Creative Non-Fiction

more wishful thingking

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this first appeared back in february of 08. i’d forgotten i’d written it. though with yet another election looming soon over the approaching horizon it seems like a good idea to do a summer re-run.  it’s been ten years since i wrote this and we’re not any closer to it happening than we were 10 plus years ago. a sad thing.

jmh

lots of wishful thinking on my part over the years on lots of different stuff. anything from the chance meeting of say, heidi klum, where we immediately fall into to bed and live happily ever after. or perhaps, the twice weekly i’m going to be the next california super lottery winner. wishful thinking. i think the odds on either of those things happening are probably both in the same ballpark. a ballpark with very long odds and over 400 feet down each line to the foul pole.

i’m not the first person to wishful think either of the two i mentioned. not by a long shot. male or female. for either. yeah, heidi’s that hot. drifting here. no, it’s the political season of the witch, no, not necessarily, lady machill. it’s just this season of endless political weirdness that over the years has become just annoying and nauseating and finally culminating with my withdrawing from all elections. my official absentee ballot usually ends up in the shredder.

i have some wishful thinking that might drag me back into the fray. the problem being is that’s just what it is because the humps in charge of both major parties and probably the fringe groups as well, wouldn’t like it. oh, maybe some of the fringe guys might but the big sex and money boys and girls would probably have a collective massive coronary if it came to pass. which might not be a bad idea. then we could just start over from scratch. more drifting. perhaps.

i’m not the only person to come up with this wishful thought as it’s been tossed around every now and again over the years but it never goes anywhere. sadly. big money wants nothing to do with it. i think it scares them. good. they scare me. daily.

i think the time has come to scare the bejesus out of them for a change. this sad slate of presidential candidates would seem like the perfect time for my wishful thought to maybe make it past the blossom stage and give fruition to something that should have happened years ago.

oh, i’m sure all the candidates are probably sorta nice folks. i mean maybe you could probably invite them all over to the house for some grub, massive amounts of dago red, and mah jong. though they would all have to promise no politics. the only problem is they all, would at some point, renege and start campaigning. worse yet, while working the room glad handing anyone in sight, they would be spilling heirloom cabernet all over the living room furniture and in general just being boorish dinner guests. the whole sad deal would probably end up being worse than letting the local canvassing scientology crew in for a chat and a brew. god, the horror. i don’t know if they do that but just the thought of it scares me on lots of levels.

the point of this madness? for those of you that have stuck it out here it is…none of the above. yep. that’s it. none of the above needs to be added to every ballot in the country. it’s time is way the hell over due. it’s simple in it’s purity and gives those of us something to vote for other than the ever ubiquitous ‘lesser of two evils’. cause that’s what it generally comes down to in any election. in particular a presidential election. regardless who is running. or statewide elections.  or city countywide elections for any matter.

sadly, it’s not going to happen. although i think it needs to be brought up and hammered home to our elected elitist that they serve us and not their pocketbook or summer home where ever the hell it is. it’s time we that have made ourselves the disenfranchised get our vote back. sure we quit voting on our own accord. however, they were the ones that pissed us off so much we just up and said, fuck this, i ain’t voting anymore every again for any of you witless bunch of money grubbing oily sanctimonious swine.

problem is they have all forgotten just who the hell it is they serve. they all think they are there just to serve themselves up their own personal money tree. yes, they are the folks that actually have that tree. the tree that your dad asked your mom if she thought money grew on trees tree. well, it does exist. you just have to get elected to any public office in the land. it also comes with the keys to the new tony soprano model caddy escalade AND your very own 23 year old smokin’ hot mistress. boy, howdy. makes a man want to run for office, don’t it?

imagine the chagrin some november after the votes have been tallied and candidate A gets 12%. candidate B gets 12%. the fringe guys and gals get their usual 1% and lo and behold, none of the above, wins with a whopping 75%. you snicker. though it could happen. no, by god, it should happen. it’s time we the fed up disenfranchised take our vote back. take our vote back and vote for none of the above in any damn election we feel like. we need to badger our elected swine into letting us vote for none of the above. why not? what’s the problem with that? why is it just wishful thinking?

what? what the hell? who the fuck are you anyway? why no way, sonny boy, we can’t do that. why that would be un-american. say, just what kind of commie pinko nazi muslim are you any the ways? by all that’s holy, you gotta be one of em or all of em for even suggesting such a vile idea. why, why, i think i’ll let my bodyguards shoot you for bringing that sick deviant idea up in my very own official officially sanctioned official office. ed, jack. take this commie nazi muslim scum out back and do what needs to be done.

so like here’s the deal. call your congressperson and senator. be polite. ya hear? yeah, well, hopefully they have no clue you don’t vote. then tell whoever answers the phone we need the none of the above clause added to All ballots in this once great nation. simple easy. sure they will laugh and hang up. come on, the caddy and smokin’ hot mistress need a good hot wax. so call again. give them the same rap. if enough of you supposed americans do this. we will get the none of the above clause on all ballots across america for every election. it’s time has come.

jmh

hot dogs for breakfast pt 2

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after hanging up the phone he went to the stove and stuck his index finger in the seed and stem tea. it was cold to the touch and probably consisted more of stems and seeds along with assorted other gunk than liquid. he turned on the burner under the pot then rummaged through a drawer until he found a small strainer. jerry placed the strainer over the mug he’d already used while he waited for the stuff to boil again.

deciding it was going to take a bit he wandered off into the living room and his stereo system. the zappa LP was still on the turntable. he picked it up and put it back into it’s sleeve then returned it to sit with the other albums. jerry began looking through them again. new riders of the purple sage seemed like a good idea. he was placing it on the turntable when the phone rang again. he went back into the kitchen. turned off the stove and picked up the phone.

hello?

hi, son.

it was his mother.

hey, ma, what’s up?

not much. your father is outside doing yard work and i just finished an apple pie for your uncle. they’re coming over for dinner tonight. so, how’s work and school? are you dating anyone?

jerry sighed. it was his mother’s usual phone gambit.

just fine, ma. just fine. the pie sounds good. trying to change the subject he said. what’s for dinner?

your dad is bbqing chicken with the usual sides.

ok. wish i was there.

you know thanksgiving isn’t that far away. are you going to come down?

i hadn’t thought about it but yeah, sure. why not? he was thinking it would probably be a better place to score a cheap brick of weed. he still knew people down there.

good. i’ll make your favorites.

pickled tongue?

of course.

great. unless you hear different i’ll see you the wednesday before the big day. in the afternoon.

ok. love you, son.

love you too, ma. say hi to pops. joe and josie too. i’ll see everyone thanksgiving.

alright. take care of yourself. he could hear the smile in his mother’s voice.

ok, ma. bye.

bye, son.

jerry replaced the phone and picked up the pot of tea and poured the remaining liquid into the mug. the strainer removed most of the crap and all of the seeds and stems. he was surprised when he found the cup to be almost full. taking a sip he grimaced a bit then went and started the new riders LP. jerry wasted the rest of the day listening to music and staying very high.

it was almost dark before he was aware of time again. maybe it was the hunger he felt. he got off the couch. stretched. tuned on a floor lamp. found another LP and put it on the machine. the allman brothers live. the first notes hit with a jolt. too bad there wasn’t a lady around.

once back in the kitchen he found the squash in the fridge and an old onion. there was rice and tomato sauce in the cupboard. no meat anywhere. it didn’t matter there was plenty of rice. he made a sauce with the onion and canned tomatoes tossing in some dried herbs and garlic powder. after chopping up the zucchini he added them to the sauce. it simmered as the rice cooked.

duane allman was ripping it. another rocker dead before his time. jerry decided to have one of the tall cans of colt .45 with dinner. he popped the tab and took a long pull. it was good. cold and tasty. dinner was ok. filling and somewhat tasty.

after dinner he drank the rest of the malt liquor he’d bought earlier in the day and smoked his last remaining joint. comfortably numb and pretty well toasted he spent the night on the couch.

the next few weeks went by quickly. work was work and fairly non-taxing with plenty of spare change to be found on the floor of denny’s. school was another matter. he just stopped going though he still got a check from the VA for the past month. he wasn’t sure why he’d quit but it was as if he wasn’t really there anyway. it was hard to fit in again after the nam. the nam. he kept that to himself as best he could. no point in making it well known. all things considered it seemed like a good idea.

the wednesday before thanksgiving he got up early and headed south. it was an 8 hour car trip that went fairly well. jerry was looking forward to seeing the relatives and eating all that good food. piles of it to be sure. the trip south was uneventful. he arrived at his old home around 2 in the afternoon.

the garage door was closed which meant no one was probably home. no matter, there was a key in the garage. his father liked the door open as it was easier to move around and work in the garage that way. if someone was home the door stayed open until around sunset. he parked his car in the street. grabbed his bag and went around the north side of the house. the back gate was closed and the dog on duty sign was still there. his dog. the dog had died while jerry was in nam. the gate was unlocked as always and the back garage door was open. also as always. he went inside the garage. as he’d figured, the car wasn’t there. his dad had built a row of large cabinets when they’d moved in years ago. jerry opened the one closest to the door.

he reached inside and up into the second shelf. he found the nail and the key hanging from it. taking the key he unlocked the back door and then replaced the key it on it’s nail. as always. it was SOP. his dad had drilled that into him long long ago.

the house smelled good. his mother must have been busy getting ready for the big day tomorrow. turkey day. he took his bag and went through the house to his old room. it was like he’d never left. it was just like it had been for years. the double bed. a small desk and chair by the mail slot. the desk was covered with a sheet of glass which in turn was covered with surfboard company decals.

he paused and looked at the decals then ran his hand over them. memories. deciding he was hungry he went back into the kitchen to see what he could scrounge. it was then he noticed the note on the kitchen table. it was for his aunt. apparently she was bringing something over for turkey day. of course, she knew about the key. the note said his parents were at bellevue cemetery putting flowers on a grave. it also said his mother would call her sister later. jerry figured they were at his grandparents grave site.

forgetting he was hungry jerry decided to surprise his parents by going to the cemetery. besides he hadn’t been to visit his grandparents grave in a number of years. plus, there was a gas station across the street from bellevue and he needed gas for his ride anyway. so, jerry locked up and headed south to the cemetery.

on the way down he didn’t see his parents heading home. he figured he was on the route his dad would use. they must still be at the cemetery. he’d get gas later. turning into bellevue’s drive he noticed his father’s car over in the newer area of the cemetery. his grandparents grave site was in the older section behind the mausoleum. what was up? finding it interesting he followed the road toward his parent’s car.

jerry parked behind is dad’s ford. got out and walked towards his parents. their back was to him and his dad appeared to be holding his mom up. her shoulders were shaking. was she crying? what in the world was going on? as he got closer he called out to them. nothing. maybe they couldn’t hear him.

he was almost upon them when they turned towards him. his mother had been crying. jerry smiled and said.

mom. dad. what’s going on?

they looked right through him. his mother still crying. they didn’t say anything or otherwise acknowledged his presence. for good or bad. in fact, they silently walked right by him as they returned to their car. jerry stood there for a moment and watched them.

dad? mom?

it was all he could think to say. baffled he turned towards the grave where they had been standing. there were fresh flowers and a small american flag on a stick stuck in the ground next to the flowers. it was then he saw it. the gravestone. on it was his birthday and a day in june from the year before. along with that was jerry’s name and army rank.

they found jerry’s bag beside his bed when one of the young second cousins had gone into his old room to take a nap after dinner on thanksgiving day. it freaked everyone out to be sure. however, there never was an acceptable explanation as to why or how the bag got there in the first place.

jmh

hot dogs for breakfast

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jerry stood at the kitchen sink. a bit off to the side of it in front of the bay window. the sky was cloudy grey and he could see the tall dormant sycamores in the dim early morning light. their long leafless limbs reaching upward. he was eating a hot dog.it was nestled in a single piece of wheat bread. his early morning dog consisted of swiss cheese, mustard, mayo, along with bread and butter pickle slices and a handful of potato chips on the side. it usually served as his go to breakfast. though there was something to be said about grits mixed with creme fresh, parmesan, and topped with a fried egg covered with a generous dollop of his homemade asian chili sauce. finishing the sandwich he chased it with a glass of milk. the glass emptied the carton.

he rinsed off the dish and glass then set them in the sink to be washed later. probably after dinner. probably being the operative word. it was time for work. not work in it’s usual sense. jerry hadn’t worked in several months. though he had a job. a semi full time job working for a janitorial service. one afternoon he decided to not go into work. that one afternoon had stretched into a month or more. he hadn’t bothered to call the office. and they hadn’t bothered to call him. the company keys still sat in a drawer by the back door. he’d been living on his GI bill college benefit. a meager sum to be sure. he would probably have to go back to work soon because he’d given up on going to school as well. once the VA realized he was no longer in school that check would stop. that would probably happen soon enough.

it really didn’t matter to jerry. not much did. what mattered was having enough money to live on with enough left over for a few quarts of colt .45 and some decent smoke everyday. cigarettes too. the real ones. not the crap in the can or bag which left you to roll your own. he’d been doing that for the past couple of weeks. if there was one thing that would get him back to work it would be his need for ready made cigarettes and decent smoke. one could always scrape up enough cash for some malt liquor. regardless.

his job that morning was to go through some stems and seeds one last time in order to cull enough weed to get him through the day. he thought there was a slim chance at finding enough for at least one large joint. jerry pulled the baggie of seeds and stems from the cupboard along with some rolling papers and a shoe box lid. he sat at the kitchen table and slowly went went through what was left in the baggie. it had started out as a couple of ounces of some very nice jamaican weed. heady stuff. he’d scored it along with several grams of peruvian flake back when he had what could almost be said plenty of cash. sort of. jerry had paid for the smoke but the coke had been a credit deal. a credit deal which would soon become payable.

the only sound in the house was the seeds dropping onto the shoe box lid. he’d lift one end up where the seeds lay and slowly lift a few up with an old playing card. a jack of diamonds. the process wasn’t unlike panning for gold. that analogy wasn’t lost on jerry. the seeds ended up at the bottom and the dope, which was lighter, stayed up on the top. he kept it up for a half hour or so until all the seeds from the baggie had been carefully gone through. then he carefully picked over the stems once again. when he was finished he figured he had enough for a nice after dinner smoke.

the problem being there wouldn’t be anything to get him through the day. as he was still sitting at the table rolling up his last lonely joint the phone rang. jerry glanced at the phone as he licked the glue on the rolling paper and gave the smoke a last flick of the fingers. he dropped the blunt on top of the seeds and got up to answer the phone.

hello?

jerry? it’s sid.

the coke on credit had just come due. he bolstered up what he thought was some bravado but doubted sid was buying any of it.

hey, sid, what’s up?

not much. look, the reason i’m calling is i haven’t heard from you and my end is looking for their final payment. i need my money.

ah, shit. yeah, man i um been meaning to get down there. you know work school and all…

yeah, i get it. when can i expect you?

tomorrow evening at the latest.

ok. i’ll be seeing you soon then.

you got it. later, man.

later.

jerry hung up the phone. said, shit, and realized he wasn’t going to be heading down to sid’s place anytime soon. or anytime at all ever again for that matter. sadly, it meant no more flake for sure. ah, well. at least smoke was easier to find. you just needed some cash. thankfully, sid had no idea where he lived. no idea other than the city. sighing he went back to the table. as he was about to toss the stems and seeds out a thought hit him. tea. he’d never done it but he could brew up some tea with the stems and seeds.

he filled pot up with water and sat it on the stove. he turned on the burner and went to the fridge. he found an old lemon with some life left in it and sliced it up. by the time the water was boiling he was looking forward to his home brew. he turned off the gas and dropped the lemon slices into the hot water. then he carefully put the stems into the pot. he used a spoon to get them submerged. he followed with the seeds. putting a lid on the concoction he left it to steep. he needed some music.

he thumbed through his LP collection searching for something that fit the mood and the day. he settled upon frank zappa’s semi jazzy, ‘waka jawaka’. long instrumentals that made him think of rain and snow. very soothing. the music filled the house. jerry sat on the couch almost drifting off to sleep. the sound of the turntable turning itself off roused him. he flipped the LP over then he started side two. he figured the tea had sat long enough and went back into the kitchen.

the kitchen smelled of something. almost unpleasant. he lifted the lid on the pot and the smell grew stronger. it was tinged with lemon. the water had turned a dark color and was still warm. jerry thought of english breakfast tea. he found a mug and carefully poured some of the liquid into it. smelled it. held his breath and drank. he nailed the cup all at once. cringed a bit then thought it wasn’t all that bad. just different. he filled the mug again and drank. ok, he thought, now i wait.

while waiting he finished dressing and decided he should hit the grocery store while he still had some cash. filling the car’s gas tank was also in order. deciding he wasn’t feeling anything from his tea he thought it had been a waste of time and energy as he turned off the music and headed out the door to his ride and the store.

the drive to the store was uneventful. though as he was parking he began to feel THC jolts up his spine. by the time he got inside the store it was obvious his shopping trip was probably a big mistake. he was getting blown away. not a bad thing but he wasn’t so sure about getting home now. he was also sure a shopping trip alone and high wasn’t a good idea as well. as he turned to leave the floor rose to meet him and began grow wavy. great. just fucking great were his thoughts. things were going to get weird.

as he got to the exit he realized not scoring some malt liquor for that night would be stupid. hopefully there was something at home for dinner. he turned around and made his purchase. the checker turned out to be a pretty young thing around his age that he hadn’t seen or noticed before. hopefully, he’d remember her.

carefully driving home he tried to remember when he had been this stoned before. the nam probably or before that a trip into l.a. to see the kinks live after taking some mescaline. he’d thought he was surfing and shooting the pier while going under the 405 and 10 underpass. his passengers hadn’t been very happy to hear that.

making it home in one piece was a relief. he put the colt .45 in the refrigerator and noticed some zucchini. dinner he thought as the phone rang. with any luck it wasn’t sid again. had he given the checker his number? he had no idea. he picked up the receiver.

yeah.

jerry?

larry?

it sounded like his work partner, larry mitchell.

yep. man, where you been? pete’s been fucking wondering and worrying.

ah, yeah, i bet.

you know the keys and all.

safe in a drawer in the kitchen.

ok. you planning on coming back to work? it’s been a while to say the least.

yeah, sure.

at least it finally dawned on pete to find out just what the fuck was going on. good ole pete. more concerned about the swinger parties he attended than anything else.

when?

fighting the high he said, tuesday. he thought today was saturday. though he wasn’t sure. at any rate, tuesday was their day they did the floors at a local denny’s. lots of change on the floor under the tables and in the creases of the booths. gas and malt liquor money.

ok.

yeah, see you at 2. the usual.

fine. i’ll tell pete. later, man.

ok.

as he hung up the phone he realized there was more tea left in the pot on the stove. it was going to be a good rest of the day of whatever day of the week it was. yeah, a good day.

jmh

double down pt 5

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cypress johnny got the alarm bells to calm down a bit before he spoke again. though his mind was still racing. it always did when strangers came into the bar looking for the card game. especially this late in the evening. fact of the matter, there was a game going on in the back room. there was a game every wednesday night. friday and saturday nights as well. cypress johnny moved easily down the bar to be near the register. right at the spot where underneath the bar was a door behind which was a loaded .357. keeping his hands on the bar he nudged the small door open with his right knee.

card game? yeah. ok. deal is though, gents, it’s a private game. you have to be invited by someone. someone we know and trust. understand?

the brothers looked at one another then johnny basura spoke.

ah. yeah. ok. guess that wouldn’t be us then. right, jimmy?

suppose not, bro.

well fine then, cypress is it?

cypress johnny nodded.

yeah, well alright. we’ll finish our drinks and be on our way. no sense wasting our time if we can’t join the game. if we stick around town maybe we’ll be back so you get to know us better. you know…so…maybe we can play.

long as you don’t cause trouble you guys are welcome back anytime. we’ll have to see about the card game. i hope you understand.

oh, sure. not a problem. right, jimmy?

i got none.

the brothers finished their drinks said good night and left the bar. cypress johnny was glad to see them leave. they seemed ok but there was something about the two brothers. he figured he’d be seeing them again. their next visit might not be as friendly. it had happened before. jerry powell and his biker friends popped into cypress johnny’s mind as his hand reached under the bar to touch the .357.

outside the two brothers stood on the sidewalk taking in the cool night air. there was a tinge of cow crap smell mixed in with the cool air.

well?

yeah, johnny. let’s do it. you smell the cow shit? brings back memories don’t it?

memories of mom beating us silly with a fly swatter? dad and his belt? come on, bro. forget that shit.

sure. i was just saying is all.

yeah yeah. ok. let’s get in the car and park down the street on the other side and watch the place for a while. it’s what? about 12:30? i figure the game will fold up around 2 when the bar closes.

johnny and jimmy got in the car and moved it to the other side of the street. they sat watching jacks or better for the next hour. the two old drunks left and that was it. no one else came out or went into the bar. the street was quiet as well. hardly any traffic and no cop cars at all.

johnny stirred and spoke.

now or never. time to roll little brother. i’ll take the glock, you grab the tire iron. we take out the bartender after he tells us where the game is. you should be able to get that out of him with a whack of two with the iron. though we may not need him. the ruckus might give the game up. we take everybody out. either with the 9mm or the tire iron. grab all the cash and get the hell out of this fucking shit hole for the last damn time. we probably ought to dump this car and pick up somebody’s in there. you with me?

yeah, johnny.

fine. onward.

johnny moved the car back to the other side of the street and parked. the brothers got out of the car and johnny checked the 9mm then slipped it in his waistband at the small of his back. the spare clip was in a back pants pocket. jimmy slid the tire iron up his jacket sleeve. it would drop effortlessly into his hand when the time came to wield it. as they got to the bar’s front door johnny whispered.

rock ‘n’ roll.

cypress johnny had given the card room last call. as he began cleaning up for the night he heard the front door open. not good he thought. never any good when somebody came around at closing time. he flashed back again to jerry powell. crap. no. he thought. he quickly ducked behind the bar and went straight for the .357. it was in his hand when he heard feet shuffling inside the bar. two of them he thought. the two brothers? he stayed down and quiet. he hoped no one came out of the card room.

hey! hello? anybody here?

who wants to know?

double down. johnny and jimmy basura. come out from behind there buddy and nobody gets hurt. real slow and show us your hands.

the name basura rang some sort of distant bell but cypress johnny had no time for that. he needed to act. the shuffling feet grew closer.

come on man. get up and show us your hands.

johnny and jimmy had their respective weapons out and at the ready. cypress johnny figured the two had to armed. he made a small noise by the register then silently duck walked down to the open end of the bar. he thought by making the noise the two brothers would be concentrating on the area around the register. he was right.

last chance my man. get up and show us your hands.

cypress stayed down and peeked around the corner of the bar. johnny had a gun and he was pointing it at the register. jimmy had a tire iron and had moved silently up to the bar. he was also looking at the register. the tire iron above his head ready to strike.

déjà vu all over again thought cypress johnny. crap. he took a deep breath. held it. quickly stood up. fired two rounds into johnny basura’s torso. both rounds found his heart and stopped it. cypress johnny then swung on jimmy. jimmy was moving toward him. screaming. two more shots rang out. the rounds impacted jimmy’s head. they blew the back of his head off. jimmy fell like a tree with the tire iron clattering to the floor. jimmy and johnny basura were dead. they lay in a heap on the bar room floor. blood slowly pooling about them.

cypress johnny walked over to the two dead men and kicked the glock out of johnny’s lifeless hand. he moved the tire iron away as well. no sense taking any chances. as he was doing this the card room door was slowly opening. a head stuck out from behind it. it was that night’s card dealer.

you ok cypress?

yeah, eddie. all clear. get everybody out of here and then i’ll call the cops.

sure cypress.

eddie went back into the room and hustled the six players out of the room and out the front door. after doing that he collected the house money and sat it on the bar. then he walked over to the dead bodies and looked at them.

you know cypress. these guys look sorta familiar.

as he said this, eddie otto was scratching a faint scar on his neck.

cypress johnny was dialing the phone.

bag the cash eddie and go home. i’ll put it away before the cops get here.

sure, cypress. sure.

the end

jmh

double down pt 4

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johnny and jimmy’s arrival into their old home town was something neither had ever expected to happen again. ever. when they hit town johnny suggested changing the plates on their stolen car. they drove around ontario in silence looking for a likely candidate. both brothers spotted an older guy in a late model white volvo getting out of his car in a grocery store parking lot. the lot was quiet and the man would probably be gone long enough for them to get the job done. changing the plates was quick and easy. when they were finished they tossed the plates from the stolen car in a trash can. then covered them up with some newspaper. as the brothers were leaving the store parking lot johnny spoke.

let’s go by the old place.

alright.

they took euclid avenue south almost down to northern chino and their old home. the home where they had killed both of their parents. when they arrived johnny stopped the car across the street from the old place. it looked the same to them even after all those years. the walnut tree still stood in a corner of the front yard. much larger of course. the biggest change being the old dairy was gone. long gone.

after a bit jimmy spoke.

i wonder who’s living there now? maybe we should go up to the door and ask if we can come in to see if they ever got all that blood off the kitchen floor.

both brothers laughed loudly as they pulled away from the curb.

let’s get something to eat.

sure, johnny, but not mexican. i’m sick of mexican.

yeah, me too. we’ll find something else.

finding something other than mexican food in downtown ontario or just about any place in ontario proved to be difficult. they had cruised up and down euclid several times before either of them spotted the chinese joint.

hey. chinese. i think i remember that place when we were kids. or maybe not. looks like they have a bar. sweet. we can at least tie one on.

sounds good to me. a couple of shots would suit me fine just about now.

amen, brother.

johnny parked the car at the curb and the two brothers entered the dimly lit restaurant. the smell of very old chinese food greeted them. not a bad smell but different. jimmy went to look for a bathroom while johnny sat at the bar and ordered them both a vodka rocks. the good stuff. no more tequila for either of them. when jimmy got back johnny was about half way through his first drink. jimmy caught up shortly. they ordered two more. this time doubles then carried them over to a table and ordered dinner. dinner was so so. the important thing being it wasn’t mexican food.

after dinner they sat at the bar again and had several more drinks. they kept to themselves while listening in on the sparse bar crowd conversations. there was nothing of interest there until a well dressed gentleman came into the bar a half hour or so later. he sat on a stool next to jimmy. obviously a regular when the man ordered his ‘usual’. while the bartender made the man his drink the newcomer fumbled around with a semi large wad of cash. this caught the brothers attention. as the man’s drink was delivered the man peeled off a ten spot and told the bartender to keep the change. the bartender asked.

are you playing cards tonight?

nah. the old lady is pissed. i just need to be out of the house for a while.

i hear you. i just thought with that roll and all. you know.

ha. yeah. no, i sold a car today to some wet back. it was off the books. cash on the line. very nice deal. well, at least for me. the car will probably make it through the weekend before it dies and or falls apart.

both men found that to be very funny and spent a few minutes laughing about it. johnny and jimmy had begun to exchange looks as soon as they spotted the cash. no words were spoken. the brothers were like a well oiled machine and very professional when it came to taking what they wanted from someone unsuspecting. after all, they had been doing it since they were very very young.

it looked like the newcomer was good for at least several drinks as he had a couple of 20’s out on the bar. the rest of the cash was back in his pocket. the brothers ordered another round each. when they were finished they paid their tab and went outside. the night was cool and the air smelled fresh after being inside the chinese joint for so long. both brothers filled their lungs with the cool air.

you caught this. right, jimmy? the guy came in through the back. there must be a parking lot out back.

yep. picked up on it.

let’s go check it out. we have time.

the brothers got into their stolen ride and found their way around to the parking lot behind the restaurant. it was a small lot and less than a quarter full. they pulled into a space and shut the car off. then they sat and watched things for ten minutes or so.

well, what do you think, johnny?

looks ok to me. nice and dark and no one has come or gone. no foot traffic either. let’s get out and look around.

earlier in the day the brothers had disabled the overhead light and trunk light at a gas stop. johnny popped the trunk latch as he got out of the car. he stood looking about as jimmy went to the trunk and found the tire iron. then johnny walked over to the alley and looked both ways. nothing was stirring. he heard jimmy cough then turned and followed the sound. he found him behind a large trash dumpster. the dumpster reeked but it was the best place to lie in wait for their intended victim and his ambush.

they spent around 12 minutes waiting behind the dumpster. neither saying a word. there was no vehicle traffic or foot traffic in the alley or the parking lot. suddenly there was a noise and a shaft of light. the back door to the chinese place was opening. as the back door slowly closed they could see it was the man with the cash who’d sat at the bar. both brothers were suddenly sober as the adrenaline washed through them. the surging adrenaline was something they both had come to love. that rush before the kill.

johnny and jimmy let the man get to his car. as he fumbled for his car keys each brother thought, another stupid one. they make it so easy. jimmy was on top of the man and swinging the tire iron with all of his might before the guy realized something wasn’t right. the tire iron caught the man full on at the back of his head. it crushed bone and made a sort of mushy sound as the heavy tire iron found gray matter. jimmy clobbered the man two more times before he hit the ground. the man from the bar was dead before the second blow connected.

the brothers worked quickly and quietly as they emptied the man’s pockets. being careful to avoid the blood they pushed the man underneath his car. the lot was dark enough that no one would see the blood until morning. hopefully, no one would walk through before then. johnny and jimmy went to their stolen car got in and slowly drove out of the lot. johnny even hit his blinker as he made a right turn out onto the street. it’s the little things each brother thought.

they drove around until johnny spotted a burger stand with a drive thru. they went thru it and ordered coffees. then they pulled into the well lit parking lot to check on their new found loot. jimmy counted the cash and he told johnny it amounted to $3,765.

cool. what else we get?

car keys, a bunch of paperwork. a wallet with no cash interestingly enough and a couple of credit cards. ah, a book of matches. that’s it.

let me see the car keys.

jimmy handed johnny the keys and said.

this book of matches is for some dive called, jacks or better. it isn’t far from here. i wonder if that’s what the bartender was talking about when he asked about the card game?

could be. hey, check this out. see this key? it’s for a small gun case. i bet it’s in the guys trunk.

yeah, maybe. let’s go back and check. can’t hurt.

jimmy got out of the car and tossed the wallet sans the cards, the paperwork, and their empty coffee containers in the trash. he put the book of matches in a shirt pocket. the brothers drove back to the parking lot in silence. it was quiet. no cops. no one had found the man or seen the blood yet. johnny pulled into the alley and cut the headlights. he coasted up to the dead man’s car and jimmy quickly got out and had the car trunk open in a second and found the gun case. picked it up then returned to their car. he found the key for the case and opened it up as johnny was pulling back out into the street.

nice. johnny, it’s a loaded glock 9 with another full clip.

alright. very cool. clear it and check out the action.

jimmy did what his older brother told him to do and then pronounced the gun perfectly serviceable. the two drove around for a while in silence. jimmy pulled the matchbook from his pocket and asked.

are you thinking what i am?

a streetlight caught johnny’s grin and his nod yes.

yeah. ok. make a left at the next street and head back towards holt. pretty sure it’s a left at the light.

once on holt blvd it was a short ride to jacks or better. it wasn’t easy to miss. a neon sign out front featuring an ace, a king, a queen, and two one eyed jacks.

this must be it. let’s check it out first.

solid.

johnny found a spot at the curb and parked. they left the gun under the front seat for now. the brothers got out of the car and made their way to the front door.

you ready for this, bro?

always.

johnny entered first followed by his brother jimmy. the place was almost empty with just a couple of old guys well into their cups drinking alone at separate tables. there was a guy about their age behind the bar. the bar’s speakers were set at about mid range playing a gram parsons tune, the streets of baltimore. the guy behind the bar spoke.

evening gents. what can i get for you fellows?

the two brothers ambled up to the bar and sat. for some strange reason the guy behind the bar looked vaguely familiar. though neither mentioned it. two vodka rocks. good stuff.

coming up.

as the bartender began working on the drinks he tried to make small talk.

i haven’t seen you guys around before. new in town or passing through?

a little bit of both i suppose. right, jimmy?

jimmy nodded his head.

absolut ok with you?

that’ll be fine barkeep.

name’s, johnny. cypress johnny.

well, ain’t that interesting. i’m a johnny as well. this is my brother jimmy.

cypress johnny sat the drinks in front of the two brothers and said. twelve bucks.

jimmy found a ten and a five and placed them on the bar.

keep the change.

thanks.

the brothers sipped their drinks and when johnny asked about if there was a card game tonight alarm bells went off inside cypress johnny’s head.

jmh

double down pt 3

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the basura brothers became even more insane once in puberty’s death grip. primarily the young boys doing things most other youngsters in puberty would probably never think of. probably. things like the boys parents finding clear dried stuff in odd places. when questioned about it the boys would say it was mucous or something. when in reality it was something entirely different. they’d take a swat for the mucous thing but if they told the truth. well, lets just say that wasn’t an option in their home.

johnny and jimmy cut a wide swath through the young girls in junior high school. the girls knew the brothers were up for just about anything. they had known that since the fifth grade. johnny and jimmy were up front about what they wanted. they would just ask. after awhile they didn’t even have to ask. the girls came to them. some of them. the basura brothers spent so much time having sex they began to neglect school even more than they normally did.

then one day their semi idyllic lives as sex fiends fell apart. the two brothers had been seeing two sisters. twins to be exact. they’d also been seeing numerous other girls but they got the twins pregnant. worse yet, the twins were only in the sixth grade. not a good thing to be sure even for junior high school boys. parents on both sides were livid to say the least. the girls parents demanded jail time or worse. though the trouble was everyone involved was under 14. not much the cops or the courts could do. as it turned out the girls parents sued the basuras and won. the basuras would have to pay for both girls medical bills and any other related costs. abortion wasn’t an option. not even on the table for discussion.

after the horse was already out of the barn maury began to keep closer tabs on the two brothers. beatings became more frequent. to say the least, johnny and jimmy were not happy about their current state of affairs. and lack of them as well. their mother began a relentless almost non stop verbal assault on the brothers. between mom and dad the boys were taking plenty of flak. so much so they were almost at a breaking points.

one evening after dinner the two brothers were washing dishes while their mother was giving them a particularly vicious tongue lashing. johnny had had enough. this was it. no more he thought. enough. he had been drying a large butcher knife when his synapses snapped. he swung the knife at his mother and caught her full on in the throat. she hit the floor spewing blood. her almost decapitated head lay at an odd angle. jimmy stopped washing dishes and watched as his mother began to bleed out on the floor. he didn’t say a word. neither did johnny.

maury was in the living room watching TV. he got up to go see what the strange noises were coming from the kitchen. he got as far as the door when he bellowed.

what the hell’s going on in here? i’m trying to watch the TV for christ’s sake!

johnny and jimmy looked at each and without a word jimmy grabbed another kitchen knife. then both young boys descended on their father who was so taken aback by the unfolding spectacle he was speechless and froze. soon he was just as dead as his wife. the cheap linoleum floor was awash in their parent’s blood.

still saying nothing the brothers dropped their knives then went looking for their father’s car keys. they ran from the house out to the car and drove away from the hideous death scene. they didn’t say anything about what they had just done. well, only if you don’t call laughter saying anything. they were laughing hysterically which made it hard to drive the car. as a matter of fact, johnny and jimmy never did say anything about the killings. when asked it they would only laugh.

it took several days for the death smell to reach the neighbors. then there were the clouds of flies as well. something was up for sure. finally one of the neighbors called the cops. the boys? somehow or another they’d made it across the border unnoticed and down into mexico. they ended up south of rosarito beach where they stole another car from some american surfers along with their boards and money. then, of course, johnny and jimmy killed the hapless surfers.

it took the federales several weeks to find the dead surfers. and then only after many calls to the mexican consulate in los angeles made by the worried parents of the surfers. they were days late in coming home from their surf trip. what was going on? what was going on indeed.

with a new car and money the boys bought some food, new clothing, and a few large bottles of mescal. then they found a deserted beach 20 miles or so further south of rosarito. where they camped out and learned how to surf on their own. getting wasted every night on the mexican booze.

it took several more weeks for the federales to figure what was going and then find the brothers. when they were found the brothers went peacefully as they were both drunk. the mexicans were dumbfounded by the fact the young boys were the murderers they were looking for. they put johnny and jimmy in jail outside of rosarito beach. they were still trying to figure out what to do with the brothers when word came down that the brothers basura were also wanted for the murder of their parents up in the states.

this changed things for the mexicans. they weren’t likely to send the boys back north to face murder charges that even at their young age might include the death penalty given the circumstances. odds were that wasn’t going to happen but no one could convince the mexicans other wise. the boys would stay in baja and face mexican murder charges for the death of the american surfers. it was indeed an odd set of circumstances but given the mexican governments total aversion to the death penalty there was noting anyone could do.

johnny and jimmy spent 25 years together in that baja jail. all things considered they were treated fairly well by their captors because they were so young and insane. the mexican government let the brothers go after the 25 years. they did it quietly. not wanting the american government to find out right away. the brothers stayed in mexico and wandered about the west coast of baja for several more years. they of course committed many crimes in order to live during that time.

at one point they began to feel some heat from the local federales who were finally beginning to put things together again. johnny and jimmy moved up the coast and into tijuana’s ‘zona roja’. they spent several months there rolling marines and naval personnel from san diego making a good amount of coin while doing so.

during one drunken whore filled night the brothers decided to rob a pawn shop the sailors and marines used when their money ran out and it was time to get back to base. of course, no cash made that a problem for the military personnel. johnny and jimmy had been inside the store on numerous occasions. they knew there was a large amount of jewelry and cash inside the pawn shop. getting to it wasn’t much of a problem. getting across the border and back into california wasn’t much of a problem after the robbery as well. a stolen gunny sergeant’s car made things even easier. killing the marine proved to be the hardest part of their evening and early morning. the drive back into their former childhood home of ontario, california was uneventful.

jmh

double down pt 2

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the brothers stood sweating in the warm kitchen not saying a word. johnny was the first to move. he went into the living room and made sure the screen door was latched and the front door locked. moving through the rest of the house he went room to room closing blinds and drapes. jimmy stayed in the kitchen not moving. johnny returned to the kitchen and shoved jimmy into the living room and onto the shabby couch.

johnny, i think i’m going to be sick.

alright but not here. go into the bathroom and make it quick. we have to be quiet.

ok.

jimmy scurried off to the bathroom. he wasn’t sick but he took a long leak. flushed and came back into the living room. by then the sirens had stopped. the boys knew the police and maybe an ambulance were at the dairy. several minutes passed in silence. johnny got up and used the bathroom. when he came back a siren started up and soon faded into the hot sweltering summer air. the boys imagined it was the ambulance taking eddie otto to the hospital.

johnny what are we gonna do? mom and dad…

shut up jimmy. we have to be real quiet. i’ll think of something. you just be quiet. ok?

yeah. ok.

no crying either.

yeah. ok. shit.

it wasn’t long after that they heard a car pull up outside the house. johnny crept to the front window, shushed jimmy, and peeked out through a small crack in the drapes. it was a police car. two cops were getting out and heading up to the house.

it’s the cops, jimmy. be real quiet.

the brothers heard one of the cops climb up on the porch and saw his shadow as he passed to the front door. the cop began knocking on the front door. between knocks johnny and jimmy heard the crunch of gravel as the other cop made his way to the back of the house. soon there was pounding on the back door as well.

johnny put his left index finger to his lips. jimmy put his right index finger to his. both boys nodded. the knocking at the front door stopped but the cop stayed where he was. a few seconds later the pounding at the back door stopped as well. soon after they heard the other cop walking on the gravel back towards the front yard.

back door is locked too. the garage was clear.

ok. i’ll call in and we’ll just sit tight until one of the parents gets here. they must be in the house or in the wind. i’ll get some other units to cruise the area.

sounds good. i’ll go around back again and wait there. we’ll keep both doors covered.

alright. yell if you see or hear anything.

will do.

one of the cops went out to the car and talked on the radio for a few minutes. when he was finished talking he got out of the car wiping his brow from the heat. he walked up into the yard and stood in the shade of the large walnut tree that stood in the corner of the yard. a few minutes later several other cop cars pulled up in front of the house. johnny was still at the small crack in the drapes by the front window. he could see the cops talking. the cop in the yard gestured up the street and the other cars slowly pulled away to search the surrounding area.

the two brothers were scared, exhausted and soon fell asleep. johnny on the floor by the front window and jimmy on the couch. they were both awakened by a car door slamming. johnny looked out the front window. it was their mother. she was climbing out of a cop car. the cops had gone to her work and picked her up. not good. he knew their father would be arriving home soon as well. not good.

johnny made a quick decision. not one of his best but in the grand scheme of things certainly not one of his worst. he bolted for the kitchen and the back door.

johnny where you going? johnny?

jimmy stood by the couch wiping his eyes. he was still half asleep, tired and now bewildered. he’d almost forgotten what had been going on that hot afternoon. as he stood there he heard the back door open and the voice of the cop in the backyard.

hey! stop right there!

luckily for johnny the cop had been distracted by the horse the next door neighbors kept. he was in the corner of the yard by the fence. by the time he got moving johnny was around the corner and heading down the driveway at full tilt. johnny was moving well on the gravel even in his bare feet. the cop in the back yelled to the cop in the front that one of the kids was heading his way. also that the back door was open and he was going in.

johnny was flying down the gravel drive. he blew past the cop in the front yard. his mother and another cop near her. he’d made it to the end of the drive then made a hard left into the empty lot where the neighborhood kids played baseball. his mistake was staying near the street. not much foot traffic there as everyone cut across the vacant lot. johnny had run into an area where the puncture vines held sway.

johnny had traveled maybe thirty feet from the driveway when he realized his mistake. he’d ran right into the center of a very large spreading puncture vine. he hopped to a stop. both feet filled with the nasty sharp dried needle like balls. he fell to his butt getting some stuck in his hands and ass as well. one of the cops scooped him up and carried him to the front lawn where he began to remove the stickers.

johnny’s mother was livid. she was yelling and ranting uncontrollably. one of the other cops had to restrain her in order to get her away from her son. the cop from the back yard opened the front door. he had jimmy by the hand. johnny and jimmy basura’s first crime spree was over. sadly, there would be many more to come.

the rest of the day and night was a blur for the two youngsters. their mother yelling and crying. their father yelling and threatening all manner of retribution. the cops were in and out as well. they weren’t yelling. more like mystified by the brothers savage attack on the hapless teenage dairy attendant. eddie otto would survive. the last stab to his neck just missing his jugular by mere millimeters. though there was the fact he was now sporting close to one hundred stitches covering a large portion of his body.

the stitches hurt and stung but eddie figured that at some point that would stop and the scars along with the story about how he got them would become sort of a babe magnet. eddie otto was right about that. while he was in the hospital he might also ask a doctor why he could blow cigarette smoke out of his ears. he never did. no sense ruining a good thing.

as for johnny and jimmy they were placed in custody of the court for a time. the court figuring that maybe their crazed parents had something or another to do with their going off on eddie otto. they spent a lot of time with social workers and psychologists. both trying their collective best to try and figure the two brothers out. though being in the mid 50’s it was early for both fields and nothing much was really uncovered. the boys soon learned the ropes and after a year and a half the court decided the two kids were ok enough to be sent back to their parents and their home. both parents had calmed down and had received some of the same treatment the boys had. it worked about as well on them as it did their kids.

things at the basura household actually went well for a few years. the boys and their parents getting along reasonably well. reasonably well until the two youngsters hit puberty. even though johnny and jimmy were a year apart they hit puberty at the same time with a vengeance not often seen in those calmer and saner days of the early 1960s. johnny and jimmy basura were to become, what one wag would later say, the vanguard of what was to become of american youth.

jmh

double down pt 1

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johnny basura became a low life thug at a very early age. no one is sure just how or why that was only that it was. no doubt about it. not only johnny but his younger brother jimmy as well. the pair had been nothing but trouble since johnny was in the third grade and his little brother jimmy in the second. in the beginning they weren’t too bad really. just normal kids crying, laughing, and getting into the usual kid mischief. nothing very serious. then one summer day things went way south for the two brothers. and way south for the rest of the basura family as well.

the day was hot in the usual southern california summer way. almost 95 degrees by noon time. baking hot. with not even a whisper of a breeze. the two basura brothers had been fooling around all morning playing baseball with some of the other neighborhood kids. the kids stopped their game for lunch. each of them went their separate ways for a sandwich or whatever. with the day promising only to get hotter the boys probably wouldn’t be playing anymore ball until the next morning or maybe after dinner that night. maybe.

johnny and jimmy ate their sandwiches in front of the old b/w TV. they watched cartoons while they ate. johnny spoke.

you want to go get a 50 – 50 bar after lunch, jimmy?

ok.

there was a dairy farm a short walk away with a drive thru area where you could buy milk, ice cream, eggs, and bread. of course, for the local neighborhood kids it was more of a walk thru as they ran their milk run errands for their families or scored ice cream for themselves. after they finished eating the boys cleaned up knowing that if they didn’t there would be trouble to pay when their parents got home from work. no sense getting chased around the house by an angry mother wielding a metal fly swatter and swinging wildly at them and often making contact. all the while yelling wait until your father gets home. no, not something the two boys wanted on this hot summer day.

with the temperature now nearing 100 the two brothers gingerly walked barefoot to the dairy. almost burning their feet on the hot asphalt as they ran across the street. the dirt path on the other side was somewhat cooler and they kept their eyes peeled for puncture vines not wanting to step on any of the vicious dried spiked balls of weed with their bare feet. most of the time they were lucky but luck didn’t always hold out. today it did. at least in that regard.

johnny and jimmy always carried a knife. their father mauricio, or maury as family or friends called him, had given each of the boys a small pocket knife as soon they were both walking fairly well. their father thought kids should have some sort of protection as he put it and a knife could be a useful tool as well. most of the time the brothers used their knives for the random whittling of fallen tree branches or other errant pieces of wood. sure the boys often cut themselves but maury said that was just part of being a boy and growing up. well, this day was about to become something entirely different.

as the brothers walked along the dirt path they raised little clouds of dust with each step. they spoke quietly about nothing until johnny put his hand out to stop his little brother. they stopped mid stride in the hot afternoon sun. little jimmy just stood there silently looking at his older brother and wondering what was up. there were no puncture vines close by and as far as he could tell no stray dogs about either. what was up?

jimmy, let’s rob the dairy.

what? are you kidding?

no. let’s do it.

why?

why not? it might be fun. we both have knives. we’ll each order a 50 – 50 bar and when eddie is digging them out of the freezer we’ll pull our knives and tell him it’s a stick up.

are you serious? we could get into big trouble. and mom and dad…

forget that stuff, ok? i’m going to do this whether you go along or not. and you’d better or i’ll kick your ass worse than mom or dad ever did. understand?

ok. since you put it that way. i’m in. you know sometimes i don’t like you much, johnny.

yeah, i don’t like you much either. just shut up and follow my lead.

yeah yeah, sure.

the brothers continued their walk in the sun towards their destiny. when they reached the corner and the shade of several eucalyptus trees jimmy stopped and spoke.

johnny? i’m scared.

me too. but this will be fun. trust me.

ok. sure. shit.

rounding the corner they could see the dairy’s drive thru. there were no cars and eddie otto, the teenage attendant, was sitting in the shade smoking a cigarette. he was always smoking or so it seemed. eddie favored lucky strikes and would smoke them down to nubs. then he’d put on a show for the local kids with the short cigarette butts. he’d put the butt in his mouth. close it then make smoke come out of his nose. open his mouth and roll the still lit smoke around on his tongue. flipping it over a couple of times. close his mouth again and then make smoke come out of his ears. it was truly an amazing sight. even for eddie otto. he had no idea why he was able to get the smoke to come out of his ears. though he really didn’t care much because it looked very cool. regardless. and eddie otto was very cool.

eddie saw the two brothers approaching and waved to them. he drew deeply on his smoke several times in order to get it to the proper length for his little kid show. teenage boys and boredom. both of which were in for a shock that sweltering summer day. as johnny and jimmy neared the driveway they saw eddie hold up the cigarette butt and put it in his mouth. by the time they got to the cash register eddie was almost finished with his act. smoke was coming out of his ears when johnny spoke.

hi, eddie. we want two 50 – 50 bars. raspberry and an orange.

eddie spit out the butt and said.

sure. a dime each.

he turned around to reach into the freezer for the ice cream bars. when he turned back holding the bars he spotted the two knives.

what? hey?

shut up, eddie. this is a stick up. give us all of the cash in the drawer. we’re serious.

what? don’t make me laugh. put those away before you guys get hurt or i’ll call the cops. understand boys?

shut up, eddie. give us the money.

eddie just glared at the two boys then said.

fuck this. i’m calling the cops.

eddie turned towards the telephone on the desk and began dialing the local cops.

johnny was first but jimmy was a very close second. both of the boys dove onto eddie otto and began to stab him repeatedly with their small pocket knives. eddie did his best to cover himself while trying to stop the two now frenzied brothers. he wasn’t very successful at either. johnny had the register open and grabbed the cash as jimmy kept on stabbing eddie. johnny stuffed the cash into a front pocket of his shorts. he lunged towards eddie for one more stab and caught the teenager in the throat with his small knife.

let’s go, jimmy!

the two brothers ran away heading towards home. they left eddie otto sitting on the ground, leaning against the desk, phone in his hand, and bleeding very badly. the two ice cream bars lay melting on the ground in the hot sun.

as the two brothers ran home they barely felt the hot dirt and asphalt under their feet. it was as if something was lifting them as they ran. their feet hardly touching the ground. or so it seemed. they ran home and up the gravel driveway to the backdoor. both boys hit the door at the same time. once inside they slammed it shut and tried to catch their breaths. in the distance they heard sirens.

jmh

wire to wire pt 2

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as they were pulling out of the racetrack parking lot baldo bustamonte thought it would be a good idea if he asked jenny where they were going for dinner.

‘we’ve been all over the place talking about this and that i, ah, forgot to ask where we’re going to eat.’

‘make a right on foothill, old route 66, and head towards glendora. we’re going to the golden spur.’

‘ok. yeah, i’ve always wanted to go there. i hear the rack of lamb is outstanding.’

‘i’m surprised you’ve never done it. it’s not that far from the track. and the lamb is to die for.’

‘yeah, well you know. been by it any number of times. you want to know something else?’

‘what?’

‘i don’t know where you live. though i guess after dinner we could just drive around until you tell me.’

‘hahaha. that’s funny. and you’re right. i live in ontario. by the high school.’

‘no kidding? me too. i live downtown near the catholic church.’

it was odd that the two hadn’t spoken of where they lived until now but in the grand scheme of things the night was only going to get even more odd at best. dinner at the golden spur turned out to be as advertised. an outstanding rack of lamb cooked to perfection. baldo was impressed. the restaurant was someplace he’d be coming back to again. the dinner was leisurely and the talk still lively.

‘hey, look ms. jenny. before i drink anymore wine i think it’s about time i got you home. ok?’

‘sure. ok.’

the pair made their way out to baldo’s car and as they approached it jenny rider fell into baldo’s arms. they kissed deeply. when the embrace broke jenny smiled and spoke first.

‘you know baldo. i generally don’t do that with men i just met. especially men who could be considered father figures.’

‘thanks for putting that in such a nice way. let’s get out of here before i get some other ideas.’

the drive back to ontario was almost silent. the two content to just sit and be with one another. especially in bustamonte’s case. when they reached upland baldo made a right on euclid ave and headed south to ontario. jenny spoke.

‘i’m not ready to go home. i know of a dice game going down tonight. it might be fun. you interested?’

baldo thought to himself he was more interested in something else but said.

‘ok. sure why not? it might be fun. maybe i can parlay some of my horse money into a bigger bankroll. where is it?’

‘that’s the spirit, baldo. it’s at this guy’s house on ‘h’ st west of the iron skillet. north side. i know where it is.’

this really wasn’t something baldo wanted to do but he was going along with it if only for the fact he could spend some more time with jenny. even if it involved being around other people. he was thinking more along the lines of just the two of them in a more intimate setting. a dice game with strangers was far from his thoughts.

the night was dark and once they turned west on ‘h’ st it became even darker. the stately trees lining the street made it hard for the sparse street light to penetrate their foliage. what did manage to make it to the street could barely be called light.

‘ok. we’re almost there. two more houses. park anywhere.’

‘sure.’ was all bustamonte said. he was thinking other thoughts but didn’t want to say anything to jenny about them. he was afraid if he did his new found friend and the prospect of later fun would probably evaporate very quickly. thoughts like, who are these people? how did jenny know them and their game? were just a couple of the thoughts. as he parked his car jenny cuddled up close to him and lightly kissed him on the cheek.

‘this will be fun. i love a good craps game.’

‘ah, yeah. me too. let’s get going.’

once again baldo’s thoughts were on other things. he wanted only for the game to be over so he could possibly take on another situation with jenny rider. the two walked quietly hand in hand up to the home’s front porch. there were no lights on other than some at the back of the house. they cast stark shadows along the empty driveway. jenny rang the bell and after a few moments a very tall gentleman answered the ring.

‘jenny. nice to see you.’

‘hi, eddie. we’re here for the game. this is baldo. i hope you don’t mind.’

‘mind? nah, jenny. any friend of yours is ok by me. come on in. the game is in the back room.’

once inside the house jenny made the more formal introductions. eddie layne was the guy’s name. he and his brother danny owned the house and were running the game. it was something they did a few times a month for some fun and if they were lucky a little cash. or that was the story. baldo was thinking things didn’t look really kosher but his friend inside his pants was, at that point of the evening, doing most of his thinking for him. never a good thing to be sure.

there were a couple of other people in the back room when they entered. along with a good amount of cash on the floor. an old army blanket was in place as well and it was being used as the dice table as is were. there were three other men in the room.

‘it’s not vegas. but it works. hi, jenny.’

the man stuck his hand out towards baldo and said.

‘i’m danny. eddie’s brother.’

more introductions were made and baldo started to feel a little better about being there. he still wished he was somewhere else but decided to make the best of it. jenny went off to make them some drinks and the men resumed their game. the two other men had obviously been playing awhile and were not doing well. most of the money on the floor was theirs. which now belonged to the two brothers. when jenny came back with their drinks baldo had a very strange feeling once again but let it slide.

the two men continued to lose more money while bustamonte’s cash went up and down. mostly down. when he’d entered the game he had around $4,000 dollars. after a couple of drinks he was down to a bit under $2,000. this wasn’t working out like he had hoped. as for the other two men they got tired of losing and said good night. while eddie showed the two men to the door baldo stared at the money on the army blanket. there had to be a good 6 or 7 thousand dollars there. maybe even more.

he sighed and wished he was still a cigarette smoker. as he looked up he noticed a reflection in a picture on the wall. the reflection clearly showed eddie and jenny in the hallway locked in an embrace with eddie’s hand up jenny’s dress and hers on eddie’s crotch. what the hell? by this time baldo was fairly drunk but it didn’t take him long to figure out the score. he was being taken for a ride by miss jenny and her two friends. and he was fairly certain that the dice were loaded and the game was totally rigged in their favor. how had he gotten himself into this situation? yeah, right. his little friend.

jenny and eddie came back into the room and the dice game began again. as baldo lost a few more hundred dollars he began to get antsy. he wasn’t sure what he was going to do but he needed to do something. at that point jenny left to make more drinks and eddie went to the can. that left baldo and danny alone in the room together. time for his move. it was now or never thought baldo. sure, he wasn’t thinking very straight but that’s one thought that didn’t occur to him.

danny was sitting on his haunches counting the large wad of cash. suddenly, baldo grabbed a framed photograph on a table and struck danny in the head with it as he shoved him very hard into the wall. baldo scooped up all of the cash and headed for the front door. he was outside and on the run before anyone in the house knew what was going on. well, other than danny. he made it to his car and had it fired up as the front door opened and light streamed out onto the dark front yard. it was eddie layne.

baldo burned rubber as he left the curb then sped down the dark street without the cars headlights. at the corner he barely slowed down as he made a careening left and sped towards his home. eddie was in the middle of the street by this time and knew trying to catch baldo at this point wasn’t very likely. he went back into the house to check on his brother.

jenny had a wet towel and was holding it to danny’s forehead. there were a few drops of blood on the floor.

‘you ok, bro?’

‘yeah, the fucker cold cocked me. it’s just a flesh wound. i’ll be ok.’

‘he got all of the cash didn’t he?’

‘fraid so, eddie. sorry.’

‘me too guys. i…i…never thought it would come to this…’

‘well shit, jenny who did?’ it was eddie who spoke. he continued.

‘you did good in finding him, jenny. real good. you’ve got a real talent for that. did you find out where he lives?’

‘no, well, not really. someplace around st. george’s.’

‘ok. it’s a start.’

eddie grabbed the phone and called information and asked for baldo’s number. it was unlisted.

‘it’s not a large area but too big to start looking tonight. if he’s even going home. i’ll make a couple of calls in the morning. we’ll find him.’

baldo bustamonte drove south down vine with his lights still off. he ran the stop at ‘g’ st and kept on going south. when he reached ‘d’ st he ran the stop as he turned left. his luck was still holding as there was no one else out and about at that hour. not even the cops. when he reached his home on the corner of ‘d’ and fern he pulled his car into the garage in the alley. collected all the cash. got out of the car. closed the garage door and went into the house. sitting alone and thinking in the dark living room baldo bustamonte fell asleep on the couch tightly clutching the large wad of cash.

jmh

wire to wire pt 1

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the cigar smelled expensive. not a cheap smoke for sure but still cigar smoke. he thought of saying something to the guy. instead he looked around for empty seats and searched for some among non smokers. not seeing any he sighed and resigned himself to a day at the races filled with cigar smoke. at least the day was sparkling clear in that early january way you often got in southern california. wet or dry. the day cool in the shadow of the roof over head. the few empty seats filling up fast. first post was forty-five minutes away. waving at some of the cigar smoke with his racing form baldo bustamonte sighed again as he stood up. he unfolded the newspaper and placed it over the back of his seat. the proper way of seat saving at santa anita. if you weren’t aware of that fact you were quickly introduced to it by anyone sitting nearby if you tried to take the seat. common race track etiquette is a way of life in arcadia.

baldo bustamonte made his way to the betting windows where he placed $500 across the board on the number 4, 5, and 8 horses. it was his usual opening race bet. regardless of who the horses or jockeys were or the odds. regardless of anything other than the numbers: 4, 5, and 8. they were a combination of his birth month and birth year. and it was something he’d been doing ever since he started going to the races with his parents back in the early 60’s. too young then to place bets so his mom or dad placed the bets for him. of course, the bet back then was nothing close to his now standard $500 opening bet. over the years he’d actually been fairly lucky with it. maybe lady luck would smile on him again today.

after placing his bet baldo wandered over to a concession stand and bought a couple of hot dogs and a draft beer. he brought the food and drink back to his seat and was elated to see the cigar smoker’s seat was empty and there was no newspaper or racing form over it’s back. maybe today was going to be a lucky day after all. smiling and humming an old gram parsons tune while he ate, baldo almost choked on his beer when a stunning young lady made her way to the now empty seat. stunning and alone. fortune was indeed smiling on baldo this cool clear january afternoon. or so it seemed.

the well dressed young woman got up and placed her racing form over the back of the seat. sweet, baldo thought, she’s here for awhile at least. while thinking that thought their eyes met and baldo felt a quick jolt as the young lady smiled at him. post time was quickly approaching so she was probably on her way to make a bet. baldo decided to let things take whatever course they would take regarding the young lady. he wasn’t going to push it. even though pushing it wouldn’t be a bad idea. she was gorgeous. he was there for the races and hopefully for a much needed inflow of cash. not there to get lucky with the ladies. ladies usually meant a cash outflow. time would tell on both counts.

first post had sounded and the horses were out on the track walking to the starting gate when the young woman returned. she removed the newspaper from the back of her seat and shot baldo another jolting smile. if this keeps up, he thought, i’m in trouble. baldo bustamonte needed a clear head if he was going to make any money on the horses today. though he did smile back. more like a lopsided ear to ear grin. he told himself to chill out as he began to study the second race card in the racing form.

as the horses neared the starting gate baldo put down his paper and watched them enter the gate with his field glasses. they were a calm lot and none of them seemed to be spooked by anything or anyone. probably a good sign. when the last horse entered the gate a split second later the bell rang and the track announcer’s voice came over the speakers. ‘and they’re off!’

as the horses made their first pass in front of the stands baldo was pleasantly surprised to see the 4, 5, and 8 horses in the lead running neck and neck. rounding the first turn it seemed as if they were beginning to pull away while still running as a trio. neck and neck. the clear almost three dimensional san gabriel mountains are the perfect backdrop to the santa anita backstretch. the backstretch where baldo’s horses were still neck and neck and a good two lengths in front of the next horse. as he watched the three horses through his field glasses he began to feel his pulse quicken. there was nothing like it. a bunch of money riding on the first race. a bunch of money on your horses in the first race. and your horses in the lead as they approached the second turn and the home stretch.

coming through the last turn almost seemed to slingshot the three horses down the home stretch. their lead now three and a half lengths. still running neck and neck. baldo stood up and cheered his horses on. the rest of the crowd was on their feet as well. yelling. cheering. urging on the horses. by the time they reached the finish line they were five lengths in front and the number 4 horse had the lead by a neck. the number 5 horse in second by a nose with number 8 in the show position as they thundered past and crossed the finish line. baldo bustamonte was ecstatic as he yelled and jumped up and down. he’d done a quick calculation in his head and figured he was now up in the neighborhood of $2,300. sweet indeed.

the crowd began to calm down a bit but there was still a buzz in the air. they had just seen something almost magical. something almost unbelievable. three horses running neck and neck. wire to wire. a few minutes later when the numbers were posted baldo let out a shriek when he saw he’d won $2,556 on the first race. a new record for him and his standard opening bet. he was still jumping up and down yelling when the young lady turned and looked at him saying.

‘you must have hit the jackpot.’

‘pretty much. it’s a nice hit for sure. my biggest first race ever.’

‘lucky you.’

yeah. lucky me. thought baldo bustamonte. lucky me.

baldo sat down and dug out his winning ticket from his shirt pocket. he held it in both hands as he looked at it. while he was staring at the ticket he was drawn from his reverie once again by the young lady.

‘i won a couple of bucks too. let’s cash our tickets in and get a drink.’

baldo looked up at her smiled and said. ‘sure. sounds like a plan to me.’

as the two made their way to the nearest aisle baldo was thinking this was turning out to be a very lucky day indeed. when they got to the asile baldo introduced himself. as they were shaking hands the young lady told baldo her name was, jenny rider. they walked up the stairs to the pay out windows and collected their winnings, chatting along the way.

since they had forgotten to save their seats baldo suggested an upgrade to the ‘turf club’ for their drink. his treat. jenny agreed and they made their way to the club. once inside they got their drinks sat down and chatted some more. it turned out jenny had come to the track with some guy she’d recently started dating. for some reason or another they gotten into a fight and jenny had left the guy and wandered over into the area where baldo was sitting in order to get away from the guy. baldo just listened and sipped his vodka rocks while inserting ah huhs and nods as needed. jenny was saying that the problem now was she had no ride home. baldo, being ever the gentleman, said he’d be willing to give jenny a ride home after the last race. jenny smiled and told him thanks. the stupid lopsided grin was back on baldo’s face

the two new friends spent the rest of the day in the ‘turf club’ betting on the horses and getting to know each other. they seemed to be hitting it off fairly well. baldo’s luck stayed with him as well. he won several more races and collected another $1,800 or so. after the eighth race baldo asked if jenny had had enough of the races and if she wouldn’t mind leaving now so they could miss the majority of the crowd heading home later. jenny agreed. she then suggested stopping at a restaurant she knew of on the way for dinner. baldo said fine with him. yes, things were looking up for baldo bustamonte. or so it seemed.

jmh