Saturday, September 29, 2012


"Hey, Mister Manila.  My favorite lawyer. How're you today?  The usual?"

"Yep.  The usual, and come on, call me Sal.  Gotta be in court in half an hour, so I'll have just enough time."

"You got it.  A Magnifico Breakfast Burrito and steaming coffee, coming up."

It's the 'Taste My Taco,' parked along 1st Street, near Spring, Downtown.  Tecate Mexicalli, proprietor.  Then in red script, 'We cater Weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Coming-Outs, Clam Bakes, and sundry Festivities/Blowouts/Whatevers.  We're World Famous.'

Tecate ducks back into his truck.  "Gonna be a fantastic day today.  How'd your weekend go?"

"It was good," says Sal  "No...strike that.  It should I say it?...Stressful."


"I'm a lawyer during the week, and a Replacement Ref for the NFL on weekends. So, it was kind of hectic."

Tecate jumps back, face in the window.  He looks surprised, then angry, then hateful.  "You're a...what?"

"NFL. You know. I'm one of their Replacement Referees.  But no more.  The strike is over."

"A replace....ment?" Tecate's face turns gray-ish.  He breathes deeply, and pushes out a red plastic basket.   "Sick.  I feel sick.  Wait...I'll get you"

Sal looks down at the basket.  This is world famous?  Magnifico?  Pinto Bean slush, shredded half melted cheese, in a dried cracked tortilla?  And the coffee;  a Styrofoam cup, two thirds full, and definitely not steamy.  What?

Tecate slams the little window closed, and turns over the open sign.  'Sorry We're Closed/Cerrado.'  His voice is very loud.  "We're closed.  "Salir de aqui.  Vete."*

Sal sits on the cement wall, bites into the Burrito, and sips from the cup. 

"Something's wrong?" he says.  He shakes his head.  Not Tecate's finest hour.  Mushy and gooey and luke warm?  "This coffee...tastes...uggg?"  He pours it on the lawn behind the wall.

Thirty minutes later he's in court...

"...then this dude says he was the one who shot..."

"Objection, your honor.  Hearsay..." says Sal.

"Overruled, Mr. Manila.  I'll let it stand."

"...and he pulls this huge gun..."

"Objection, your honor," says Sal.  "Gun?  What gun.  We're assuming a gun not yet in evidence."

"Overruled, Mr Manila.  I'll  let it stand."

Sal sees splotches and spinning black spots.  The room slowly lists to the right?

"...then what did you do?  Did you wiped your fingerprints off the gun?..."

"Objection, your honor," says Sal.  "Prosecution is obviously leading the witness.  Any first year law student knows you can't..."

"Overruled, Mr Manila.  I'll let it stand."

"But, Judge Flog, how can you...?"

"Approach," says Judge Flog.  "We need to talk."

So, both lawyers approach the bench.

"I had my usual Breakfast Burrito this morning, Mr Manila.  Tecate told me.  How could you do such a thing?  A Replacement Ref?"  He looks at the Prosecution's Attorney, then back at Sal.  "You were making calls on the field that ruined games.  You're a fraud, masquerading as a real referee.   I don't know how you can show your face in public?  You're a disgrace, sir." He waves his hands in the air.  "That'll be all."

But, as Sal walks back to his table, his stomach wrenches, he doubles over, and falls.  He bounces off the table, hits the railing, and crashes face first to the floor.  Hard!

"What's going on, Mr Manila?  Get up, you're wasting the courts time here."  The judge raps his gavel.  "That's it, Mr Manila, you're in contempt.  Five days in lockup should give you time to think about what you've done."  He raps his gavel. " And...I suppose...we should also call 911?"

An hour later...

Dr. Cash talks with Nurse Hussy. "If I knew who this guys was, no way he'd be admitted.  My man Tecate, this morning, over breakfast, told me all about him.  An NFL Replacement Ref.  Such screw ups.  They had no idea what they were doing.  Guy deserves everything he gets.  Some kind of stomach poisoning.   He says he had some bad coffee.  Probably should pump his stomach, but...lets give it some time.  Let's let it naturally work its way out ."

Sal reaches out for the nurse. "Please, help me."

"Don't touch me," she says, jumping back.  In a panic, she looks at the Doctor, then runs from the room. 

The Doctor pulls up an IV stand, and throws on the IV bag. "We'll check back later.  Judge Flog told us to keep you in restraints.  I don't blame him.  Up to me you'd still be sitting in the Paramedic Van."   He leaves without looking back.

Two days later...

Hunger pangs growl like wild lions.  "Somebody?  Help me?  I'm hungry?  I'm Real Hungry."

In silence, Sal waits.  And listens.  Then a man in blue scrubs tiptoes in, takes down the IV, and rushes out.

"Hey," yells Sal.

There is a click at the door.

"Hey," he yells again.

And the lights go out. 

"Hey, you can't do this." 


And he yells into the darkness, "Oh my GOD. What have I done?"
*Get the hell away from me, slime bag.

HELP COME FROM:,,  Google/Images,

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Two wise guys, more or less, sit, their backs against the wall, at 'Luigi's Little Sicily,'  the Best Risotto in Boston.
"So, Sal?" says Nico. "You called me down here.  Whatcha  got.  It's a busy night. We gotta hit that dry cleaners, Shanahan's.  Can't let that flake off the hook.  $200 bucks.  What?  Guy has a caniption.  He should be ashamed. Nobody'd pay us they hear we let the guy skate. Then where'd we be? Screwed, you ask me."

"Nico, come on," says Sal. "You worry too much.  I'm thinking, we gotta move up in this organization, you know."

"You're telling me."

"Doing collections all me life.  Not my dream job."

"Okay?  Life of broken dreams.  So?"

"Here's what we gotta do. We gotta make The Boss know who the hell we are. We gotta do something for him.  That's what we gotta do."

"Yes...yes...yes...?"  Eyes on Sal, Nico gulps from a champagne glass.

"So, I'm writing him a letter," says Sal.  "The Boss reads it, he'll call us in, and say we're Gumbas, you know, and no more collecting from Bozos who don't want to pay.  We got more ambition than that, right."

Nico looks over the glass, and frowns.  "I'm still listening."

"Here's what I got so far."  Sal unfolds a piece of paper.  "Dear Mr. Carmine, 'The Boss,' Scuzziano...Maybe just Mr. Scuzziano...No, The Boss."  He looks up.  "Maybe we shouldn't write a letter.  Nothing in writing's probably be best.  We'll just discuss this with him over plates of Chicken Cacciatore."

"No," says Nico. "Something better.  Lobster Ravioli. It's The Boss."

"Or maybe Linguini with Mushrooms and Clams, I like that better, or maybe..."

"All right already.  Sal, focus.  What's this all about?"
Nico gulps a spoonful of Macaroni and Mozzarella.

"So," says Sal. "Here's what I've done.  The Boss will love this."


"Okay, okay.  The Boss likes baseball.  But he loves the Red Sox more, right?  And he thinks Mike Scioscia, manager of the Angels, is the best manager in Baseball.  So I'm thinking, we get Scioscia to manage the Red Sox.   What are the Red Sox, 20 games back right now?"

"Mike Scioscia?  Take over the Red Sox?  Yeah, The Boss would like that, but...Scioscia'd be nuts to leave the Angels.  Never happen, million years." 

"Why not.  Grease the right peo..."

"Have you seen the Angel's line up?" says Nico.  "Albert Pujols, and that pitcher C.J. Wilson, come on.  Greinke. What about Trout?  Guy's going for MVP."

Sal chews, spaghetti spun on his fork, half a dry meat ball. "But The Boss says Scioscia's the best manager in Baseball, real studious and all.  He's got a  notebook in front of him he keeps looking at, playing the percentages.  So I talked to Tony Goofalio..."

"You talked to The Belly...Tony Goofalio?"

"Yeah," says Sal.  "Close personal friend of mine.  Says he knows a guy, who knows a guy, says he can get Scioscia voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  He probably won't make it as a player, or as a manager, so this is his only chance."

"What?  Hall of Fame?  No way."

"Nico, there's nothing we can't do.  It's for The Boss.  Besides, it's already in the works.  I put out the story to TMZ, and FanNation.  'Red Sox Eye Scioscia for New Manager.'

"Yeah I heard, last week, Sports Center."  Nico looks down and stirs his macaroni and soupy cheese with his spoon.

"Now The Angel owner Arte Moreno has to come out and say there's no way he'll fire Scioscia."

"Yeah, I heard that too." 

"And when they say it'll never happen, then you know it will probably happen.  It's now in the works.  See how I did that?"

"But," says Nico. "Scioscia has to go for it?"

"He will.  Scioscia wants to close out his career near his home, not way out there in California.  He graduated from Springfield High, suburbs of Philly.  The Hall of Fame, he can't say no."

Nico looks at Sal, then shovels in a large spoonful, macaroni and cheese, Little Sicily style, and sips Coconut Brandy, straight, the good stuff.  "I don' know."

Sal slaps the table. "The Boss said that Scioscia was better than Yogi Berra, or even Campanella...or Thurman Munson.  Better.  So when he hears about this, we're in."

"But, the Hall of Fame?"

Sal smiles and sops up spaghetti sauce with a toasted piece of Italian French Bread.  His mouth full, "How can this not work?  Scioscia has nothing left to prove?  He'll jump at a chance like this."

Nico, ready to leave, grabs his coat. "You sure about this?" He tosses $40 on the table.

Sal turns, surprised. " He'll be living in Wellesley, and commuting by helicopter.  With The Red Sox back in the World Series, The Boss'll be tickled to death.  Trust me, Nico, we got this in the bag."

HELP COMES FROM:,,,  Google/Images,  Scioscia/Wikipedia,

Sunday, September 23, 2012


A man in an black bathrobe sits at a computer.  An eight egg omelet on his left, JobSearch on the monitor in front of him, and Bingo on the floor to his right.  The man sloshes tequila into his orange juice. 

"Not much we can do, now, but look for another job," he says to Bingo.

Bingo barks.

The Man picks at his omelet, stabs a chunk, and wolfs it down.  He raises his eyesbrows, and smiles down at Bingo.

Bingo blinks, and smiles back, as good dogs do.

"Here's the jobs they got, my friend," says the Man.  He rubs Bingo's nose, and points at the screen.  "Automotive Body Technician...Patient Coordinator...Help Desk Consultant with ACH Payments Experience.  What is ACH?  Hmmm.  Credit Manager?" He looks at Bingo. "That means bill collector." 

The Man bites off a piece of bacon, tosses the rest to Bingo, and stares at the ceiling.
"I know what I have to do."  He breathes deeply.  "Same thing I've been doing."  He winks at Bingo.

Bingo barks again, and nods her head.
The Man thumbs his iPhone.  "Hello?  Is this WWE?"

"Hello, WWE can I help...Yeah, this is WWE.  This is Kaitlyn."

"Thee Kaitlyn,"  says the Man.

"I'm in the ring, in front of thousands one minute, the next I got this torn tendon, so they got me on the phone.  Attacked from behind, can you believe.  Somebody with a mask."

"This is Marty Mc Thornton.  NHL?  You've heard of me?"
"Bone Snapper Thornton.  Of course," she says.  "Yeah, I've heard of you.  You kidding?  Who hasn't?"

He bites into a piece of buttered toast. "Okay," he says.   "Reason I'm calling.  You've probably heard the NHL is pretty much shut down for the season."  He sips fortified O.J.  " stay in know, since I got a name already..."

"Bone Snapper, yeah.  We are always looking for, you know, new talent.'d have to talk with HR, you know."

"I'm known as a goon in hockey circles.  An enforcer.  That's what I do.  Kinda goes with WWE.  I was thinking, it's the same thing."

"Yeah, sounds good to me.  Matter of fact we do have an opening of sorts.  John Cena, he's recovering from elbow surgery.'ll have to work on a few things, like the Chickenwing Over the Shoulder Crossface? 

"Well, I don't think...

"The Stomach Claw? and  The Front Chancery?

"...I'll have a problem...

"How about the Head and Neck Rake?"

"...'cause I'm a real fast learner."

"I'd hire you, but," she says without taking a breath.  "Once your strike is over, you'll be saying adios.  We're looking for someone who'll stick around, be one of us.  Someone who wants to be a star."

Bone Snapper reaches down and pets Bingo's back. "Well, Kaitlyn.  Here's the real problem.  The NHL is starting to push guys like me out of the League.  Fans all say they like the fights, but the owners say fights turn away new fans.  My part in the game is mostly as an enforcer.  I won't last one day if they go with these new Ontario Hockey League non-fighting rules."

"A job, huh?  Of course, we'll have to see Mr. Cena...I'm sorry...are you crying?  Was it something I said?  You don't want to be a star?  Is that it?"

"No ma'am," he says.  Bingo puts her paw on Bone Snapper's leg.  "I get a little emotional.  It's the League. They're destroying the game.  The Ontario Hockey League's is talking about no more than 10 fights a season. 

"Less fighting, huh?"

"I know.  I'll be suspended real quick, if the NHL adopts these new rules.  If they do, then I'm as good as screwed."

"Well,  guess who just walked in?" says Kaitlyn.  "It's Hulk Hogan.  And he brought me coffee.  Well ain't that nice?  Hey, I'm talking to a guy from the NHL.  Marty Mc..."

"Hello.  This is the Hulkster.  Who is this?"

"Bone Snapper. Is this really Hulk Hogan?"

"In da flesh," says the Hulkster.  "Well, you wanna be a WWE-er, Snapper, you're going to have to lean a few holds.  Think you're up for it?  Like the Bite of the Dragon...

"I know...

"Or the Standing Headscissors...the Stepover Toehold Facelock...

"...I got...

"...the Hangman's Choke, and of course you'll want to Skin the Cat."

"...what it takes.  WWE sounds like a perfect fit for me."

"The NHL,"  says the Hulkster.  "Old ladies wringing their hands and clutching their pearls trying to get rid of fighting.  Instead, they should outlaw all those cheap shots, like elbows to the head, leaping hits, boarding from behind, knee to knee hits.  That's what causes the serious injuries.  Hey, I watch hockey."

"You're telling me.  People ought to watch the non-fighting Euro League.  It's all cheapshots and stick swinging.  That's what happens when there's no enforcer."

"Okay, Bone Snapper.  This sounds real good. Why not drop by tomorrow morning?  I'll get CM Punk, Sheamus, and maybe Beth Phoenix to drop by.  Show us what you got."

"I'll be there.  Thanks man...sir."

Bone Snapper slowly lays the iPhone on the table.  They want him in the WWE.  Outstanding.

In between barks and 'Holy Cows,' they finish off the rest of the bacon, half a dozen pieces of toast, and a brace of greasy hash browns.  And, with gusto, they party for the rest of the morning.  But, knowing Bingo's propensities, Bone Snapper moves his bottle of tequila well out of Bingo's reach.

Wikipedia: NHL, Google/Images,,,

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


My head in the refrigerator, I search for...a pickle?  No, but didn't I buy some strawberries? No, no no, something sweet, something dark, something chocolate.  Yes, and there it is...

Then I hear my ringtone:  Steven Tyler yelling, 'Answer your damn phone.'

I jerk.  My head clunks against something hard, in the door.  A bottle of apple cider vinegar?  And it hurts. "Ooooouch.  Damn."

Rubbing my head, I reach the phone.  "I...yes...Hello?  This is Brentwood.  What time is it?"  The clock says 5:03 am.  Yikes.

"Who may I ask..." I ask.

"It's me. Danica.  Danica Patrick.  What am I going to do?"

"Beats the hell out of..."

"I thought I had way more time before something like this.  She's only fourteen.  How can this be?"

"It's so the...morning...?" I say.  So, this is what a sunrise looks like.  I've always wondered.  Oh boy.  "Maybe, Danica, we should start at the beginning here. did you get this number?...if I may ask."

"Brentwood, I read your SportsBlog when I 'm not driving and stuff.  Look, I tried my agent, but she's in Hawaii, with some guy named Ronaldo, and my manager is to hell and gone, on some kind of trip up the Amazon."

"So of all the other people in the world..."

"She's only fourteen?  Chelsey O'Reilly, that's her name?  And people already know her.  Driving stock cars in some backwater burg up in Canada.  Agassiz Speedway, British Columbia. She's stealing all my style, all my fire.  She can't be doing this to me."

"Danica, my dear.  It's okay.  Now let's step back, and..."

"She had her picture on Yahoo, with her lucky pink fingernails.  Gimme a break.  No body can drive with those things on.  Trust me, I've tried.   Pink.  Now isn't that cute.  The next woman stock car celebrity?  I'm nothing all of a sudden?  Yesterday's chopped liver?  I don't think so, Little Missy."

"I understand," I say.  "But can't this wait until...?"

"Hey, I am real sorry about that, but, hey man, I got a situation here.  I got maybe what?  Ten years max.  My bikini body ain't getting any younger, you know.  She's only 14, and still growing.   She can only get better."

She breathes heavily.  "This can't be happening.  I'm so screwed."

Do I hear a tear?

"Danica," I say.  "Maybe winning a race, you know, could be good for your image..."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, win a race.  I know.  But I've won races.  I'm the top lady in racing.  Me.  My fans want to see me.  It's hard work." 

"Chelsey O'Reilly?" I say. "I've read about her.  Her father was a racer too.  Now she's driving the same 1968 Chevy Chevelle he drove."

I click on my computer, move the mouse, and type in Google.

"Here it is.  They call themselves Team O’Reilly.  Driver, Chelsey.  Pit crew, her two sisters, Chrystal and Veronica, Mechanic, Dad, and Moral Support?  That's Mom Margaret.  It's a family affair."

"Damn.  It's perfect.  She's perfect...and she's so young.  Soooo young."


"You're right. I could manage a few more top tens, but racing's so hard.  All those other cars. Those guys are good.  Trying to stay in shape. Doing personal appearances.  And now this?"

"Danica, do you seriously think this Chelsey is a real threat?"

"Helloooo.  Her motto is just don't finish last.  Now ain't that cute.  The under dog everybody can get behind.  It's just unfair."

"Well, according to this Yahoo article, she's been practicing ever since she was..."

"It's like I'm a target out there," says Danica.  "I'm crashing all the time, skidding into the wall, and when I spin out right in front of the grandstands, my car doesn't even burst into flames.  Somebody fixed it that way.  It's so humiliating.  I know they're out to get me."

"Tell you what.  Why not sponsor a race up there?  At this Agassiz Speedway?  The Danica 300?  Why fight it?"

"I guess...I could do that?" she says. "That's good.  Sure, she's stealing my fans, stealing my thunder, stealing my title 'Queen of Auto Racing,'  her and her family.  But I'm above all that.  Is that what you're saying?"

"Why not?" I say.  "Why not buy a percentage of her.  Team O'Reilly.   Come on, she's no competition...yet.  What other woman can really take your place?  Promote her yourself."


"I like that," she says.  "Like I'm one step ahead of her.  I'm the bigger person.  Brilliant.  And if she gets hot, I'm getting a slice of her action.  Brentwood, how can I thank you?"

"I don't want you thinking like Tanya Harding.  Think like a big corporation.  They just buy out their competition.  Do the same thing."

"You're right.  She's nothing.  But she thinks she's so cute.  They picked her to hand out trophies last weekend.  So she buys herself a tiara to wear.  Hell of lot more to being a NASCAR driver.  A whole lot more."

"She hangs around the track. She drives against drivers twice her age.  She's a woman in a man's world.  Sounds a lot like you, Danica?"

"Kinda.  You wouldn't believe what I did before I  You're right.  Fans will want somebody else, sometime soon, I know that.  I guess I could start winning races, but this is better.  Rise above these Stock Cars. Start training the next generation.  I like that.  Brentwood you're the best."

"Well, I'm glad I could..."

"I'm going to call her right now."

"She probably in the pits."

"Yeah, polishing those long, pink, stupid...real stupid...fingernails of hers."



Friday, September 14, 2012


I'm standing outside the Montana Galley, looking this way, then that way. A man pushing a grocery cart, with two plastic bags in it, passes by.  I say Hi, and he says Hi back.  I watch him wander down the sidewalk.  It's a hot day.

I've finished my Sports Post, and look forward to a tall, cold glass of buttermilk, to settle back, and relax around something other than four empty walls and a computer.

As I wipe my forehead, and turn to go inside, a man in a floppy hat approaches and holds the door for me.  But?...Is this?...Can't be...?  Can it?  He enters behind me and walks briskly toward the far booths.  Another man awaits. They shake hands, and he scootches into the booth.

I feel it throughout my body.  I know who it is.  Right here.  It's Al Pacino.  Oh, boy.  I can't let this get away, I have to listen in.  So I move quickly, and slide into the booth right next, and...

"Al, glad you could make it.  I got something here that's a killer, trust me."

"Mo Silver," says Al.  "I haven't heard from you in two months. My agent loses my number, I'm supposed to believe?"

"So," says Mo.  "What are you, in costume?  Crazy fans will attack...I get it.  Anyway."  He sips his coffee.  "Paterno."

"Paterno?"  Pacino frowns, and squints at Mo. "What?  Wait.   Don't tell me.  They're doing a movie about Joe Paterno?  No way.  After all that 's gone on, you want me to play Paterno?   Please, Mo, say it isn't so?  Who would be so crazy...?"

"Me. I bought the rights to do the book, 'Paterno.'   It's mostly about his last two years."

"And you're looking at me?  Come on.  If he was some kind of Mafioso, there'd be no problem.  But this guy?

"You'll be perfect." 

"No question I can do it.  Last time I played a blind man, I won an Oscar.  Coaches yell a lot.  I like that in a character...but...?"

"This story is stranger than fiction," says Mo. "We have to capture the insanity of it all."

"So...that's why I got a guy on Facebook asking me about my next picture, could I do justice to the subject?  Did you tell anybody about this?"
"Well, I think I might have..."

"You didn't...Oh man...Mo?"

"I thought you'd jump at the chance to do this.  An incredible roll, Al."

"Maybe for Peewee Herman.  He'd go for it."

"I'm serious here.  I though about him but he doesn't look anything like Paterno."

"You want to glorifying this guy?  Who remembers the football anymore.  It's all so sick."

My buttermilk arrives.  The waitress smiles, then looks over, directly at Pacino. He's sitting right recognition.  She glides right on by me, with coffee for Pacino.

"Who's better at real-life characters. Come on.   Kevorkian and Roy Cohn.  You've done football before, 'Any Given Sunday.'"

Al sits back.  "Maybe...If it's done Noir.  Black and White.  Like an old B movie.  That way you'd get people to pay to see it.  But...those movies were about killers, and guns, and wild psycho crazy..."

 A  man spoons a scoop of Potato Salad.  He waves from the adjacent booth.  "We heard you talking about doing a movie about Joe Paterno.  Isn't it a little too soon to come out with something like that.  We just lived through it."

The man next to him, forks Cole Slaw, "You'll never get  Al Pacino.  He'd never do it.   I'd be afraid of who I was sitting next to in some dark theater."  They laugh.

 "Joe Pesci," says Potato Salad.  "There's the guy for Paterno.  But Sandusky...?"

"I don't know how many movies I...ah...Pacino's... got left," says Pacino. "They need an out of touch, crotchety, old codger who thinks he can still act.  They need Clint Eastwood."

Cole Slaw slaps the table.  "You know who looks a lot like a younger Sandusky?  Andy Dick."

Again laughter.

Potato Salad smiles, "Might work as a TV Movie. 'Tonight, on ABC Family...'"

"You guys think Pacino's the guy?  His last football movie, Any Given Sunday,  really sucked."

Al slumps, and puts his head on his fist. He shakes his head.

A large man,  wearing a Phillie's Cap, approaches the booth.  His voice is loud.  "You won't be making a movie about Joe,"  His face sweats, his eyes glare red.

"We don't want your film crews to campus anymore, jerks filming us without our permission.  No more."

Al and Mo sit up straight.  "What?" says Al.  "Who are you?"

"All you Hollywood types are freaks." He points at Mo.  "It'll be more crap.  Let it go. You're not making any movie about Joe.  I'm warning you."  His hands shake, his lips tremble, his breath heavy.

"Why are you yelling at us?" says Mo.

"I know you.  I've been following you..."

"Facebook," says Mo.  "Damn."

Such a loud voice, I turn, and look up at the guy.  An open suit coat, a sloppy tie, shirt tail out.  A gun sticks out of his belt.

I freeze.  He's not kidding.  Don't panic.  Think.  What to do?

"No one," very loud now, "and I mean no one's going to disgrace Joe. Why don't you bastards make a movie about the hard working people, the students, people who care about what happened.  They live this tragedy every day."
His hands are now fists.

"Joe didn't do anything wrong.  He didn't molest anybody. He didn't see anybody molest anybody. And you're not going to say he did."

He pulls out the gun, and waves it at Al, then at Mo.

Silent sucking gasps throughout the place.

No thought, it's now. I inhale, and punch out at his hand, hitting his wrist.  He wobbles, but holds on to the gun.  His mouth drops, he growns, and he looks at me.
Oh boy.  Head down, I slide out of the booth, grab a fork, and jab it high on the man's right arm. Like slow motion, he stares down at the fork, then at the blood. Then back at me.

 His legs buckle, and he goes down on one leg.  He lets go of the gun and grabs for the fork. 

The gun?  Well, it bounces off the the table, onto the floor, and, Ka-Whoosh.

There's a combined jump throughout the places.

And who gets it.  Right in the left butt?  Pacino.  In and out and into the back of the booth somewhere. 

Eyes big, Al  blinks, and falls sideways into the booth. "I've been hit.  I've been hit.  My pants.  I just bought these pants."
I twist, grab my glass and throw buttermilk in the gunman's eyes.  As his hands jut up, I crack the glass against his forehead.  And if that wasn't enough, he takes a staggering boot shot in the ribs from Cole Slaw.

Crawling, he gets to his knees, then he's up and running. Through the tables, he pushes a waitress to the floor, careens off the glass door, and outside onto the sidewalk. 

I'm after him, yelling "Call 911," not sure how close to get.  He ducks into the Kinkos at the corner.  Knowing there's a back door, I see him fly out of it and into his car. 

The sirens are there, so I point as the motorcycle cop skids up to me, and he's off in chase.  Our gunman now stands no chance.  None.

Meanwhile, back at the Montana Grill, paramedics patch up Pacino's butt, while he struggles a smile with every autographs.

Mo thumbs his iPhone.  "Mo Silver here.  Harrison Ford, I'd like to talk with...he's out of the country?"
"Mo, come on.  I've been shot over here.  Shot real bad."

"Yeah, yeah," he says.  "You'll live.  I gotta get somebody else now.  I'm wondering, maybe I can get  Gary Busey...or Weird Al.  He hasn't done anything for a long...Wait.  I got it."

Mo thumbs again.  "I'd like to talk to Woody Allen.  Yes.  Yes.  Now we got us a Movie."


Sunday, September 9, 2012


It is 10 am.  The Convention Center opens at noon.  Customers, (Isn't everybody a customer?), will talk, ask questions, and a few will make deals.  A large banner hangs overhead;  National R.I.P Expo.  'Let this be a killer year.'

  And they come from all over the country;  Casket Builders, Urn Makers, Body Parts Harvesters.  You name it.  Even an author who writes humorous sympathy cards.  They're all here to show their wares.

Two men meet in the middle of an aisle.

"Hi, Wesson Reaper.  How're you doing.  Call me Wes."

"Hi Wes.  Smitty," says Smitty.  They shake hands.  "Smith Grimm, really, but it's Smitty."  He looks down the aisle.  "Wow. Place is huge.  All these booths.  This is my first Expo."

"Oh, I've been to a lot of these.  When I got out of school, I did construction, hammer banger, doing whatever, mostly furniture.  Then with a friend, we build this coffin.  We sold it to a Funeral Home the next day, at five times what it cost. So we opened a casket company.  That was thirty five years ago. Been building and selling these things ever since."

The sign over his booth. 'Reaper Casket Co., Fine Pine for the End of the Line.' 

"Kinda the same with me," says Grimm. "I'm used to build caskets, but selling them, hanging around in a monkey suit, trying to be all heartfelt got old.   All I wanted to do was make pots.  I sold one as an urn, and well, talk about a mark up.  So I kept at it. "

Grimm points to his Booth. 'Grimm's Urns, LLC.  Once you Burn, You'll need my Urn.'   "I'm looking for new ways to advertise.  You know, get people to know I exist."

"We've been opening up new markets ourselves.  A report came out a few months ago, all statistics.  I don't know if you saw it?   The "Mere Mortals," by Bill Barnwell.  He showed how NFL Football players live longer than MLB Baseball players.  So we're sponsoring a Little League Team."  His voice is lower, and he moves closer. "Start them young, so they'll be our customers sooner.  Harvard Business School 101. Yeah?"

"Well, yeah, hate to say it, but yeah," says Grimm. "Our business needs grieving relatives."

Reaper smiles.  "That's right. We're even thinking of starting a Pee-Wee Baseball League.  Two to five year olds. It's good business."

"So, Little League, huh?"

"Yeah, since Baseball players are dying sooner, let's help the along."  They laugh.

A young lady in a tight black skirt struts by, carrying somebody's left arm, wrapped in Saran Wrap.  "Hey, guys.  Getting ready for a big day?"  She puts the arm under her other arm and sticks out her hand.  "Calamity,  Calamity Doom."

"We were just discussing the Mere Mortals Report," says Grimm.  "Football players living longer than Baseball players.  Have you read it?"

"Oh, yeah," she says.  "We looked into that study.  We thought contact Football would be a place for our advertising, but then we analyzed his statistics very closely."
She points with the Saran Wrapped Left Arm.  "Come on, I got it at my booth."

Her booth borders theirs.  A Black and Blue sign, '   All in the name of Science.'  hangs from wires, along with tin arms and legs, hooked to a metal torso.

"I sell body parts,"  says Calamity. "What they do with them after that, I don't care.  They can feed them to their cats, for all I care."

She opens a large loose-leaf notebook.  "Here."  She points.  "'The Mere Mortals Thesis.'"

"They took MLB and NFL players from 1959 to 1988, who played for five years. Guy's results were  Baseball players died sooner than Football player.  Well, we checked it out, and they don't die any sooner.  We found that Baseball players played longer, and were older during the 29 years tested.  After doing some research, they all live about the same age, except NFL Football players complain more about aches and pains than the Baseball players.  But who cares about Quality of Life.  It's the Loss of Limb Rate.  That's what I'm after?"

"So," says Reaper.  "Trying to encouraging kids to play football, won't make much difference?"

"This report is all wrong," she says.  She taps the notebook with the Left Arm.  "Guy used something called Advanced Metrics?  Look, forget this.  Just concentrate your efforts on...and I say this...just between us...a more violent society.  I like cage fighting, talk about brutality."

She straightens the display of quart jars on her table; jars full of fingers and toes, and is that a...?"

"Better yet," she says, scratching her back with the Left Arm.  "I'm pushing Government Deregulation as much as possible.  No EPA, no FDA, no OSHA.  Cut funds for Police or Fire.  Let everybody Bare Arms.  It's their right.  And Junk Food. Let them eat it 'til they're blue in the face.  That way we'll never have a shortage of bodies parts...or customers for you guys, either."

An over weight security guard bellies up to the booth, and points to the sign. "How much do you pay for parts?" he asks, flexing his right hand, and wiggling his fingers.  "I'm way behind in my mortgage, and I was wondering...could I...?"

Grimm and Reaper wave to Calamity, letting her get back to business, and stroll over toward their booths. 

"I'll have to re-read that report," says Reaper . "Maybe it's some phony study done by the NFL because they have all these law suits against them.  Makes it look like Football players live longer?"

"This deregulation thing sounds better to me," says Grimm. "Less safety regs sure can't hurt. Why didn't I think about that. want some lunch?  Get something, a Hot Dog and maybe a Coke before the crowds show up?"

"Well, I'm on this longevity diet." says Reaper.  "I'm thinking a salad; Collard greens, Swiss chard, Green beans.  Maybe some Tofu..."

The Mere Mortals Blog.,,,

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


I sit with Helena at the Montana Grill.  It's a two-ish, low energy, customer thin, hot afternoon.

As she smiles up at me, and her blond hair waves, I feel even hotter.  (That's a good thing).  Besides, she owns the place.

She fans her face with her hand.  "Let me sell this place, and we'll run off to Hawaii.  You're not doing nothin.'"

"Hawaii, huh?  Have to be First Class, cause I don't do coach.  I'd like to, but I got stuff to..."

"What's stuff?" she says, again with that smile, and that wave.

Oh, boy.

A man in dark glasses, red pinky ring, and gold chain, (more than one), sits in the booth next to ours.  He looks around the place.  He has no smile.

Two older men move from another booth and sit down with him. 

"Mr. Martin, and Mr. Lewis.  I presume." he says.  "Glad you could make it."  Now a slight smile.

They shake hands.

"Woody," says Helena.  "We could be on the beach in Waikiki, right now...with the Trade Winds blowing..."

"So," says Martin from the next booth.  "What is this all about.  I got about an hour before I gotta get back to the shop.  You said something about money?  A lot of money."

A lot of money?  My ears physically grow bigger.  Money?  A lot of money?

"The man on the phone," says Lewis.  "He didn't really tell us anything.  This isn't some kind of lame Cop sting is it, because you got the wrong..."

"No, Gentlemen, nothing like that.  My name is Palermo Sicily, but just call me Pauley. Coffee?" he asks?"

They both nod. 

On cue, (a sixth sense), Helena scootches out of the booth.  Holding a full pot of coffee, she greets the three, giggle, pours, then waves for a waitress.  And all three stare as she comes back, perfect Blond hair, and that walk.  Did I say she's super super curvey? 

Oh, Boy.

"Why not Hawaii?" she says.  "It's like a different world..."

As I glance over Helena's head, I see Pauley reach into a briefcase, pull out two envelopes, and push them across to Martin and Lewis.  "You asked about money.  We'll let's start with this."
They look inside the envelopes.  $10,000 in cash.  They touch it, look at each other, then look back at Pauley.

"Short and Sweet, Gentlemen.  We know you're substitute NFL refs.  You're on the field for maybe one more week, we don't know.  I represent a few powerful men who wager on The NFL.  We choose one Sunday a season to bet.  We chose next Sunday.  As you well know every NFL game has Overs and Unders.  Our strategy is to only bet the Overs."

Both men nod. 

Pauley's voice is lower. "Our strategy is simple.  We bet only on a sure thing.  That way we can't lose.  Only once a year, so our operation flies under the radar.  No one likes losing, do they Gentlemen?"

"Losing is for suckers." says Martin.

"Winning is better," says Lewis.

"...lying on the beach sipping a cool...I don't know...something with a lot of rum in it..."

"Shush," I say.  "I'm trying to listen.  If they're saying what I think they're saying...?"

"Basically," says Pauley.  "Here it is."  He removes two sheets of paper from his briefcase, and slides one to each.  "It's in writing, so it'll be easy to memorize by Sunday.  One sheet.  Let's quickly go through it."

Mr. Martin, and Mr. Lewis hunch over the table.  They follow along with their fingers, word by word. 

1.  There will be a minimum of five penalties per team.

"Five penalties minimum, guys." says Pauley.  "This is to show the fans you're working, doing your job.  No penalties would look a bit awkward, know what I mean?"

2.   You will be told by phone what the Over number is.

"Okay, the total score must be over that number.  It's usually around fifty to fifty-five.  I'm sure you guys know what Overs and Unders is all about.

 3.   Your job is done once the total score goes Over that number."

"...on a surfboard, out on the waves, in that warm water...oh...OH..."

"Shshuushsh, Helena, sweetheart.  I'm trying to listen..."

"So, Gentlemen.  Any questions?  Pretty cut and dried.  Bad calls will simply be chalked up to your inexperience."

Both men re-read their duties, working their lips as they read.  They both nod.

"We understand," says Lewis.

"So," says Martin.  "If there's a long pass, close to a touchdown or something, I call pass interference...automatically?"

"You got it," says Pauley.  "And if there's a long run, there will be no Holding or Offsides, or any Roughing the Passer.  You want a high score to cover the Overs."

They both nod, look up from their papers and smile.

"Look Gentlemen, this is a win-win," says Pauley. "I know the NFL isn't making you rich.  Two weeks from now if everything goes as planned, you'll each get another envelop with $10,000."

They look at each other.  Both blink.
"But...what if...we don't want to do this," says Martin.  He rubs his chin.  "We might want to be...honest...refs, and hope that our good work on the field gets us a permanent job with the NFL."

"Well," says Pauley. "That would really be unfortunate,"   He looks out the window.  "Please, let me explain.  We've been doing this, one Sunday a season, working with the real refs, since 1981.  It's really a long time tradition with us.  We have no problem with one game a year.  We would certainly not want anyone else to know our strategy.  We bet big, and I mean big, on this one Sunday."

"But there's only two of us.  We can't do everything."

"The less people known about us, the better.  Loose lips, you know.  And even if this Referee Strike is settled before Sunday, and the real refs are back on the field, you just keep the cash, our gift for keeping your mouths shut about all this.  You understand."

"...we'll go to a luau, and drink...something... cool...something with rum...Lots of rum..."

"Helena, come on...shshshuuuuuush."

"Besides," says Pauley, picking at his fingers.  "Mr Martin, your mother would certainly be disappointed.  Doesn't' she live alone on West 31 St Street, in Bayonne, over near the Library?  And Mr. Lewis, your two grandsons, Jimmy and Billy, up in Portland.  Don't they walk to school together early in the morning?  Lincoln High School.  Isn't that just off South West Salmon Street?"

Both men breathe deeply.  Their faces turn pink.

"Just saying," says Pauley.  "This is very important to us.  How can you lose, Gentlemen.  Mr. Martin, wouldn't your mom like a visit?  You haven't visited for how long?  Fourteen years isn't it.  And Mr Lewis, wouldn't those two young boys like new bikes for their birthdays?"

Pauley looks at his watch.   "Gotta go.  Good Luck, Gentlemen.  It's been nice meeting you.  We'll be watching this Sunday." 

The three shake hands.  Pauley grabs his briefcase and is gone.

Martin and Lewis look at each other, at their small envelopes, at each other again, then laugh.
"I should go back and see my mom, you know."

"Those kids would sure go nuts over new bikes."

They both slide out and walk, (more like bounce), out the front door.

"...and I won't have to be nice to  everybody...Wait?...Did I hear that right, those guys were talking about...fixing a foot ball game?...No...?"

"You got it," I say.  "They're substitute NFL referees and they were talking about betting on games."

"Well," she says.  " something.  I can't have that going on in my restaurant.  I should call the Police."

"No, no,"  I say.  "You can't.  They probably know where your second cousin does her dry cleaning.  Don't worry, I got this."

I thumb my iPhone, and call my favorite bookie, down in Florida.

"Hello?  Who's this?" says a low voice.

"I'd like to talk with Key West."

"Who wants to know?"

"Key, it's me, Brentwood." 

"Hey.  Woody.  Been awhile. So, gotta tip for me on a horse?  Belmont?  Del Mar?"

"I wanna bet on all the NFL games this Sunday.  The Overs.  Can you do that for me.   $1,000 each."

"Not a problem.  But...Hey?...You sound way too confident...Wait?  You know something?"

"Just a hunch, Key.  You know me.  Taking a trip to Hawaii so a little extra cash'd be nice.  Hope this pans out."

"What do you know, Woody.  Tell me."

"Thanks Key.  Talk to you next week." 

"Real fishy, Woody, but...okay, all the Overs.  You got it.  Overs, huh?  Okay...?"

Helena looks at me, then out at Martin and Lewis, standing outside the front window, then back at me.  She starts to smile.

Her eyes narrow, hold on me, then open wide.  "Hey," she says.  "I gotta go get me a new bikini."

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