Sunday, February 27, 2011

Write a story about Luke N. Goode and Win the Drawing on the Right

This competition is closed please go to this link to see who the winners are.

Write a story about Luke N. Goode and Win the Drawing on the Right.  Two Chances to Win!
The contest closes Monday March 14, 2011

Luke N. Goode
10"x8" oil on masonite
Buy this painting $220 

Luke N. Goode 
(Study 1)

Luke N. Goode
(Study 2)

Click pictures to enlarge
The story you write should be a "Flash Fiction" which is a complete story in one thousand or fewer words.  Please post the story in the comment section, you will have to provide your name and an email address in order to be qualified to win or you can e-mail me at with your info.  There is a problem with how many characters can post (only about 4,000) so if you cannot post it.  E-mail it to me at

Go to my website for more contests:

Winning flash fiction stories will be integrated in with an exhibit in San Francisco at ArtHaus Gallery (April 8th for the reception).

The show is called:
Renovated Reputations: Paintings and Fiction inspired by Vintage Portrait Photographs

The exhibit will include a series of 20-40 paintings and mixed media works ranging in size from 8”x10” to 18”x24” framed with thrift store and vintage frames.  In addition to the exhibited works ArtHaus is publishing catalogs signed by me and as many of the authors as possible.

Catalogs/books will consist of image of the painting with the text of the “flash story” surrounding the image.  If I can get the authors to come to a book signing/party, authors would sign their pages for some of the printed stuff.

We're going to have a photobooth for the show for participants to play with and vintage costumes.

Of course I'll send the authors free copies of the catalogs. I will announce the winners the day after the closing deadline for the competition. I'm planning on doing one flash fiction competition a week every Monday from now until April. 

(If the conditions in the side bar are not to your liking, I'm totally flexible.  Send me a contract that you like and I will mail it back to you.  I just don't want to chase people for signatures when I publish the catalog!)

Go to my website for more contests:
This came in by e-mail:

Untitled – Luke N. Goode
Margaret A. Millmore

Luke stared at the face in the mirror, the chiseled cheek bones and strong chin, the straight perfect nose; he could never get enough of it. And the eyes, depending on his mood he could make them appear serious and brooding, or sympathetic and caring or sparkling and mischievous. He thought tonight he’d be the latter, he smoothed his perfectly cut hair and placed his fedora on his head. He straightened the blood red carnation on his jacket lapel. He started to straighten his tie, no he thought, let it be crooked, it gave him a look of nonchalance, it would disarm his prey.
His suit was new, he’d recently had several custom tailored, but this was his favorite, a rich charcoal grey with lighter stripes, cut in the vintage style he was most fond of, the style of his time. When he was satisfied with his appearance he  smiled, he was a handsome devil, he’d knock them dead, literally he thought as he let out a sharp, sinister laugh. After all he was Luke N. Goode, he should live up to his name.
Tonight he was in the mood for the company of a beautiful woman, someone who would smile at him while sitting closely, gently caressing his knee with promises of more intimate caresses later.  Of course later would be equally as intimate and surprising for her, he smiled again, he loved his life. It hadn’t always been so good, in fact it had been horrible. 
He’d married a beautiful woman and they lived in a lovely bungalow in a good neighborhood. They had one daughter, Elizabeth.  But as the years passed, his wife Edith wanted more, a bigger house, more clothes, more trips to the salon and as Elizabeth grew into a teenager, she too wanted  those things. They berated him endlessly, he didn’t make enough money, he had no social ambition, he was useless, a nothing. He tried to reason with them, but Edith said if they didn’t elevate their social status, look the part, Elizabeth would never land the perfect rich husband.  He was a salesman then, door to door, he was good at it, peddling his company’s amazing household wares, convincing his clients that no man or woman could do without them. He’d made a good living, but it wasn’t enough for Edith and Elizabeth, no never enough. 
It had been late afternoon in the dead of winter, his last sale for the day, darkness was descending on the city and Luke was tired.  He was in a very well to do neighborhood, one last call he thought. The man who answered the door was older, mildly frail, but tall and handsome, with strong aquiline features that reminded him of a bird of prey, which is really what he was, wasn’t he.
He invited Luke in to the richly furnished Victorian, he offered him a drink,  they sat and talked for some time.  Luke wasn’t in the habit of telling his clients about his personal life, but this man seemed to draw it out of him, like a moth to the flame.  After Luke had said much more than he intended, he gave the man his best sales pitch, after all that was why he was there. The man smiled, his lips were so red, his teeth so white, so large, so hungry, the smile frightened Luke and suddenly he wanted out of this man’s house as quickly as possible.
As if reading his thoughts, the man said “you have no need to be afraid, I have a proposition for you”. Luke didn’t like the sound of that, it made him nervous, it seemed that with the coming of night and full darkness, this man had become stronger, more powerful.  The man smiled again and said “would you like to be free of them,  would you like to have everything you want and deserve?”   The words were so tempting, almost hypnotic, of course in the end Luke had said he would like to be free and so this man made it possible.
Now he was approaching the jazz club, its décor was a portal in time, dark mahogany bar, richly colored velvet curtains lining the walls, soft lighting that barely illuminated the patrons. Tonight’s music was rhythmic and gentle, the perfect atmosphere.  He took a seat at a small table and waited for the perfect woman. He saw her standing at the bar just as she saw him. She was tall, her brunette hair was pulled into a perfect  chignon that accentuated her face. Her black strapless dress  showed off her  neck and shoulders, her skin was a sea of creamy perfection. She approached and he asked her to join him, they talked, drank champagne and listened to the music. Finally it was time, he would walk her home he said, he whispered romantic sweet nothings as they walked the few blocks to her apartment, she invited him in for a nightcap, he knew she would.
While she prepared the drinks at the small portable bar he admired her slender back, the curve of her hips and her  shapely legs, but it was her neck and shoulders that called out to him. He silently approached her, wrapping his arms around her tiny waste, catching a whiff of her perfume as he sunk his teeth into the base of her delicious neck, drinking her life away, shuddering at the pure ecstasy of it.
When he was done he laid her bloodless body gently on the sofa, there was no need to be barbaric, not like he had been with Edith and Elizabeth. When his creator had bestowed this magnificent immortal gift upon him, he told Luke to go to them, to drain them of their lives, just as they’d been draining him of his. When he’d finished with them he tossed them aside and left, never turning back, the sweet memory, now seventy years in the past made him smile. 


This came in by email:

by Stephen Rogers

He always reminded her of the father in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, one of her favorite films.  How could
she call the police and report that Captain Von Trapp was a peeper, that Christopher Plummer circa
1965 stood outside her living room window?

The good Captain hadn't seen his very own children.  The good Captain hadn't seen Maria for the
force of nature she would become.

The man standing outside my window, night after night.  What didn't he see?  What did he see that
kept bringing him back?

How was I more than I saw?


This came in by e-mail:

Indentations on a Familiar Wall by D.G. Brosky

What is it about Texas that makes the land barren and the women fertile? Girls are produced there of such natural beauty that it isn't difficult to think of them sliding out against the backdrop of white bone desert. She'd come from Austin, to the shores of a new Babylon. She flew in an airplane, thousands of feet above the hazards that hundreds of years ago, may have prevented her from reaching her destination. She thought nothing of it. The year was 2001. She was 19.

 She found a single bedroom in the city of Ventura, where she'd walk along the beach barefooted and smiling. At night she listened to music while seated on her bed, painting her toenails the color of seashells. The belly of a whale ached to watch her alone, a crab desired to walk beside her but his legs became twisted and broken. I was the whale. I was the crab. I was too old. And because of this, because of my imperfection, did the religious observance of sacrificing women by cutting out their hearts become so very clear in my mind. For it was here, I said to myself, in the Americas, that the custom was diligently practiced.

 It was after the Flood that misplaced descendents of the biblical family were washed ashore and rightly aspired to build for themselves an unspoken coherent language; one that contained all the necessities: wood, water, meat, fire. Beauty was abstract, as was everything that didn't bleed. Beauty was crafted from feathers and gold; it was not wrought, inexplicably, from the womb. Too much was their unknowing. Too much is out of our control. These women whose chests were opened with sharpened stone, publicly, purposefully, they must have been looked upon as mutations, as outgrowths of a world not fully understood. Their beauty must have been too perfect.

 I however did not wish to understand her perfectly. I wished to gain access to her, to speak, if necessary, preferably not and to extract and then observe for myself that which had previously been held on high. Flesh haphazardly slapping against other folds of flesh, is to me at my age, ridiculous. Love and genital intimacy are two very different affairs. They share a resemblance only insofar as they are both, fundamentally, feelings, as they are both said to be felt. The study of these feelings subsequently falls prey to various scientific and artistic studies, all of which claim some absurd foothold on the truth, none of which actually grasp the basic solidity of the matter or in the same manner as say, one can grasp a warm organ.

 She drank coffee in the morning, lots of sugar, lots of cream. Her teeth remained a white picket fence. She went for her walks, more often now she lay in the sand and read. Her blonde hair, spread out, an offering to me, an image so predictably Californian that it made me want to leap from my car and perform the bloody ceremony right there on her blanket. She wore a two-piece bathing suit, blue. When she turned over onto her stomach and placed her head to one side, I imagined myself on the opposite. She smelled of softness. Her skin was a postcard, glossy and well-composed. I considered not even employing a knife. I hoped that I would be able to gently ease in my fore-finger, wiggle it under a few rib bones and gently snap them apart, like multiple bra straps; lovingly unveiling the red gem she'd worn hidden below her neck since birth.

 I'd drive away from that scene silent and depressed. Violent emotions have a way of being profitably supplanted by other brutal, albeit legally sanctioned activities, but not mine. I don't drink and I don't like sports. I do occasionally enjoy watching the high schoolers get into fist fights in the Burger King parking lot. These kids maul each other with such youthful eagerness that I nearly get drunk off their angry fumes that are kicked up and around like a fine dust. I sit in my car with the window down and breath deeply, as if enjoying a good cigar. Those fumes, those feelings, can't be replicated. I've tried also, disappointingly, to watch these same boys have sex with their girlfriends. They would immediately and without concern for any other part of the body, make the vagina, a thing as ordinary and dull as a envelope, their singular priority.

 I began writing letters trying to explain what it was I wanted from her. They never sounded the way I wanted them to. And besides, I could see her reading them and thinking they were from an ex-boyfriend back in Texas, attempting to be poetic but coming across as pathetic. I grew frustrated with my timidity. I decided to go over to her apartment and tell her that I love her and if she was willing, permit me please to cut out her heart.

 The drive over was easy, I'd done it enough to where I'd developed a path that totaled a minimum of stops. The red from the traffic light reflected off the street and filled my car. I opened my mouth and pretended to be drinking it. I came upon her building slowly, pulling alongside the curb without rubbing my tires against it. I didn't hesitate but quickly parked and got out. I approached cautiously and noticed that the lights were on and the curtains open. Looking in, I really saw her for the first time. I mean, before, through the binoculars, she was beautiful, but here, with a few meager feet separating our bodies, my hands began to sweat.

 Holding two comers of a towel around herself, she walked to the sink in the kitchen where a small plastic bottle was waiting. She bent her head forward into the sink and emptied the contents of the bottle onto her hair. I didn't wait around to watch the rest of whatever else she was going to do to herself. Seeing that was enough to make me throw my whole plan to the fishes. I considered going through with it anyway but I saw my hand, pulling open the treasure chest and finding nothing save a few painted fingernails, a collection of lousy perfumes, teeth whitener and a stack of outdated glamour magazines.

 I climbed back into my car and pulled out onto the street. The red from the lights was still there but it didn't please me as much. On the way home I saw a neon sign in the shape of cocktail glass. I stopped the car, went in and ordered a drink. A football game was on the tv. The bartender was polishing glasses. After finishing one, he'd set it down and look over at me. He kept doing this, polishing, setting, looking. Finally he walked over to where I was sitting. "It was a girl, wasn't it? I can tell. Wife?" He leaned in, "mistress?" He laughed with his arms crossed. They bounced happily across the top of his belly. I took a few long pulls on the bottle, then set it down. I smiled as I heard myself say aloud for the first time, "daughter."


This came in by email:

Milk of Magnesium P.I. by Patrick Nelson

       I tell you, never let anybody know you’re a dick. You sit and chew the fat with people and it’s all easy peasy. As soon as they find out you’re a private dick, even a retired one, that’s it. The fun and games are over. Alls they wanna know is: “is it dangerous?” Or “do people ever shoot at you?” Or “do you have your gun on you right now.”
       Yeah, I got my gun with me and I’m gonna pull it out and smack you in the head with it if you don’t clam up about that hokey P. I. bunk. The truth is, being a P. I. is pretty darned boring, all-in-all. A lot of standing on the street or sitting in your car waiting for people to do something you are paid to catch them at and capture it in one of various ways and then you’re supposed to clear out. Disappear. Get it? Very little confrontation unless you’re no good at what you do. To tell the truth, I was very good at what I did. I’m retired. Yup.
       Had a partner for 22 years and a pretty good set-up between us. He would take the family and domestic husband-cheats-on-wife type stuff and I took the more run of the mill type: corporate and small business fraud, etc. His forte was ducking ashtrays and sometimes bullets, mine was chasing the numbers and seeing where they went.
       My partner’s name was Chippy. Real funny guy, but if you said one wrong thing about his height though, (He was a little under 5’ 2”) he would cause a big dust up. That’s where he got his name; “Chippy” cause he had a big chip on his shoulder. Yeah, hilarious guy.
       I had a wife too. She was a looker. She made me pretty happy, but she couldn’t cook her way out of a paper sack. We ate out a lot. Her name was Hanna. We met late in our lives but made the best of the time we had. All 8 years of it. Yes sir...
       Last year was a real rough one: I lost my Hanna to cancer in June and the big guy upstairs saw fit to punch  Chippy’s ticket two months later. 
       Yep. “ALL ABOARD!” The old one-two. I don’t know which one slapped me around worse. Hanna and I sure were good together, but losing Chippy, whom I had been acquainted with for longer than I care to remember, was the one I felt I would never recover from. I’m just being honest. I couldn’t go on with the business when it was all said and done. To tell the truth, I even thought about checking out myself. I had plenty of money and I was comfortable, but this being on my own was making me a little batty. I have always been a level-headed guy, but I was starting to come unglued. I was having what my doc called “panic attacks” and every day I had this kind of falling feeling. It’s hard to describe, but it’s kind of like when you’re sitting in your home and it’s all quiet and in your ears you start to hear this humming buzzing sound from the silence and the more you concentrate on it, the louder and more hammering it becomes till you feel like your ears are gonna bust. Like that, only in my heart and mind.
       I knew I had to get out and do something, otherwise I might end up trying to swap kisses with my colt revolver. Besides, I wasn’t getting any older and Chippy died in his sleep from a bad heart and he wasn’t but two years older than me. Makes one think, doesn’t it? It still wasn’t too late for me to “improve the quality of life” as they say.
       So I join this gym... I was always in pretty good shape, but when Hanna moved in, I had to make room,  and the first things to go in my bachelor apartment over the grocery store were my weights and bench. Let’s just say Hanna managed to give this old fellow a pretty good work out. That’s another story of a different kind. Anywho, I go and ride the reclined bicycle for about an hour a day on 6, if that means anything to you. To me, it means a little higher and I might not finish the hour out.
       So I sit and I read the newspaper or a crime novel most days or chit chat with whomever sits down and has the wind to do so. Lately, it’s an older fellow named “Coach”. No, really, that’s his name. I bet if you tried to call him by his real name (whatever that is) he wouldn’t even blink an eye in recognition. Real nice fellow. Old school. So we conversed more and more each day until now I don’t even get around to reading anymore. Turns out he’s retired too. Go figure; a 78-year-young man taking it easy in his golden years. He is a widower too, but he was married for a far longer time. Married her out of high school and stayed together till she died. He was the football coach at the local high school for 25 years and knows everybody at the gym and their kids’ kids.
       Well, eventually as it usually does, it got around to what I am currently retired from as a profession. Once again, I saw that familiar look start to dawn on the old fellow; first astonishment, then a conspiratorial hunching of the shoulders and sideways glances and finally, the timid request for the sordid details of some underworld story. To my surprise, he hit me with the one thing I wouldn’t have expected from an elderly, widowed, and ever popular ex-coach: “can you find out if my girl is stepping out on me?” I thought he was pulling my leg, but after he pointed her out to me, (she worked out at the gym also) it began to sink in. He was dead serious.
       I tried to slip out of it with the old stock answer of: “I’m sorry, but I’m retired” but he wasn’t budging. I told him one of my primary rules: DO NOT WORK A CASE FOR A FRIEND. It never works out. I barely knew this fellow, but I considered him a friend.
       “Aw c’mon! Alls I’m asking you is to snoop around her a little, not peep in her widows or do anything to get you in a pinch or anything!” He countered. I even explained how much I would have to charge the guy if I did take the case, which wasn’t too damn likely.
       If Stonewall Jackson had the temerity of this old leatherhead, the South would never have fallen.
       “Look, Coach...” I started.
       He interrupted me; “Eldin. That’s my name. Eldin.” He said.
       Oh, bro-ther.  Now I was in too deep. He told me his real name. I bet even his mother had called him Coach. Damn. “You seem like a nice guy. You don’t strike me as either the jealous or the sneaky type. Why not just be direct and ask her straight out?”
       “I... I can’t. It would be too embarrassing. She’s such a sweet lady and if I thought she didn’t like me as much as I like her, I’m not sure I could take that” he explained. “She’s also a very strong woman and if she found out that I was worried about her and some other guy, she may just close the door in my face for good. She means a lot to me, Luke. Another thing is that I am no spring chicken, and I can’t tell you the last time a woman even looked my way. You know I’m no Cary Grant...” He was right there. “I’m not sure how much more time I have to waste on a woman who may not even want to be with me only.”
       He slowed his pedaling for a moment as he reached into his warm-up pants and pulled out a pale blue jewelry box. He slyly looked to see if anyone else was looking. He opened it and showed me the stone. It was big enough carats to choke the Easter Bunny. He slipped it back in his pocket.
       Grudgingly, I agreed to look into it and even deferred payment seeing as how we were both on fixed incomes. I told him I would take a pair of tickets to one of the local professional football games which he had told me he was given season tickets every year by a grateful ex student still in town.
       Done deal, now to start my investigation. The first thing I did was get her low down from coach: she was, get this; a widower! We had an epidemic. Her name was Noreen and she obviously spent a good deal of time there at the gym: still good muscle tone, but you could tell she was putting up a moderate fight with gravity. Her breasts were firm, nor would they ever have to send post cards to the rest of her body any time soon. Time was trying to be kind to her there. She had brunette hair with lighter subtle streaks of auburn and the cut was modern, but still managed to give her a hip look while still being dignified for her age. As far as looks, even thought she only wore light makeup at the gym, she had great skin with few discernible wrinkles. When most women would leave a Saturday morning yoga class looking like a used, wet kleenex with blurry mascara, she had a glow that, to me, made her even more attractive if possible. Blue eyes that would narrow just slightly with a warm twinkle of recognition when she passed by folks she knew that where working out.
       I often caught myself trying to catch her eye as she passed. What? We work out at the same gym. She probably had seen me there before and that would be enough for most people to acknowledge one another. Besides... I’m not dead. Yet.
       She had been dating the coach for about 4 months, Mostly movies and dinner. Sometimes dancing if his knee didn’t hurt. She kept him at arm’s length saying she wasn’t ready for a serious relationship unless he was. She lived alone and she only went out twice a week with him. He also stated that she was a bit younger than him. Scandalous. She was a tender 68 years old. My age.
       I told him I would try to find out as much as I could, but I assume she had probably seen me at the gym. I told Coach Eldin that it would be a little harder to tail her around the neighborhood or to the grocery store, etc. At the least I hope she had seen me...
       He became agitated and sped up on the cycle. “No,  no! You gotta get into that class she takes and try to listen in to all that chitter-chat they do afterwards. If she’s got another guy, I’m sure she’ll talk about it all those old cronies of hers...” He was having trouble catching his breath and speaking.
       “But, coach, that’s a yoga class. I can’t go waltzing in there without raising a few eyebrows and one thing I always insist on is don’t get too close to the person you’re investigating. It spooks them” I reasoned with him.
       “Oh, that’s a bunch of hooey!” he roared. A few people on the freeweights stopped to see what coach was getting so upset about. They gave me the stink-eye. Coach was well-liked and any bum who was bothering him would be quickly escorted out, I’m sure. I motioned for him to calm down.
       He added; “just go in and take the class and see if you can pick up anything, that’s all.”
       I could tell he had been cooking this up for quite a while and I didn’t even try to reason with him further. The next class was scheduled for the following day at 10 a.m. I might as well get home and get some rest. I could tell it was gonna be an interesting “exercise” and I would need all my wits, energy and no telling what else. Yoga.
The Zabar Tales - Take Your Turn by Gigi DeVault

Claire thought she must be like a loyal African house boy who can’t imagine himself someplace other than the coffee plantation when the Baron leaves for Europe, telling him, “You cannot come with me.  You would not like it there.”  She stupidly continued to plod after him. 

Henry paused in the aisle, forcing shoppers to bob around him.  His fingers ticked off items for Sunday dinner.  He called, “What goes with crown roast?”  Claire parted the Zabar devotees in front of her.

She said, “Why do you ask me?”  But Henry had already moved on.  She poked a soft cheese with her finger and imagined it was Henry’s chest.  Listen to me.

Claire lobbed the first tin of caviar, “Only the best for your family.”  She made herself stop after four cans—too many for him to juggle.  When his look of astonishment turned steely, she could just see the tin she held in her hand bouncing off his temple—a $5 missile.

“Better not.”  The smile in his voice made her turn around.  He took the tin from her—a simple gesture made seductively intimate.  She stood there, looking at his mouth—at that little indescribable place that some men have right at the corner.  He was cut from Upper East Side cloth.  A dead ringer for Cary Grant, if you asked her.

Grant tipped his hat and let the crowd carry him along the fish counter.  She watched Henry’s back as he restacked the caviar.  She followed his back up and down the aisles, through the check-out and, finally, outside.

Henry crossed the street to buy flowers for the dinner table. 

She saw that Grant was sitting on her bench.  She always thought the bench was oddly placed——like it had dropped out of the back of a truck, been retrieved from the middle of Broadway and 80th Street, and then dragged to safety.  Sometimes she felt that way herself.

Henry was at her side again—actually speaking to her.  He held out the bag of bagels.  You had to hand it to him; he was a better actor than most of the performers on Broadway.  She hated that polite manner he adopted when he was angry.  

She smiled and tried, “Brunch under the bagel canopy.  All of New York City at our feet.”  

“I’m taking my feet home.”  Henry started down the block.

“That’s right. Better get that crown roast in the ice box.”  She didn’t think he heard, but he turned back.

“What was that?” 

She could feel it coming.  Hissy fit—his term for the heat rising in her.  “Every Saturday we shop.  You always ask me what you should prepare for dinner. Why should I care?  I'm not invited, am I Henry?   I’m never invited.”

“There’s a reason for that.”

“Poor reason.” 

“I won’t ask them to accommodate you.”
“I'm the one who accommodates!  I accommodate your every desire!”  Heads turned.  She hadn’t meant to shout that last part. 
He was laughing at her now.  “Yes. That’s the good part.”

He tried to propel her along the sidewalk.  She wouldn’t budge, so he turned on her.  “You will stay away from my family.”

“How will you ensure that, Henry?  You can’t conduct the whole world like you conduct your symphony!

“Not one more word.”  He closed the gap between them.  “You will stop now.”

Stop now.  It was the best idea she’d had this morning.  She turned on her heels and strode briskly away.  The pheasant feathers on her hat bobbed up and down, flashing the rest of her message to Henry.  She followed the crowd of people right back into Zabar’s. 

Claire reclaimed her now empty bench.  Mouth, fingers—everything was sticky with crumbs when she heard him.

“There’s an unwritten rule in these parts,” Grant said. “You can’t eat Zabar’s Russian coffee cake alone.”   

Mother-of-mothers!  He was back.  Grant sat down, held out his hand and said, “Please.”  She gave him the dessert remainders.  Then Grant licked his gooey fingers and introduced himself. “Luke N. Goode.”

Luke said he would buy her a healthier lunch, but first he had to run a mid-town errand.  Claire thought the taxi ought to have been a pumpkin-coach, but she got in anyway.  The driver turned right on 8oth and right on Columbus. Luke reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the tin of caviar from Zabar’s.  He pressed it into her hand.

“Central Park makes me think of the game Monopoly,” Luke said.  “Inevitably, no matter where you’re headed, it seems you have to go all the way around the park.”

“My life is a game of Monopoly,” she managed.

“If you don’t like the number you rolled, pick up the dice and roll again.  Make your turn, Claire, don’t just take it.”

The taxi dropped them off at Fifth and 57th.  They went through Tiffany’s entrance together like they did it every day.   

Claire tried to restore her equilibrium by rote-reciting store names.  From the Plaza:  Bergdorfs, Lord & Taylor, Cartier, Tiffany’s Bonwits, DePinna, Saks.  Once they were inside Gino for lunch, she reasoned, she could always count the red zebras on the wallpaper.

“Thanks for your patience, Claire,” Luke said.  “Let’s get lunch.”

“Maybe a drink, too?” she ventured.

Tiny table.  Rushing waiters.  Clinking glasses.  Shared antipasto.  Luke N. Goode smiles.

She gave the cabbie her address and tried to pay the fare.  But the cabbie said the gentleman had taken care of it.  

The next morning, the front door buzzer sounded and Claire peered through the peephole.  A man in a United Parcel Service uniform made her sign for the delivery.

She tore open the parcel.  She couldn’t quite breathe for a minute because she had a glimpse of robin’s egg blue.  She opened the perfect little box, tipped the velvety pouch, and watched as two silver dice rolled out.  There were six pips on every side.   She read the note:  It doesn’t get any better than this.  Stop rolling.  Luke.

This came in by e-mail:

Good to Go by Helen Chapman

     Luke studied his reflection in the hall tree. He settled his hat squarely on his head giving the brim an extra 'snap' to make sure it fell at just the right angle. He broke a carnation from the stem sitting in the vase by the door and secured it in his buttonhole. His tie was tucked securely into his vest, his vest properly buttoned, and the pleat in his trousers was sharp enough to slice bread.
    Luke N. Goode was looking good! Today was the big day. Today would make all the difference in the world.
    This last year had been a killer. First he lost his job, then when he couldn't afford to take her away for that weekend in New York, his girlfriend dumped him. His wife found out about his girlfriend the next day and she took the kids and went home to mother. Yesterday in court, the judge had handed him his ass, and ordered him to pay his wife support until the day she died.
    Support. That was a joke. Luke was living off the money he had saved in that secret account for all those years. Yesterday, he had closed the account out, taken out the last five hundred dollars. He took the money and headed straight for the finest restaurant in town. He even left a fifty dollar tip for the waiter.
    The rest of the money Luke spent at The Prince Shop, to buy the suit he was wearing. It had to be just so, just the right cut and style, and the tailoring had to be perfect. He had picked the suit up yesterday, along with a new white shirt, a silk tie and the matching hat.
    Luke was ready. His shoes were shined, the hanky in his pocket pressed. Yes, he was ready.
    He walked to 26th Street and hailed a cab. Several passed him by before one finally stopped. Luke opened the back door on the Checker and climbed into the back seat. 'Howard and Lex' he said to the driver.
    Thirty minutes later, the cab pulled up to the curb in front of the Hutzler's Brother's. It was on the south-west corner of Howard and Lexington, the busiest corner in the city. Traffic was beginning to pick up in the afternoon. Street cars and buses were running up and down the streets in a synchronized dance with pedestrians and vehicles.
    Luke checked his watch. He had a good hour yet. He went through the revolving doors set in the iron facade of Hutzler's and headed back to the elevator. Like the gentleman he was, he took his hat off when he stepped into the car, and responded to the operator's question about floor with 'Six please.'
    The doors opened on the sixth floor and Luke stepped through into the fur salon. Mink and Persian lamb festooned the mannequins, while the few racks in the department held stone marten and fox. Hats of every description filled the shelves behind the counter, a counter staffed by pleasant looking women wearing black dresses with white collars identifying them as Hutzler employees.
    A young lady wearing the same black dress as the counter staff stood at the podium at the Rotunda Tea Room. She greeted Luke with a smile and showed him to a small table. He really wanted this meal to be special, and Hutzler's Brother's Rotunda Tea Room was renowned for their light lunches and desserts.
    As Luke finished his last sip of tea, he noticed people beginning to fill the sidewalks as office workers were heading to the trolley and bus stops on their way home. It was time. Luke looked at the bill. Not what he would have usually spent for lunch. A dollar fifty was a little steep for every day, but today was special. He tossed a five dollar bill on the table and walked away, knowing he had made the waitress' day.
    He rode the elevator back to street level and exited on the Lexington Street side by men's wear. He joined the growing throng by the sign that announced the #15 bus and car stop.
    A hand fell heavily on his shoulder. 'Luke, you old so an so! Long time no see!'
    Luke searched his mind for this man's name. Mustache, round wire-rimmed eyeglasses, slicked down black hair. 'Nathaniel Beau! How you been keeping, Natty?'
    'Fair, Luke. Fair. You still working at the bank?'
    Luke shook his head. 'Nope. Left there about a year ago.'
    'Good. I was hoping you'd say that.'
    Luke studied Natty Beau. Was he serious? Why would he be glad Luke was out of work?
    'I need a man like you, Luke. I'd like you to come on as head of my advertising department. You'll be supervising two other guys, so it's salary and a cut of whatever they sell. You should start off at about double what you made at that salt mine.'
    A smile slowly crept across Luke's face. He grabbed Natty's hand and pumped it up and down in both of his. 'Natty, you don't know how much this means. You really don't. I was going to do something stupid today, but you've saved...You just don't know what this means.'
    Natty thought Luke was going to weep for joy for a minute. He shrugged it off. 'You come by the office tomorrow morning, nine sharp. I'll introduce you to everyone’s, and we'll get you name put on the glass in your door.'
    Luke shook Natty's hand again. This was wonderful. He had come out today with every intention of doing himself in. This morning, Luke had nothing to live for. Now, just a few hours later, he had the world by the tail again. He was walking on air.
    He stepped off the curb, looking at the vendor across Howard street, deciding he really wanted a bag of fresh peanuts.
    Luke N. Goode never saw the southbound number 14 bus.

This came in by e-mail:

Luke peeked around the sticky-yellowed window blind and through the portion of the window he had cleaned when he first moved into the room the previous week. Beyond the Elevated, he could see the setting sun cloaked in the orange smoky haze that tinged the sky and outlined the nearby tenement buildings, factories and more distant skyscrapers. Below the Elevated’s tracks, Luke had a clear view of the street and his target’s dark grime covered storefront windows and doorway.

On the sidewalk, a woman in a heavy overcoat pushed a covered baby carriage as a group of sailors sang together in drunken step.  A milk delivery truck was parked mid-street between a drab colored Hudson and black Packard, and just around the corner, Luke could just make out a buxom blonde in a short skirt and sweater. She was checking her watch.

Luke checked his watch then glanced at the Thompson machinegun and newspaper on the spring mattress. It was 5:40. He had to complete his business exactly at 5:54; that was when the Elevated would careen around the bend overhead, creating a concealing racket.

It was time go.

Luke let the window blind fall into place, picked up the folded month old Chicago Sun Times newspaper and stared at one of the columned articles. The story was about a gang’s accountant being assassinated and a witness who stepped forward, proudly proclaiming “I never forget a face”. The witness allowed a newspaper photographer to snap his photo. Luke absorbed the image.

“Sorry Mac” Luke mused, “Should’ve kept your mouth shut like the rest.”

Luke tossed the paper onto the bed, walked over to the round black and white rag rug in front of the small sink and looked into the oval mirror above. He had shaved this morning but decided he needed a little more cologne. He checked his eyebrows and with tweezers, removed a couple of renegade hairs. He then tucked in his shirt, dressed in his blue suit jacket, straightened his red tie and then cocked his thumb as he looked into the mirror, “Luke N Good”, he grinned, “Pow!”

Luke slung the Thompson over his shoulder, its strap allowed it to hang low to his side. He then dressed in his grey overcoat and a pair of gloves. One last check and he tipped his fedora to his reflection in the mirror.

Outside and Luke watched from the flophouse doorway as his twenty dollars went to work; the street corner blonde strolled along the sidewalk and escorted the Irish blue blooded sentry down the block and out of view of the target’s place of business.

Luke slid his hand though a slit in his overcoat that allowed him to steady his Thompson.  A breeze played with the exhaust from a manhole cover and newspapers bounded down the block as Luke crossed the street. He kept his gaze to the ground to conceal his face from any potential witnesses.

In his target’s doorway, Luke slowly turned the doorknob and tried to open the door as quietly as possible; door chimes however announced his entry. Luke quickly closed the door behind him and when he turned he found himself surrounded by a gallery of faces, mixed media portraits on white walls. The place was an art house of sorts.

Luke took only a fugitive glance at the faces on the walls; he was here on business. He tried to make a mental layout of the rooms to be seen to figure out where his target might be. He then stepped quietly, deeper into the main room, raising his Thompson and holding it in both hands as he went. Then something caught his eye. In an otherwise bare alcove to his left, and as if in a place of honor, Luke saw a familiar image. It was a portrait of Look N Good himself.

Luke’s mouth dropped open and he quickly side-stepped into the alcove, alternating his glances from his portrait and to the doorway that led to the next room. When he was a step away from the portrait, he took a long hard look at himself in paint and smirked. He then took a long look back at the doorway to the next room and listened, nothing.

He brought the side of his face within inches of the canvas. He could smell the paint.

Luke quickly glanced to the doorway to the next room, listened for a few moments, nothing. He then turned so he was now face to face with his portrait. He marveled at the brushstrokes how easily they seemed to give him the perfect eyebrows. He looked at the boutonnière in his portrait. Yes, Luke remembered, he was wearing a pink flower on his lapel the day he gunned down the accountant. He wanted to straighten out his collar in the painting but could only straighten his own.

A thought crept into the back of Luke’s mind that someone was behind him. He quickly turned around, grabbing his Thompson in a flurry of movements and pointed it towards the doorway that led to the next room.

Only the portraits on the opposing walls returned his stare.  Luke listened. He squinted his eyes and listened. Nothing.  He released a breath, turned towards the painting and again listened for sounds coming up behind him. When he had assured himself he was indeed still alone, Luke returned his thoughts and concentration to his portrait. 

Luke removed a glove and with his finger followed a brushstroke around his portrait’s eye.  He then traced a smile line down the side of his painted face. He removed his other glove. He had to have this painting. He reached up and put both hands on the frame and began to remove the picture from the wall.

Luke didn’t hear the cocking of the gun over the sound of the Elevated as it careened around the bend overhead, but he most certainly heard the phrase, “You catch more flies with honey.”

This came in by e-mail:
Pelicans and Posies
By Royce A. Ratterman

The Chief Counsel questioned the dapper man wearing a hand tailored striped suit, softly colored tie and flower garnished lapel, as he sat before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, “And this . . .,” whispering to his left, then continuing, “close to two million dollars you used to purchase a yacht and a castle of a home at your native home of Sardinia, not to mention the rebuilding of many historic structures there,” coughing slightly he continued, ”just where did these monies come from, Mister Goode?”

Luke leaned to his left to consult with one of his attorneys. The lawyer’s large briefcase on the desk in front of them helped to obstruct the privileged conversational view from onlookers rather well. After a few moments he looked back into the Chief Counsel’s eyes and said with brevity, “Petty cash.”

The hearing room erupted into laughter, the kind of laughter that makes an alleged mobster happy rather than vengeful. For vengeance is not what one would want Luke or his associates to be seeking after them for.

The son of immigrants, Mister Goode had scratched his way to the top of his empire. Police rarely came to ‘service’ areas of immigrant domain. Stores and other enterprises were left on their own, prey to petty criminals out for some quick cash. Luke brought continuity and structure to his piece of the city. The people felt protected . . . secure. And Luke was never short of good deeds. He helped the elderly, the sick and especially those weakened by the discriminatory rejections they faced in society every day.

Luke had the cold, analyzing eyes of any top-notch corporate leader who would go to no end to see his ‘ventures’  accomplished without needless obstacles cluttering his pathway to elitism – no matter what or who those obstacles may be.

When the hearings ended and all the empty threats and half promises of justice were made by the Committee, Business euntropaneur, Luke N. Goode, was looking better than ever in the public’s eye. A regular underworld folk hero of the people. After all, “all publicity is good publicity,” they say.

But . . . time and crime eventually caught up with the not-so-lucky Luke. A one-way Federal Government ticket to "The Island of the Pelicans" in the San Francisco Bay was his destined lot in life. Now he was the property of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Being on the island that hosted the oldest operating lighthouse on the Pacific West Coast did not matter to Luke, however.

The smell of moldy old rock, overlaid with the odor of fresh concrete from repairs, formed a bleak atmosphere to say the least. Alcatraz was not a place to just while away the hours in luxurious comfort. The tiers, lined with small two-tone painted prison cells, reminded him of his uncle’s chicken ranch back in his homeland. A place he had visited many times as a young boy. At least he had his own sink, toilet and bed. His uncle’s chickens didn’t. And to be in cellblock ‘B’ where Al Capone had been was an honor, or an insult. That depended upon one’s outlook.

“So, the ‘Birdman’ has never had no birds here?” he questioned an unresponsive guard once, “Imagine that!”

Luke especially enjoyed the fall’s cold evenings on The Rock. The billows of fog rolled in across the hills surrounding the Golden Gate Bridge like waves rolling into the North Shore of Hawaii’s Oahu island. It brought a peaceful serenity to this Federal dungeon’s tenebrific criminal lair. It was rumored that he even worked on the Warden’s special grounds crew planting flowers one spring.

A few years, a few escape attempts, a few murders, a few suicides . . . life progressed onward at Alcatraz, though ‘progress’ was not quite the word for it.

Back home, Luke’s son ‘Junior’ grew into young adulthood and followed in his father’s heavy footsteps. Criminal empires are similar to automated assembly lines – replacing outdated machines with new . . . one after the other . . . without a moment’s slowdown in production.

Every year on the anniversary of Luke’s death someone visits his grave. The unknown guest leaves a bottle of Sardinian Cannonau wine, a bouquet of posies and a picture postcard of a pelican sitting on a wall at Alcatraz overlooking a flower garden. The card simply reads, “Cheers, my Friend! . . . Pelicans and Posies!”

The pickup artist. by wabbitbunny

Can I buy you a drink?

It’s a free country last time I checked.

Bartender, I’ll have one of your most expensive imported beers and another round for this most gorgeous princess.


Queen. Excuse me. Queen. So Queenie, you come here often?

That’s has to be the oldest pickup line in the world.

Well I’m no longer a spring chicken. Hey, you know what, you look familiar. Haven’t I’ve seen you from somewhere before?

Possibly. They’ve written books about me, and I’ve been in at least one movie, albeit, not a very good one; one that put me in a harsh cartoonish light. Humph. In that movie, they even had me die!

Well then Missy, I mean Queenie, I may be actually of some sort of service to you. You see, I’m a publicist by trade. I can help you re-make your image into anything you wish. Some call me a Svengali of sorts. To some, I’m a life coach, I prefer to say, I’ll make you look good for I’m Luke N Goode.

Well that is some sort of name.

Well I’m that sort of man. I do as good as well as I look, and I think you can tell, I must do well in my business. Let me tell you about someone as an example. I had this one client, a Miss Jacquie M Balla. A nice enough girl but she was going nowhere. But I could see potential in her. There’s potential in anyone, you just have to see it. With Jackie, you see, I could just see she had like this big bundle of energy and she carried it right there, and I could just see if I worked with her, I could help her to tap into that energy, to use it, to capture that star within that bundle of energy and make herself a star.

Well did you?

Did I what?

Did you make her into a star?

Well, we’re still working on it. Yeah, working on it. Hey, now I know where I’ve seen you before, you were at that reception a few months ago. Yeah, just before Christmas wasn’t it? At that big shindig out in the hills. Yeah, that’s right. You were there with all those little guys.

Dwarves. I was with seven dwarves.

You see! You see! Right there! That’s what I’m talking about. They’re not dwarves, they’re little people.

No they’re dwarves.

Little people.

No. Believe me, when I say they’re dwarves, they’re dwarves. I drive them off to work everyday. Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work they go. Why just this morning. Believe me when I tell you that they’re dwarves, they’re dwarves.
Okay. Okay. I’m just saying, you’re in the public eye, been in movies and there are ways I can help you, help your image, soften the rough edges, make you more palatable to the public.

You’re saying I need to change my image? You’re saying I’m not the fairest woman of them all?

Oh no, no, no! I’m just saying…aw forget it. It doesn’t matter. Hmm, hey, did you see what happen to that guy at the party?

What guy? What party?

That party in the Hills. The one around Christmas! Jeeze. What we were just talking about! The one you went to with those seven little people.


Little…aww forget it. Anyway, at that party, there was this one guy in a tuxedo. That Burt Feather’s character. Did you meet him?

No… no, can’t say I remember him.

Well strangest thing. He went bobbing for apples and the next thing you know, he was out like a light, in some sort of coma. Last I heard, hasn’t come out of it. They’re keeping him in some sort of clear box so he doesn’t get dusty while they wait for him to come out of it.

Well that’s truly terrible…but maybe, just maybe he just had too much to drink. I mean, I guess we were ALL very tipsy that night.

You can say that again. I know I knocked back a couple.

You know what Mr. Luke N Goode…I like you. And I’m not just saying that. You are truly one of a kind.

Well ah, why thank you. I…I don’t think I’ve gotten your name yet.


Magnificent. See. See, right there! See how I just tweaked your name a bit and it gives you a whole new presence, a new aura. People will definitely look at you different with a change of name.

Oh Luke, you are just so whimsical!

Really, I can do wonders I tell you. I mean, just look how a little publicity and treatment can even turn a horrid green witch in the Wizard of Oz into a loving and misunderstood and admirable person. The public just adores her. Oops sorry. I’m not saying you’re a witch or anything, or that there needs to be such a treatment for you, I’m just giving an extreme example and trying to show you how my skills as a publicist can do you wonders.

Understood. You know what Luke. I like you. I actually really do. Let’s toast to our friendship and hopefully, partnership.

Great. Hey bartender!

Oh we don’t need him. You can share my drink.

Uh, okay. Whatcha having?

An Appletini. Here try it. Oh wait! Isn’t that Burt Feathers?


Over there. No over there! Look way out through the window, across the street.

I don’t see anyone.

Oh my mistake. Must’ve been someone else. Ok. Here. Take a sip of my drink. I’ve just swirled it so you would get all the flavors combined in one sip. I’m sure you’ll find it just dreamy.


    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Elisa Bandy the winner of the Al A. Monie Flash Fiction Competition

    Portrait of Al. A. Money (buy this for $220)
    By Elisa Bandy
              “Al?”  There was only one person in the world who still called him that.  Alfred set the sidecar he'd been sipping casually from back down on the bar and turned on his stool to get a good look at her.  She was wearing clothes that fit her better, with her strawberry hair done in some style that flipped out at the ends.  Like two whale fins growing out of her head, she would have said with disdain, but that was years ago.
              “Hello, Christine.”
              She shifted her weight uncomfortably.  Clearly the pumps were a new addition to her aesthetic repertoire, as was the diamond ring on her finger.  “Can I sit down?”  she asked, motioning to the empty barstool next to her.
              He looked at her straight in the eyes, then shrugged.
              “I don't know.  Can you?”
              The stool scraped noisily two inches to the left as she scooted it away from Alfred's.  Typical, like the scotch and soda she ordered as soon as she was situated.  The air between them was leaden, static even while they drank their respective poisons, trying to think of something to say.  On the small stage at one end of the club, some smooth piano piece accompanied the soft singing of a pretty-boy crooner.  Alfred wondered if the man realized that all he was good for was background noise for people trying to lose themselves in booze and meaningless pity from strangers.
              His mind wandered over to the woman to his left.  There were more lines on her face than he remembered—not that he remembered much of her face other than tight-knit brows and nostrils flaring in rage—and her eyes that used to burn with a passion for just about anything that struck her fancy were now quiet.
              It wasn't like her to be so demure.
              “How have you been, Al?”
              “Better.”  He paused for a moment before remembering his social graces.  “You?”
              Christine nodded, looked down at her glass, then back up at him.  “I've been good.  I'm—”
              “Getting married?”
              She smiled sheepishly.  “Yeah.”  He's great, and really good with the kids.  He's a doctor, buys me everything that I ask for, and even stuff that I don't.  And he's home every night, that's the important thing.  He's everything that I ever wanted from you.
              She didn't have to say it aloud; he could read it in her eyes.  Always could, always will.  She'd been his first, after all.  Three hours later, and it was last call, but she was still talking about how the kids had been doing, lying to him about how much they missed him.  It was from the bottom of her heart.  He knew a part of the each of them was still very much in love.
              Suddenly he smirked, then put on his fedora and set some cash down on the counter for both his and her drinks.  “It was nice seeing you, Christine,” he said, one last time.
              Alfred walked out of the club and into the cold Chicago midnight with a smile on his face, hoping that she'd gotten what she came here for.
    This competition was filled with art school slackers, low rent gigolos, low end lawyers, marginal millionaires, private dicks and aging sex kittens.  All straight out of the genre of B level noir flicks.  These undesirables circle like vultures around the dead carcasses of failed ventures and relationships that they really didn’t want or need in the first place. 

    Elisa Bandy and Patrick Nelson both dealt with Al’s world by creating a noirish kind of story complete with the clever turns of phrases and verbal fencing that you might expect from barflies.  I’ve actually sat at a bar and had a similar buzzed conversation with an ex-girlfriend that Bandy described though the ending was a little different but not much better.  Nelson’s story was a sort of a young art student’s self loathing rush into a relationships that was out of his depth.  Both Bandy and Nelson’s stories had the ring of truth and I think a lot of guys have gotten stomped by their own personal femme fatales the way Nelson describes.  I think that Bandy takes prize because she nails the story in the fewest moves with the most punch.  (I think in the catalog I may publish both of Bandy’s and Nelson’s stories together.) 

    As in Bandy’s story I think sometime Al get’s the better deal but maybe I’m wrong.  Sometimes, Al thinks he’s come up smelling like a rose but smells like fertilizer instead.  For example in “SCRUBBED UP SOMETHING NICE” by Dee Turbon there’s a cheap lothario version of Al who just might get himself out of the frying pan and into an inferno.  I think the same is true of  “The Phoenix” by Gigi DeVault and D. Bellenghi’s Al who’s an attorney.  (I’m actually surprised that I didn’t anticipate that he might be an lawyer in some of the stories!  What was I thinking?)   I think that DeVault’s ending is really worth great!

     In a league of their won and much more playful were “A Nice Suit” by D. Charles Florey, “Where, Oh Where?” by Royce Ratterman and “May it Please the Court” by Helen Chapman.  These stories shared some fun pun-ish kind of names that really relate to the spirit of this project such as the firm of Slique, Cheatham & Howe.  Both stories had a strong sense of an era in which divorce hearings matter and the characters leave in a Ford Fairlane.  Ratterman’s story was a cute bait and switch that turns the genre in on itself.  Chapman plays with “Slique” characters and Mormon elders.  Some of the alliterative dialog was worth a sly chuckle as Al tries to weasel his way out of another fix or in the case of Chapman, Al might just ease into the next best thing.

    You guys all rock!  Thank you so much for writing these stories.

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