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the play

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his eyes ached and itched. he had been at it since 10pm. it was now well after 4am. the only things he had accomplished were to adjust the drapes several times along with the candles. which were the only illumination in the otherwise dark room. paper and pen. typewriter and paper. and computer had gone untouched other than the occasional tap of his fingers on one or more of them. he sighed and slid further down in his chair. a few moments later he was asleep.

the sun was out as were the blue jays. who were well into their morning foraging with their unmistakeable squawks coming in somewhere just beneath his sleeping conscience. the candles were out in a pool of their own wax. a breeze rustled the drapes. as the phone on his desk rang he stirred in his sleep only slightly aware of it’s ringing. the phone. the ringing. now almost awake he cursed under his breath.

finding the phone he cursed again. why had he agreed to have one of them was something he never fully understood.

‘yeah? what?’

‘bill?’

‘who else maury.’

‘ok. i never know who’s going to answer when i call you. you know your aversion to the phone and all.’

‘hmmm. yeah, i suppose. though i tossed everyone out rather early last night. you know work and all.’

‘yes, exactly why i’m calling. how’s it going? any progress?’

‘progress? ah…yeah…i tossed everyone out last night. early. then i spent the night here at my desk.

‘writing?’

‘mmm. not really writing. thinking about writing mostly. i did have everything i needed close at hand though.’

at that point in the conversation a blue jay began creating a racket on a the window ledge.

‘look maury i need to deal with henry. i’ll call you back.’

‘henry, the bird?’

‘yeah. i’ll get back to you.’

he hung up and went to the window.

‘good morning, henry. sorry about the drapes. let me move them out of your way.’

the man moved the drapes and a squawking blue jay flew into the room and landed on his desk. the jay stood on a piece of paper and stared at the man.

‘ah, good. the paper. perhaps you’re housebroken after all. excellent.’

he went to his desk and sat in his chair while opening a drawer. the blue jay moved closer and he made a deposit on the desk.

‘well so much for housebroken. where’s lady?’

the jay squawked a reply.

‘i see. out doing other things this morning. fine. here you go my little friend.’

he scattered some unsalted peanuts in the shell on the desk top. henry the jay made a bee line to the closest nuts. he poked at one until he got it open then he ate it. he did the same to several others. the man tapped the desk with his index finger. looking up at him the bird walked over and put its head down.

‘yes yes, my little friend.’

he began to gently ruffle the jays feathers on it’s head. the bird closed his eyes and settled in to the attention. it had taken weeks for bill to get the blue jay to come inside the house after days of feeding the bird peanuts out in the yard. actually the pair of birds. husband and wife as it were. both would come inside now for the nuts and a bit of petting. which had taken even more time and patience to accomplish. the petting went on for a few minutes before bill spoke again.

‘ok. henry. i’m in no mood for our next adventure today. we’ll work on our trick again tomorrow. i have things to do today. you grab a few nuts while i visit the loo.’

after one last pet, bill got up and left the room. henry shook out his feathers and grabbed a nut in his beak. then proceeded to fly out the window with it. he returned a minute or so later and grabbed another. henry repeated this a few times until he was satisfied. at least for the time being. bill returned to the room with a damp piece of toilet paper and cleaned up the desk. the analogy wasn’t wasted on the man. after he swept the peanuts back into the drawer he closed the window and opened the other drapes.

sighing bill went back to his desk and dialed maury’s number.

‘good morning. maurice wienstein and associates. how may i help you?’

‘morning, anne. how’s it going? is the man still there?’

‘morning, bill. all is well. yep, i’ll put him on for you.’

‘good. how about drinks later in the week?’

‘ah, ok. i’ll let you know. i’ll put maury on now.’

‘thanks. talk to you later.’

‘bill? the birdman of sherman oaks. i’m honored.’

‘jesus. cut me some slack, maury. i’ve put a lot of time into those birds and well…’

‘you know, bill, a little more time hammering something out would be nice as well. time is tight. the season starts again in three months. it would be especially nice if i could hand the producers a completed script. soon. i might add it would be a win win for both of us. along with money in the bank for unsalted peanuts.’

‘you’re just jealous.’

‘and how many times have i asked you not to date my help?’

‘jealous once again. i’ve lost count. and drinks aren’t dates. we agreed to that long ago. remember?’

‘one of the dumber things i’ve agreed to in my life. did we get it in writing? ah, crap. never mind. so, do you even have an inkling of an idea? perhaps even a germ that’s sprouted something or another? anything at all since we last spoke? what last thursday? you’ve had all weekend.’

‘sprouting idea germs? good one, maury. i may eventually use that one.’

‘yes, please use it. just use something anything and get it on paper or in the computer and give it to me. getting you to write something is not the easiest thing in the world to do.’

‘tell me about it.’

‘i’m your agent not your mother. if it weren’t for the fact you have one of the best track records going i’d have moved on to other writers long ago, bill.’

‘yes. yes. yes. maury, the same old song and dance man. i’m only as good as my last…’

‘look. bill. the sand in the glass has about run out. they need something soon. very soon. or they’ll be looking elsewhere. sure it won’t be up to your standards but what is? the point being, they will have a play to produce and perform. capisco?’

‘yeah. i know. ah, shit. alright. i may have something. an idea. want to hear it?’

‘yes. please. continue.’

‘alright. there’s this guy. a politician. a minor one. a hack not really going anywhere. not real bright but interesting in a hail fellow well met kinda way. babes like him and men too.’

‘ok. maybe. what else?’

‘ah, his old lady. she’s the balls and brains of the outfit. a real harridan. she prods him into doing stuff so they can move up the political ladder. ah, sorta engineers him into doing whatever it takes. mostly murder, i guess. not sure just yet.’

‘i like it. yes. not last years romantic comedy either. yes. ok. when will we have it, bill?’

‘soon. it…it…it’s coming together. i’ll get it done. no screwing around until it’s finished. count on it.’

‘fine. let me know when it’s done.’

‘sure, maury. talk to you soon.’

bill hung up the phone then noticed henry and lady out on the window ledge.

‘sorry, kids. not now. work to be done.’

bill sat at his desk and typed on the computer. he had the title. macbeth by william shakespeare. the seed had germinated. the rest would come easy.

this originally appeared in january of 2015.

jmh

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the old west meets the old east

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this morning
in the
crapper
reading
one of those cooking
magazines.

some guy in
north
vietnam
driving by a
sidewalk barber
shop.

the lightning bolt
almost tossed me
off my throne.

yeah, viet
hair cut joints.
picture
the
wild west.
back in the
day.

cornered.
by the marshall
a
bird
colonel.
jesus son
get a haircut.
yes sir.

next morning
we grab a
jeep
our horse.
four guys.
fully loaded.

a cloud of
dust.
a whiff
of smoke.
a quick
ride into
what passed
for
downtown.

a sea
side fishing
ville
by day.
indian country
by night.

i am the
walrus
fades into a
smelly dead fish
rot.
not
horse shit.

ft apache.
dodge city.
tombstone.
somewhere
off in
the
distance.

park out
front.
one stays with
the horse.
M-79 &
a bag of
rounds.
grenades &
buck shot.
nasty
effective
bad juju.

inside under the
barber’s sheet.
M-16 cocked and
locked.
we take turns.
first out
spells
the horse
sitter.

deed done.
crappy hair cut.
ride back to
the old
french mission.
maybe stop for
pho.
maybe not.

at some
point.
the whole
barber in
the ville
thing
was
deemed
too
hazardous.

a deal was
cut.
he came to us
on his day
off.
sunday
afternoon.

the wild wild
east
got a little
tamer.

it was
a long time
ago.
but it
doesn’t take
much.
some days more
so
than others.

jmh

this originally appeared here on may 10, 2014.

eddie catalina part 9

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it was warm and the air clear due to a slight santa ana with the warm winds coming out of the east. eddie catalina stepped off the plane and back to the city from where he had come. he’d left years ago vowing to never return. well, never say never he thought. here he was back again. no where to go and almost broke. no prospects either. jesus, when things spiral out of control they spiral until the wings fall off. then it’s a free fall until the sudden stop. eddie was beginning to wonder when the sudden stop would come.

the airport had changed since he was last there. he could tell a new terminal had replaced the old one at some point long ago. when was the last time he had flown in or out of ontario? probably the flight to oakland after his leave home before vietnam. no, that didn’t make sense. had to be his flight from oakland after his return from vietnam. a long time ago.

standing out on the sidewalk smoking with no plan in mind wasn’t a good idea. eddie figured there probably wasn’t anyone still living in the area from the old days. and he couldn’t just grab a cab and ride around all day and night looking for something or someone that probably wasn’t there anymore. a cheap hotel seemed to be his only option at the moment. a very cheap hotel if he didn’t find some money soon. he walked out to the curb as a cab pulled up. eddie told the cabbie to find him the closest cheapest hotel or motel.

the cab dropped him off at a motel not far away from the airport on east holt. it was a run down joint that looked like it catered to hookers and druggies. eddie wasn’t surprised. some things never change even with progress. eddie paid the cabbie and went into the dingy office. it smelled of tobacco, stale sweat, a tinge of blood, and a lot of tears. gag reflex was the only other thing that came to his mind.

yeah, can i help you?

i suppose. i need a room for a couple of nights.

we got a couple. one up one down. take your pick.

up i guess.

214. take the stairs to the left. that’ll be $66 for two nights. if you decide to stay longer i’ll cut you a rate for weekly or monthly. take your pick.

ok. thanks. i’ll let you know.

sure.

eddie counted out the money which left him with somewhere near the one thousand dollar mark. when you’re on the run money seemed to just vanish. the thought of calling the lapd again flashed through his tired mind but he quickly forgot about it. he took his key and went up to his room. hopefully, it wouldn’t become his home.

it wasn’t much of a room and it smelled like a well used ashtray that had never been cleaned. a good thing eddie had started smoking again. there was also a shabby bed covered by an even shabbier spread with all manner of stains on it. several large holes in the dirty shabby carpet as well. he would have to be careful at night. his inspection of the bathroom was somewhat of a surprise. compared to the rest of the room it was a diamond in the rough. eddie tried the tv set next which worked and offered basic cable along with a free porn channel or two. yeah, hooker haven for sure. so much for quiet nights.

he lit up as he sat at the cheap table that over looked the parking lot while hoping the chair he was sitting in wouldn’t fall apart. as he sat there smoking a car pulled into the lot. an old beater for sure but the lady driving wasn’t.

the car parked in the spot directly under eddie’s window. a youngish black woman got out and came up the stairs. eddie had a thought and he needed to hurry. he was up and outside his door when the lady passed by.

hi, sugar. you looking?

i’m looking but not for what you have in mind.

really? so what you want?

i’m looking for a ride over to claremont. if you’re interested in that proposition i’ll buy you dinner later.

harrumph. i’ll think about it.

eddie watched as the lady walked down to her room. he turned and went back inside his room thinking, another fine mess to go along with his first day of hiding in plain sight. moving back to the rickety chair he lit another cigarette. eddie sat smoking, thinking, and staring into the distance. shambles. his life was nothing more than a massive shambles. lighting another smoke with the butt of the other one eddie picked up the phone.

he dialed 9 for an outside line. then 0 for an operator.

operator.

can you connect me with lapd homicide?

one moment, please.

eddie sat smoking while waiting for the call to go through. when it finally did he heard.

robbery homicide. lt. marvel january speaking.

this is eddie catalina. i believe you’re looking for me.

why yes we are, mr. catalina. we need to have a talk. where are you calling from eddie?

i’m in room 214 at the day night inn on e. holt in ontario near the airport.

marvel put his hand over the phone and told another detective to call the ontario police and have them send over a black and white asap to baby sit eddie until lapd could arrive.

eddie, i’m sending the ontario police to your motel. they’re going to sit with you until we get there. at this point eddie you’re just a material witness. ok? you won’t try and pull anything stupid now will you?

no, lieutenant, not a chance. i’m not armed and i’ll have the door open waiting for them.

eddie heard a police siren a short distance away.

good, eddie. that’s good. i’ll stay on the line until the officers are in the room with you. ok?

sure. whatever you say.

eddie lit another smoke as the ontario squad car sped into the lot. the arrival of the police took a small group of people by surprise. the group hurriedly began to disperse. eddie got up and opened the door then sat back down.

lieutenant, they’re here.

good. just relax and don’t do anything stupid.

eddie heard the cops running up the stairs. they paused at the open door with guns out and told eddie to show them his hands. he sat the phone down showed them his hands then stood up.

turn around slowly, sir, and put your hands behind your head. we’re going to cuff you for your safety and ours.

not a problem officer.

after eddie was cuffed the ontario cop picked up the phone and told lt january the situation was under control.

thank you, officer. we’re on our way. just sit tight. we’ll be there as soon as traffic allows.

the ontario cop hung up the phone then sat eddie back down on the chair. it was over. finally. it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from eddie’s shoulders. eddie sat and watched the cigarette smoldering in the ashtray. the smoke drifted up and out the open door.

this first appeared here in august of 2014.

jmh

eddie catalina part 7

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as eddie began his trek across the parking lot he tried not to hurry or do anything to call attention to himself. he figured he was lucky he had gone into the commercial for breakfast. the mob guys probably didn’t think he would be coming from that direction. and by the way they were clustered up eddie thought they were just setting up for the job at hand. the job to find and kill him.

how had they found him so soon? simple really he thought. either the man at the sports book last night or someone in the cat house. or maybe even both. god, he was stupid and probably deserved whatever the mob had planned for him. maybe he should just go up to the suite and call the local law and take his chances with them. no, that was stupid as well. think eddie.

once inside the hotel lobby he saw only the paiutes and a few more leftover drunks from the night before. no mobsters. eddie wondered if they would actually come into the hotel to find him and take him. he took a chance and stopped at the main desk.

good morning. i’m up in 421. has anyone been looking for me?

no, sir. not that i know of anyway. i’ve been here for about an hour and a half.

ok. thanks. ah, some friends of mine mentioned they might stop by. if they do will you call me and let me know? i’d prefer to come down and meet them here in the casino.

not a problem, sir.

perfect. here’s a twenty for your trouble.

no trouble at all but thank you very much.

eddie made a beeline to the elevator. thankfully the wait wasn’t very long. he rode up to the fourth floor with several of the paiutes. he smiled but didn’t say anything.

once in his room eddie went to the window being careful not to stand to close to the opening. the mobsters were gone from where he had seen them talking. there must be one at each entrance by now. maybe others as well. he got his things together in preparation for a fast exit. then he called housekeeping and told them he didn’t want his room cleaned today. if anyone came to the door it would be the mob and not the cleaning lady.

from the side window he couldn’t spot any mobsters either. though on the corner there was a bar and a group of bikers gathered outside. eddie had noticed the signs yesterday about a poker run in memory of one of their fallen. today was going to be sunny and warm. a good day for riding a bike. was it going to be a good day for eddie?

eddie thought again about just calling the police but by now that option probably wouldn’t do him much good. he had run away after the killings. maybe if he had stayed in the apartment and waited for the cops back when it happened he might have gotten away with the killings. maybe. though the mob wasn’t going to forget. ever.

he pulled the last smoke from the pack in his shirt pocket. he crumpled up the package and tossed it towards the trash. he missed and it rocked a bit on the carpet before it settled. eddie looked for the carton of smokes and when he found the carton it was empty. he crumbled it up as well and tossed it towards the can. he missed again and the carton rolled to the wall and stopped.

eddie needed smokes. now was not the time to quit. yet again. maybe it was but he didn’t see it that way. he needed smokes to help him think. he was in a predicament and decided to take a chance and the stairs down to the lobby and try to find a machine for some cigarettes. and he hoped the mob guys were outside and not parked in the lobby or casino. from the side window he had seen the corner of what appeared to be a supermarket about two blocks away. he doubted he could manage to get that far with the mobsters around but it might become an option.

finding the back stairs eddie slowly made his way down to the lobby. the only people on the stairs were a few of the paiute kids playing kid’s games. they paid him no mind. once downstairs he slowly opened the door. he didn’t see any mobsters. eddie couldn’t actually skulk around in the casino without attracting a certain amount of attention. so he sucked it up and ambled as best he could out into the gaming area.

he asked a casino employee if there was a cigarette machine around. the man pointed to a corner by the coffee makers. eddie thanked him and walked over to the machines. he didn’t see any mob guys on the trip over. likely they were all outside, he thought. after all he would at some point have to leave. once at the machine eddie pulled a few dollars from a pocket and then realized the only smokes left in the machine were camel straights. unfiltered camels. this was not good. he needed cigarettes but not honest to god real live cigarettes. he hadn’t smoked one of them in many many years.

eddie walked back to the employee and spoke to him.

is that the only machine in the casino?

yes. why?

there are only non-filtered camels in it.

really? we were very busy last night. busier than i thought. sorry about that. it rarely happens. maybe once a year or so.

will it get filled up again today?

sorry, pal. the guy doesn’t come around till tomorrow afternoon. you can try the bar across the street but you’d probably be better off going over to the market down a few streets.

yeah, i’ve seen it. thanks anyway.

sure. nice day for a walk.

ah, yeah, right.

eddie returned to the machine and bought a pack of the camels. he opened it there and pulled out one of the short cigarettes and lit it. he immediately started coughing and thought, this isn’t going to work. he also thought since he was downstairs he ought to check the exits for mob thugs.

he picked up a free paper and walked around pretending to read it while he smoked and coughed. the unfiltered camel was making him a bit dizzy. he stood near the front desk and noticed two men smoking and talking out on the sidewalk. they didn’t blend in with the paiutes or the rest of the hotel crowd. mob guys. going back through the casino he noticed one mob soldier standing by the casino entrance door. two for two. probably at least one more at the side entrance by the sports book.

eddie was screwed. what the hell had he been thinking? why hadn’t he spent just one night in elko and then out on the road again? or better yet why hadn’t he just talked to the cops? hindsight. it always made you crazy. or in eddie catalina’s case, crazier.

back up in his suite eddie lit up another of the non-filter camels. he was going to have to figure something and fast. he needed smokes he could actually enjoy smoking and he needed to get the hell out of elko. as he stood smoking he noticed there were quite a few more bikers at the bar across the street. bikers and their biker harley’s. they weren’t your run of the mill sunday biker who took the wife for a ride and a brunch some place. no, these guys were the real deal.

eddie smiled and stubbed out the camel. picked up his stuff and went downstairs. he used the back stairs again as he didn’t want to pass the front desk with bag in hand. he was leaving but he wasn’t checking out.

once back in the casino he went towards the sports book and the rear side entrance. he got about three feet from the door and spotted the mobster on guard duty. eddie stopped. he knew this was his only shot at ditching the mobsters if only for a little while. eddie steeled himself. then he ran into the door and flung it open.

the mobster was startled and almost fell over. he steadied himself and yelled after eddie, who was about halfway across the street. the three other mob men were already turning the casino corner. eddie made it to the other side of the street and up on the sidewalk. he was running for his life.

the mob soldiers ran across the street giving chase. eddie rounded the corner of the bar and ran for the parked bikes. there were several rows of the shinny hogs lined up in the parking lot. it had been years but eddie catalina had once ran track and at one time was an accomplished high hurdler. he made the correct calculation inside his head and easily hurdled the parked bikes even carrying his ratty suitcase. hit the pavement on the other side and kept on running.

the mob guys weren’t so lucky. years of breaking bones and shooting people had left them way south of any athletic ability if there had ever been any to begin with. all of the mobsters crashed into the the parked bikes.

eddie didn’t look back. eddie catalina was in the wind.

this originally appeared in july of 2014.

jmh

garden orchids

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as you can see we had a rather nice harvest of orchids from our garden. orchids that survive mostly on neglect on our part and their own hardiness. in the warmer months and winter periods of no rain, they get watered once a week. as simple as that. the photos were taken by the brown eyed girl and myself.

orchids10

unnamed-13

unnamed-14

unnamed-15

unnamed-16

jmh

orchids & light another perspective

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unnamed-10

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these lovely photos were taken by the brown eyed girl. thanks, sweetie.

jmh