I'd been meaning to get this in my port and found the time today :- )
The following are the entries I wrote for "15 for 15 Contest --- Closed" . This is my favorite contest to compete in and the one I find the most challenging. It is great practice for writing off-the-cuff, and letting your muse free for fifteen minutes a day. Enjoy!
January 12 – Window
“God you’re beautiful,” Michael whispered, and his breath brushed the skin of her shoulder, sending a shower of sparks across Charlotte’s soul that scattered in the breeze that lifted the sheer drapes. The ocean beyond the window smelled clean, not like the salty odor of Florida’s St. Joes Bay. The turquoise view swam before her, and the ocean flowed into the sky as a tear escaped her eye.
“I hope my family isn’t worried about me. I hope they will understand why I left without telling anyone.”
Michael’s warm hand reached for her, turned her gently until she faced him and her body pressed against his own. He said, “You’re a big girl, you can make your own decisions. It’s time you stopped worrying about what other’s will say.” Ignoring her tears, he went on, “So, what do you want to do today? Choose anything, my love. Sky’s the limit.”
Charlotte rolled onto her back, savoring the cool cotton against her bare skin. “I want to walk the beach,” she said after a moment. “with my feet in the edge of the water, I want to feel the meeting of sea and land.”
“That’s it?” Michael said with laughter in his voice. “No parasailing? No snorkeling with the dolphins? No lying in the sun and getting drunk on Bahama Mamas?”
She laughed, and threw her head back until her face got lost in the pillows. Michael leaned in and kissed he extended throat, until her laughter became giggles, then pleas to stop. When she could, she looked into his eyes. “I only want to take in the beauty of this earth, and your love. I don’t need anything else in life. If I could do that every day, I’d die a happy woman.”
The cell phone next to the bed began to ring. Charlotte picked it up, and the smile left her eyes. “It’s her,” she said softly.
“Go ahead,” Michael urged gently, “answer it.”
She hesitated, then flipped open the phone. “Hello?”
“Mom! Thank God you picked up. Are you all right? Where are you?”
“Hi sweetheart. I’m fine; don’t worry. I love you. “
“Where are you? The nurses said you checked yourself out last night! You still have four treatments left, Mom. You’re not with that Michael person, are you?”
Charlotte gently closed her phone. She smiled at Michael. “Hand me my wig. Let’s take that walk.”
Jan. 13 – Fall
Every fifth grade eye was trained on Kenneth. The hush over the gymnasium was broken only by the sound of his hand gently slapping the basketball spinning on the tip of his finger. When he trusted his voice again, Kenneth resumed speaking.
“I wouldn’t have made such a bad choice if I hadn’t been high,” he admitted. “It was a mistake to take the drugs my so-called friends offered me. I had my whole career ahead of me. Basketball scouts from three universities had been talking to my parents just the week before.” Kenneth paused again, this time more for effect than from emotion. Someone coughed from the top of the bleachers.
“When the cops arrived at the party, they didn’t care who I was or what I’d done. They had to arrest me because I had drugs on me, and test results later showed I’d taken them, too. I’m changed from the experience, and looking back, there are things I’m grateful for. Like the opportunity to come share my story with young people like yourselves.” He glanced over at the uniformed cop leaning against the wall, the clipboard with Kenneth’s community service paperwork tucked under his arm. The cop nodded.
“So let me leave you with this last thought. When I was messed up at that party, I never would have gotten on that trampoline if I wasn’t high on drugs. And even though I was high, I had this moment of clarity when I turned that last flip. See I was upside-down, and I remember I felt like I was suspended in the air, like I was flying. But I looked down, and all of a sudden I realized I wasn’t gonna land on the trampoline. I saw the ground. I don’t remember hitting it, but I remember the pain in the hospital. Pain in my body; pain in my mother’s eyes; and the pain of realizing that I’d let drugs take away my future. Don’t make my mistakes, kids. Don’t do drugs.”
Kenneth set the basketball in his lap, swiped at his eyes quickly, and as the applause broke out in the room, he grasping the wheels of his chair and rolled to the sidelines.
Jan 14 – Fish
Demont stared across the still lake at the place where the sun had slipped out of sight. Gone. Like Sheila, taking its light with it. Like Sheila. His eyes burned with tears he thought he’d run out of by now. The still lake mirrored the sky, and if it weren’t for the opposite shore Demont wouldn’t know where the water ended and the sky began. That’s how he’d felt for two months now, since the accident robbed him of his wife and his children’s mother. Everything ran together, nothing made sense. He looked over at the kids. Look at us, he thought. We’re each standing here on the same dock, staring out in different directions, close together but so alone. How was he going to pull them back together; how were they going to move forward? How was he going to raise them alone? He wasn’t so worried about Jackson. A boy with a father would learn to be a strong man, stay away from the gangs, the drugs, all those pitfalls he’d face once he left elementary school. But LaKeisha, she’d need her mama. How’s she gonna talk to him about woman stuff, changes in her body that were right around the corner? And he wanted her to have her whole childhood, not have to take over the job of keeping a house and tending to the men. Damn, why?
A sudden cry from LaKeisha startled him, and he spun around.
“Daddy! I got me a fish!” she squealed. Demont rushed to her side of the dock, with Jackson at his side. They shouted encouragement as LaKeisha reeled her catch in.
“Jackson, get the net, boy! Quick!”
Jackson raced to the tackle box and back with the net. Demont scooped the fish out of the air as LaKeisha pulled one last time on the pole. They laughed and admired the fish, flopping against the dock.
“He’s little, baby, whatcha say we toss him back?” Demont asked.
“Yeah, maybe he’s got baby fishes need ‘im,” said Jackson.
The surface of the lake grew still as the ripples from the fish disappeared. Demont hugged the children, and over their heads he saw a star shoot across the blackening sky.
Jan 15 – Giraffe
Jessie put a protective arm around Pamela’s slender shoulders on the platform at Metro Center as the crowd pressed closer to the opening subway train doors. She would have loved to hold onto Pam’s hand, but the eleven year old would never allow it. She was used to acting tough, and with her habitual scowled Pam glared at her shoes and avoided everyone’s stares.
They had to stand in the crowded train, and as they gripped the bar and the train lurched a disembobied voice announced, “Red Line to Shady Grove.” Pam looked up, her pink eyes glared into Jessie’s face. “Are you going to tell me where we’re going?” she demanded.
Jessie smiled. She had never seen aperson with oculocutaneous albinism before meeting Pam at the Boy’s and Girl’s center in SW Washington, D.C. Of the one’s she had seen in pictures, she remembered freaky sallow skin and bunny rabbit eyes. Pam had the eyes, but Jessie thought she was gorgeous. Her flaxon white hair fell in soft ringlets around her shoulders, and her skin though almost transparent seemed to glow like the light of a candle. She’d befriended Pam even though Pam stayed in the corner of the room and picked at her shoe laces while the other kids ran and played. After several visits, Pam began to warm up to Jessie, but her hatred at the world for always staring at her and making her feel ugly seethed out of her like mist off an icicle in the sun.
“I told you, Pam, it’s a surprise,” she answered, and as the train pulled into Woodly Park Zoo station she added, “Here’s our stop.”
They trudged up the steep sidewalk flanking Connecticut Avenue in silence, but as they crested the hill Jessie said, “Have you ever been to the zoo?”
“Nope,” Pamela answered sourly. “And I’ll bet the people there will stare at me more than the animals!”
They entered the zoo gates and Jessie lead the way to the open air pens of the large, savannah animals. Pamela drew in a sharp breath when the giraffe’s head came into view above the trees.
“Gosh, it’s beautiful!” she exclaimed. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life!”
Jessie stooped and turned her face gently by cupping her chin. “That’s the same thing I said the first time I laid eyes on you.”
Jan 16 – Castle
Thomas watched the older men taunt as his grandfather rocked his arm in a slow, underhand arc before launching the grapefruit-sized iron ball. It lobbed across fifteen feet of air before landing with a thud and knocking an adversary’s ball away from the small, white ball and out of play. A chorus of cheers went up as the group broke into conversation. Thomas leaned against the stone wall that surrounded the dirt lot in the center of the village, kicking small puffs of dust up with his sneaker.
“Thomas!” his grandfather called to him. It sounded like “Toe-ma” when he said it. “Vient jouer, en fin!1
When Thomas didn’t move, his grandfather slumbered over. “What eez wrong, Thomas? Why you so sad?”
“Poppy Rene, you know the airline lost my DS. I’m totally bored without it. I don’t know what I’m going to do all vacation.”
Rene regarded the boy, then said, “You not bored if you play our game.”
“It’s a dumb old game.”
“Les Francais have been playing les boules for hundreds of years! It’s not boring! Video game is boring!”
“Poppy, pac-man has been around since 1980!”
Rene laughed. “Get up, we walk.”
He led Thomas out of the village and up the short road to the castle ruins. He stopped and faced Thomas. “Look at le chateau. It is old, even broke down, but it is honored because it reminds us how deep our roots are. They are your roots, too. You were born in France, even though you live in United State. You must embrace your culture.”
Thomas looked around at the beautiful scene. France was pretty cool, he thought. He looked up into his grandfather’s eyes. “I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll learn to play les boules, if you learn to play a game on my DS when the airline sends my bag.”
Rene laughed a deep belly laugh. “D’accord, mon garcon! C’est un pare!”2
As they turned to leave, Rene looked over his shoulder, and Thomas wondered if he was hoping the bag was lost forever.
Jan 17 – Monkey
Benoit and Pascal struggled to carry the pail of water from the new pump in the yard into the make-shift veterinary camp recently constructed on the outskirts of the village. The water sloshed onto their bare feet, leaving dark stains in the dust on their black feet. Pascal glanced at Benoit and asked, “Amungu so aye nyama ni tongona-so?”3
Before Benoit could answer, Dr. Fredrick asked, “Benoit, what did your friend say?”
Benoit was used to translating for the doctor. His talent for picking up English had served him well this time around, and landed him this job. He placed the bucket in the corner and pulled his baseball cap off his head, wringing it in his hands and bowing his head before answering. “He say, ‘Why you like the monkey?’”
Dr. Fredrick said, “Well, this little guy is on the endangered list, and our mission is to help them grow stronger and begin to flourish again in the wild. See this injury? He got into a scrap with another animal, perhaps a jackal? If we don’t treat him, he could die of infection.”
Benoit glanced out the open doorway; it was getting late and the market was surely closed by now. Dr. Fredrick seemed to read his mind, because at that moment he reached into his pocket and pulled two coins out. He offered Benoit and Pascal each 100 Central African francs, and wished them good night. As the boys exited, Benoit looked over his shoulder to see the doctor gently set the monkey in a cage, latch the door, and pull a mosquito net over the enclosure.
Benoit bade Pascal goodnight, and walked swiftly to his house. His mother was tending the fire in front of the mud brick structure, the smoke wafting over the thatched roof on a gentle breeze. His mother offered him a bowl of gruel with a little red sauce; there was no more meat.
“Mo ba ni, mama ti mbi!”4 Benoit said with pride as he handed the coin over to his mother.
She smiled a toothless grin. “Good boy,” she replied, dropping the coin into a tin cup on the ground, where it landed with a solitary clank. “Tomorrow, we will all get meat.”
Benoit ate quickly, and then went into the house. He found a place on the floor, on a mat between two of his sleeping younger brothers. His mother entered shortly after that, and lay down next to the youngest child already asleep on the home’s one bed. As she turned toward the wall, she slapped at a mosquito trying to land on the baby’s shoulder.
Jan 18 – Snow
Jonathon tore out of the farmhouse at a full run, but he couldn’t escape the wails from the bedroom following him like smoke from a fire burning out of control. The oppressive heat of the August afternoon felt like flames lashing at his face as he ran. Despite the heat wave that held the village in its grip for over a week, he ran on, terrified that life as he knew it was coming to an end. His grandmother and aunts hadn’t let him near his mother since she took ill; they said the fever could get him too. But he could tell, could sense, that something was different today. Something bad was happening, and it terrified him.
He ran up the path along the steep hill to the old church that overlooked the village. Mass hadn’t been held there in his memory, since the new building was constructed before he was born. But his instincts were guiding him now, and he didn’t question his slim legs as they carried him to the top of the hill. He stopped running only when he reached the church doors, but when he came to a standstill the wails could be heard still, though less intense for the distance. His heart pounded and sweat ran down his boyish body underneath his loose cotton shirt. He stepped inside the church.
The hush of the interior was complete, and for the first time since the wailing began he didn’t hear it at all. The tears began to fall again and Jonathon’s chest heaved. When he drew in a deep breath he smelled a musty scent of old wood and incense. He took small steps until he reached the alter.
Jonathon collapsed onto the raised wooden planks, dropping his face into his hands. Rocking back and forth, he let the tears fall. Please, God, he prayed, Please take the sickness away from my mama. Please. I know you are almighty and good, God, and I know you can do it. Please, God, please.
He didn’t know how long he knelt there, but his body was noticeably cooler when his knees felt stiff and he finally stood. Slowly, he walked back to the church doors and outside.
His gasp was the only sound he heard as he beheld the pristine snow covering every blade of grass and every tree branch. Wide-eyed, he stared, trying to understand the miracle that had taken place. Then he heard it. Not wails in the distance, but cheers. He turned toward his house and broke into a run.
Jan 19 – Jump
Wardrobe did a fantastic job, thought Mary as she smoothed the vibrant plaid fabric under the belt of her dress . She looked up and down the street. Come on! What are we waiting for? She had been in the business long enough to realize they were losing the good sunlight by needing so many takes. If someone had thought to ask the city for permission to close the street, the last three takes wouldn’t have been interrupted by honking cars. As if in answer to her thoughts, she finally heard the amplified voice of the director.
“Quiet on the set! Background action!” She glanced over her shoulder; the people walking down the sidewalk were very convincing. That would add to the overall effect, thought Mary. It was so clever that all the cameras and the director were hidden out of sight. She fluffed her bouncy brunette mane and focused ahead of her. The director yelled, “Action!”
The theme music began on the loop. “You’re gonna make it after all!” On cue she skipped into the center of the street, and as the music culminated, she leapt into the air with her arms wide, before launching her hat into the air. Sudden sirens from down the block advanced fast. The director shouted, “Cut!”
A police car followed by a white vehicle pulled next to her. The driver of the non-police vehicle rushed up to her. “Linda! Are you ok?”
Mary stared at him with incredulous eyes. “Linda? Look, Dr. Ferguson,” she said, reading his nametag, “do you realize you just ruined our shot? The director will be furious!”
Dr. Ferguson’s face froze, and then he glanced at the cop to his left. Turning back, he said, “Ah, Miss Tyler Moore, I beg your pardon. It’s just that the studio sent me for you. You are late for the meeting with the executive producers.”
Mary gasped. “Oh, my goodness! I need to speak to the director first.”
Dr. Ferguson put up a finger, then reached into his pocket. Smiling at her, he flipped open a phone and said, “Get me the director. Yeah. Sir? Miss Tyler Moore is needed at the studio. Yes. It’s a wrap? Fantastic.” He closed the phone. “Are you all set?”
He opened the door of the white car with the logo for St. Paul’s Hospital for Mental Health printed across the side, and she moved to enter. As she folded into the back seat, she said, “It’s a good thing we have a police escort.”
Dr. Ferguson smirked at the policeman, who returned the grin. As the cars sped off toward the hospital, the siren filled the air.
Jan 20 – Bomb
The man sat on the cobblestones just inside the alley, his knees drawn up and his head balanced on the bones he could feel through the rough fabric of his pants. He pressed his lids tight against his eyes, trying to block out the horror of his mission, the reality of the moment. Despite his efforts, the world he couldn’t see carried on the air in sound his ears couldn’t ignore.
Men from the market across the way shouted to one another. Car horns erupted from the street. A woman scolded a child, who broke into abject sobs. Sweat ran down the side of his cheek. He realized the din of the city couldn’t drown out the erratic pounding of his heart in his ears. Sand ran out through the hourglass of his mind. Do it now. You must. Don’t think. Don’t watch. Do it now. Must OBEY. MUST!
Concealed under his bent legs, his thumb pressed down on the detonator.
A thunderous, explosive blast shattered the normalcy of the afternoon. Instantaneous screams reached across the air with cruel fingers that clawed at him, scratched the flesh of his spirit, slapped his mortal face. The ground shuddered as concrete shrapnel rained down, striking indiscriminately at terrified survivors seeking shelter. Still, the man sat with his face buried, but he’d begun to rock back and forth on his tailbone as the sirens shrieked and the world caught fire around him. A man from the rubble was screaming, “Help! Someone help!” The agony in the suffering man’s voice stilled the rocking man, and his head snapped up. Oh God, what have I done? Obeying now his humanity, resolved to face the consequences, he raced in the direction of the cries.
Jan 21 – Face
The sound of the bus pulling itself up the hill receded as the back door opened and slammed in quick succession. “Mommy!”
“In here,” called Judith. She poured steaming tawny liquid from the tea kettle into Great-Grand-Pappy’s cup, which sat upon the open newspaper on the table. Pages two and three in their entirety told stories from the Inauguration the day before. Little ripples formed across the tea’s surface as Daniel ran heavy-footed into the kitchen.
“Mommy, guess what?” he shouted.
“Well hello to you, too, young man. And give your Great-Grand-Pappy a kiss on the cheek. He’s got to go back to the home in a half-hour.”
Great-Grand-Pappy turned his weather worn face to the child. Daniel never looked at the deep wrinkles of life’s imprint on his skin; he only noticed the light in Great-Grand-Pappy’s eyes. Basking in the glow of their warmth, he moved closer and offered his best bear hug.
“So what’s your exciting news?” his mother asked.
Daniel snapped to attention, and goofy wrinkles formed under his chin. “I said the WHOLE pledge today at school. The WHOLE, ENTIRE thing and no mess-ups, Mommy! I was perfect!”
“Wow!” Judith gushed in a voice that tried to ape her son’s enthusiasm. “Only half way through kindergarten and you know it already? That’s great, pumpkin!”
Great-Grand-Pappy was watching with keen eyes. “Say, laddie, you think you can teach an old man that pledge?”
Daniel collapsed in giggles, managing to say, “Aw, come on! You know it!”
“I never gone to no school, boy,” he said plainly. Daniel’s face fell. He went on, “I left Tower Colliery in England when I was a wee lad; came to America with me Pa. We were poor, and went right to work. There was no schoolin’ for me. The coal mines of Clay County, Kentucky was me school. Was your daddy who was the first in the family to go to school, lad. So whatcha think? You gonna teach me that pledge?”
Daniel stood with a straight back, pulled his shoulders back sending his chest forward, and said, “It goes like this: I pledge allegiance…”
“Hold on,” Great-Grand-Pappy said. Slowly, leaning heavily on the newspaper lined table, he drew himself out of the chair. He stood at attention facing his great-grandson, and put his hand over his heart. “Ok. I pledge allegiance….”
Jan 22 – Tiger
Janet grinned at Michael with squinted eyes, past the make-up brush and its artist standing inches from her trying in vain to remove the shine from her face. The hot studio lights conspired with the live audience to heighten her bristling excitement. An amplified voice announced, “Five seconds, four, three…” The make-up woman dashed off the stage and Janet met Michael’s eyes.
“Good luck,” he mouthed at her.
“You, too!” she whispered back as the red light on the center camera glowed.
“Welcome back to Connect-The-Dots, where photo clues hide word associations. Can you spot them before our contestants?” The host turned their way. “We’ve made it to our final round, and the score is tight. In the lead we have Deb and Donald, with fifteen points. But look how far Janet and Michael have come! With three straight correct guesses, they have narrowed the margin to three. If they do not beat Deb and Donald to the buzzer, our reigning champions will be returning tomorrow night!” The studio audience applauded, cued by lit signs on either side of the stage. When the clapping subsided, the host went on.
“However, if you beat them to it, Janet and Michael, you will earn five more points bringing your score to eighteen and you will be our new champs!” More applause broke out. Janet’s heart skipped to the beat of the fluttering in her stomach. She blew a steady stream of air slowly out pursed lips.
“Are you ready, teams? Here is the final photo.”
All eyes were on the cobalt screen, and the suspense built as everyone waited for the image. Suddenly it was there, a monk lying on the ground with a tiger; both seemed to be sleeping. Janet stared, concentrated all her energy on it. Her heart hammered. Come on, come on… Suddenly, her hand slammed down on the buzzer. The host asked for her answer. Time seemed suspended as she shouted one word.
The host stared stone-faced at the blue card in his hand. Then his cold look warmed into a brilliant smile. “Yes! Tiger Lily. Peace Lily. The correct answer is ‘Lily,’ and we have new champions!”
Jan 23 – Domes
Desperately, I dig deep and rack my muddled mind
Orphaned by my muse, I grope blindly for the storyteller virtuoso
My mind’s eye focuses instead on a muse atrophied and dim
Estranged from me she floats free
Silent and still as I stare at the domes.
Jan 24 – Fish
“Hey, dufus, grab my tackle box,” Bobby drawled over his shoulder. Mack watched the bobbin dance under the tip of the fishing pole in Bobby’s hand as he walked toward the path that led from the parking lot to the river’s edge. Mack grasped the box handle and shuffled after his cousin.
The path followed the tributary that snaked through the marshes to the wider river beyond. The contestants milled up and down the banks, looking for the perfect place to drop their line. Mack arrived at Bobby’s side in time to hear him boasting to another boy. “I done got the biggest fish last two years, y’know. I bet I win again and my picture’ll be in the paper.” He glanced at Mack. “Well c’me on, cuz. I need my bait.”
Mack set the tackle box at Bobby’s feet. “Hey, Bobby? I’ll bait your hook if’n you want.”
Bobby’s lips curled into a sly smile. “Why thanks, I’ll just have me a snack over there in the shade.” He pulled a bag of chips out of the box and swaggered over to the shade of a small tree.
Mack chose a pink rubber worm and tied the lure onto the line. “Hey, Bobby? Y’want me ta cast ‘er in?”
Bobby was chatting with a friend now, and waved casually in Mack’s direction. Mack cast the line and reeled it in a bit, until the reel clicked and the bobber settled on the surface of the water. Mack stared at the red and white bulb when suddenly it disappeared under the surface. His heart skipped and without thinking he yanked back hard on the pole. The tip of the pole arced fiercely and Mack began to reel, turning the handle in quick, fluid circles. Within a minute the fish broke the surface with a jerky flail of its long body.
A cheer went up from the onlookers along the shore, and Bobby raced to the water’s edge. “Gimme my pole!” he shouted at Mack. The smile left Mack’s face as he handed it over, and Bobby reeled the enormous fish the rest of the way in. The newspaper photographer was there ready to snap the shot.
“Kid, get with your fish. She’s a beauty and probably the biggest we’ll see today!”
When Bobby turned and posed, the photographer lowered his camera. “Not you, I want one with the big kid and the fish.” Bobby slunk away as Mack smiled for the camera.
Jan 25 – Flower
A bead of sweat ran into Maria’s eye as she rocked forward on her knees and reached her sponge to the narrow section of floor behind the toilet base. Chlorine fumes burned her nostrils and she blocked her breath. Heaving herself up, she surveyed her work, lowered the rim and cover onto the sparkling commode, and bent to gather her bucket of supplies.
Exiting the powder room, Mrs. Chesterfield’s voice echoed against the vaulted ceilings and richocheted off the marble floors. “What do you mean you’re working late again tonight? What about the gala?”
Marie bowed her head as she walked past her mistress and into the airy kitchen. Junior stood in front of the double door refrigerator, one foot poised on his skateboard and his free hand pressed against the stainless steel front as he gulped down a glass of water. He didn’t look her way when he placed the empty glass on the granite countertop and skated through splashes of water on her freshly mopped floor, leaving grimy streaks in his wake. Maria placed the glass in the dishwasher before pulling a rag out of her bucket and buffing out the marks on the floor.
“I don’t give a damn WHO you need to have drinks with, Arthur! This fundraiser is important if we want Justin to get excepted in the school.” Mrs. Chesterfield’s voice had risen another octave.
Marie shuffled past Mrs. Chesterfield to retrieve her coat. Her work finished, she had just enough time to catch the five o’clock bus. The lanky, bejeweled woman noticed her, it seemed, for the first time. Covering the receiver, she huffed, “Maria, I wanted the hall floor cleaned today!”
Maria looked over with dismay at the first room she’d cleaned that day. The African Grey parrot in the corner cage had overturned its dish, and seeds covered the parquet flooring. Maria pulled her coat off again.
Later that night, she entered her small, neat apartment. Her children had set the table in the kitchenette with a worn, sunny yellow cloth, a white plate, fork and knife, and the one glass drinking cup they owned. A tear brightened her eye as her kids insisted she sit down, then served her favorite dish of western omelet and warm bread. Maria savored the hot food and loving gesture, and thanked God for her blessings.
Jan 26 – Winner
“Are you freakin’ kiddin’ me?” Stevie Romero scoffed as he threw his cards face down. A cheer went up from the onlookers surrounding the table. Tommy Heart raked all the chips from the ante pile toward him, including the rolex laid neatly on top. The piles of chips at his side resembled the smokestacks of Jersey’s finest factories across the Hudson. Tommy grinned boyishly and avoided looking at the other players.
“Hey, Tommy Heart? How come we’ve never seen y’all around the circuit before today?” drawled a large man in a white suit and matching ten bucket cowboy hat. “Y’all can’t be new to the game. A’int beginners who can bluff like you.” He eyed Tommy’s chip fortress with suspicion.
“I been playin’ in the neighborhood for years. In Brooklyn, you gotta have your game face on all the time, ya know what I’m talkin’ about?” Tommy smirked and offered a knuckle bump to the cowboy, who sat with emotionless eyes fixed on Tommy. Tommy lowered his fist.
“Aw, come on Tex, you’re just pissed off ‘cause he got your stupid watch,” shouted Romero from the other side of the table. “Your bluff was weak man, even I saw through it.”
As the Texan argued with Romero, Tommy Heart excused himself from the table. His heart was racing though his composure seemed cool. In the vacant hallway leading to the restrooms, he pulled out his cell phone. Glancing left and right, he pushed speed dial number one.
“Sacred Heart of Brooklyn, may I assist you?”
“Sister Cecelia Maria?” he whispered into the phone.
“Father Thomas? Is that you? Where are you, we’ve been worried sick!”
“I’m fine, Sister. But I only have a minute to talk. Listen, please call the parish council, and tell them to block the youth center demolition. I have raised the money for the new roof, and I suspect there’ll be enough to buy new furniture and get some new programs for the kids off the ground.”
“Praise the Lord, Father! This is a last minute miracle. How did you do it?”
Father Thomas glanced at the poster on the wall advertising the semi-pro Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament. With a scarlet blush he said, “I found a room full of willing donators.”
“God is great,” Sister Cecelia Maria exclaimed. “I’ll make the call now. Thank you, Father. Thank you so much!”
“You are welcome. And Sister? One other thing, please call Father Fitzgerald. See if he is available on Sunday to hear my confession.”