Saturday, February 26, 2022

Mask Mandate Dropped? Should You Still Wear a Mask?

 The CDC has a county by county assessment of COVID risk level. Even before checking this, I knew I would continue to wear one of our spiffy new N95 masks if I go anywhere people can get within 20 feet of me. I don't want their flu either. For that matter, they can keep their unvaccinated disease-carrying bodies far away from me. No, I'll stay away from them since they feel like they have some right to make others or themselves sick. Stupid is what I call it.

Look over to the right column to check the danger level of your own county anywhere in the United States.

Or check the entire CDC page for both a map and drop-down lists.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

I'm Tired of Telling You - Here's the Free Book This Week

 So, one of my books is free on Amazon until 2/18. I'm tired of telling you about it or trying to tempt you to take it FOR FREE! This just bolsters my belief that 1) Nobody Knows I'm There (see the header of this blog), and 2) Nobody Care Whether I'm There or Not.

Message received. Here's the fucking link. Do with it what you will if you accidentally trip over this blog post while pursuing cute kitty pictures.

A bunch of my short stories are available in "Mixed Bag 2: Supersized." 

The book is free on Amazon from February 14th - 18th. 

Table of Contents

Fish Story
The Vision
Chilpequin 22 Miles
Heather’s Pain
The Delegate
No Deposit, No Return
The Country Faire
Fair’s Fair
If You Could See Her
Ma 'Yote and Her Cubs
The Cursed Valley
Shasta Lake
Big Bessie’s Place
The Hunter
The Great Writing Competition
A Good, Honest Dog
A Visit to Potter’s Field
Extraordinary Rendition
Jonathan Swift Finds Nemo
A Grab Bag of Drabbles

Monday, February 14, 2022

How About a Romantic Story For Valentines? Free Ebook 2/14-18

 Just for Valentine's Day. Romance is really not my genre, but I kind of liked this story because it is far away from the usual romance tropes.

If You Could See Her
(Originally Published in Lily Literary Review, now defunct)

Mac laughed out loud when Joel Gray sang lovingly to the dancing gorilla. “If you could see her through my eyes...” Cabaret was such a good movie, he thought. He had lost count of the number of times he’d played his DVD. 

Still chuckling at the end of the song, he clicked the pause button. He swung himself off the couch and shuffled into the kitchen for another beer. It’d be nice if he could find someone who’d see him like Joel saw the gorilla. True love was a funny thing. It put up a hazy screen obscuring your loved one’s faults. It was a good thing or nobody would ever stay with anybody else. Just too many differences, or maybe too many similarities, broke up relationships.

He plopped back on the couch with his beer and clicked Play. After this one, maybe he’d put on Moulin Rouge. Man, Nicole was a looker. Ha, was that an old-fashioned saying?  Well, she was beautiful. Heck, that Ewan guy was pretty good-looking, too. They didn’t have to worry about finding love. Not when they were so gorgeous. He sighed and thought it must be nice.

Mac blinked and realized the movie was over, that he’d fallen asleep in the middle of it. That’s okay. He could always watch it again. Must be tired, though, so off to bed. Snapping off the TV, he lumbered into his bedroom. Already wearing his pajamas, all he had to do was roll onto the bed. Brush his teeth maybe?  Nah, why bother?  He didn’t have anybody to look, or smell, good for. He just put on his headgear to keep him from dying of apnea and quickly fell asleep.

In the morning, he woke to birds singing and sunshine streaming through the curtains. Another beautiful day. Rise and shine, sleepyhead. After breakfast, he had to go grocery shopping. He was out of eggs and bacon and another case of beer was a necessity. He’d polished off the last of the beer while watching the movie. 

As he dressed in sweat pants and sweatshirt, size XXX-large, he mentally made up the rest of his shopping list. Maybe he’d get tortilla chips and salsa. It would go great with the Extra-Hungry Man Mexican dinner he already pictured in his mind. Maybe two of them. Guacamole, too. Yes.

He walked the half block to the bus stop and sat on the bench. The sun felt good on his face and he closed his eyes, enjoying the warmth.


He opened his eyes and saw the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in real-life, prettier than Nicole even. 

“Could you move over so I could sit?” she asked.

“Oh, sure, yeah.”  He scrunched his massive butt to one end of the bench, giving her a little room to perch her petite frame.

He couldn’t help but keep glancing at her. He wanted to take in the reddish-brown hair falling just to her shoulders, green (or are they hazel?) eyes, and the beautifully pure skin. No makeup, he noticed. Of course, she didn’t need any. Her business suit limned her slender frame perfectly. The white ruffle of blouse showing at her neck was a perfect setting for the most beautiful face he’d ever seen.

She turned her exquisite face to him and smiled. His heart beat faster, his stomach flipped; he even felt his toes curling inside his tennis shoes. Mac melted into a huge, glutinous pile of adoration for this lovely woman.

“Nice day,” she commented, glancing up at the cloudless sky.

“Uh, yeah.”  Oh, brilliant, Mac thought. That was certainly charming. “I mean, yes, it is a beautiful day. Much nicer than yesterday, what with the rain and all.”  Again, he winced at his own clumsiness.

“Yes, it is much nicer than yesterday. Still, I like the rain sometimes. It washes all the dirt and dust away; it leaves things fresh and clean–like today.”

“Oh, yes, definitely. I agree with you completely.” Arrghh, what an idiot!

“I’m new to the neighborhood. Have you lived here long?”  Why was she still talking to him?  By this time, most women would be sitting in stony silence.

“Yes, about ten years. I live in those apartments.” He gestured the half block up to his building.

“Oh, really!  I live there, too!  Then, hello neighbor. It’s nice to meet you.” She smiled broadly, flashing perfect white teeth. “I’m Lily.” She held out her hand to shake.

“Ma...Mac. That is Mackay.” He bit his lip to halt the stutter. “I mean my last name is Mackay. Everyone calls me Mac. My first name’s Paul.”

“I like the name Paul,” she murmured. “May I call you Paul?”

“Oh, of course, sure. I mean Mac is just a nickname. Heh, heh, call me anything you want!” He cringed inside again. Back off. Don’t be too pushy or you’ll scare her off.

They sat in silence for a few moments while his mind scrambled to come up with more conversation, anything to hear her speak.

“So, where do you work?  Well, I mean, you don’t have to tell me, you know. But I’m not a stalker or anything.”  Blast it!  Why couldn’t he keep his foot out of his mouth?

“Not at all. I work for an ad agency. I’m a Demographics Analyst.”

“Sounds interesting.”

She asked the question he didn’t want her to ask. “What do you do?”

“Oh, I...I’m temporarily between jobs. Just looking for the right opening.”  Mac glanced at her and saw her head turn away. “But, but I do some freelance work...programming, web pages, stuff like that.”

“I think it’s wonderful when a man can be his own boss. I’m sure you’re the hardest supervisor you ever worked for.”  She laughed at her little joke and he melted again and laughed with her.

“I suppose I am.”

“Well, here’s my bus. Are you taking this one?”

“Uh, no, I’m waiting for the cross-town.”

“Well, then, I enjoyed meeting you and I suppose we’ll be seeing each other a lot since we’re neighbors.”

He waved as she climbed on the bus. On the top step, she stopped, turned, and smiled at him again. Devastation. She was gone. He felt like the clouds had rolled in and covered up his sun. “What light through yonder window breaks?  It is the east and Lily is the sun.”  He didn’t think Will would mind a minor change to his line. He had no illusions he was some Romeo, but now he knew how the young man felt.

His bus arrived. He clumped up the steps and showed the bus driver his pass. The bus was nearly full, so he knew he’d have to stand. That was so hard on his knees, but there wasn’t any way around it. He needed an entire seat to himself. His neck burned as he felt the disapproving glances of the riders, relieved he didn’t try to sit next to them. None of them bothered moving. He accepted that as the way of his life.

* * * *

It was going on five o’clock. He’d pulled a chair up to his window where he’d be able to see the bus arriving. A half-hour went by and two busses rolled through without stopping.

Finally, the last commuter bus pulled up and Lily stepped down. She turned and waved to somebody, maybe the driver, then started up the sidewalk to the apartment building.

Mac jumped up from his chair, knocking it aside, and hurried out to the hallway. He punched the elevator button anxiously, hoping he wouldn’t be too late. The elevator was coming down, so he got lucky and caught it on the way. The car stopped on the ground floor and when it opened...his Juliet, his sun was standing before him.

“Well, hello, Lily. Fancy meeting you here.” He tried to sound light-hearted and, most of all, surprised to see her.

“Paul!  How nice to see you.” She smiled the smile that melted his heart.

He stood in the elevator doorway and suddenly realized that he had to get out to let her in. But she stood right in the way and he couldn’t go around. He cursed his grossness, how fat he was.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m in your way.” She moved to one side to let him out.

“Thank you,” was all he could manage as she stepped into the elevator. She gave him a last smile as the doors closed. He stood watching the floor numbers light up as the elevator ascended. It stopped on the fourth floor, just one floor up from him.

Waiting a moment, he then pushed the button. He rode the car to his floor and went back to his empty apartment.

The next day, he was at the bus stop plenty early. She came and they chatted. It was becoming easier for him. She was so kind, so wonderful. She listened to him as he talked about his life and he listened as she told him about hers. Over the days, they met every morning at the bus stop, every evening in the lobby of the building.

Then a miracle happened.

“Paul, I was wondering if you’d like to come up to my place for dinner some evening. We’ve become such good friends in these little meetings, I thought we would enjoy spending more time together.”

He was dumbstruck. She was asking him for a date?

“Oh, you mean you’re having a party. Having friends over?”

“No, I mean just the two of us. Would Saturday work for you?”  She smiled, he melted.

“Why of course. That would be terrific. I’ll bring some wine if you like.”

“That would be nice. I think we’ll be having fish. I hope you like halibut.”

“Well, you can see food and I are on good terms. I’ll get a bottle of white wine, then.”

* * * *

On the big day, he hurried to the Men’s Big and Tall shop and found a decent pair of pants and jacket to wear. A new shirt. A tie?  Yes, a tie would be right. Did he remember how to knot one?

He showed up at her door exactly at seven. The expensive white wine in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in the other. He felt giddy. Were the flowers too much?  Oh, well, he was here now, so he tapped on the door.

His vision, his dream opened the door quickly and stood aside to let him in. She put her hands to her face in what he considered to be an endearing way. “Flowers!  Oh, Paul. That is so sweet.”

She took wine and flowers from his hands as he just stood there staring at his lovely Lily. She wore a white dress, he thought it was a shirtwaist if he recalled correctly. A belt wrapped around her incredibly tiny waist as her hips swelled just the right amount below and her chest just the right amount above.

The small apartment was the same setup as his, so he knew where everything was. The dining table was set with beautiful flowered china, crystal wine and water glasses, and elegant silverware. A lit pair of candles were centered on the table.

Now, he had seen enough movies to know a romantic setting when it was presented. Visions of Bogart and Bacall. No, Cary Grant and Natalie Wood. Elegance, grace, and style. Suddenly, he felt ugly, fat, and awkward. He was so far from being Cary Grant it was pitiful. He wondered how he could have thought...

“Sit, won’t you?” she asked and sat herself on the couch. He hesitated and examined it closely. He was quite an expert at determining what would hold his weight. Reassured by its overstuffed size, he gingerly placed himself at one end. She slid across the couch to his side. Laying her arm across the back of the couch, she turned her body toward him.  

They chatted for a while just as they did at the bus stop. It was thoroughly pleasant, and he began to relax. He would put aside the fact he loved this woman and be the friend she so clearly wanted him to be. He could not harbor any illusions.

While they talked, he let his eyes wander for brief moments around the room. What would it tell him about this lovely person he didn’t already know?

On a bookshelf, close by the couch, he saw a grouping of photos in silver frames. Clearly, they were pictures of friends and family. The smiling faces and arms around shoulders spoke of the love these people had for each other. He noticed one with two older people, a man and a woman, standing on either side of a younger woman. They had their arms wrapped around each other. He was puzzled at who these people could be. The older woman looked much like Lily, with the same eyes and mouth. The young woman in the middle, though, was huge. Not tall, maybe Lily’s height, but she easily weighed three hundred pounds.

He squinted to see the picture more clearly and her eyes followed his to the picture.

“My parents.”

Paul did a double-take. “Who is...?”

“That’s me.”

He was shocked and quickly looked back and forth between his vision of loveliness and the overweight, yet beautiful, face in the photo.

“I lost some weight, more than a hundred pounds.” She spoke matter of factly and smiled at him.

He didn’t speak for a few moments, then said, “She are beautiful. Either way, Lily.”

"Thank you, Paul. I think you're beautiful, too."  She turned her eyes downward, suddenly shy. 

“Yes.” He paused. “Yes, if you could see her through my eyes.” He realized Joel Gray might have been singing the truth after all.


This story and a bunch more are all available in "Mixed Bag 2: Supersized." The book is free on Amazon from February 14th - 18th. One whole week of free reading if you haven't got a date.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

For the Love of a Dog - Free Ebook 2/14th-18th

Since these posts are showing examples of love, one can hardly leave out the special love between humans and their pets. Mixed Bag 2: Supersized is packed full of short stories which were published somewhere and sometime in the past 14 years. Here's a sample to get you started. Hey! It's free. What have you got to lose?

A Good, Honest Dog
Originally published in WildChild Publishing

We walked down the concrete path with chainlink cells on both sides. Shouting to make ourselves heard over the cacophony of barking, yipping, and howling, we examined the inmates of this canine prison.

I looked into one cell and a stocky black and brown pup, only a few months old, sat up and begged. No barks, yips, or howls from her, just a pair of pleading brown eyes. “This one,” I said without hesitation. We paid her bail, signed all the papers and took her home–our new dog.

We named our darling puppy Loki after the Norse god of mischief. No matter that she was female, since most people don’t know the Vikings’ mythology. We resisted calling her Heinz 57, although we couldn’t quite figure out her breeding. A bit of springer, a dab of spaniel, maybe those short legs told of a rogue dachshund? In any case, she became our loving dog and we her loving parents. Her short legs and chunky body, while cute as could be, wreaked havoc on her fetching skills. Toss the frisbee, then wait...and wait. When she caught up with the already grounded disk, she spent a few minutes examining the surrounding area for stray scents. She loved to play fetch, but often forgot that her role was to return the object to the tosser.

Walking her on a leash was not easy, as her nose led us back and forth on a chase for fading scents. What she lacked in physical skills, she made up for with a nose inherited from some obscure ancestor who must have hunted for a living.

As she aged, she grew too fat and I kicked myself for not exercising her more often. I always had some excuse or other–work, kids, sheer laziness. Besides, I thought, the prednisone the vet prescribed for flea allergies caused her weight gain.

In her tenth year, her hips started to pain her. She loved to sleep on the old sofa, long ago claimed as her own, but she couldn’t jump up anymore. She’d walk over to it, then turn her head and look at me with her pleading eyes. “Oh, okay,” I’d sigh and go lift her bottom up as she scrabbled with her front legs to gain her throne.

Our vet loved her, or at least she said she did. I think our vet loved every dog that walked, or was dragged, through the door. Nevertheless, I’ll always remember her saying, “You know, Loki’s just a good, honest dog.” That was our Loki, a good, honest dog.

In her thirteenth year, the vet found a tumor in her belly. “She’ll be okay for a while. They don’t grow very fast.”

* * * For the Rest of the Story, Get the Free Ebook 2/14-2/18 * * *

This story and a bunch more are all available in "Mixed Bag 2: Supersized." The book is free on Amazon from February 14th - 18th. One whole week of free reading if you haven't got a date.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Love Lives on Even After Death - Free Ebook 2/14-18

A love besotted boy asks a peculiar corpse if love is in his future. The short story ebook containing this story and many others is free February 14th-18th on Amazon.

A Visit to Potter’s Field


Originally published in Lorelei Signal and “A Time To..., Volume 1” from Wolfsinger Publications

* * *

Rap Rap Rap

“Now who? More of those darned kids?”


“What do you want? Can’t you just leave me alone?”


“Oh, for Pete’s sake...some people have no manners.”

Griselda reached up through the hole in the coffin and pulled a clod of dirt downward. Grunting with the effort of digging herself out of her grave, she also muttered a few very unkind words about the visitor and his parentage.


“I am doing my best. Quit being so impatient. Hmmph.”

She managed to break away another part of the pine box lid and pulled more dirt into the coffin.

“A damned good thing those city employees are so lazy,” she muttered. “A real grave would be six feet deep. We get maybe two feet at best in Potter’s Field. Then, all the time, it’s rap rap rap, with some fool wanting to ask a question.”


“I SAID I’M COMING!” Griselda shouted as she dragged more dirt into the coffin and shoved the clods down to the foot. She noticed her words came out more like “I YED I COING.”

Her knees were now bent and touching the inside of the coffin lid. She shoved her left elbow to the side and knocked out another piece of wood. As she suspected, there was some open space around the edges. She pushed the dirt out of the coffin.

Finally, her groping hand felt a breeze above her. Something grabbed it and began to tug at her.

“Wait! You idiot! The lid is still in the way.” Whoever had pulled at her let go. She felt two fingernails give way. Damn. She only had three left.

She grumbled about lost body parts as she pushed upward on the inside of the lid with her knees. A screech from the rusty nails pulling loose set what was left of her teeth on edge.

Pushing her hands through the widened hole, she gripped both sides of the coffin and pulled herself upward. Dirt, worms, and other unidentifiable material fell off the top of her head and down to her shoulders. She shrugged to loosen the gap even more. Her head popped above the surface and she gasped the cold night air, her first breath in over ten years.

She looked left and right, then swiveled her head around to look behind. A young man stood with light flickering on his pallid face. His eyes were open so wide she thought they might pop out (a lovely thought), the round O of his mouth a frozen rictus of horror.

“Just what did you expect? A burlesque dancer?” she said in disgust. After all, he called on her, not the other way around.

“What?” he stammered.

“Hmmph,” Griselda grunted as she pushed herself up out of the grave. She sat on the edge of the pine coffin and looked around. The graveyard looked much the same as it had when they’d buried her. She thought some things must never change.

“Well, what do you want to ask?” she said as pleasantly as possible, though speaking properly without lips and tongue was difficult. Ah, wait. A bit of tongue was still attached to the back of her throat. She coughed and spit out a beetle that had made a comfortable bed against her tonsils. With a bit more tongue, she asked more clearly. “What do you want?”

“I I I...”

“Spit it out. Hee hee,” Griselda cackled at the joke, since she’d just spit out a bug.

The boy cleared his throat and took a deep breath. “Miss, uh, Gypsy, I heard you have to answer the question of whoever digs you up,” the boy began.

“Yes, I do have to answer,” she said, then muttered under her breath, “Stupid curse.”

“I want to know if Emily is my true love.”

“Emily who? Come on, boy, give me some details. I don’t exactly get the daily news down there.”

“Emily LaFleur. She’s my girlfriend, but she’s been going out with Beau Richards. You know, he’s just a jock. He can’t offer...”

“Tut tut tut. Too much information. Let me see if I’ve got this straight. You love the girl and the girl loves the jockey and you want to know if she’s your true love?” Griselda sighed. She wished these young pups would come up with some better questions. What about world peace? What about death, famine, and pestilence?

“The simple answer, my foolish boy, is no. She can hardly be your true love if she’s gallivanting off with a...jockey, did you say? They’re kind of small, aren’t they?”

“Not a jockey. A jock. He plays football.”

“Foot...? I assume that’s some kind of game?”

“Uh, yeah. You don’t know about football?”

Griselda glared at the callow boy until he turned his eyes away. She wasn’t sure whether it was in shame or because she had a bit of pus dripping from her left eye. She’d been dead for more than a hundred years and they expect her to keep up on sports?

“So, she’s not my true love?”

“No, she’s not. Now, pick up that shovel and get me back in the ground. This damp air isn’t good for me.”

* * * For the Rest of the Story, Get the Free Ebook 2/14-2/18 * * *

This story and a bunch more are all available in "Mixed Bag 2: Supersized." The book is free on Amazon from February 14th - 18th. One whole week of free reading if you haven't got a date.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Free Ebook Coming February 14th-18th

Mixed Bag 2: Supersized is packed full of short stories which were published somewhere and sometime in the past 14 years. Here's a sample to get you started. Hey! It's free. What have you got to lose?

No Deposit, No Return
Literary Science Fiction/Horror
Originally published in Diddledog Flash Fiction

The woman in the black trench coat darted her eyes down the darkened alley. The smell of the overripe dumpster turned her stomach. Her nausea came not only from the rotted food odor, but from her already nerve-twisted guts.

“Did you get it?” she whispered to the man.

“Yeah, yeah. Don’t worry. Piece of cake.” He reached inside his jacket, withdrawing a small package no bigger than the palm of his hand.

She reached for it, but the man jerked it back.

“The money first.”

She took an envelope from her purse and held it out. The man pushed the package toward her and grabbed the envelope at the same moment she snatched the brown-paper-wrapped container.

“I don’t know why you want this, lady. It creeps me out,” the man said, as he thumbed through the hundred-dollar bills in the envelope.

Without another word, the two parted, the woman toward the far end of the alley and the man back to the street.

* * *

Nine months later, the woman named Karla lay in a hospital bed, staring at the newborn in the crib beside her. She and her boyfriend, Curt, had planned every detail. The demand for ten million dollars went with a tissue sample, a simple scraping from inside the child’s mouth. It would take some time for the family to check that the baby’s DNA came from the dead man, but when they got the results, the money would surely follow.

The billionaire died without an heir, despite marrying a young trophy wife in a last, desperate attempt for progeny. She put him off until it was too late.

* * * For the Rest of the Story, Get the Free Ebook 2/14-2/18 * * *

This story and a bunch more are all available in "Mixed Bag 2: Supersized." The book is free on Amazon from February 14th - 18th. One whole week of free reading if you haven't got a date.