Borders In Paradise
“You think you’re so God-damn smart with your patronizing lawyer words, and without two nickels of your own to rub together.” Patsy leans towards Charles, spittle flying. “Leaving me day after day in this filthy dump while you play little school boy games.”
“Well, deary my,” Charles bristles. “The poor abused floozy. She misses her hulking boyfriends with their parent’s fancy autos and their wild sex parties.”
“Why you…” Patsy draws in an hysterical breath and slaps Charles. “You take that back!”
Before she can get out another word, Charles hits her in a blinding rage. He stands frozen while Patsy rights herself from the blow. The sight of his stricken wife, hushed, her eyes wide in fright, floods him with a feeling of power. He had finally cowed the bitch.
But has he? Patsy proves to be a resilient foe, chasing Charles out of his home and forcing him to abandon his family to hide in the Arizona desert, hoping the coast will clear.
Can Charles overcome his tormentors and resume the life he envisioned when he and his brother John migrated to California from Texas during the Great Depression? Many challenges stand in his way and a hostile world takes advantage of his naiveté. Struggling to keep his dreams alive may cost him his life.
Charles’ level-headed brother, John, thinks Charles deserves his hardships until John has to face demons of his own. Demons that punish him for leading his family astray and for hiding from a secret he’s been avoiding all his life.
Trapped in the borders of paradise, John lies on an empty bed surrounded by unopened family letters that beg him to come home. Ashamed, lonely and exhausted, John wrestles to align his memories of what he thought was a happy past with the person he now knows himself to be.
Wapshott Press, Storylandia, Issue #24, Winter
Twelve year old Bridge Appleton watches in horror from the stern of the SS Normandie as a sailboat flounders in Normandie’s wake, capsizing and sinking in the cold water off Long Island. Bridge had been watching the boat race alongside the luxury liner, fascinated at the boat’s agility and beauty, as the Normandie steamed out of Long Island Sound on its way to Europe. Now it’s suddenly gone and the fate of the crew unknown as the catastrophe is swallowed in fog and shadows.
The vision of the helpless boat becomes a recurring image of terror and fascination for the rest of Bridge’s life. Sailing turns into an obsession for him, but not as one would expect. Instead of participating, he cautiously watches it from a distance, absorbed in every aspect of the sport, but never getting close.
Bridge’s friends, Chassy and Patsy, and his girlfriend, Deborah, tolerate his funny hobby. They oblige him by listening to his sailor stories and Charlene occasionally accompanies him to his observation post at the Long Beach Harbor, but they want nothing more to do with it.
Frustrated by his friend’s lack of interest, Bridge overcomes his fears and buys a sailboat. Filled with bravado and false confidence, Bridge convinces his friend Chassy to join him on a shakedown cruise that ends in disaster.
Furious at Bridge’s foolhardy stunt and his lack of remorse for having nearly killed his friend, Deborah calls off their relationship and refuses to have anything more to do with him. Deborah’s anger puts a damper on Chassy and Patsy that ends their friendship as well.
A high-society, sailing-themed social event intervenes and sparks a renewed interest in Bridge’s boat, spearheaded by Patsy’s interest in meeting movie stars at the gala party. Now a forgotten relic, the boat gains a new life and Bridge’s friends renew their companionship while working together refitting the boat.
The story ends with another close encounter, but this one has a happy ending.
During the siege of Warsaw, a Polish-American GI deserts his post after an invasion exercise goes seriously bad and joins the Polish Resistance forces in 1944.
Johnny Zewiski, All-American boy from Allentown, PA, joined the Army to rescue his Mother’s family, who were trapped in Hitler’s campaign to exterminate Polish resistance.
When Johnny’s division broke its promise to liberate Poland he went AWOL, only to be thwarted by the haphazard whims of war that threw thousands of men into places and nightmares they couldn’t control or even imagine.
Ransoms Are For Amateurs
It’s the mid-1980’s, and high above a street in San Francisco’s financial district, small denominations of U.S. currency are floating down from an office building’s open window. It’s almost the finish line in a race for toddler Henry Peterson’s life, and detective Helen McCurdy desperately wants her first high-profile case to end well for Henry, his family, and the San Francisco Police Department.
In the meantime, the bad guys have problems of their own. A repulsive and vicious miscreant called Cisco has been stewing over how to keep his young victim alive. Cisco’s idiot protégé, Jacob, not only grabbed the wrong victim but he also dropped a big clue for the police along the way. When Jacob provides nothing but blustering excuses for his mistakes, Cisco beats him mercilessly until Jacob submits to being the diversion in Cisco’s bizarre scheme to accelerate the ransom payoff before Henry dies of malnourishment and neglect.
A frantic scramble ensues as the crowds on the street realize money is falling from the skies. Is there a bomb or a little boy in the nearby dumpster? Hostages have been taken, and now there’s gunfire and an officer is down! Detective McCurdy is stuck in a hospital across town. Is it too late, or can Helen’s slow-witted partner, Sergeant Ben Bishop, pull it all together?
Great Expectations, The Business Correspondence of Gibbons & Lammot, Gold Rush Black Powder Merchants
California Historical Quarterly, winter, 1976/77
The business letters of Robert Lammot and his associate, Rodmond Gibbons, span the years from 1852 to 1854 and describe in rich and sometimes painful detail the fortunes of a young businessman, Robert Lammot, who traveled West intent on securing some of the fast money to be made in the California gold rush. In purpose, Robert and his San Francisco-based associate, Rodmond Gibbons’, letters were reports to an eastern supplier on the status of their goods and finances and appraisals of future prospects. But for latter-day readers they recreate with humor, optimism, and, finally, resignation the anticipations and disappointments that characterized business life in the boom and bust economy of the remote new market.
Brownwood Texas, 1927
Let me take you on a brief journey to the dark recesses of a depraved man’s psyche. A private place where Ira Sessions endures his quiet fate. After you learn about his passion, his frustrated desires and his grief, you won’t regret having read ‘Brownwood Texas, 1927.’
Literary Yard, June, 2019
Two young men rendezvous at a cafe in 1930 Los Angeles hoping to start a new life together. When they meet their original plans are in tatters. Their lives take a new direction when Los Angeles frees them to admit the truth about themselves and each other. Jessie and Frank make a new plan in my 2.6k word short story, ‘The Kowbell Kafe.’
Remington Review, Summer, 2019
Highway 40 was once called the Victory Highway, but for Curtis Graves, the road’s path to victory wasn’t the ride he wanted. Curtis struggles against his brother Frank’s authority in my 1.8k word short story, ‘Grants, 1930.’
Douglas Arizona, 1931
Preston Gains is well armed, but looks can be deceiving. His newly-issued service revolver feels strange holstered at his side, making him feel self-conscious as he walks along a quiet street in a lonely desert town. The revolver represents freedom, but at a hefty price. Can he walk away from past transgressions? Or will they continue to haunt him, lurking in places out of range for small arms?
Looking for love in all the wrong places describes by story about a 65 year old surfer has-been and his last accomplishment.
When employment counselor Shelly Friedman goes to interview prospective new hire Tom Peterson things don’t go well, or maybe they went too well. She’s not so sure about Tom, but she’s sure her boss, Karen, may give her job away to the dashing young applicant if she’s not careful. Shelly’s worries are confirmed when she hears Karen’s take an Tom’s potential. “Whew!” Karen says. “He’s a hot topic!”
Turns out, Tom’s hot in more ways than one. While on a day trip to ease her mind, Shelly stumbles upon Tom’s hidden past, a past that doesn’t bode well for her or her boss; if only she can get back to Glendale in time before Tom makes his move. But a little beach town, Carpinteria, keeps getting in Shelly’s way. A friendly cafe, a gnarly beach bum and a town full of anxiety following a devastating wild fire interrupts Shelly’s progress with generous helpings of small-town hospitality, personality disorders and gin martinis. Will Shelly overcome Carpinteria’s charm and get back in time before Tom signs Karen’s offer of employment? Seems unlikely after she runs over and injures the town’s favorite dog in her gin-sodden haste to get out of town.
Made Up Stories
A bitter husband blames his impotency on his wife for having deceived him under layers of petticoats, bustles, corsets, and camisoles. A young man dreams of being a sailor and nearly kills his friend while acting out his dream. An old surfer clings to his past by pursuing a short-tempered young woman with a penchant for violence.
These are just a sampling of the intriguing characters and situations to be found in author James W. White’s collection of short stories.