“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.

 They must be felt with the heart.”

 -  Helen Keller -




Barrett grabbed the square metal sign, one hand on either side of the frame, his finger tips disappearing into the black velvet interior. The steel base rocked against the terra-cotta tiles. Barrett spun and wobbled. The noise of it! Tumultuous! What a spectacle. He wondered how many pairs of eyes watched his absurd display. He couldn’t know. He had no eyes of his own. Blind as a bat without the echolocation. Blinder, it could be argued, if blinder was a word. Though he didn’t think it was, not in the context he was thinking of it. How can a person who is blind be blinder than another? Embedded in his head were glass marbles that resembled eyes, or so he was told. How would he know? Born blind he’d never seen his own face in a mirror.

The reverberation bounced off the asymmetrical walls in the high-ceilinged room. Had he not been clutching the sign for balance he would have covered his ears with his palms. He tried not to cry. Drops of salt water popped out of his still functioning tear ducts. He managed, only just, to control it. It happened all too frequently these days. He was fed up to hell with it.

“Goddamn it!” he shouted like a dog who howled to drown out the sound of a siren.

He knew Mitch watched him from his station at the Counter, across the expanse of giant clay tiles, so large he could place his feet, heel to toe, inside of one. It’s how he counted his steps. How he knew precisely where he was in the room. He had no need for his white cane in his workplace. He knew every inch of the vast building, every office, every doorway, every sound, and what that sound indicated.

Holding on to the sign was his lifeboat. He felt adrift in the Mediterranean. He might as well, he thought, imagine warm water. No point in feeling too sorry for himself bobbing about in the Antarctic. He thought it might appear as if he’d tossed back a couple of tequila shots at lunch, that he might seem inebriated. After all, it was not without precedent. Back in the day he’d returned from his lunch break holding tight to the elbow of one colleague or another barely able to stand. Not today. Not today. Today, life sat heavily on his shoulders, and if he loosened his grip on the goddamned sign he would crumple to the floor in a heap.

“Stop staring at me, Mitch.”

“I’m not staring, Barrett. When I hear a clamor of noise it’s only natural to look toward the sound to see what caused it.”

Frustration licked at Mitch’s words, but Barrett said anyway, “Damn right, Mitch! It’s only natural. Well, here I am, the source of all the racket!”

“Yes, Barrett.” Barrett heard Mitch smile. “Here you are, indeed.”

“Goddamn it to hell!” Barrett bellowed. “Who moved the goddamned sign? If I get my hands around the goddamned throat of the person who moved the goddamned sign I’ll squeeze the life out of them.”


A serial story… next segment tomorrow. Thanks for reading..

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Getting Ahead




Out of breath, he dropped both arms to his side, still gripping the knife in his left hand.

All motion ceased. Ten pairs of eyes focused on his white clad form. A few noted the tilt of his toque, set aslant by the force of his tirade. Most flicked their gaze between the knife, and his face. The sharp-eyed observers tracked the red rash of his prominent cheekbones, watched it subside to pink. These same observers silently cheered as the blood flow returned to his knuckles, the white replaced by a healthy glow. The deep slashes of his forehead smoothed. Once again they recognized the handsome, boyish, wanna-be food TV star they had all admired.

For his part, Dan wondered what they’d do with that footage. Certainly he’d be booted off the show. Though, on second thought, tirades and potty mouth have become the hallmark of Gordon Ramsey’s fame. Television viewers tuned in to watch the drama, didn’t they? And Dan’s was totally unscripted. He was a natural. He would be the next Anthony Bourdain. Finally, he could escape the kitchen, and see the world.

Dan sucked in a deep breath. He looked around. He might be getting ahead of himself. Was that fear on the face of his sous chef? Did the camera crew believe he might wield that knife? He had only brandished it for effect. To get his point across. What was his point? Truth in reality? Did he actually say, or shout, truth be told, that he would not fake a story about his mother, or his brother, or anyone else having cancer, simply to arouse emotion in the viewer? Inject a little pathos one of them had suggested. Dan thought that’s what had sent him over the edge. And then wondered if he fully understood the definition of pathos.

Yet, here he was on the verge of tears. Roll the camera, my friends, and you’ll have your emotion. He had no control over the footage. He could not dictate what they aired. He imagined all the audible gasps from the househusbands at home bouncing babies on their knees as he raised the knife in his left hand, and proclaimed his commitment to truth in reality shows. Like one of Shakespeare’s fools!

No one had yet uttered a word. The three judges stared, openmouthed. Though he would have preferred a different approach he finally had the beautiful, celebrated chef’s complete attention. He allowed himself to imagine her long, dark tresses like a waterfall flowing through his fingers as they lay naked in a bed amid pristine white sheets.

He was not only getting ahead of himself, he was fully immersed in the realm of fantasy, or science fiction, and then he wondered what was their defining difference? Unicorns versus aliens? No matter. No celebrated chef of either gender was about to lie naked with him on crisp sheets. Not after his deft display of how to come storming into crazy town.

Dan braced himself as the top dog, the showrunner, approached him. Carefully, in full view of his audience, he placed the 10-inch chef’s knife on the stainless steel table. Then, he reached to his waist, began to untie the skinny strings of his long white apron. He flinched when the show’s creator reached his side.

“That was some display, Dan.” The man glad-handed him, clapped him on the back. Dan pitched forward, losing his balance, grabbed for the edge of the table, and couldn’t help but notice all the fingerprints on the steel surface.

“Thank you?” Dan asked.

Astonishingly, the boss began to applaud. He looked around, nodded to the crew, encouraging the others to put their hands together. As the applause blossomed, the big man leaned in to Dan, and whispered, “You’re a shoe-in for the next big thing, Dan. Stick with me, I’ll make you a star. You’re going to be the next Guy Fieri.”

Out of the corner of his eye Dan sneaked a glance at the beautiful, celebrated chef. Was she smiling at him, or at someone just behind him? To make certain Dan turned around. There was no one there.

The beautiful, celebrated chef flashed her perfect teeth. And was that a wink, or did a speck of dust enter her eye at that precise moment? Or maybe Dan was getting ahead of himself.

- – - – - – - – -

For SAM’s MasterClass…. I was awarded the honor of supplying this week’s prompt which appears as my first sentence. It appears in the middle of Daniel Alarcon’s fine novel, At Night We Walk in Circles.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in dreams, fiction, foodie | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Deer in the Headlights – A True Story

©Michael Cummings
©Michael Cummings


On the night my father woke me in the middle of the night, ordered me to get dressed, and follow him, I was fourteen. I am the oldest of six daughters, and therefore was the obvious choice. Whining about the late hour would not have occurred to me.

I retrieved from the floor the shorts and tee shirt I had earlier shed. It was a warm, humid night. A patina of sweat showed itself on my skin, as if curious what I might be doing out so late of a summer’s night.

Both of us staggering, my father from booze, and me tripping over the blanket of sleep that I had not the good sense to let drop, we reached the barn. As I was hitching the wagon to the riding mower, as instructed, my father jumped into his white Corvair, and drove off down the quarter mile dirt road that delivered the unsuspecting to our property. With no moon, and no light on the mower, I tracked the Corvair’s red taillights.

Halfway down the road he stopped. Stumbling in the car’s headlights my father found what he was looking for: a dead deer. Instantly, I understood what had transpired between my father, and this unfortunate animal. Driving home from the bar, he’d caught the deer in the proverbial headlights. It froze. Envisioning meat on the grill, he ran over him.

Where was my mother? Visiting her mother? A girlfriend? Such visits were rare. But, on this night she was missing, or she would have appeared to rescue me, aware as she was of my sensitivity toward woodland creatures. My five sisters slept soundly on the third floor of our old brick house, blissfully unaware of events unfolding.

I helped my father lift the warm body of the deer into the wagon.

Minutes later I said no to my father for the first time in my life. I would not hold a hoof while he sliced it off. He heard me. Long after the bars had closed, I found myself in the basement of our house trying not to hear my father hacking at the haunches of a deer.

Sitting cross-legged behind a folding door, my job was to wrap the chunks in white butcher paper. With each plop of warm meat, hardly daring to look, I slapped a piece of masking tape on the package, and tossed it into the freezer behind me.

An hour into the midst of this nightmare, my father suddenly shouted, “Shit!” And the room flooded with the smell of it. He had sliced into the intestines.

The Polaroid I snapped with the old camera I found on a shelf near the freezer was entirely inadequate to the details.

For years my father embroidered the story with flourishes and colored threads.

I am content to dwell in the fading images. Like what happened to the carcass. Was I required to help my father drag the bones to the field?

I don’t want to remember.



Written for Write on Edge prompt: “When images become inadequate, I’ll shall be content with silence.” Ansel Adams

Posted in animals, family | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Inappropriate Behavior




“Have you thought about what I asked? It’s been two weeks, Hilda.”

Lynn, arms folded across her ample chest, leaned in the open doorway of Hilda’s office. Lynn in her leather skirt and black stilettos. Hilda thought Lynn’s attire wholly inappropriate for the staid atmosphere of the law firm. But Lynn was oh so good at her job. She seemed to snag new clients every week. She billed more hours, won more cases, and was easy on the partners’ eyes. Hilda had overheard two of them assessing Lynn. That’s what they said. The comment was a wake-up call for Hilda. The aging partners played by the ‘it’s always been done this way’ rulebook.

Hilda, in her navy blue suit and pearls, crinkled her crows’ feet allowing Lynn’s question to soak in.  She’d thought about little else.

Lynn tossed her grenade. “Has Howard ever made any inappropriate gestures or said inappropriate things to you?”

“Umm, no.”  Hilda closed her laptop, leaned toward Lynn. She’d like to be Lynn, but possessed the self-awareness to know she could never pull it off. Men liked her well enough, but not the bad boy sort Lynn attracted, and then swatted away like pesky mosquitoes when they came too close.

“That’s not the right answer. Could it be possible you missed or ignored the innuendoes?” Lynn moved inside, closed the door, angled her shapely derriere on the edge of Hilda’s desk. She flexed her foot, and the delicate bones of her ankle moved as if to speak to Hilda, but she couldn’t decipher the code.

Hilda dug in her heels, pushed her wheeled chair away from Lynn’s scrutiny.

“I have two paralegals who say Howard does things, says things that he shouldn’t.

Hilda, what would it take for you to sign that affidavit admitting you were sexually harassed by Howard?” Lynn swung her legs around the desk to face Hilda who couldn’t help but note the elegance of the move, and the perfection of her calves.

“The truth, I suppose. If it actually happened.” Hilda cursed the perspiration that broke out on her upper lip.

“Hilda, We’ve been through this. Howard is 70 years old. He needs to go. But, he won’t go peacefully.” Lynn tucked a strand of hair behind her ear releasing a molecule of scent, jasmine, Hilda thought.

“What about his wife?” Hilda inched her chair away from Lynn’s sequined stilletos.

“Hilda, are you so sure that Howard never made a move on one of his secretaries or the paralegals or another partner?”

Hilda folded her arms over her chest to stop the sweat from dripping onto her ribcage.

“Hilda, don’t you get it? With Howard out the firm can easily afford two partnerships for the price of one. One of them is mine. I’m offering you the second.” Lynn crossed her legs. Her leather skirt hiked up her thigh. Hilda watched her smooth it back down to her knee.

“That’s cutthroat, Lynn.” Hilda raked her fingers through her fine, pale hair. It resettled into place, unmoved.

“Yes, it is, Hilda. I’m glad we can agree on that.” Lynn extended a hand, and Hilda had the ridiculous impression that she wanted Hilda to kiss it. She suppressed the urge to laugh.

“Take my hand, Hilda.” Lynn’s nails were painted a beautiful copper, and Hilda was astonished to note how well the color blended with Lynn’s ensemble. She wondered if Lynn changed her nail color every day to match her outfit.

Hilda unfolded her body from the chair. She thought this must be what it’s like to be very old. To feel the difficulty of an ordinary movement like rising from a chair, of having your muscles betray you, like a rusted hinge.

Finally, Hilda rose to her full height. Lynn cradled her elbow as if she were infirm, and required her help to stay upright. Together they walked out of Hilda’s office.

It was only as the two of them waited for the others in the tomblike morning gloom of the conference room that Hilda amplified that Yes of hers.

For SAM’s Master Class.. The last line was chosen by Rebecca and comes to us from Sylvia Plath’s, The Bell Jar. I changed one word.. us to them.


Thanks for reading!
Posted in fiction, politics | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Reality Check



“I’m not in a funk. If anyone’s in a funk, it’s you.”

Andromeda, if that’s really her name, pitched forward in her chair, then leaned back, threw her arms in the air, picked up both feet, then stomped them firmly back on the floor. I wasn’t the only one who laughed out loud when that threw her off balance. Those metal chairs are slippery. She nearly slid off onto the floor.

“It’s all ok, Andromeda. Lord knows I’m more often in a funk than not. I’m not making a judgment call here.”

That’s what she said. What does that even mean? She’s not making a judgment call. For a group moderator, Sharon does the best she can, but she’s out of her league with these morons. I could corral them like sheep. If she’d let me. Every time I try she tells me to use my inside voice. As if I’m a kid. I might not be old enough to drink, legally, but I can vote.

I helped elect my state’s two senators. So, maybe that didn’t go so well here in Kentucky, and maybe I should have found out for myself what they were sayin’, but hey, my vote counted.

“I think what Sharon was trying to say, Andromeda, was that you don’t seem like your fun-loving self today. I’d like to see you turn that frown upside down.”

Clive said that. What happened next wasn’t pretty. Andromeda jumped out of her chair so fast it clanked to the floor. We covered our ears when she screamed at Clive to take that fake accent of his back to where he came from across the Pacific. He corrected her, said it was the Atlantic, and she went cray cray on him. Sharon stepped between them, and the next thing you know blood was pouring from her nose all over that stupid white linoleum.

I’m telling you. All I need is five minutes with those douchebags, and I’ll have them all in a funk.


For Trifecta Writing Challenge. The word is FUNK: 3 :  SLUMP  <an economic funk>  <the team went into a funk>

Posted in fiction, politics, psychology, trifecta | Tagged | 35 Comments