Sharida Rizzuto

From Mixed Bag #10:


Bellowing Ark
P.O. Box 45637
Seattle, WA 98145
Robert R. Ward, Ed.
Bi-monthly 32 pp.
The publication's emphasis is one that views the human condition as working toward something better.  It's inspirational without being religious.  Nothing judgmental.  It leaves the reader with a sense of well-being. The editor maintains an interesting selection of talented contributors from diverse backgrounds.  Published for several years. Available through subscription. Highly recommended.

Blue Mesa Review
Dept. Of English
Univ. Of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131
David Johnson, Ed.
Each issue is theme-related.  This reviewer received a copy of issue 7--Mythic Southwest. It contains a large selection of essays, reviews, poetry, fiction, and photographs.  More than fifty contributors are included.  It shows the truly multi-cultural nature of the U. S.'s southwest region.  Nicely done.  Available through some bookstores and by subscription. Highly recommended.

Cincinnati Poetry Review
Humanities Dept.
College of Mount St. Joseph
Cincinnati, OH 45233
Jeffrey Hillard, Ed.
Contributors each have a unique voice about life and living in Cincinnati.  Worthwhile read.  Good writing. Subscription.  Recommended.

Dusty Dog Reviews
1904-A Gadden
Gallup, NM 87301
John Pierce, Ed./Publ.
Saddle-stapled zine
3 issues yr. 16 pp.
The publication maintains an interesting array of poetry book & chapbook reviews.  It is consistently well-written.  Published for several years.  Available through subscription.  Highly recommended.

Factsheet Five
P.O. Box 170099
San Francisco, CA 94117
Slick cover newsprint
R. Seth Friedman
This directory of zines & review zine has been published for many years.  It is practically the Bible for small press enthusiasts.  Don't be without a copy at all times!  Highly recommended.

NOTE:  This publication is discontinued.  Check with them as you should be able to buy back issues.  I understand that their website will stay on-line for now.

Fandom Directory
Fandata Publications
7761 Asterella Court
Springfield, VA 22152-3133
Trade -- Large
Harry A. Hopkins, Publ.
This directory has been around for many years.  It covers several categories of fandom comix, horror, scifi/fantasy/adventure, mystery, movie nostalgia, etc.  It includes lists of fans, fan clubs, fanzines, bookshops & dealers, conventions, etc.  No fan should be without it!

Mystery Readers Journal--
The Journal of M ystery Readers International

P.O. Box 8116
Berkeley, CA 94707-8116
Janet A. Rudolph, Publ.
Each issue is devoted to a different theme within the mystery genre.  It has been around for several years and has covered some extensive ground.  Articles, reviews, news, commentary, letters, etc. are included. Very informative.  Published for several years.  Highly recommended.

PirateWritings--Tales of Fantasy, Mystery & Science Fiction
53 Whitman Ave.
Islip, NY 11751
Ed McFadden, Ed.
Full size
It has developed quite a reputation in small press where it started out. Now it's available through some newsstands and bookstores as well as subscription.  It always has a good selection of poetry and fiction contributors.  Published for several years.  Recently this zine was for sale so the current status is unknown. Highly recommended.

Psychotronic Video
3309 RT.97
Narrowsburg, NY 12764-6126
Michael J. Veldon, Ed.
Slick cover newsprint full size
Packed with a vast array of fascinating stuff--letters, news, reviews (books, films, zines), articles, photos, and lots of classifieds, it offers the reader an endless variety of reading entertainment.  It's a "must" read for fans and collectors of the horror, underground, and exploitation, etc. film genres.  Published for several years. Highly recommended.

Scarlet Street
(Sherlock Holmes, other mysteries, and horror)
247 Boulevard
Glen Rock, NJ 07452
$6.95 for a single issue or $35 for a subscription (published bi-monthly)

This is an outstanding website.

Scavengers Newsletter
519 Ellinwood
Osage City, KS 66523-1329
Janet Fox, Publ.
This publication is a "must" for anyone involved or simply interested in small press.  It covers the horror, scifi/fantasy, and mystery markets.  Zine reviews and markets open to submissions are listed.  Published for several years. Highly recommended.

The Scream Factory--The Magazine of Horrors Past, Present, and Future
Deadline Press
P. O. Box 2808
Apache Junction, AZ 85217
Bob Morrish, Peter Enfantino, John Scoleri, Eds.
Slick cover newsprint full size
This publication was discontinued but back issues are available.  It was packed with interesting and well-written articles, reviews, news, letters column, commentary, etc. all about the horror genre.  It was the kind of zine that was everything you ever wanted or needed to know about the horror genre.  Each issue mainly centered around a particular theme.  It was an invaluable source of information for both readers and writers. It's too bad that it was discontinued.  It was a first rate publication. Inquire about back issues soon before they all run out.  Highly recommended.

Sherlock Holmes Detective Magazine (formerly Sherlock Holmes Gazette)
46 Purfield Dr.
RG10 8AR
Peter Harkness, Publ.
Eddie Bissell, Ed.
Slick cover full size
A "must" for any serious aficionado of Sherlock Holmes.  It contains an interesting selection of articles, reviews, interviews, commentary, artwork, photos, and classifieds.  It's highly informative and entertaining. Available at some newsstands, bookstores, and by subscription.  Published for several years.  Highly recommended.

The Strand Magazine
(Classic Mysteries--Sherlock Holmes Pastiches--Articles--Book Reviews)
P.O. Box 1418
Birmingham, MI  48012-1418
Slick cover full size
A new outstanding publication for the mystery enthusiast.  Highly recommended.

Strange Magazine
P.O. box 2246
Rockville, MD 20847
Mark Chorvinsky, Ed.
Slick cover full size
Devoted to the paranormal. Fascinating and informative.  Lots of articles, reviews, news, photos, etc.  Good research.  Published for several years.  Available at some newsstands and bookstores plus by subscription. Recommended.

World Of Fantasy & Horror (originally Weird Tales)
Terminus Publishing Co., Inc.
123 Crooked Lane
King of Prussia, PA 19406-2570
George H. Scithers, Publ.
Parrell Schweitzer, Ed.
Slick cover & newsprint
Irregular schedule
The publication has a long standing reputation for quality writings (articles, reviews, interviews, poetry, fiction, and art).  It includes some of the best writers and artists in the horror and fantasy genres. Unfortunately, they have experienced financial and scheduling difficulties for several years.  Luckily, they have managed to maintain the publication.  It's a worthwhile read.  Check it out. It's available at some newsstands and bookstores plus by subscription.  Highly recommended.


Bay Press
115 West Denny Way
Seattle, WA 98119-4205
Their books are devoted to contemporary culture.  An outstanding selection of books.  Highly recommended.
Some of their books:
But Is It Art? The Spirit of Art as Activism ed. by Nina Felshin
If You Lived Here. . . .The City in Art, Theory, and Social Activism--Discussions in Contemporary Culture #6--A project by Martha Rosler & ed. by Brian Wallis
Uncontrollable Bodies--Testimonies of Identity and Culture ed. by Rodney Sappington & Tyler Stallings
Violent Persuasions--The Politics and Imagery of Terrorism ed. by David J. Brown & Robert Merrille

Calabash Press
P.O. Box 1360
Ashcroft, British Columbia
Canada VOK 1A0
One of best Sherlock Holmes publishers.  Outstanding.  A "MUST" for any Sherlockian.  Highly recommended.

Chelsea Green Publishing
Route 113/P.O. Box 130
Post Mills, VT 05058-0130
This publisher's selection of books is about how to live frugally and environmentally safe.  Their books will teach anyone how to be self-sufficient.  Worthwhile endeavor.  Highly recommended.
Some of their books:
Beyond The Limits--Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning A Sustainable Future by Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, & Jorgen Randers
The Complete Gardener's Almanac--A Month by Month Guide to Successful Gardening by Marjorie Willison
The Independent Home--Living Well with Power from the Sun, Wind, and Water by Michael Potts
The Solar Electric House--Energy for the Environmentally-Responsive, Energy-Independent Home by Steven J. Strong

Coffee House Press
27 North Fourth St., Suite 400
Minneapolis, M N 55401
Allan Kornblum, Publ.
Their selection of books is about the diversity of people living in America and their lives.  A thoroughly multi-cultural experience.  Books that are a "MUST" read for the well-rounded reader.   Even their catalogue is interesting reading.  Highly recommended.
Some of their books:
Avalanche (poetry) by Quincy Troupe
Can't Be Wrong (poetry) by Michael Lally
Her Wild American Self (stories) by M. Evelina Galang
The Ivory Crocodile by Eileen Drew
The Worldwide Church of the Handicapped by Marie Sheppard Williams

P. O. Box 100
Paradise, CA 95967
Len Fulton, Publ.
Publishes The International Directory of Little Magazines And Small Presses, Directory of Poetry Publishers, Directory of Editors & Publishers, Small Press Magazine Review, etc.  A "MUST" for anyone involved in small press.

Pineapple Press
P.O. Box 3899
Sarasota. FL  34230-3899

Outstanding publisher of books about Florida.  They have a wonderful selection.  Highly recommeded.
Some of their books:
Florida's Past Vol.1, 2, & 3
by Gene Burnett
The Florida Chronicles, Vol 1:  Dreamers, Schemers and Scalawags
by Stuart B. McIver
& Vol. 2:  Murder in the Tropics
Guide to Florida Lighthouses
by Elinor De Wire
|The Florida Reader Visions of Paradise
by Maurice O'Sullivan & Jack Lane, Eds.
Twenty Florida Pirates
by Kevin M. McCarthy

The Florida Keys Vol. 1 & 2:  A History of the Pioneers & True Stories of the Perilous Straits by John Viele
Mystery in the Sunshine State
by Stuart Kaminsky, Ed.
Ghosts of St. Augustine
by Dave Lapham

Sun & Moon Press

An impressive small press book publisher.  Some unusual stuff here.
 They have a business office/shop located in Los Angeles.

Women Publishers:
(All of these publishers have a fine selection of books. This reviewer had the opportunity to read many of them.)

Circlet Press
1770 Massachusetts Ave., Suite 278
Cambridge, MA 02140
Specializing in lesbian & gay fiction, etc.
Some of their books:
Cherished Blood--Vampire Erotica ed. by Cecilia Tan
The NEW Worlds of Women ed. by Cecilia Tan
Things Invisible to See--Gay & Lesbian Tales of Magic Realism ed. by Lawrence Schimel
Fetish Fantastic--Tales of power and lust from futuristic to surreal ed. by Cecilia Tan

Cleis Press
P.O. Box 14684
San Francisco, CA 94114
Specializing in sexual politics, lesbian & gay studies, fiction, Latin America, health, young adult & children. Highly recommended.
Some of their books:
Dark Angels ed. by Pam Keesey
Daughters of Darkness ed. by Pam Keesey
Madonnarama: Essays on Sex and Popular Culture ed. by Lisa Frank & Paul Smith
Sexwise by Susie Bright

Lavender Crystal Press
P.O. Box 8932
Red Bank, NJ 07701
Specializing in lesbian studies.
Some of their books:
Torch To The Heart--Anthology of Lesbian Art And Drama ed. by Sue McConnell

New Victoria Publishers, Inc.
P.O. Box 27
Norwich, VT 05055-0027
Lesbian studies, fiction, etc.
Some of their books:
Give My Secrets Back--An Alison Kaine Mystery by Kate Allen
Murder Is Material--A Brigid Donovan Mystery by Karen Saum

Paper-Mache Press
135 Aviation Way #14
Watsonville, CA 95076
Women's issues and aging gracefully.  An outstanding array of books.  Highly recommended.
Some of their books:
The Adventures of Stout Mama by Sibyl James
A Question of Balance by Judith Pierce Rosenberg
Creek Walk And Other Stories by Molly Giles
When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple by Sandra Haldeman Martz

Rainbow Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 430
Highland City, FL 33846-0430
This reviewer was sent a copy of Pharmacology Is Murder by Dirk Wyle.  There was no information regarding their other published books.  However, if this book is any indication of the caliber of books they have to offer their books should be a good read.

Second Story Press
720 Bathurst St.
Suite 301
Toronto, Canada M 5S 2R4
Lesbian and women's issues, mysteries, etc.
Some of their books:
Double Negative by Leona Gom
Sudden Blow by Liz Brady

Seal Press
3131 Western Ave., Suite 410
Seattle, WA 98121-1028
Lesbian studies, self-help, sports, outdoors, women's issues, fiction & poetry.  Highly recommended.
Some of their books:
Glory Days by Rosie Scott
Ladies Night by Elizabeth Bowers
Murder In The Collective by Barbara Wilson
Trouble In Transylvania by Barbara Wilson

Spinsters Ink
32 E. First St. #330
Duluth, MN 55802-2002
Lesbian studies, women's issues, fiction, etc.  Highly recommended.
Some of their books:
Conferences Are Murder by Val McDermid
Final Rest by Mary Marell
The Hangdog Hustle by Elizabeth Pincus
Silent Words by Joan M. McRain



1341 Seventh Street
Berkeley, CA  94710
This group has been around since 1969.  Anyone in small press needing a good distributor these people seem very relieable.  They do an outstanding job to distribute a large variety of alternative books.   


The Caribbean Writer
An extremely well done on-line university literary publication for Caribbean based writers or anyone interested in reading and learning more about the Caribbean.  Lots to read here.  Highly recommended.

Poets & Writers
Everything to do with writers and writing at this site.  This is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best, writers' publication on this planet!  It's available on-line and in print.  


This is a great website for the new writer starting out.  Anyone can place their writings on-line to be critiqued by readers and/or other writers.  Many of the writings are amazingly well-written.  There is a lot for visitors to the site to see.  It is  informative and entertaining
.  An outstanding website for writers.  Highly recommended.





                                DAVE ESINSTARK

     "Ahoowaaanokopoko!" Louis Washington screamed.
    "Jeez," Gerry Reynard muttered in the unmarked patrol car.
    "Skirt-man's sounding good this morning," his partner Rick Anderson commented.
    "Love to pull him in for disturbing," Reynard replied.
    "No, you wouldn't--who knows what's growing on that guy?"
    Reynard shrugged. End of their shift and none of their business anyway. They worked gang patrol--specifically: showing up after the fact at drive-by shootings in the Oakwood section where the Crips/Vl3 war had claimed ten teenaged lives in the last three weeks.
    "Ahoowaaanokopoko!" Louis Washington repeated to the rising sun over the architecturally innovative, ugly-as-death ad-agency building on the east side of the traffic circle.
    "Greetings, ol' sun!" Washington shouted in the secret language only he understood. "Shine me! Know me! Every morning! Love me!"
    He wore a black miniskirt, blue sandals, checked shirt and Watusi-warrior half-Afro sticking out forty-five degrees on one side. He was as much a fixture in Venice, California, as Mime-man, Turban-dude, or the canals.
    "Christ," Dad Peters muttered to himself when Washington let loose another strange, high screech to the sunrise. For the last three mornings--ever since coming up with the idea--Peters had studied Washington from the concrete steps in front of the post office.
    They were about the same age, 30--and the same height, six-three--though Peters' skin was a little darker and more flesh clung to his bones.
    Nobody'll notice that. They'll be looking at the skirt. Still, no use taking chances, Peters told himself, his mind noting a new shopping bag from Nordstroms.
    The walk was more difficult. Peters practiced in his rented room over the used-clothing store--almost a shuffle, legs back, knees locked, shoulders and head forward, mouth moving, not muttering like the other homeless, but talking right out loud, gibberish.
    "The Jake-man lookin'. Watch, no cry," Washington commanded as he crossed to the sidewalk, away from the eye-balling stranger. "What're you lookin' at?!" Washington shouted in a language he himself didn't recognize.
    You, Skirt-man, Peters told himself as he stood and followed.
    Marie Kellogg took a wide turn to avoid Washington on her way to the bank.  She kept her eyes down, wouldn't look at him. Anger burned inside her. Between the gang-bangers and rappers and rioters and derelicts, an African-American couldn't hold her head up anymore.
   Marie rapped sharply on the glass door of the bank. The security guard waddled over. Someday she'd be head teller and have her own set of keys.
   "Make the light, walk, don't walk, mind your Ps," Washington ordered. He crossed Pacific, ignoring the car-honks. He turned at the health-food store, past the youth hostel to the alley where he lifted his skirt and urinated against the wall.
   Jesus, Peters swore, coming around the corner. Maybe you'll skip that detail.
   Peters spent the rest of the morning tracking his prey sifting through trash-cans along the boardwalk. Peters tried putting his soul into the victim, feeling the man's thoughts so held know which way held move. "You're one-sixteenth Cherokee," Peters' grandmother had told him.
   "What're you doing now? What're you doing?" Washington squealed in his special language, his voice rising, sun-heat soaking the back of his neck.
   "Whadaya drink, man?" Peters asked.
   "Don't come any closer!" Washington yelled but the man didn't understand.
   "Wine, beer, what?" Peters tried again, hoping Washington's crazy shouts wouldn't attract attention.
   Washington shuffled off, special eyes at the back of his head watching the stranger.
   "No good, no good at all!" Washington yelled but it sounded like "Jajanah! Jajanah atlaw!" to Peters.
   Nobody said it'd be easy. Nothing worthwhile is, Peters' grandfather had taught him.
   "What you doing now?!" Washington screamed when he saw the man later in the day, along one of the walkways between the beach and Speedway, down toward the Marina pier. Peters set a bottle of beer on a dollar bill, then pointed that Washington should take it. Washington waited for the man to walk all the way around the corner before he approached the objects.
   Good, Peters told himself on the way back to his room. His victim's jabber was a tougher problem. If there was some way to rehearse the Skirt-man's screams, Peters hadn't found it. Held tried it quietly in his room, testing the sounds at low volume, but it wasn't right. He thought of several places back home in Kentucky where a man could go out far from people and howl or scream or do whatever he wanted, but not here in the city.

   Peters collapsed into bed. Held never tried anything like this, not even close. But there were times when a man couldn't take anymore, when the hopeless string of jobs ended, when held forgotten the last time held found honest work. And now Skirt-man and the others taunted him, warning in shrill voices what happens to men who get lost.
   The skirt was easy, made from a length of black material out of a dumpster.
   Same way Skirt-man did it, Peters reasoned as he approached the cracked mirror in the corner of his room. His lips let loose a shocked cry at the womanly image in front of him. He forced himself to study the effect. Fine, he decided, and quickly donned pants again.
  The sandals and shirt were harder to find. Peters patrolled yard sales and charity storefronts for a full week before coming across a good checked shirt and the right blue sandals. In the meantime his hair had grown out and at night he could pull it out correctly on one side.
  A worry inserted itself into Dad Peters' brain during this transformation. He wondered if he wasn't becoming Skirt-man, subconsciously testing his worst fear, turning stone-whacko, hopeless, homeless, desperate and worthless.
  Hell no, Peters told himself each day. You know where you're going, you know what you want, you have a plan. He found a Nordstroms shopping-bag.
  "Ahoowaaanokopoko!" Louis Washington screamed from the grassy center of the traffic circle at Main and Windward.
  In the shadow of the post-office, in a little space between the security fence and the building where the sun didn't reach yet, Dad Peters fingered the semiautomatic tucked into his dirty black skirt. He waited for the other man to disappear past the youth hostel before he stepped out onto the sidewalk.
  Marie Kellogg saw him shuffling toward her. She tried to make a casual detour around him. But this morning, unlike any other morning, Skirt-man didn't let her pass. Instead, amazingly, a nightmare weapon leaped into his hand. Marie felt her head jerk back, the screech of "lljajanah! iajanah!" assaulted her ears. She felt herself being pushed with powerful hands toward the bank door.
  A routine night: shots fired 6th and Brooks, shots fired Oakwood and Indiana. Nobody killed, nobody saw anything--the Hispanics blamed the Crips, the blacks said it was V13.
  Officers Reynard and Anderson were heading back to the station when the call came in: bank robbery at the B of A on the traffic circle.
  "It's the end of our shift!" Anderson protested.
  Reynard shrugged, he felt the same way. Still, they were only three blocks away.
  "Car 844 responding. Details? Over."
  "Suspect described only as 'Skirt-man'."
  Reynard and Anderson gave each other a look before Reynard kicked the gas.
  The gun seemed to sweep in slow-motion over the frozen faces of the bank-tellers. The security guard stood with them, his hands skyward. Marie Kellogg felt like strangling him. It was the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving. The Brinks truck had arrived early with double cash for the ATMS. Marie wondered: did Skirt-man know that? A homeless derelict?
  "Ahoowaaanokopoko!" the robber screamed, waving the weapon at the drawers. Stunned, slowly, the tellers approached the counter. It wasn't the first holdup for any of them but that didn't make it any easier.
  The thief tossed the Nordstroms bag to Marie at the end of the line. Okay, her mind told the man, I'll give it to you . . . all of it.
  "There!" Reynard shouted.
  Peters broke into a run. The cop-car swerved into the alley at the other end.
  "Stop!" the loudspeaker bellowed. "Stop or I'll shoot!"
  Peters heard the squeal of the car's tires, he saw the walk-street ahead, too narrow for the car. Twenty yards if he could make it.
  The man's plaid back jogged cleanly in Reynard's sights but the officer couldn't pull the trigger. Skirt-man was loud and outrageous and the only transvestite, schizophrenic, homeless man around . . . but harmless, they all thought.

By the time Reynard looked to his partner and saw that Anderson, too, was unable to fire, the thief had disappeared around the corner.
  "We'll drive around to the other side," Reynard said, bolstering his weapon. "He won't get far."
  Between a dumpster and a condo building Peters transferred the cash from the shopping-bag to a Raiders duffle. He pulled blue-jeans over his hips and tore off the black skirt. He yanked a sweatshirt over his checked shirt. Only after he stepped out into the alley did Peters realize he still wore the ratty blue sandals. He ducked back behind the dumpster just before the unmarked patrol car came around the corner.
  Looking for Skirt-man, Peters reminded himself as he listened--pressed against the condo building--to the sound of the car rolling by. They've seen him every day as long as they can remember. And he ain't you.
  Washington looked down the walk-street to the spot where held found the beer and money the last three mornings. Loose chunks in a cement wall formed a safe hideaway from the scavenging eyes of other homeless.
  Under the beer this time was a hundred-dollar bill instead of a single. It was new and crisp, it crinkled in Washington's pink, wrinkled palms.
  "I oughtta blast his head off," Reynard muttered.
  Washington shuffled down the alley ahead of the car, unaware of the police behind him.

  "Hands in the air!" the loudspeaker blasted.
  Washington turned slowly, a look of unabashed bewilderment in his face, fear and desperation in his eyes.
  That was the moment, Reynard realized, when he could have killed you both.
  Reynard hit the brakes. His service revolver came out of his holster.
  "Hands in the air!" Reynard repeated. "Right now!"
  A vague memory of what to do entered Washington's brain. He dropped to his knees, he lowered himself head-first onto the pavement until his cheek rested against cool cement.
  Reynard and Anderson came out of the car, guns drawn, approaching slowly, fingers twitching on triggers, unblinking eyes watching for the smallest movement. A machine-gun, the bank tellers had stated. Ouzi, one of them had said, and neither Reynard nor Anderson wanted to bet their lives that the tellers had exaggerated.
  Both cops waited for the other to pull out cuffs.
  "I'm not touching him," Anderson stated flatly.
  "Oh, come on!"
  With a growl, Anderson pulled his handcuffs and bolstered his pistol.
  "Just keep me covered, okay?"
  Quickly, with a vicious snarl throughout, Anderson cuffed Washington, searched him for weapons and emptied his pockets.
  "What have we here?" Anderson asked, holding up the hundred-dollar bill.
  "Where's the rest of it?" Reynard wanted to know.
  The quick response of the police had pushed Peters off his planned route home and now he wasn't sure where he was. Oakwood section, he realized suddenly, where kids kill kids. At night it was an open drugstore and shooting gallery, this morning it looked like any other residential neighborhood. Peters let the duffle-bag swing casually as if it didn't contain anything more valuable than a spare set of clothes. He hoped it fooled the pair of rough, Mexican home-boys patrolling the cracked sidewalk ahead. Not caring for their looks, his face starting to sweat fear, Peters jaywalked mid-block and quickened his step for the next corner.
  Put the sun on your right, he told himself. Head north.
  The young men ahead conferred nervously with each other and when they glanced back again, Peters knew he was in trouble. He slowed, he considered running, he waited too long.
  Their hands dove into their oversized jackets.
  Peters wished he was still Skirt-man as he unzipped the Raiders bag. Nobody bothers Skirt-man.
 The fear on the Chicano youths' faces shook Peters' spine to his shoes. He plunged his hand through the bundles of bills, he searched for the automatic weapon.
 I never wanted to hurt anyone, Peters' mind protested while his hand clutched the gun.
 The explosion blasted Peters' ears, the yellow marker-dye-Marie Kellogg's defiant little surprise--burst out the bag and seared his eyes. Peters let out a strange, high screech while the scared teens down the street--mistaking the booby-trap for a shotgun blast--jerked off as many rounds as their weapons could handle.
 Peters flew back, his yellow-shocked face mixing orange with blood. Brilliant plan, Peters heard himself say through the haze of impending death. He lasted another minute, long enough to hear Spanish cries of surprise and joy. My plan, he wanted to tell them. Dad Peters' perfect plan, he tried to say, but then they were gone with the money and they wouldn't understand him anyway.
 Like Peters, officers Reynard and Anderson never received the recognition they felt they deserved. So what if Skirt-man was insane, they told themselves--a bank-robber's a bank-robber. The fact they never recovered the money especially irked Reynard. It was a bad summer all around, he now remembered, ten dead teenagers and that older one--"Dad" they called him.
 Louis Washington slurped his second helping of oatmeal. Held surprised the kitchen staff by asking for it in their own language. It was the pills, he knew, that gave him this special power to remember words from his childhood. They'd been stored in his head and he even recalled a time long ago when held struggled to retrieve them. Now the words were back and Washington didn't mind. It was okay really. He would become one of them, one of the pill-people who pretended the world made sense and the sun was just an average star. Held play along, it was fun. He didn't even mind wearing pants anymore.

--From the upcoming #10


                                                                    DIANA STONEBERG

                                          "Biographical Biopsies" are slices of life.

                                           HOMELESS HAUTE COUTURE

LOS ANGELES . . . An older woman, carrying a bag of groceries crossed in front of my car as I waited at an intersection and I couldn't help but notice her attire.

    She was wearing a cream colored, Chanel outfit with a matching bag. However, the outfit was dirty and it was clear that she had been wearing it for a while. She struggled down the street with her bag of groceries as her "dyed to match" pumps were about to give way at any moment. She was hanging onto the last vestiges of what she considered class.
   Whatever her situation, divorce, death of a spouse, loss of life savings, junk bonds, none of this was going to come between her and her Chanel.
   These symbols that people cling to as though they held the means by which they could be saved are everywhere.
   On Rodeo Drive tourists flock into stores to buy a key chain, often all they can afford, from a designer's store so that they can have the privilege of carrying the bag with the all important logo. It doesn't matter what they buy it's the tag, the logo that's making the statement "I am somebody."
When you drive to the downtown garment district and see the poorest of the poor sporting Chanel and Beverly Hills logo T-shirts, jackets and bags what does that say? Whom are these people emulating? Do they think if they wear these symbols of wealth it will somehow rub off on them?
  Most of the people sporting these wealthy symbols are the same ones who are producing them in sweatshops and will spend a day or a week's wages for the privilege of wearing an advertisement.
  Seeing a homeless guy in a Yves St. Laurent jacket is interesting. People in third world countries pounding their laundry on the edge of a polluted river in a Nike cap brings new meaning to their slogan, "Just do it."
  Whenever there is a film wrap, often they will give away jackets or T-shirts to the crew. To see a guy pushing a shopping cart in a Miami Vice crew jacket says something about the fleeting business of fame and wealth can come down to a guy pushing a cart or a woman trying to carry groceries in Chanel on a hot day.
  Following clothing down the fashion food chain could also be interesting. First, the clothes are designed by designers most of whom say they get their ideas from the "people on the streets."
  Who are these "people on the streets?" In Los Angeles you find very few people on the streets other than the homeless and the poor. Next, the clothes are exhibited by "Super Models" walking down runways in front of people who can afford the outlandish prices for pieces of cloth sewn together. Also in the audience, "knock -off' artists, busy sketching away designs to be taken back to the garment districts of large cities and sewn together by illegal immigrants.
  Then the clothing is sold directly from designers to high price clothing stores. The "knock off" clothing is sold to the outlet and cut-rate stores.
  Consumers with and without a lot of money then purchase and wear these clothes. The consumers with money soon tire of these clothes and don't want to be caught dead in anything that isn't fresh off the runways. They then donate these clothes to a charity like the Salvation Army.
  Consumers without a lot of money hang onto their "knock off" clothing longer. In some cases until it's threadbare but it will eventually make its way to either a yard sale or the Salvation Army.
  Poor people come into the Salvation Army and purchase the same clothes which originally, before time and moths have eroded then may have been very expensive. These same people then go out into the streets, wearing this clothing and are seen by the same fashion designers who are "looking for ideas" which is why styles keep coming back every couple of years.
  Some of this clothing isn't even purchased. At missions and halfway houses clothing is given away to the needy. Is there anything more stylish than seeing a soliciting crack addict in Versace?
  So "Street people" influence designers who dictate to the rest of the population what to wear.
  If designers want to get really inspired why don't they hire the homeless to walk down the runways in their "haute couture."
  It has to be a lot less expensive than paying the "Super Models" to "Just do it."

"Biographical Biopsies" c 1997, are published by Left Coast Books. All rights reserved.
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From the upcoming #10

                                            The Night Stalker

                                                         John H. Lever

It was dark, almost pitch black.  The night sky was heavy with cloud and there was already the steady fall of rain. Somewhere in the distance a lone street lamp, a solitary survivor of urban warfare, cast an eerie shadow across the alleyways.
    He stood still and silent in the closed doorway, his eyes constantly sweeping the scene before him.  He turned his head slightly to one side, the better to hear the slightest movement, the faintest sound.  Every sense in his being was on full alert.  Nothing was going to escape him; he was ready for his prey.
    He knew they would come; they always came at this time of night.  They always came in this place but he couldn't know how many, not that it mattered.  Divide and conquer.  He was bigger, his reactions faster, he was dark and muscular and he was hidden from sight.  This would be his night. It was always his night; he'd never failed yet and still never been caught.  Divide and conquer.  He only wanted one, he only needed one for now, yes, one would do very nicely for now.

    Henry eased out of his favorite armchair and moved toward the kitchen.  TV adverts had their uses.  He went across to the refrigerator and pulled out a beer and a rather large, splendid looking pork pie.  He reached for a packet of cheese and onion crisps from the overhead cupboard and grabbed a glass and side plate from the drainer by the side of the sink.  All the items went on a tray and Henry returned to the lounge, placing his little snack on the table by his chair. He sat down and, right on cue, the adverts finished and his programme restarted.

    They were here, three of them together, searching the squalor of the alley. Everything on the floor was investigated lest something of value be missed.  Something of value?!  Here?!  They were of value; they would serve his purpose nicely.  The biggest one, fat and filthy, been around a while this fella, investigated one of the dustbins.  His buddies moved on, leaving him to his search.  In the doorway the dark muscular body flexed.  The eyes were transfixed--all his Christmases at once!  This big, fat, slow, fool was all alone now.  No distractions, nothing to get in his way, nothing to divert his attention.  The victim moved from the dustbin, moved toward his doorway, moved ever closer then--
    Bam!!  He came down on the back of the neck with such force that it snapped instantly. Then he broke fatty's back.  There wasn't any blood.  There didn't need to be any blood.  Fatty lay there absolutely still, all the life knocked from him by just two mammoth blows, two beautifully timed blows, two beautifully aimed blows.  The Dark One was a pro; he knew what he was doing.  He left the body in the alley, in the rain, to be discovered.  Let them make of it what they would.  Let it serve as a warning to others.  The slow, the fat, the careless.

    Henry's programme had finished and the news was on.  He'd seen an earlier bulletin, he knew what was coming.  The President of the USA was in the center of another scandal involving sexual harassment.  Sorry!  Alleged sexual harassment.  The British Prime Minister had clashed with Euro l(Ps over the non-uniformity of shape of the humble onion!  Three people were killed in a motor way pileup that was the result of a drunken driver managing to drive southbound on the northbound carriageway at more than a hundred miles an hour.  The drunk was unhurt!  It got worse.  Henry switched off with the remote control and heaved his overweight frame from the chair.  He went through and put the dirty glass and plate in the washing-up bowl and screwed up the empty crisp packet, throwing it into the pedal bin in the corner.  It fell out again; the pedal bin was full.  Blast!  He'd have to take that out and empty it into the dustbin, and on a night like this.  Blast!

    He felt good after the last kill.  He was lying down, but not on his back, on his belly. The rain had stopped so he wasn't sheltering.  He was lying on the garage roof.  His coat kept him dry and his vantage point above the street kept him invisible.  He was charged up; everything was electric.  He could see and hear better than ever.  Nothing stood a chance now.  He didn't mind the waiting.  A fly buzzed past the corner of his vision and his head and eyes turned at once in a sharp reflex action.  He struck out and grabbed the fly, crushing it as he did so.  Nothing could escape him this night.  One lone urban outcast was carefully picking his way along the street, heading toward the garage.  It was a night for loners.  The Dark One stealthily dropped from the rooftop and slid unseen, unheard, into the shadow.  Another fatty, oh but how he loved fatties! Along he came, oblivious to the--Wham!  Good strike but not good enough.  The urban fatty reeled and tried to take flight.  Not a chance of fighting back, he recognized that instantly.
    Wham!  Thank you, goodnight, all over.  Fatty's eyes popped out of their sockets, such was the force of each blow.  His neck and back snapped and he defecated on the spot.  The last action he ever made, the last movement he ever made.  The Dark One turned him over, looked at him, saw nothing of interest and left as quietly and secretly as he had arrived, leaving one more piece of devastation in his wake.

    Henry made sure everything in the little terraced house was shipshape.  The house was a small two up, two down and when Henry came down in the morning he liked to see everything in its place.  It was a comfy little home; certainly nothing special but neat, tidy and clean. Just the thing for a bachelor, a loner.  Henry's wife had left him over a year ago and he hadn't tried to find another partner.  His wife had been untidy around the house and Henry liked neatness.  His wife had turned to exercise and religion and Henry was fat and a passive Christian.  He liked to think he believed in God but he didn't do much about it, didn't do anything about it.  His wife had left him for a P.E. instructor who sang in the church choir.  So much for her version of religion! Life was more peaceful now though.  He quite enjoyed his solitude.
    Henry peeped through the green velvet curtains and saw the rain had stopped.  Good!  He'd pop down to the bottom of the back yard and drop the rubbish in the dustbin in the alley.  He went through the kitchen, picked up the neatly tied plastic bin bag and moved out through the back door.
    It was awfully dark.  The kids had been shooting their air rifles at the lamp posts again and had obviously found their targets with unerring accuracy.  Henry didn't much like the dark.  He opened the gate at the back of the yard when--Clang!  A dustbin lid went flying and a scrawny white cat scrabbled down the alley as if its tail was on fire. Henry's heart was beating thirteen to the dozen and he put his hand out to the wall to steady himself.  He didn't see the dark shadow slip past him into the yard.
    Henry gathered his wits, placed his rubbish in the dustbin, replaced the offending lid and turned to walk back to the house.  Everything felt very eerie; a shiver ran through his body.
    He hadn't seen the dark figure go into the house before him.
    Henry closed, locked and bolted the back door. He put his shoes on the shoe rack and changed into his slippers.  He flicked off the kitchen light and went into the lounge.  The stairs led off the lounge and as Henry went toward them he looked back to make sure everything was OK.  There was a shadow on his armchair.  He started for a moment then realized that the landing light was casting the shadow of the staircase. Fool, he thought.
    Upstairs, Henry made for the loo then pushed the door open to his bedroom.  Pitch black.  He walked over to the bedside table and clicked on the little lamp.  Out of the corner of his eye Henry saw something stir.
    "Hello puss," he said.  "Have you been chasing mice again?"

From the upcoming #10

                                                                  AN AMERICAN LEGEND

                                                             B. Z. Niditch


    It is 1940. A poet who names himself Tom Trix and is rejected more than twelve times by Sign Magazine writes to the editor: "Dear Mr. M.: Just because you know I am the literary heir to Eliot and Pound you have rejected me.  Well, I will soon be in your of f ice to eliminate you."
    Tom is in a sweat.   It is the hottest recorded summer in Boston's history and the Red Sox have lost.  That means his father will beat up on his mother again and turn into a Jack Daniels hood all weekend.
    "Ma, why don't you go to Revere Beach?  Get away f rom dad. I'm going to do some painting around here. These walls make me puke."
    Tom stares at the walls and prepares his next letter to a literary agent named Stine.
    "Listen, Stine, you know I'm the successor to Ernest Hemingway and Henry James. But you won't help me.  You'll be sorry."
    Tom watches the pigeons attack his box of cracker jacks from the roof.  The voice of Father Coughlin on the radio is heard and he shuts it off, goes to his drawer full of blue stationery he found in a backyard in Cape Cod where he worked as a busboy and writes a letter, addressed to the Pope in Rome.
    "I know what's going on in Rome. I'm the successor of King David, the incarnation of you know who.  I will be showing up soon.  Have some money for me at the door.  I'm running for the office. P. S. : Father, I'm offering services so don' t forget a love offering at the door.  It might be hard for me to get away from my literary pursuits, but I will be there at the Holy Office. My best to the Popessa."
    Tom's dad is off the wagon.  He throws beer cans all around the house.
    "Why did you shut the radio off?"
    "I felt like it."
    "I don't want to hear your lip.  Where's Ma?"
    "She expired."  "What are you talking about?  You were always a crazy kid. I used to take you when you made up all those headaches and bounced your head against the wall.  Whenever you said you wanted to see a doctor, I had it in for you.  It was fun, and remember when you was a kid and I almost threw you down from the balcony roof where you were fooling around with those damn pigeons, so you would stop crying . . . " Tom goes into his room.  He writes a letter to The Boston Globe.  "I know I can stop the war.  I know more than Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin and Hitler combined.  What's more, I have connection with the Vatican and I know who the Antichrist is.  They're trying to get rid of me, the whole world, the literary world, the religious world, the political people and all you journalists.  Get me an editor's job or else."  He signs it, "Yours sincerely, Tom Trix."
    His mother drops the vegetables in the pantry and Tom's father starts to get angry.
    Tom imagines himself on a train, stowing himself all away along the flats in middle America.  He puts the radio on and croons with Frank Sinatra, then imagines himself in black face.  A voice from another country: "Where are all my stamps?"
    "I took ‘em, dad."
   "But I need them for the rent and gas bill."
    "I need them for my future."
    "What future you got . . . in an institution?  I'm going to dial up Geneva 6-6000. That's the State Hospital, Tom, and the men in the white coats are gonna come and get you."  Tom's father goes to the black phone and gets a dial tone.
    "Just try it and you're dead."
    "You think I don't see you and God don't see you done all those sneaky things in your room."
    "What's it to you?"
    "Writin' all those letters when you couldn't get into parochial school cause the nuns knew you had a black mark on your soul every time you spoke.  You was born bad I tell you, not like your soldier brother Billy.  They took him in; but when you told the Army you was Lincoln' s great grandson they just laughed at you.  You was too skinny anyway.   All skin and bones, no muscle -- only a brain with a tin can in it."
   Tom goes into his room and writes to Betty Grable and addresses the letter "Hollywood."
    "Dear Betty; I know you are always in the movies but I am a director too and can show you what you can do with your million dollar legs. "  Tom takes his last stamp, licks it, kisses the letter and leaves the house forever.
    He hops a train for the Dust Bowl and eventually becomes a tobacco salesman, a street evangelist, a car dealer, a radio disc jockey, a chiropractor, a dance instructor, a Hollywood extra, an Elvis impersonator, and a talk show host.

From the upcoming #10

                                            WHAT I DID FOR SOUP


                                                            Eugene C. Flinn

 I had to be nice to Archie.  And Archie was the last guy in the world I wanted to be nice to.  His voice was a fingernail running across a blackboard; his unexpected presence was steaming doggy-doo underneath brand new shoes.
    Worse yet, the times Archie made it into my life were the times I needed so much to be alone.
    I'd come home from New York on the 6:22 on a summer's night, my shirt sticking to my back from the humidity, weary from writing ad copy on the advantages of Massey Ferguson tractors on large farms or Doctor Schull's foot pads on small feet.  All I wanted when I finally made it to my liquor cabinet was a double gin on the rocks with a slice of lemon and a quiet place to sip it while I read about the Mets.
    I knew about the planned invasion of Archie long before I arrived home, of course, but there just didn't seem to be a way to dodge him.  Twice I had taken a later train and walked home from the station, but in each case Archie was waiting for me on my front steps.  Another time I tried entering my house from the rear, but Archie caught me on the back fence just as I was ripping the trousers of my Brooks Brothers suit.  That guy had a sixth sense.  And he also seemed to know that although I might elude him from time to time, once he found me I was committed to stay and talk to him.
    Now I'm not against conversation. It goes well with double gins.  But Archie didn't drink and he didn't converse.  All he did was talk.
    Not the usual blabber either.  Archie's world was soup, and he could rattle on about the number of vegetables in Progressols Minestrone the way a bookie could spiel off the odds at the seventh at Saratoga.  In the beginning I had a vague interest in the variety of soups his company made, but after awhile his.monotonous, grating voice started to suck the flavor right out of my gin.
    Other guys might have been able to tell Archie to get lost, but my situation was different.  Bertha and I had eight kids, ranging from ten months to ten years.  They weren't what you would call bad kids, but they were extraordinarily active in the neighborhood.  The long and short of it was their various antics had alienated all of our neighbors.
    Except two: Archie and his wife, Catherine, who for reasons which still escapes me had never had their lawn mauled or windows broken by our little gang of eight.
    "You simply have to be nice to Archie," Bertha insisted.  "He and Catherine are the only ones on the block who still talk to us."
    That was a slight exaggeration, but basically it was true.  And Archie knew it.

I was stirring the gin around with my pinky and taking greedy little finger licks when Archie popped up from behind the tree where I was sitting in my backyard.
    "Today was some day, Ben," he said. "Must have hit 93? Still, they say it isn't the heat but--"
    I took a stiff belt of gin to block out the rest of his cliche.
    "So guess how much soup I sold today, Ben."
    "I don't like guessing, Archie; it gives me warts."
    "Well, I did 150 in Scotch Plains, 75 in Garwood.  I tell you, Ben, it was a great . . .
    He had stopped talking, and in the middle of a sentence, no less.  My ears had become so conditioned to his special whine that the sudden silence was unsettling.  I looked up and noticed that he was observing me like a butterfly-chaser examining a specimen.
    "Say, Ben, do your kids like soup?"
    "Archie, they like anything they can swallow, including Vaseline and shaving cream."     "Really?"
    "Well, you know, there are eight of them and they're always in competition for whatever food is around.  When we go to the supermarket, they sit in the shopping carts eating the stuff out of the packages before we get to the check-out counter."
    When Archie got excited, the pupils disappeared behind his eyelids, leaving only the dirty whites of his eyeballs.  He was excited now.
    "Ben, you can be the Garwood Grocery Store."
    "I can be what?"
    "The Garwood Grocery Store.  I'll order extra soup for Garwood, but sell it to you. Wholesale.  Your kids will love it.  We have 53 varieties."
    I took another sip of my gin.  The booze was helping to make Archie disappear a little, but I knew I had to say something.
    "Sounds good, Arch."
    "The only thing is, Ben, since you are going to be the Garwood Grocery Store, you'll have to pay me as soon as your order comes in.  I can't charge it to my account."
    "O.K., Arch."
    "I'll drive it right to your house in the company van.  But you'll have to help me unload and carry it in.  I have a heart condition, y'know."
    "I know, Arch.  I'll do the lugging.  Well, thanks a lot.  See ya around, O.K.?"
    To my surprise he took off.  I was on my second gin, quietly congratulating myself on getting rid of him so quickly when he showed up again, this time carrying a pencil clipboard.
    "I told you I'd get the soup, Arch."
    He looked pained.
    "But you've got to tell me what kind.  We have a large variety, you know."
    "Ah, any kind.  The kids eat anything that's not moving."
    "And how many?"
    "Hmmm.  Eight kids, eight of each.  In that way there won't be as much fighting."
    "Let's see.  Do you think they'd like artichoke chowder?"
    "Oh, yes."
    "How about asparagus soup?"
    I hesitated.  The plumbing had been acting up lately.
    "Better pass on that one, Arch."
    He jotted something on his clapboard and moved on. 
    "No problem."
    "Chicken gumbo?"
    "You bet."
    "Cream of Mushroom?"
    "Why not?"

    And so it went on for a while.  When he finally got to zucchini broth, I sighed in relief. I had never realized there were that many types of soup.  But my time was not wasted. This would save a lot of lugging from the supermarket, and some money too.
    " I can't tell you exactly when this shipment will arrive, Ben.  There may be a strike down South and that could hold up deliveries, but when it comes you'll have to pay me right on the barrel head because you're--"
    "I know, Archie, the same as the Garwood Grocery Store."
    I took another sip of gin.  It was the first conversation I had ever had with Archie in which we had communicated anything, even though it was just a little soup deal.  Archie wrote on his clipboard again and, to my surprise and joy, got up to go.
    "Well, Ben," he gushed.  "It's been a pleasure.  A real pleasure."

      The purchase of the soup had another unexpected dividend: Archie stopped coming over for a while.  I had expected to see him the very next evening with a few cartons of soup in his company van.  But I was well into my second martini without a hint of Archie.  And he was home, too; there were lights on in his house.  And so it went the rest of the week.  The gin never tasted as good.  I was in such a upbeat mood that I agreed to take Bertha and the kids to see her mother the following Sunday.  She was almost as hard to take as Archie, and Bertha insisted on staying late because she hadn't seen her in awhile. But I got by; I took my trusty gin along.
    I guess that's why I didn't hear the alarm the next morning.
   "O.K.," I told Bertha, who was shaking me furiously, "I'll take the late train today."
   "Late ltrain or not, you still have to get up," she said.  "Right now!"
   "Archie is here."
   "What does he want?"
   "He has some soup for you."
   "Can't he come back later?"
   "He says you promised you would help him unload as soon as he delivered it.  You know he has a heart condition."
    I fought my way out of the bed so I wouldn't have to hear again how Archie and Catherine were the only ones on the block who tolerated the kids.  I threw my red and white checked bathrobe over my shorts and went out to see the soup man.
    "Just like I promised, Ben."
    "O.K., Arch, lemme start taking it in."
    He looked at me suspiciously.
    "Remember what I said, Ben."
    "I don't remember well this early in the morning.  What did you say?"
    "I said you are the same as the Garwood Grocery Store."
    "O.K., I'm the same as the Garwood Grocery Store."
    "That means you have to pay me now. In cash."
    "Well, all right.  I'll have to go inside and get my wallet.  How much do I owe you, Arch?"
    He looked at his clipboard.
    "That will be exactly $996.46.  There's no tax on soup."
    "Cash, please."
    "Archie, how the hell do I owe you $996.46 for soup?
    "Remember, Ben, you promised--,"
    The window opened and Bertha called out to me.
    "Ben, may I see you inside for a moment, please?"
    Bertha enjoys a good scream now and then.  It relieves some of her frustration.  I could see she wanted to scream, but couldn't do it with Archie just outside the door.
    "Are you fighting with him?"
    "Don't lie. I heard you."
    "He wants me to give him $996.46 for soup."
    "You've got to give it to him then.  He and Catherine are--"
    "Where am I going to get that kind of money?"
    "Write him a check."
    "I can't just write a check.  I've got to have $996 in the bank first."
    Bertha was silent for a moment.  I knew she was thinking of how to pay Archie, not why soup suddenly cost more than washing machines.
   "Well," she said finally, "you'll just have to take out a loan.  The bank should be open by the time you drive there.  Now don't keep Archie waiting."
    Why I did it, I don't know. Maybe it was the hour, maybe it was Sunday night's gin, maybe it was the force of Bertha's will.  And, of course, Archie's.  At any rate twenty minutes later, still in my checkered bathrobe, I found myself sitting in front of Mr. Quigley's desk.  He's the one in charge of the loans; I had dealt with him before on other loans.  With eight kids, borrowing money is old hat. But I always had the impression that Mr. Quigley never liked approving my loans because he always threw in a few extra questions at me.  You'd think it was his money.
    I had rattled off my numbers--address, phone, area and zip code, social security, army serial number, checking account, credit card numbers, blood type, the number of other debts, safety deposit box number, salary, mortgage number, car registration, the number of kids, the works . . . This was Mr. Quigley's niche in life: to see people squirm as he jotted down all their numbers and then to sit back and ruminate a little over the fiscal feasibility of lending someone like me anything more than fifty bucks.  After the numbers came the questions about my health, the type of work I did, the condition of my house . . . I thought of one question that was about to be asked. I was actually looking forward to it.
    "And what, Mr. Browning, is the purpose of the loan?"
   "To buy soup."
    "To buy soup," he repeated after me and began to jot it down on the bank questionnaire.
    Suddenly he looked at me.
    "Wait a minute," he said.  "You can't have a loan to buy soup."
  "Who says?"
    "Mr. Browning, please."
    I shrugged my shoulders.
    "Now what is the purpose of your loan?"
    "To buy soup."
 He flicked his little pince-nez over his nose and raised his pen at me as Sister Theresa in the fourth grade used to do.
    "Mr. Browning, I have to list the purpose of the loan.  Now you can have it to buy a car, to make repairs on your house, for medical expenses."
    He looked at me with a touch of hauteur in his eye.
    "You can even have it to consolidate your other loans."
    "I know, Mr. Quigley, but I happen to want it to buy soup."
   "Please, Mr. Browning, your voice is carrying."
    "Look, if you want me to lie about it, go tell your bank that I'm using it to research a way to remove unwanted snot without a handkerchief.  It just so happens that the purpose of my loan is to purchase $996.46 worth of SOUP."
    "But why--?"
   "I like soup."
    "This is highly irregular. I think I may have to bring this matter up with Mr. Prescott."
   "Are you saying you don't want to loan me the money?"
   "Yes--I mean, no. I mean, I just can't believe anyone would buy $996 worth of soup."
   I stood up and opened my robe a tad at the top so a few curly tufts of brown hair from my chest stuck out.  Mrs. Vanderbetter from the PTA saw me, but turned around quickly when I glared back at her.
   "Look, Mr. Quigley, would I be here this early in the morning in my bathrobe if I didn't need $996 in a hurry?  Right now as I'm talking, there's a little runt of a salesman in front of my house with his company's van loaded to the brim with soup.  If I don't buy it, my wife and I say goodbye to the only neighbor on the block who still speaks to us because of our loud-mouth kids.  Go ahead, get your Mr. Prescott, I'll take him down to my driveway to meet the soup man if he thinks I'm lying."
   Mrs. Vanderbetter looked my way again.  So did the two ladies behind her on line. Mr. Quigley pulled out his handkerchief to wipe his brow.
    "Oh, all right, Mr. Browning. Loan approved.  I could lose my Christmas bonus for this."

      When I was loading the soup, I realized what had happened.  I had thought I was ordering eight cans of each kind of soup; Archie had brought me eight cases.  And they weren't the ordinary little cans that you see on the shelves of supermarkets.  These were No. 10 cans, as big as the ones they put Dole Pineapple Juice in.  I think Archie tricked me in order to make the Garwood Grocery Store set some sort of company record.
    There was no room for the soup in the pantry, so I had to put most of it in the cellar.  I told Bertha that at least we would know that we always had food in the house.  But after a few days had passed and the kids had knocked off about twenty cans of it, Bertha said that they started to complain they were getting tired of soup.
    "How come they go through 50 bottles of peanut butter every month and never get tired of that?" I asked.
    "Peanut butter is different.  You just do not comprehend the juvenile mind."
    "Yeah, but of all the different kinds of soup Archie sold us, they must have a few favorites."
    "They do--leek and wong-tong soup."
    "Well, use up all those cans up first."
    "I can't."
    "Why not?"
    "I guess you haven't heard of the contest. Why I like Progresso Soups in 100 words or less. The winner gets a bicycle."
    "What's that got to do with wong-tong soup?"
    "To enter the contest you had to tear the label off three Progresso cans and--"
    I closed my eyes and pictured the mayhem in the basement:  Eight kids ripping th6'labels from more than a thousand No. 10 soup cans.  Now we would not only be having Archie's soup at every meal, but we wouldn't know what kind of soup it was until we opened the can.  We would in fact be engaged in Russian Roulette of the soup can.
    "You mean they won't touch the soup unless they know what's inside the can ahead of time?"
    "Well, that's about the size of it.  And that's not the only thing.  It's damp down in the basement and those cans are going to get a little rusty.  The kids would never eat soup out of rusty cans."
 I pictured myself down the cellar every month with a Brillo pad scrubbing the rust off to protect my $996.46 investment.  The longer the soup hung around, the more I was going to have to Brillo it.
    "Look, Bertha, maybe you can slip a little soup into everything they eat--sandwiches, salads, mash potatoes, and pumpkin pies.  They shovel the food in their mouths so fast they never know what they're eating anyway.
    It worked for a while, but after a month the kids refused to eat anything with soup in it.  And we couldn't fool them either because they took turns watching Bertha cook. She even tried sneaking off to the bathroom with the can opener in her brassiere, but one of the kids spotted her through the keyhole.  So we stopped serving soup in our house.

    We tried The Salvation Army and the Red Cross, but they both turned it down because of the missing labels.  Same with the Foreign Missions.  When the nun came down our cellar and saw all the soup stacked up to the ceiling she looked at me suspiciously.
    "I may only be a Sister of the Sacred Heart, but I want you to know that the Catholic Church has no intentions of being a front for a drug ring."
    I think she might have been kidding, but I'm not sure.  She lifted up her veils and got out of our cellar lickety-split.

      That was ten years ago.  I've told my story to so many people over a few gins that it got to the point that I was able to get the pile down a little by giving them a few cans of soup for Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, anniversaries, Secretaries Week . . . Our friends would never dare serve the soup, of course, but they use the cans for bookends, paperweights, trivets--things like that.  Archie's soup has become conversation pieces like pet rocks used to be and chunks of the Berlin Wall are today.
    By the way, Archie's heart is still going strong.  He sold his house a month ago, and new people moved in last week.  I heard that the guy who bought it is a salesman too, but I swore to myself that I would never in a million years ask him what he sells.  And if he tries to collar me when I come home on the 6:22, I will duck him if it means putting a fence ten feet high all around the house.  Even Bertha agrees with me on that . . .

From the upcoming #10

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