Monday, December 27, 2010


It has been a long summer of violence, turmoil, and change in Atlantic City as the city continues its transformation from faded seaside resort to vibrant, entertainment, gambling Mecca. Life styles clash on the Boardwalk, in the casinos, and in gang controlled neighborhoods while a bloody territorial war between rival families has left a trail of bodies scattered throughout the town. LOST EXIT revolves around Timmy Davenport, a self-destructive college basketball player home for the summer, searching for the answers in life that have so far escaped him. The heart of the story is about Timmy and his relationships with his family and friends, as well as the city he grew up in, and the love of a game that was once his salvation. As he prepares for a basketball tournament that can define his future, Timmy, like Atlantic City itself, has to confront the ghosts of his past before he can move forward.

LOST EXIT looks at a character haunted by his own poor choices and addictions in a harsh, brutal world where he has struggled to find himself. The story is about a last chance opportunity for Timmy to prove himself while battling his inner demons on and off the courts before piecing his life back together. Timely and intense, LOST EXIT blends the pain and angst of youth with the emotional struggle of characters coming to grips with their own identities.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

CRAWLING TO GRACE (published in Foundling Review)

In the silence of night memories scream awake and the old man is again forced to relive the horror of that island – time hasn’t stopped the waves of panic and fear that flood his sleep. His wife had spent years patiently easing him into each morning, holding him until the crying and trembling passed, but the cancer that finally took her left him all alone to fend off the nightmares. Some how, the loneliness of his bed has made the intensity of the dreams much worse and unbearable.
Despite the years he can still see the bright orange-yellow flashes of the .50 caliber guns on the battleships and destroyers blasting the island, hear the deafening explosions of the Japanese artillery and mortar rounds that blanketed the beach, and feel the stare of every soldier who looked at him like he was supposed to get them to safety. Like his stripes gave him an ability and knowledge none of them possessed, and that somehow that was enough. He remembers rolling over the gunwales on the boat into a cold, violent surf, and the way they crawled on their bellies, inching through black sand and volcanic grit to escape that beach but there was no cover from enemy fire. The Japs were dug in, entrenched inside concrete pillboxes at the top of the ridge, laying down interlocking bands of fire that sliced apart whole companies of Marines, and there was nothing he could do to save anyone. Over and over in his dreams he hears their screams and the heart-breaking agony in their voices as blood runs into the sand. He has spent too many mornings through too many years asking why he survived when so many didn’t – searching for some kind of reason that might make sense of it all.
But it is a question that remains unanswered.
Time has created gaps, eroded details, and chipped away at other parts of his life, but the old man never forgets what he left on that nasty little nothing island named Iwo Jima.
Or how much the fight for freedom has truly cost him.

Friday, November 12, 2010


On a two lane county road near Vineland, the skies that had been dark and threatening for hours finally opened up in a violent explosion of lightning and thunder cracks. Archer pulled into a small bar tucked beneath the highway overpass to shake off the rain and kill time. There were no more than a handful of people inside; nobody paid attention to him as he slid onto a bar stool and ordered a Jack Daniels. Quietly sipping his whiskey, he watched the redhead nearby nursing her own drink, finally chancing a smile when she glanced his way but she casually flipped the hair from her face and turned away from his stare. By the time she started gathering her things and saying good-byes to the people around her, Archer was already picturing the feel of his hands against her skin, the smell of her breath on his face, and the way her voice would sound when he held her close. He tossed a twenty on the bar, slipped his fingers around the switchblade in his coat pocket, and headed outside into the shadows of the parking lot to wait for her to leave.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

UNION BLUES (published in 6S volume III)

Preacher Bob’s sermons had been filled with words of hope and perseverance for so long that Junior lost track of the weekly messages; he wasn’t sure the Preacher even believed them any more. If this was supposed to be part of God’s plan like he told the congregation every Sunday, it wasn’t going too well – the unemployment checks had stopped fifteen months earlier, food stamps didn’t stretch far enough, and it was impossible to survive on the cash scraped together from odd jobs. His old man had gone to work every day for years, paid his bills, raised a family, and lived the American Dream on their tree-lined street in his little Cape Cod; Junior grew up picturing the same kind of life for himself. But that was before the Ford plant in Edison closed and left most of the storefronts in town boarded shut – before Mary took the baby and told him she was done waiting for things to get better. She walked out and it left the house with the kind of emptiness that wrapped its arms around him and squeezed out the last pieces of his dreams. Junior leaned back, closed his eyes, and took a long hard swallow from his Bud, thinking the Preacher needed to find something different to say next Sunday.

Friday, July 30, 2010

ANGELS OF THE BALLROOM (published in 6S Vol III)

Once Madeline dreamed of dancing beneath moonlit skies, with the soft sound of the wind whispering her name. Now she spends her days in a chair by the window, staring down an empty street, waiting for visitors who never show. Her husband is gone, her children rarely stop by, and the phone never rings – conversations, like friendships, ran out years earlier. All she wants is to dance quietly with her grandchildren wrapped around her knees but she doesn’t understand why they have no time for her. Madeline never thought she would pay for her independence with loneliness; the hurt is heavy and familiar in ways she cannot explain and doesn’t understand. She counts each hour as it drops away, silently wishing she could have back what was left behind.

Friday, May 28, 2010

MILES TO MEMORIES (published in At The Bijou)

You wanted to be like Hurley when you were a kid; imagining where life would take you once you grew past the astronaut, cop, and fireman stage of adolescent dreams and desires – when you were told by teachers to picture yourself living in the nine to five world parents inhabited and not the imaginary one of grade school youth. Hurley was a man who seemed to have everything; well liked by others and someone very few would say anything derogatory about, at least not openly. He was different - unlike the fathers of my childhood I remembered seeing on the train platform dressed for the office in their suits, ties, and overcoats, while balancing briefcases, coffee cups, and morning editions of the Times and Wall Street Journal. Men caught up in their spread sheets, cash flow projections, and mergers; too busy for the mundane parts of life.
He was more than that.
It wasn’t something I knew at first, but some things became obvious a few minutes into our conversation. Memories, like long forgotten dreams came back in a rush of emotion and a hard punch to the chest, and in an instant I was just another ten year old kid on the street where I grew up.
Looking for approval, or at least understanding, from someone who didn’t know anything about me.
“You don’t realize how good you got it,” Hurley told me as he finished the last of his Absolut. “None of the pressure and none of the stress that can kill you fifteen years down the road. Things are easy for you right now.”
Nothing I had ever been through seemed easy. Whatever I could say about that I kept to myself.

The full story can be found at:

Thursday, May 6, 2010


The day had broken cold and gray as the man turned off the street a block from the boardwalk, trudging slowly in the heavy snow towards the old, abandoned building. The plywood covering the windows and doors was meant to keep out vagrants, but he managed to squeeze through a hole where one of the boards had been pried loose; the turn of the century building was a stark reminder of Asbury Park’s once vivid past and subsequent decades-long descent, although the man cared nothing for its history – he just wanted a place to rest, away from the bitter cold. The sores on his hands and legs were scabbed with blood and his beard flecked with dried vomit he hadn’t bothered to wash away in the Bus Terminal men’s room. It was never supposed to be like this but he couldn’t remember when life had ever been any different; his dreams had died so many years earlier that the memories were gone with no trace of the things he wanted. A fear of death, crushing in its weight and intensity gnawed at his insides before exploding into sickening panic; but then just as quickly that panic dimmed and his thoughts calmed. The man closed his eyes and let himself drift away, thinking that it wasn’t so bad – there were worse ways to die, and even worse ways to live.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

TWITCH (published in Writing Raw)

It was hard to stay cool.
The heat waves curled off the asphalt road and rolled across the desert, making it impossible to remain focused. It wasn’t any easier with sixteen pounds of body armor, especially as the Kevlar absorbed every ounce of sweat and the fabric increased in weight. It was brutal and uncomfortable, and I could feel those extra pounds with every movement and each step I took. There was no escaping the heat, no matter what time of the day or night, and it was all we talked about.
Except when the topic was getting shot by snipers.
Or being maimed by IEDs and roadside bombs.
Conversations like that had each of us riding nasty, serrated edges and suppressing our fears.
It was a couple of months after they found Saddam hiding in the underground hole near his old hometown in the desert. We were already tense, six long hours into a roadside checkpoint in the Salahuddin Province north of Baghdad; surrounded by people intent on making us leave their country – willing to take any risk and pay any price to accomplish that mission. We dreamed about going stateside, although it was just an abstract memory – vaguely familiar but impossible to remember in detail. Everything had changed since we had been deployed. Nothing about home seemed real any longer. Our only goal from the minute we laced up our boots in the morning until we fell back into bed at night was to make it through the tour; anything else was unimaginable. We took it day by day, one step at a time. In basic training they taught us to channel any thoughts that took away focus, no matter how tough the conditions, but it was difficult doing that in the hell of the Iraqi desert. Clouds of dust swirled around, stuck in my throat, and left me coughing like a two pack a day smoker, barely able to swallow. Sometimes the dirt got inside my goggles, leaving me unable to decide whether to use my canteen water to clear my vision or quench an unbearable thirst that remained day after day.
Cool was an afterthought.


Monday, January 18, 2010

DOWNBOUND A (published in The Foundling Review)

Fall came early that year. The edge in the air wasn’t just the cold, raw wind cutting down the street – the unity and collective embrace briefly shared after September 11th had faded. The weight from the smoldering rubble a few blocks south was still heavy as Tommy Gallagher descended into the Church Street Station.
Making his way below, collar turned up and head down, Gallagher avoided the faces and stares of those around him. The darkness of the stairway paralleled the mood of the city.
It was out of that darkness that he heard the soft wailing sound of a saxophone. Haunting and edgy with bite like something by Coltrane or Sonny Rollins, the melody stirred something deep inside. Gallagher turned the corner and slowed before finally stopping alongside others who stood unmoving, listening in rapt silence.
A tall, black musician in a well-worn tee shirt and leather jacket, with dreadlocks and a wispy goatee stood across the platform, a small leather case open at his feet. He held his sax like a dance partner, hips swaying slightly as he dipped from side to side while the notes cascaded throughout the caverns of the station. With more than the usual thirty second sound bite Gallagher was accustomed to from subway performers, this was as if the A train had paused up the tracks to let him play. Gallagher held on each note as the music carried him to a time and place where warmth and beauty found its way into his heart again. A place where hope made its presence felt.
Business executives, secretaries, students, messengers, and laborers all stood together as one. For those few minutes on the platform each of them was taken far away where they could forget about hurt, pain, and memories of friends lost in the Towers.
The A pulled into the station and Gallagher quickly joined the rush for seats, but the music continued as the doors closed and the train started down the tracks; when he turned he could still see the saxophonist moving slowly back and forth. They continued towards Brooklyn and the musician disappeared from view as Gallagher settled back into his seat. His eyes moved from passenger to passenger, and in each expression he saw the same thing he felt inside – something that had been missing.
And for the first time in weeks, Gallagher smiled.