Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Possession Of Joshua Banks

This post is a work in progress. I'm challenging myself to add to it daily (well, almost) until the story is finished. As some of you may realize, I am a frequent visitor to Gale Martin's blog Gem-osophy and frequently leave quirky comments on her posts. Gale challenged me to expand on my 'imaginative' comments and develop a story. So what is the president of Gale Martin's Novel Writing Cheering Squad supposed to do but accept the challenge. I hope you enjoy it, and return as I build on the story.

The Possession of Joshua Banks
By Frank Sirianni

Chapter One

On the first day of school, the first question in students' minds is, "Who are you?" Their second question is, "Who are they?"---Unknown

"Good luck with your first classes," belted out Mr. Lundquist over the loud buzzing that marked the end of Homeroom. No Sister Margaret Mary standing in the playground swinging her bronze desk bell collecting students after recess. No bell, just a Jeopardy wrong answer buzzer, but four times louder and longer, telling everyone to buck up you're in Junior High now. "You have five minutes to get to and settle in your first period classes or you will be given a late slip. Three late slips in a week and it's detention."

No one heard.

Chairs dragging over the floor, back packs zipping and unzipping, students laughing and re-acquainting with each other that attended previous schools together drowned out Mr. Lundquist's warning. Eighty students spilled into a hallway that fifteen other Homerooms of eighty students were now flooding. "Fifteen broken bags of coffee beans bursting," Joshua thought making sense of the controlled mayhem to ease his nervousness.

"What about coffee?" quizzed a grinning student walking right beside, but unnoticed by Joshua.

A freckled face reddened even more as embarrassment over-took nerves for Joshua realized he said half of his thoughts aloud as he often does when stressed. "Um...Nothing, just thinking," stumbled Joshua as blush became burgundy for now he was on the spot to say something. "I'm going to Art 101."

"Room 211-B?"


"We're in the same Class. Name's Tommy Taylor, what's yours?"

"Joshua Banks."

"I'll just call you J, 'kay?"

Joshua looked over at Tommy about to object at his branding, but burgundy-blush made room for crimson as he noticed a small surgical scar from a cleft palate making his upper lip appear to tear under elastic forces of Tommy's wide grin. "No, that's fine," Tom said swallowing back his objection to his new nickname. Joshua squeezed out a smile hoping to ease the moment. "If I can call you T, that is?"

"I'm cool with that. Fair's fair."

Room 211-B was large, but not large enough to hold the sardine packed students occupying the room. Joshua and Tommy looked at each other silently confirming that there had to be some mistake. There could not be this many students in one class. As they walked further into the class, they were directed to the middle where there was a large bowl on one of the art tables with a note stating 'Art 101 Students, Please take ONE, and ONLY ONE paper.' Three teachers were at the front of the class. One was giving instructions. She informed all students that there was a scheduling error for Art 101 resulting in a class size three times that of normal. Introducing herself as the Miss Manning, the Art teacher, she introduced Mrs. Sernicky, the Dance teacher to her left, and Mr. Dellview, the Typing teacher to her right. She told the students that on the pieces of paper in the bowl is a number from one to three. Students with a paper with a one will take art, two will take dance, and three will take typing, but no matter what class they end up in, if they pass, they will receive credits for art because it was their chosen elective.

Mannequin still, Joshua gaped at the paper in his hand as if the single hieroglyph scribed on it needed its own Rosetta Stone to reveal Pharaoh's secret. Tommy tried to get Joshua's attention but couldn't break the Wal*mart-shopper-till-slip-savings spell that had Joshua frozen in place. Tommy thought of saying 'It's real,' but opted to give Josh a real hard twisty pinch on his upper arm instead. "Ooooouch," Joshua complained. "What was that for?"

"I was asking what class you ended up in, but you just stood there looking like my ventriloquist dummy."

"You're what?"

"My Dummy. Father Anthony gave me a dummy over a year ago to help me with my speech therapy for my lisp. What class did you get?"

"Typing. I don't know if I want to take typing."

"Just a sec," Tommy said and squirmed and elbowed his way through the barrier of student bodies. After a few moments Tommy returned to Joshua's side. "There's no way in hell I was going to get stuck in dance, so I traded numbers with someone."

"Traded to what?"

"Typing. Everyone knows that all the cute girls take typing to become secretaries."


"No, it's true. You should see all the gorgeous girls in the secretarial pool at my Dad's Office Building. Why do they call it a pool if no girl is wearing a bikini?" Tommy snorted out a belly laugh at his own joke. "Besides, you looked like you could use a friend in class."

Joshua smiled but didn't respond. His smile said everything Tommy needed to know.

Mr. Dellview was the first instructor to gather all his students together to take them to his typing lab. Their new class assignment was Lab 3-c which was located on the other side of the school by the gymnasium. Mr. Dellview was explaining that this typing lab was set up as an emergency measure to handle the overflow from art class. "We had to pull some old Underwoods out of storage because the real typing labs are in use and have full classes," he explained as they turned the corner from the main hallway down toward the gym. For Joshua, Mr. Dellview may as well have been chanting 'Dead men walking' as he led students, en masse, to the gas chamber. Joshua tried to distract himself with different thoughts, "What was that song I liked this summer." All efforts to recall the tune, its name, or even its performing artist avoided Joshua. Just the drumming sound of many footfalls pounding like Zimbutu war drums kept Joshua focused on perceived doom.

Mr. Dellview reached for the levered handle of the double doors to Lab 3-C, an echoing slow motion click-click as that of a sawed-off shot gun readied for firing stopped Joshua in mid step. Students filed into the lab laughing and talking teenage chatter. All except Joshua, standing deer in headlight still, his feet were unwilling to move to make his way into the class. He knew this ominous feeling had no basis, but, try as he might, he could not shake it. It was a cold feeling. Not the crisp, playful wintry cold of a fresh snowfall, but cadaver cold. Dead, rotten, maggot-eaten, smelly corpse cold. If there ever was such a feeling, Joshua had it and couldn't shake it. "It's okay," said Mr. Dellview in the most calming tone his teaching skills could muster for he noticed Joshua's hesitance. "The typewriters don't bite, but, as you learn, the documents you'll be able to type could. If the pen is mightier than the sword, then the typewriter is the machine gun equivalent. Think of the power you could gain learning this skill."

Joshua nodded at his instructor, but his words were just a buzz in Joshua's ear though he thought he understood Mr. Dellview's meaning. Joshua smiled and added "That's why there's no one wearing bikini's in a secretary's pool." Realizing he screwed up Tommy's pun, and noticing Mr. Dellview's expression change from a warm smile to plain puzzlement, Joshua's shit-flung-through-a-screen-door freckled face reddened again. Embarrassment pushed cadaver-cold aside momentarily, and Joshua bolted into the Lab almost yelling, "Tommy, did you save me a seat?"

Tommy waved Joshua over and he sat down at the make-shift typing desk beside Tommy. The desks were simple eight foot folding tables with three typewriter stations for each table. Eighteen desks were in double rows down the length of the class. The lab had a counter and sinks down one side, and sliding black-boards down the other giving the lab the appearance that it may have been a science lab at one time. be continued....

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Little Tommy Taylor

Little Tommy Taylor

very day I would attend the church gardens. Not because I had to, I just find there’s a serenity, a peace, in nurturing young plants from seed to flower. I’ve always had a green thumb, and plants willingly respond to my attention. I find that this helps me clear my mind and focus my thoughts. If I’m having any difficulty composing my sermon, a little time in the garden, inspiration would come and I would be able to complete my task.

onfession can be good for the soul they say, but sometimes, confession can be quite disturbing for the mind when listened on a weekly basis. One beautiful early spring day after hearing a very gruelling confession, I was completely distracted and upset by it. “Have Faith, you’re doing God’s work,” I kept thinking to myself with little to no comfort coming from those words for the confession just spoke louder. I kept tending the garden barely noticing the blooming plants, for even their young beauty could not clear my mind. I tried to focus only on my upcoming sermon, but it wasn’t coming to light. I had the topic and appropriate passages selected, but there was no balance. It still needed something, but the confession just kept ringing in my ears.

hen I came out to tend the garden, I had noticed a young boy sitting quietly on the swing set in the play ground across from the parish. He had been there the entire time I was in the garden. He was not swinging, he just sat alone. Most of the children had gone home now, but the boy just sat still on the swing. Curiosity, or concern, or a need for distraction from that confession, took over me, and I decided to go talk to the boy. As I crossed the street and approached closer, it became quite clear that the boy had been sobbing the entire time he was in the park. I sat on the swing beside him. “Can I be of help, my Son,” I asked. I did recognize him as one of my parishioners, but I could not recall his name.

The boy wiped his face with his shirt sleeve to hide his tears, and sniffled a “No Father, I’m fine.”

“Are you sure, you don’t look fine to me,” and before he could respond I added, “I’m sure your parents must be getting worried. It is getting late.”

“No Father, really I’m fine. I was going to go home in a few minutes.”

“I understand. You just didn’t want your parents to see you upset. Was there trouble at school today?”

here was an uncomfortable silence, but I could see the tears start to swell up again. Finally he turned to look up with his bright but swollen blue eyes and asked. “Father, are there really miracles?”

asked him why he would ask such a question, and he told me about a few of his classmates bullying him at school since the beginning of the school year. He told me that he had a ’bend in his spine’ which made it hard to play sports during gym class, or games at recess. He told me that the boys were really mean today pushing and shoving him, and calling him ’pansy’, ’gimp’, and ’Peter wiener’, because they lost the soccer game because he could not run fast enough. He then asked that if God could make big miracles like in the Bible, why can’t God do small ones for people like fixing his bent spine. I asked him to take a walk with me.

“Where are we going?”

“Not far, Peter. Do you see the big oak tree at the other end of the park?”

“Yes Father.”

“That’s where we are going, I want to show you something there.”

“What is it?”

“You’ll see when we get there, and then I’ll walk you home because your parents will really be worried about you. Do you know what a cleft palate is?”

“No Father, I don’t”

explained to him what a cleft palate was, and then told him of a little boy named Tommy Taylor who was born with a cleft palate as we started to walk towards the oak tree. “You see Peter, when Tommy started to talk, he had a very bad lisp so he had to start seeing special teachers even before he started to go to school to help him talk clearer. He practised and practised all the time to try and talk better. The special teachers helped him to learn to read, so he could have something to practice saying out loud. He had lots of beginning books that the teachers would lend him, and he would read them to his mom and dad, and also read them as bedtime stories to his little brother. And on days that they would play in the park, Tommy would read aloud to his little brother under the shade of the tree we’re going to. After time, Tommy’s talking did improve but not by much, so when he started to go to school things changed for Tommy.”

“Did he get bullied too,” asked Peter.

“Yes he did. At first the children just laughed and giggled at him because of his lisp, but very quickly the children became meaner. Tommy became scared to talk to anyone in school, and would say as little as possible to avoid getting teased. It got so bad that he even stopped calling people and teachers by their names and would only use their initials. He thought it would be better so he wouldn’t make their names sound funny. But it didn’t work. One day at school, the kids were very mean to him, and at recess they all gathered around him and started singing, ’Here comes Tommy Awl Pa Bet, He can’t say your name I bet, A or B, C or D, He probably even drinks his Pee’. The kids sang this over and over, and some got right up to him yelling at him ‘Say my name Awl Pa Bet,’ until Tommy started to cry and tried to run away from them. They started to push and shove him, and punch at him. One of the bigger boys tried to grab Tommy, but he snapped himself free of his grip and ran away as fast as he could.”

“What happened to him?” Peter asked eagerly wanting to know.

“Well, he ran away from the school into this park and sat under that old oak tree and cried for hours. After a while, Father Anthony was waking through the park and noticed him and asked what was wrong. Father Anthony knew Tommy quite well, and he knew all about Tommy’s lisp. Tommy told ‘Fodder A.,’ what had happened to him at school, and Father Anthony asked him to come to the church because he had a surprise for him that he thought would make him feel better. When they entered the church, Father Anthony dabbed his hand in the font of Holy Water and blessed himself silently. At the same time, Tommy also reached in and blessed himself and said ’Hello J.’ out loud. Father Anthony looked down at Tommy and smiled and said ‘Jesus welcomes you too, Tommy.’ Tommy blushed a little, but followed Father Anthony to the back of the church into Father Anthony’s office in the Rectory. When they entered the office, Tommy became very excited because of what he seen there.”

“What was in there?”

“When Father Anthony was younger, he learned ventriloquism. Do you know what that means Peter.”

“No, I don’t”

“It means that Father Anthony could throw his voice, so inside his office were all kinds of puppets. Every kind you could think of. He had string marionettes, rod puppets, small paddle puppets, and funny hand and sock puppets, and he even had one special favourite puppet.”

“What kind of puppet was it?” asked Peter excitedly clasping on every word I said.

“He had a ventriloquist dummy. The kind that you may have seen on television. Father
Anthony saw how excited Tommy was and told him to sit down. He put the dummy on Tommy’s lap and showed him how to make the eyes work, and the head turn, and mouth to move up and down.ommy laughed at the dummy because Tommy was clumsy with it, and he thought it looked funny as he tried to make it come to life. Father Anthony asked Tommy if he liked the dummy and Tommy said he did very much like it. Father Anthony told Tommy that if he came after school three times a week he would teach Tommy how to become a ventriloquist. Tommy said he would love to learn how to do it. Tommy came to the church to meet Father Anthony every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tommy was always excited about going to see him. He would enter the church and always blessed himself and say ‘Hello J.’ each time he came to visit. Tommy quickly learned how to use the dummy and throw his voice, and after a while Tommy’s lisp became better and his talking was clearer. Tommy met Father Anthony three times a week for almost two years.
ne day, Father Anthony said he had another surprise for Tommy and he told him that the dummy now belonged to Tommy to keep. But Father Anthony also told him that he would no longer be able to teach him any more because he would be moving to another church to become a Bishop. Tommy loved the dummy, but he also loved to come see Father Anthony for his lessons. Father Anthony said that Tommy better keep practising, because he would be back often to the church and would love to see Tommy do a whole routine with the dummy because Father Anthony thought Tommy was becoming good enough to start doing small stage shows for church functions and such. Tommy loved the idea and promised Father Anthony that he would practice every day and take real good care of the dummy. And practise he did. Tommy would take his younger brother to that old oak tree and put on small shows for him. His brother laughed at every practise show. People in the park became very curious about always seeing Tommy and his dummy by the old tree, especially on Saturdays and Sundays after church. They would gather around and watch Tommy‘s performance. It became the talk of the church how good Tommy was, and even some of Tommy‘s teachers took notice of Tommy‘s improved speech, and many had seen Tommy perform in the park. Even the school Principal heard about Tommy’s ventriloquism and asked Tommy to come to his office one day. What do you think the Principal wanted Peter?”

“I don’t know Father. Was he in trouble?” asked Peter.

“No, Peter. He wasn’t in trouble at all. The Principal asked Tommy if he would perform his ventriloquism for an Easter Celebration in the school auditorium. Tommy was nervous, and very excited about it and agreed to do a show. So Tommy practised, and practised for two whole weeks until he had his routine down pat. Tommy was ready for the Easter Celebration. He wrote an entire show and called his act 'Heir Lisp and Little T'. Heir Lisp is what he named his dummy. When he finally got on stage, everyone was amazed at Tommy’s act because Tommy made the dummy talk really clear, and in a German accent, but when Tommy talked he made his lisp even worse than it was before. People loved the show and he got a standing ovation when it was over, even from the kids that still bullied him. Tommy became quite famous in school and did many shows, even into high school, and also did many charity shows for the church. Bishop Anthony had seen many of his shows and was really proud of Tommy. Nobody bullied Tommy any more because now he was famous and everybody wanted to be his friend and be around him.”

“Is Tommy still famous and doing his shows.”

“No Peter, Tommy’s not doing any more shows. When he was a senior in high school, Tommy got into a bad car accident.”

“What happened, was he okay? asked Peter with concern in his voice.

“No Peter, Tommy was not okay. He passed away that night in the hospital because his injuries were so bad.”

“Father, why would you tell me such a sad story? What has it got to do with miracles?” asked Peter who was again swelling up with tears.

“That’s why I brought you to this old oak tree Peter, because a small and important miracle happened here.”

“What miracle Father?”

“A miracle of love Peter.”

“Of love? I don’t understand?”

“Remember me saying that every time Tommy went to the church, Tommy would bless himself and say 'Hello J.', when he entered."

“Yes Father, I do.”

“Look up on the tree near the first big branch, do you see that carving in the tree?”

Peter ran up the tree and saw a carving that was a heart, and inside the heart said 'Hello Tommy', 'Love', and just the initial 'J'. “I see it,” said Peter, “But how do you know it is for that Tommy?”

“You see Peter,” I said trying to hold my tears back. “I am Tommy’s little brother. On the day of Tommy’s funeral, I ran away after the funeral to this tree that Tommy used to practise his act to me. I was very upset and cried for hours because I missed Tommy so much. I prayed that Tommy would come back, but then I noticed that on the tree a carving was forming all by itself. And the carving continued to grow on the tree and form clearer until I could read it. When Jesus finished His carving, I finally understood that all his life Tommy was meant for Heaven. That is the day I decided to become a Priest.”

Dedicated to Dona Nobis Pacem--Grant Us Peace
And for Peace to happen may we all recognize the "Little Miracles of Love"

Stand-Up's a Killer

Yet again, I'm late as usual for Gale Martin's Friday Flash Fiction. But better late than never. I think that Gale (Gem) has a great idea with this Friday Flash Fiction, just wish it was called Monday Manic Manifest then I might be able to get it in on time. Who invented working for a living anyway? It gets in the way of playing with my blog-friends!

This weeks word that must be used in the story was 'Original'. But seeing that not only am I late, I might as well break the rules and be 'original' too. Yes, I used the word, just differently, and it allowed me to play with some potty humor. After all, my imood today is cheeky!

Stand-Up's a Killer

Only you would come up with a line like that” Sabrina said as she looked at Robbie practicing his stand-up routine.

Really, why?” Robbie asked sternly being little put out by her comment. “It’s not just telling jokes you know, people tell jokes, but for comedians it's about stories, timing, misdirecting the audience, and yes, sometimes a little shock value.”

Isn’t it more about being funny? That last bit sure wasn’t”

God Sabrina, what’s wrong with it? ‘Just what I expected dual exhausts,’ isn’t even a vulgar line. You’re usually my best critic, but you’re making it sound like I’m telling Little Johnny Jokes , or worse.”

I’m just saying that the last bit is just toilet trash. Maybe you should put it in a Little Johnny Joke just so people would excuse it for being so incorrect. You will have to include Little Suzy, too, for that line to work. You could piss off the males in the audience as well though. Oh, I forgot, men always find toilet humour funny, especially fart jokes.”

Now come on. Saying that Little Johnny and Little Suzy were sitting in a sandbox playing with their toys, and suddenly Johnny farts and a little poof of sand plumes up behind him. And yada yada yada , Little Suzy lets one go and blows them both out of the sandbox and leaves Little Suzy unconscious just isn’t stand up material.”

And don’t forget that Little Johnny has to get up and look under her dress, or your line looses all of it’s toilet trash glory.”

Little Johnny and Little Suzy eh, mm-m-might be workable. I'll call them Little Franky and Little Lola though, just to be different.”

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dark Destiny

Just got the word. My first attempt at Friday Flash Fiction tied for first!! Yeah us! Yeah Jo Pressimone for her entry "Have Another Cookie" which tied with my entry. Yeah Gem for starting Friday Flash! You can read all of the entries for Friday Flash at I really am excited about this. Until I started this blog, I've really never written anything other than dry work reports, let alone writing any fiction. Wow, I'm just...WOW! So now I get to post it finally, I've had it sitting in draft since submitting it to Gale, and waited nervously for the results to come in. Gale, I think I've caught the writing bug! Another use for a pencil---who'd a thunk.
(I actually do write freehand first, me tpynig stniks. Writing freehand allows me to write at work when I'm not too busy. I use blank termination forms, that way staff leaves me alone too! :-) )

Hope you enjoy:

Dark Destiny

I was a teacher, Chiron, the wisest of the Centaurs. I taught the Gods. I taught Achilles, Jason, and Heracles. And I taught Man. My father, a Titan. My Mother, a Nymph. I was different than the rest. I was immortal. I had the power to heal, and had the power to see. I gave my existence to free Prometheus.

I had my place in the heavens. How I miss Mt Pelion. How I miss Thessaly. How I miss.

For it's darkness now. That is my existence. I no longer light up the heavens. Brought out of my blackened pit only to toil. A new master, for I am the new puppet. Where's the Titans now. Where are the Gods? Do you suffer the new task master as I? Or do you hide in the heavens. When I'm brought out of the pit to work, I feel your connection, I feel your power course through my being. Oh Zeus why do you let us suffer so? Is your lightening only to ease my work? Is that all the power you have left? For I cannot heal myself to ease my pain. I cannot see in the darkness for what is to come. Or are you puppets as well as I, just sharing your strength so we will all endure the darkness and the toil.

Why did I teach Man? I am a seer. I knew they would learn and find their potential. I knew they would outgrow us, no longer have faith and believe in us. But I didn't know that once they’d outgrow us, we would change. I could only see that in which believes in us, all else is darkness. A darkness misunderstood. A darkness that was our destiny. A darkness that was us.

"Okay boys, move your feet, I'm trying to vacuum here."
"Okay mom," said one of the boys as they both got off the couch.
"You too, honey. Move it or you can vacuum the rest."
"No, I'll go do something else. I don't like that vacuum."
"What, my Centaur! It's still got a few good years left in it."
"Maybe! When your done, I'll put it back in the closet."

Chester and Finnigan: A Friendly Haunting

Chester and Finnigan
A Friendly Haunting

It was my first bar shift. I had been working for the hotel for about eight months already, but I have finally turned legal age to work in the bar. The money is better working in the bar, but that wasn't why I was excited. I'm legal now. No more damn Cafe waitering for me. No more slinging hash, cleaning up after babies that the parents have ignored at the table. No more listening to the chronic-complaining-nit-pickers that complain about the food they recieved to try to get a free meal, and saying that the food was so much better last time. Or having to hear that over-used-eraser-phrase, "And we always eat here." Of course they always eat here, because if they bitch loud enough to the wrong server at the right time, the management will buy thier meal. But no more of that, it's bar all the way now.

I was early for my first shift. Not by much, but still early. I signed out my float at the desk, loaded my hip changer with quarters, dimes and nickels. I ran through the whole bar wiping and setting tables with ashtrays and tent cards for specials. I had taken the bar menu home weeks earlier, and was sure I had prices and items committed to memory. I didn't think I could be any better prepared. Robert, my bartender, was also ready to open the bar. He hadn't said much to me, but he made himself busy stocking beer shelves, mixing juices, checking liquor stocks, and cutting fruit for garnish. But we were ready to open now, and now he just stood over the till looking at the clock. 10:28 am. it read, and that meant that there was still two minutes before we could open the doors. Two minutes that felt like an eternity. Nothing to do. Nothings to say. Just wait.

I wasn't the only person that was anxious for the bar to open either. You could hear the rattling of the front doors from customers checking to see if it was open yet. Robert seemed to take it in stride, but I was near bursting at the seams. The clock was just not moving fast enough. He just stood there, over the till, quietly waiting. Finally, he turned looked directly at me and said "Open her up." He had a slight smile on his face. I think that he knew how anxious I was to get rolling. Off I went to open the doors.

There was only one person at the entrance when I opened the door. He was a tall, thin gray-haired man about sixty years of age. "Good Morning," I said with my bright over excited smile. Paying me no never mind, he darted right past me and sat at a table against the center of the far wall of the bar. I walked toward him, tray in hand, and I noticed that he had already, and carefully placed a two quarters and two dimes in a neat row on the table. "Good Morning," I repeated in case he just didn't hear me the first time, "What'll it be today." I asked eventhough I could tell what he wanted by the exact change on the table.

"Two pints," he said and mumbled something which sounded like "No, I've got it," but I couldn't be sure exactly what he had said. By the stern look on his face, I thought better of asking him what he said and just turned and went to the bar for his order.

Nearly running to the bar, excited about my first order, I placed my tray on the bar and said to Robert, "Draw two, please."

Robert immediately grabbed two chilled mugs, turned on the draught tap, and said, "Seventy cents," which I quickly flung from my hip changer almost gunslinger fast.

As quickly as I got to the bar, I returned to my customer's table with my draught trophies, and placed both mugs in front of the gentleman. "I don't want those," he said sharply. "I want two pints of draught in sleeves, Boy, and bring me a chess board. Finnigan and I want to have a game. You tell Cupcake up there to quit fucking around and pour my beer properly. He knows that the handles on those mugs can knock over the chessmen."

"Cupcake?" I asked really wanting to know what that was about.

"Yes Cupcake, your bartender, don't you know nothin' Boy. That's what Finnigan calls him 'cause he's always sweet on the girls. Sweet as a damn cupcake."

"Well, it is my first day," I responded wanting to hear more, but he just started to mumble again. I picked up the two mugs of beer and returned to the bar. I noticed that Robert was already pouring two pints of beer in sleeves, and not only had a smile on his face, but was in near giggles. I now knew, that between Robert and my customer, I was in the middle of some practical 'get the new guy' joke.

Robert took the two pints I brought back, and handed me the two sleeves and still had that smirk on his face, but I really wasn't sure why. I turned and started walking toward my customer and noticed that he seemed to be pointing and talking to the empty chair across the table from him. I slowed my return to the table to observe what I thought the customer was doing, and I then remembered that he had asked for a chess board. I kept watching him, as I went to get it, but he noticed my slower approach to the table and hollered, "Hurry it up, Boy! We're getting thirsty!"

"We?" I thought to myself. I then realized that he is not just talking to himself, he's got an imaginary friend. "My first customer, and I have to get a weird one," I thought almost aloud. But I bit my tounge for fear that I may drop smart ass comment in his direction. I felt that I needed to play this out a bit more. "Here's your two sleeves and your chessboard, sir. That'll be seventy cents please."

"Money's on the table Velvet Head. Just pick it up. I aint handin it to you."

"Very well, and thank you,' I said as politely as possible.

As I reached for the neatly place change, I thought "Velvet Head?' but I didn't realize that I had actually said it loud enough for him to hear me.

"Yes, Velvet Head. Finnigan thinks that your short hair looks like black velvet."

A little surprized, but now finding the whole thing quite funny, I turned to the empty seat and said, "And thank you too, Finnigan. My girlfriend says it feels like velvet too." From that moment, my customer's whole demeanor and attitude changed. He looked up and smiled at me and then introduced himself as Chester. He said that he had been coming to this bar for quite a while and was mostly treated poorly or completely ignored. He said that I was the first polite waiter he has had in a while, most just leave him alone. I thanked him again and excused myself for more customers were coming in.

I took orders from other customers, dropped off their drinks and collected their money, but I kept a keen eye on Chester while I served the other customers. He had set up his chess board, and started to play. He would make a move, have a sip from his beer, and make a smart assed comment towards Finnigan's empty chair. He would then get up out of his seat, sit back down in Finnigan's chair, and then make a chess move. His actions, and even his speach seemed to change as if he was talking as Finnigan. He would then take a sip of the beer that he had placed in front of Finnigan's chair, and then point to where Chester was sitting and say something like, "Take that you prick, you wont win this one now will ya!". Then he would get up again and sit back down in his own chair and start the process over.

I had noticed that Robert's smiling-at-me-phaze had ended, and now it was more like he was curious about me. I was at the bar getting a round for a couple of tables when I finally asked Robert what the deal was with Chester. But before Robert answered my question, he had asked what I had said to Chester, because he seemed a little tame today. I told him what I had done at the table, and even mentioned that I acknowledged Finnigan by thanking him too. "Strange," Robert said. "Usually, he just gets ruder with a new server. He never introduces himself to them."

"Yes, he did seem to get a little friendlier after. He even told me your nickname was Cupcake."

"That old fart. He's got most of the customers, and all of the staff calling me that." Robert continued to tell me that Chester was a prominent lawyer in town until about eight years ago. Finnigan was his law partner with the firm. Chester was taking his Wife, his two children and Finnigan on a camping trip to British Columbia to see the Kakwa Falls. It was raining, and on a narrow gravel road, a logging truck started to lose its load as it was trying to pass Chester's Motor home RV. Chester was driving, and everyone else was near the back of the RV sitting around the table. The logging truck rolled. The truck and the unballanced load completely crushed the rear of Chester's RV. Chester's entire family, and his friend and partner were killed instantly in the accicent. Chester has always blamed himself for the accident. A few months after the accident, Chester gave up his law firm and started to come into the bar every morning. And, yes he brought Finnigan with him, but we just thought he had gone a little crazy at first. Now it just seems that it is his way of attoning for the accident. "You might want to check his table again Velvet Head, I think he wants another round." Robert said laughing.

"Okay, Cupcake," I said smartly, knowing now that my new nickname is going to stick. I approached Chester's table and noticed that both of the sleeves were empty, and he had again placed money neatly on the table, but instead of two quaters, and two dimes in a row he now had two pairs of quarters and dimes placed in front of himself, and another set neatly placed in front of Finnigan's chair as if Finnigan was also going to buy a round. Chester was also aggitated when I approached the table.

"No, you're not buying! I told you I was buying this round," Chester said heatedly to the empty chair. "Thank's Velvet Head, we'll have another round, but take my money not Finnigan's."

I went and got two more sleeves, brought them over, and took only Chester's money leaving Finnigan's exactly were it was.

I continued to serve other tables and bantered with Cupcake a bit to try to get to know my coworker better. About a half and hour later, I heard a loud slam of a beer glass on a table and turned to see Chester rise up from his seat and storm out of the bar. I went over to the table to clean it, and noticed that Chester's own beer had been finished, but Finnigan's beer was left untouched. The money that was neatly placed infront of Finnigan, was now neatly placed infront of Chester's chair. From the positon of the men on the chess board, it was Check Mate in favor of Finnigan. "Sad," I thought aloud thinking that Chester was still punishing himself after all of these years.

I worked the bar for a couple of years after that first day shift. After training for a couple of weeks on days, I was moved to evening waiter. That was where the real money was to be made, but I still did work a couple of dayshifts a week. Any dayshift that I would work, Chester was always my first customer, always checked the door before the bar opened, and always took the same seat, and have the exact change neatly placed. Chester would always have the same arguement about who was to pay for the second round of beer. Chester always lost the chess game to Finnigan, and Finnigan would never touch his second beer, pissing Chester off until Chester would storm out of the bar. But I got to know Chester, and I got to like Chester (Velvet Head nickname aside---and it stuck). I quit working the bar after a couple of years to work at a new night club that opened up. Shortly after starting there, I heard that Chester had passed away quitely in his sleep one night. I knew that I would miss that daily routine of his and Finnigan's.

Five years later....

I had been working in the new club since I left the bar. Things had gone very well for me there, and I was quickly promoted to Club Manager. One morning as I was doing the bank deposits for club, there was a detour in the road due to construction that led me past my old hotel. After I finished the banking, I thought I'd go into the bar. I heard that they had renovated, and I was curious to see what they had done. As I walked in, I noticed all the upgrading. There was new themed lighting for the stage, which had also been expanded to accomodate larger bands. A few tables were removed to allow for a larger dance floor, but most noticible was the change of the bar itself. It had been expanded to allow for seating at the bar, before it was only a service bar for the wait staff. I went right up and sat down at the bar. The bartender asked me what I would like and I asked for a pint of draught. "Could you put it in a sleeve, please?" I added.

The bartender placed it in front of me and said, "That'll be Three seventy-five, please".

I passed him a five dollar bill, and told him to keep the difference. I asked the bartender if Robert still worked here, but the bartender didn't know a Robert. Then I thought, "How about Cupcake, does he still work here?" and the bartender said that he had just moved away about a year ago. I looked around the bar and then noticed a large plaque behink the bar. The plaque was a picture of Chester and Finnigan from sometime when they practised law together. The plaque also had a ledge to it that had two engraved pint sleeves with their names on it. On the very front of the plaque was a brass engraving that said 'Friends Forever'. I asked the bartender if he knew when that plaque was put up. "That thing, oh about four or five years ago. Way before I started here. I can't stand the thing. It creeps me out."

"Why?" I asked.

"Every night, when we close, that plaque looks exactly as you see it now. Every morning when I open the bar, and unlock the back bar gate, the glass you see marked Chester is dirty, and looks like it just had a beer drank from it. It even smells like beer, because the glass is still wet inside. The glass that is marked Finnigan is completely full of beer, but looks like it hasn't been drank from, and the beer is still cold. There is even a head on the beer when I open the gate. It's impossible to get that way, even if someone wanted to do it as a prank, because the whole plaque gets locked up behind the drop down gate. It's just too weird. Really gives me the willies."

"That's only because Chester still hasn't forgiven himself for the accident."


"Long story."