Red Molly in a Leather Jacket

Says James, to Red Molly, “Here’s a ring for your right hand.
But I’ll tell you in earnest I’m a dangerous man;
For I’ve fought with the law since I was seventeen.
I’ve robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine.
And now I’m twenty-one years, I might make twenty-two.
And I don’t mind dyin’ but for the love of you.

—- Richard Thompson, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

I’ve stolen something. There is a bar that I visited last year, one that had an old fashioned photo booth back in the back, next to the filthy bathrooms. On the wall by the booth was a torn up cork board. A lot of people thumbtacked their strips of four photos into the cork, leaving them for posterity. I picked up a handful that looked interesting and stole them.

I’ve scanned the strips and I think I’ll take them, one at time, four photos at a time, and write a few words about the people in the photographs. Or, more accurately, what I imagine about them.

I wrote a story about the first strip here – here’s the second, and now, on a riff about a song by Richard Thompson I heard lying in bed, is the third.

 

They all had one incredible thing in common, they were all, all four, born on the same day. The twins, Molly and Tandy Vermilion, Michelle McQuade, and, of course, James, James Aidee. All three girls loved James, loved him as long as they could remember. When they were little kids it didn’t matter that there were three of them, it was just something that they shared.

But then, as they reached their twenties, it began to change. Each one wanted James to himself. They set aside their differences on their twenty-first birthday and had a four-person party down in the bars by the waterfront. They crowded into a photo booth to remember the day. They smiled at the lens, not realizing how few happy days were in front of them.

It was time to start their lives. To the shock of the other three, Michelle joined the police force. She was always a big girl, and a bit shy, but she found a hard discipline inside herself that worked well with her on the front lines of the toughest parts of the city.

All three, women now, thought of James all the time, but he loved Molly. He loved Molly with a burning fire.

But James wasn’t worthy of all their attention, he was lazy and shifty and would do anything to avoid having to work for his money.

Somehow, when Michelle became a cop, that cut the ropes that were keeping all of them in check and things quickly began to spin out of control. James worked a deal with Molly’s sister, Tandy, borrowing all her savings (and she, unlike her sister Molly and James was a hardworking, honest woman) with some harebrained scheme to buy some brown heroin from the next town down the interstate and turn it into a big profit. Tandy never would have done the deal if she wasn’t blinded by her passion for James… there were some vague promises made – never intended to be kept.

He lost his nerve and blew Tandy’s money on a classic motorcycle, a 1952 Vincent, and a custom leather jacket for Molly, who dyed her hair bright red for the occasion. Tandy was furious, though she never showed it outwardly. Molly and James were the talk of the town… A red haired woman in a leather jacket on the back of a vintage motorcycle… quite the scene.

But the Gomez brothers were upset the deal never went down. They had made some upfront deal that left them holding the bag and they weren’t who you wanted to piss off. Officer Michelle McQuade heard rumors through her network of informers and tried to warn her old friend James, but he wasn’t hearing any of it.

Finally, one evening Tandy had enough and sent word to the Gomez brothers of a place that James would head out at night. She said she was sick and made sure her sister Molly stayed with her while James rode away, saying she didn’t always need to go, it would be all right, “Just this time.”

They blasted James with a shotgun and Molly barely got to him at the hospital before he died. His last act was to give her the keys to the undamaged motorcycle.

Now the two sisters, Molly and Tandy ride the bike together with Molly in front still wearing her leather jacket. They are the talk of the town. Sometimes they go too fast but Officer McQuade makes sure the tickets get squashed.

 

Live Through the Night

“Yet, as only New Yorkers know, if you can get through the twilight, you’ll live through the night.”
― Dorothy Parker

Somewhere in the Caribbean

 

The light leaking between the curtains was gray twilight. He didn’t know where he was and the only clock read six seventeen with no AM/PM indicator. He didn’t know if it was six in the morning or in the evening.

All he could do was to stay motionless, staring at the gap between the curtains, waiting to see if it grew lighter or darker.

The Illusion of Risk

What are you buying when you get on a roller coaster? Not risk… but the illusion of risk. Being hurled to the edge of danger but knowing that you’ll never have to cross it. … Think of Alaska as one big theme park.”
—- Limbo (movie), John Sayles

This year’s New Orleans Writing Marathon was based at the wonderful, historic Beauregard Keyes house in the French Quarter. What a beautiful place – I recommend a visit and a tour.

I particularly enjoyed the artwork hanging on the walls. On our trip across the river to Algiers, we discussed a dark painting that I remembered. You couldn’t see much – only a snow capped mountain line and maybe a bit of an orange glow. When we returned for the evening, I took a photo of the painting with my phone and was surprised to see that there was more visible in the picture than there was in real life. There was a row of mountains and a small boat in the foreground that you could not see with the naked eye. I was particularly taken by that subtle orange glow behind some trees on the right hand side.

Enhanced photo of a painting in the hallway of the Beauregard-Keyes house, New Orleans

The staff from the Beuregard-Keyes House said that the painter and even the date of this particular canvas was unknown. I talked to the others that had been at Algiers with me and realized I had the wrong artwork – they had been discussing a nearby painting of Venice at night by George Loring Brown.

That didn’t matter to me, I still was fascinated by the dark line of snowcapped mountains and still water. The next day at a nearby breakfast place I decided to write a flash fiction based on the painting (changing the mountains into volcanic peaks for dramatic effect). Inspired by one of my favorite films, Limbo (see it at your risk, I loved the film but the others in the theater stood up and cursed the screen at the end – Christopher Null said, “I can forgive many things. But using some hackneyed, whacked-out, screwed-up non-ending on a movie is unforgivable. I walked a half-mile in the rain and sat through two hours of typical, plodding Sayles melodrama to get cheated by a complete and total copout finale.” – He is completely wrong, the movie ended the only way it could….), left the ending… somewhat unresolved.

Typed up from my handwritten notebook:

July 11, 10:30 Croisant D’Or, New Orleans

The darkness was so all-encompassing it felt as thick and liquid as the saltwater they dipped their paddles in. The four canoes and single small skiff moved in a rough line. Sam could almost see the skiff ahead – more of an impression than actual vision – rowed by the four on board – its sails useless in the dead calm night.

Beyond, the unseen moon hidden by an invisible line of cliffs to the right illuminated the snow capped upper slopes of the volcano. Its torn cone glowing in the sky – visible, but selfish with its cold light.

The paddles and oars clumped up and down the line, with an occasional weak splash. The men were all too exhausted with effort, fear, and lack of sleep to work efficiently and the sound of wood striking gunwale or skipping off the water at the wrong angle was a surprise to these skilled seagoing men – but they were so numb – the embarrassment passed.

They worked in silence. Sam wondered if the other men’s minds were silently exploding within – as his felt. The humidity thickened the darkness. The only breeze was provided by their paddling – the heat was broken every now and then by invisible lenses of cool air that fell down the slopes from the snowfields miles above. They passed through a bank of sour sulfur mist from the fumaroles along the shore. The paddling increased to move through that foulness as quickly as possible.

Sam saw something new – coming to life out of the ink. At first it was barely visible – a dark dull rust-colored patch ahead, quickly heating into a dark but distinct orange glow.

It was a bit to the right of the skiff, along the shoreline. Sam realized this was their destination, their camp. There was a line of dunes and behind them a swampy area before the land rose quickly up the mountain. They had pitched camp atop a series of grassy hummocks above the brown stagnant drainage, but still protected by the dunes from being seen from the sea.

At first the glow heartened Sam and the others as their rowing increased a little more in pace. They were almost back. Sam thought of a bit of a rest – of a stout drink around the campfire before they had to start the hard work of unloading the rifles and ammo boxes from the canoes and the skiff. Sam even thought beyond that, of crawling into his tent for sleep. That seemed the end, he couldn’t get his mind past the imaginary sensation of letting himself falling limp and snapping his eyes shut.

But as they approached at a frustrating pace, weighted down by all that steel until the tiny waves lapped at the gunwales, the orange glow began to grow and spread.

Soon, it was all-encompassing. They could even see yellow licks of flame flicking over the tops of the dunes. Long tongues of red light reached up the sides of the mountain above, moving and interspersed with long ominous purple moving shadows.

Shouts, curses, and desperate cries peppered up and down the line of little boats. Sam kept silent though, and continued to paddle with desperate hopeless effort. They all did, still moving straight into the growing conflagration.

They had nowhere else to go.

Sam thought, “I am mortal. We are all going to die… but when? Is it going to be tonight?”

The First Time

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day Two, Tuesday, July 11, 2017

One snippet of what I wrote that day.

The first time Jambalaya Joe cooked for us he made – of course – jambalaya. A great black cast iron kettle, suspended over a ring of roaring blue gas jets fed by a rusty steel bottle mounted on his trailer, bubbled furiously and steamed like a witch’s cauldron into the humid Louisiana air.

Rice, mysterious lumps of meat, and bags of vegetables went in – to roil and cook.

Then Jambalaya Joe looked around as if to make sure nobody was watching (though we all were – ravenous after a long, hard working day) extracted a large tin box from a stained canvas bag, lifted it over the boiling pot, and opened the lid with the creak of old hinges.

A cloud of red spice tumbled out to disappear into the boil below. It changed the color of the stew from a flat brown to a fiery red.

“That’s his famous secret spice mix,” said some random stranger next to me, complete with a wink and a subtle elbow to the ribs.

Jambalaya Joe cooked the evening meal for us every night, hired by The Company to feed the work crew until the job was finished.

He made something different each night. Jambalaya became gumbo, then red beans and rice, Irish stew, chili, then spaghetti and meatballs… on and on – visiting every cuisine of the world. I never imagined a cast-iron kettle could be so versatile.

But every meal he dumped the exact same tin box filled with the same secret spice mix into the pot.

Sound of Schoolkids

The other weekend we had another Writing Marathon. We met in Klyde Warren Park and walked across to the Dallas Museum of Art. The idea was to use the paintings as inspiration.

I’ve done that in the past… writing some fiction while sitting and looking at works of art. So I did it again – started a piece of fiction using objects and themes from a handful of painting that spoke to me that day. After pages of furious scribbling I came to a stopping place, the well had run dry.

So I switched to a bit of non-fiction, writing about what I saw, felt, and heard right then… as a little bit of writerly palette cleaning, a way to keep the pen moving, and to help remember the day.

This is what I’ve typed up out of my Moleskine:

There is a sound of a group of schoolkids moving through the gallery. The chatter, the echoing around the corners, the occasional squeak of a plastic sole scraped across polished wood.

An art museum is a place designed for the eyes, but it is a unique sound collection. Close your eyes and listen for the ping of the elevator door, a distant infant cry echoing through the labyrinth, a close jingle of keys.

The guards have rubber soled leather working shoes – silent as death and strong enough to stand in all day. I imagine their feet are sore and tired when they go home at the end of their shift.
Close your eyes and you can still feel the power of the art. There is so much time trapped in the layers of oil and pigment, drowned in the waves of brushmarks.

Open your eyes and look at the color. That blue robe is over four hundred years old – still as bright as the day it was layered down.

Nicolas Mignard  French 1606-1668 - The Shepherd Faustulus Bringing Romulus and Remus to His Wife - 1654

Nicolas Mignard, French 1606-1668 – The Shepherd Faustulus Bringing Romulus and Remus to His Wife – 1654 (detail)

Stand in front and extend your hand (not too close!) and feel yourself standing in the spot and position of the artist – though he had no electric light, no air conditioning. Next to the painting, on a little card, is a plaque with a number… Five Hundred (let’s say).

Jacques-Louis David, French, 1748-1825, Apollo and Diana Attacking the Children of Niobe, 1772

Jacques-Louis David, French, 1748-1825, Apollo and Diana Attacking the Children of Niobe, 1772

Pull out your phone, go to the indicated website (the museum has free WiFi, of course) and type in the number. (The museum posts this web address, dma.mobi – that contains so much information in a mobile interface… this is truly the best of all possible worlds). There, in your palm, appears a portrait of the artist – the tiny tinny speakers (forgot your earbuds again, didn’t you) speaks to you – a famous art historian lectures on those ancient times.

The glowing screen in your palm now changes every few seconds with a new image – a series of paintings by the same artist. This is too much. You can’t help but wonder what those ancient geniuses with their candles and oil paints would think of the tiny glowing screens. Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Una Battaglia – Friday Snippet

Una Battaglia (A Battle) – Arnaldo Pomodoro

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden – New Orleans Museum of Art

.

city

R’leigh and Sansom started their climb in the pitch black pre-dawn darkness. The lights mounted on their helmets cast yellow ovals that would dim after every few minutes. Then they had to pull them off and crank the little handles in the dark for a new charge. R’leigh would shiver as she felt the cool air off the vastness beyond the cliff blowing her hair and the tension in the unseen ropes holding her to the metal pins Sansom hammered into cracks in the rock while she worked at the generator built into her helmet light.

It seemed like forever, but they had moved about a third of the way on their way to the top when the sky began to glow salmon through the thick clouds. The rising sun itself was hidden but the faint glow of dawn was replaced by the slate-gray light of every day under the globe-girdling smoke cloud that had choked the earth from times before R’leigh was born. At least they could climb without the headlights and R’leigh rested against the rough granite while Sansom pulled their heavy equipment up from the base of the cliff far below. He then reeled in all the extra rope – now that they could be seen, they could not be reached.

The day settled in to a long, exhausting routine of Sansom pounding in pins above, then the two of them moving up in turns, each belaying the other in case one fell, then Sansom pulling up the equipment over the height they had gained.

While R’leigh braced herself safe and still and watched Sansom work she thought of a time three years ago, not long after they had started planning and training for this day. The two of them were on a school outing to a rare grove of trees preserved in a museum on the 598 level. The museum had done its best to duplicate at least a piece of a real forest, distributing the trees in a thick, random pattern over a rolling hill – artificial light streamed down from a ceiling painted an unreal blue.

The teachers had let the students wander around in the trees and told them to try and imagine a time when forests like this covered a large part of the earth – they went on for thousands of miles. R’leigh found that hard to believe and didn’t really understand what the big deal was – but Sansom pulled her into the center of the cluster of trees and then down a little gully away from the crest of the hill. There the grove was at its thickest.

He spent some time looking carefully up and around, until he had satisfied himself that they were hidden from the handful of cameras set up to keep an eye on the precious trees. He had already begun his secret training and was quickly becoming an expert on avoiding the surveillance. Looking straight at R’leigh, he slipped a hand into his jacket and pulled out a small, silver object which unfolded in the center.

“A pocketknife,” he said quietly. “The cell, we all made these out of scraps of cooling duct.”

He turned and moved the knife quickly and surely across the surface of the tree, slicing the bark in confident, sharp lines. R’leigh saw liquid welling up in the cut lines. She didn’t know that trees would bleed. Instead of red blood, though, the sap oozed out in a series of little clear globs, strings of sparkling jewels like a living necklace along the lines that Sansom was carving. The air quickly filled with a sharp smell – the life of the tree leaking into the air. She was so intrigued by the crystal-like sap she didn’t even notice what he was cutting out.

Before she realized what he was doing, he stopped, then stood back and, with a self-satisfied smirk, gestured as his work. He had carved the simple outline of a heart with the initials, SS + RL inscribed within.

“Look quick, hard and close, I want you to remember this. But we need to go before they find us and see what I’ve done.”

R’leigh felt her pulse quicken and she let out a gasp. The risk he was taking; they would scrub the both of them if they were caught damaging anything as precious at that tree. She allowed herself five seconds to memorize the heart, the letters, and the gleaming jewels of sap until it was burned in her mind forever. In the three years since, she had been tempted to return to the museum and the grove of trees and see if the design was still there but neither of them dared – they might be watching to see who comes back.

Her reverie ended when Sansom jerked on the rope and it was time to continue moving upwards. She allowed herself a second to look out over the landscape that was opening up beneath and around them. They were high enough now, almost to the top of the spire, that they could see a vast panorama of dead twisted gray rock reaching up from endless beds of sterile gravel. This was the world that they lived in.

Within another hour they reached the flat top of the rock spire. It had taken half a day of climbing. Their years of training in every spare hour had paid off – her arms were tired but she had enough energy to feel excitement at their accomplishment. Sansom disappeared over the edge above her, and then his head reappeared as he reached down to help her up and over. Then the two of them worked together to pull and wrestle the equipment bags over the edge and spread them out away from the sheer cliff edge that they had just climbed.

Only when the equipment was safe did they walk the few steps to the opposite side of the rock cap and look out at the city. It had been hidden from them by the bulk of the spire while they climbed the opposite side, as the rock had hidden them from the watchers on the high walls. R’leigh had, of course, never seen the city from this vantage point and she gasped at its size and beauty.

The city was made up of two parts. Down below, was the huge and squat old city – burned, torn, and rendered from the war. Enormous hunks had been blasted away from the sloped sides of the square bunker shaped edifice. Great cracks wandered over what was left behind, though they could see the ugly patches that had been applied to keep the remains from crumbling apart.

Above this wreck rose the high shining rectangular tower of the new city. Built after the war on the remains of the old, this gleaming monolith reached upwards beyond the height of even the tallest rock spire which they had climbed, still being built as floors were added to the unseen top.

R’leigh and Sansom set to work quickly, unloading the equipment bags and assembling the heavy tripod first. They had practiced this many times and R’leigh found herself stealing looks at the immense and distant city as they worked; her arms and hands moving with familiarity over the tubing and fasteners almost without her conscious knowledge.

She realized she loved the city. It had been her home her entire life and she could count on one hand how many times she had been outside that gleaming tower before today. Inside, a person could not understand or comprehend its size and simple beauty. It took her breath away to see it like this – she found herself staring at it every second, even taking her eyes off Sansom as he worked alongside her, something she rarely ever did.

Soon, the tripod was complete and using the ropes they had climbed with and a pair of long, strong poles assembled from sections in the equipment bags the two of them lifted and levered the heavy tube onto the tripod and fastened it firmly in place.

R’leigh stepped back while Sansom tightened up all the bolts and began final adjustments of the apparatus. There, in front of her were both Sansom, sweating with effort and concentration while he worked, and in the distance beyond, the lustrous metallic surface of the city. R’leaih’s heart began to race, both at the excitement of what they were about to do and with the sheer beauty of the scene.

She loved what she was looking at, but she thirsted for destruction, and after years of careful planning and preparation, she was about to drink. Sansom had finished and he came back to where she was standing, holding a small metal box trailing a fine wire that spooled out of the apparatus.

He placed his arm around R’leigh’s shoulders and looked like he was trying to think of what to say.

“There’s nothing to say,” said R’leigh, “we’re ready now, it’s time for the completion of all our work.”

“My love, here, push the button,” Sansom said as he handed her the box. It had only a small red circle on one face.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Absolutely.”

And with that she pressed the red circle. Immediately the rocket ignited and with a flash and a roar loud enough to make them jump it moved out, surprisingly slowly at first, but gathering speed at a frightening pace. The small rocket soon disappeared in the distance but the mane of black smoke showed its progress as it arced up into the gray sky and unerringly flew into the city.

Within a few minutes it had jumped the long gap between their rock spire and the gleaming city and struck right where it was intended, about a third of the way up along the huge structure. Its initial strike was not much more than a pinprick but the missile was designed to penetrate the skin of the structure and explode within.

The small but efficiently powerful fusion device in the rockets nose cone exploded inside the city and the entire edifice began to shake. Huge cracks appeared in its carefully polished surface, glowing with orange fire as the reaction began wreaking its destruction. The city was now tearing itself apart from the inside, mortally injured by the power of the tiny missile which had started a chain reaction which doomed the gigantic edifice. It took several minutes for the sound to reach them, but the massive explosions would shake the very stone that they were standing on.

R’leigh and Sansom stood together, their arms wrapped around each other as they swayed slightly back and forth, watching the beauty of what they had done.

Sunday Snippet – Benjamin

I’m doing more editing now than writing. The worst part of editing is trying to decide if something you wrote some time ago is worth rescuing… or finishing… or should be plopped in the digital dumper.

Here’s a piece of text that I was enthusiastic about when I wrote it… but now, not so much.

I don’t know, there might be something here or there might not.

Benjamin

With a resigned expression and a clumsy attempt at a dramatic flourish, Beauregard Evans slapped a crisp new bill down on the linoleum table. The small motley group that had gathered around leaned over for a good look. There was a collective sigh followed by a sucking in of breath as the implications began to sink in. Sam pushed between Sally Pumpernickel and Joshua Jones to get a better view of the fat aging hairy hippy, Beauregard, leaning over the table so far his belly pushed out under his dirty tie died T-shirt onto the table, almost touching the bill itself.

“Benjamin,” Sam mumbled to himself.

“A brand spankin’ new one hundred dolla bill,” Beauregard began his spiel, “Raught ‘dere. It goes to the first one to try the thing out. I needs ah test pilot. I need someone with the balls to ride da wild horse. Come on ya pussies! Who’s gonna give ‘er a shot.”

“Man, a hundred dollars won’t buy enough beer to wipe the horror of ridin’ that thing out ‘yer brain, that’s for sure,” said Jimbo. He stood off to the side, smelling of grease and ozone, still wearing his thick leather gloves, his welding helmet tipped up on top of his head, like some sort of degenerate knight, resting after a joust that had gone terrible bad.

Sally Pumpernickel said, “Well a hundred dollars will buy something more powerful than a sinkful of that cheap horse piss you call beer… that’s for sure too.” She blurted out a dizzy giggle at the thought of whatever she could plunk the c-note down on. She wriggled a bit as she imagined it hitting her bloodstream.

Sam broke away from the others as they were beginning to get restless, churning and murmuring, and crossed the room to the open porch, feeling the rough floorboards give with an aching creak as he walked. He looked out over the porch to the slopes beyond. Bits of the morning mist was still tumbling down the mountain, giving the park a surreal, blurred look. But the mist couldn’t hide it – there it was, blue as blue could be… right in front of his nose. The bright artificial blue of fresh paint, still giving off the soybean and solvent smell of drying enamel – the brushes tilted up from drying pools of leftover paint at the bottom of the abandoned open cans.

It was basically a huge iron tube, running down the side of the mountain. A sluice gate had been installed at the top, diverting a strong stream of the ice-cold water from the high spring-fed pool they called “The Dragon’s Cave” into the top of the steep metal pipe.

Sam tried to think it through. Really it was only an enclosed water ride, nothing much more. They had a half dozen just like it already. Jimbo and his crew had taught themselves how to weld the surplus plate steel, boiler iron, and ancient drill pipe they had scrapped and salvaged together into twisting and turning water-courses. The drunk, high, and poverty-stricken customers that on hot summer weekends enjoyed the cut-rate aqueous entertainment the park offered would throw themselves with abandon into the dark sewers – the longer, faster, twistier, scarier… the better.

The most popular enclosed slide was a real piece of work called, “The Devil’s Backbone.” It ended right behind the crude cabin that served as a workshop. The crew liked to hang out on the porch, drink, pass the bong and watch the customers tumble into the pool at the end of the ride. A particularly violent and unexpected isosceles twist right at the end tended to yank suit bottoms down and dislodge all but the most tightly secured bikini tops. It was great. Everybody, even the customers… especially the customers… loved it.

It had taken Jimbo a year to get the proper hang of the welding, and a lot of customers had been sent down the mountain to the emergency room while he was learning. He had been showing signs of mellowing… but now, this.

They had not named the new ride, the one that Sam was staring at, the one they were offering all the cash for the first one stupid and desperate enough to leap into. It was so simple. A simple tube running straight down the mountain at a very steep angle for about three hundred feet. It needed the run, it needed the speed, for at the bottom was a simple, elegant, round loop in the tube, shooting up about thirty feet in the air before looping back down and discharging into a generous pool at the bottom.

“Are you thinking about taking that thing?” asked Joshua Jones. He and Sally had followed Sam out on to the porch and leaned on the railing beside him.

“Yup.”

“You know what happened to the test dummies that the ran down there?”

“Yup.”

Jimbo had gone into Trinidad for a salvage sale at the “Platform Fashion Boutique” bankruptcy and bought their entire stock of realistic mannequins to use in testing out new rides. The water would wash them out of the bottom of the looping tube with their arms and legs detached, their necks bent at unnatural angles.

“Not a good test,” Beauregard Evans had said. “Those dummies don’t have no brains, no muscles, no reflexes. A human bean can wiggle through no problema. We’ll grease ’em up with Crisco to get em over the hump and make sure they keep their arms crossed over their chests.”

Now Sam, Joshua, and Sally leaned on the rail, looked at the tube, and thought of the crisp currency on the table and on the pieces of old mannequin stacked up behind some bushes.

“You still thinkin’?” Joshua asked Sam again.

“Yup.”

“You’ll never ride that thing,” Sally Pumpernickel said. “You don’t have the guts.”

Sam let out a sigh. No use thinking any more; now he had no choice. There was no way he could live the rest of his years… no matter how short, with Sally Pumpernickel thinking and saying he was a chicken. He pushed away from the railing, turned and walked briskly into the maintenance shed. He had to push the crowd aside – but he didn’t have to say anything – just reach out onto the table and snatch up the hundred dollar bill.