Tag Archives: Through the Glass Darkly

2nd Edition, Through the Glass Darkly

19 Aug

 

Ray Ferrer’s cover illustration for Through the Glass Darkly

I’m making the manuscript of my second edition of Through the Glass Darkly available –after many attempts to figure out how to do it – for a limited time.

You are free to download and read the manuscript, as well as share it with others if you so care.

As I do plan to publish it, I hope you will benefit me with your comments, including which stories you liked and why, as well as those you didn’t care for. I will leave this page posted for your comments, but will dismantle the link to the file eventually.

Comments on plots, characters, dialogue, flow, etc., are all important to me. Not so much, “I liked this story” (which I used to say when I wrote book reports as a kid), but, “I liked this story because …”

I post to and maintain my online writing studio on WordPress because I seek feedback, as I imagine you do also. Whether positive or negative feedback, it is all beneficial to me in terms of my growth as a writer and poet.

Thank you in advance for those thoughtful comments.

LSM, 19 August 2017

Click the following link for the manuscript. Please alert me if you have any difficulty opening this file.

ThroughtheGlassDarkly_2ndEdition11-26-2015-TEST

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The Christmas Portrait

13 Dec
Illustrated by Ray Ferrer

Illustrated by Ray Ferrer

The Christmas Portrait

By L. Stewart Marsden

The Cortwright family flowed onto the beach to their own music. Moneyed, socially privileged, and oh-so-much-better than the average beach goer, they claimed a section of the ocean horizon for the annual family Christmas portrait photo session.

As with the years before, the Cortwright girls, Kendra and Kiley, were dressed in white cotton linen dresses, their blonde hair curled and coiffed carefully, even though the whipping sea breezes pulled and teased their hair apart. Kester, the lone Cortwright male offspring, wore khaki Bermuda’s and a navy button-down collared shirt. He was also blessed with thick, blonde hair.

The only difference in these portraits from year to year was the age and height of the children, and the age and wrinkles of the adults. Everyone was tastefully tanned — from a regimen of slow burn at the club spa over a period beginning after the Christmas school break until the beach trip. No session more than five minutes. You avoid skin cancer that way.

Behind closed doors, Granpa Cortwright referred to his progeny as the “Aryan no-necks,” in honor of his favorite play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Granpa and Granna Cortwright wore matching outfits of light in fabric and color. Granpa sported a Panama hat with a black headband. It kept catching in the wind and tipping forward on his tanned gray-haired face. His white open-necked button down shirt billowed with the breeze, and his dark green aviator sunglasses tipped slightly at the end of his nose. He was the tallest of the group, even though his back stooped from age.

Granna was as elegant-looking as the Queen of England, with soft white hair and deep blue eyes. Her blue and green floral moo-moo flowed regally about her ankles and calves. Around her neck hung hammered silver water lilies, with perfect rose-tinted pearls placed at the center of each bloom. The necklass cost Granpa a small fortune — the spoils of a near-divorce when Granna accurately guessed he was dallying with one of his office staffers.

The lone legal heir of the Cortwright empire, Kyle Adams Cortwright, was sufficiently bored of the annual photography event, and struggled down to the beach in order to hold up his end of the line. Dutifully, he sported khaki Bermudas he bought at the Augusta National pro shop at The Masters in the spring a year ago. He paid $500 for them. The Masters logo was stitched onto two of the wide belt loops that were positioned prominently on either side of the fly, and he always tucked his shirts in to get the most for his money. “Don’t want to hide those boys with a ninety-dollar shirt tail,” he grinned.

His navy button-down collar shirt matched his wife Kassie’s, and was starched so that even the strongest wind would not move the material.

Kassie Cortwright was the “photog wrangler” for the event, bedecked with two digital cameras — an inexpensive Kodak point-and-shoot, and a pricey Canon, which she allowed no one to touch. While not a bloodline Cortwright, Kassie was clearly the matriarch-in-waiting, and directed all in order to get those “precious candid” shots so carefully choreographed for the best lighting and background. Kassie would later retouch each photo with her computer software in her studio.

She was “arm candy” for Kyle, who could have had his pick of fillies from the finest Southern stables in a five-state area. He married her as much for her name as her pedigree. “Kyle & Kassie are Kute & In Love!” was printed on a banner that hung over the club swimming pool at their wedding reception, which was when they decided to name every child with a “K” name. The banner eventually ended up over the back wall of their basement rec room. The “v” had peeled off due to moisture in the basement long before the birth of Kester.

Kyle had made a feeble attempt at pre-law at Chapel Hill before discovering the competition was too stiff for his liking. After his freshman year, where he nearly flunked out of school due to his attention to pledging and his inattention to academics, Kyle transferred into the School of Business. There he averaged his way through the rest of his college career, aware he had a sure thing with his dad’s company when he graduated.

Kassie’s accomplishments at Carolina amounted to a degree in Social Philosophy, and President of the Tri-Delts for two years. She was the most photographed coed in the Yakety Yak for three years running. She knew because she and her sorority pledges counted the pictures every fall after Rush Week. Most thought there were so many pictures of her because she had fallen hard for one of the yearbook photographers and had plied her good looks and other “qualities” in trade. She never denied it to close friends. It added to her mystique.

Her outfit matched Kyle’s. Her navy button-down collared shirt was starched stiff, and she also wore khaki shorts from Augusta National, although she didn’t have to make the trip to the tournament to get them. Like her mother-in-law’s neckless of silver and pearls, Kassie Cortwright had learned of the spoils system. Kyle was a chip off the old man’s philandering shoulder. He brought back something of value for her from every “company trip.”

Kassie’s plan was to take various sets of photos: the kids; the women; Granna and Granpa Cortwright; Granna and Granpa with the girls; Granna and Granpa and Kyle – every conceivable combination, which were many. And, finally, the group shot. Then there would be the inevitable “candid shots” of everyone.

As long as Granna and Granpa survived, Cortwright and Milliken (Kassie’s maiden name) family members would receive the group shot, embedded in a pre-cut, pre-printed Season’s Greetings from the Cortwrights card. Whenever Granna and Granpa both died, a photo of the two would go out, embedded in a pre-cut, pre-printed We Will Miss Them This Season card, that would include the obituaries of each as an insert. That card stock was carefully stored in the attic in a moisture-proof container. The obits were saved on the hard drive of Kassie’s computer, awaiting only the final date for each.

Socially, politically and otherwise strategically important friends of Kyle and Kassie Cortwright would receive the main Cortwright group shot, sans grandparents, embedded in a pre-cut, pre-printed Happy Holidays! Another Fabulous Year to Celebrate!, along with a two-page printed update on the highlights of the past year for Kendra, Kiley and Kester, as well as herself and Kyle.

All cards were assembled, stamped with Kyle and Kassie’s signatures, addressed and stamped to reach destinations no later than two weeks prior to December 25.

And it all began here, with the photography shoot. On the beach.

Of the various compositions, Kassie was able to test shoot with the Kodak for position and light and background for all shots; and she could shoot the final takes with the Canon on shots she was not in. She used her tripod and the automatic shutter for shots she was in. Granpa offered to take the shots which she was in and he was not, but Kassie wouldn’t allow it. Despite his success in business, she didn’t think Granpa Cortwright would be able to meet her high standards. But he always offered, and she always politely declined the offer.

Today the lighting was perfect! It was overcast enough to mask out the shadows created on a sunny day. That meant no flash. Kassie’s digital cameras would do the rest, automatically adjusting for focus and existing light.

She corralled the family members into a group and began to explain who and what the shots would be. Kyle grinned and shook his head, aware no one was listening.

“I can help with the shots,” offered Granpa.

“Just everyone listen. LISTEN!” The wind off the ocean blew her words in the opposite direction.

“Kendra, Kylie and Kester – you’re first. Everyone else, wait over there,” Kassie directed. She drew an X in the sand. “Kids, stand here!” And, as kids are want to do, they assembled about a yard from the X.

“No! ON the X! Stand ON IT!” Her words whipped westward by the east ocean wind.

All of the other beach-goers stood back in awe and mused over the spectacle. They watched from their sun-sheltered umbrellas; from their adjustable beach chairs with a variety of bottled water, sodas, and other drinks in hand.

Tall, skinny surf skimmers daringly slipped on micro-thin wave water, stopping and pulling up within the imagined line of limits on either side of the photography shoot. Everyone honored the invisible barrier. Joggers and walkers circumvented the area. Swimmers stayed to either side of the fifty yards of “reserved” background, the same way they did whenever someone was surf fishing.

Except for one person.

At first he was walking up the beach at a rapid clip. When he neared the area of activity, he made no effort to skirt back up the beach to avoid being a bother. In fact he walked into the forbidden zone and slowed down. You might even say he came to a crawl, bending over as if to sift through shells in the shallow water.

Kassie was amok focusing her Kodak point-and-shoot on the cotton clad kids — directing them to stand closer, to smile, but not smile like that, and quit elbowing each other, and Kester, put your hand down, and a hundred other orders, and finally pressing the shutter button and looking at the shot only to discover a man walking through the background!

“What the h—!” she exploded, and the man, who had not yet completed the distance behind the kids, stopped, and turned to look at Kassie. He cocked his head to one side, scratched his protuberant and hairy belly, and proceeded to walk back to the surf water directly behind the children.

Kassie was aghast with the clear violation of polite protocol whenever someone was about to take a picture — that of stopping and waiting until the camera clicked before walking into the camera’s shot frame! If someone happened to walk into a picture unawares, the next protocol would be an embarrassed apology — given profusely — and then quickly walk away.

This man — this hairy ape — covered from head to toe with thickly matted fur — neither stopped nor apologized! Instead, he lingered at the water’s edge — still well within the camera’s range!

Kassie shot a glance to Kyle and ordered him with her eyes to take care of the situation. Kyle shrugged, and while the Cortwright family looked on in mixed horror and amusement, he shuffled down to the hairy ape, whose feet were now sinking in sand.

“Good morning, Sir!” Kyle offered in his best and most friendly voice. He prided himself in his ability to strike up a conversation with even the most menial of people.

“Hey.” The reply was short and gruff.

Kyle sized up his opponent quickly. He was older, probably late fifties — maybe sixties. He was shorter than Kyle by several inches, but outweighed him by probably more than a hundred pounds.

He was endowed with what Kyle called “man breasts” because of his weight, and his great belly protruded out around his midriff. With the exception of the top of his head, his body was covered with hair, a mixture of silver, white and some black strands. Tufts arose from his shoulders like military epaulets. His eyebrows were thick bushes, and his beard, though mostly shaven, was dark on his face. A thick bush of hair poured from the middle of his lower lip and down the middle of his chin, lopped off at the first of three folds of fat girding his neck. His nose was bulbous and red, pigmented by an obviously non-abstinent lifestyle. His deep-set eyes were dark in color, and peered from beneath the thick brows like an angry beast.

Along his left arm, from the shoulder to his wrist, were the words “Luck be a Lady tonight,” and was festooned with poker chips and poker card hands from straights to flushes. Once his arms had been muscular, Kyle could tell. Probably a military career man, he thought. Noncom no doubt.

The most unusual visual aspect of the man was from just beneath his neck and straight down the middle of his ribs and belly, the right half of the front of his torso was completely devoid of hair. Half of his torso was thick with hair, the other, tanned, leathery skin. And tattooed on that bare canvass of his torso was the naked profile of a very well-endowed raven-haired woman, whose bared breast was tipped with his actual nipple — hairless, at that. “I have had the time of my life” ran along her profile from breast to groin.

“I was just wondering if I could persuade you to move away from the background of the photos my wife is taking of our family, and –”

“Fuck you,” the man interrupted, his tone low and even. No anger evident.

“I beg your pardon?”

“It’s French. It means I don’t gotta move away from the background of your friggin’ photos.”

“Well, of course! I mean, you don’t have to — uh, gotta — move away. It’s just that it would be the polite thing to do.”

“Well, shit on that! Maybe the polite thing to do would have been your family goes to a studio for your Gee-Dee photos.”

The Cortwrights began to take note of the discourse between Kyle and the man they were describing to each other as gorilla and monkey in whispered voices.

“See,” the man continued, “if I ain’t mistaken, this here’s a public beach. It is open to all. And not just to the socially elite! Am I right?”

“In that it’s a public beach, you are. In that you are inferring my family is socially elite, you are not.”

The man lit a cigar he pulled from behind his ear and puffed quickly. Then he turned to wave at the Cortwrights with his cigar-stubbed hand.

“I’m not inferring it  — you think you are.”

“How’s that?”

“By coming down here year after year and parading your little blonde-haired family, dressed up in white cotton and khakis and such. You take over this particular section of the beach for your own private photography session! Only it ain’t so private — and you parade for all to see. This expectation you have of the rest of us? Why, it’s no more’n the expectation of the aristocracy that us plebeians bow and scrape to your every need — no matter how asinine or inconvenient it is!”

The Cortwrights were somewhat stupefied by the ape’s vocabulary.

“How do you know we do this every year?” Kyle asked, somewhat paranoid that this man might have been stalking them over the years.

“That your cottage for the week?” the man asked, pointing to a huge three-story coral-colored cottage.

“Yes,” Kyle responded, suddenly sorry he had done so.

“See the one next to it?” The man pointed to a small, one-story cottage with a flat roof. “The brown one? I rent that one. During this same week every year. I’ve done that for thirty-two years.”

“Thirty-two years. That’s, that’s a long time.”

“And, for the last five years, you and your fucking-perfect family parade themselves on this public beach and take over! You take over with your white cotton dresses and with your khakis shorts and with your blonde hair and with your poses and your photos. You take over with your attitude. With your expectations.”

“I don’t know what to say?”

“Not much you can say. Long as you keep coming out here, I’m going to be here, too. In the background. Near the edges of your photos. Staring out at whoever gets these photos.”

Suddenly, a very angry Kallie stormed up, cameras swinging against her body.

“I don’t know who you think you are, or why you are doing what you are doing, but I’m going to ask you once — nicely — to move on until we’re through here!”

“Okay.” The hairy ape remained standing in the water, puffing on his cigar.

“Okay, what?”

“Okay, ask. Nicely.”

“Will you pleeeeease move away from behind my family so I can take these photos?”

“Nope.”

Kallie grabbed Kyle by the arm and jerked him a few steps away.

“Get that man out of here, Kyle Adams Cortwright! Make him go away!”

“Can’t.”

“WHY NOT?!”

“Public beach. He’s got just as much a right here as we do. That much I know from my intro to law course.”

“You’re not going to do anything, are you?”

“Nope.”

By this time the girls and Kester were getting bored, and Grana and Granpa were approaching the time for their morning digestive constitutional. Also, more and more spectators were gathering around the dramatic confrontation. A few were using their cell phones to video.

“Kyle! I demand you get this — this — MAN out of here before I lose it!”

Kyle shrugged his shoulders and walked over to the hairy ape.

“You see, my wife’s going to lose it in a minute if she can’t take her pictures.”

“That should be interesting!” the hairy ape puffed, “especially if this is her not losing it.”

“There’s nothing I can do to persuade you to move?”

“What, like money?”

“Well — sure. How much?”

“More’n you got, Bud.”

“I’ve got a lot.”

“Two million.”

“Wha —?”

“Three, then. Three million.”

“Who the hell —?”

“Already told you. I’m your neighbor, Neighbor! I’ve been coming down here a long, long time. I’ve been enjoying my walks on this beach for almost three decades longer than you and your family! It’s a public beach! And I can stand anywhere the hell I want to!”

“You don’t have to yell!”

“I’m so sorry! Don’t worry about your wife losin’ it! You worry about me losin’ it!”

“Okay! Okay! Look, Mister . . .”

“Poluski.”

“Mr. Poluski, I recognize our coming out here and, well, owning the beach for an hour so we can take our family photos bothers you! But — really — what is one hour? It’s over and done and the beach is yours again and no harm, no foul! Right?”

“See? There it is!”

“There what is?”

“That subtle thing you elite do.”

“Just what is it we do?”

“The ‘no harm, no foul’ thing. Everywhere you go, you impose your desires on the rest of us — while trying to convince everyone that your way is harmless. Even that it’s actually good for us! Like the big corporations that go to a third world to rape and plunder their resources — promising that everyone will benefit from the digging and the drilling and the cutting and the ‘developing.’ Then, the bulldozers level everything and the land is stripped to the bone; and the rains come and the floods come and the topsoil and everything good about the land is washed away and the people are left naked and starving and diseased and dying!”

“Oh. That subtle thing.”

“Then, you come out here and once again try to impose your will on us! What if every rich family in America decided to come down to this beach and parade their families out for an hour of shooting pictures? Have you thought of that?”

“No, but I’m guessing you have.”

“You’re damn straight, I have!”

“Mr. Poluski? What if we move down the beach — away from this area — and take our pictures there?”

“I’ll just move to where you are. See, it isn’t the where you do it — it is that you do it at all!”

“The principle of the thing.”

“Ex-ACT-ly!” He puffed his cigar. “If I let this continue, then I may as well give up. The elite, the bourgeoisie will have landed and won and the proletariat will have no hope at all. We will be upended and buried.”

Kyle thought a moment while staring at the hairy ape — the philosophe — the socratic short, fat man with the tattoo of a naked lady on one half of his torso. He could tell the man’s determination went well beyond a rational disposition. And, the fact the man lived in the cottage next to theirs added to the potential danger.

“Well, Mr. Poluski. As I don’t have three million to hand you to end your strike —”

“I wouldn’t take it, anyhow.”

“Yes — I assumed as much. And, you seem persistent in your quest to keep us — the elite,  the bourgeoisie — from imposing our will upon the common man –”

“To the death!”

“Right. Then, I shall cede to your demands, and my family and I will not pursue our photos today, or any other day, for that matter.”

“You will?”

“I said so, didn’t I?”

Overhearing the conversation, Kallie’s expressions reflected both horror and anger. Kyle raised his hand in peace to her, shook the hairy ape’s hand, and turned to his family.

“We’re done here,” he called to them, and reached his hands out for his girls to grab, and the family began to trudge back up the slope of the beach to their cottage, leaving Kassie behind in confusion.

She turned back to the hairy ape, who was at the very end of his cigar, hands on hips, stomach pooched out, reveling in his apparent victory. As three bikinied girls walked by, Kassie drew her Canon to her face and clicked a picture of the enemy.

Perhaps this would be the Holiday Greetings picture she would send out this year. She turned and stormed after the Cortwright family, her cameras swinging wildly from her body.

Poluski watched after her as she wriggled toward the cottage in the loose beach sand. Gradually, slowly, something dawned on him as he stood knee-deep in the surf, and he began to realize that this confrontation had ended too quickly — had been too easy a win. Then the words of Demosthenes drifted up from his memory, “He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.”

Poluski threw his near-spent cigar in the water and watched as the butt bobbed in the surf like a small boat. He laughed aloud, and continued his walk on the beach. They would be back – and he knew it. He began to hum La Marseillaise in eager anticipation.

 

The Christmas Portrait is reproduced from Through the Glass Darkly, a collection of short stories by L. Stewart Marsden, and available on Amazon.com.

Final edit: Mrs. Foy’s Koi

28 Jul

Art by Ray Ferrer

Art by Ray Ferrer

Mrs. Foy’s Koi

By L. Stewart Marsden

Mrs. Foy lived in a large Tudor-style brick house which sat on one of the largest lots in our small town. She had been widowed for many years, her husband passing quite suddenly of a heart attack while at work. But Mr. Foy was more than adequately insured, and the business passed to his partner, who ran the firm successfully for years before bowing to the pressure of cheap imports. He closed everything, put hundreds of factory workers on the street, and retired.

Mrs. Foy had assumed her husband’s title and duties as Chairman of the Board, and made out quite well despite the business failure at the end.
She came from money − old money − which was far more important than being from new money, especially among the wealthy in our town. She had no financial concerns at all. At least, that’s what I heard in our kitchen when Mom was on the phone talking to a friend.

“She makes rich seem like poor,” Mom would say.

The Foy’s yard was our playground. It was massive. What wasn’t meticulously manicured and landscaped had been allowed to become a forest of feral oak, elm, dogwood, magnolia and rhododendron. All arose from a thick carpet of ivy. Most of the tree trunks were sheathed in the ivy as well, which climbed nearly to the tops of some of the tallest trees.

This was our South Pacific; where Guadalcanal and Midway Island and the Philippines merged boundaries in the thick greenery. My friends and I spent hundreds of hours playing war − crawling, crashing, dashing and charging through the trees and undergrowth with our plastic rifles, machine guns and pistols blazing away.

In contrast, the preened part of her yard bore edged sidewalks, beds and beds of various flowers and bushes and other plantings along stone walls that bordered the rectangular back yard.

At one end of the rectangle was a cobblestone driveway and matching Tudor garage with three large car bays.

At the other end was a rectangular pool. It wasn’t for swimming. It was only a few feet deep, discovered by Billy when he crashed through the ice one winter. Lily pads covered most of the water surface, and the rough, concrete sides were coated with green slime and algae. On the bottom of the pool were layers of blackened leaves and silt, which made the pond water dark and foreboding. Mrs. Foy never had the pool cleaned.

In the center of the pool was a stone statue of a chubby nude angel attached to its pedestal by one cherub foot. Tiny wings spread from its back — hardly large enough to carry the boy’s weight. During the warmer months, a stream of water arched from the cherub and splashed into the pool.

The pool was home to many live things — peepers, tadpoles, skeeter bugs and mosquitos. And the koi.

I had always thought they were goldfish that had grown enormous because they weren’t kept in a small bowl. Now I know better. I don’t know how many koi were in the pool — there were a lot. They hung suspended a few inches below the water’s surface, barely moving, and looked upward. They were all sorts of colors: orange and white, black and orange, red and electric blues. The colors were splotchy, as though randomly daubed onto the bodies of the fish. Once in a while a koi would roll over at the surface, and sunlight revealed the brilliance of the colors that were otherwise dulled by the murky water.

Whenever I stood a while at the edge of the pool, the koi would slowly group and head my way, as though waiting for something. Waiting and watching, just below the surface. I wondered how I looked to them through the water.

“Are the fish in Mrs. Foy’s pool dangerous?” I asked my mom once.

“I don’t think so,” she said, dropping doughy corn fritter balls into the deep fryer.

“What do you think they eat?”

“I really don’t know. I’m sure Mrs. Foy has special food she feeds them. I’ve heard they can be very expensive — hundreds of dollars.”

“How old do you think they are? They’re so big! I bet they’re really old.”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“Could we get a pond and some koi?”

“No, Honey. That’s too rich for our blood. Wash your hands for supper.”

I would often think about those big fish in Mrs. Foy’s pool. Every once in a while she or her house maid would catch us hovering around the edge of the pool and shout at us.

“You boys get away from that pool! You’ll fall in and the fish will eat you!”

We’d run and jump the stone wall and disappear into South Pacific.

I’m not sure Mrs. Foy really minded us playing in her yard. Maybe — when she was cooling off on her screened porch and recovering from a hot July scorcher with a tall iced tea with a sprig of mint — maybe she would hear our voices drift up from the thick woods. Maybe a thin smile would spread on her lipsticked mouth and across her powdered cheeks. Maybe she would stare off into the woods to remember some other time and place and life.

§§§

I started feeding the koi. At first I would grab a piece of toast or a biscuit and cram it into my pockets and head out the back door, taking the shortcut through the neighbor’s yard to Mrs. Foy’s. I’d stand at the edge of the pool and wait until the koi gathered, then take the bread out and crumble it, dropping pieces into the water. The bread floated a while before one of the koi, always the one with a bright red splotch on its head, would drift up to the surface and suddenly suck in the bread. The others floated nearby, seeming to defer to him. The red-splotched koi grabbed piece after piece before finally disappearing to the bottom of the pool. Then the others would eat, in no particular order.

The red splotch looked like a drop of blood splatter onto his head. He seemed to be the ringleader, so I named him “Captain Blood.”

Over time I experimented to see what the fish would eat. They liked bread of all sorts. They didn’t like cut-up celery or carrots. They would suck those in and spew them out quickly. Torn up lettuce was fine, though.

One day I decided to see if they would eat from my hand, and lay on my stomach at the edge of the pool with bread crumbs in my hand, which I dipped slightly into the water. Captain Blood had no problem at all. He floated up to my hand, studied the bread, and suddenly sucked it in with a flick of his head. That startled me and tickled. My heart pounded, throbbing in my head from the sheer excitement of it.

The other fish weren’t so adventurous. I had to drop their food into the water for them to warily eat.

I brought other food — meat — especially for Captain Blood. It started with hot dogs. I’d put small pieces into my hand, which I dipped into the water. At first I thought Captain Blood was going to refuse the hot dog. He floated in the water for the longest time near my hand. Then he did something totally unexpected. He circled my hand — wide circles at first. He drew nearer, like a shark, then leapt and grabbed the piece of hot dog! It scared me so much I jerked my arm out of the water and stood up.

Captain Blood was nowhere to be seen. The other fish milled about like herded cows. I could see a thrashing about near the bottom of the pool, which stirred the silt and leaves into a cloudy haze, making it difficult to see anything. I wondered if I had done something wrong. Perhaps the hot dog lodged in Captain Blood’s throat! Perhaps he choked and drowned!

Can a fish drown?

I peered into the water and saw Captain Blood finally rise from the bottom of the pool. He was alive! I hadn’t killed him! He floated up slowly and began to circle in a wide swathe. All the while, he seemed to peer up at me through the water. Watching me. Waiting for me. I pulled off another piece of hot dog and put my hand into the water. This time Captain Blood made just one pass before charging and grabbing the meat. Once again he disappeared into the depths of the pool.

He’s gone to eat it by himself, I thought.

The scene repeated until Captain Blood devoured all the hot dog. None of the other fish showed any interest at all. In fact, the other fish moved away from the area.

Over time I came back with different scraps of meat from the table. I minced chuck roast, fried chicken, ham hocks, bits of steak. Each time Captain Blood feasted. He was insatiable. The other fish ate bread, which the captain now disdained. This continued throughout the summer and into the fall.

By the end of that summer I noticed that Captain Blood was a bit larger than the other koi. Must be the meat, I thought, pleased to be the source of his growth.

When the weather turned cold I quit going to Mrs. Foy’s to feed Captain Blood. School, basketball and Boy Scouts took up all my time. I thought about him often, though.

“What happens to fish in the winter?” I asked my mom when the days grew short and cold temperatures prevailed.

“Not sure. I think they sort of hibernate.”

“What about the fish in Mrs. Foy’s pool?”

“Well, if they’re like frogs or snakes, then their bodies slow down. Like I said, hibernate. They’ve survived many winters, Dear. I wouldn’t worry.”

So I didn’t worry.

When it snowed three Wednesdays in a row and got really cold and school was cancelled, some of the guys and I went to Mrs. Foy’s pool to see what we could. Billy refused to step out onto the ice again, and I didn’t blame him.

The surface of the pond was covered with snow. I went back home and grabbed a broom. We took turns and swept what we could from the thickly iced pool. It was dark underneath. Only the lily pads were visible. Just before we left, I thought I saw something red flash under the ice. Captain Blood.

In the spring the tree peepers began to sing, the dogwoods budded and the popcorn trees exploded with white blossoms. I went back to Mrs. Foy’s pool to check on Captain Blood and the other koi.

The pool was very murky, as though something had stirred the silt and leaves at the bottom continuously. Stare as I might, I could not see any fish. I stood with the spring sun warming my shoulders, my shadow cast across the pool’s surface. In the past, this was enough for the koi to assemble.

I opened my bread bag of crusts and loaf ends and crumbled some bread into the pool. Ripples from the dropped crumbs circled out and widened on the water’s surface.

No response. Where were the koi?

Then something moved down at the bottom of the pool. It was large. A turtle, maybe? I knew snapping turtles ate fish. Maybe one had moved in after the ground thawed. Maybe the turtle had eaten all of the koi in Mrs. Foy’s pool. Maybe all the fish were dead, even Captain Blood. I couldn’t see anything. Thunder rumbled overhead and a light spring rain started to fall. I turned away to go home. At that moment I heard a loud splash in the water, and turned in time to see something very large with a bright red splotch dive to the bottom of the pool.

Captain Blood!

I peered intently into the cloudy water. Something in the pool looked at me from the bottom. I neared the edge and bent over. The water moved as the bottom stirred. Circular. Slowly. Large. Shadowy. My heart beat quickly. My breath became shallow and rapid. The rain increased, and the surface of the pool was perforated with watery bullets.

I turned and left for home, sighing in relief — though I wasn’t sure why. It was as if I had escaped something ominous, something horrific. In the back of my mind I toyed with what it was, but shook the idea off as ridiculous and childish. Still, the shadow in the pool stayed on my mind.

§§§

I had a terrible dream that night.

It was dark, but a full moon was out, and I was in Mrs. Foy’s backyard. Everything was bluish-black in hue. The Tudor house rose gauntly into the half-lit sky like mountains. Its windows were black eyes and the reflected moon their pupils. Ivy hung from the brick walls like grizzled hair.

Ahead of me was the pool, its waters black. The angel statue spouted — not water — but blood from its mouth. The thick red splashed into the pool, shattering the surface. The water in the pool frothed and foamed red.

I walked to the pool’s edge. All about on the grass were splotches of red foam which blew slightly in the wind. The moon reflected in pieces on the stirred water’s surface.

I looked into the pool.

A shadowy figure rose slowly from the pool’s bottom and hovered below the surface of the water. It was large — as large as me. At its top was a bright splotch of red that changed shape as I watched. It throbbed and pulsed with a regular beat. Like a heart. Pa-pump. Pa-pump. Pa-pump.

The figure circled the pool, slowly at first, and then more quickly, more frenzied. The angel statue suddenly vanished, and an eddy formed in the middle of the pool, spinning and sucking. The whirlpool drew me closer and closer to its center, pulling and pulling. Spinning around the edge of the whirlpool the shape swam, its bright red splotch throbbing and pulsing, also pulling me.

And I fell into the water.

§§§

The smell of bacon frying awoke me. My pillow was damp.

I gulped breakfast and stuffed a biscuit and some bacon into my pockets. It was Saturday, and I was off and out of the back door before Mom could catch me and say, “You’ve got chores to do!” She shouted at me, knowing I was gone and well on my way as I cut through the neighbor’s yard to Mrs. Foy’s.

In the early morning the trees dripped rain from the previous evening’s thunderstorm.

I reached the stone wall surrounding Mrs. Foy’s backyard and stopped. An ambulance and two police cars were parked in the drive near the house, their emergency lights flashing bright blues and reds. The housekeeper stood near the garage, weeping into a handkerchief while a policeman questioned her.

I crept closer, trying not to be seen.

On the ground next to the pool an oblong shape was covered with a sheet. The sheet was stained brown-red at one end. Two men dressed in white coveralls wheeled a stretcher across the lawn, leaving tracks in the wet grass. They stopped at the oblong shape. A shoeless foot protruded from under the sheet.

Another policeman talked to a third officer.

“Musta drowned sometime during the night, or maybe yesterday afternoon. It’s hard to tell. Maybe the coroner can tell time of death. But, what the hell chewed her leg like that?”

“Snapping turtle could do that. It’d take a few hours, I think. Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen!”

The local evening news said Mrs. Foy drowned in her pool. Nothing was mentioned about her chewed leg, the missing koi, or the large red-splotched shadowy figure in the pool.

I, too, said nothing.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 28 July, 2015
Note: This is the final edit for Mrs. Foy’s Koi. It will appear in the 2nd edition of Through the Glass Darkly, soon to be available on Amazon.com.

Rewrite: Mrs. Foy’s Koi

13 Jan

This short story first appeared in Through the Glass Darkly. It will be retold in Through the Glass Darkly II, which I hope to publish this spring. It is somewhat rewritten and edited.

Tell me what you think?

 

Art by Ray Ferrer

Art by Ray Ferrer

Mrs. Foy’s Koi

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

Mrs. Foy lived in a large Tudor-style brick house which sat on one of the largest lots in our small town. She had been widowed for many years, her husband passing quite suddenly of a heart attack while at work. But, he was more than adequately insured, and the business passed to his partner, who ran the firm successfully for years before cheap imports impacted the business. He retired, closed everything, and put hundreds of factory workers on the street.

Mrs. Foy had assumed her husband’s title of Chairman of the Board, and made out quite well despite the business failure at the end.

Plus, Mrs. Foy came from money − old money − which was much more important than being from new money. Especially among the wealthy in our town. She had no financial concerns at all. At least, that’s what I heard in our kitchen when Mom was on the phone.

The Foy yard was our playground. It was massive. What wasn’t meticulously manicured and landscaped had been allowed to become a feral forest of oak and elm, dogwood and magnolia and rhododendron. All rose from a thick carpet bed of ivy. Most of the tree trunks were sheathed in the ivy.

It was our South Pacific; our Guadalcanal; our Philippines. My friends and I spent hundreds of hours playing war − crawling, crashing, dashing and charging through the trees and undergrowth with our plastic rifles and machine guns and pistols blazing away.

In contrast, the cared part of her yard bore edged sidewalks, beds and beds of various flowers and bushes and other plantings along stone walls that bordered the rectangular back yard. At one end of the rectangle was the cobblestone driveway and the matching Tudor garage with its two large car bays.

At the other end was a rectangular pool. It wasn’t for swimming. It was only a few feet deep, discovered by Billy when he crashed through the ice one winter.

Lily pads covered most of the water surface, and the rough, concrete sides were coated with green slime and algae. On the bottom of the pool was a layer of blackened leaves and silt, which made the pond water always seem dark and foreboding. Mrs. Foy never had the pool cleaned.

In the center of the pool was a stone statue of a chubby angel, its tiny wings spread, attached to a pedestal by one cherub foot. During the warmer months, a stream of water spouted and arched from its mouth and splashed into the pool.

The pool was home to many live things: peepers and tadpoles, skeeter bugs and mosquitos and such.

And the Koi.

I had always thought they were goldfish that had grown enormous because they weren’t in a small space. But now I know better. I don’t know how many Koi were in the pool − there were a lot.

They hung suspended in the water a few inches below the surface, barely moving, seeming to look upward. They were all sorts of colors: orange and white, black and orange, red and electric blues. The colors were splotchy, as though each had been randomly daubed onto the bodies of the fish.

Whenever I stood a while at the edge of the pool, the Koi would slowly group and head my way, as though waiting for something. Waiting and watching, just below the surface. I wondered how I looked to them through the water.

“Are the fish in Mrs. Foy’s pool dangerous?” I asked my mom.

“I don’t think so,” she said, dropping doughy corn fritter balls into the deep fryer.

“What do you think they eat?”

“I really don’t know. I’m sure Mrs. Foy has a special food she feeds them.”

“How old do you think they are? They’re so big! I bet they’re really old.”

“I wouldn’t know. Wash your hands for supper, Dear.”

So I would think about those big fish in Mrs. Foy’s pool. Every once in a while she or her house maid would catch us hovering around the edge of the pool and shout at us.

“You boys get away from that pool! You’ll fall in and the fish will eat you!”

We’d run and jump the stone wall and disappear into the South Pacific.

I’m not sure that Mrs. Foy really minded us playing in her yard. Maybe, when she was cooling off on her screened porch, recovering from a hot July scorcher with a tall iced tea with a sprig of mint, maybe she would hear our voices drift up from the thick woods. Maybe a thin smile would spread on her lipsticked mouth across her powdered cheeks. Maybe she would stare off into the woods, remembering some other time and place and life.

* * * * *

I started feeding the Koi.

At first I would grab a piece of toast or a biscuit and cram it into my pocket, head out the back door and cut through the neighbor’s towards Mrs. Foy’s. I’d stand at the edge of the pool and wait until the Koi gathered. Then I’d take the bread out and crumble it, dropping pieces into the water.

The bread would float a while before one of the Koi, always the one with a bright red splotch on its head, would drift up to the surface and suddenly suck in the bread. The other Koi floated nearby, seeming to approve. The Koi with the red splotch grabbed piece after piece before finally disappearing to the bottom of the pool. Then the others would eat, in no particular order.

The red splotch looked like a drop of blood splatter onto his head. He seemed to be the leader, so I named him “Captain Blood.”

Over time I experimented to see what the fish would eat. They liked bread of all sorts. They didn’t like celery or cut raw carrots. They would suck it in and spew it out quickly. Some lettuce was fine.

I decided one day to see if they would eat from my hand, and lay on my stomach at the edge of the pool with bread crumbs in my hand, which I dipped slightly into the water. Captain Blood had no problem at all. He floated up to my hand, studied the bread, and suddenly sucked it in with a flick of his head. That startled me. And it tickled. My heart pounded in my head from the excitement of it.

The other fish weren’t so adventurous. I had to drop their food into the water for them to warily eat.

I began to bring other food − meat − especially for Captain Blood. It started with hot dogs. I broke off small pieces and put them into my hand, which I dipped into the water. At first, I thought Captain Blood was going to refuse the hot dog. He floated in the water for the longest time near my hand.

Then he did something totally different. He began to circle my hand — wide circles, at first. And as he circled he drew nearer, then suddenly leaped and grabbed the piece of hot dog! It scared me so I jerked my arm away from the pool and stood up, looking into the water.

Captain Blood was nowhere to be seen. Just the other fish milling about cow-like. I could see a thrashing about near the bottom of the pool, which stirred the silt and leaves into a cloudy haze, making it difficult to see anything.

I wondered had I done something wrong. Perhaps the hot dog lodged in Captain Blood’s throat! Perhaps he choked and drowned!

Can a fish drown?

I kept peering into the water. Then, I saw Captain Blood rising from the bottom of the pool. He was alive! He floated up slowly, and began to circle in a wide swathe. All the while, he seemed to peer up at me through the water. Watching me. Waiting for me.

I pulled off another piece of hot dog and put my hand into the water. Captain Blood reappeared out of the murky bottom. He was still alive! I hadn’t killed him!

This time Captain Blood made just a few passes before charging and grabbing the meat. Once again he disappeared into the depths of the pool.

“He’s gone to eat it by himself,” I thought.

The scene repeated until Captain Blood devoured all the hot dog. None of the other fish showed any interest at all. In fact, the other fish moved away from the area.

Over time I came back with different scraps of meat from the table: chuck roast, fried chicken, ham hocks, bits of steak. Each time Captain Blood feasted. He was seemingly insatiable. I fed the other fish bread, which Captain Blood now disdained.

This continued throughout the summer and into the fall.

After a time I noticed that Captain Blood seemed a bit larger than the other fish in the pool.

“Must be the meat,” I thought, and was pleased that I was the source of his growth.

When the weather turned cold I quit going to Mrs. Foy’s to feed Captain Blood. School and basketball and Boy Scouts took his place.

“What happens to fish in the winter?” I asked my mom when the days grew short.

“Not sure. I think they sort of hibernate.”

“What about the fish in Mrs. Foy’s pool?”

“Well, if they’re like frogs or snakes, then their bodies slow down. Like I said, hibernate. They’ve survived many winters, Dear. I wouldn’t worry.”

So I didn’t worry.

When it snowed three Wednesdays in a row, and got really cold, and school was cancelled, some of the guys and I went to Mrs. Foy’s pool to see what we could. Billy refused to step out onto the ice again, and I don’t blame him.

With the surface of the pond covered with snow, we went back home and grabbed a broom, then returned and swept what we could from the edge off the ice. It was dark underneath − the lily pads and all − and we couldn’t see anything. Just before we left because of the cold, I thought I saw something red flash under the ice. Captain Blood?

In the spring when the tree peepers began to sing, and when the dogwoods budded, and when the popcorn trees exploded with white blossoms, I went back to Mrs. Foy’s pool to check on Captain Blood and the other fish.

The pool was very murky, as though something had stirred the silt and the leaves at the bottom continuously.

Stare as I might, I could not see any fish. I stood with the spring sun warming my shoulders, my shadow cast across the pool’s surface. In the past, this was enough, and after a few minutes the Koi would begin to assemble.

I opened my bread bag of crusts and loaf ends, and crumbled some bread and dropped it to the into the pool. Ripples circled out and widened on the water’s surface.

Nothing.

Then, something moved down at the bottom of the pool. It was large. Turtle maybe? I knew snapping turtles ate fish. Maybe one had moved in when the ground had thawed. Maybe the turtle had eaten all of the Koi in Mrs. Foy’s pool. Maybe all the fish were dead, even Captain Blood.

I couldn’t see anything. It thundered overhead and a light spring rain started to fall, and I turned away to go home. At that moment I heard a loud splash in the water, and turned just in time to see something large with a bright red splotch dive to the bottom of the pool.

Captain Blood?

As I peered intently into the cloudy water, I felt watched. Something in the pool. Looked at me from the bottom. I neared the edge and bent over. The water began to move as something at the bottom moved. Circular. Slowly. Large. Shadowy. My heart beat quickly. My breath came shallow and rapidly. The rain increased, and the surface of the pool was perforated with watery bullets.

I turned and left, sighing in relief, though I wasn’t sure why. As if I had escaped something ominous, something horrific. In the back of my mind I toyed with what it might be, but shook the idea off as ridiculous and childish.

Still, the shadow in the pool stayed on my mind.

I had a terrible dream that night.

It was dark, but a full moon was out, and I was in Mrs. Foy’s back yard. Everything was bluish-black in hue. The Tudor house rose gauntly into the half-lit sky. Like mountains. It’s windows looked like black eyes, with the reflected moon for pupils. Ivy draped the walls like grisly hair.

Ahead of me was the pool, its waters black. The angel statue was spouting − but not water. Red. It was red. It was spouting red from its mouth, and the red splashed into the pool, shattering the surface. The water in the pool was dark red − almost-black red − and frothing and foaming.

I walked to the edge of the pool. All about on the grass were splotches of red foam, blowing slightly with the wind. The moon was reflected in pieces on the stirred water’s surface.

I looked into it.

A shadowy figure rose slowly from the pool bottom and hovered below the surface of the water. It was large − as large as me. At its top was a bright splotch of red that seemed to change shape as I watched. It seemed to throb − to pulse − as with a regular beat.

The figure began to circle the pool, slowly at first, and then more quickly, more frenzied. The angel statue suddenly vanished, and an eddy formed in the middle of the pool, spinning and sucking. The watery whirlpool drew me closer and closer to its center, pulling and pulling.

Spinning around the edge of the whirlpool was the shape, the bright red splotch, pulsing, spinning, pulling.

And I fell into the water.

* * * * *

At breakfast I stuffed a biscuit and a strip of bacon into my pocket. It was Saturday, and I was off and out of the back door before Mom could catch me.

“You’ve got chores to do!” she shouted behind me, but I was well on my way, cutting through the neighbor’s yard on my way to Mrs. Foy’s.

It was early morning, and the trees dripped rain from the all-night thunder-storm.

When I reached the stone wall surrounding Mrs. Foy’s back yard, I stopped. An ambulance and two police cars were parked in the drive near the house. The housekeeper was standing near the garage, weeping into a handkerchief, while a policeman questioned her.

I crept closer, trying not to be seen.

On the ground next to the pool was an oblong shape, covered with a sheet. The sheet was stained red at one end. Two men dressed in white coveralls wheeled a stretcher across the lawn, leaving wet tracks in the grass. They stopped at the oblong shape.

Another policeman was talking to a third policeman.

“Musta drowned sometime during the night, or maybe yesterday afternoon. It’s hard to tell. Maybe the coroner can tell time of death. But, what the hell chewed her leg like that?”

“Snapping turtle could do that. It’d take a few hours, I would think. Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen!”

The news said Mrs. Foy drowned in her pool. They said nothing about her chewed leg. They said nothing about the missing Koi. They said nothing about the murky pool and the large shadowy figure with the bright red splotch.

I said nothing, too.

Free is good.

9 Dec

 

 

Free is good. I heard a kid say that once.

Ray Ferrer's cover illustration for Through the Glass Darkly

Ray Ferrer’s cover illustration for Through the Glass Darkly

"Stinky and the Night Mare," by L. Stewart Marsden

“Stinky and the Night Mare,” by L. Stewart Marsden

 

I give away a free copy of either “Through the Glass Darkly,” or now, “Stinky and the Night Mare” to the person who lands on a one hundred count as far as following my online writing studio (this is the studio).

I go to their WordPress website and leave a message saying so, and asking them to email me for particulars at skipmars at gmail dot com. Did you get that? I write it that way so it won’t get picked up by spiders or phishers or spammers, right?

So, the people who were my 1300 and 1400 lucky guys either A) don’t like my writing, or B) think I’m a prevert and they will be stalked and end up on the local nightly news broadcast.

Or, C) None of the above.

Regardless, I’ve heard nothing from them. So, poo on ’em.

Therefore, I have two books to send out — free! I’m going to restrict the offer to those to people within the continental USA, because frankly, sending a book to Cambodia or the Philippines is pretty darn expensive, and I’m on a fixed income — although most of the time it’s broken. If you don’t know whether you are in the continental USA, google Map of the USA, continental.

So, as I type out this message (it’s 7:31 pm EST in my little North Carolina town), I’m offering you your choice of either “Through the Glass Darkly,” or “Stinky and the Night Mare,” free. No gimmicks. Free. Gratis. Stringless. Not even shipping costs.

And, I’ll sign the copy. You can say “I read him when.”

That’s for the FIRST TWO PEOPLE who follow the instructions. Don’t write a comment — doesn’t count. Liking doesn’t count, either. I already know some of you are going to ignore the instructions I just wrote about not commenting and not liking.

I’ll probably never EVER do this again. Ever.

Unless you are a movie star. Then I’ll reconsider. But, you have to prove it.

By the way: Stinky has her own Facebook page now at — guess where? — Stinky and the Night Mare. There’s a really nice YouTube reading of the book by some guy I don’t even know. I think he did a bang-up job. Ross Merrick is his name, and you can see the video by clicking . . . right . . . here!

 

— SM

Through the Glass Darkly monthly free story

19 Mar
Through_the_Glass_Da_Cover_for_Kindle
This month’s free short story, a selection from Through the Glass Darkly, can be downloaded along with 14 more stories by going to Amazon.com.

O Come, Thou Knight

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

She allows him to come to her every night. Wills him on some nights. What he does is monstrous, but exhilarating.

She is not a victim, but a willing participant. She welcomes the act – revels in its dichotomy of hell and heaven.

Night comes none too soon, as the drag of day is tedious and tiresome. She is exhausted when the sizzling sun finally dips beyond the deep wood.

The burnt day moistens into cottony, heavy air, cooling as it darkens. It freshens with stirred, nocturnal breezes, and the easy night symphony of its unseen orchestra. Crickets and katydids; tree frogs and night owls. Their blended melodies sift through the brushing sound of swaying oaks and elms; stir into a such a potent concoction that even the long dead sit up, awakened from their sleep.

He brings a new life; a meaningfulness she has never before experienced. He is Christ to an awareness she has never known before.

He has always appeared at that precise moment she teeters between despair and oblivion; and dangles over the yawing crevice that disappears into nothingness.

A gust of night wind, the sateen curtains billow in the breeze, and he is there, silhouetted against a harvest moon just cresting above the deep wood.

Effortlessly, gracefully, he glides to her bed where she awaits him, prone, barely concealed in her night clothes. He kneels and stares at her, his eyes tiny points in deep sockets.

He touches her arm lightly on the soft skin in her arm joint. Her veins are palpable, and pulse against his finger tips. It tickles it is so light.

Her long legs stir and rub rhythmically, like the tide, and she feels her womanhood warm.
.
The night. The moon. The breeze. The orchestral sounds. His touch. The throbbing in her veins, her legs, her mind.

She tips her head back, arching her neck in the moonlight; its prickly rays illumining her pale throat; veins beating; muscles tensing. The warmth moves from her loins to her arm to her neck.

His touch circles, cools and moistens; his shadow envelopes – a shroud of mystic fabric – a final and simple gown.

She, not fearful. He, not dark nor monstrous nor unwelcomed.

Another spritely, turning breeze dances through the window and slips about them both.
She closes her eyes and opens them one last time. Smiles genuinely at him, and softly whispers,“Thank you!”

He says nothing; strokes her brow gently; combs wisps of her hair with his fingers.

He stands and returns to the window, his graceful body silhouetted by the mooned sky. And he is gone.

She rises. No pain. No exhaustion. She turns and looks at the woman on the bed. Old. Tired. Resting. At peace.

She spins giddily toward the window, teared cheeks, a fresh breath of a breeze cupping her face.

Silhouetted against the large moon, she spreads apart the sateen curtains, and is gone.

Copyright © 2012 by Lawrence S. Marsden

Through the Glass Darkly now available on Amazon

10 Oct

At last!

After all of the rewriting and editing and formatting and revising and posting and revising and editing and rewriting — Through the Glass Darkly is online at Amazon.com under books under L. Stewart Marsden and ready for either purchase (paperback) or free download for Kindle!

Thanks to Ray Ferrer for his wonderful illustrations. Not sure the printing process does his work justice, but you be the judge.

Thanks to my daughter-in-law for her edits and Russian translations for Petya i volk.

And thanks to my son, Graham, for his patience with me and for formatting the book. It was a bear!

So, go and check it out!

Through the Glass Darkly coming to an Amazon near you . . .

10 Sep

 

 

The above is the cover design for my short story compilation, “Through the Glass Darkly.” It was laid out by my son, Graham Marsden (see Graham’s Story), and uses Ray Ferrer’s wonderful illustration talents. Ray’s blog is http://www.urbanwallart.wordpress.com.

This is my first attempt at a self-published work, and I am both excited as well as very nervous. Now comes the final uploading, once I’ve gone over it with a fine-toothed comb. Inevitably there will be mistakes. This will be a learning experience, no doubt.

To those of you for whom this is old hat, my hat’s off to you. I invite you, once it has been published by Amazon, to get either a hard copy, or an electronic download. I also invite your input and criticism.

There are fifteen short stories, some way longer than probably what a short story should be. Again, a learning experience. Not all stories have been illustrated. Most have, however. I’m really pleased with the job Ray did.

Consequently, I have removed all of the short stories that appear in the book from my blog, and will begin compiling new stories as they attack me.

Your fellow blogger,

L. Stewart (Skip) Marsden