails.”

She wouldn’t let go of the saddle, so I picked up the pace a mite. She still hung on. Then I saw her look down the street and the look on her face said it all. She let go and hightailed it back to the saloon.

I didn’t have to look, but I did. Astride a sorrel rode a big man, a big mean looking man. It had to be José. As we came abreast of each other he grabbed the reins of my horse. There we stood, eye to eye, neither one of us speaking. Finally he said in a very deep voice, “Whatcha doin’ with my woman?”

“Nothing, just trying to get outta town,” I answered.

I saw it in his eyes; he was going to draw on me. I may be slow when it comes to women, but I’m fast on the draw. I had a bullet through his forehead before he cleared leather. That was my mistake, that and taking up with Rose. I should have let him draw first. The whole thing was seen by the town marshal and I was quickly arrested. I thought for a moment of killing the marshal before he arrested me, but I never did kill no man that was not trying to kill me.

For three days I knew of love. In three steps I die.

Danny’s Latest Adventures

 Good Table Manners
Good Table Manners

I just got in from walking my human; his name is Andrew. I, of course, am Danny the Dog, purveyor of wit, words and wisdom.

Many a time I’ve kept you engrossed with my wondrous tales of taking Andrew for his morning constitutional to the park; however, I’ve been remiss in not regaling you with narratives of our stop by the Tiki hut every morning. In a moment, The Adventure at the Tiki Hut, but first the Tiki hut itself.

A Tiki hut, for those of you who are from another planet, is a structure consisting of four open walls and a pitched roof covered with palm fronds. The Tiki hut at our marina sports a refrigerator, a microwave oven and three grills, two gas, and one regular. The humans used to congregate there in the evenings and do what humans do, mostly talk. But those humans have moved on to new ports of call. The only humans left here in the marina are like Andrew, antisocial. Nowadays, the Tiki hut is inhabited only on Saturday afternoons. That is when the male humans that store boats here, but do not live on them, come to drink beer and swap lies. They also say they come to get away from their females, but I don’t understand that. I like females, especially human females.

Please excuse me. There is a duck outside our boat, I have to go out and bark at him. Be right back.

I’m back. That was satisfying. I just love barking at ducks, don’t you? Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, the Tiki hut.

So on Saturday afternoons when Andrew needs a break from his so-called work (he thinks it’s hard to write, for me it’s a breeze), we’ll go to see the humans up at the hut. Notice how it’s always all about Andrew. When he needs a break from writing, we go for a walk, but when I need a break from writing, we stay in the damn boat.

I like Saturdays because I like the guys, they always make a big fuss over me and I get many pats on the head and scratches behind my ears. They’ll say things like, “Is your daddy feeding you enough.” When they do, Andrew always says, “I prefer that Danny refer to me as his Lord and Master.” Yeah right! It’s the other way around and Andrew knows it. But I allow him to save face and I say nothing. Andrew will then tie me to a post and leave. I told you he was anti-social. However, I like hanging out with those males, they have such funny stories of how their females make their lives miserable. I know that the stories are not true because no female would ever do that.

Now that you know all about the Tiki hut, I can tell you what I wanted to tell you to begin with. There are two cats that live here in the marina and they hang out at the Tiki hut. They are what humans call strays and the humans have banded together to feed them. They take turns buying cat food. Andrew even bought some . . . once! The cats are fed in the morning and in the evening. It is the morning feeding that interests me.

On our way to the park every morning we swing by the Tiki hut because by then the cats have eaten and they always leave a little. I love cat food, as anyone would. Wet or dry, but wet is better. It’s the only way Andrew can get me to take my pills when I’m sick. He tried hiding them in hot dogs, but I saw through his subterfuge and I ate around the pills, then spit them out. He then started to hide them in wet cat food and I would pretend not to notice (hey, I sometimes have to save face too). I just love wet cat food so much it is worth swallowing a pill to get some.

I’ve gone far afield from what I wanted to say. It is simply this: every morning I eat the food the cats leave in their dishes. It’s dry, but so what. The only problem is that it is on a table about three feet high and I’m only two feet high. So I have to get up on my hind legs to get to the bowls. You would think Andrew would help out and put the bowls on the ground for me, but nooo! Alicia (she’s the female that feeds them each morning), when she is around she will put the bowls on the ground for me, but not Andrew.

That’s it for now. It’s Saturday and I’ve got to get ready to spend some time at the Tiki hut with my friends. And that damn duck is back … gotta go!

http://huckfinn76.com

Green Grass

mourning

The sun shines down on the world, on the trees and on the green grass of my home. God is in his heaven and I lie in my grave. Two years ago, I killed a man, I thought for love. I killed him out of fear, out of fear of losing my love. But I lost her anyway when they hung me from the old oak that stands out front of the courthouse.

My name ain’t important, hell, I ain’t important no more to anyone except maybe the worms that crawl through my body. I had me some bottomland, only forty acres, but it was mine. I cleared it and planted corn in the summer of 1905.  I was a man in love, her name was Faith and she was the most beautiful woman in the world, at least to me. This is my story.

I’ve never been around woman folk all that much, so I wasn’t prepared when I first saw her. I was in town for supplies, and I had just finished loading my wagon when she walked by. She looked as an angel; she looked as I don’t know what. I fell in love. Her hair was long and raven black. As she walked away from me, the light shone on her hair and rippled as over an ocean. Her eyes were gray and she made my legs quaver.

I did not see her again until the grange meeting. I went because the topic of discussion was to be water rights. I had my water, but if someone was going to take some of it, I needed to know about it beforehand. She sat stately in the front row. Nothing much was accomplished at the meeting. Afterward, I stood outside lighting my pipe when she walked up to me. She was so beautiful; I got weak in the knees.

“Hello Mister MacDonald, my name is Faith Simpson. My people own the land next to yours; I’ve been wanting to meet you.”

That was the beginning.

Before I knew it, her family had my water and she had my heart.

On the third moon of our meeting, we were betrothed. She was mine.

Then on a cold dark night, I made the mistake of my life. She was putting up curtains in my cabin. She was getting it ready for when she would live there. Jim Peters from up a ways on the mountain had come down on his way to town and stopped by when he saw the light in the window.

I know now that I was mistaken, but this is what I saw. As I walked up to the cabin, I saw her in his arms. Now I know that she had stumbled and Jim caught her before she hit the floor. But I didn’t know that then. I pulled my gun and sent Jim Peters to another word.

It was a mistake. And for that mistake, I lie here in my grave and try to feel the warm sun on the green grass of my home, my grave