SOMEONE WILL PAY

Roger Newcombe was a nasty, mean-spirited man; his only companions were his little Welsh corgi Magpie and his wheelchair. Roger had no family or friends; over the years he had alienated everyone who ever cared a whit about him. Even the postman fell victim to his bitter tongue and resorted to delivering the mail as quickly as possible, his hat pulled down low over his eyes. 

The only things Roger had plenty of were bad memories and schemes.

It wasn’t always like that for Roger. True, he was a plain-looking man, never handsome, but he was a trusting soul and kindhearted. Roger felt out of place at his parent’s extravagant dinner parties and never wanted to attend but as the only heir of the richest man in the county, it was his obligation to make an appearance.

That’s when he saw the alluring Loretta Spencer, a new serving girl with a tiny waist, long legs and shocking auburn hair. Roger was smitten at first glance but was too shy to stare let alone talk to Loretta.

Kindness and a trusting nature went only so far and the young single women who came in contact with Roger were not attracted to him. Only Loretta paid him any attention with a barely perceptible wink of an eye and a shy but innately sensual smile. One fortuitous day Roger happened upon Loretta preparing the table for dinner; the two struck up a conversation which developed into a flirtatious friendship which in turn blossomed into a romance. Roger’s parents were livid about the relationship but Loretta encouraged Roger to be a man and speak up for himself and their newfound love. His parents were too stunned by Roger’s sudden display of courage to respond.

No one was more surprised than Roger. He had always been resigned to life as a lonely bachelor; now he’d fallen madly in love with a servant in his parent’s employ and he didn’t care who knew. He was enthralled by Loretta’s bewitching ways, intoxicated by her erotic education in lovemaking. Roger could not believe someone as beautiful, beguiling and seductive as Loretta could love him in return. They were married within a year and went on a grand honeymoon to Wales. Upon their return, they settled into the Newcombe’s lavish estate. 

Roger accepted a job in his father’s company, sitting in his office all day doing very little and making a great deal of money which Loretta freely spent. She was a happy and pampered wife. Her relationship with Roger’s parents was estranged and she saw them only at dinner but being married to Roger made all her dreams come true.

That peaceful scenario was suddenly shattered when Roger’s parents were killed in a plane crash while on vacation. Roger was devastated by the loss of his mother and father but that was not the end of the shocking news for Roger and Loretta.

At the reading of Mr. and Mrs. Newcombe’s wills, Roger was struck dumb when he learned his mother’s last wish was for their home to be renovated into a rehabilitation facility for children with disabilities. In his father’s will, a new president was named for the company; it was Jonathan Whittaker, the current vice president. Roger was spitefully and embarrassingly overlooked, being left only an insignificant amount of money. 

As the only heir, Roger fully expected to be left the Newcombe fortune and named president of the company. He didn’t really want the job – just the prestige that came with it. He could delegate his key employees to do all the work while he sat back and watched the company flourish. Now he and Loretta had no home and very little cash. Roger deeply regretted giving Loretta free rein to his money, buying so many expensive and unnecessary items. He loved her and was blinded by her charms. He was also too proud to try to return or sell the items to recoup his losses.

Loretta, being as smart and clever as she was beautiful, wasted no time setting her sights on Jonathan Whittaker, the new president of the company. Like a tigress on the prowl she hunted him down, dazzling him with her seductive ways. She finessed her way into his head, whirled her way into his heart and squirmed herself into his bed. Loretta convinced Jonathan to relieve Roger of his position at the company which he did immediately. While Roger was out of the house one afternoon, Loretta stealthily cleared out what little money he had stashed away in his safe and quickly served him with divorce papers. As soon as she was free of Roger, Loretta would marry Jonathan and she would once again be the wife of a wealthy man.

Roger was reeling; he could not believe how his life had completely fallen apart. His parents were dead, the only home he knew was no longer his, he had no job, no money and no wife. In a desperate plea to Jonathan Whittaker, Roger asked for and was granted a pension from the company – just enough to get by each month. He begged his father’s lawyer to intercede on his behalf and was given permission to live in the small annex house next to the Newcombe estate. Roger felt there wasn’t much more that could go wrong in his life.

He was mistaken. 

One day as Roger was entering the annex house, he looked over at his old family home and saw Loretta pass by one of the upstairs windows. “What was she doing there?” Roger wondered. He went to the house to confront her; Loretta was packing the last of her things when Roger showed up. After a heated conversation Loretta brusquely walked by Roger, her suitcase smacking him in the back of his knee. Roger lost his footing and fell down the stairs. Loretta slowly walked down the stairs, looked at Roger not knowing or caring if he was dead or alive, and stepped over him. She calmly walked to the front door and left the house, closing the door behind her.

The next day Roger was found lying at the foot of the stairs; he was alive but he was paralyzed from the waist down. Now Roger Newcombe felt nothing in his heart but bitterness, anger and resentment. All he did was sit in his wheelchair by the window of the annex house with Magpie on his lap. With every stroke of the little dog’s soft fur, Roger thought “Someone will pay.”

That was the only thing that kept him from losing his mind.

NAR © 2022

BANG A GONG

As the parents of four young children, Kay and Michael Morgan wanted nothing but the best for their kids – 7-year-old twins Jack and Luke, 3-year-old Ella and baby Ivy. After meeting in college in Philadelphia and living there for the past twelve years, the couple had recently moved back to their hometown. It was great reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

Kay and Michael wanted to send the boys to a good summer camp and everyone recommended Camp Dino-Mite. Not only did the camp offer a broad variety of indoor and outdoor activities ranging from chess to archery and just about everything in between – it was an easy ten-minute walk from their house.

The Morgans were looking forward to orientation day when the boys would meet their counselors and the other kids in their groups. The day turned out to be great fun with games for the campers and a barbecue lunch for everyone. Before heading home, Kay and Michael stopped at the main office to buy camp t-shirts for the boys and pay their registration fee.

They were just about to pay when Michael heard an unwelcome voice call out “Is that you, Morgan? Well, the Boy Wonder has returned! Ain’t that just Dino-Mite?!” Michael cringed; it was his old childhood nemesis Rex Tirano. Michael suddenly realized why the name of the camp was so familiar; “Dino-Mite” used to be Rex’s favorite expression. Apparently, it still was. Slowly Michael turned around to face his one-time foe.

Let’s just say the aging process for Rex did not go well. He had become a caricature of himself – a living, breathing buffoonish cartoon character – and Michael bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. Rex was pasty, prematurely balding and terribly overweight; he looked ridiculous stuffed into a camp t-shirt and a pair of khaki shorts. Rex was the complete opposite of the stereotypical tanned goomba high school bully with slicked back hair that Michael remembered; the only things unchanged were his pushy attitude, big mouth and cold, forbidding eyes.

“Rex” Michael replied coolly. “It’s been a while.”

“Yeah, I heard ya was back in town, living in a nice big house with your Wall Street job and your perfect little family. Must be nice being you, Mikey Boy – Mr. Quarterback, valedictorian, prom king big shot. Ain’t ya gonna introduce me to your wifey? Hiya, sweetie. What’s your name?”

Michael had always been intimidated by Rex – everyone was – but he wasn’t about to apologize for being successful and he certainly wasn’t going to allow his wife to be insulted or let his kids see him cave.

Where are my manners? Rex, this is my wife, Kay. Honey, this is Rex Tirano. We went to school together.”

“Kay and Michael – just like from The Godfather. Ain’t that precious? Well, you got yourself a Dino-Mite little lady there, Mikey. A real looker.”

Trying desperately to avoid an unpleasant scene, Kay greeted Rex cordially. “Are those your children, Rex?” Kay asked.

Rex nodded enthusiastically; his kids were almost as big as him and just as neanderthal. They were porcine, slovenly nose pickers practically bursting out of their camp uniforms. Rex beamed proudly as he introduced his kids. “Yeah, this here’s Bruno, then Gino and my little angel Claudia. My wife’s around here somewhere, meetin’ and greetin’.”

Aren’t you a little old to be wearing a camp uniform?” Jack asked innocently.

“And big?” Luke added, always unable to resist stating the obvious.

Michael wished his sons hadn’t said anything but they was just kids; he had to admit he was curious himself. Well, the cat was out of the bag now and there was nothing Michael could do about it.

Rex glared at Michael. “Whoa, Captain America, don’t tell me there’s something you don’t know!? Dino-Mite!! Allow me to explain: I own this camp! That’s right, Mr. Touchdown, hot shot class president – this is all mine” Rex boasted loudly, stretching out his arms causing his t-shirt to rip under his sweaty pits.

By now Rex’s crowing had attracted a lot of his attention and people rushed over to see what was going on.

Luke whispered to Jack that Rex looked David Banner about to transform into the Incredible Hulk. That was too funny for Jack and both boys started laughing at the sounds of ripping cloth and the sight of huge sweat rings under Rex’s arms.

Why you little smart asses! Looks like your daddy forgot to teach you some manners so I guess we’re gonna have to. Bruno, Gino, let’s show these two skinny little bean poles what happens when they don’t give proper respect to Rex “Dino-Mite” Tirano.”

Kay started to take a step forward but Michael blocked her; no way was he going to let anything happen to her. Besides, he’d been waiting for this chance for a long time.

“Listen, Rex. We didn’t come here looking for trouble. We just wanted a good camp for our boys where they could be with respectable people with decent attitudes. Apparently we made the wrong choice. You’re right – I didn’t know you owned this place. If I did, we wouldn’t have wasted our time coming here. You may have gotten larger, Rex, but you certainly haven’t grown up!” And with that, Michael turned his back on Rex and began to lead his family out of the camp.

Before Michael could take two steps, Rex grabbed him by the shoulder, spun him around and took a swing at him. Michael ducked and Rex’s big flabby fist landed squarely on Kay’s face. Everyone gasped loudly and people immediately ran to help Kay. Michael stood protectively in front of his children. A group of men held Rex back while someone yelled for the police; within minutes camp security and the police showed up.

Rex was cuffed and hauled off to the police station; he was charged with assault and battery as well as endangering the welfare of children. Michael was asked if he wanted a restraining order against Rex. “Oh, hell yeah!” said Michael. “I don’t want this beast anywhere near my family“.

The crowd of people started murmuring among themselves. No one really wanted their kids going to Camp Dino-Mite; they were just intimidated by Rex and he bullied every other camp owner into shutting down. He was the only game in town. Now people were no longer afraid to show Rex how they really felt; they tore up their registration checks and pulled their kids out of Camp Dino-Mite.

Michael didn’t give a damn about Rex – it was time he got his due – but he felt awful about what happened to Kay. An ambulance had taken her to the hospital; she had a broken nose and a nasty black eye which she wore with pride. She told Michael it was worth it to bring down a prehistoric galoot like Rex. The kids were in awe of Kay; in fact, everyone was in awe of both Michael and Kay for doing something no one else had the nerve to do – stand up to Rex Tirano.

It turns out the restraining order wasn’t necessary but it was worth it just to see the expression of Rex’s face. After losing the camp and the power he held over people, Rex had nothing left and Kay convinced Michael not to press charges. Rex moved his family to New Jersey, his tail between his legs.

That was the end of the “Tirano Menace” and it didn’t even take a meteor shower to bring him down. No, it was a woman, a manasaur – the so-called “feral, dirty and sweet little girl” who knew how to bare her teeth, show her claws, bang a gong and get it on – since time immemorial! 🦕

NAR © 2022

REVENGE IS SWEET

I don’t really think of myself as a thief; I’m more of what you’d call an “exchanger“. Has a nicer ring to it, doesn’t it?

See, here’s the deal: I take other people’s lunches from the refrigerators at work and replace them with mine. That’s not really stealing; it’s more like sharing without the other person knowing – kind of like a one-sided Secret Santa.

I’m a terrible cook. The staples in my house usually consist of protein bars, crackers, peanut butter, and microwave popcorn. Even if I could cook, I don’t make enough money in my nowhere job to stock up on the kinds of foods I like to eat.

My job is to deliver the mail to the different departments for the company where I work. There are 15 floors in the building and each floor has two kitchens where the employees can eat their lunch, so I have 30 refrigerators to look through every day. I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s pretty easy to get away with if you do it right.

So far I’ve been lucky; I haven’t been nabbed taking anyone’s lunch. And, as I said, I always leave something in its place. Of course, it’s usually a protein bar or peanut butter on crackers but it’s something.

You wouldn’t believe some of the food people bring in for lunch – leftover veal parmigiana with pasta and salad, a nice piece of steak with vegetables, a giant roast beef sandwich – I’m talking real food! One day somebody brought in an entire rotisserie chicken with biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy – the whole nine yards!

I’m not allowed to leave the mail cart unattended; I could lose my job over that. I put my meager lunch on the bottom rack of the mail cart and when no one’s around I go into one of the kitchens and make a quick switcheroo. I always have my water bottle with me so it just looks like I’m in the kitchen refilling my bottle. Unless someone is watching me, there’s no way to know it’s me swapping out the lunches.

The trick is not to look out of place which isn’t hard because no one ever pays attention to an insignificant nobody like me. I’m practically invisible. I’d be shocked if anyone at work knew my name. I’m just “the mail guy”.

I casually wheel the mail cart into the kitchen, snatch something from the fridge and fill my water bottle. I hightail it out of there, leave that floor and head to a different kitchen where I heat up my pilfered lunch. After that I walk to a park by the water. Lots of people eat at the park and nobody knows me. If it’s raining, then I just eat lunch in my old Dodge in the company parking garage. People are constantly coming and going in that garage so I’m just another face in the crowd

My second job at Bob’s Barbecue Pit is where I eat dinner. The pay isn’t great but Bob’s an okay guy; he knows we’re all struggling and he lets us eat for free.

On Friday everything went off without a hitch. I grabbed a lunch, skedaddled outta there and headed for the park. Lunch was great – turkey, Swiss and avocado on a roll, a bag of chips and the biggest brownie I’d ever seen. Just as I was about to toss my garbage, I noticed the name “Chris Phillips” on the bag. Thank you, Chris, for a delicious lunch!

I finished the afternoon rounds, then headed over The Pit but I wasn’t even half-way there when my stomach started churning and I began getting bad cramps. I knew I had to get to a bathroom fast so I decided to go home. I made it just in time! I had the worst diarrhea ever! I spent Friday night and Saturday in the bathroom and all of Sunday recuperating. That’s when I realized it had to be the brownie! I bet Chris took a chance that his lunch would be swiped and he loaded the brownie mix with Ex Lax.

That rat bastard! This called for retaliation!

All week long I thought about how I could get back at Chris, but was it really worth it?    

Maybe it was time for me to move on, try to find a better job, earn more money.

Or maybe I could find the perfect payback for that weasel Chris. After all – I do like my sweets and revenge is the sweetest of all!

NAR © 2021

BLIND HEART POURED OUT

A PLAY IN ONE ACT

The setting is Sunrise Senior Living, a retirement home in upstate New York. Julian Vega, approximately 30 years old, has just arrived to pay an unexpected visit to retired Monsignor Patrick Bannon.

Receptionist: May I help you, sir?

Julian: Yes, I’d like to see Monsignor Bannon if he’s available, please.

Receptionist: Monsignor has just finished lunch and is in the library, his usual afternoon pastime. Please come with me.

[Julian follows the receptionist down the hall to the library.]

Receptionist: There he is in his favorite corner chair. Enjoy your visit.

[The library is a comfortable room with paneled walls, Persian rugs and floor-to-ceiling shelves of books. Light classical music floats softly through the room. A tray with a tea pot, cups and a dish of cookies sits on the table to the right of the Monsignor. An empty chair is on the opposite side of the table and an open book sits on the Monsignor’s lap. As Julian approaches, he notices the elderly priest’s book is in Braille. Julian speaks softly.]

Julian: Excuse me, Monsignor. My name is Julian. I’m sorry to intrude on your private time but I was hoping we could talk. I have some important information.

Monsignor: Ah, I thought I heard someone heading in my direction but I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage. Do I know you?

Julian: No, you don’t know me but I’ve heard about you and knew I had to talk to you.

Monsignor: Well, it’s nice to meet you, Julian. Please make yourself comfortable. Help yourself to some tea and cookies.

Julian: Thank you, Monsignor. I’m fine.

Monsignor: So, what’s on your mind, Julian? You’re not from this area, are you? I detect a familiar accent.

Julian: I moved up here about six months ago; I’m originally from The Bronx. Quite a change of pace but I think I’ve finally found a place where I can settle down.

Monsignor: That’s good to hear, son. We all need to find our way home. And what a coincidence! I was at Holy Rosary Church in the Bronx for years! But please, you didn’t come here to listen to me ramble on about myself. How can I help you, Julian?

Julian: Well, you’re right about finding my way home. I’ve been a drifter most of my life. Times have been tough for me and I could never catch a break. My demons followed me everywhere I went, constantly reminding me of my sins and failings.

[Monsignor Bannon closes his book and carefully places it on the side table, a sign that his attention is fully on Julian.]

Monsignor: Please continue, my son. I may be retired but I will always be a priest and anything you tell me will stay right here.

[Monsignor pats his chest to indicate his heart. Julian hesitantly begins to unburden himself.]

Julian: Well, I’m not really sure where to begin.

Monsignor: Wherever you feel comfortable, son, but I find the beginning is usually a good place.

[The priest feels around for the handle of the teapot and begins to pour out a cup of tea for both of them. Julian immediately comes closer to help but the Monsignor raises a hand to stop him; he’s learned to do this and many daily routines instinctively over the years since he became blind. He hands Julian a cup of tea, raises his own cup to his lips and waits for Julian to speak. The two sit in silence for a moment before Julian starts talking again.]

Julian: My mother was from Puerto Rico. She and her large family settled in The Bronx where her father did manual labor and her mother took in laundry. My mother would help with the washing and ironing of clothes. They were dirt poor; my mother and her siblings never went to school. My mother did some house cleaning for women in the area. Her family was very devout and went to church every Sunday. When my mother turned 17, she was offered the job of laundress at their church. She eventually became the cleaning lady for the rectory and brought home every dime she ever made. She was good and decent but that all changed in 1970 when my mother was 20 years old.

[Julian stops talking and looks out the window. The monsignor tells him to take his time, gently encouraging him to continue. The old priest knew Julian was going to tell him something of extreme importance.]

Julian: My mother became involved with an Irish priest at the church and they began an affair that lasted seven years. That’s when she became pregnant. She told the priest that she was carrying his child but he refused to acknowledge his responsibility and told my mother he would never leave the church for her. It was her word against his and my mother knew no one would believe her side of the story. She was humiliated and desperate. She fled to Ossining to find her good friend Anita from Puerto Rico.

[Upon hearing those words, the Monsignor sits very still, makes the sign of the cross and rests his head in his hand. He waits for Julian to continue.]

Julian: Anita lived with her mother in the tiniest of apartments and worked in the kitchen of nearby Sing Sing Prison. She provided a home for my mother and I was born in that apartment. Several times my mother tried calling my father, the priest, with no success and finally gave up. Eventually Anita got a job for my mother in the prison laundry; I was raised by Anita’s mother.

[Julian places his cup on the table and both men sit quietly for a moment. Julian continues.]

Julian: I was an angry kid with a big chip on my shoulder. I was always getting into trouble, disrespecting everyone and everything. For years I heard whispers about the Irish priest at Holy Rosary Church who knocked up my mother and tossed her away like yesterday’s garbage. All the voices in my head screamed at me to get my revenge. How different our lives could have been if only he’d been a man and did the right thing. So, one day I went back to The Bronx, right back to the church where everything fell apart and found that Irish priest. I called out his name and when he turned, I threw bleach in his eyes. Do you remember that day, father, when you saw the face of your son, my face, for the first and last time?

[Monsignor Bannon weeps silently, his head bowed. Julian continues.]

Julian: I heard your screams as I ran out of the church. I didn’t know or care where I was going; I made you pay and I just had to get away.

[The two men sit crying, shoulders heaving. The Monsignor reaches for the box of tissues on the table, offers one to Julian and takes one himself. After a long period of quiet, Julian continues.]

Julian: But I was punished for what I did to you. As I was running from the church, I was hit by a delivery truck. I was thrown like a ragdoll, my body shattered. That was 15 years ago and my life has never been the same since. While in rehab I discovered a hidden talent; I’m an artist and I spend hours painting every day. When I was finally discharged from rehab, no one would hire me. I found small jobs like being a messenger and selling newspapers in subway stations. I felt like I was being cursed, chastised for what I did to you. I came here today because I knew it was time to make my confession to you. I pray you can forgive me, father.

[The Monsignor extends his hands and Julian reaches for them.]

Monsignor: Julian, there’s something you must know. Please walk with me in the garden.

[The Monsignor reaches for his white cane and the two men make their way to the door. The Monsignor holds the door open for Julian.]

Monsignor: Please, let me hold the door open for your chair, Julian.

Julian: How did you know I’m in a wheelchair, father? I never mentioned that to you.

Monsignor: When you lose one sense, your other senses become heightened. When you first arrived I didn’t hear footsteps but I knew you were approaching because I could detect the almost imperceptible purring of your wheelchair. I also knew who you were the moment you began to speak. I only heard your voice once 15 years ago but I have never forgotten it. It’s very true that God moves in mysterious ways. It was His wish that we re-connect, that you find your way home and that we become whole together. Julian, I forgive you for what you did to me all those years ago but there is something vital you must know and you need to prepare yourself for what I am going to tell you.

[With great urgency, Julian grabs the Monsignor’s hands. The priest can feel Julian’s tears as they fall onto his hands.)

Julian: Please, tell me what I need to know.

Monsignor: Julian, your mother and I never had an affair and I am not your father. When you returned to Holy Rosary seeking your revenge, I had only been there for a couple of years, taking over the position of the former priest who had been reassigned. His name was Patrick Gannon, not Patrick Bannon – a very easy mistake to make. I never even met your mother and had no idea why you attacked me. Now it has become crystal clear but I carry no hatred in my heart for you.

[Julian is shocked by this revelation and sits dumbfounded staring at the man he believed was his father, the man he thought betrayed his mother and destroyed his life.]

Julian: My God, Monsignor! How can you forgive me for such a horrible act? You’re blameless in all of this!

Monsignor: Julian, no one is blameless. Being blind has taught me to see with my heart. It has made me a better person, a better priest. I see goodness in you. God brought you here for a reason – not just for you to clear your conscience but to give you back your life. Sometimes it takes years of pain and hardship but there are things in life we can’t comprehend. We can only try to accept them and see what good can come from them.

Julian: I’m sorry, Monsignor, but I don’t understand what good can come from my assaulting you all those years ago. You’re an innocent man. Please tell me what you’re talking about.

Monsignor: Several weeks ago the art instructor here accepted another assignment and the directors have been searching for a new teacher ever since. The job pays well and includes room and board but so far they haven’t found anyone. I’ve been here long enough to have some sway. Julian, I’m sure you’d be welcome here as art instructor if you’re interested.

[Julian begins to weep again and the Monsignor places his hand on Julian’s head.]

Julian: I will never be able to repay you for helping me this way.

Monsignor: Julian, my son, I feel no need to be repaid. I have had a good life. You’re the one who has suffered for too long, physically and emotionally. Yes, it’s ironic how this all unfolded but God has a plan in mind for all of us and I learned many years ago never to question His plans. I see things more clearly at this moment than I ever have before. Come with me. Let me introduce you to the directors. I’m sure God will open their eyes and minds to the great possibilities that lie ahead.

[The Monsignor places his hand on Julian’s shoulder. Julian reaches up and covers the priest’s hand with his. Together they leave the garden.]

NAR © 2021

A SHELL OF A MAN

A SHELL OF A MAN

Who the hell do you think you are,
Sitting out there in your fancy car?
Everyone know that you’re just a tool
Strutting around town like a Goddamn fool! 

You spend more time on your pretty boy look
Thinking you can snag me with your Devil hooks.
Well, let me tell you something that you might not know:
Your looks count for nothing when it’s all for show.

You’re not a man, just an empty shell
Of someone I thought I knew so well.
It’s obvious to everyone who called you friend
You care for no one and deep wounds never mend.

What happened to your soul, your spirit, your heart?
Did you ever once wonder why we had to part?
Of course you didn’t; your conscience is clean
Of every misdeed you claim to have never seen.

You used and confused me, deluded and abused me
And made me forget the strong woman I used to be.
I don’t look any different; it’s inside I’m not the same.
It’s gotten so don’t even recognize my name.

It won’t be long before you’re all alone.
No one’s gonna call you on the telephone.
You’re the biggest loser so face the facts:
People will judge you by your deeds and acts.

You think you’re perfect like Christ walking on water
But what kind of man abandons his wife and daughter?
My father always said you were a piece of shit
But I turned a deaf ear; I just didn’t want to hear it.

I trusted you once; I was blind, deaf and dumb
To the fact that you were nothing but a piece of scum.
How could I have been such an idiot not to see
What a snake in the grass you’d turn out to be?

You wooed and chased me, swept me off my feet
With pretty little gifts and whispered lies so sweet.
I felt so very special when we were out together.
Never listening when told I could do much better.

I loved you so much and you promised me all
So we ran off and got married at Buxton Hall.
A quiet little honeymoon at the Tan Hill Inn;
No more sneaking around and ‘living in sin’.

It didn’t take long for your true colors to show.
I caught you making time with some floozy named Flo.
That was just the start of a whirlwind of deceit.
You broke my heart to bits and I kicked you to the street.

So now you’re sitting there just like you own the place
With a look so smug I want to slap it off your stupid face.
You thought you could control me, break me down, but in the end
I turned into a willow tree and I learned how to bend.

Do us all a favor and get the fuck out of here.
Don’t come close to me or those I hold so dear.
Drive as far away as you can and don’t ever return.
You’re going straight to hell and I’ll be laughing while you burn.

NAR © 2021

JUST DESSERTS

Death comes suddenly to some; for others it takes a lifetime.

It was Good Friday of 1946; Kathleen O’Brien walked through a narrow cobblestone passage way to St. Brigid’s Church. She hated walking by Sully’s Bar with its overpowering stench of booze and abundance of seedy characters hanging around but she was late for services (a terrible habit) and this was a convenient shortcut. She was twenty-two years old – no longer a kid – yet she’d rather die than admit to her mother that she missed the Veneration of the Cross. It was bad enough she was late for everything.

Seeing an unfamiliar man drinking a beer and leaning against the wall outside Sully’s, Kathleen quickened her pace. She heard him chuckle and say “What’s ya hurry, toots?” She walked even faster, opening the side door of the church; it creaked loudly. The elderly priest paused in mid-sentence and made a grand gesture of looking in Kathleen’s direction; he stared at her over his glasses, giving her a withering scowl. Embarrassed, she quickly found a seat at the end of a pew next to Mrs. Callahan who huffed at having to make room for this rude latecomer.

As is the tradition on Good Friday, everyone remained after services for a period of silent prayer. It was a time to reflect and meditate, one of Kathleen’s favorite parts of Holy Week. When the ushers opened the church doors the sense of peacefulness and solemnity was instantly shattered by the loud music and drunken laughter emanating from Sully’s Bar. “Some people have no respect” thought Kathleen angrily. “An Irish pub shouldn’t even be open on Good Friday!

As she began her walk home Kathleen noticed the same man from the bar standing at the corner. Had he been waiting for her or was this just a coincidence? Warily Kathleen took a step when suddenly the man started walking right toward her. She was taken aback as he stood in her path and extended his hand. “Name’s Harry Selkin and you’re one fine lookin’ dame. Ya need somebody like me to walk ya home. It can be dangerous for a good Catholic girl like yourself to be alone in this neck of the woods.”

Where do you get off saying something like that to me?” Kathleen snapped. “And how do you know I’m a good Catholic girl anyway?”

Well, I ain’t no Einstein but I seen ya practically runnin’ to St. Brigid’s like ya pants was on fire and I’m guessinya ain’t no altar boy – not with them gorgeous legs.” Harry replied in a very ‘Bogey’ sort of way. He smiled and his tough guy persona became surprisingly charming. Kathleen found it hard not to laugh just a little at this roguish stranger and she shocked herself by allowing him to walk her home.

Harry and Kathleen were as different as a gorilla and a swan but there was an undeniable chemistry between them and they started falling in love. No one was more surprised than Kathleen; Harry was like no man she had ever met. Sure, he was rough around the edges but she loved how his face lit up like a kid whenever he ate dessert, especially his favorite – homemade apple pie. Kathleen was known for her baking skills and would make a pie for Harry every couple of days.

They had a whirlwind courtship and Harry popped the question, much to Kathleen’s delight – and her parent’s chagrin. At first they tolerated the relationship thinking it would blow over, but the more serious it got the more concerned they became. There was a major obstacle her parents couldn’t overlook – the fact that Harry was Jewish. Kathleen’s father was dead set against Harry, calling him names like ‘Christ killer’ and ‘kike’. He was enraged when Kathleen announced that she and Harry were going to get married with or without his blessing. Her mother was crushed. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Can’t you see he’s no good for you? I don’t trust him at all, Katy girl, not at all!” she warned, crying into her apron. Kathleen hated defying her parents but would not be dissuaded; she was in love! Her father said she was a blind fool and if she married “that good-for-nothing bum” she was dead to him. With a heavy heart Kathleen closed the door of her childhood home behind her and never looked back.

Harry and Kathleen got married in city hall, the judge and his clerk their only guests and witnesses. After a weekend honeymoon in Niagara Falls the couple settled into Harry’s tiny apartment – a walk-up on the fifth floor and almost within arm’s reach of the elevated train. Kathleen was startled by the scream of the locomotive but Harry said she’d get used to it.

The dilapidated condition of the apartment shocked Kathleen but she was determined to turn it into a lovely home for them. She sewed curtains and towels for the kitchen and bought bed coverings from the thrift store. She also bought sacks of apples from the fruit stand to make Harry’s beloved apple pies. She read in her cookbook that it was alright to freeze apples until you were ready to use them – a handy tip Kathleen didn’t know.

Harry worked the graveyard shift as a printer at the local newspaper, seven days a week from midnight till 8:00 AM. His fingers were permanently stained with black ink. The first morning he came home from work and saw the newly decorated apartment, he got angry at Kathleen for spending his hard-earned money on unnecessary things. Uncaring, he left ink stains on the bedspread when he sat down to remove his shoes. However his mood lightened considerably when he eyed the sacks of apples and Kathleen forgave his angry outburst when she saw that boyish grin.

While Harry slept during the day Kathleen cleaned, shopped and cooked. She wanted a vacuum cleaner but Harry said it was too expensive and the noise would keep him awake so she settled for a carpet sweeper. Their only chance to be together was at breakfast and dinner time – and of course for coffee and dessert. Kathleen suggested a few times that it would be nice if Harry worked during the day so they could be like a normal couple and spend more time together but her words fell on deaf ears.

She also longed for a baby. Each time she thought she was pregnant it turned out to be a false alarm. She saw a doctor who wasn’t very encouraging; he shrugged his shoulders, gave her ambiguous explanations and performed a couple of routine tests. He told her it was just one of those things; not all couples could get pregnant. When Kathleen finally got up the nerve to mention to Harry what the doctor said, he laughed and said it wasn’t his fault she couldn’t get pregnant; “Just ask that sweet little Frenchie I knocked up during the war” was his mean-spirited reply. Kathleen felt like she’d been kicked in the gut. When she cried that she needed something else to fill her lonely days Harry yelled to “go get a job and start earnin’ ya keep around here! Who needs another mouth to feed anyways?” Kathleen was reeling; how could he say such hurtful things? Heartbroken, she eventually gave up on having a baby and found a job as a presser in a shirt factory. The work was exhausting and she still had to maintain the apartment and cook for Harry.

What happened to the guy she married? Harry was constantly annoyed about something or other and drank more now than usual. He got mean when he drank and and Kathleen bore the brunt of his anger. When he demanded sex every night before going to work, she kept her mouth shut but she was silently screaming. This was no way to exist, like a piece of property and not a person. She’d lie awake at night remembering her mother’s warning words. The only thing in her God-forsaken life that she truly enjoyed was baking and she did it all for Harry. She would fantasize about how lovely it would be to have her own little bake shop; she’d make lots of delicious cakes and pies for her large following of loyal customers – not just for her selfish husband. She knew she could do it if she only had the chance.

A few weeks after Kathleen began working she started complaining about backaches and being very tired – probably from constantly lifting the heavy pressing machines at work. Harry, as usual, was unsympathetic and said she better toughen up because no way was she giving up that job.

One morning Kathleen asked Harry if he could bring down the mixing bowl she kept on top of the fridge so she could make an apple pie. He was tired from working all night and wanted to get to sleep but he obliged her at the prospect of dessert. Harry put down his bottle of beer and got the step-stool out of the closet. As he started to climb, Kathleen hoisted a five pound sack of frozen apples, wincing at the pain in her back, and bashed Harry as hard as she could on the back of his head. He fell backwards onto the kitchen floor, his lifeless eyes staring up at the ceiling.

Kathleen hurriedly tore open the sack of apples and dumped them into a pot on the stove. She shoved the empty apple sack into the garbage bag, bunched it all up and threw it down the incinerator chute outside their apartment door. Placing a new bag in the garbage can, she looked at Harry’s body and felt sick to her stomach, vomiting in the sink. She washed her hands and face, then placed a call to the police.

HELP!” Kathleen screamed into the phone. “My husband fell! I think he’s dead!” Then she calmly sat at the kitchen table and waited, crying over misspent years. The police and ambulance arrived quickly; after examining Harry, he was officially declared dead. Blunt force trauma, they said, obviously from smashing his head on the kitchen floor. Everyone was very conciliatory and sympathetic and they respectfully removed Harry’s body. “If there’s anything we can do, Mrs. Selkin, please let us know” the officers said as they left Kathleen alone in the quiet apartment.

Kathleen cleaned up the kitchen and called her boss at the shirt factory to say she wouldn’t be able to work that day. Her boss barked that if she didn’t come in to work she shouldn’t bother coming back at all. Kathleen simply said “Goodbye”. She put the pot of apples in the fridge and after changing her clothes she went to the funeral parlor to make arrangements for Harry.

When she got home she received a phone call from her doctor. “Mrs. Selkin, I’m calling because your test results came back; you and Mr. Selkin will be thrilled to know you’re pregnant. Congratulations, Mrs. Selkin!” Kathleen swayed in stunned disbelief and grabbed onto the edge of the table. She managed a weak “Thank you” and hung up the phone. “Pregnant” she whispered in awe and her slight smile slowly grew into a broad grin. She gently touched her belly, truly happy for the first time in years.

The next morning Kathleen baked a large apple pie with the same apples she used to bash in Harry’s head. When the pie was done and still warm, she placed it in a box and delivered it to the nice policemen. On the way home she stopped in the little bakery near her apartment and inquired about a job. It was a start, a new beginning for her and her baby.

NAR © 2020

THE GRAND OPENING

“Looked only! Didn’t touch!” wailed Eddie, the dishwasher at the Q.E.D. Lounge. The waitstaff came running into the kitchen upon hearing a crash. Shattered crystal covered the kitchen floor – the new shipment of assorted glasses for the lounge’s grand opening. 

Eddie huddled in the corner wiping his runny nose on the sleeve of his sweatshirt, whimpering like a frightened boy. Due to that one decisive extra chromosome, Eddie was very much like a child – a 30 year old man with the mind of an eight year old. Just a little thing called Down Syndrome. Eddie’s brother Jay, the maitre d’, crouched down next to him while everyone stood in stunned silence. 

“Bud, accidents happen. It’s gonna be ok” Jay said calmly. “C’mon. We’ll help you clean up.” 

Without hesitation the crew grabbed brooms and dust pans – everyone except Lou, the belligerent bartender. 

“Don’t look at me. I ain’t helping!” snarled Lou. “It was that Goddamn retard’s fault. He shouldn’t even be around normal people, fucking mongoloid!” 

Jay clenched his fists, eyes glaring at Lou.” Shut your filthy mouth, you miserable son of a bitch! Don’t ever talk about my brother like that!” 

Martin Byrnes, manager of the Q.E.D., stormed into the kitchen. “What the hell’s going on?!” Slowly he looked around, taking in the whole scene.  Martin asked everyone to leave except Eddie, Jay and Lou. 

Martin spoke softly. “Eddie, I’m not mad. The way you help out here represents everything that’s good in this angry world of ours. Can you tell me what happened?” 

Eddie glanced over at Lou then shook his head ‘no’

“Mr. Byrnes is real good to us, Eddie. He deserves the truth” Jay added encouragingly. 

Eddie sniffled and rubbed is swollen eyes. “I saw all the boxes so I went to look at them but I didn’t touch them, cross my heart. Lou, he came in the back door and pushed me into the boxes and they fell.” 

“You lying freak!” yelled Lou. “I was out back chasing that tramp who’s always looking for a handout. Eddie’s mangy mutt was there and he tore a hole in my pants cuff!” 

“Yeah, after you kicked him, I’m sure” declared Jay.  

“Ok, Lou. What happened when you came back into the kitchen?” asked Martin. “Were you so ticked off at the dog that maybe you bumped into Eddie?” 

“Look, Mr. B. I’m telling you I didn’t do nothing” sneered Lou. “Who you gonna believe?” 

“Alright. What’s done is done” sighed Martin. “Jay, you and Eddie finish cleaning up in here. Lou, go down to the basement and bring up whatever glasses you can find. We’re opening tonight as planned.” 

Disgruntled, Lou headed for the basement. He remembered a prior shipment of glasses that Martin didn’t like. Rather than return them they were put in storage. And there they were, two towers of boxes at least six feet fall. 

“Why am I stuck doing this shit job? Where’s that lazy spic busboy?” Lou grumbled. He walked to the delivery entrance and shouted “Hey, Manuel! Get in here!”  

Manuel didn’t answer Lou’s command;  Eddie’s ‘mangy mutt’ did and he growled, hurt by the kick in his ribs from Lou’s patent leather shoe. The dog inched closer, baring his sharp canines.

Lou backed up as fast as he could but not fast enough. The dog sank his teeth into the bartender’s calf and wouldn’t let go. He meant business and was out for revenge … for himself and for Eddie. 

Lou was thrust into the stacks of boxes, splintered wood and jagged glass crashing down on him. As a final coup de grâce, Eddie’s dog lifted his hind leg, pissed on Lou and trotted out the door. 

NAR © 2020

THE DIABOLICAL DOCTOR DIAMOND

It was Deirdre Diamond, Doctor of Pharmacology and loathed next door neighbor. I’m sure she’s the one who poisoned my koi pond. And I know why she did it, too. It’s because I mowed over her nasty thorn-encrusted wild rose bushes that constantly grow over onto my property. I had every right to do so and my physical body never trespassed onto her property – only my lawn mower–  yet she sought her revenge by killing my beautiful fish. And why would she do such a thing?  Because Deirdre Diamond is just plain nasty, hard-hearted, unsympathetic and more than a bit demented. 

We’ve had arguments for years now, mostly because she refuses to honor our property boundary lines. She loves to complain about my dog, Roscoe – a lazy old bloodhound who barely barks and never wanders off but Deirdre calls him a “vile nuisance”. If anyone on this earth is vile it’s her! She also grouses about my wife Judy sunbathing topless on our upper deck, telling other people she looks like a heifer. The truth is a peeping Tom would need binoculars to see Judy all the way up on the deck so Deirdre had to have gone out of her way to snoop on my wife, then blab about it. How typical of Dr. Evil! 

But this – the poisoning of my beloved koi fish – was senseless and I’m not going to let her get away with it! I don’t know if or how I’m going to be able to prove she did it but I’ll come up with something. She thinks she’s so slick, getting away with anything. Well, we’ll see about that, Deirdre! Yes we will! 

Later that week as I lay in bed during the wee hours I couldn’t help but stifle a giggle when I heard the long-anticipated sirens of the approaching fire trucks. Then that afternoon when I heard the news in town that Deirdre’s garage had all but burned down during the night, I feigned surprise and bit my tongue to keep from laughing out loud. Spontaneous combustion. Imagine that! Well, I guess old Deirdre’s got no choice now but to get rid of those gardening chemicals and what’s left of the badly damaged garage before something worse happens. One never knows, does one? 

The next morning I asked my wife “Judy, have you seen Roscoe?” as I stood in the kitchen holding his bowl of dog food. Judy replied that she had not but he might be snoozing under his favorite weeping willow tree. He does love his naps. I went out to look for Roscoe and did indeed find him under the tree, but he wasn’t sleeping; the poor old guy was dead. Not a single noticeable mark on his body. Probably meant to look like old age did him in. Never sick a day in his life and now he’s dead – or should I say murdered? And by that lunatic Deirdre, I’m sure of it. She hated Roscoe just like she hates everyone and everything. This has gone way too far and she’s got to be stopped. Dear Roscoe. How I wish he would have ripped out Deirdre’s throat but the sweet guy wouldn’t even hurt a fly. Why Deirdre ever became a doctor I can’t say for sure but it certainly wasn’t to help people or do no harm. 

Well, I may be naïve but I won’t let Deirdre intimidate me. However, it is a pity that someone accidentally left the gas on in her oven. It’s not like her to be so careless. She could have died of asphyxiation or imagine if the whole house had exploded, blowing her to kingdom come! What a hoot that would have been! If she knows what’s good for her, Deirdre will keep her threats to herself and stay off my property. She killed off all my pets. Now it’s just me and Judy and Deirdre’s presence is unwanted. Her very existence disgusts me. 

An unusually peaceful weekend went by and Judy convinced me to visit my brother in New York for a few days. I hadn’t seen him in quite a while and Judy was going to be tied up with preparations for the church yard sale so I agreed to go. I was only there for two days when the call came. Judy was dead! Apparently she never showed up to help with the yard sale – very untypical of her – and friends came to the house looking for her. I flew straight home and learned Judy was found in our bed, dead from an apparent heart attack. There was no trace of foul play, no apparent marks, no poison. But I knew better. Only a maniac like Deirdre could pull this off. She killed my wife and I’m going to get my revenge if it’s the last thing I do. 

Who says revenge isn’t sweet? I watched the whole thing unfold from behind my bedroom curtain, binoculars at the ready. Deirdre getting into her car, turning the key and then BAM! BAM!! BAM!!! Seeing little bits of Deirdre strewn about her driveway was spectacular! She had no idea I was a demolitions expert from my days in Vietnam. This was by far my greatest detonation dance of death! No one could prove it was me who did this, just like no one could prove Deirdre did what she did.  

This calls for a celebration – a toast to my deeply despised and not-so-dearly departed nemesis, the maniacal Doctor Deirdre  Diamond. I think that nine hundred dollar bottle of bourbon will fit the bill nicely. 

Ah, so sweet! So smooth and warm going down. Sweet as revenge. Finally I can relax.  

“Wait a second. What’s happening to me?” I wondered anxiously. “My throat and chest are on fire!” I clawed frantically at my shirt collar. “No! This is not possible … Deirdre poisoned my bourbon!!” I underestimated just how diabolical she could be.

Damn you, Deirdre Diamond! Damn you!”  

NAR © 2019

SWEET LITTLE MAGGIE

“Welcome, friends. You’re listening to Dr. Grey, ‘The Night Owl’. Let’s talk about what’s keeping you up at night. Caller, are you there?” 

Yes, I’m here and I feel a little foolish calling you about my problem. It happened so long ago.” 

“Let me assure you, caller, there’s no reason to feel foolish. Obviously whatever happened is still haunting you. Maybe it’s time to let it go. Whenever you feel comfortable, I’m here to listen.” 

“Ok .. here goes nothing. You see, I was born deformed. Growing up in a small Midwest town, I was teased mercilessly, especially by the other boys.” 

“I can see how painful that must have been for you. Please continue.” 

“High school was a living hell. There was a group of guys who beat me up every day. The only friend I had was a sweet girl who wasn’t disgusted by my deformity. It was real easy to fall in love with her. But she had a boyfriend .. the guy who treated me the worst. How I hated him! I started thinking of ways I could hurt him like he was hurting me.” 

“Caller, I can only imagine your pain. May I ask .. have you called in before? There’s something familiar about your plight. Please, go on.” 

“No, I’ve never called before, Chief.” 

“What did you just call me?” 

“Oh, did that nickname ring a bell, Chief? Yeah, big man on campus back in Madison, Indiana. It was you, Chief, who made my life a living hell, you who tormented me every chance you had and eventually turned my only friend against me .. my sweet Maggie. Do you have any idea how much I hate you? “ 

“Oh my God! Fred Waldron! Fred, I’m unbelievably sorry for all the pain I caused you. I was an idiot with a big mouth. But now we have a chance to….” 

“To what? Talk it out? Forgive and forget? I don’t think so. Too late, Chief. See, I’m dying. That’s right. My deformed body is riddled with cancer. I had one last thing to do before I die and believe me, it wasn’t to hear you apologize. It was to hurt you in the worst possible way.” 

“Fred, what do you mean?” 

“You’ll see. When we hang up I’m gonna put a bullet in my brain. And you? You should go home and check on your sweet little Maggie.” 

CLICK.

NAR © 2018

DR. ROBERT

Playboy: a man, especially one who is of comfortable means, who pursues a life of decadent pleasure  with multiple women. 

Meet Dr. Robert Chase. Even in hospital scrubs, cap and a surgical mask with only his eyes visible, the man oozed sex appeal. It may be hackneyed but women wanted him and men wanted to be him. 

He was rich, handsome, clever – an expert on the dance floor or in the OR, adroit in the boardroom or the bedroom, charming but not cloying. He attracted people and he was admired by all.

Robert was what is called in the trade a ‘nip/tuck guy’ .. a plastic surgeon whose clientele consisted of rich women looking for bigger boobs, fuller lips, tighter butts and curvier hips. There was no doubt he had hooked up with most of his patients. In his office he had a provocative poster .. half woman/half cello .. with a quote by Pablo Casals: “The cello is like a beautiful woman who has not grown older, but younger with time, more slender, more supple, more graceful.” 

However, there were two peculiar qualities about Robert that just couldn’t be explained: #1) He was married to a gorgeous, funny and smart woman, one any man would be proud to call his wife; why the insatiable need for other women? #2) For someone who was incredibly worldly, he could be uncharacteristically stupid at times. Perhaps it was his ego or self-denial that made him so reckless as to give women his real name, home and cell phone numbers .. the road to perdition.

Robert was the keynote speaker at a medical convention in Miami. Since he wasn’t slated to speak until the third day, he decided to troll the beaches looking for ladies. It wasn’t long before he spotted a fetching redhead chasing her errant beach umbrella in the wind. He came to her rescue, catching the umbrella and securing it in the sand. They talked for a while .. her name was Scarlet .. and made plans to get together that night for dinner. Robert was his usual charming self and the evening ended with Scarlet inviting him back to her room where he spent the night. In the morning they exchanged phone numbers and he kissed her goodbye. 

That afternoon Robert discovered a topless beach and, as a nip/tuck guy, he was in his element. He strolled over to the tiki bar and struck up a conversation with a voluptuous blonde named Denise. Giving her his business card, she jumped up, grabbed his hands and planted them on her breasts. Feel them!” she demanded. “Do you think they’re the same size?” Not skipping a beat, Robert suggested they go up to her room where he could give her a “proper exam”. He was quite thorough and it didn’t take much convincing for him to spend the night. Next morning he put Denise’s number into his phone and bid her farewell. 

Leaving Denise’s hotel, Robert collided with a bikini-clad goddess on roller skates. They tumbled onto the boardwalk clinging to each other. Looking into Robert’s eyes, she said ,”I’m Rita. Pleased to meet you.” Biting her bottom lip, she asked if he’d like to join her for coffee “or something”. Robert groaned in frustration, explaining that he’d love to but he had to get back to his conference. After exchanging names and numbers, he impulsively kissed her, promising to call.

At the close of the convention, Robert was invited by three other doctors to stay in Miami for a few days of golf. Robert agreed and called his wife Sophia to tell her he’d be home in four days. They played eighteen holes every day and relaxed in the evening with prime steaks, fine whiskey, Cuban cigars .. and girls galore. Robert was a legend among his friends and they were duly impressed. They would joke around by saying “Dr. Robert Chase .. always on the case.” 

Finally after a week away from home, Robert was ready to return to his lovely Sophia. If she knew of his philandering, she never let on. She was always occupied with lunching and shopping with her friends or going to the spa. And he was sure to return with shiny baubles, flowers and Italian chocolates .. her favorite. On the plane ride home to Santa Monica, Robert busied himself by looking through his iPhone at all the new lady friends he met in Miami. There they were in all their glory .. names, numbers and photos. Don’t want to lose track of those lovelies! 

Robert’s driver Charles met him at the airport and upon arriving home he was surprised to see some unfamiliar cars on the driveway. Grabbing Sophia’s gifts, he bounded up the stairs and into the house calling her name. Sophia came running to greet him. “Hurry, Robert! You must say hello to my guests!” She pulled him out to the veranda and much to Robert’s shock there sat Scarlet, Denise and Rita .. all looking like the cat who swallowed the canary. 

“Darling”, Sophia purred. “You’ve been a very busy boy. You see, when these charming ladies started calling here looking for you, I decided it would be nice if we all met and had a little chat. They certainly had a lot to tell me about you and Miami. Are you alright, darling? You look very pale. Here, have something to drink.” But before Robert had a chance to reach for the glass of champagne, Sophia threw it at him and slapped him hard across the face. 

Robert reeled from the smack. He was stunned, humiliated, desperate and begged pitifully, “Sophia, please, let me explain.” 

No! Not one more lying word from your filthy mouth! What a damn fool I’ve been all these years!” Sophia snarled at him. “Your bags are packed and Charles will drive you to a hotel. Do not try to see me or contact me in any way. My lawyer will be in touch. And Robert, before you go .. leave the gifts.” 

NAR © 2018