Slanted Definitions 9


Addition – When the spoons and forks won’t talk to the flatware

Polyester – Anna’s sister

Eyewitness – One who has to be questioned on what he saw, using hand signals, but even then can’t be expected to answer.

Cannibalism – The practice of softly biting tin containers

Diadem – The cry of a murderous ruler with poor diction

Dogfish – Someone suffering from an identity crisis

Reversible – Good for a chorus

Pigtail – Something about a wolf

Welfare – Price for a bucket of water

Freebee – Bug no longer working for the honey industry


Roger McManus

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Writing: What It Takes to Get Published?

RogerandOutJournal log entry – The walls are caving in. Have you ever felt numb in your head, like: “I don’t know what to do.”? These past couple of days, I have. I’m not sure what to write, and that happens sometimes, but I usually manage to wiggle my way out of the state … but these past couple of days, I just haven’t. I’m also feeling at a standstill. None of my books are published. None are in the process of getting published. No one is telling me to send them a manuscript. My mailman’s wife just self-published a book. She gave up on getting turned down and took it into her own hands … and she’s gotten some good reviews too. More and more I’m thinking this is the way to go. 

I wonder if I’m doing something wrong.

In my small town, at the end of the month, they hold a contra dance, kind of like a square dance, and before the squaring-off starts, there’s a potluck dinner all are invited to share. Well it was at this meal, before the dance, when my wife struck up a conversation with one of the musicians, a fiddler, and we come to find that he’s an author, but unlike me, a published one … and many times over. James, an author of about twelve books and living just one town over, tells me, “It’s not the best writers who get published necessarily, but the most persistent.” I don’t know if that soothes my wounds, because, regardless of who gets published, I want to get published so that people can read my books. He goes on to tell me how he’s gone through several literary agents, and I’m thinking I can’t even get one, but he also says a couple of them did nothing for him, but like a dog at the table, begging for a bone, I’m even wondering how that feels, believing that a step up. I suspect he was being modest about his writing, but I did get the picture that he was clearly persistent.

A little over a week later, I go to get an oil change for my car, and the owner of the shop asks how my book is coming. I answer, “It’s coming.” But I really wish I had had something better to say (“What? You didn’t see the movie based on it?”). Then, to add to my misery, he picks up a paperback from the counter. “My friend just got a book published,” he says. “He lives just in Hoosick Falls.” In my head I’m saying, “Oh really?” like why don’t you just pick up that crowbar and land it right here between my eyes. But of course I can’t help but be interested in seeing what his friend writes, so I don’t verbally reference the crowbar … yet. With a quick peek at the back cover, the story appears autobiographical. “Yeah, he was a drug addict,” he says. “Straightened himself out.” Oh … so now I realize I not only have to be persistent, but I’ve got to have an arm full of syringe and track marks, a prolific runny nose with a straw stuck up it, and know how to set up a meth lab … oh … right … and I’m supposed to tell how I cured myself of that … to get published. Of course this isn’t written in stone, but though there seem to be many avenues that lead to the publishing house, I’ve lost my GPS and can’t get out of my own driveway because I keep hitting the garage. Let us move on, why don’t we?

The church I belong to has just recently started a newsletter. That’s good. And they’ve decided that they want to include an interview of either a clergy member or a parishioner as a regular piece every issue. That’s fine. And I was asked to take on the assignment of the next interview. Um … okay … how could that hurt? No, this is not a paying job or likely to get picked up by the associated press, so in that respect there is sort of a rash growing because of it, but, no, I honestly believe the subject will be interesting.

The parishioner who had been chosen for my subject is a friendly man. But it also so happens, that he was a guard at the Nuremberg trials, which is a good bet to say, that that was the reason why I was told to interview him in the first place. Okay, so wanting to do a good job, prior to interviewing him, I thought I’d search the internet to see if there wasn’t any information pertaining to him, a sort of exposition for myself … and guess what? He has a book … a short book … but a book nonetheless. Where’s a pusher when you need one?

So let’s see (as I grit my teeth). To get published, I’ll need to be persistent (okay), have some sort of addiction I’m fighting (Not sure about that. Do doughnuts count?), and have been in close proximity, at least once in my life, to major mass murderers (Okay … this last wrinkle will be a lot harder than the rest I imagine).

I’m telling you, this is like having salt rubbed into my wounds … and to add some pepper to my open flesh, the man who I am going to interview has a daughter, and she is a … egad … children’s author … and published too. At this point the neighbors are knocking at my door after hearing my blood curdling scream, imagining I’m being murdered or murdering someone, and now quite certain, and hopefully happy for me, that I’ll be finally obtaining my first publishing contract due to either one of the two.

But it’s sad … so sad … because there has been no murder … and I’m not sure if just the screaming will be good enough to land a book deal.

Self-publishing? … Hmm?

Signing off,

Roger and out

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Not So Rock Solid

realenoughHow does a rock get in a shoe? People contemplate the cosmos, and life andcorelrocks death … but I wonder how a rock gets in a shoe. I mean really, I’m just walking down the street and all of a sudden I have a small jagged lump poking the bottom of my foot. I look for Houdini, but he’s dead, so then I look for David Copperfield. I mean it has to be magic. How else? I pull my shoe off, and turn it upside down, and there, lo and behold and never ceasing to be, falls out a pebble. Most usually reinsert their foot back into the shoe, having made sure there was nothing else stuck to it, but how many of us discover the answer of how the rock got there in the first place? I’m sure most people will think it is insignificant to waste a brain cell, but I have wasted many a brain cell on it, so forgive me if I repeat myself. I have wasted many a brain cell on it.

corelshoeI’ve examined my shoes and sneakers, checking for any crack, any opening in their bottoms or sides which might have acted as the entrance, and found the footwear free of such orifices. It blows my mind and we take it for granted, but how does all that sand get into your sneakers when you’re walking on the beach? The sand is almost like another type of water. Isn’t it? It just seeps through as if you’ve stepped in a puddle.

Note: Last time I checked, rocks didn’t have arms or legs to climb into my shoes. Note: This is progress.

There are forces at work which are beyond our understanding, and I can’t swear to it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these forces were also responsible for undoing shoe laces. Yes … I see the heads nodding.

I’m betting whoever figures this out will be the next Nobel Prize winner, and whoever he or she is, will redirect our minds in our thinking of how this world and the universe exists. corelisaacNewton got hit with a simple apple on the head, and then we had gravity. Yes, before that it was very hard getting around without floating away. I still don’t know how Newton did it, mass producing that gravity he’d found so that today we don’t have to think about it, but imagine, if you can, the principles of life and how they might be redefined due to how that rock got into that shoe. I see parallel universes. I see the afterlife amongst us. I see osmosis like one of those transporters in Star Trek, disappearing into effervescence, and reappearing elsewhere.

But I’m sorry, I have to conclude here, because I don’t have an answer … but I do hope I’ve inspired some great minds out there into further exploring a possible explanation. I know there is a fine line between genius and insanity, and I understand this, and the path might be hard. People who see things differently are usually called crazy … but remember, when others start to see it too, they don’t cry of an epidemic, but rather, there is an acceptance, an acceptance to the point that whatever the thought was becomes common, and then later taken for granted and we are where we are today because of it. Example: we stopped corelGalileofalling off the edge of the earth when Galileo persisted that the world was round. I am not boastful to call myself a genius … but I do wait till we share in this commonality. Reach for the extraordinary, wherever you are, and be a part in making tomorrow’s today.

Well, goodbye. I’ve been told to leave the room and to take my jacket. One has a strap which ties the arms around the back, and the other is a green windbreaker. Hey! Question: Which one is mine? Hey! Question: Which one is mine?

Real: I get rocks in my shoes

Not Real: There is nothing not real here … only theory.

Roger McManus

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Good Health

ThinkthoughtFirst they were told by the surgeon general that sittingcoreleatcrooked upright while eating would decrease their lifespan due to the food pounding on their stomach from a vertical drop. So the people began to lie crooked and hunched over, reclining as they ate.

Then they were told life expectancy would be shortened due to poor posture. So the people had to sit upright again, but in regards to the previous warning, could not eat anything heavier than a wheat puff, or denser than cotton candy to save their stomachs.

And so, life went on with continual warnings like such: dye your hair, don’t dye your hair, get some sun, don’t get some sun, eat this, but don’t eat that, and the people’s endless alterations that went with them … and so it continued and so much so, that it was of no surprise when the people were told that “sugar will kill them,” that this announcement was welcomed with a sigh of relief … for the only thing that the people truly didn’t want to hear and had expected … was the inevitable … checkmate.

Of course there were some who never turned on the radio to hear these announcements, and some of them have passed on, maybe because of it … but some are still ripe … even … at their ancient ages.

Roger McManus

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The Winter Thaw

RogerandOutJournal log entry – Jogging in place, staring out the back window of my living room, I can see the polyurethane netting I’d hung last year, stretching from pole to pole as a barrier between the critters ranging from deer to groundhogs, and my treasured berry bushes, kiwi vines, grape vines, and my one solitary fruit tree, an apricot. The tugging of the snow on the netting during the course of the winter has left it drooping, and with the glare of the morning sun now shimmering off of it, my yard looks as if it is covered in massive cobwebs. If I use my imagination, I can picture a farm of arachnids, the size of large roosters, scurrying about, entombing pesky groundhogs instead of flies in their silk, sucking these rodents dry, down to hairy deflated balloons … but even as I chuckle at the thought, I realize, “No, that won’t work.” My wife doesn’t like spiders.

Yes, it looks rather desolate and gray, and there are still patches and small mounds of snow as the temperature reaches for and tries to hold on to something above freezing. Inside thoughts turn to outside thoughts … mosquitos … tadpoles in my pool … trying to bury woodchucks in their holes, which is stupid, because they can dig and get out by making new ones, and they always do … and Japanese beetles eating my beloved roses, and Nishiki Willows, and raspberry bushes … and grape vines … and I’ll stop there before I cry. It gets too depressing. And I wonder … I truly wonder if I am I up for the challenge. … My answer?

“No way in hell!!! I’m not!!! Help me!!!!!” I’ve seen my shadow, and it is all of them, and I must run back into my hole!

Then, as if an answer to my prayers, I receive a catalogue in the mail from a nursery. I view page after page of pages of perfect pictures of perfect flowers that’d been kept, most likely, in highly classified level 5 greenhouses, while all diseases or pests, which is common knowledge, have only level 4 clearance. But then I concoct out of the other crack in my brain that perhaps they’d been “Photoshopped” these perfect images. I’ve seen numerous articles and examples of the cover-ups and the-gone-overboard failures of touch-ups on models found on covers of fashion and swimsuit magazines. I can’t believe that gardening is not a multi-million dollar business that benefits from the removal of slight blemishes also.

Do you see where I’m going with this … besides getting shot by someone in the gardening industry? This is the prepping. This is my psyching up. This is the lying to myself so that when any or all of my plants die this spring, or look more like acne-riddled nerds with greasy hair rather than supermodels, I can still claim it wasn’t my fault.

The truth is out there, but they won’t let me see it. Dormant conspiracies are fostered out of the winter’s thaw. Perfect gardens are dreams, totally unreachable. And as I sense this lie of commercial humanity … I’m feeling better already. If they won’t show me, other than their lies, what I’m actually able to achieve, then how am I to know if I’ve failed? Thank you, Lord; I don’t know how I could.

Now … after having done well at pointing a finger in the wrong direction, I can clearly state that I think I’m ready … confident with my asterisked success … and can, without a doubt, see a greener hue encompassing my thumb. See? Sometimes delusional is good. Happy spring!

 Signing off,

Roger and out

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Slanted Definitions 8

SlantedFunnyItSnowboarding – A means of torture carried out in the winter (as opposed to waterboarding in warmer climates)

Homesick – Only good for a commercial property (Unless you are a snowboarder, then it means: the best place to live)

Preventive – Before central air conditioning.

Sciatic – Roof

Schooner – Pre-pre-kindergarten

Gelding – What one horse calls another in a barroom brawl

Lemonade – Restorer of Edsels and/or Yugos

Daffodils – Those who go crazy for pickles

Switchboard – An inconspicuous handle, which has a button when pressed, releases a large two by four

Porridge – Waterfall

Function – Where the Soul Train stops

Detention – Relieve stress

Rumpus – What one excretes after having too much from the bottle

Frigate – To hell with it

Ragamuffin – Baked good also useful for dusting

Roger McManus

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My Adventures in Nashville Land (Continued … Again … Once More)

realenoughcorelbrokenguitarIt was eleven thirtyish, bordering around midnight. The halls of the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center were empty except for me and a four foot tall, thirty pound potted plant in one hand, and a twenty pound mirror, which could corelScheffelera Arbocolaonly fit between my armpit and the tip of my fingers if I slouched like Quasimodo … and even then, just barely. Looking like one of those twisted metal puzzles you have to figure how to take apart, if I hadn’t reveled so much in my finds, I would have given them both up during the quarter mile trek across the hotel’s expanse to my car.

If only that half dark walnut and half cherry framed piece of glass could have been but an inch narrower, I wouldn’t have been contorted about it in such pain … but it was free, like the plant, and who can deny themselves something that is free? I couldn’t, not with that lousy paying job. Perks like those two items disguised the truth, made it easier to swallow. Now I knew what a homeless man feels like when he searches the trash and discovers a dented and discarded pot that he sees well-fitted for his head as a hat. Hobbling in agony, but always making sure I looked in control, I never set the two objects down while someone was in eyeshot of me. I didn’t want to let on my discomfort. I put on a smile as my digits separated at the knuckles, my arm dislocated from my shoulder, and a few discs shot like Frisbees from my back, and grimaced internally and beseeched that moment when whoever-it-was was gone and I could finally collapse. It didn’t happen often, when someone passed, due to the time of night, but it did. Strange though how some of their looks also seemed to hide something, as if they wanted to smirk or laugh at my situation, or just get away quick enough so that they could call security, believing I must be a thief. Who else walks around like that, with those, in a hotel that costs four hundred dollars a night? Honestly, I would have found myself peculiar too, but fortunately I don’t have the shifty eyes to totally condemn me. Still, the halls weren’t too brightly lit to see my eyes, and I could imagine the mirror shattering and soil all over the carpet as security tackled me. It was such a long walk and painful that I was actually beginning to believe myself guilty of something.

So where did I get my treasures? I’d gotten them from a product-based-themed convention I’d been hired to help set up. Early in the morning, before anyone-with-money convention hallhad had breakfast, I was preparing booths, measuring out the eight by ten foot space allotted to each, staying true to the taped markings on the floor, which we’d put down, and secured a numbered placard to serve as an address for whoever was to be there to find. I set out trash cans with liners, and delivered to each booth, which had requested the need of them, tables and chairs. When that was done and the vendors had set up, we were then told to leave and return later that night for cleanup. A few luckier workers were asked to stay to man the garbage cans from overflowing, answer any needs of the merchants, clean any spills, and more or less, traverse the going-ons. They were luckier, because they got paid for their time, which more or less was just being there, nothing any harder or demanding than that while others went home and had no pay during the break, and no opportunity to fill it in with another job. I got lucky though, and was told to stay.

Given a walkie-talkie, I was able to walk around and feel more special than the guy who cleaned out the garbage cans. Don’t get me wrong; I still had to do that, but in my head I believed, perhaps it suggested I had more intelligence than that, at least to anyone who never held a walkie-talkie and knew it only consisted of listening with your ears and pushing a single button so as to be heard. I mean, they didn’t know who was on the other end. I could have been in contact with the mayor, or the FBI … or even the president. There in my hand I held a mystery … even though … I knew the only voice coming out of it would tell me of the next trash can that needed changing. Yep, I was the diaper man with the hefty bags. corelauthorizedQuestion: Have you ever gone by a door which said, “Only Authorized Personnel Allowed?” And didn’t you envy those who could go in those doors … envy them even just out of curiosity to see what they were hiding? Well, I had … and guess what … I got to actually go through those doors while I was there. And do you know what I found?! Do you know what was behind them? Bigger trash bins to throw the trash bags into after you emptied the smaller trash cans … trash, trash, trash … and oh yeah, cement walls to match the cement floors … all grey. I can scratch that one off my bucket list now.

So as was stated previously, we’d set up the booths, but the vendors had brought all their own stuff to dress up their cloth cubicles, to draw an eye to them and make a proper representation of whatever good they were peddling. Some had supplied their offense with plants, others, signs, still others, means of demonstrations to show what their product could do. Everything had to be just right and cared for … but the thing was … only in a time which was temporary. When the convention wrapped up, much of that décor was put to the side, to be removed through those Only-Authorized-Personnel-Allowed doors and tossed into those larger sized trash bins. And by whom you might guess. Those like me.

corelhalfmirrorThe plant was a plant and I like plants, so that I scavenged. The mirror had been a demonstration tool for some polish. The frame around it was two-faced and didn’t match, but what the hell, the mirror worked, so I took that too and gave the trash compacter an easier job of it. I also remember taking a few sunglasses, which were being discarded each in their own little plastic bags. I think I still own one. If I’d had more arms and a syringe of steroids I would have taken more.

But you know what? It’s trudging in the center of night, tired and in pain, but rejuvenated, because you’re burdened down by someone’s unwanted things you’ve drawn the lucky card to take home, that makes you realize how desperate you are for the little things to make you happy. And when you find that the little things do make you happy … whatever they are … aren’t you better off?

… Sure you are.


Real: Everything other than what’s mentioned below

Not Real: Ever thinking of using steroids

Roger McManus

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My Adventures in Nashville Land (Continued … Again)

realenoughcorelbrokenguitar“Y’all,” I didn’t know when I began saying it, but I did. It wasn’t a means of me fitting in; it was more of the “in” fitting me. I just woke up one day and it had become part of my vocabulary, the Nashville air in my lungs. I had to make a conscious effort to remember what I had said in place of it before, and when I recalled it being “All of you,” and tried saying “All of you” again, it just didn’t sound right. I couldn’t help but think “Y’all” was so much easier … and so “Y’all stayed,” though I don’t think I could have gotten rid of it if I wanted. Of course “Y’all” came from “You all,” but “You all” was too southern for a northern boy to pull off without sounding sarcastically offensive, fortunately “Y’all” ran off the tongue far easier, due to the lack of a plunge into the guttural, which is why I believe, and as I said, “Fortunately for me,” I had unconsciously adopted the shorter one over the other. Of course those around me were more apt to saying “Y’all,” and so thus also was I influenced. But was it weak-mindedness on my part, adopting this, I wondered, or a basic instinct to survive, embedded in my genes from some caveman ancestor thousands of years ago?

“Good deal” was another phrase to the area. If someone asked if you could do them a favor and you said you could, then that person would reply, “Good deal.” Up north I guess we’d have said, “That’s great.”  Maybe because the two expressions both had two syllables, was the reason why I hadn’t found myself too often as the accidental shopper.

But let us progress from words to other words … names. For a time I was a floral designer in a florist just off of Vanderbilt University. My immediate boss was Johnny, and Johnny was not a man … she was a roseswoman like the pronoun told. I also had a fellow designer who wasn’t a fellow, but that didn’t stop her from being called Eddie. There was another woman too, a saleswoman up front, who also had a man’s name. I can’t recall it now, so let’s just say it was Gertrude. I know. I know. Gertrude is a woman’s name, but I always thought it better suited for a man … Ernie and Gert … either that or the name of some gastro problem that gave you heartburn. Eddie came from Eddie-Mae. Johnny I don’t know, but maybe it was Mae also. Maybe Mae was how they castrated the name to make it proper. I didn’t know, but I was going to make sure no one called me Roger-Mae, but no really, they all did look like women. It was just the name that had been de-sexed. And while I’m on sex, there was another designer, a younger girl, with a girl’s name, who thought the male genitalia the nastiest of things, just nasty, and shuddered when she said it. A couple of the other women just flapped a hand at her as if they’d heard this all before, her up on her soapbox needing a detergent again. Don’t ask how genitalia came up, she could pull topics out of the air like they were oxygen, but keeping in mind that she thought this, it was hard to imagine how she had come by her two sons by her unwed boyfriend. I mention unwed, only because she had no reason to feel obligated by marriage. Was sex like medicine for her: It tasted awful, but she knew it was good for her? Barbara, another designer, replied by saying, “If you look at us from down below, we don’t look any better.” Can you imagine me, really, the only male designer in this room full of women, despite what the names said, and listening to this? But I did realize that that was Barbara’s means of coming to my aid. Yes, some days working at the florist could be quite odd.

It was at the florist where I was introduced to the potato gun. Jodie, Johnny’s daughter, a name that could go both ways, though I don’t know if there is a difference in how it’s spelled, well her husband showed up with it, the potato gun. The gun was a six foot long doctored PVC pipe whose ignition for propelling the potato was a can of hairspray. Note: Most holes in the ozone layer lie above Tennessee because of this. The spud was inserted easily enough, sucked in, and with a soft pop, like a perfect drive off of a golf club, the potato had passed Mars and was headed to land somewhere in Centennial Park, easily 500 feet away. All I could imagine was someone roller-skating or walking a dog and getting clocked by this unbaked meteorite. No one else seemed concerned about it. I guess if you had the bad enough misfortune to get hit with it you deserved it, regardless, that night I checked the news for any similar-like assaults, and finding none, had my mind put at ease.

At another time, I worked for a temp agency, which sent me to many different locations opryland-hoteland jobs. I remember one job where I was referred to the Opryland Hotel for a convention. There in an open-windowed-to-the-hall room, where one might check in coats, I was assigned with some others to help direct participants of the convention to the proper rooms they were in need of finding. A large black man who’d also been assigned the booth talked about how hairy his ass was, and how he used a cloth wash towel to wipe it, because toilet paper fell apart. I kid you not. At this point you’re probably wondering if he dropped a bar of soap and asked me to pick it up. On the grounds that it might scar my reputation for life, I won’t say he was a nice enough fella, but it had me thinking with the long work day if he might not have a long dishrag-like towel hanging from his back pocket like a mechanic in case nature called for number two. If he did, I prayed to God the rag was disposable … but he did not, and the next image that came to mind (of fumbling fingers and disintegrated toilet paper) I quickly knocked out of my head and hoped he didn’t return at some point, from being away, with hairs protruding from underneath his fingernails. What a sick way to end a chapter … but I will.

Real: Again it’s all so true

Not Real: The potato didn’t pass Mars … I think it actually hit the moon and bounced back.

(More to Come)

Roger McManus

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Chalked: Part 17

frompartsunknownchalkedOne of the junior officers at the precinct slapped the side of the ancient television to remove the static.

“And now a continuation on the breaking news from Lexington Station in Manhattan, magical trickery, high tech illusion, or is it … a ghost?” the grey-jacketed anchor man, angled proportionately to get his good side and reflect a suave glimmer from either his eye or tooth, but never both, as that would be too much and him being a professional, stated from the center of the screen. “Our on the scene reporter, Amber Relevant, has … that update.”

The reporter with the short, highlighted blonde hair and bounce stood there at the crime scene and received the passed baton. “Thank you, Perry. It’s been twelve hours since Nurse Johann Whittler’s brutally slain body was discovered in a bloody pool here on the Lexington Station platform by a subway custodian, and ten hours since her body was wheeled away by the morgue. Sadly that would suffice for page three in the news, but what has pasted this particular crime onto the front page copy is not the murder, but the routine follow-up which has become anything but routine, and has scientists and forensic experts, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, scratching their heads and panhandling for an answer. A man, only identified at this time as Johnny, is being touted as the suspect behind the unexplainable transfiguration of a woman’s ghost, which appeared mysteriously only after he’d outlined the corpse in chalk and placed a halo above her head, and then proceeded, when the body was gone, to draw the woman’s face into that very same outline. Witnesses at the scene were awestruck by what they saw.”

A slight break in the picture signaled a jump to a prerecorded interview.

“Yeah, Crumbly!!!” the band of officers watching the television at the precinct, cheered their pudgy comrade as the break segued to him.

“Yo, it wasn’t chalk,” the prerecorded, interviewed Officer Crumbly said from out of the set. “It was crayons. He had a whole plastic bucket of them. Said he needed more colors. He wouldn’t take the chalk from the chief … no. And if he didn’t make me crap myself, he draws the perfect painting of the woman…”

“Classy, Crumbly, classy,” Butcher, a fellow cop with a buzz cut, leaning on a desk, teased, staring at the television and the back of Crumbly’s curly head.

“Johann Whittler?” Ms. Relevant asked from the set.

“The dead woman, is that her?” prerecorded Crumbly replied. “Yeah I think it is.”

“Way to go Crumbly,” Butcher heckled yet again and sneered.

“And then what?” Ms. Relevant asked. “You said painting … but you said he used crayons not chalk?”

“I don’t know how he did it. That’s why I was crappin’ myself. It was like something out of the Museum of Art, not that modern crap, but like a Rembrandt or something.”

“Not a Van Gogh, Crumbly?”

“Oh shut up, Butcher,” Crumbly said, and continued to watch himself.

“You don’t know how, you said,” the prerecorded Amber Relevant spoke. “So you’re not sure it was crayons?”

“He had crayons,” the prerecorded Crumbly answered. “That’s what I told you. How he got those crayons to do what he did, that I don’t know, perfect image of her face and then it lifted out of the platform. Now if that ain’t enough, he only drew her face, but the rest of her body magically showed up too, matched the face perfectly as perfectly was the face. Then some of us braved to step nearer and tested it.”

“Tested it?” Ms. Relevant asked, and pushed her microphone closer.

Officer Crumbly’s chin caved into his throat as he backed slightly away from the intruding bulbous-topped dagger. “You know, to see if it was really there.”

“And was it … really there?” Ms. Relevant’s hair bounced above her eyes as the shaven portion on her nape remained as steadfast as the question.

“My hand went right through it,” the prerecorded Crumbly said, “but my eyes couldn’t without seeing it. It wasn’t a drawing. It was a ghost. She was sleeping.”

“The ghost?”

“Yes.” Officer Crumbly’s face scrunched up. “Am I talking too fast?”

“Good one, Crumbly,” Butcher, now seated on the desk, mocked him, “there’s a lady’s man.”

“No … no, you’re fine,” the prerecorded reporter responded.

“She’s hot, ain’t she?” another officer in the huddle viewing the screen said.

“As if Crumbly would know,” Butcher continued his taunt.

“Well it was a stupid question if she was listening,” Crumbly defended himself.

“But I’m confused,” Ms. Relevant continued.

“Maybe she’s so into you that she’s lost her place,” Butcher continued. “Hypnotized her with your charm?”

“Oh just shut up,” Crumbly tried to ignore him and watched the interview more hungrily for a distraction.

“I thought the ghost was a woman,” Ms. Relevant said. “But the image I see now is a man’s image …” The camera zoomed in on the disturbing apparition.

“How the hell did he do that?” was the general response that erupted from the viewing precinct, which for the first time saw Johnny’s work.

“Weren’t Johnny brain-damaged?” one said.

“I thought,” another fed off his confusion, “but he didn’t sound it when he came in. I mean just now, but in the morning he did. Wh-what gives?”

“Hold on a second!”

“What now, Butcher?!” Crumbly said, now getting angered. “Will you lay off already?” he snapped.

“No, no, not you, you dope” Butcher said, and got off his desk and put his face nearly into the screen. “That thing there, that ghost … that’s the guy we shot today. I’m sure of it.”

“What?” Crumbly dropped his mood instantly and focused in on him. “You sure?”

Butcher tapped the screen. “I’m sure. Yeah, and come to think of it,” he continued. “We found a woman’s wallet on him too, could have been Whittler. Yeah, you know what? I think it was.”

“It was? Well, you-you’d better tell Barrister,” Crumbly informed him. “He’s handling the case. Johnny said we’d caught the perp … but when Barrister asked to confirm, Gerald didn’t know, said we hadn’t. Barrister thinks Johnny’s been pulling his leg because of it, up to some trick.”

“But seems we do got him, huh?”

“Right, Johnny knew … which um … won’t make Barrister too happy,” Crumbly said … and then smirked with a new found thought.

“… To be wrong?” Butcher said.

“Yeah,” Crumbly said, smiling even wider now. “That’s … that’s why you’ve got to tell him … he’s made a mistake.”

The on-screen reporter’s voice sounded above the murmurs, “We’ll find this Johnny and get his story, or my name isn’t Amber Relevant … and now back to you, Perry.” Her televised bounce shrunk to a smaller screen behind the anchorman’s glimmering tooth, which now obnoxiously took up the forefront.

“Thank you, Amb…”

Mercifully … someone clicked off the television set.

Meanwhile, somewhere else in the station, another set was being likewise turned off. “Do you believe that? I’ll have that Crumbly harpooned,” Barrister said.

“Leave the man’s weight alone,” the chief replied.

“A man’s weight shouldn’t be that disproportionate to his brain,” Barrister said, “but I gather he could be a bloody string bean and not be any better. You know this’ll all go national, don’t you?”

“And what if it did?” the chief said.

“What if it did?” Barrister cupped the top of his head as if it was a canon about to explode.

“Yes, what if? Go solve your crime if you’re worried,” the chief said. “Afraid you’ll be the one scrutinized?”

“I ain’t afraid of the sort,” Barrister said. “I always get my man and I’ll get this scumbag and you know it … but this Johnny, you’ve gone too far, if this ain’t a prank and it’s your bloody religion, tell me how it’s done.”

“I can’t,” the chief answered, “and who says it’s mine?”

“What, you think me dopey now, chef?” Barrister chuckled sarcastically. “You’d like to believe I’ve forgotten your teachers and now your messiah?”

“No,” the chief said, “I was only wondering if others were saying so too. I’m a proud poppa in this. I don’t want you to forget. I don’t want you ever to forget it. As a matter of fact, I’d love everyone to know. Let it go national.” The chief leaned back in his chair. “What you’re afraid is that he might be all I believe him to be, and you not believing it, not believing it against everyone else who will come to believe it, and then where will you be … on the way out?”

“There ain’t no one good for no one. This world’s full of self-serving bastards. And he’s got an angle that’ll bring whatever it gets right back to him. And you? You want to be there to get your pickings. You clearly are psycho, chef,” Barrister said, scratching his scruff. “But if I’ve got one foot in my grave, that only makes me more grounded than you and harder to trip up.”

“I don’t want to trip you,” the chief said.

“Don’t you?” Barrister’s eyes became like goggles.

“You go home, detective, and have your second or third … or even fourth drink … and you tell me who’s trying to trip you up. That’s of course if you can remember … after you’re sober.”

“Fag off,” Barrister snapped, but then eyed the chief’s rolodex, “… I mean, fag off, sir.”

“Yes, go home, detective, it’s been a long day,” the chief said with a curt smile, but not willing to show any anger. “Johnny won’t be going anywhere with the frenzy now. It’s safer for him here. Even I wouldn’t want him thrown to the lions. What kind of martyring would that be? Yes, go home, detective …”

Barrister’s top teeth squeezed his bottom lip as he shook his head, vocally absent of a response.

“Yes, and I’ll fag off too,” the chief added, presuming to read the detective’s mind, which easily could have been read by anyone under the circumstances, how narrow it had become.

The mouthed formation found voice. “Fag off,” Barrister huffed, correctly expected and not anymore brilliant than his last exclamation, even with the help of an apparent pause for thought, but was slightly more under his breath … and then, turning up his collar, left the chief’s office.

The chief watched the detective in his oversized coat go down the hall and exit by the rear, headed to where his car was parked … and knew Barrister was going home.

“Chief? Excuse me, Chief Matthews.”

The chief turned into an Aryan reflection. “Yes, Officer Butcher, what is it?”

“Is Detective Barrister with you?” Butcher said. “I have some new information to tell him.”

“What information is that?” the chief asked.

“Concerning the case … that last ghost at Lexington Station,” Butcher said, “the one Johnny said is the killer?”

“Yes, what of it?” the chief asked.

“He … he was right,” Butcher said. “Johnny was right. We got him. We shot him down earlier in a gunfight. Didn’t realize he was related to the other crime until just now, but he had the woman’s wallet. Johann Whittler, right?”

The look in the chief’s eyes in response to this was deep … too deep to be recognized … too deep to be uncovered.

(To Be Continued)

A Note and an Apology for you who have been reading “Chalked”: As the story has developed I’ve been fighting what to do. At first I thought it would be a tale of a few chapters, but clearly I now see it has grown to something more substantial, and for me to try and minimize it would not do it justice. I’ve continued to work on the story, and have progressed greatly, so much so that I am considering it for a novel. If any of you have read and then gone back recently to reread the Chalked series, you might have noticed some additions to the writing. These have been in accordance to the larger unfolding story. I truly appreciate all of you who have shown an interest in my work, and hold in special regard those who have enjoyed the Chalked series in particular. This has been a new venture for me as a writer, starting a blog, and the Chalked series has been a wonderful exercise and learning tool for me on this journey. I might still post a couple of more excerpts from the story, but the end decision will be to leave it open-ended, its ending to come when the novel is done. I might pull all of the story’s posts together and put them into one reading in my book section, and then I guess like the others in that section it will remain as, and I hate to say this, a teaser for what’s yet to come. I hope you have enjoyed it and are intrigued to see what comes next. Again I beg your pardon and pray that you understand. It’s not what I had intended, but sometimes words and stories have a mind of their own and we can only follow them to where they will bring us. The path is alive, I assure you, even though it goes into hiding for a while. I’m honestly excited for Chalked, but I do not forget how I must be trying your patience. Please forgive my fault, and perhaps I can make amends with the finished product. Thank you again, and do continue to read my other posts as well as any remaining Chalked posts to come … and as always, I hope that you are quite entertained.

Roger McManus

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My Adventures in Nashville Land (Continued)

realenoughcorelbrokenguitarHe was either gay and aggressive, or he was going to kill me. I’m sure that got your attention. I was in Tennessee and a long way from home … and wasn’t I just like those many that had fallen off the face of the earth, a stranger meeting a stranger and strangely gone? But I was not gone yet. He knew I was in the Tanglewood complex, but I don’t believe he knew exactly where in the complex I lived … and I had to keep it like that. Maybe he wanted to take me to his apartment where someone else would bash me over the head and saw my body up into pieces. That would take a lot of water to wash that blood away, and I felt the water company was charging me for far too much water, which was probably coming off of someone else’s meter … why not his?

Who was he? I’d met him by the mailboxes, which were all housed together under a roof by the curb, like a bus stop, just outside the pool. He might have been lonely. He might have been friendly. He might have even been normal, but he didn’t blink, and his eyes almost seemed to cross and uncross while you spoke to him, and look over your shoulder as if signaling someone to hit you from behind (Probably the same guy waiting in the apartment). If you took a picture of him, the photo would have come out with four red eyes instead of the two, and I’m not saying he wore glasses. But that wasn’t the deciding factor in my misgivings of him. It was that smile, Botoxed onto his face for eternity and never to be welcomed at a funeral. It never went away, like an evil genius who’s having sick thoughts and every one of them you believe is about you. Maybe this is a delusion that comes with homesickness or sparked by too many views of America’s most wanted stories, but I was not going to be a statistic. Isn’t it funny how I can forget a name just mentioned to me, but his name, fifteen years later, remains unforgotten? I won’t say it now, for fear he might read this.

I stared out my window to make sure he wasn’t there, before I left in the morning. I parked my car behind my building, out of sight, so he’d think I was out of town. I honestly became a prisoner in my own apartment, a fugitive on the run, but with no substantial proof or anything, I couldn’t involve the police. I finally had to tell someone to justify my either being absurd or diligent, and so I told Doug, a coworker at work … I was now working at an electric circuit plant … testing circuits … and he knew exactly who I was talking about though he didn’t live where I lived, saying his name before I’d even mentioned it. “Are you kidding me?” Okay … I wasn’t nuts … or at least nuts alone, Doug could have been nuts too, but it was too eerie the coincidence, even two nuts focusing on the same squirrel.

So how did I get out of this? It would have been wonderful to have picked up a paper with the headlines: Cross-eyed Serial Killer Caught Attempting His Next Installment, and found his smiling face (why wouldn’t it have been?) posted below. I’d have felt vindicated for my better judgment and keen foresight instead of scorned for my wild imagination … but with no such luck, did this happen. At some point this fellow, whose face suffered from nightmarish clown syndrome, disappeared. I can’t even recall it happening. I just realized he wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened to him, but all I can say is I’m glad it did. But to this day I just don’t know the truth. I mean … I think myself perceptive … but … but maybe I’ve just got a screw loose … and that’s that.

Real: Everything

Not Real: Nothing

(More to Come)

Roger McManus

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