“Pun-Shui”…

(Pun-Shway) n. : “The Zen-like harmonious state where jokes flow like an uninterrupted stream of mirth allowing all present to share in the joy of witty banter.”

Copyright 2018 S. A. Morgan All Rights Reserved

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Last Words*

3rd Place Winner -Creative Non-Fiction division of the North Texas Business Council for the Arts On My Own Time Literary Contest

by Michael Morgan

The magazines were there. They always had been. No reason to think Old Fart had thrown them out.

Maybe he noticed they’d been moved? No, I was always careful to get them right back in the same order, and in exactly the same position. Any thirteen year old could manage that. He has a new hiding place.

My determination was piqued. He’s lazy, so they’ll be close to the bed. Maybe under the mattress?

            Hands sliding between the mattress and box spring expecting paper and finding…metal?

The small pistol slid into view as I pulled my hand out from beneath the mattress. I had been looking for porn, and found something else. I was thirteen, but I had seen enough TV to know what came next.

Button behind the trigger guard, and the magazine slipped free. Six cartridges visible through the holes in the side of the slim metal box. Pulling back the slide ejects number seven onto the bedspread. A quick look in the chamber to be sure, and a quick backward tug releases the catch and allows the slide to close. “.25 ACP” stamped in the slide. Small, but not too heavy. Balances nicely in the hand.

Uh-oh! Garage door opening! Loose cartridge back in the magazine. Magazine back in the gun. Rack the slide, and CAREFULLY lower the hammer. Back under the mattress and bedspread nicely smoothed.

“Hi Dad,” as the old fart comes in the back door. Same old crappy conversation. “How was school? Where’s your mother? Blah, blah, blah.”

            Even though I called him “Dad”, he wasn’t my real Dad. He’d adopted me after he married my Mom. I guess he should never have told me that because it just made things worse.

For some reason having your real parent beat the Hell out of you must not feel as bad as having a fake parent kick your ass and tell you he did it because he loves you. At least the beatings and derision hurt a lot worse after I found out he was not my real father. Before, I knew I could lie to myself that whatever he was angry about really was my fault. Something I had done wrong. Punishment I deserved.

Now I knew it was him. Right, wrong, or indifferent, no matter what my sister or me did, if he did not like it, violence and pain would follow.

Today they made the big announcement. Dad was “moving out for a while. Just until things settle down.”

Now he is packing, and he calls me into the bedroom to get him something from the nightstand on his side of the bed. As I am collecting his things, he starts talking. Telling me how proud he is of me. How much he’ll miss us all. How he hopes things can work out and we’ll all be together again. He tells me he loves me.

Standing there with his bric-a brac in my hands I learn how fast the human mind can work.

Drop this junk.

            Grab the pistol from under the mattress.

            Rack the slide to be sure one is in the chamber.

            He only has three choices. Talk fast. Come at me. Run.

            I’ll be pulling the trigger as soon as the sights line up. Fast talk is out.

            There’s a king-size bed between us. Go over or go around. He’s too fat to do either before the slide locks back on the last shot.

            Running takes him down a twenty-five foot hallway. He’s a big man moving in a straight line. No way to miss.

            A twenty-five probably won’t kill him, but it will sure make an impression.

            I’ll be arrested. Probably charged. But kids my age with no priors walk away all of the time. Besides, I’m abused and lashing out at my abuser. My sister will back me up just by telling the truth.

            I can do this, and he can’t do anything to stop me…

“I love you too Dad,” as I walk around the bed to hand him his stuff. Then I walk away.

In that moment where his life was in my hand, I realized that I loved myself more than I hated him. He simply was not worth killing, even to get revenge for the years of pain he had inflicted.

He died a few years ago of colon cancer. My sister had kept in touch because he was her real father. She said he wanted to see me. To apologize for… everything.

I could have gone. A final gift to my tormentor. A last grovel of supplication from “his” son answering his abuser’s summons. I could have raged at him, or maybe forgiven him. It did not matter which. Either would have been a mercy because it was the attention he wanted not absolution. I would not dignify his last words. He wasn’t worth it.

Logical Question

by Michael Morgan

 

An applicant stood before the long curved table sweating and slightly out of breath. The physical fitness part of the application process had just wrapped up. One by one, the applicants now faced the Review Board. A seven-member panel of senior Police Officers whose job was to pepper each applicant with questions intended to learn how the applicant behaved under pressure and to judge their ability to apply the law.

“You seem pretty calm under the circumstances,” the first Sergeant began.

The applicant shrugged, “I’m normally fairly easy going.”

“What would get you really upset? I mean to the point of losing control.” the sergeant leaned back in his chair.

The applicant thought for a moment, “Probably my partner getting hurt more than anything else.”

A different Officer perked up, “Ok. Let’s say you and your partner are on patrol in a residential neighborhood. You stop a 1985 Nissan hatchback for running a stop sign. You and your partner get out of your car and approach the suspect vehicle. When your partner reaches the driver’s side door, you hear a shot and you see your partner fall down. The Nissan’s driver stomps the accelerator and the car takes off. What do you do?”

“A question, if I may?” the applicant asks. At the Officer’s nod, “This department issues 9mm pistols with hollow-point ammunition. Is that correct?”

The Officer looks confused, “Yes, that’s correct.”

“In that case, I would put out a call with the suspect vehicle’s description to get more police involved, and go see if my partner needs an ambulance. Based on my partner’s condition, I call for medical or we get back into the chase.” The applicant relaxed confident in his answer.

“So you wouldn’t shoot at the suspect vehicle?” the sergeant joins the fray.

“No I would not,” the applicant replied.

The Officer came right back, “You just told us that having a partner get hurt would potentially make you lose control. Care to explain why you wouldn’t shoot at the car?”

“My department issued weapon and ammunition are not adequate,” the applicant responded. “At the Academy we studied the topic in some detail. The vehicle you described has a lot of sharply angled glass and metal surfaces. According to the lessons, the probability of a bullet penetrating into the vehicle is much lower than the potential for the bullet to ricochet off the car body.” The applicant paused for breath, “You said this was going down in a residential neighborhood. If my bullets bounce off the car then they are flying into the neighborhood, and I’m more of a danger to the public than the bad guys in the car. Therefore I would not shoot. With a different weapon, my decision may be different.”

The sergeant leaned forward with a sad fatherly expression, “Son, don’t you think a car with bullet holes would be a lot easier to find?”

2018 On My Own Time Literary Winner Book Online

The book of winners in the 2018 North Texas Business Council for the Arts “On My Own Time” Literary contest is now available online.

Please take a moment to enjoy the works presented.

What is this all about?

“On My Own Time (OMOT), a trademarked program organized and produced by Business Council for the Arts, is a regional art competition that showcases the talent and creativity of North Texas business professionals. Since the program’s inception in 1993, OMOT has promoted the work of thousands of creative employees from companies across North Texas.

Through OMOT companies publicly recognize and encourage the creativity of their employees while engaging staff across departments and through hierarchies. By sparking conversation and engaging their workforce in a shared collaboration, participating companies express their values in a tangible way.

OMOT includes two components, one for visual artists and another for writers.

Each year, area businesses submit literary works created outside of working hours by their employees. Expert jurors from the literary community select the winning pieces in the following categories: Corporate Collaboration, 10-Word Story, Fictional Shorty Story, Creative Non-Fiction, and Open Verse Poetry. Winning entries are published within the BCA program, and those authors are invited to read their works aloud at Literary Night.

This year Business Council for the Arts received a record number of literary entries. Outstanding congratulations is due to all of the winners. Recognition and thanks is also owed to each ambassador for his or her dedication to organizing and managing their OMOT program internally within their company. Lastly, we offer deep gratitude to our jurors, Michael Clay, James Dolan, Sanderia Faye, Blake Kimzey, Amy Schaffner, and David Eric Tomlinson, who without their volunteered time the program would not be possible.”

Tropical Paradox

by Michael Morgan

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved

 

“Lester called in sick again?” Bobby swiveled his chair to look at the room. “He’s never sick.”

“Just hope he keeps it to himself,” Abbey said over the rim of her coffee cup. “I don’t need my kids down with anything.”

“Did Amber say anything about him?” Bobby asked.

Abbey’s cup returned to its coaster, “Nah. They’re estranged and fighting over the kids. She wouldn’t be bothered to give a damn if he died.”

“Except for the money,” Sam added. “If the kids aren’t in the will, she’ll be fit to be tied.”

“Last I heard that was how she got him interested in the first place,” chortled Bobby.

“Jeez, Bobby!” Abbey was smiling. “Talk about a straight path to HR!”

Bobby grinned back, “Read it on the socials, so it must be true!”

 

“Excuse me nurse…”

Margie held up her index finger as she finished reading the chart in front of her. She looked up at the boyish face of the man standing next to the nurse’ station, “How can I help you?”

The white smile against the dark mahogany skin made her smile in return. “Is this the place where you have the paramedics from this morning’s hazmat incident?”

“You are…?” Margie asked.

A slim manicured hand pulled back the suit coat exposing a deep muscular chest beneath the starched shirt, and a gold shield clipped to the man’s belt, “Detective Jeremiah Pitts.”

Margie smiled and put her left hand in her pocket unsure why she felt a compelling urge to flirt, “Rooms one sixty-three and five.”

 

“Some kind of poison,” Demarcus read from the Medical Examiner’s report. “So far this shi…” Demarcus caught Jeremiah’s look and stopped himself. “STUFF is unidentified.” Demarcus closed the folder, “What’d you learn at the hospital?”

 

“Not much,” Jeremiah sighed. “Six uniforms, two paramedics, and four fire, all down within hours of leaving the scene. Hazmat turned up nothing useful, but the lab reports are not back yet.”

“What about our victim, Lester Ambrose?” Demarcus dropped the file on the desk.

“On life support pending notification of kin,” Jeremiah picked up his phone. “I sent a squad to pick up his estranged wife an hour ago. She was not answering her phone.”

 

“My soon-to-be ex-husband is dead. So what?” Amber leaned back in the chair and glared at Jeremiah. “I’m supposed to care after he kicked me and his kids out with nothing but the clothes on our backs?”

“I thought you might be a bit concerned, yes.” Jeremiah.

“You could have just sent me a text instead of having a police car pull up in front of my workplace and giving me a perp walk out in front of everybody.” Amber picked up her purse and started fishing.

“No smoking in the building,” Jeremiah opened the folder. “I needed to ask you some question in person.”

“I know.” Amber dropped the purse to the floor. “I watch Dateline for Christ’s sake.” She picked up the bag again. “The spouse done it. Or the Ex. Or the secret lover. Old news!” She pulled out a green wrapper, “Is gum OK?”

“Perfectly,” Jeremiah never looked up from the file.

“I mean, we work together. We had a drunken one-nighter after an office party, except it had an unanticipated complication. We tried to make it work. For three years, we put on the happy couple face in public, and fought the rest of the time.”

Jeremiah looked at her, “Did your fights ever get physical?”

“Only if you count the make-ups afterward,” Amber chewed gum with her mouth open.

“That would explain three kids together,” Jeremiah made some notes.

“No. The oldest was from my first marriage,” Amber looked around the room. “This gum is stale.”

Jeremiah reached into the corner and passed over the trashcan, “So where have you been for the past three days?”

 

Demarcus stepped between the strands of yellow tape crisscrossing the front door, “J! Hey J! Where you hidin’?”

“Back here in the office,” came the muffled reply. “Put a mask on before you come back!”

Demarcus found him standing in the middle of the home office wearing a complicated breathing mask. Just standing, and looking at the massive aquarium that took up and entire wall of the room. “Should I get you a fishing pole?”

Jeremiah glanced at his friend, “D, go outside and look in the trunk of my car and get the extra respirator. That little paper mask is garbage.”

“What are you worried about?” Demarcus backed out of the room. “Hazmat’s been all over this place, and found nothing.”

Jeremiah turned to look at Demarcus, “When I went through the Academy, half of the class were firefighters going for Fire Marshall. One of them told me that the best way to knew if you need a Hazmat suit is if a cop is standing in the road directing traffic. Ever heard of a Blue Canary? That’s us bro’.”

“I’ll be right back,” Demarcus hurried out.

 

“Zen-ee-ya ee-lon…” Jeremiah hesitated.

“Elongata,” Amber finished for him.

Jeremiah looked up from his notes, “You know what that is?”

“Sure. It’s a purple colored soft coral,” Amber leaned on the table. The scoop neck of her angora sweater proving the garment was not worn for warmth. “The common name is Blooming Xenia.”

“How do you know about it?” Jeremiah enjoyed the annoyed look on Amber’s face when he looked her steadily in the eyes.

Amber sat back, “Noobs get the saltwater kick, and usually kill off most of their fish and corals right away. Xenias are hard to kill, so a lot of people start off with them.”

Jeremiah looked back down at the file, “Is it common for the shops that sell them to warn the customers they are dangerous?”

“I dunno. I never bought one,” Amber crossed her arms, and looked bored. “Why the sudden interest?”

Jeremiah lifted a colored brochure with tropical fish, and a register receipt from the file.

Dallas Business Council for the Arts Contest OMOT 2018

The Dallas Business Council for the Arts “On My Own Time” (OMOT) contest season is upon us again.

“On My Own Time” is an opportunity for amateur and professional artists to showcase the creative things they do off the clock, and Heritage Auctions sponsored their employees’ participation for the third year.

As a writer, I enjoy participating in the Literary portion of the contest, and I have been fortunate enough to place in the past few contests. This has been a great encouragement to work on my writing, and to attempt different types of writing.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting the material I submitted to the 2018 contest, and I would appreciate hearing your feedback.

Thanks

 

10-word Story Category

This category is for stories told in 10 words or less (Duh!), and creating a complete story line in this limited format is an interesting challenge. The following are my entries for this year.

The Thespian by Michael Morgan ~ 3rd Place Winner 2018

“No late seating, sir.”

“Pity.”

“Wait! That’s the president’s box!”

 

The Disappearance by Michael Morgan

Hood, clutch, choke, throttle, trunk.

Maybe the chauffeur did it.

 

The Joy of Rail Travel by Michael Morgan

“Curve ahead.”

“What will we see Daddy?”

“Always something interesting.”

 

Kidding Around with Spring Rolls

My grandmother once told me “Every man should at least know how to cook breakfast. No sense in going hungry because you can’t cook an egg.” I took that lesson to heart, and she taught me to cook a variety of things. Over the years, I have expanded my range to include baking, campfire cooking, and my favorite, the wok.

Recently, the Mrs. got a great deal on some rice paper spring roll wrappers at our local Asian market, and we have been experimenting.

Just to be clear, when I talk about Spring Roll wrappers, I am referring to the translucent rice paper pancakes used on cold fresh vegetables. This dish is not the deep fried “egg roll” commonly served as appetizers.

The beauty of spring rolls is the ease of preparation, and the healthy nature of the ingredients. A side benefit is they are something kids can learn to make and enjoy.

Ingredients:

Rice paper wrappers

Cilantro chopped “medium”. Little fingers need to be able to pick it up.

Carrots cut into matchsticks about 2 inches long and as fine as you can slice it.

Cucumbers cut into matchsticks about 2 inches long and ¼” wide.

Green onion tops cut into 2 inch segments.

Protein cut into strips about 2 inches long.

We use just about any kind of protein in our rolls, usually it is ground turkey or pork that has been scrambled in a skillet with spices. The downside to this is getting it to stay in place when assembling the rolls.

For kids, some grilled or steamed boneless chicken breast, or grilled pork chops that have been chilled and cut into strips about ¼” wide and 2 inches long work best.

To assemble the rolls, you need 2 dinner plates and your ingredients.

  1. Pour some cold water on one of the plates and lay a dry wrapper on the plate for 10 seconds or so until it gets soft.
  2. Move the wet wrapper to the second plate and start adding the filling.
  3. About 1/3 of the way up from the nearest edge of the wrapper lay
    1. 4 sticks of cucumber
    2. A few carrot sticks
    3. A couple of onion bits
    4. 2 strips of protein
    5. Some cilantro
  4. Gently lift one of the sides of the wrapper and fold it toward the middle and over the end of the filling.
  5. Repeat with the other side.
  6. Lift the edge closet to yourself and fold it up and over the filling.
  7. Gently roll the little package away from you until you reach the end of the wrapper.
  8. Please the spring roll on a dry plate.

Serve cold with a sauce of your choice

This is a great teaching activity for kids because they are participating in meal preparation using healthy ingredients, and everything is safe to touch.

If your child is fussy about eating veggies, having them assist in the meal preparation may be a way to overcome that resistance.

 

Easy Peanut Sauce

This is a quick way to make the peanut sauce often served with spring rolls.

All of the usual nut allergy warnings apply!

4 tablespoons of peanut butter (Chunky or smooth at your preference)

4 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Mix the peanut butter and hoisin sauce in a pan.

Add 4 tablespoons of water and heat on Low stirring gently until mixture starts to thin. Add more water a tablespoon full at a time until the desired consistency is reached. We prefer ours to flow of a spoon like honey.

Chill before serving.

A Saturday of Dungeons & Dragons

Four intrepid explorerr gird themselves for immenent danger and enter the labyrinth.

Passing through cavernous halls, they explore rooms filled with odd objects and strange furnishings created for a race unknown.

Wooden chests and boxes contain bits of arcana, the origin of which defies explanation. One explorer guesses these objects to have been made by dwarves or gnomes from a long ago age.

Denizens of the labyrinth appear around unexpected corners and from passages unseen. They pass by hissing, growling, and calling to each other. Paying little attention to the explorers while they follow the glowing jewels clutched in their hands.

Onward, ever onward.

Horrifying abominations of nature twisted beyond endurance.
Torturous artifacts concieved by a madman.

Younger party members are called back from danger by the more experienced dungeon-delvers careful to point out the traps carefully laid for the inexperienced, and ready to be triggered by their enthusiasm for the phantasms of happiness in the Chambers of Illusion.

When the provisions give out, their senses are tantalized by smells of exotic flavors offered to the unwary. Foul tricksters succeed in tempting the less experienced causing discord within the party. Even the more experienced are tempted to risk the madness of splitting the party.

Finally the last obstacle comes into view. Experienced delvers know to expect many cashualties as they hack,slash, and claw their way past the Guardians of the Gate to reach the free air and sunlight so tantalizingly close and yet miles away on the other side of the transparent barrier.

Courage friends, it is time to test our mettle!

(IKEA done D&D style.)

FRAUD ALERT!! – DCM Services

My step-father recently passed away, and my mother received this letter from a company called DCM Services claiming that they were collecting on my step-father’s accounts at the request of Chase Bank.

The account was not delinquent and the letter came less than 60 days after the death. Chase assured my mother that they would never turn an account over for collection without contacting her, and never if the account was current.

This is a complete fraud trying to take advantage of an elderly woman in a time of grief. Please pass this warning along to anyone you know who has had a recent death in the family because these jerks probably have those folks on their radar screens.

Mom contacted the FBI, and anyone who receives one of these letter should do the same.

 

FRuad_Letter

The Long Trail

By Michael Morgan

            Dust motes in the sunbeam gave the tan cowboy hat on the table a fuzzy quality like a faded tintype still life. A scarred boot heel and sole bounced with an unheard rhythm atop the owner’s knee as a page in the heavy book scraped against the fabric of the man’s shirt.

“What are you reading?” the breathless voice from the bed barely audible above the hospital background.

“It’s called O Pioneers! By Willa Cather,” the man in the chair answered.

“I thought it might be The Bible when I saw the book mark,” wheezed the man in the bed.

“Not likely.” The faux silk ribbon was laid between the pages and the book closed. “I sent Mom home to rest a bit. She hasn’t been home in two days.”

A labored inhalation, “Is it a good story?” The shrunken man in the bed tried to shift, but his strength failed and he settled back.

“Can’t say I care for it much,” the man in the chair rose, and helped the other move. Walking around the bed to maintain eye contact, “It’s about a Swedish woman who buys up a bunch of land from other farmers that can’t prove up their homesteads.” He leaned against the wall, “Pretty dull reading so far, but I have hopes for it.”

“Your sister has been here a few times…,” a heavy breath replaced the one that had fled in the rush of words. “Your Mom comes when she can…Why…?”

“Am I here all of a sudden?” the man finished.

A nod followed a wheeze.

“I’m not sure,” the man rubbed his scalp. His shirt cuff pulled loose a turf of salt and pepper hair leaving a devil’s horn protruding above his ear. “Partly to give Mom some time off, and partly because I was hoping we’d have a few minutes to talk.”

Curiosity sharpened the old man’s gaze, “What about?”

“You mostly.” A step away from the wall and no room to pace, so the man leaned back again. “I’ve always wanted to tell you some things, and now we’re almost outta time.”

“Say it,” was followed by a moist cough. “I’m not getting any younger.”

The man pinched the bridge of his nose and spoke through his hand, “When you and Mom got together, I didn’t have much hope.” The hand dropped and he looked at the older man, “Figured you were just another bad decision in a long line of them. I was wrong.”

“That all?” came the wheezing response.

The man nodded, “I needed to tell you that, and to say Thanks for sticking with her all these years. I know it wasn’t easy.”

The old man took a deep breath, “You don’t think much of anyone do you?”

“Only until I get to know them,” the man agreed. “After the new has worn off, they’re just as grasping, lazy, and stupid as all the rest.”

“Must be nice to be so…above it all,” the old man whispered.

The man chuckled, “A man carries the emotions he can afford.”

“If that’s how you think,” wheeze, inhale, “Then why are you…here?” The old man drifted off. Only the raspy breathing affirming life continued.

His book seemed heavier than before as the man settled back into his chair. The dust motes were long vanished when the door opened.

The man closed the book and rose, “Hi Mom.”

“How is he?” she asked.

“Sleeping for a couple of hours now,” he hugged her, and offered the chair.

She waved for him to sit as she approached the bed, “Has he been asleep since I left?”

“No, we talked for a few minutes,” the man resumed his seat. “I tried to thank him for taking care of you all this time, but he wasn’t having it.”

“He probably didn’t understand what you were talking about,” she fluffed the pillow slightly. “The nurse just told me that he’s having trouble staying focused.”

“Not to be indelicate,” the man shifted uncomfortably in the chair. “Where do things go from here?”

His mother sighed, and took her son’s place leaning against the wall, “He comes home on Friday.”

“I’m not sure that’s wise, Mom,” he rose. “The house is not set up for a chair much less a walker.”

“I’ll have to get someone to come in to help,” she sighed. “There are really no options.”

The silence grew palpable as each retreated into their own thoughts. Finally she spoke, “I wish the two of you could have become friends.”

Her son shook his head, “No real chance of that.”

“I never understood that,” she moved closer to the bed. “You both love books and history, and the theater.”

“And we are pure purple poison to each other on everything else,” another headshake. “The only thing we really had in common is we both love you. For your sake, we both knew it was best we didn’t talk too much.”

“He’s right,” the sudden whisper stopped her reply.

She leaned over the bed, “How are you feeling?” A wet rattling cough was the reply. “Should I call the nurse?”

“No,” came the wheeze. “Just help me turn over.”

Mother and son lifted, turned, smoothed, and fluffed before stepping back. “Better hon?” she asked.

A weak nod before the old man looked at the boy. No, the man. Middle-aged with a family of his own, “Thanks…for what you said…earlier.”

He ignored his mother’s questioning look, “It only took me twenty years to say it. Glad I got here in time.”

To the Memory of

Kenneth Latimer

1936 – 2018