Monday, October 17, 2011


In response to Patti Abbott's Reginald Marsh flash fiction challenge.

Hudson Bay Fur Company, 1932, Reginald Marsh

“You need some help with that valise, Dottie?”

I clicked my compact shut and turned to see Dottie struggling with a suitcase as she made her way toward our makeshift dressing room. Mr. Samuels, the owner of the Broadway Fur Salon, trailed her down the hall offering assistance.

“No thanks, Mr. Samuels. I’ve got it,” Dottie used her hip to close the door behind her. She sighed, setting down her load.

"Going somewhere?" I asked.

"I'm meeting Jimmy at Grand Central after work."

Jimmy, of course. My brother, New York’s worst gambler and the man who’d stolen Dottie away from me. It was my own fault for introducing them. I knew Dottie had a thing for bad boys that trumped her attraction to busty blondes. He and Dottie took one look at each other and I was yesterday's news.

"So Jimmy’s finally spending some money on you. Where are you going - Atlantic City for the weekend?"

"He wouldn’t tell me where. He owes Frank Kenner five thousand bucks he can’t pay back. We’ll be laying low for a while."

A knock on the door and Mr. Samuel’s voice came through. “Kath, anytime you’re ready.”

“We’ll be right there,” I called.

“Anytime you’re ready,” Dottie sing-songed in imitation. “What a soft spot he has for you. It’s kind of cute, really.”

“Don’t change the subject. You’re taking off for parts unknown with Jimmy, of all people? I thought you were smarter than that.”

“I’m plenty smart. That suitcase is empty.”

“What?” I bent down, gripped the handle and pulled, ready for resistance. There wasn’t any.

“Pretty good acting, huh?” She gave a playful smile and a dark lock of wavy hair fell over her right eye. God, she was gorgeous.

“Terrific, but what’s with the suitcase?”

“I thought I should fill it with something valuable before I left."

“Are you kidding? Samuels has got eyes in the back of his head. You think you’re going to sneak a grip full of furs out of here?”

“Not by myself.” She gave me that smile again. This time it bounced right off.

“Was this Jimmy’s idea?”

The smile became a pout. “If you don’t want to do it, just say so.”

“I don’t want to do it. And you shouldn’t do it either.”

“If I’m going to leave town I need cash.”

“Why leave at all? You know Jimmy only wants you with him to wash his shirts and make his coffee."

I expected Dottie to rise to his defense - give me the usual sob story about Jimmy having a good heart and bad luck. Instead she slipped off her coat and hung it on the rack.

"Forget I said anything.” She reapplied her lipstick while I watched, trying not to remember the feel of those lips. “You look nice tonight. Is that a new gown?" she asked.

"Bargain basement, Gimbels."

Her hand slid over the fabric covering my thigh. “You sure that’s not silk?”

“Like I could afford silk.”

“You could if you’d help me out. I’d give you a cut. Think of what’s lying around out there.”

She placed a hand on the back of my neck, playing with my hair, and leaned in to whisper in my ear. "That leopard jacket for instance. The one you say makes me look like Myrna Loy. And the mink...the chinchilla cape."

Her breath was coming faster as she pictured the haul, fingers twisting my hair until it hurt. I didn't want her to stop. But I couldn’t risk my job.

"Nothing doing. Samuels will know I was in on it. He knows we're friends."

"We're more than friends, aren't we, honey?" Warm lips on the nape of my neck. "We're practically sisters."

My knees went weak but somehow I managed to head out the door into the showroom.

Dottie joined me a minute later and for an hour we paraded in front of the plate glass window, modeling furs for the hordes shoving their way down Broadway. Dottie wouldn’t give up, telling me her plan in installments each time we changed coats.

My job was to distract the boss. Follow Samuels into his office, close the door and let him think I was going to put out. By the time his hands reached the top of my stockings Dottie would have stuffed the furs into her valise and run off to meet Jimmy. She’d wire me a share of the dough.

"I’m not doing it.” I slid a rabbit jacket back into its place and chose a full-length mink.

Dottie held the fur for me as I slipped into the sleeves. Embraced me from behind. "I think you will. Because if you don’t I’ll tell Samuels you tried to molest me.”

I turned to face her. “You wouldn’t.”

Her blue eyes were like ice. “You already said what a good actress I am. I don’t think his crush on you would survive what I’d tell him. He’d fire you on the spot.”

I knew she was right. And I knew I couldn’t afford to lose my job.

“What do I have to do?” I asked.

“Let him get a feel or two.” She smoothed the mink with her hands, illustrating. "I only need five minutes."

It didn't take much effort to coax Samuels into his office - a smile and some eyelash fluttering. Once the door closed behind us I told him why I was there. His expression went from good-natured leer to apoplectic rage. He launched himself into the main room to find Dottie struggling to latch her overstuffed suitcase.

Samuels pressed charges. How could he not? He had to set an example for all the greedy, pretty girls who worked for him. He showed his appreciation to me though.

Jimmy says it’s wrong to wear my mink to Bedford Hills on visiting days, but I’m sure Dottie doesn’t mind. We’re practically sisters, after all.

Friday, February 25, 2011


In response to Patti Abbott's Scarry Night flash fiction challenge.

Six extras dead and in their places. Two more to go. Kate poured blood, her own recipe, from a large blue bucket into a pint container that had once held egg drop soup.

This particular corpse was fairly simple. A jagged slash across the throat bleeding into her massive cleavage. That’s the low-budget filmmaking spirit, Kate thought. Showcase the gore but don’t forget the tits.

Sharon, the extra, was smiling. For now. Kate didn’t have the heart to tell her getting into makeup was the easy part. Wait until she was lying motionless in a freezing barn for take after take, trying to keep still while the inexperienced leading man flubbed his lines.

Kate flicked a few drops of blood on Sharon’s white blouse.

“You’re set, honey. Have fun!” The poor girl headed out the door of the tiny shed as Tommy the intern entered.

“Avi wants to know how much longer.”

“One more then we’re ready to go.”

“Good. He’s getting hyper.”

“He was born hyper.” Kate asked Tommy to send in the last extra on his way out.

A man walked in. Only it wasn’t the handsome 19-year old who’d been waiting outside.

Martin looked different from the last time she’d seen him, four years before. The flesh on the left side of his face was now a field of burn scars, pink on the raised ridges, red in the furrows.

“Hello, Kate. I hope you don’t mind. I told the kid to give us ten minutes.” He was trying hard to control himself. She could see the effort in his eyes.

“I don’t have ten minutes.”

“Not even for me?”

“Especially not for you.”

Her heart began racing. Fight or flight. Problem was Martin always won their fights. Mostly with his fists. Once with a shove that sent her down the basement stairs. She’d lain there for ten hours until her sister Peggy found her.

“Make it five then.”

“We’re behind schedule. I need to work on that kid.” She tried to angle past him toward the door.

Martin stepped in her way. “I think I scared him off. This face.”

“What do you want?”

She’d left in the middle of the night, dropped her identity like shedding her skin. Moved across the country, waitressing mostly, then three months of make-up school. Found she was good at something. She could do ghoulish, glamorous, exotic. Damaged was her favorite, though. The uglier the better.

“I was upset when I realized you were gone,” Martin picked up the container of blood, swirled it like a glass of merlot. His hands were scarred too. “Did you read the paper before you left? It said I’d been smoking in bed. But I never smoked in bed.”

“You did a lot of things when you were drunk. None of them smart.”

“That justifies what you did to me?”

“You think I set that fire? You should have told the cops.”

Peggy had a connection who supplied the roofies to slip into his whiskey. All Kate had done was light the cigarette and place it on the mattress.

“No, I needed something to look forward to all those months.” He smiled, the left side of his face not cooperating, furrows darkening with the effort. Kate found herself analyzing his features, filing them away to use in her work. “Skin grafts. Rehabilitation. Do you know how painful that is?”

“As painful as lying on a cold dirt floor with a compound fracture?”

“Much, much more.” He took a step toward her, his eyes a little wild now.

He couldn’t have known about the knife. The one she’d carried in her back pocket ever since she’d read that he’d survived.


Avi, the director, studied the extras lying on the floor of the barn. “This one’s a little old. Script says they’re supposed to be college students.”

“He’s the blonde’s date. You know girls, they’re into older men.”

Kate had positioned Martin so the left side of his face couldn’t be seen.

“I get it. Dude, put your hand on Sharon’s thigh.”

“He’s already in character.” Kate moved Martin’s hand, still warm, but not for long. “He’s played a victim on CSI: Miami and New York.”

“Professionalism. Excellent. We need it. Could be a long night.” Avi bent to examine Martin’s hand. “Disgusting. He’s a burn victim? Is that backstory?”

“No, I was just practicing my technique. Hope it’s OK.”

“Sure. Yeah. I really don’t mind the scars. Not when that stomach wound is so awesome. Great job.”

Kate packed her gear into the trunk of her Civic. She figured she had an hour at most before Avi realized Martin wasn’t a Method actor. But she did her best work under pressure.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Nanny Diaries

If you had a mind to, and a basic cable package, you could watch three hours of The Nanny every night. I wouldn’t recommend it though. Listening to that criminally catchy theme song once is enough. It will linger in your mind for days.

She was working in a bridal shop in Flushing, Queens
Till her boyfriend kicked her out in one of those crushing scenes

Finding a Sondheimian rhyme for Flushing, Queens? Even better, using Flushing three times in 45 seconds? Thank you, Ann Hampton Callaway.

Now that it’s back in syndication I can clearly state it: I love this show. Loud, obvious and outrageous, I see the jokes coming and I laugh anyway.

The fact that, like Fran Drescher, I was raised in Flushing may have something to do with it. (You’ll notice I didn’t write ‘born and raised.’ It was a source of pride for me, when I thought those kind of things mattered, that I was actually born in Manhattan. You’ll also notice that it still must matter to me a little since I bothered to mention it.)

But I’m not embarrassed by being a not-at-all-flashy girl from Flushing. And why should I be, just because the word has meanings related to plumbing and Viagra side effects? Blame the Dutch West India company who bought the land and called it Vlissingen - Flushing to those of us who don’t speak Dutch.

Nope, not embarrassed at all. In fact, here’s a picture of me in my Easter best on Jasmine Avenue in Flushing. There’s another one of me in seventh grade I could post, but that one is embarrassing. Who would have thought a pastel plaid skirt and white cork platform sandals would age so badly.

Here’s how cool Flushing is: Last year when I was lucky enough to be chatting with baseball Hall of Fame pitcher (and my childhood crush) Tom Seaver, he asked me what my zip code was and called out to his wife “Nancy, she’s from Flushing!”

Yes, I am.

Hmm, maybe I will watch three hours of the Nanny tonight.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Favorite Movies of 2010

Because I truly believe that everyone with a blog should make such a list.

Movie seen on DVD
Get Him to the Greek
Russell Brand should play Aldous Snow in one movie a year but only if future threesomes don't include Jonah Hill.

Hard to watch movie
127 Hours
And it wasn’t just the scene where he cut off his arm. Well, not just that scene. Here are some activities I watched James Franco as Aron Ralston engage in that boggle my mind:
--getting out of bed before sunrise
--working effortlessly with bungee cords and caribners
--shimmying through a crevice barely wide enough to take a deep breath then plunging into an underground pool

Second favorite hard to watch movie
Please Give
For exactly the opposite reasons as above. I was only too able to picture myself doing everything Catherine Keener’s Kate does. If you’ve seen the movie you know I shouldn’t be proud of that.

Movie with an iron-willed female protagonist
Unbelievably there were two of these this year: Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone, played by Jennifer Lawrence and the amazing Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross in True Grit. Both these young women kicked ass.

Obsessive Love Story
I Am Love
SWINTON!!! Crazy, lush and beautiful. And I think from now on I’ll need to call her Sir Tilda.

Movie with a character I think once sat next to me on the bus
Animal Kingdom
J (James Frecheville) narrates this grim and violent thriller but barely says a word.

Fifty-four seconds
James Franco seducing himself in this New York Times video:

Sunday, October 24, 2010


In response to Donna Moore's request for 750-word stories sharing a title with a Ramones' song.

Carly was only ten minutes late. A new record.

“Excuse me, miss.”

“Yeah?” She eyeballed me from the ground up, thick-soled skateboard sneakers to vintage corduroy jacket. Then my face.

“Oh, shit. Alyssa. Is that you?”

“Call me Alec.”

“I will not. Why are you dressed like a Williamsburg barista?” She peered at my mouth. “Is that stubble on your upper lip?”

“Too much?”

She pushed her hair off her shoulder, a flirty move I’d seen her perform a thousand times. “It’s kind of hot, actually.”

“I know. I look great, right? I’d totally do me right now.”

“Keep it in your pants.” Her eyes widened. “You’re not - you don’t have anything down there, do you?”

“Like a strap-on?” I grabbed a handful of fabric below my fly.

“You do!”

“I do not. Sit down and hear today’s plan.”


Carly wasn’t quite as eager as I was.

“No fucking way. Getting glammed up so we can boost from those snobby stores on Madison Avenue? Sure. That’s fun. Dressing like a gay hipster to lift wallets at a Chelsea garden party? Where’s the fun in that?”

“I’m bored with that girly stuff. Stealing shit we can’t use. I want the real thing - cash.”

“And we have to dress like guys? What about this?” She flipped her blonde tresses again.

“I got you a baseball cap. You can hide it under there.”

“You get your criminal tips from the Disney Channel? Put my hair up under a hat. Yeah, that way they’ll never notice my tits.”

I hadn’t thought about her tits. They were huge. I stuck my hands in my pockets and slouched. Too much boob was not my problem. I’d wriggled into a extra-small sports bra and was as flat as the wall.

Carly gave me the appraising look she usually saved for jewelry counters. “I think you’re into this.”

“No, I’m not,” I said way too fast, then took a breath. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t care about the high heels and hair extensions. You like the excitement.”

“So do you.”

“But my favorite part is making them think we’re rich, that we belong in their tight-ass stores. The salesmen practically bowing, unlocking displays so we can try on emeralds. The getting away with it - that’s the part you like. Even better if the security guard is chasing us down the street.”

Hefting her huge leather tote onto her shoulder, she stood. That bag had walked out of Saks with her while I’d instigated a screaming match with the sales lady.

She lifted my chin. “Stubble. Cute.” She pecked me on the lips. “Count me out this time. And don’t get caught...Alec.”


Carly will be so disappointed, I thought as the man grabbed my wrist and pushed me against a tree, out of sight of the rest of the partygoers.

“I saw you take that phone off a table.”

He was an inch or two taller than me, eyes a deep blue. He squinted, daring me to deny it.

“It’s my friend Greg’s. Ask him.”

I nodded vaguely toward the dance floor laid over the lawn. All those men. There had to be a Greg there somewhere.

“You’re lying.”

He was close, one arm around me, strong hand pinning both my wrists to my back.

Second try. “It was an impulse. A sickness, my doctor says.”

“An impulse? I watched you for an hour, putting your hands into jackets, poking under tablecloths.”

Fat lot of good it did me. I’d come up empty until I’d spotted that damn phone. Wait, he watched me for an hour?

“I’m disappointed. I thought you were cruising me,” I said, earning a half-smile. “Listen, just take the phone and I’ll go.”

“No need to involve the authorities, right?” The smile disappeared and a lock of dark hair fell over his right eye. God, he was gorgeous. “What if I told you I was a cop?”

“Not with that $200 haircut.” I leaned in and kissed him. He pulled back.

“Another impulse?”

I shrugged.

"You’re too much.” He released my wrists. “Give it up.”

I laid the phone in his palm. I should have run. Instead I left my hand on his.

He moved a step closer and returned my kiss. It took a minute. I didn’t mind.

“Now go.”

I waited until I was out of the park before opening his wallet. Thomas Passarelli, 460 West 28th Street. His fault, holding me so close.