Saturday, July 23, 2011

Caption/Fiction Contest: Ends August 24th

Write a caption (one to several sentences) or a short story (under 1000 words) about this painting and and the best entry will win the watercolor.
Nearness of You 24x30 inches oil on canvas
watercolor on Rives BFK approximately  11"x8.5"

This is based on the The Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT, is a projective measure intended to evaluate a person's patterns of thought, attitudes, observational capacity, and emotional responses to ambiguous test materials. In the case of the TAT, the ambiguous materials consist of a set of cards that portray human figures in a variety of settings and situations. The subject is asked to tell the examiner a story about each card that includes the following elements: the event shown in the picture; what has led up to it; what the characters in the picture are feeling and thinking; and the outcome of the event. 
So watch out what you write or maybe someone will think you're nuts!

Enter in the comments section

You may want to e-mail me with your contact info so I can send you your prize.
Let me know if you want a catalog!

More contests on this blog and my website:

Caption/Fiction Contest: Ends August 17th

Write a caption (one to several sentences) or a short story (under 1000 words) about this painting and and the best entry will win the watercolor.

July 4th 20x20 oil on panel framed
watercolor on Rives BFK approximately  11"x8.5"
This is based on the The Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT, is a projective measure intended to evaluate a person's patterns of thought, attitudes, observational capacity, and emotional responses to ambiguous test materials. In the case of the TAT, the ambiguous materials consist of a set of cards that portray human figures in a variety of settings and situations. The subject is asked to tell the examiner a story about each card that includes the following elements: the event shown in the picture; what has led up to it; what the characters in the picture are feeling and thinking; and the outcome of the event. 
So watch out what you write or maybe someone will think you're nuts!

Enter in the comments section

You may want to e-mail me with your contact info so I can send you your prize.
Let me know if you want a catalog!

More contests on this blog and my website:
This came in by e-mail:

Watch the Skies
Helen Chapman 
      ‘It was right up there. See, just above the crest of the hills? That was where they were.’
      ‘Really Charles. I wish you wouldn’t fill her head with such nonsense.’ Rolanda Dahl couldn’t believe it. Here it was, ten years later, and her husband’s cousin Charles was still carrying on about the time he and his father saw those ‘flying donuts’.  You’d think, in 1962, he’d be over such nonsense. But no, nothing would do but for him to drag them all the way out to Maury Island so he could point out where they saw the 'ships'.
      ‘Your cousin thinks it’s nonsense, Gloria. I only know what I saw.’  Charles sneered when he said ‘nonsense’. There were times he didn’t know why his cousin had married this woman. ‘There were six of them, right up there. One of them broke off formation. It looked like it was having  mechanical problems. Suddenly,  rocks started raining down on our boat. One of them killed my dog. He was a good old dog.’
      Gloria Shepherd didn’t know what to think. She had always liked Charles. Her cousin  was always talking about how foolish he was, and how he was taken with flights of fancy. Gloria thought he sounded like he knew what he was talking about.
      ‘You don’t believe me, Rolanda?’  He sounded angry. ‘Then what’s this?’  He pulled something from his trouser pocket and held it on his palm.
      Rolanda looked down in disdain and sniffed. ‘It’s a rock.’
      Charles handed it to Gloria.
      Gloria picked it off his palm and examined it closely. ‘It looks like a piece of shale, and  it’s heavy.’
      Charles walked to the water’s edge and filled a cup. ‘Drop it in.’
      Dutifully, Gloria dropped the rock into the paper cup.
      ‘It’s floating!’
      Charles took it from cup and shook it dry.  He put it back in his pocket, and took out something small and white. ‘What do you make of this?’
      Gloria studied it. She held his hand and turned it this way and that, so she could look at it from all sides.
      ‘It looks like a folded up piece of paper.’ Rolanda was becoming more irritated by the minute.
      ‘Hold out your hand, Gloria.’ Charles laid the folded ‘paper’ on the girl’s outstretched palm.
      No sooner had he released it than it began to vibrate. He grabbed Gloria’s hand when she recoiled. ‘Watch’.
      As they watched, the ‘paper’ began to unfold of its own volition, in a quick, orderly progression of turns and flips. In seconds, there was a perfect uncreased six inch square that  levitated above the teenager’s hand.
      ‘Hmph. Parlor tricks.’ Rolanda crossed her arms and turned her back on the pair.
Charles ignored her this time. ‘Dad and I picked these out of the water that day. We had a whole bucket full of them. The government took most of them. I managed to hide these.’
      ‘Oh, here we go again. Now he’s going to tell her all about the man in the big black Buick.’  Rolanda spoke to no one in particular. She was angry, and didn’t care who knew it.
      ‘What do you mean the government took them, Charles? Why would they want to take things like this?’
      Charles shook his head. ‘I don’t know. First some man threatened my father, said if he told anyone about what happened, bad things would happen. Then a bunch of soldiers showed up at our house and tore the place apart. ’
      Rolanda had just about enough. ‘Charles, you know good and well that your father told everyone he had made the whole thing up.’
      ‘Of course he did. After that man in the Buick threatened us.’
      The sun was beginning to set. ‘Charles, we need to get back. The mosquitos are starting.’  Rolanda began swatting the air as the bloodsuckers swarmed around her.
      ‘Charles, what’s that?’  Gloria pointed to a dot traveling out of the western horizon towards them.
      The pair stood and watched as the dot grew. As it neared, they could make out that it was disk-shaped. It seemed to hover over a group of dunes down the shoreline.
      ‘Ro, look.’  Charles Dahl was in awe.  This was the same sort of craft he and his father had seen ten years ago.
      She glanced in the general direction of the disk. ‘So?’
      ‘Charles? Is it...waiting?’  The thing seemed to be ‘looking’ at them as it hovered six feet off the ground.
      ‘You want to go see?’
      They heard tires on the gravel road behind them.  It seemed awfully late for someone to be going to the beach.
      He looked at the ship again, then looked past Rolanda to the road, just as a black Buick Roadmaster crested the hill and stopped. The front passenger window rolled down and a man inside stared down at them.
      ‘Come on, Gloria. Let’s go see.’  He took the girl’s hand and the two of them walked quickly down the beach, away from the black Roadmaster and away from Rolanda.
      Rolanda watched as they walked away.  She saw the craft hover, rise up into the sky, and hover again. She watched as Charles and her cousin stood directly under the craft, looking up, as a beam of pure white light enveloped the pair. Then they were gone: Charles, Gloria and the odd craft.
      Rolanda  walked towards the Buick. The passenger got out. He was tall, extremely thin, wearing a black suit, crisp white shirt and black tie. He wore a hat two sizes too small for his head, and perched at a peculiar angle, as if he was unfamiliar with that accessory.
      ‘Well, what  now?’  Rolanda handed her hat to the man, and began stripping off her kid gloves.
      The man reached over and opened the back door.  ‘The boss wants to talk to you.'
      This was unexpected. Rolanda never expected the boss to come all the way out here. She slid into the back seat.
      She turned to the passenger sitting against the opposite  door and held out her right hand in greeting. ‘Good evening, Mr. Nixon. It’s a pleasure to see you again.’


Caption/Fiction Contest: Ends August 15th

Write a caption (one to several sentences) or a short story (under 1000 words) about this painting and and the best entry will win the watercolor.

 Hot Tips, oil on canvas 16"x20"
watercolor on Rives BFK approximately  11"x8.5"
This is based on the The Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT, is a projective measure intended to evaluate a person's patterns of thought, attitudes, observational capacity, and emotional responses to ambiguous test materials. In the case of the TAT, the ambiguous materials consist of a set of cards that portray human figures in a variety of settings and situations. The subject is asked to tell the examiner a story about each card that includes the following elements: the event shown in the picture; what has led up to it; what the characters in the picture are feeling and thinking; and the outcome of the event. 
So watch out what you write or maybe someone will think you're nuts!

Enter in the comments section

You may want to e-mail me with your contact info so I can send you your prize.
Let me know if you want a catalog!

More contests on this blog and my website:


This came in by e-mail:

Hot Tip by Patrick Nelson

"Looksee at the time, Pete!" The little man said in a panic. "Crimeny! If we's don't get ourselves to the church in a timely fashion, Mother Superior is gonna fry out livers and serve us to the poor at the soup line."
His borough accent was so thick, it seemed like he was literally chewing on the words before he allowed them to spill forth from his mouth. His comic expression as he did a double-take at his wristwatch was rivaled only by those old stars of vaudville. It appeared to any passers-by that he truly did fear for his innards in regard to their tardiness.
"See here, Antonio, we've an abundance of time before our scheduled rendezvous with the  dear woman." Said the big man standing beside Antonio at the newsstand.
Pietro's use of florid language was so odd for a man of his appearance yet it was eclipsed in its delivery by the fact that he also had the inflection of a native of the streets of Brooklyn and that he gave the impression of having a mouth full of buttered pasta. In addition, his voice was so soft-spoken that the casual listener would have to strain to hear him. If death spoke aloud to you, he would have Pietro's voice.
He glanced at his watch much less gravely than his friend and sighed heavily.
"Antonio, you allow your last encounter with the woman to color your psyche dourly." He whispered. "If perhaps you would have endeavored to heed her warnings about the last task she set before you, you would not be in such a state about our meeting with her today."
He went back to calmly reading his racing form.
Antonio just stared at his friend in disbelief. After a few seconds, he closed his slack jaw and said in a high, squeaky voice, "For Pete's sake, Pete! She so much as told me that I was on the short list and headed for a pine box if I screwed up another job!"
Pietro's girth jiggled up and down slightly and he shook his head almost imperceptibly. These were the only subtle signs that the big man was laughing for he didn't smile when he said, "Antonio, Antonio... You have no need to fear any such thing from the Reverend Mother Elizabeth Cecile."
Pietro was, unlike his friend, not afraid to speak her full name. When anyone dared to discuss her on the street, it was in hushed tones and with sideways glances for she was generally more feared than the deadliest gangsters in all of New York. To speak of her at all was the work of fools who wanted to shed their human toil. Pietro was no fool. He just knew where he stood in the scheme of things, "I need not remind you that she would dare not raise a finger to harm you as I would not allow it. I ask you, who in her employ would be the individual she entrusted with dispatching you?"
Antonio removed his hat, scratched his head and thought that over.
Realizing his slow-witted friend was not coming to any conclusions, he answered for him, "That, Antonio, would be myself. You must by now realize that I would not do such a thing to you or for that matter allow any other person to threaten your life."
This seemed to calm the little man slightly.
 "Yeah, I guess you're right, Pete. It's just sometimes she's so, so, you know?" Searching for the right word, he finally spat out "Mean!"
"Indeed." Was Pietro's reply.
"It's not like I wanted to drop the guy off the bridge!" Antonio protested. "He was heavy! And then those bats were swooping down from the top of the bridge and I coulda swore one got in my pantleg..."
"As you've said multiple times," Pietro interrupted. "But the simple fact remains that the Nun wanted the man scared--not dead."
"Yeah! Don't I know it! But if he just would've went in feet first, he wouldn'tve broken all those bones and he mighta pulled through."
"Ah" Pietro mused, " If 'would-haves' could only become 'dids' then the 'have nots' would have become the 'do haves'."

Caption/Fiction Contest: Ends August 10th

Write a caption (one to several sentences) or a short story (under 1000 words) about this painting and and the best entry will win the watercolor.

 Framed oil/canvas 30x40"
watercolor on Rives BFK approximately  11"x8.5"
This is based on the The Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT, is a projective measure intended to evaluate a person's patterns of thought, attitudes, observational capacity, and emotional responses to ambiguous test materials. In the case of the TAT, the ambiguous materials consist of a set of cards that portray human figures in a variety of settings and situations. The subject is asked to tell the examiner a story about each card that includes the following elements: the event shown in the picture; what has led up to it; what the characters in the picture are feeling and thinking; and the outcome of the event. 
So watch out what you write or maybe someone will think you're nuts!

Enter in the comments section

You may want to e-mail me with your contact info so I can send you your prize.
Let me know if you want a catalog!

More contests on this blog and my website:

Caption/Fiction Contest: Ends August 8th

Write a caption (one to several sentences) or a short story (under 1000 words) about this painting and and the best entry will win the watercolor.

Diagonal, oil on canvas 24"x30"
watercolor on Rives BFK approximately  11"x8.5"

This is based on the The Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT, is a projective measure intended to evaluate a person's patterns of thought, attitudes, observational capacity, and emotional responses to ambiguous test materials. In the case of the TAT, the ambiguous materials consist of a set of cards that portray human figures in a variety of settings and situations. The subject is asked to tell the examiner a story about each card that includes the following elements: the event shown in the picture; what has led up to it; what the characters in the picture are feeling and thinking; and the outcome of the event. 
So watch out what you write or maybe someone will think you're nuts!

Enter in the comments section

You may want to e-mail me with your contact info so I can send you your prize.
Let me know if you want a catalog!

More contests on this blog and my website:

Caption/Fiction Contest: Ends August 3rd

Write a caption (one to several sentences) or a short story (under 1000 words) about this painting and and the best entry will win the watercolor.

Best is Yet to Come 40x30 inches oil on linen

watercolor on Rives BFK 11"x8.5"
This is based on the The Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT, is a projective measure intended to evaluate a person's patterns of thought, attitudes, observational capacity, and emotional responses to ambiguous test materials. In the case of the TAT, the ambiguous materials consist of a set of cards that portray human figures in a variety of settings and situations. The subject is asked to tell the examiner a story about each card that includes the following elements: the event shown in the picture; what has led up to it; what the characters in the picture are feeling and thinking; and the outcome of the event. 
So watch out what you write or maybe someone will think you're nuts!

Enter in the comments section
You may want to e-mail me with your contact info so I can send you your prize.
Let me know if you want a catalog!

More contests on this blog and my website:
This came in by e-mail:

"Spirit in the Sky" by Marlin Bressi
Lt. Benjamin Brooks took one final loving glimpse at his de Havilland DH-4 before softly closing the hangar door and retiring to his suite at the Roosevelt Hotel. Lt. Brooks, who served four unspectacular years in Britain's Royal Air Force, felt for the first time in his life that he was on the cusp of achieving something spectacular. For in the morning, Benjamin would be chasing the biggest prize in aviation; the Orteig Prize, a $25,000.00 paycheck for the first aviator to fly from New York to Paris.
It was a feat that had been unaccomplished since 1919, when New York millionaire Raymond Orteig first announced the prize. Lt. Brooks, however, felt that it was his destiny to become the first person to fly nonstop across the Atlantic. After all, aviation was in his blood. His father, Warren "Ace" Brooks, was a hero of sorts during the First World War, having pioneered the use of the zeppelin in bombing raids for the Royal Flying Corps. Even though his father met his demise at the hands of the dreaded German Jagdgschwader over France, Lt. Brooks refused to give up flying. Unfortunately, the death of his father led Benjamin to be quite superstitious.
Benjamin's first attempt at the Orteig Prize was thwarted one year earlier in 1926, when a spiritualist sent him a letter pleading for him to reconsider his mission, stating that she had received a "warning from beyond". Lt. Brooks, after some deliberation, abandoned his chase of the prize. He would not be thwarted this year, he kept telling himself. Gypsies and fortunetellers be damned! Only the very voice of God would prevent him from climbing into his de Havilland DH-4 and setting sail across the sky.
Inside his suite at the Roosevelt, the silence of night was shattered by the ringing of a telephone. The weary aviator grumbled, knowing that it was probably just another well-wisher. Before Lt. Brooks had an opportunity to speak, an eerie disjointed voice moaned through the receiver. Benjamin thought it sounded like a man speaking into the whirling blades of an electric fan.
"Who is this?" demanded Lt. Brooks.
"Ace," hissed the mysterious voice. "Your father."
"That's absurd," replied Benjamin. His father had been dead since 1918. Aware that the call was probably coming from a prankster, he decided to ask the caller where he was calling from.
"Somewhere," replied the night caller. "Somewhere left of heaven."
Maybe that was just a lucky guess, thought Benjamin. But how would an American know about a deceased and relatively obscure WWI British airman?
"Ben," pleaded the voice. "Do not fly tomorrow. The sky will hurl you back to earth in a million fiery pieces."
Now Ben was almost certain that he had a prankster on the end of the line. Rather than hang up the phone, he decided to ask a question that only an experienced aviator, or his father himself, would know the answer to. "If you are my father, then tell me what I'm doing in an outdated war-era de Havilland. She's a..."
"A two-seated bi-plane. With a 380-horsepower Rolls-Royce engine," the voice interrupted. "You chose the DH-4 because it was the same plane I had flown in the war. When you were a young lad, I would always tell you what a magnificent machine the DH-4 was."
"True. But the American version..."
"The American version of the DH-4 was built with a 400-horsepower Liberty L-12 engine."
"That's remarkable!" exclaimed Benjamin. "How? How could you possibly know that? The Americans didn't have their own DH-4 until..."
"Two months after I died. I told you that it was me, Benjamin."
"Why does your voice sound so strange?"
"It takes an enormous amount of energy to come back to the material plane," explained Ace. "Which is why so few of us are able to speak to the living. But it is possible for us to come back in order to give a warning to loved ones."
"Dad, what is heaven like?" asked the mystified young aviator.
"Remember the way you felt the first time your plane left the ground? Heaven feels like that, all of the time. Some people think flying is a way to play God. But the truth is that man flies in order to feel closer to God."
"Then why should I fear death?" asked Benjamin. "Why not fly tomorrow?"
"Benjamin," explained Ace, "A man should not fear death, but a man must not be in a rush to embrace it, either. The Orteig Prize has never been won since 1919, so what harm will it do to wait one more day? Do you not hear the rain outside your window? Wait until Saturday, and the storm shall pass."
"As you wish, father," replied Benjamin.
The voice explained that since his work was done, he had to return to the spiritual realm. He wished his son well, and said that he was proud of him. Lt. Brooks returned the phone to its cradle and quickly drifted off to sleep.
Inside of a gray airplane hangar a few miles away, a cord was pulled from the wall socket and an electric fan's blades whirled to a stop. "You sonuvabitch!" laughed a man in a yellow raincoat. "I can't believe you pulled it off. He really is a superstitious fool, isn't he? With Brooks out of the way, that twenty-five grand is as good as ours."
"Your plane is finally ready to go," said a grease-stained mechanic, who pointed a wrench in the direction of the man's aircraft, a sleek new monoplane with the name Spirit of St. Louis emblazoned on the nose. Mr. Lindbergh stood up, walked over to the hangar door and gazed upon the wakening dawn peeking over the horizon through the quickly dissipating morning drizzle. He could tell that it was going to be a wonderful day.

The Best Is Yet To Come
Helen Chapman

      'Can't you take the boat, Hans?'
      Hans Hugo Witt sighed deeply. Here he was, a major in the Luftwaffe, and had to explain to his wife why he was flying. He folded his uniform jacket carefully and placed it in his portmanteau.  'Anna, you know better. I flew all during the last war and never got a scratch. Why do you worry about me boarding that monster of a flying ship now?'
      Anna Witt stared out the second story window, and rubbed her hands over her burgeoning belly. She was just beginning to show in her fourth month. It wouldn't be long before she would be confined to the house. This was the time she wanted her husband with her.  'I'm worried, Hans. I look at that giant balloon and wonder how it stays up. And you will only be a passenger. At least during the war, you were in charge. I trust your skills. I don't know the captain on that ship.'
      He laughed. 'Anna my love, Captain Ernst Lehman himself is in charge of this ship.  Remember Ernst? I served under him for three years. He was at our wedding. You danced with him.'
      'Captain Lehman? Really?'  She turned to face him and he saw her wipe a tear quickly from her cheek.
      Hans wrapped his arms around her and held her gently. 'Yes. Really.  If I sail, it will take me a week to ten days to make the crossing each way. I have to meet with that American...what's his name...Prescott Bush. He's connected to several corporations, and we need what his companies control.  Two days to Lakehurst, three days in meetings, then two days home. If it took the boat, I'd be a month or more getting home.'
      He felt her sob once against his chest before she drew away.
      Anna looked up at him and smiled a watery smile. Suddenly, she was a bundle of energy. 'Well then, we'd best get you packed.' She hurried about, picking up socks and underwear and putting them in his case. 'We've only got an hour to get you to the airfield.'
      They rode to the airfield in the back of  Witt's staff car. The Mercedes hummed along the road,  their driver swerving around men riding bicycles. They arrived at Frankfort am Main with fifteen minutes to spare.
      Hans opened the door himself and stepped out holding his case. He offered his hand to Anna. Even though the May air was warm, it was windy enough to justify her wearing her long woolen coat.  She walked with him across the airfield until they reached the mooring post. The ship was still aloft, the grounds crew working to haul it down to allow boarding.
      Anna fussed with Hans' jacket, making sure he wore the blue enamel lapel pin that designated him as a passenger aboard the mighty airship. She was trying very hard to be strong, not to show how worried she really was.
      He didn't give her a chance to say anything. Hans grabbed her and leaned her back, kissing her right there in the middle of the grassy field, in front of the grounds crew, flight crew, God and everybody. When he released her, she could barely catch her breath.  He stroked her cheek. 'I'll be home in a week.
      Three days later, Anna was sitting in her parlor, dunking a biscuit in her coffee. The radio was tuned to a station that usually played dance music. An announcer broke in.  That was never a good sign. Something about a broadcast from America.
      ' It's practically standing still now. They've dropped ropes out of the nose of the ship, and they've been taken a hold of down on the field by a number of men. It's starting to rain again; it's*¥the rain had slacked up a little bit. The back motors of the ship are just holding it just, just enough to keep it from *¥ It burst into flames! It burst into flames, and it's falling, it's crashing! Watch it! Watch it, folks! Get out of the way! Get out of the way! Get this, Charlie! Get this, Charlie! It's fire*¥and it's crashing! It's crashing terrible! Oh, my, get out of the way, please! It's burning and bursting into flames, and the*¥and it's falling on the mooring-mast and all the folks agree that this is terrible, this is the worst of the worst catastrophes in the world. [Indeciperable word(s)] It's–it's–it's the flames, [indecipherable, possibly the word "climbing"] oh, four- or five-hundred feet into the sky and it ... it's a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. It's smoke, and it's flames now ... and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring-mast. Oh, the humanity...' 
      Anna wasn't sure what exactly was going on, but she made out a few of the words, like flame and crash. It sounded horrific. The announcer came back on and translated what was being said. Oh, my God! That was the Hindenburg!  The ship her Hans had flown away on just three days ago.  She screamed when someone knocked on the door.
      She ran to the door, and saw a young man dressed in the close fitting uniform of a messenger. He handed her a telegram and turned to ride off.
      Anna sat heavily in her chair. She knew what was in this envelope. She didn't want to look at it. If she didn't look, it couldn't be real, could it? She stared at the onionskin paper, willing it to be anything else. Finally, she reached for the knife on her tray and slit the flap.

      note: the quote from the Hindenburg broadcast is the original text from Herbert Morrison of WLS Radio Chicago. On information and belief, this broadcast is now in the public domain. No copyright infringement is intended.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Author Feature: Royce Ratterman

Jairo 10"x8"  in vintage frame

I thought that it might be fun to run some features of some of the authors who wrote some of the great stories on this blog.  Here's a great collection of stories by Royce Ratterman.  Visit his blog at:

Full Service by Royce A Ratterman

“A full service, son,” demanded the stranger emphatically to the ace mechanic pumping gas into his treasured vintage Ford sedan. “No skimping on anything. I expect the best of everything.”

The handsomely uniformed young man simply nodded in agreement to the elderly fellow before opening the hood to check the vehicle’s vital fluids and mechanical stability.

“What’s your name, boy” questioned the man out of his window loudly, “I always like to know who’s working on my vehicle, you know.”

“Jairo, sir, simply Jairo,” came the reply from under the hood.

“What kind of a name is that, son?”

Jairo secured the hood of the vehicle and stepped to the driver’s side window, “It is found most often among Spanish cultures, sir. From Hebrew origin, I believe. It can mean ‘God enlightens’ or what my father meant for it to mean . . . ‘A son to brighten my life’.”

“That’s nice, young man, real nice. How’s everything look under the hood?”

“Just fine, sir. Everything is in order.”

“What’s your specialty, young man?” asked the stranger with way too many questions.

“Specialty, sir?”
“Yes, I mean the types of vehicles you prefer to work on and have a kind of knack for, you know.”

Jairo replied to the curious man sitting behind the vehicle’s steering wheel, “Fords, sir. I am the area mechanic assigned to their driver’s final full service.”

“There’s a lot of Fords here in South SF these days,” replied the man. “You’ve got a lifetime of work ahead of you, son.”

Jairo tipped his black-billed blue service station uniform hat to the man, collected the payment for services rendered, then bid the stranger farewell, “Have a great day sir. I know you will.”

After the stranger drove away from 215 South Maple Avenue in his vintage Ford sedan he was never heard from again.

                    ~ ~ ~

“Paint . . . you do touchup painting, boy?” asked the gray-haired man in the 1941 Ford after he pulled the vehicle with the scraped fender into the gas station’s lot.

Jairo promptly replied, “The best in town, sir. The best in town.”

“Got time today for a touchup?”

“No time like the present, I say,” answered Jairo. “Pull the car in over there.”

“Heavenly,” exclaimed the man as he quickly drove his damaged vehicle into the garage area the attendant had pointed out to him. He never returned home.

                    ~ ~ ~

"On the Street Where You Live"
"Bright Lights Foggy City" by Kenney Mencher 20"x16"
On another chilly weekday morning a black and white unit pulled into the lot for gas and a full service check. It seemed that the police station’s regular mechanic was out sick and the officers needed to assure that their vehicle was ‘street ready’ before commencing their shift. The two cops received the best service of their lives from Jairo that day. But after they failed to respond to radio calls and did not return to their headquarters, an all out investigation was implemented to search for the two law enforcement officers and their Ford police unit. Headlines days later read, “Tragic Patrol Accident - Local Police Officers Killed.”

                    ~ ~ ~

A top-notch mechanic for as long as he could remember, Jairo always did his best to please his customers and honor his trade.

The old service station had a central entry door accompanied by large windows to each side. Two pumps adorned the tiny entry sidewalk along the two large front windows. Faded white walls augmented with dingy rose trim were the exterior’s decor. A lonely place with an abandoned look.

                    ~ ~ ~

One hot South San Francisco afternoon a tearful young woman entered the service station lot in her beautifully manicured Model-A. She asked the attendant, “Can I get a full service?” to which he replied, “It will be quite some time, ma’am.”

“Busy, huh?” commented the woman.

“Is everything alright, ma’am? You look a bit distressed. Can I help in any way?” questioned Jairo.

“Oh, it’s this letter,” she replied, holding up an official looking white envelope, “I guess telling a stranger is easier than telling my family and friends. I’m afraid to open it.”

“Sometimes it’s best to face life head on and live it to its fullest.”

Looking up at Jairo with her tearful eyes she replied, “Well, mister, last week I got some really terrible bad news from my doctor. Odds are not good for me, you see. My doctor took some tests and the results are in this envelope. That’s why I’m afraid to open it.”

Jairo encouragingly replied, “Ah, ma’am, there are folks down in Vegas right now winning huge jackpots with worse odds than you have. Open it. You’ll ease you mind and heart, miss, trust me. Anyway, no doctor would send bad news in a letter, would they now.”

The woman placed the envelope on the seat next to her and stared at it for a while. Tears flowed as she slowly tore the envelope open. Sighs of relief echoed as she read the good news. “It’s not my time yet.”

When she looked up to thank the attendant she noticed that the station was abandoned. Only cracked asphalt, broken front windows and a missing front entry door remained. The woman exited her Ford and questioned an employee of a neighboring establishment regarding the service station. He simply responded, “Ma’am, that station’s been closed for years. Ain’t been nobody there since I can remember.”

Looking in her rearview mirror as she drove away, the woman caught a glimpse of the same uniformed man standing in the abandoned station behind her. She gently waved her hand . . . the man did the same.

                    ~ ~ ~

“Welcome sir!” greeted Jairo to a teenager in a ’32 Ford Deuce Coupe hotrod, “Full service?”

“Yeah, yeah. Hey, is your boss around, mister?”
Jairo smiled and replied, “You’ll be meeting him very soon, son. Very soon!”
"Burt and Melba's Thanks"  14"x11"
Out of Sorts

Melba sorted through the old antique trunk full of keepsakes from Earth; slowly, methodically, sadly and in tearful remembrance and reflection.

The card … 3” x 5” … from a time long gone.

“Thank You for the Wedding Gift” graced the front of this memento, as did the faded image of a flower - a faded image as distant as her memories of life on Earth decades upon decades earlier. The eons of time long past, or so it felt to Melba, before those dark, bone-chilling, pain filled hours, days, months and years captivated her in the pensive prison of her mind’s endlessly empty thoughts.

As she raised her tearful eyes toward the ceiling skylight, she stared long at the twin crescent moons’ light that pierced the night’s dark cover through the glass pane overhead, ever so dimly, ever so sad.

Melba reflected upon the note in her hand, the wedding of Captain Benton and the love of his life, Eva Destruction, and the long trip from Earth to this distant world. Xanz, as it is called by its inhabitants. The fourth planet in this distant solar system. A lonely place. It is home to those who, to this day, continue to refer to themselves as Earthlings; refugees from a dying, or rather more factually, dead planet. Earth, a Home-Sweet-Home that is no longer, only a sorrowful memory for those old enough to remember … before man’s error and greed had split the planet in two halves and forced mankind to flee in dreaded terror, or at least those lucky enough to escape.

The Captain and Eva had been the first to depart the endangered terrestrial blue globe. Their dearest friends, Burt and Melba Toast, followed them into the sky and into an unknown future.

The peoples of Xanz had welcomed the earthlings with open arms upon their arrival to their sparsely populated planet. It is quite a unique type of hug one experiences when embraced by humanoid creatures possessing two sets of arms and four very large hands. Hands featuring seven long finger-like appendages. One does grow accustomed to these peculiarities over time.

On Xanz Melba had found a new life with Burt and the other fortunate few who had made their way through the silent darkness of space to this strange planet. A planet where night and day seem to appear and disappear without warning or predictability, though the indigenous inhabitants of Xanz have no trouble calculating time. It is a place where the men of Earth live short lives and the women of Earth never die.

Chromosomes … DNA … RNA … Man … Woman …

Who could have imagined, other than intellectually gifted medical personnel with elaborate analyzers and testing capabilities, that the male human species would be susceptible to aging more quickly in the atmosphere of Xanz? Who could have imagined that the effect would be a polar opposite with the female of the species from Earth’s human populous?

Celestial rejuvenation. That is what some cult-like female figureheads of the clan of women call their favored fortune. Celestial degeneration … the other alternative … the male alternative.

Burt … Captain Benton … long gone. Diminished to mere mists of memory.

Melba lowered her tearful old, very old eyes, visually embracing the card in her hand.

Best Wishes
Eva &

She read it over and over until she could read no more. The haunting memory of Burt’s celebrated champagne toast during Eva and Benton’s wedding rehearsal dinner echoed throughout her dismal thoughts. “For Better or for Worse!” Words that have echoed throughout time. Words that no one really ever means.


Melba finished sorting the ancient trunk’s contents with thoughtful retrospection. Item by item she handled, examined and reflected. Her keepsakes of shadowy memories from days long lost. Those fading shadows that time has so mercifully left behind.

“Out of sorts,” she said to herself softly, “Out of sorts!”
Questions Never Asked

The prison's inmate artist completed the pencil and charcoal drawing long before the visit ended. A gift for a lonely man with hours, months … years of time on his hands.

"Melba Toast" resonated over the visiting room’s speakers as loudly as "Pat O. Butter" had just moments before. The two women knew it was their time to leave.

The visits with Pat's brother in this maximum security prison always left the two women with a sense of cold, dark depression. But, they knew it left Pat's brother with the light rays of hope and encouragement. Encouragement he needed in this bleak, dismal concrete-smelling cage-filled entrapment for those deemed by society as human refuse.

The sketch will keep Pat’s imprisoned brother company during those times of despair and grief, for those times are many; times for him that never end.

The bus ride home for the ladies was as uneventful as ever. The town’s center buzzed with eager customers who went from store to store, looking and buying, oblivious to the pains of life suffered by those around them. The pains like Pat’s. The secondary pains good folks like Melba suffer for their friends.

“Look!” Melba said to Pat excitably as she pointed out of the bus window, “A new film at the Picture Show. That dreamy young actor is in this one … you know, the one with the scraggly black hair.”

Pat, deep in sorrowful thought concerning her brother, did not reply.

Again, Melba repeated herself, adding, “We could go tonight, maybe.”

“Yes, why, yes,” Pat finally responded, “I would like that, Melba. I really would.”

Back home Pat reflected back to a time when life was simple. Back to a time when life was hard.

Pat and Melba had grown up together on neighboring farms. Horses, cows, chickens, goats and a duck pond graced the two families’ rolling fields of wheat like a flower graces a vase. As young girls, they shared everything … well, almost everything.

Until that dreadful day.

Melba had sensed that something was never quite right at Pat and her brother’s home, but it was not the kind of thing little farm girls talked about between themselves. Pat’s brother knew. Pat’s father definitely knew. Her mother looked the other way.

When the Sheriff arrived at the Butter farmhouse he was quoted in a local newspaper as having said, “I’ve never in all my born days of livin’ seen so much blood!”

The murder weapon was never found, but Pat’s brother confessed to killing his father. He never said any more.

The years raged on and time passed by. The stigma for Pat’s family faded into the shadows of public memories like the warm days of summer fade away into the coldness of the first brisk fall evening.

Melba had always wondered why her childhood friend had blood all over her school clothes the day of the killing while Pat’s brother did not. But those were questions better never asked. Questions left answered.

And why does Pat keep an old axe behind her bedroom door?

And why does Melba never ask why?

Questions never asked.


"Eddie Currents" 20"x16" by Kenney Mencher
Life Cycle of a Fly
By Royce A Ratterman

Eddie Currents was in love.

Yes, that overwhelming, heart-enslaving type of love that entangles a young man like vines entangle the open areas of our world’s jungles. But, there was one small problem … the object of his desire, the beautiful dark-haired woman of his eternal dreams, did not know that Eddie existed. Oh, she had seen him in her restaurant and even served him, but he was just another friendly face at but another table on another single day in an endless queue of days, months and years … a paying customer.

“She’s too good for me,” Eddie contemplated painfully on a daily basis. “Too pretty, to smart, too …,” just about anything. Excuses in Eddie’s mind that enabled him to prolong and avoid the inevitable – personal contact.

He thought of her as his special mermaid. The fleeting beauty who graced the seas of his life and the waves of time everlasting. A real life fantasy in the flesh. The hope for his future.

“A nice kid,” his apartment manager, Bill Meelater, had reiterated to others living in the complex when Eddie had moved in. “Very stable. Good job too!”

This ‘nice kid’ just needed to muster up the courage it takes to transcend beyond those petty fears one faces when the voice of shyness hinders the tongue from speaking to one’s object of fanciful affection.

After all, wasn’t love like the life cycle of a fly; From egg to larva, then pupa and finally to adult, alive for a short period and then off into the oblivion of death’s deep cavern?

“The time is now!” Eddie shouted to himself in silence.

Eddie waited for nearly two hours outside of the restaurant where his ‘love’ worked. Patiently he stood there as the busy city folks came and went like ants on the prowl for the sustenance they so desperately seek and need.

A man in a dingy suit approached Eddie, but Eddie had little time for conversation. His thoughts filled with the ‘how’, ‘when’ and ‘what if?’ scenarios possessing his mind. But Eddie was always kind to the less fortunate, the transient folks who live in the alleys and parks and frequent the soup kitchens scattered throughout the city .

“The joys and sorrows of life come and go as day and night progress,” the elderly man said to Eddie, as every other street philosopher might proclaim to anyone on any given day of the week. “Humanity is haunted by ‘What If?’ … there is no ‘What If?’ … there is only ‘What Was, Is and Will Be’. For how does one hold the wind in their embrace? How can one capture light in the palm of their hand? Can love be heard in the silence of the night? Can hate be felt in the dark cold shadows of the grave?”

Eddie observed, out of the corner of his eye, his dark-haired ‘true love’ exit the restaurant and said to the man quickly as he extended his hand, “Hey, buddy, here’s five bucks. Buy yourself a sandwich.”

As Eddie attempted to leave and follow his dream, his mermaid, the man grabbed his arm and said, “God bless you sir, God bless you!”

He turned back, but Eddie could not see ‘her’ anywhere in the crowd. “Where has she gone?” he thought. “That way? Over there? Where?”

He scanned the cabs along the street. He peered into the myriad of shops along the busy sidewalk, but she was gone, nowhere to be found.

But Eddie Currents is not sad, depressed, or discouraged.

“Tomorrow is another day,” he convinced himself. “And … love is like the life cycle of a fly. It really is.” 

Al A. Monie, 10"x8" oilpaint on masonite panel 
Where, Oh Where?
By Royce Ratterman

“Al A. Monie – Private Investigator” the black lettered sign, painted on the outside of the stained glass window of the old chipped and paint-faded wooden office entrance door, read. He had not heard from his partner, Dee Vorse, since early that morning. Dee rang Al around eight concerning what he indicated was, “a matter of utmost urgency. Meet me at noon. Café Preclusion.”

No Dee, no phone call, no message … and to top it off, the restaurant’s coffee was no good. Too many “No’s” for this private dick to be comfortable with.

As Al entered their cold, empty feeling drab olive green office, he noticed one file drawer emptied out on the floor and his desktop files scattered around like chicken feed. “Ransacked?”

“Today – 11 AM. Eastern Waterfront, Potrero Point, Pier 70, 2nd floor office,” the note on the desk read. Dee’s handwriting was unmistakable. A little like ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics, but with a Latin alphabetic twist. Undiscernible at times, except to the trained eye, and that is an eye Al was accustomed to using. “This note is one piece of a puzzle to be examined. A piece I must fit into its proper context on some game-board of mystery,” he whispered to himself softly.

~ ~ ~

“Why am I here?” shouted Dee Vorse. “Where am I?”

In a silent second floor room he sat … fastened securely to his chair, blindfolded, waiting in the darkness for an answer, a reckoning, anything. “Hello?”

~ ~ ~

“Still tailing me,” Al thought to himself, “ Sharp ’57 Ford Fairlane hardtop coupe. Female driver … redhead … large round sunglasses … black hat.”

The vehicle had tailed the P. I. for fifteen minutes as he made his way across the city toward the historic Pier 70 area. He lost the tail with more ease than a pro baseball player catches a World Series fly ball in center field. Smooth, calm and systematic, or so he thought. Its three-letter-three-number yellow license plate proved imperceptible, but that was neither here nor there in his mind for now.

A model P. I. with a clean suit, but rarely a hat. He disliked hats, but used them to ‘blend in’ whenever circumstances necessitated it. He’s certainly paid his dues … Two years Military Police; two post-war years with the Chicago police where he learned what corruption is all about; another two with the New York PD where he learned how to spell “Corruption” with a capital ‘C’; then, finally off to San Francisco, the most beautiful city in the world. A place of history, atmosphere and a future for any honest and law abiding citizen to achieve their dreams. A place for former police officer, Al A. Monie, to finally be his own boss and rid his life of those mindless drones that he was once obliged to call his supervisors year after miserable year. A place to make a difference and uphold the law for the good of the masses.

~ ~ ~

Dee Vorse sat alone waiting to see how long his ordeal would last. He continued to shout, repeating his cries over and over. He heard voices in the distant background. How many? Will he be found? Is Al looking for him?

~ ~ ~

As P. I. Monie parked his car near the north side of the pier, he spotted the infamous Ford Fairlane in his rear-view mirror as it sped past. “Interesting,” he reflected in thought as much as he was in his mirror. “Time to scram!”

He carefully made his way around the buildings stirring up more than a few detestable rats the size of a small Pug dog in the process. A faint cry in the distance. A simple, metal-framed building sat alone near the end of the pier. A few vehicles graced the adjacent parking area, including the slick ’57 Ford. “Where, oh where can Dee Vorse be?”

A side door was ajar, so Al forced it open. Years of rust and neglect had taken their tolls. The voices stopped abruptly, but he knew where the sounds resonated from … the second floor. He feared the creaky stairs had given his presence away if the rusty door had already failed to do so. He continued onward, onward and upward to a wood plank walkway.

He heard the cry, “Help, help,” and recognized the voice of his partner. Crushing fear, logic, and reason, with one single blow with his thoughts, his duty and his bravery, he rushed to the only door there was. His heart pounded, adrenaline pumped, sweat dripped. He peered through a small crack in the door’s frail wood into the darkness inside and saw his friend, confidant, and partner, bound to a chair. Barely visible, but clearly definable, Dee sat imprisoned. Standing beside him … the redhead - without her ’57 Ford Fairlane.

Slowly, he turned the dented metal doorknob and pushed the door open. The lights flashed on abruptly.

“Surprise! Happy Birthday!” the crowd of friends, former clients and notable city officials shouted to the bewildered P. I., “Surprise!”

As everyone quieted down and began mingling Al freed his partner from his entrapping bonds. Dee asked Al, “Have you met my sister?” as he introduced the beautiful redhead. “Just bought a cherry lookin’ Ford Fairlane too. I told her to follow you here and, above all, to be invisible.”

“Sister?” he questioned, while he looked at her just as any single P. I. would.

With a smile in his eyes he asked her, “Where, oh where have you been?
"Holly Wood" oil, kid's painting and dried flowers on masonite
Radio Daze
By Royce A. Ratterman

“Mirabelle … are you hiding again?” cried the little girl as she played with her favorite doll in the garden flowerbed. “I know where you are. Holly Wood always knows where her children are.”

Holly crawled through the myriad of beautiful flowers and heavenly aromas arriving where Mirabelle was hiding, or rather, where she had hid her only moments before, “There you are!”

She picked up and hugged Mirabelle reassuring her that, “Nobody will ever get you while I’m around. You are safe with me.”

“Holly, Holly,” a call came from the back kitchen door, “Lunch in five minutes, dear.”

“Ok,” she replied to her mother. “Mirabelle is famished.”

“Yes, I imagine she is, dear.”

“Mommy has lunch almost ready, Mirabelle,” whispered Holly. “After lunch we can play some more in the garden if you like?”

The luncheon table looked especially inviting to Holly as she and Mirabelle sat down. Cheese sandwich wedges, milk, cherry tomatoes, chips and what looked and smelled like a chocolate cake under the covered cake pan, all begged to be eaten and enjoyed.

Their 1920s era Magneto Parlor Tube Radio played softly in the background.

“Did the police find that missing little girl we heard about on the news, mommy?” questioned Holly.

Avoidingly, Holly’s mother replied, “Oh, that’s nothing to worry yourself over, dear.”

“Is there going to be another World War?” continued Holly.

“Dear!” her mother said sharply, “The world is at peace now, so never you mind about grownup things.”

All truth being said, Holly does think of those moments of horror she is so continually exposed to through the plethora of media newspaper and radio outlets and inlets. Her childlike mind often creates a type of psychological ‘Fata Morgana’ of angst upon the foreseen, but unknown, horizon of her life.

“Ding dong,” sounded the doorbell abruptly.

“Somebody’s here!” exclaimed Holly.

As Holly’s mother stood up she said, “I’ll get it. You finish your lunch, dear.”

Through the white-windowed entry door Holly’s mother, Rose, clearly saw her daughter’s friend. As she opened the door she politely welcomed the girl, “Hello, miss Port. How are you today?”

Replying in like politeness, Sally said, “Just fine, thank you. Is Holly home?”

“Yes, she is in the kitchen,” Mrs. Wood affirmed, “Perhaps you would like to join her for a piece of chocolate cake?”

“Oh, that would be delightful. Thank you for asking, ma’am.”

With their satisfyingly large pieces of cake finished, the two young girls made their way out to the garden’s large flower bed to pick some flowers.

“Holly,” questioned Sally, “did you see the news about that missing girl last night?”

The two girls discussed everything they could remember from the broadcast. They also pondered why parents avoid conversations like this so often.

Holly informed her friend, “My mom seems to ignore this stuff, but my dad always explains things to me. He makes a lot of sense. He even tells me what things I might do if someone actually tried to take me.”

“You mean ‘kidnap’ you?” questioned Sally.

“Yes! My dad told me to never even go with, or get into a car with, anyone that looks like a police officer. They may be pretending. He said to just run to a house or store where more people are visible and tell someone in charge what is happening.”

“My mom and dad said the same thing to me,” responded Sally, “and my dad said he would sort it all out with the police later. ‘Kids don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff.’”

Holly continued, “My dad said when he was a kid parents didn’t tell their kids much about things like this. He said maybe they wanted to protect their kids and not scare them. But, he told me it was better for him to know more about these sorts of things once he had heard about them rather than hear nothing at all again.”

“I prayed for that girl,” interrupted Sally abruptly, waiting for a response.

“I made wishes,” replied Holly.


“Yes, see these fairy puffs?” Holly pointed and continued, “They are really called dandelions, but I pretend they are fairy puffs.”

“By the dogwood flowers?” asked Sally.

“That’s them,” Holly answered. “We can pick one each. While you say a prayer I’ll make a wish, then we will blow the white seed puffs until all of them float away like hundreds of wishes and hundreds of prayers.”


“We can also blow one so there will not be any more wars,” suggested Holly to her friend.

“Great idea,” replied Sally.

With their prayers and well wishes blown off into the wind, the girls returned to their not-so-simple play world in a not-so-simple life.
Reflections in Black & White
By Royce A Ratterman

“Earl Lee,” mother whispered softly, “rise and shine … time to get up.”

4:30 AM and time again for some early morning work before school began. I was quite the young entrepreneur. Four hours was just enough time to eat the breakfast my mother so caringly prepared for me each day of her short life, then have grandpa drive me in our old faded-green pickup truck down to 17th Avenue where I picked up newspapers I sold before school began.

‘Master Riser’, a local well-off store owner would greet me by on occasion while out on his early morning constitutionals, made me feel special. After all, I was the Master of my life, or at least felt that I was.

I knew the value of a dollar. Having Great Depression Era parents, I had always heard the familiar quoted proverbs, “ Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” and “The early bird catches the worm.” Though, I was not necessarily after a worm at that age.

My father instructed me from as far back as I can remember to, “Get a days work done before other folks get up” and “To have and to keep any job you get you’ll need to be the best, not just good or great.”

Pops had lost the family farm in Oklahoma during the Depression and rebuilt his life in the San Francisco Bay Area, eventually becoming head foreman for the Union Ice Company. Needless to say, the introduction of refrigerators to the masses ended that career some time later. I used to go with him very early on those rare days school was out or I felt a bit sick. I clearly remember him scoring into fifty and twenty-five pound sections the one-hundred pound blocks of ice. This made them easier for the delivery guys to break up for the customers’ ice boxes. Eventually he settled in as the head custodian at our local junior college. “A good steady job is a good steady paycheck,” my grandma once said to me.

“Hard work never killed nobody,” my grandpa would often declare with certainty during supper. I would add, “Only John Henry,” but that never quite got the laugh I had hoped for.

It seems that good hard work may be an ideal of days and times long past. Folks expect too much for too little these days. I guess I was pretty lucky and blessed to have parents and grandparents like I did. I made ‘em proud too.

When I was fourteen I was on the front page of our local newspaper, the one I delivered for, with the headline reading, “Local Youth – Earl Lee Riser – Our Proud Future.” My hair was all slicked back with Vitalis hair tonic and I was wearing my best suspenders and striped tie. Was I ever handsome! I won a state of the art alarm clock, believe it or not. No trouble rising up early with that ringing in the new day!

I outsold all other boys in the Bay Area when it came to newspapers. Most other kids went in the early afternoon door-to-door and shop-to-shop. Or, they simply stood on street corners yelling, “Get your paper!” or something similar. I was smart. I went to the shipyards … early mornings when people by the hundreds were arriving for work and eagerly wanted ‘fresh news’ to start their day. Then, I went again after school to sell the evening addition to those same workers leaving their jobs looking for more ‘fresh news’ to read during supper.

“Bulk sales,” my dad would say, “Now that makes good business sense, Earl. I’m proud of you, son.”

Those values I learned growing up, and I was taught them by those who loved them, have made all the difference in my world. Discipline, hard work, dedication, loyalty, perseverance and more, are all the byproducts of my upbringing.

Other things my dad often said included, “You can’t talk and work,” “You can talk tonight in your sleep,” and “Focus on the chore at hand.”

My father always made sure I completed any task I started. Interruptions were never allowed. “Son, five minutes can cost you an hour, only stop a project when you have to. If you stop to start something else when it isn’t necessary, you’ll have to start back up again … and that wastes time and money. Time is money!”

I was taught to live by my name and be early to rise. I succeed in life by focussing and completing each task in hand and to separate the concepts of multi-tasking from living in a scatter-brained lifestyle. Now I build high-rise construction projects all over the world and pass those treasured values on to my constituents, subordinates and peers.

Don’t get me wrong though, I had lots of fun in those days too. I won our school’s kite flying competition with the highest flying kite ever. It helped that some friend of my grandpa’s who worked at the DuPont Experimental Station in Wilmington, Delaware had sent him a bunch of string made from nylon he wanted to have tested. “Strong enough for high winds,” grandpa wrote him. “Great for kites too.”

Is it ever too early to rise?
Luke N. Goode, 10"x8" oilpaint on masonite panel in in vintage framed
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!”


Mr. and Mrs. Ophanon, 16"x20" 

Key of Life
By Royce A Ratterman

They met in the B-Flat Club during a slow dance. For all they knew, they might never meet again, but something clicked. Maybe it was the club’s vocalist who sounded almost as soft and smooth as a brandied ice cream, maybe it was the band and their way of romanticizing all of the songs, maybe it was the club’s atmosphere and the billowy smoke from the patrons’ cigarettes, cigars and pipes; or maybe it was just them . . . two people escaping the mundane realities of every day life to enjoy the crowded solitude of a popular dance club.

That night, as she ducked out of the exit door like a stream’s ripple flees across the water, they made eye contact once again. It was late and tomorrow was another day. If tomorrow comes, another chance may accompany it. Another chance to meet and hold out their hearts in their hands like in a dream, another chance to make beautiful music together on the dance floor, another chance to blend together like a violin and cello in this symphony we call life.

When the two mystic lovers met again they sat and sipped drinks. During their fifth encounter they talked of life and love, they talked of time and chance, they just talked. And they danced . . . and while listening to the soft-souled singer gently in the background, they even fell in love.

At their wedding reception a few years later, the soft-souled singer and the club’s band performed selected songs for this privileged couple. Friends and family danced to the tunes that brought these two together, together for life’s gentle concert. A concert that has a beginning and an ending. A concert filled with the music we all write for ourselves and for each other.

They visited the club off and on over the years, dancing slowly and methodically around the floor. They watched other couples fall in and out of love. They watched the band grow old while the songs stayed as young as the day they were composed. They watched each other.

The two lived a long life together and saw their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow into adulthood. They taught them to dance and taught them to live; to live life’s symphony to its fullest and to sing its joys and sorrows from the depths of their souls, to never just sit in the background.

As they danced slowly to their favorite song “For All We Know” on their 50th wedding anniversary, they smiled gently and gazed into each other’s eyes. They did it again on their 60th, just as they had the night they had met.

The B-Flat Club finally closed. An era was over, but the dance of life continued for Mr. and Mrs.  Ophanon. The dance of eternity . . . .


"Klaus Trofobia" oil on masonite with collage
Street Level
By Royce A Ratterman

“Hello, Mr. Klaus,” greeted Sun Lee as she sat the neighborly gentleman at his preferred window table. After all, he had a ‘thing’ about being cooped up in a side booth or one of the tables in the rear of the restaurant. “You like eat same as yesterday?”

“Yes, Miss Lee. That will be fine.”

He didn’t particularly dislike being referred to as ‘Mr. Klaus’ as opposed to ‘Mr. Trofobia’. In fact, he rather enjoyed it.

Living in a rented room on the second floor of the building next door had its advantages. His neighborhood, known as the Castro, was created in the late eighteen hundreds and named after the prominent Californian José Castro, but that didn’t impress Klaus that much. What really impressed him was the plethora of little boutiques and restaurants in the area as well as the short walk to the Church Street Muni Metro station. He was a practical man.

“Man say to give you this, Mr. Klaus,” said Miss Lee, as she handed her favorite customer a white envelope.”

“This is addressed to the shop next door that’s below where I live,” he perplexingly responded. “What man?”

“Oh, he leave already, Mr. Klaus. I don’t know him. Never see before I think. Very old. He say it for you – you must open, only you.”

“Thank you, Miss Lee.”

She replied, “Ok by me, Mr. Klaus,” briskly walking off, presumably to retrieve her patron’s meal.

Klaus contemplated whether or not to open the envelope. He could simply inform the addressee that it was an error if the contents were in fact for the shop itself. It wouldn’t be a lie. He was told that the mysterious envelope was for him. And . . . it was hand delivered to him personally.

He quickly tore open the envelope . . .

The envelope contained a comic book excerpt. Something involving a man, Mr. Travers, who received some phone calls concerning an elevator repair, two women and a ‘Mr. Denton’ chap. He had once known an old priest named Denton from the neighborhood parish. The priest had lived in the area since it was referred to as ‘Little Scandinavia’ back in the 1910s to 1920s, but he knew nobody else by that name.

The waitress approached her customer and informed him, “Food come soon, Mr. Klaus. Man who gave me letter also say wait five minutes and give you fortune cookie. Here you go. Sorry I make you wait for food.”

“No problem, Miss Lee. No problem at all.”

“Man say it very important. I get food for you now.”

“Thank you, Miss Lee.”

He broke open the fortune cookie and read its contents, “A bold and dashing adventure is in your future within the year”. Over and over he read and studied its message. “What does this have to do with the cartoon story?” he pondered. “What does all of this have to do with me?”

He took another look at the envelope and noticed ‘Attn! Sam’ written on its bottom left corner. “Who’s Sam?” he wondered.

He also wondered if the shop below his rental room was suffering economic turmoil. Every time he passed the store and gazed into the window he saw a different type of merchandize for sale. But one constant remained . . . the same elderly man always stood behind the counter beckoning for him to enter. The store was no longer a hip smoke shop. Instead, he saw televisions for sale with an ad sign that read, ‘Color Television – The Future Is Here!’; one day flowers with special arrangements ‘Made To Order’ adorned the boutique; even old antique radios filled the shop one time. Radios that looked as new as the day they were made. Something was drawing him to the establishment, a strange yearning, a calling. This compelling and insatiable curiosity began to plague him.

On four separate occasions at 2:37 AM he was awakened by pestering phone calls asking for a “Mr. Travers”. He assumed it must be some sort of evil joke or silly prank that someone was playing on him.

He felt life was closing in on him and he needed to escape its confining grasp. He desired that ‘dashing adventure’ he was promised in the fortune cookie he had received at the neighboring restaurant months earlier.

One morning Klaus made a bold decision as he peered into the shop on the street level of his building of residence. He was curious. He was curious about the store and its ever-changing merchandize. He was curious about the mysterious letter he had carried with him for many months. He was curious about the elderly man who stood behind the counter always beckoning for him to enter. “Could this be . . . ?”

He entered the store . . . “Sam?”

            ~ ~ ~

Restaurant proprietor, Sun Lee, always wondered what had happened to her favorite customer, ‘Mr. Klaus’. A young fellow named ‘Sam’ resided in the room above the shop on the second floor that was the former abode of a man named ‘Klaus’. Neighbors and regular patrons in the area said that the very, very old man behind the counter of the ‘Twilight Zone’ specialty shop located at 237 Church Street in the Castro District, “Looks vaguely familiar, doesn’t he?”

            ~ ~ ~

A few years later the bell’s chime rang as the store’s door opened once again at 237 Church Street. A young man entered the establishment with a letter in his hand. He explained to the elderly man behind the counter that he was a new resident upstairs and had received the letter during his meal at the restaurant next door. “It contains a comic book page. I also received a fortune cookie with it.” He stretched out the envelope and showed the old man what was written on its bottom left corner: ‘Attn! Klaus’.

“Are you Klaus?” he questioned.

The elderly man simply smiled . . .

"Hammond Cheese" 10"x8" oil on masonite
Cheese Spread
By Royce A Ratterman

“Skip,” shouted the captain across the squad room, “I want you out at the Cheese mansion to follow up on that murder that happened out there last week.”

“Murder?” an already overworked detective yelled back to his supervisor. “I thought it was a routine hit and run vehicular homicide.”

“An anonymous witness called in and stated that the vehicle involved chased down the victim. That makes it a murder in my book, lieutenant.”

“Yes, sir,” Skip replied. “I’ll get right on it.”

The eighty acre Cheese family estate was a magnificent one-hundred and fifty-plus year old spread that sat atop the highest point in the area. The roadway climbed steeply on the western side then wound down to a neighboring canyon to the east. In times past, the family seemed to have had all of the money in the world. A little known and reclusive family, the Cheeses had always stayed clear of the public limelight.

The half hour drive up to the estate was an enjoyable one for the young detective. He arrived at the estate’s front gate, parked his car and commenced to walk the area searching for clues. No other homes were in close proximity to the mansion. Had anything related to the crime been observed, it would have been from the Cheese’s estate. A Mr. Jack Cheese was initially interviewed, but nothing pertinent could be gathered from his statement. The original case’s detective confirmed that Mr. Cheese was in fact away on a business trip at the time of the crime’s occurrence.

“Well, here goes,” Skip said to himself. He entered the ornate iron gate and preceded to the front entry doors and employed the large brass knocker in hopes of summoning someone, but in reality he hoped no one was home. He never enjoyed conversing with stuffy rich folks very much.

The double doors opened slowly and a rather moderately well dressed man greeted him, “I am Hammond Cheese, please state your business, young man.”

After introducing himself, showing his credentials and explaining the circumstances in detail as to his presence, the young detective was invited in. The two sat in the study and discussed the case.

“You should interview the Krensdale boys, Jeremy and Todd, a few miles down the roadway,” Hammond insisted. “I feel they are involved in some way. They knew the victim and their family has had a history of misdeeds for many, many decades. If you check the metal pole fifty feet to the south of my front gate you will see that the vehicle clipped it just after running down that poor young woman.”

“Did you witness this accident, sir? I was under the impression that a Mr. Jack Cheese was currently the only estate’s resident and was away at the time of this tragedy.”

“He was in fact away, detective. I was not, however. I never leave this place.”

The detective took notes as he discussed with Mr. Cheese details of the current crime as well as the history of the suspect Krensdale family youths; a suspect history that spanned numerous decades.

A large painting caught the detectives eye, “That is an amazing portrait of you, sir. If I am not mistaken, I believe you are wearing the same, or similar, suit, white shirt and stripped tie as in the painting. Even your spectacles appear identical.”

“You are a very observant detective. The famed local artist, James W. Rye, painted that for me. It has always been my fondest piece of artwork.”

“Sort of a Hammond Cheese on Rye,” chuckled the detective.

“A smiling Hammond responded, “Yes, I suppose it is.”

“The two conversed for a while longer before the detective stated, “I must be getting back to the station. I have a lot of work to do, sir, thanks to your help.”

“You flatter me,” replied the humble elderly man. “Good luck, detective.”

The weeks passed by rather swiftly for the detective as he investigated the criminal records of several Krensdale family members, past and present. Eventually a break came in the case. Skip was able to tie the two young Krensdale boys to the victim and to a rather large unpaid debt she owed the two. Paint samples collected from the suspects’ vehicle also matched those retrieved from the roadway’s metal pole. Arrests were made.

Skip decided it was time to return to the Cheese estate and interview Hammond once again. He hoped it would be a simple matter to ask Mr. Cheese to testify in court should the necessity arise.

When the door opened a middle-aged man answered asking, “May I help you, sir?”

“Yes, I am here to see a Mr. Hammond Cheese.”

“Hammond Cheese?” questioned the man.

 After seeing the detective’s credentials, the man responded, “I am Jack Cheese. Please enter and we will continue this conversation in the study.”

Mr. Cheese informed the lieutenant, “I was interviewed some time ago by the police concerning a vehicle accident nearby, but it had occurred when I was out of town. Are you sure ‘Hammond Cheese’ is the correct name, detective?”

“Yes, Mr. Hammond Cheese is the man I interviewed. That is his portrait there,” he stated, pointing to the painting upon the wall. “He told me that an artist by the name of Rye accomplished the work.”

Perplexed, Mr. Cheese said frankly, “The work was indeed done by James W. Rye and it is in fact of Hammond Cheese.”

“Is there a problem with me contacting him, sir?” questioned the lieutenant.

“The painting is of my great granduncle and was created over one hundred years ago, detective. The artist passed away a few months after he completed it and my great granduncle departed this earthly realm some five-plus years after that.”

Not knowing just how to respond, the detective simply stared at the painting and replied, “That explains why he hasn’t aged a day, I suppose.”