Tuesday, December 24, 2013


I was born in the Bronx way back in 1902. 

St. Anne’s orphanage was the only home I ever knew till I went north years later. The place was crazy; a lotta little midgets running around makin’ a lotta noise.  I guess I was one of ‘em, except I was no midget – I was an elf.  I stayed in that place for 30 years until they figured out I wasn’t no kid! So I packed my shit up and hit the road. I joined the army for a while, got into some action at Omaha Beach even. After dat, I never trucked with the military much.

I joined the circus for a while – but the bearded lady and I didn’t get along. The fact was, I couldn’t stand life on the road livin’ wit all them freaks – I was longing for a fambly, if you get my meanin’. 

One night, Christmas Eve if you gotta know - I was on the roof of my tenement building because my landlady didn’t like my cigar smoke.  She always smelled it through the vents and complained so I went up on the roof. I was feeling lonesome as hell too, wit the snow fallin’ and all streets quiet and empty. To be honest, I crawled out on the ledge. I was thinkin’ of just ending it. I was just a lowly Elf, livin’ off racetrack bets and scroungin’ for handouts. 

I was a Bronx kid, though. I couldn’t do it. Plus, that street looked like it could hurt a guy real bad falling from dat height.

I went back on the roof and finished my stogie, lookin’ up at the twinklin’ snowy sky. It was damned cold. I never felt so bad in my whole life.

I saw sumpin’ then, over the East River. Looked like plane or some kinda flying object. I tracked it for a while and realized it was comin’ right towards me! I ran back and ducked behind a ventilator shaft. 

I heard bells, and some guy yelling. I heard da soft thump of somethin’ landing. 

Now don’t get me wrong – I ain’t no pansy or nuthin’ – but this was strange. I can deal with stormin’ a beachhead and all, but the unknown always unnerves me, y’know? 

I peeked around the corner an I saw animals or somthin’, shakin’ snow off themselves. Everytime they did that, bells would jingle. There was some fat shmoe sittin’ in a red sled too. All of a sudden I hear my name! 

“Charles! Charles! Come out from behind there!” 

There was a silence as I was trying to figure out what to do. 

“Who wants ta know?” I said after a while.

I peeked over my hiding spot and saw the lard-ass comin’ towards me. He was big – triple my size – but I figured if I bit his knee caps the odds would be evened out. 

He stuck his head around the vent, and stared right at me. 

“Charles! I found you!” he said. He had dis soppy smile on his face, what you could see of it anyway with that friggin’ large white beard. 

“Listen Mack …” I started to say. 

 “Charles! You must come with me! You don’t belong here. You belong up at the North Pole with the others!”
I looked at dis guy and thought he was nuts. “You shittin’ me?”

He straightened up and crinkled his nose.

“I’m afraid I’m not! You are an Elf, of the elfus smallicus genus. All my staff up at the North Pole is comprised of Elves. You see, you were given up for adoption by mistake. Due to your transient nature we couldn't locate you.”

I looked up at the guy, and I could see he was tellin’ da truth. Others like me? Elves? For true?

Dat was the one and only time I cried – at least since that time I crapped my pants back at the Orphanage and the sister swatted me a good one. 

“Come! You can help me give out presents tonight, then we can take you home,” he said. He wedged his large ass back into the sled, and I followed.  There wasn’t much space between his girth and all them sacks’a toys for me to sit, but I managed. 

He tole me about his toy making racket and all the right-offs he got for it. Pretty slick, I had to agree. We shot up inna sky and I was dubious about them moose things haulin’ us up into the stratosphere and all, but they maintained a good speed, except for the turbulence which I didn’t care for. 

All night long we delivered them friggin toys, all over the damned world. I was so tired by the end, I thought I’d collapse. But this guy, Santa, he had a mini bar in his sled and I had a few shots of whiskey. We delivered our last toy to some kid in Montana – a train set. We went down the chimney (I still couldn’t get over goin’ down them tings!).  I was placin’ it under the tree when I heard a noise. I look over and see the kid peeking around the corner at me. 

“Ain’t polite to stare, kid,” I said. “Murry Christmas.” 

Da kid scampered off. 

Not even ten minutes into our journey north I was out like a light.

So, I went to the North Pole. I met my mom! Saw all the udder elves like me. It was a happy homecoming, I gotta say. Still, I miss New York sometimes, even though I visit occasionally.  I miss the smell of the Hudson, the rude people, the street vendors selling junk, Coney Island hot dogs, the racetrack, all of it. But it ain’t so bad up here; got lotsa snow, plenty of fresh air, and the pay is good.  Made foreman a few years ago; I’m in charge of making them iPad thingies. Big responsibility.  The uniforms could use some revamping, but y’can’t have everything, am I right? 

I guess I didn’t do so bad after all, y’know?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Underwood Effect: A Modern Parable About Old Technology

Me and Jeff were sitting around one night working on our movie script when he suddenly stopped typing and looked at me rather quizzically.

“Tonight I shall forego technology” he announced. He got up and walked out of the room. Minutes later he returned with a large object in his arms.

“What the hell is that?” I asked.

“This,” he grunted, because the thing was a monstrosity, “Is a No. 2 Underwood. Year of manufacture: 1955.”

“And what do you propose to do with that thing?”

“I am attempting to channel the spirit of writers past; Kerouac, Steinbeck, Hemingway. Can’t you feel it? The literary ghosts abound tonight,” he tapped a few of the keys and they made dull thudding noises that echoed off the walls. “Technology is a crutch. Dropping oneself back into a more primitive abyss is healthier for the mind.”

‘Hey man, whatever floats your boat” I said.

I went back to my Microsoft Word document hoping I could regain the flow I had lost. I was soon immersed in act two of our script, ‘The Last Death of Juan Diego’ when I noticed that Jeff hadn’t written anything yet. He was sitting at his No. 2 Underwood, staring at it.

“Problem, Jeff?”

He scratched his head for a while before replying.

“I think this thing needs ribbon. I’ll be right back …” he dashed off up the stairs. I could hear him making his way up to his parent’s attic. He was back not long afterward with some spools of ribbon that I assumed were for the Underwood.
I tried to ignore all the fussing and cursing Jeff was doing getting that ribbon in, and tried to focus on the script.

VO: Juan was dead. He had died a long time ago, but still walked the Earth; his eternal damnation for the murder of his friend Sanchez …


It had been an accident, or so he told himself. They both had been in love with the same woman, Maria Pacifica Ramirez ….

“Come on you whore…”

I looked up from my script, and saw Jeff trying valiantly to install the typewriter ribbon without causing damage to the machine. His face was the color of plums.

“Ah! There we go!” he said, smiling. The shift from complete anger to happiness was comical.

“Will you actually be writing now?” I said.

“Of course … I was just putting in some fresh ribbon”


“Relatively fresh.” He said. He sat down in front of the Underwood again. He started hunting around for some paper to feed into the thing.

“Ahem,” I grunted. I pointed over to the shelf, where sat a sheaf of photocopy paper.

I turned my attention to the script again:

Act Two, Scene One:

Juan Diego is walking through the desert somewhere in the American Southwest. He lost his horse in a shoot-out with the Federales and now is on the run. Up ahead, almost to the horizon, he sees a band of men on horseback, headed straight for him. He pushes his Serape aside, and un-holsters his pistol …




For a moment I was confused by the sound, but it was the damn typewriter. It sounded like someone was getting punched in the face because it was echoing through Jeff’s wooden desk.


“SHIT!” he yelled.

I sighed, “What now?”

“Typo. We got any … what’s it called …?”

I told him it was called ‘white-out’ and that it was in the desk drawer. He rooted through the drawer for a few moments before he found it in the back. He was all happy again.

“Are you feeling the Kerouac vibes yet?” I said.

He ignored me, except to say “Oh ye of little faith”

I looked at my Word Doc, and felt the flow had dissolved. I went outside on the front porch to have a beer and take in the night air. Kerouac? Was he kidding? How anyone could write on one of those contraptions was beyond me. I soon forgot about Jeff and his nostalgic leanings, and looked up at the stars. Orion’s Belt was visible … so was Arcturus, the Great Bear …


That damn Underwood again.


I swear, they should melt every last one of those things down and turn them into Coke cans or something ….

Suddenly the typing stopped again. It remained quiet for some time, until I got curious and decided to wander back in.

Jeff was still seated at the Underwood, staring. When I got closer, I saw that he had one finger trapped between the K and L keys. He had notoriously fat fingers, so I assumed he couldn’t get them out.

“Can you see if there’s any butter in the refrigerator? “ He said sheepishly.

After searching the fridge and finding no trace of butter or margarine, I returned solemnly to Jeff with a bottle of Ketchup. He took one look at the bottle and sighed.

I managed to apply said Catsup between the keys and his fingers with a cotton swab, and all the while Jeff is moaning that the Underwood was being ruined, that Hemingway never got his fingers caught in his typewriter, and that he was a worthless hack who would never get published and didn’t deserve to be called a writer. I told him to hold still or I’d leave him there stuck to the Underwood until all that was left was his skeletal remains.

“There, try it now” I said, looking at the keys awash in ketchup. He tried tugging his finger gently, but nothing happened; Still stuck.

“You have to put some effort into it, man” I said. I grabbed his wrist and yanked. Jeff produced a sound similar to a walrus giving birth.

Now I was angry. I picked up the damned typewriter.

“What are you doing?” Jeff asked nervously.

“Hold still”

I yanked back on the thing and it unexpectedly let go, causing me to careen backwards where I promptly and unintentionally sent the No. 2 Underwood sailing through the window and, to my surprise, through the windshield of his father’s Buick Century. The crash of glass echoed up and down the quiet suburban street; lights flicked on, people came out to stand at their front doors. It was like a scene from that old twilight Zone episode ‘The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.’

We stood at the window frame and looked down. There, in the front seat of the Buick sat Jeff’s beloved Underwood. It was no worse for wear. I had hoped it would be destroyed beyond repair. No such luck.

Ten minutes later Jeff had retrieved the infernal machine and placed it back in the attic, where it belonged. He came back into the room quietly, and opened up his laptop. His eyes dilated.

“What happened to the ‘primitive abyss’?” I asked.

He never answered me. He was busy checking his e-mail.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Recently I met with Sasha Jackson Mysteries author Jill Edmondson at a nice little pub in downtown Toronto. She gave me a few words of sage advice: Shit or Get off the Pot. Which is a nice way of saying ‘Why aren’t you published yet, numb-nuts’?

I don’t know why either. I could take a guess though:

Am I not good enough?

Nah. I’ve seen worse writers get pubbed.

Am I afraid?

Nope. I love people reading my stuff.

Do I really have anything ‘finished’ to submit?

Er …

You see, unless you really finish something, you can’t very well send it off, can you? And by finish I mean polished, burnished, shining, clean; when that sucker’s done like dinner and ready to eat. Or read.

And unless you start showing people that you have been finishing your work, you start to get that stench of a writer who’s not really a writer. You’re just saying you are.

In my case, my brain goes a mile a minute, and focus is at a premium. I hop from story to story, hoping to finish something, anything, instead of just finishing one thing. One thing, that’s all that matters. Like Curly the Cowboy once said.

With that in mind, I actively started looking into short story anthology submissions, and lo and behold, I got into one. It’s called Passion’s Prism, and I wrote a short and comedic little romance thing for it. Not usually my thing, but I thought, what the hell, you know?

Cue the euphoria!

Short story contests, anthologies, it’s all good. And it motivates, lemme tell you. And that takes the pressure off my finishing a novel, which is also a good thing.
Also, you’ll notice the newish blog of mine. It’s still needs tweaking, but I like it. You’ll still find writing articles here, but I’ll also be posting experimental shorts and other things. Maybe strange things.

So, go finish something, dammit. And make it good.

Note: Thanks to Jill Edmondson and Jason Kemp for the much needed motivation!