There's A Tiger In the Men's Room - By Brian Law 

The pub wasn’t crowded given that it was mid-morning on a Thursday. In fact, the two young men were the only two at the bar and neither knew the other, although they both wore NYU sweatshirts. At some point, one said to the other, “I got out in ‘13. When did you graduate?” And with that, a conversation started and the two got to know each other quickly and soon forgot the football game they had been watching. 

“And after that, I went to work for a publishing company,” the younger man related as they talked, “and then I quit to write a novel. That’s what I’m doing right now. Well, not right now, but when I’m at my apartment. You get the idea, right?” 

The other one laughed and told his story. He, too, had started writing a novel, and when that hadn’t panned-out, he went to work for a publisher, which was where he was working at the moment. 

The irony of their circumstances was not lost on them as they compared notes on how and how not to write a novel. And at one point, the other one asked, “Say, how would you like to play a little bar game? It’s kind of like ‘Liar’s Dice’, but more intellectual. Here, let me explain the rules.” The younger one agreed and for the next ten minutes the rules of this intellectual little bar game were explained to him. 

Finally, the younger one asks, “So, let me get this straight. We both put money in the pot, and then one of us makes a statement. And the other one either has to accept what was said, or else forces the issue. In other words, prove it! Right so far?” 

The other one nodded and added, “The money in the pot then goes to either the guy who made the statement and then proved it or to the other guy who forced the issue and found out that it wasn’t true. Yep, you got it!” But then he added, “But after each round, the amount of money each of us puts in goes up by a factor of 3. So if we start out with putting in one dollar each, the next time it is three dollars, then nine dollars, then twenty seven dollars, yada yada, okay?” The younger one said he understood and said he had enough money for a few rounds. 

“So,” the other one suggests, “Let’s both put in a dollar and I’ll go first.” With that, both threw in a dollar each and the other one says, “Okay, I know what day of the week you were born on.” 

The younger one smiled, focused his gaze on the other one and then said, “Go ahead, prove it.” 

“You were born on a Thursday.” 

The younger one continued to smile as he scooped up the two dollars and announced, “Sorry, wrong day. Now, it’s my turn.” They both threw in three dollars each and the younger one said, “I know four digits of your social security number.” The older one put out hands as if to say Prove it! as the younger one pronounced, “One, three, six, and nine!” 

“Wow, so close!” laughed the older one as he picked-up the pot. 

And so it went, back and forth, with no one really winning big over the other. But at some point, the pot grew to $2,187.00 and there was now quite a crowd around the two young men. This amount of money was significant to both of the men, and it was unclear whether the loser could come up with enough to make the next pot. 

The small crowd was hushed as the other man took his turn, but not without first staring coldly at the younger man. “Okay. Here we go. There’s a tiger in the Men’s Bathroom.” 

The crowd as one let out a gasp! Looking around at each other, they knew instinctively that there must be a trick here, but no one could figure out what the other man’s angle was. It couldn’t possibly be true, but then why would he make such an outlandish proposition? 

Without moving as much as a finger, the younger man quietly asked, “Just let me get this straight. You are saying that there is a real live tiger in the Men’s Room. Not a stuffed tiger, or a picture of a tiger, or a porcelain tiger, but a real, honest-to-goodness tiger, right?” The other man nodded slowly. 

“And I was here when you arrived. And for most of that time, it’s just been the two of us. And I’ve been to the Men’s Room twice during that entire time, and you haven’t gone even once. And you want me to just sit here and accept that statement?” the younger man said, his voice getting louder. “You must be out of your mind.” 

The crowd seemed to agree as the other man just sat there and said nothing. After a moment, he looked at his watch and said, “Well, is there a tiger in the bathroom or not? Your call.” 

The younger man looked at the pot and couldn’t help wondering if there was some sort of con game going on. Is it possible there was a tiger in the bathroom? Or some trick he hadn’t picked-up on? As the crowd urged him to call the pot, the young man hesitated. He finally gulped and stood up and said, “Prove it!” The crowd went wild with excitement as they moved quickly away from the table to allow the other man access to the Men’s Bathroom. But instead, the other man relented and said to the younger man, “Look, she’s gentle. She won’t hurt you. Just go up to the door, open it  just a crack and say ‘Sabra’. That’s her name. She’ll just sit down and let you pet her. Yes, you can actually pet her!” 

The crowd instinctively made a path for the younger man as he turned and walked slowly towards the Men’s Bathroom. His palms were sweating and he was breathing quickly as everyone pressed close to him as he approached the door. Taking one more look back, he could see the older man standing by the table, alone, watching, a strange look on his face. 

Then, turning back to the door, his hand went out and grasped the stainless steel door handle. The crowd had gone hushed as they pressed in on him hoping to get a first glimpse of what was behind the door. 

The younger man put his face close to the door, opened it a crack and whispered in a nervous voice, ‘Sabra’. Hearing nothing, he opened the door a bit more and repeated, ‘Sabra’, this time a bit louder. The crowd, in its eagerness, leaned in too close and accidentally pushed him through the partly opened door into the Men’s Bathroom and onto the floor. And there was no tiger. Others opened the stalls and found nothing. 

Patting the younger one on the shoulders, the crowd noisily led him out to collect his pot and celebrate his victory, only to find an empty table and no other man. 

End

Conjuring - By Brian Law 

Without taking his eyes off the television set, he reached over  and extracted another potato chip from the bag on the side table. He even knew what the next pitch was going to be since he’d watched the ESPN reruns of the fifth game of the 1956 World’s Series four times this week. But he was still mesmerized by the game because it was his first real baseball game with his Dad after he recovered from polio when he was ten years old. And then the screen went blank. 

Still chewing on his chip, he looked around and saw his wife standing behind his chair, the remote in her hand and that sour look of hers on her face. “Stay right there where you are, Mister! I have something I want to show you,” she growled as she put the remote down and picked up something else. 

He froze, trying to figure out just what he had done now as she appeared in front of him holding a large book. Uh-oh, he said to himself not moving an inch, She found it. I’m in trouble now! 

“I decided to do some deep cleaning this morning. I was feeling pretty good since my little stay in the hospital, and I thought I should get this place back into ship shape. And look what I found in the linen closet! In the linen closet, of all places!” she yelled, waiving the book in his face, “Where you didn’t think I’d find it in my weakened condition, right?” 

He clumsily mumbled, “Look, I can explain. It’s. . . . it’s not what it looks like,” knowing full well it was exactly what it looked like. 

She not so gently threw the large old book down on the side table next to his chair, knocking the bag of chips to the floor. “We had an understanding, remember? You told me. . .  no, you promised me you would never look at this damn book again! And what do I find after my little stay in the hospital?  You’ve taken it from its eternal hiding place in the attic and have stored it in the linen closet while I’ve been away! So, husband, just what have you been up to, anyway?” 

He picked up the dusty old tome and quickly glanced at its cover which read, ‘Blackstone’s Big Book of Magical Spells and Incantations, Volume 1, 1885 edition’. Holding the book in his lap and with a beseeching look he asked, “Would you believe me if I told you it was for you?” 

She paused for a moment and reflected back on her recent stay in the hospital. “Wait a minute. You’re saying that you broke your solemn promise never to use that book again while I was in the hospital?” He nodded slowly as she continued, “And just what day did you use it? Get it right ‘cause it’s important!” 

He breathed in deeply, thought back to that day, and slowly answered, “It was last Thursday in the late afternoon. I was desperate, at my wit’s end. They had called and told me they were going to decide whether to intubate you in the next couple of hours. I didn’t know what else to do.” 

He watched as she digested this information and then started to speak, a distant look in her eyes. “I was really sick, the fever, the pneumonia, the whole works. But I was aware of what day it was and what was going on. And it was that Thursday afternoon, late, that my fever broke and I started to rally. The doctor’s said it was a miracle ‘cause they were just about to put me on the ventilator. And we all knew what that probably meant.” 

He gulped as he realized he was probably off the hook for his little transgression as she continued, “And it was all because of you and this damn book, eh? You crawled up into that dusty old attic of ours, you with your bad back and all, and rummaged around until you found where I had hidden it. I bet it took you awhile, right?” He smiled weakly and nodded. “And then you came down here, found just the right little chant and remembered just how to do it after all these years.” He watched as tears welled in her eyes, “And you saved me, you dear little man! Oh, my God!” 

She bent down and kissed him again and again and again, sobbing all the while. For some reason he hoped she had tested negative before she left the hospital as he just sat there motionless clutching the old book in his hands. 

Finally, wiping her eyes, she straightened-up, composed herself and announced, “Well, no matter. What’s done is done. But I want you to get right back up in that attic and return that book to its hiding place, you hear! I’ll find another place to hide it when I’m feeling better, someplace where you won’t find it again. But for now, just do what I say and I’ll forgive you this time.” And with that, she marched off with that old determined look in her face. 

He remained sitting, the television still off, his bag of chips still laying on the floor, realizing that the game was probably over by now. He would do as she had commanded in just a few minutes, but he just sat there grateful that in her rage she hadn’t seen the little ‘post it note’ sticking it’s tiny yellow edge out from somewhere deep in the book. For if she had, and if she had opened the book to that certain page, this morning’s little episode might have ended very differently, for it read: 

“Mother Blackstone’s Simple Chant for the Perfect Pot Roast Every Time!” 

End

What's The Capital of Myanmar - By Brian Law 

The candidate was clearly tired and very frustrated as the debate preparations continued into their third hour. He looked over to his wife who was sitting with his Chief Strategist and complained, “Oh, come on! The other guy doesn’t know any of this malarkey! Why should I have to remember this stuff?” He picked-up the thick ‘Debate Preparation Workbook’ and dropped it on the podium with a THUD! to emphasize his exasperation. 

His wife leaned over and conferred quickly with his advisors. After a moment, she turned to the candidate and honestly replied, “Honey, everyone knows the other guy is an idiot, okay? But he’s bullet proof on that score. It just doesn’t seem to matter to his base.” She paused for a second and then continued, “But he’s getting good at convincing swing voters that you might be ‘slipping’ a bit mentally. So, we’ve got to prove you’re on top of even the smallest detail of governing. We know it’s hard, but let’s just go for another hour or so and then we’ll call it a day, okay?” 

The candidate looked at his watch and then nodded reluctantly and added, “But just one more hour. No more. So, go ahead with the next question?” 

One of his assistants turned the page of the ‘Workbook’, conferred with the others, and then asked, “What is the capital of Myanmar, sir?” 

His answer came in a clear and strong voice, “Naypyitaw”. 

As the candidate stood in front of them, his outstretched arms firmly holding the podium and waiting for the next question, the others said nothing. There was amazement in their faces. This was not some old man struggling with a failing memory, they thought collectively. No, this was the former Vice-President, firmly in command of the facts and ready to rumble! 

Finally his wife, grinning broadly, clapped her hands together and congratulated him. “Oh, Joe, that was marvelous! That’s the kind of reaction we want the American people to see during the debate. A resolute, knowledgeable candidate, in control of the details and confident of his abilities. Keep it up, honey!” Still smiling, she turned to his assistants and conferred again about what the next question should be. 

The candidate smiled as he waited for the next question, his inner voice silently congratulating him. ‘You still got it!’ it was saying. ‘And that cute blonde in the front row who called you 'Honey' seems to be responding well, too. You should find out who she is and what’s she doing afterwards, you old dog.’ 

End

The Sand Dancer - By Brian Law 

From their secluded perch atop the cliff above the beach, they could see him directly below, dancing in the sand, alone. “See, I told you,” he whispered to his girlfriend, “He’s here every Saturday evening, just before it gets real dark. Here, take a look through my binoculars.” 

She adjusted them to her own eyes and watched the man moving below with fascination. As she did, she murmured, “He reminds me of Ted Danson in ‘Body Heat’. Remember? We rented it last month. ” 

“Oh, yeah,” he said, “He danced on the pier during those hot summer nights to catch the cool breezes coming off the Gulf. Smooth, lithe, carefree, and smiling. His character danced to escape his daytime persona.” 

She put down the binoculars and wondered, “That’s your explanation, huh? That’s why this older guy drives all the way down from Portland once a week just to dance alone in the sand in the dark? And you said it only lasts for about ten, fifteen minutes at the most. Weird.” 

“Well, think about it,” he mused. “Just watching this guy makes me sort of want to do the same thing. You know, just let go of everything and dance. Maybe that’s all it takes, just a few minutes of joyous abandon, and then back to the grind. Kind of a battery recharge and all.” 

“You think being with me is a grind? Is that what this is all about? You bring me out here to watch some weirdo dance by himself so you don’t have to come right out and tell me what you really feel about our relationship,” she quipped, taking another look with his binoculars. 

“Shh! Keep your voice down, okay? He’ll hear us,” he whispered in annoyance. 

“Well, maybe he should hear us. Maybe we need someone to explain our situation to you because you obviously are not really happy with the way things are going, are you? Battery recharge, my ass!” she hissed back. 

“Okay, I’m listening to you. I understand what you’re saying , but just keep it down until he leaves, please! We’ll have plenty of time to talk afterwards, but this guy will be dancing for only a few more minutes.” 

“Fine. Recharge. Whatever!” 

As they stopped talking and just watched the dancing man on the sand below, the last light faded. And with that, the man on the beach stopped dancing, brushed himself off, picked up his suit jacket and started walking back towards the parking lot. As they watched and listened, it seemed like he was singing to himself, but it was hard to understand the words with the wind off the ocean and all. 

They both just laid there in their hidden perch, breathing softly, and staring out onto the empty beach and the ocean beyond. Finally, he softly asked her, “Would you like to go down there and dance with me? Just for a few minutes, in the sand. Then we could just sit and talk things out. Interested?” 

She turned to him, nodded, and as they both stood up, she took his hand in hers , squeezed it tightly, leaned against his shoulder and purred,  “We need this.” 

The man in the suit opened his convertible door and sat down in the driver’s seat. As he brushed off his feet and put his socks back on, he thought about his schedule for the upcoming week, “Let’s see, that guy in Canon Beach wants me dancing on the beach tomorrow night, then there’s the guy in Gearhart the night after that. Easy money!” 

End

Words - By Brian Law 

“I must say, Mr. Byron, your resume is impressive,” the owner of Oneminutereads.com said, his eyes gazing out over the document in his hands at the young man seated in front of him. “But despite your admirable literary achievements, I really wonder if you’re right for our little organization. We’re not exactly highbrow, if you know what I mean.” 

Jack Byron smiled and was prepared for this question. It was the 800 pound gorilla in the room and they both knew it. Why would someone who graduated from Columbia with an M.A. in English Lit, who had penned three short novels before he was twenty-seven, and who regularly had his essays published in literary magazines around the country, want to write cheesy short stories for an upstart website? He would have to have a plausible explanation, which he thought he had. 

“Yes, well, let’s start with my novels. They sold a total of just under a thousand copies. Oh, and my father bought seven hundred of them. And as for my essays, I am paid a trivial amount per word and they are probably read by fewer than two thousand people a year. So, I guess what I’m telling you is that I want to reach a broader audience with my talent, and I think your website will precisely do that,” the young writer related. “That’s it in a nutshell.” 

The owner pondered the young man’s comments and then added, “But this is demonstrably opposite of writing a novel or an essay. There’s no time to develop intricate thoughts or to create interesting characters. You have to do everything in an incredibly few words . . . setting, plot, characters, conflict, and themes. None of our ‘reads’ can exceed one thousand words. You understand that don’t you? Won’t your impressive brain get frustrated within those confines?” 

The young writer nodded and answered, “Well, I understand the strictures you present for your writers. My plan is to start by writing a story of, say, three thousand words. Then I’ll start my rewrites, getting it down to two thousand words, then down to fifteen hundred words, and finally all the way down to one thousand words. It can be done and done well. Here, I’ll prove it to you.” 

With that, he handed four separate documents, each carefully labeled, across the desk to the owner with the statement, “I’ve just handed you four versions of the same basic story. One version is about three thousand words, the next two thousand, the third fifteen hundred, and the final story is just under one thousand words. Now, if you would take some time and go through each version, I am confident you will attest to my ability to work through the confines of your requirements without frustrating my impressive brain.” He smiled, put his hands together on his lap, and waited. 

The owner looked at his watch and saw that he just had enough time to read through all the versions and then decide. As he thumbed through each version, the young writer could hear the owner mumbling to himself, sometimes nodding his head, and once even letting out a loud guffaw. Finishing the final version of the story, the owner laid the document down on his desk and looked across to the young writer sitting there with his hands folded together in his lap. 

“Let me tell you something about me and our readership before I tell you what I think of your story, Mr. Byron. First, I’ve never read anything longer than a couple of thousand words in my life until now. Never read a novel nor many magazine articles. I’ll admit it, I got a short attention span. But so do all my readers, too! They’ve never read any novels, either, or anything longer than most comic books. But let me tell you something, young man, they will read this rip-roaring whopper of a story you’ve written! Yes sir! And if this is any indication of what you can produce, you’ve found yourself a home here at Oneminutereads.com, son!” 

Jack sat up a bit straighter and thanked the owner for his vote of confidence in his writing ability. And he added that he looked forward to being a productive member of his stable of writers and to write as many ‘rip-roaring whoppers’ as he could conjure up. Then he asked, “Did you have any questions about the final version of the story, sir?” 

The owner looked at his watch again but was so excited he decided to be late for his next meeting. “Why ,yes, I do have some questions. Now, this ship captain, this Ahab fellow, he’s obsessed about killing this White Whale, right? Now, am I right in thinking that his basic motivation is  . . . . . .” 

End

The Millers Make Minor Adjustments - By Brian Law 

She raced down the stairs, panicked. Almost slipping as she took the corner on the lower landing, she headed for her husband in his den, and finding him, she panted, “It’s . . . Mom . . and Dad!” 

“Mom and Dad what, honey?” he asked, turning around in surprise. “Is somebody in the hospital?” 

“No, no!” she gasped, “They’ll be here in five minutes!” 

“Oh, Jeez,” he exclaimed as he jumped out his chair and brushed past her moving quickly towards the family room. CNN was on the television and he fumbled with the remote until he finally got The Fox News Channel as she desperately went about collecting the sections of this morning’s Washington Post scattered about and replacing them with the Wall Street Journal. 

As she rushed to the living room, he busied himself with replacing the pictures of President Obama with pictures of Presidents Trump and Reagan. In the living room, she changed the channel on the internet radio from Rush Limbaugh to NPR and as the doorbell rang, she hid the copy of June’s New Republic under the sofa cushion and replaced it on the coffee table with the National Review and The Bible. 

Gathering themselves, they stood together at the front door as he opened it and she excitedly said, “Mom, Dad, how wonderful to see you! And on such short notice, too. C’mon in.” 

The afternoon visit went fine. They managed to navigate the political issues her folks brought up without much consternation. The toughest part was trying to remember which colleges she had told them her kids were attending. She always got West Point confused with Annapolis. She felt guilty about those little lies, but if she had told them they were really at Berkeley and Oberlin College, it would have been too much for the old couple to take. 

After the parents left, they sat down on the sofa, sighed, looked at each other and laughed. “Five minutes, our new record,” she joked. Just then his phone vibrated with a new text. “It’s my boss!” he yelled. “He’s on his way with his new girlfriend for a short visit. We don’t have much time!” 

He retreated to the den to rehang President Obama’s picture and to hide the other ones while she went to the closet to retrieve copies of Ebony magazine which she put on the coffee table after removing the National Review and the Bible. As she got out the faux African masks to put up on the wall, her husband changed the channel on the television to Netflix and brought up BlackAF. Then, he raced to change the internet radio to the Barry White channel just as the doorbell rang. 

“Well, hi, you guys,” he said as they met his boss and his new girlfriend at the door. “C’mon in. I know what you like, DeMarcus, but what will your lady be drinking?” 

As his wife fixed the drinks, the three of them settled in on the sofa. DeMarcus introduced his girlfriend, Janelle, who was a recent graduate of Morehouse College. “Say, doesn’t one of your kids go to Morehouse?” Demarcus asked. “Oh, no, our boy goes to Dillard College and our daughter is going to Claflin University,” he replied proudly. 

And for the next thirty minutes or so, the four of them had a great time and Janelle was particularly enchanting and knew quite a bit about African masks and Barry White. They planned to get together again real soon and hugged at the front door. 

Collapsing on the sofa again, they said nothing for a few moments. Finally, chuckling to himself, he patted her on the knee and congratulated her on putting out the African masks. “Sheer genius,” he quipped as she smiled and just said, “Barry White, not bad either, cutie!” 

As they slowly put the house back together to its original condition, they heard a quiet knocking on the front door. He tiptoed to the door and peeked out through the peep hole as she waited cautiously about ten feet away. She mouthed ‘Who Is It?’ He mouthed back ‘The Gay Couple Next Door!’ She nodded and moved next to him as he opened the door. 

“Hi, we just moved in next door. I’m Randy and this is Charles. We just thought we’d introduce ourselves and maybe plan to get together soon with you to get to know each other better,” the thin one said. 

Without any hesitation, he answered, “Great idea! How about this Saturday afternoon, here at our place, say about fourish? Just informal snacks and wine. We’d love to get to know you guys better, wouldn’t we, honey?” She quickly nodded and introduced themselves as the Millers, Bill, and Joanie. And soon the door was closed and they were alone again. 

“Any ideas?” he wondered. She just shrugged, crossed her arms and replied, “Nope. This one’s going to take a little research. But we don’t have much time, so let’s divide the workload. You checkout Etsy and I’ll go see what I can borrow from Billy’s old music teacher in high school, you know, that Mr. Whatshisname, the bachelor! But the kids will be easy. We’ll just say we don’t have any, okay?” 

End

The Egg Lady - By Brian Law 

As he turned the last corner before the end of his morning walk, a nondescript white van pulled-up alongside him and the young woman driving it yelled out, “Hey, I’m the Egg Lady. You need some?” 

He stopped, looked over at her and through his mask asked, “You take credit cards?” 

“Sure do,” she said as she pulled the van to the curb, shut off the engine, got out and went to the rear doors. “Okay, how many dozen you want?” she asked. 

“Uh, I’ll take two dozen of the large, please,” he responded, and as she opened the door to the refrigerated compartment, he wondered, “So, you’ve been doing this since the Pandemic started, huh?” 

She was about half inside the rear compartment and he could just hear her say, “Yeah, and business is booming, too! Had to add a bunch of hens. I’m driving around all day while my husband tends to our roadside stall out on Chalk Lane.” She crawled back onto the pavement with the order and asked, “Anything else before I ring you up?” 

He was a bit confused as he asked, “You mean you got stuff other than just eggs in there? Like what?” 

As she closed and locked the rear doors, she looked around as she moved closer to him. “Yeah, well we’ve diversified a bit to meet the emerging needs of a locked-down society, if you know what I mean?” 

“You got any red meat?” he asked hopefully. 

“Yep, and some pork, too.” 

“Liquor?” 

“Three brands of beer, some rum and a few bottles of red wine. That’s about it for the booze? 

“Uh,” he paused for a moment, and then asked, “Anything to spice up the life in the bedroom, if you know what I mean?” 

“Oh, sure. Sex toys, porn videos, lubes, poppers, cosplay stuff, things like that.” She asked him to think about what she’d just told him but to also consider some other stuff that she just got in yesterday. “Look, the political situation is getting dicey, right? So, I got some ‘Black Lives Matter’ lawn signs, or, depending upon the situation, I just got in some confederate flags and some ‘Support Your Local Police’‘ signs. Oh, and some Oxy and some killer weed!” 

“Whew, that’s a lot to think about! But what I really need is a . . . “ he said, making a gesture with his right hand. 

“Ah, well, I got a used 9mm somewhere in here. I can get the ammo for it to you tomorrow. You ready to order?” 

He told her what he wanted, but asked a key question, “How will all this show up on my credit card statement?” 

“Okay, the weapons, the signs and the drugs will show up as ‘Merchandise’. Let’s see, the sex toys and lubes show up as ‘Miscellaneous’, I think, and the booze, meat, and eggs show up as ‘Produce’,” she confidently answered. 

“Great,” he exclaimed. “Now, follow me to my house and I’ll take delivery, okay? But, what about next time? You got new stuff coming in that maybe I’ll want?” 

“Yeah, I got some bootleg copies of “Cops” and “Live PD” coming in. These are episodes that were going to be aired but got cancelled. Oh, and some phony mail-in Republican ballots for the Fall election. I can get you a hundred by Friday. Guaranteed to pass the closest inspection!” 

“How about two hundred ballots plus the CDs?” he asked, a twinkle in his eye. "I got a big bet on the Fall election with a real jerk of a Democrat down the street." 

End

Tagalongs - By Brian Law 

“Maggie, please sit down. I have something I need to tell you, so prepare yourself for bad news,” her Boss declared as Maggie knocked on her door. 

She sat down slowly going over in her mind just what all this might be about. Was it her hard-charging attitude? Her results-at-any-cost methods? Her inability to compromise on quality no matter what? Whatever, it must be important for Wanda to have called her on the carpet. “Okay, Wanda, give it to me straight. I’m a big girl,” she announced with a grim look on her face. 

“We’re letting you go, Maggie. I’ve laid it all out in your dismissal letter and it’s been cleared all the way to the top. As of right now, you’re done here, so I guess you better get your stuff packed-up,” Wanda said, her face taut with tension. “And the others have been notified and have been ordered to stay clear of you until you leave. Here’s the letter. You can stay in my office and read it if you prefer. I’m leaving, however. I have another meeting.” 

With that, Wanda brushed past her as she left her office and headed down the hall. Shaking, Maggie slowly composed herself and began to read her dismissal letter. It was seven typed pages of her ‘offenses’ against her subordinates in chronological order. Phrases like ‘inappropriate microaggressions’, ‘racial insensitivity’, ‘patterns of offensive language’, ‘toxic personality disorder’, and many others that literally jumped out of the letter. She barely took a breath as she read the letter a second time. Finally, letting the letter drop to the floor, she started sobbing, knowing that her future was now not quite as bright as when she awoke this morning. 

Composing herself again, she leaned down, retrieved the letter from the floor, folded it neatly and placed it in the bag along with the products she had planned to sell that afternoon. As she wiped the last tear from her eye, she stood up straight and proud, adjusted the bag’s strap on her shoulder, took the unsold products out of the bag and placed them on Wanda’s desk. She moved the chair back to its original position, turned off the office light, and walked into the hallway. 

She was feeling better now as she strode towards Wanda’s front door, her back straight and her head held high, looking neither right nor left. ‘It’ll be a long frickin’ time ‘til they find another Girl Scout Cookie salesgirl as good as Maggie Jensen!’  she said to herself defiantly, ‘A long frickin’ time!’ 

End

Ring of Class - By Brian Law 

He was lying on his stomach, fast asleep with a pillow over his head when she shook him gently and whispered,  “Honey, wake up. I’ve got a surprise.” 

Opening one eye, he peeked at the alarm clock. ‘Jeez,’ he thought, ‘Six o’clock on Sunday morning! Please go away and let me sleep.’ But she kept shaking him until he removed the pillow from his head and clumsily sat up, his morning hair falling over his eyes. “What’s up?” he muttered. 

“Well, I’ve got something in my hand behind my back. Are you ready to see it?” she announced gleefully. 

He sat up a bit straighter as his vision cleared and he grumpily replied, “Yeah, I’m ready to see what’s so important that you had to wake me up on my day off.” 

Smiling, she brought her right hand from behind her back and showed him what she was holding. “Oh, God, you found it! My class ring!” He was wide awake now and excited. “Where in the hell was it, anyway? I lost this, what, twenty-five years ago, right?” 

She reached out and put the ring on one of his fingers and they both looked at it for a moment. As he continued to gaze at his lost treasure, she got up and explained what had happened. “Well, I was scooping the poop from the cat box downstairs, and there it was, right in the scoop along with the rest of kitty’s little deposits!” 

He looked at her with a slight frown and quickly asked, “You cleaned it, right?” 

“Of course I did,” she laughed. “But, Jim, after all these years, how did it get there? I mean, the litter box? It doesn’t make any sense, does it?” 

He didn’t have a good answer for her. Instead, he thought back to those days when the ring had gone missing from the house. They called in the police who did an investigation and then made an arrest. A kid from the inner city had been picked-up in the neighborhood the night they lost it. Wrong place, wrong time for him, and even though he professed his innocence, he was tagged with the theft of the ring and several other items from the neighborhood and convicted and sent to prison. The ring was never found, they never expected to see it again, and so they lost interest. Now this happened and it raised serious questions and doubts. 

Finally, he focused on the problem. “Okay, we did a complete check of the house back then. Nothing turned up, and there were no signs of a break-in. And we didn’t get a cat until a few years ago. And we’ve repainted that room several times, and each time we removed everything in it. That ring was not in that room all this time! No way!” he explained. “Unless  . . . . .?” he said, trailing off a bit. 

“Unless what?” she wondered. Then she blurted out, “Unless some rodent stole the ring, hid it behind a wall somewhere and kitty found it and dragged it out! Is that what you’re thinking?” 

He shook his head. “No, that’s not it.” He waited for a moment and then continued coldly, “You didn’t find the ring in the cat box, did you? Tell me the truth. I know it, anyway.” 

She visibly gulped but said nothing. He went on, ”You’ve had it all along, haven’t you? It was you that kid was visiting the night he was arrested near here, right? And you had to come up with some reason he was in the neighborhood, some reason other than the real one, some reason that would keep him quiet for a very long time.” 

She put her head in her hands and sobbed as he got up and paced slowly around the bedroom. “So, did the guy die in prison recently or something like that? Is that what’s bringing this out now?” She nodded as she sobbed. 

Still sniveling, she looked up at him and asked, "Have you known all along?" 

A cruel smile crept across his mouth as he said, “It crossed my mind. Now can I go back to bed now and sleep in a bit?” 

End

Reading the Room - By Brian Law 

“Grandpa, you were on Iwo Jima, weren’t you?” his grandson asked, moving closer to his grandparent who was seated in his favorite chair wearing his pajamas and a bathrobe. 

The old man nodded and continued reading his newspaper. He’d said nothing about those experiences for decades and he wasn’t going to start now. The only remnants of his days in the Marine Corps were in the attic, in a locked cedar chest, and in his memory. And that’s where they were going to stay. 

The boy sat at his grandpa’s knee, hummed to himself, and watched the television. The volume was down low which was the way the old man liked it. His eyesight was going, but his hearing was still acute. Just then, the boy spoke up, “There it is again, grandpa. Iwo Jima! See, it’s on television!” 

He lowered his newspaper and watched the screen for the first time in about twenty minutes. The boy was right! The news feed showed a mob surrounding the Iwo Jima Memorial, throwing paint and eggs on the statue, and trying to pull it down with ropes. And there didn’t appear to be anyone attempting to stop them! 

He grabbed the remote, turned-up the volume and leaned forward, his attention focused on the ropes and the apparent madness of the rioters. His grandson watched, too, and said something like, “Oh, wow, grandpa. Did you just see what that guy did?” 

He watched for a few more seconds, then he took the remote and turned off the television. The boy stayed by his knee as the old man sat back with a deep sigh and closed his eyes. Old images flooded his mind again, images he’d repressed, images he never wanted to see or feel ever again. He could feel his heart beating faster and his eyes were tearing-up. And then he started to sob, a little at first, then uncontrollably, his tears falling on the newspaper in his lap and making the newsprint smear. 

The boy looked up and watched as the old man cried, his chest heaving and odd blubbering sounds coming from his mouth. “Can I get you something, grandpa?” he asked, not really understanding what was happening. 

The old man recovered a bit, wiped his nose with his sleeve and dried his eyes with a handkerchief he kept in his pajama pocket. He picked-up the newspaper, found the story he was reading when he was interrupted, and then looking at the boy, replied, “No, I’m okay now. Do you want to watch some more television?” 

“Yeah. Can I watch some cartoons, grandpa?” 

“You bet,” the old man said, grabbing the remote. “What channel are they on?” As he manipulated the remote, he added, "I've something in the attic to show you later. Sound good to you?" 

"Sure, grandpa," the boy said, smiling, happy that his grandpa wasn't sad anymore. 

End

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