Lost my Fairlane

Contributor: Kenzie Cluster

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I arrived a few hours ago while it was raining. We came all the way from Las Vegas, and drove for two days straight to get back to Portland. The gaslight had come on six times: all remaining change was scraped from the ashtray and the sticky floorboards until there was no way to keep going. My driver punched my dashboard three times before exiting and slamming my door. I had watched him walk into the darkness, cursing loudly, without a second glance behind him to reassure me he would be back soon. Since the rain stopped, my engine is cold and I am lonely. I miss my driver.
I remember when we first met: it was a summer morning, and he came running toward me saying, “That’s her! I saw her in my dream, that Gunship Gray 1969 Ford Fairlane. She’s beautiful.”
He’d waited for my last driver to get out of the grocery store to offer him a large sum of cash to take me home right then and there. He quickly agreed, knowing that his angry lady would be happy I was gone. He would have given me up for any amount thanks to the angry lady.
My driver and I went everywhere together for a long time. He took me on trips just to show me off. He waxed me weekly and always polished away his fingerprints when the day was over. In time, he started letting people come and ride with him more often, but not as a treat to them, as a treat for him. We went to many trashed houses and ill kept neighborhoods.
He and his most frequent passenger decided to go on a long ride last weekend. He drove me very badly for the first few hours; he almost ran us right into a pole. Then we got to the bright city he frequently spoke of: there were lights in every direction, and people pointed at me and called out in admiration and jealousy. I felt like a golden woman, until he parked me in an alley and left for days.
Soon enough, a shifty couple came and tried to take me away, but my driver was smart: when the doors were unlocked and the key was in, my motor wouldn’t start. He always did this trick when we went fancy places. The man cursed but dare not hit me, and the woman cried silently as they snuck away. I was glad they left.
My driver and his passenger came back angry. He fumbled putting my engine back together and burnt his hand. We left the bright city in a rush, and I grew tired quickly. We didn’t stop for breaks this time. My engine sputtered to a halt twice on the way back, and my driver had filled me with the stored gas.
I’m here now with an empty fuel tank, and I don’t know when I will get a drink. I’m thirsty and tired, and as hard as I search, I can’t find my driver. The rain is falling lightly now, making me cold. Maybe this time my driver won’t come back, and I’ll be left here alone.


- - -
Kenzie Cluster lives in Tooele, Utah with her husband and daughter, and is working on her Bachelor's degree at Full Sail University.
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Some Day Soon

Contributor: Donal Mahoney

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Dexter Dalrymple had no idea why anyone would want to interview him. Who would care at this point what he'd have to say. Maybe his family and a few old friends, in deference to his age and wealth, hoping to find themselves in his will some day soon. But he had agreed to this interview and there he was now, at 82, sitting across from this financial reporter, a young lady, perhaps 22, the age of his granddaughter who had just graduated from college.

His granddaughter was the light of his life. He would leave all of his money to her if it wouldn't make everyone mad.

Dexter knew the only reason this young lady wanted to interview him was that he's worth roughly $5 million, the harvest of over 50 years of investing in the stock market, all on his own, with no advisor. A remarkable achievement, he realized, for a man who had dropped out of high school with more than a little shove from the principal.

"Investing in the stock market is easy," Dexter had once told a financial advisor who had sought his business, "provided you have the brains and the balls to do it right. It's no place for the chicken-hearted."

The advisor went back to the office without a new client but he had met someone he--and many other people over the years--would never forget whether they bought and sold stocks or not. Dexter was a character, right up there with W.C. Fields whose old films he loved to watch in his home theater.

Many times Dexter had told Penelope, his wife of 60 years, that the smartest thing he had ever done was to marry her and the second smartest thing he had done was to quit drinking and smoking.

"I may have had too many milkshakes since then but that's why someone invented statins--to keep my cholesterol down," Dexter would tell anyone in earshot, sometimes more than once a day.

Every man has at least one weakness or maybe two, and a daily milkshake at 3 p.m. was the last one Dexter would admit to in a long life of making big money, collecting cars and admiring women, not always from afar.

"What was the greatest moment in your life?" the young reporter asked in her opening question, pushing back the waterfall of auburn hair falling over her left shoulder.

Nice hair, Dexter thought, but not a very good opening question for a young financial reporter interviewing a millionaire. She was supposed to find out how he made all that money. He didn't plan to tell her everything--maybe a few things because she seemed like a nice person--but at least she could ask the right questions.

Dexter coughed and said, "I'll tell you the truth as long as you keep it between the two of us. The greatest moment in my life was the day I realized I was finally old enough that one woman was enough, that I could be faithful to one woman, my wife, and go back to the Church, and worship God the way I did when I was a kid in school and women weren't a distraction."

The young reporter looked befuddled because she had expected Dexter to tell her about some big deal he had made in the stock market. She knew he was one of the wealthiest men in America. He was a little odd, she knew, but in her young life she had already discovered that many successful men were a little odd in one way or another. But Dexter was on a roll now so she stayed silent and decided to let him finish.

"When I went back to the Church, " he said, "it was truly the greatest moment in my life. Better than making money or anything. To know that I could finally be faithful to my wife was a great satisfaction. I felt better doing that than making money. It's easy to make money. Not so easy being faithful. Not even with a milkshake every day.

"Remember now, this is just between the two of us. Don't put that in the paper and don't tell a soul. People will think I'm nuts. I know I'm nuts but why confirm it for the public."

The young reporter said there would be no need to include that information in her article. She simply wanted to know what Dexter had done to make millions of dollars without any formal education and without any financial advice.

"Most millionaires rely on a financial advisor to keep up with the stock market," she told Dexter. "What makes you different? Is it that you never give up?"

Dexter thought for a moment and then said that not giving up was very important because the stock market is the roller coaster the cliche would have it to be. One has to be in it for the long haul, know when to buy and when to sell. Never lose interest. Never stop, except maybe for a milkshake every day. And always keep an eye out for the next big opportunity.

"By the way, young lady, do you have any plans for lunch? I have a table over at the Mark IV," Dexter said, rolling his wheel chair toward the door.

"Years ago I owned that restaurant and sold it for a nice profit to a gentleman who said he would have a reserved table waiting for me for the rest of my life.

"Scallops are the special of the day on Friday. Or if you like steak, theirs is well marbled. Marbling is important, on steak or on a woman. But don't quote me on that.

"We can finish the interview over there. I hope you have a big notebook. I think I'll have quite a bit to say.

"My driver is waiting downstairs."


- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
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Lavender

Contributor: Lyla Sommersby

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I watch the lavender blossoms drift in wind like soft brushes wet with paint, and I remember my knight. Tall, his jaw set strong, holding a smile beneath sky-blue eyes. I remember his voice, his touch, the press of his lips against my skin-- all strong, so strong. I remember the shine of his armor, the red of his crest, the gold edges of noble filigree vining across steel.

I remember it all, and as I remember, the tears bud and run from my eyes. The lavender blossoms that grow over his grave wave like pennants, like lances, and as I hold my heavy belly, quiet my heavy heart, I close my eyes.

I close my eyes, and in the caresses of the wind, I can almost feel him, almost feel his touch, his arms, his hands moving slowly over mine.


- - -
I am a student in Miami, Florida. Painting is my other love.
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Knowing Home

Contributor: E.S. Wynn


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The moment I slip into the ocean, I know that I am home.

I wasn't born here, on Nereid IV-b. The colony is only a few years old, and most of the settlers are early-gen spacers, migrants who've seen a thousand worlds, elected for sterilization centuries ago. It's something else, something I can feel in my blood-- about the planet, the ocean, something I feel like I've been searching for my entire life, trying to get back to.

Something about the gravity, the planet's proximity to the three stars that hold it suspended in the most elegant orbit I've ever seen on an inter-system approach, gives it the most placid, most serene seas I've ever seen. Clean and clear, there are no tides or currents in the wide oceans of Nereid IV-b, nothing to wear down the smooth, gray-glassy stone that sprawls on across the bottom as far as the eye can see. No life-- nothing beyond a few simple mineral constructions that might become bacteria before the planet's three suns burn out.

All of my life, I've been afraid of oceans, but not the oceans here. Earth's oceans are dark and deadly, oppressive and thick with horrors both real and imagined. Some planets I've seen are worse, have thick, sludgy seas teeming with tiny, violent carnivores eager to seek out human flesh-- others are better, their seas more serene and silent.

But none of them have seas like Nereid IV-b.

There are no monsters here, nothing lurking or hunting in the darkness, no danger, no unseen movements of water waiting to pull you under. Open your eyes under the surface and you can see for miles, know that there is nothing but the seafloor, the shore and you, you floating there in the middle of it all. With the right gill-breather you can float there for hours, close your eyes, meditate, drop away into the pleasantly cool embrace of pure water held together by the most minimal gravity field you've ever felt. There is nothing like falling asleep in the oceans of Nereid IV-b, waking up again a few hours later and knowing that you are safe, that the sea has supported you softly while you've slept. It's an incredible feeling, trusting your existence to an ocean, to an entire planet's stretching seas, knowing that no matter how deep you go, no matter how far from shore you swim, you will always be safe, always be home.

The moment I slip into the ocean, I know that I am home, and for a while, at least, I know I can forget everything but the sea, the endless ocean I love, the silver, serene waters that seem to accept all that I am, man-- flawed and imperfect. Shore leave never lasts for more than a few days, but some day, some day, I'll come back to Nereid IV-b. I'll come back and I'll stay.

And I'll never leave the ocean again.


- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of more than 50 books.
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UPGRADE

Contributor: MJRAFFERTY

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I was rolling along through my life living my dream with my love, and the children of our love beside me. Work seemed like play; all systems clicking in order as they should. Life was good.
Then from outside something intervened, insidious and unknown it came undetected, creating a shadow on my soul.
Defenses were drawn around me and the strategies of professionals were tested, but to no avail. My tears, and the tears of others flowed. Hope was gone and the taste of fear was like acid in my mouth. The medicine of science took me and all that was left was desperation. Life had dimmed but love swelled, flooding in and over from all sides.
The weeks and months passed, but to me there was nothing but light or dark, sleep and not sleep. My speech became a jargon to others; no matter, because the desire to communicate had withered, even though there were times of lucid intervention. Did I respond…say the things so needed to be said?
I’m so sorry I failed! I fought so hard not to leave you!
Thoughts were inward now, food and drink had mostly disappeared. How did I live? This for a man only forty-three? There were times I was weightless, floating off my bed for moments, then down. The voices of familiar people spoke to me. Was I even in the room? What in hell is this. . .?
I remember that day in June, wrenching myself from my place of pain, going outside of the house I so loved to stand alone in the sunlight--and finally, my moment came. I was lifted from the ground and pulled skyward past rooftops, then faster through thin clouds. Airliner to my left, do they see me? The earth fell rapidly away and I was so afraid of dying.
Did anyone see me leave? Did I even say goodbye?
I felt myself grow colder but something amazing was going on around my head and body. It became a shroud of translucent wonder that shielded my ascent through the atmospheres of near space into perfect vacuum. I began a slow rotation bathed in a mode of exquisite feeling; all fear had fallen away.
Encapsulated, I orbited my world in the silence of my thoughts. Surely this could not be death, for those I loved and left behind could only, if they knew, have wished this for me. If not death, then a dream of unimaginable splendor--
--And then I was away, streaking in uncomprehending speed outward, past my childhood moon and sun, safe in my envelope of self. I morphed as I moved toward a faraway whatever. Arms and legs, my humanity dissolved, reshaping itself to some unknown purpose.
Ahead was ill-defined. I moved through time and space, but memory was clear and absolute. Strange to relive so sharply that so far behind. As my destination neared, my life from conception to that moment was put in exact definition and details were acutely drawn. Complex problems that I had faced in my life became simple; hunger for knowledge so far unfulfilled was satisfied; all unquiet made calm. My evolution was nearing completion.
I arrived at a place that neither had, nor required explanation and where time escaped meaning. I had been made whole and had become what I was forever meant to be.
I was returned to my world and those I love the most, so I am here among you again.
All is good.


- - -
RETIRED. HAVE NOVEL TITLED "HEADSHOT" ON AMAZON AND B/N.
DOING SHORT FICTION, MOSTLY SCI/FI FOR PUB.
HAVE NOVEL "CATHEDRAL" FINISHED, READY TO SHOT AROUND.
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TWENTY ONE CUPCAKES

Contributor: Clive Aaron Gill

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“Base to Lola,” called the San Diego High School Dispatcher on the radio.
“Go ahead.”
“Lola, please pick up Reuben on Balboa Avenue this morning. Rudy’s bus is down.”
“Ten-four. Will do.”
“You’ll be half an hour late. His grandmother called him and told him to wait.”
“Ten-four.”
A look of satisfaction crept into Lola’s blue, penetrating eyes as she thought about the likeable Reuben. Blue jeans hugged her sturdy thighs and a white band drew back her black hair, as smooth as polished ebony, from her forehead.
She drove her bus past waves of wild mustard, blossoming vibrant yellow, before she stopped to pick up Reuben, a six-foot, muscular, special needs student.
“Good morning, Reuben.”
“Morning, Lola. Today’s my birthday,” said Reuben, as he stepped into the bus and gave her a high five. He sat three rows back.
“Happy birthday, Reuben,” she said and drove on. “You’ve grown a lot since I first took you to school.”
“I’m…I’m eighteen today.”
“Congratulations! How are you feeling?”
“Good,” he said, although his pale face gleamed with sweat.
Using the rear view mirror, Lola studied Reuben with narrowed eyes. “Are you sure?”
Reuben nodded as his face turned red. He blinked hard repeatedly and hunched his shoulders.
“Reuben, do you want me to stop?”
He leaned into the aisle and vomited white chunks with enormous heaves.
“Oh, my God!” she screamed, crinkling her nose.
When Lola arrived at the Transitional School, an aide met her.
Lola said, “Reuben threw up on the bus.”
“He did what?” asked Sharon.
“I didn’t have time to get the trash can to him. And the mess went into the wheelchair tie-down tracks,” she said, running her fingers through her hair.
Sharon shook her head. “Where are the twenty one cupcakes his grandmother made?”
“Reuben, where are Gran'ma's cupcakes?” inquired Lola.
He remained silent.
“Reuben, did you eat the cupcakes while you were waiting for me?”
He nodded slowly and held his hand to his forehead.

“We can’t accept him at school if he’s sick,” said Sharon.
Lola covered her face with her hands as she drew a long breath. “And I thought this was gonna be a good day.”


- - -
Clive's short stories have appeared in Pens on Fire, Every Day Fiction, espresso stories, Short Humour, Postcard Shorts, The Screech Owl, Wilderness House Literary Review, Gravel Literary Journal, Shark Reef literary magazine, Larks Fiction Magazine and in 6 Tales magazine.
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Jo

Contributor: Austen Rodgers

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The city, even at night, was alive and functioning. Cars were always on the move and the people were always busy. Busy generating a profit. Busy robbing suburban liquor stores and gas stations. Just too busy trying to live, and too busy to notice the men on the streets.
An older gentleman, Jo, as he called himself, was one of those men of the streets. During the day he would spend his time on the sidewalks of downtown Chicago. The windy city, without a fall or a spring, was never comforting. In the summer sun his skin would burn and blister, and in the winter it was a struggle to keep his ligaments safe from the bitter bite of the cold. The weather, just like the city, was pitiless.
Sores between his toes caused pain in every one of his steps. They were the result of his water filled boot and his plastic flip-flop.
“Shoes,” he’d say, “could you get me some shoes?”
Rain settled over the city, creating puddles along the curbs. The flash of red and blue police lights caught his attention at a distance away. He slowly trotted through the sitting water toward them. He was curious. He liked to know what happened around the city.
“You’ve served?” or “God bless you for your sacrifices.” They’d say.
“But God hasn’t,” he’d reply, “so could you?”
He walked with a gimp, as he always did. He reached up with a tan leathery hand and removed his cap. The itch on his brow had grown red and bumpy and it just wouldn’t go away. He returned the hat to his head when he was satisfied with scratching. ‘Navy Veteran’ the hat read. Jo thought the hat helped sometimes, and that was all that mattered. In this city you had to take care of yourself, and in this city everyone lied.
“Yes, I served in the Bay of Pigs,” he’d say. “Change to spare?”
“No, I’m sorry.” They’d reply. “I forgot my wallet.”
The lights grew brighter as he came closer. The colors bounced off the water droplets on the ground and the tall city buildings around him.
“Just another luckless day,” he mumbled to himself.
When Jo was a block away, a fire truck approached the commotion. Police, now visible through the muggy weather, rushed about and partnered with the firemen.
“Hurry up!” an officer yelled. “Get the jaws!”
From across the street, Jo watched the firemen and the police scramble. A car, wedged in concrete and glass, was the cause of the disturbance. A fireman with tool in hand ran to the crumpled car. The metal of the Cadillac tore and crunched as he cut his way through the door of the vehicle.
“Reminds me,” Jo muttered, “of my old car.”
A tall, brown haired officer noticed Jo. The man squinted trying to get a good look at Jo. After a moment, he turned back toward the car. From the wreckage the service men pulled a blonde woman.
“She’s unconscious! Where’s that ambulance?” A policeman yelled, and the same one as before looked at Jo again.
“Move along,” he said.
Jo stuttered, and looked at the ground. “Re—Reminds me,” he said as he turned away, “of me.”


- - -
Hello, my name is Austen Rodgers and I live in Iowa. I've had a passion for writing ever since I was fourteen, and only recently decided to push for my goals. The first draft of my first book titled: "The Book of a Few", will be finished this year and I am so excited.
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Jazz

Contributor: Kaila Allison

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It’s the hottest night of the year.
Men wipe sweat from lips with hankies. Women fan themselves with brochures. We are young and in New York. A buddy of Miles’ from Philly is performing with his group, a free-form jazz quartet, in an Aikido dojo at 307 East 92nd. We walk up a narrow staircase and Miles cracks the door slowly – not sure we’ve got the right address. But it is, Sensei greets us and tells us please if we didn’t mind taking our shoes off, this is a dojo after all. A slight Asian man holding a beer comes over, tells us his name’s Ken. We all shake hands. Miles says he’s a buddy of Elliot’s from Philly. Not from Philly but he goes to school there, studies jazz guitar. He says, this is my friend Kaila, she’s a writer. Ken smiles. He has nice teeth and he laughs in the right places. He says there’s sake and beer if you like. I’m a little nervous about being barefoot, what if I picked up a fungus or something. Then I decide to forget about it. Miles and I take a tour of the little studio, we look out a window and see a picnic table decorated in weed memorabilia. That’s psychedelic, Miles says. We sit on a rocky wooden bench and Miles sees this guy behind us with a camera, Pete. Are you a jazz photographer, he asks? Just a bass player with a camera, says Pete. We all laugh. This guy Pete knows his stuff. He has a 1958 Nikon around his neck. Still works, but you gotta wind the film by hand. Miles says, This is my friend Kaila, she’s a great writer. I tell him I go to NYU. Great school, he says, I went to Columbia then Fordam by Lincoln Center. I say I know it. We talk about how brevity is the greatest challenge of writing. Pete says Mark Twain thinks writing is like slitting your wrists and bleeding onto the page. I say I’m more into poetry because it’s brief. Our culture is filled with people in a rush to get on to other things.
Elliot comes waltzing into the room with a rusty old baritone sax and a flute. He’s a looker, Miles says, reminds him of a pirate. Certainly has the right beard. Also has this long Dred wrapped in red ties coming out the back of his black Euro-beanie. He’s dressed in a black tank and sweats and socks. All the musicians have their shoes off, in respect of the dojo. The keyboard guy has a mop of black curls and glasses, looks vaguely Middle Eastern. He faces away from the keyboard and presses his palms together over his heart and closes his eyes, like he’s some sort of monk. The bassist tunes his 5-string and does some licks to warm up. Ken tells us, here we are on this hot night but hopefully we cool it down with some of this jazz. If someone else had said it, it would’ve sounded corny. He sets himself up behind his playbox of percussive toys and the music starts. And boy is it like ecstasy. Like sex. Pure, dirty sex. The room is hot. Men wipe their faces and women fan themselves. They press their beers against their foreheads. Miles slaps his legs and stomps his feet like a loon. He rocks back and forth, shaking the bench. I feel the rhythmic vibrations go through my legs and my chest and my head. It is sex, this music, that’s what it is. Then Elliot fishes through some papers under his chair and reads his sex words and we sway and we yeah and we moan, we are certainly not human we are animals. I close my eyes and feel the heat on my skin, the damp moisture of the room. It smells like beer and rubber. People drink sake out of small mason jars. There are kids and they fall asleep on the floor. The keyboardist takes the tube out of his melodica and bangs it between the legs of the keyboard. The tempo increases, the musicians are at a presto, if they go much faster they might have heart attacks. We might have heart attacks. We are on speed. We are on ecstasy. We are on drugs that we didn’t even know existed. Elliot slaps the keys on his sax without air, he takes a swig from his water bottle, swishes, swallows, then blows into the bottle and makes cooing sounds, like doves.
At intermission I buy Miles two CDs and Elliot’s book because he’s out of cash. He’s grateful. I say, It’s for the art. We talk to the guys and Miles is delirious with pleasure. He says, This is my friend Kaila, she’s a writer and she’s really into bohemian poetry. We talk about the Beats and musical telepathy. I am tired and hungry and thirsty but we stay for the second set. We talk to Ken about the heartbeat of the music. We need the heartbeat, otherwise how can we live, Ken says. He gives a little laugh and flashes his teeth. He stands close to me and I back up a bit. Ken talks about polyrhythms and Africa. Miles says, You guys inspire me. Ken invites us to eat with them after the show. We sit on the floor with couscous, falafel, hummus. It is good. They are gracious and kind people. They can make music out of anything.


- - -
Kaila Allison is a senior at New York University studying Creative Writing and Psychology. She has published fiction and nonfiction in Potluck Mag and Mr. Beller's Neighborhood.
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Young Priest, Old Priest

Contributor: Donal Mahoney

- -
Everyone in the neighborhood was surprised when Bill McIntyre entered the seminary to study for the priesthood. He had been dating girls since early in high school and had been engaged since graduating from college to a lovely young lady. He often spoke about wanting to have a big family since he himself had been an only child. But something happened in that relationship and Bill and his girlfriend broke up.

"I always wanted brothers," Bill had told his best friend, Adam Moskowitz. They had played basketball together in high school and had remained close friends, meeting at the local delicatessen every couple of weeks to wolf down corned beef sandwiches, Adam's on rye, Bill's on dark pumpernickel.

"At least it's not white bread" is all that Adam would ever say.

Adam was studying to become a rabbi. Adam was the first one Bill told about his plans to become a priest.

"A rabbi can get married, Bill. You'll be single for life. The priesthood is wonderful but it might not be the right place for a guy who wanted to have a big family," Adam said.

But a year after his broken engagement, Bill entered the seminary. After six years of studying philosophy and theology, he was ordained. His first assignment was at a very busy church where several priests were on staff. He was the newbie in every respect.

At St. Adalbert's, Father Bill was more or less adopted by an elderly priest, Father O'Brien, who showed him the ropes of what was expected of any priest, young or old. They became close friends, sharing a love of chess, which they often played into the night, matching wits and having great conversations. Father Bill always said that he had learned a lot from Father O'Brien, especially what it was like to have been a priest for 65 years. After two years at St. Adalbert's, Father Bill thought he knew Father O'Brien well enough to ask him a serious question.

Since he still found women attractive but had not strayed from his vows, Father Bill thought Father O'Brien might be able to help him with a little advice. Constant prayer had helped a lot but he thought an old priest like Father O'Brien, who was 90, might have some special insight. So during one of their many chess games, Father Bill spoke up.

"Father, at what age does celibacy become easier. At what age do women begin not to look as good as they do at my age?"

Father O'Brien leaned back in his chair, looked at the ceiling, ran his hand through his hair, and sipped his Coke. Finally he took a deep breath and said,

"Father Bill, that's a tough question. I don't think I can help you but I know a priest who might. I'll call Father Moriarity in the morning. I'm only 90. Father Moriarity is 95."


- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
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Second Chances

Contributor: Robert Bates

- -
Michael Johnson sits alone on his bed staring at an old photo of himself and a girl at their senior prom.
“You should call her,” his older brother says, walking into the room.
“How long were you standing there?” Michael asks suspiciously.
“Long enough. Whatever happened to that girl?”
“I have no idea. I don’t even know where she is.”
“Maybe you should track her down.”
“It’s been five years; I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want me back in her life. Anyway, seen any good movies lately?” Michael asks, clearly trying to change the subject.
“You should call her,” Matt says persistently.
“I’m not going to call her,” Michael says defiantly.
“She was your high school sweetheart.”
“Was.”
“You need to call her.”
“I don’t even have her number.”
“She could still have the same one.”
“I highly doubt it.”
“Just try it!”
Michael finally picks up his phone and dials in the numbers. After what seems like an eternity, a familiar voice answers.
“Hey! Um…this is Michael Johnson,” he says nervously.
Matt watches his expression change from a look of blank nervousness to a slight grin.
“Yeah, I still live here.”
“You’re kidding?” Michael says, his expression changing to absolute shock.
“Yeah, that sounds great…groovy…interstellar,” Michael pauses for a moment, puts the cell phone down to his chest, and covers it with his hand so the girl can’t hear.
“Why am I talking like I’m from the seventies?” Michael quietly whispers to Matt.
“Just keep making words, you’re doing fine,” Matt assures him.
Michael raises the phone back to his ear and begins making more words.
“Yeah, see you at seven,” Michael says as he hangs up the phone.
“She’s in town?” Matt asks in a surprised tone.
“She’s in town!” Michael exclaims happily, beginning to pace around the room.
“That’s awesome! It’s six forty-five; you can pace later, go get ready!”
“I am!” yells Michael, rushing out of the room.
“I’m going to head out!”
“I’ll let you know how it goes!”
“I’ll be at the wedding!” Matt shouts as he walks out of the front door.
Michael changes several times, but finally manages to find some clothes that he looks decent in, and gets to the restaurant before she does. She walks in fashionably late at seven-fifteen and sits down at the table.
“You’re late, Sarah,” he says with a playful smile on his face.
“Well, I had two dates before you and they were both better looking,” she says with the same smile.
“I’m glad to see you haven’t changed at all.”
They order their food and are quickly served, but there is much more talking than eating.
“So, how is the love life?” Michael asks, scared to know the answer.
“Well, my boyfriend and I broke up a few months ago,” she says simply.
“What happened?” asks Michael, leaning forward in his chair.
“He turned out to be a girl,” she says with a smirk on her face.
“Why did it take you so long to find out?”
“You know how I am, I like to take things slow.”
“Unfortunately.”
“And that comment is why I’m letting you pay for dinner!” she says with a satisfied smile on her face.
“I’m so glad I found you,” Michael says sarcastically.
“You have a lady in your life?” Sarah asks quickly, side-stepping his sarcasm.
“Ah, yes, her name is Lafonda and we are getting married tomorrow,” Michael says with a smirk on his face.
“I know that’s not true,” she says bluntly.
“Because of the ridiculous name?”
“Because you get this stupid smirk on your face when you lie, it makes me want to kiss you and punch you at the same time. Plus, I know that I’m the only person who will ever put up with you,” she says, raising her glass.
“And I with you,” Michael says as they clink their glasses together.
“But your last statement begs the question, am I getting kissed or punched?” he says, finally feeling some confidence.
“Well, I guess you’ll just have to walk me home and find out,” says Sarah, winking at him.
Michael begrudgingly pays the bill and they walk outside into the chilly night air.
“So, where are you staying?” Michael asks her while putting his jacket on.
“Just up the street actually,” she says, pointing into the distance.
They walk up the white sidewalk and arrive at a rundown apartment within minutes. The paint looks like it has endured a war, one wall looks like it has been pushed in by a bulldozer, and another wall looks like it is trying to leave.
“It’s a…nice place you got here,” he awkwardly lies.
“Don’t patronize me, it’s worse than your dating life,” she replies smartly.
“I was just trying to be a supportive friend,” he says defensively.
“I know. You just suck at it,” she says while turning towards him.
She suddenly leans in and kisses him on the lips. She doesn’t say anything and walks right up to the door to go inside. But right before she enters, she turns around.
“It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while, life gives us a chance to fix something we messed up the first time,” she says, with a rare dose of sincerity.
Michael pauses for a moment, not really knowing how to respond to an overly sentimental statement like that, but he finds some words eventually.
“Are you saying you messed up?” he asks with a satisfied look on his face.
“Don’t push it,” she says, her smile coming back.
“I’ll call you,” he says with a goofy smirk on his face.
“You better,” Sarah says, walking into the house and shutting the white door behind her.
Michael tries to make sense of the weird interaction that has just occurred as he walks away from her house with a smile on his face and a strut in his step.


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