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Good Narrative Principles

May 12, 2017
by Lee Eiferman
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Stakeout

There is no way that the guy who opened the cheese shop across the street uses organic milk. Make that zero chance. Agreed, I am borderline obsessed by what I freely acknowledge is my own bugaboo concerning all things organic. Artisanal. Farm fresh blah blah blah. Consider this: if it’s true, as he claims, that all his cheeses are made from farm yard animals that all are lovingly raised in sheltered environments free of pesticides or any hint of conflict, then he should be charging more. And yet he undercuts me six ways to Sunday. Wish I knew for sure because my bladder is screaming for attention, but I’d be a fool to leave my secret spot on top of the hill with a clear view of his alleged artisanal farm. They’re about to round up the cows. How much you wanna bet they’ll kick one or two of ‘em in their fat behinds?

February 27, 2017
by Lee Eiferman
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DYI Casket

I joined the local Build Your Own Casket Club at the urging of my dear wife, Michelle. When she first mentioned it, I barely responded. It sounded like a terrible idea for all the obvious reasons. So, the question is, what am I doing here sawing, chiseling out dovetails and gluing this to that? Turns out, once you get over the ghoulish, macabre factor, it can be kind of fun. Must be something about preparing your final resting place that frees people up. I’ve gone three times and not once has anyone bragged about their kids, their grand kids and all the super places they’ve visited. Instead, we talk about the little stuff — best friends we’ve lost track of, the first kiss and peaches. Is there anything better than a perfect peach? After I finish building my casket, I’m thinking about branching out to bird houses.  Conversation might not be as lively, but heck, it sure fills up the time.

February 2, 2016
by Lee Eiferman
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POTUS Wrote Us

POTUS Wrote Us

IMG_8452You might not know this about Woodrow Wilson but he was a hot-head. The man had a temper. Not over all things. In fact, his temper, the thing he’d fixate about tended towards the unusual, the out of the ordinary. He was, for instance, very particular about his collars. The starch sawed into the fold of his slender neck, sometimes drawing blood. But, his secret passion, the issue that he cared about more than joining the League of Nations or fighting the impending Volstead Act was the sorry sanitary habits in his home state, Georgia.

At a time when he should have been seeing to more pressing issues, Woodrow took to the road. It was summer. The hot summer of 1919. The heat blanketed our town, sapping all desire to move from hammock to house let alone to hear the President speak in the town gazebo.

Despite the heat, our town of Gum Branch went all out. The high school marching band reassembled and practiced deep into the night. The bunting committee got to work. Word had it that the Mayor had contracted a Notable Preacher to put in a good word so that the weather might cooperate.

We lined up, each carrying our canvas chairs and freshly baked cakes and filed past the row of Johnny-on-the-spot moldering in the summer sun. I held my breath. I had brought along a fan made from one sheet of paper that I had recently learned how to fashion and thought myself clever.

When President Wilson took to the stage, the band struck up a jaunty tune. We applauded long and hard. We applauded what we believed would be a highlight of our life.

President Wilson then spoke for quite a while as was the fashion back then. He spoke about the need for the South to join the rest of the country. We needed to catch up. He was coaxing us the way a father urges on a recalcitrant child. He spoke at length about the virtues of clean hygiene, pleading with us to install indoor plumbing.

Mid-sentence, with a thought hanging between start and resolution, our President spied the line of Johnny-on-the-spot in the back of the park. He froze as his outrage shot straight out. President Wilson leapt off the stage. Strode long paces to the back of the park. Somehow a sledge hammer was thrust into his hand. Our President swung it high in the air where it hovered just for a lick and then slammed into the side of the Johnny-on-the-spot.

Shit, piss spewed straight out. Splashed the President square in the eye. The door of the President’s car flung open as if anticipating his next thought and he flew inside. The door slammed shut and he was gone. Just like that.

A month later we received a note from the White House signed by the President asking for our forgiveness. He spoke movingly about the unsanitary mess he had made as a result of his explosive temper. He went on at length about the particulars of that moment.

It was not a moment my family cared to revisit. However, as it was our only letter from the White House, it sat throughout my whole childhood perched on the mantle. In a place of honor.

(Title Provided By: Tim Duch)

June 17, 2015
by Lee Eiferman
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Psycho: The Untold Tale

IMG_6500Back during the war years, Patricia O’Connell (née Hitchcock) was restless. Despite the fact that her family moved to Los Angles two years before, and were now living in the lap of luxury (no winter, no food shortages), Pat couldn’t escape the pull of Queen and Country. Her mother Alma grew increasingly alarmed as her daughter went about researching, and then ultimately signing up for active duty with the WRNs “wrens” (Women’s Royal Naval Service). Her father on the other hand, seemingly too distracted by the political wranglings at the studio, wished her well and headed off to work.

However, the great Director did have some pull back home and worked his contacts to secure her a relatively cushy job. Ready for action, to be of use to her country, young Pat learned that she was assigned to Operation Outward, which sounded like just the sort of important work that she had dreamt of securing poolside in LA. But the job quickly lost its luster, it’s gravitas, when she was deposited in front of a golf course and ordered to walk to the clubhouse to report for duty. She lodged an official complaint with her Commanding Officer, but he assured her that the barrage balloon unit she had been assigned to was indeed hazardous and honorable work. A fan of her father’s film and therefore eager to keep her around, Officer Jack showed her the flash proof jacket and hood, then demonstrated how she must apply the thick protective cream to her face and hands. There was the “beer, jelly and socks” that would fall from the balloons and set the forests of Germany ablaze. There were the trailing wires dangling from the balloons that would short out the electric lines of the enemy.

Despite how silly it all seemed, Pat did her bit. The thick cream she slathered onto her face and hands meant that every night she had to wash it off. Whereas, the other wrens in her unit were content to simply wipe off the cream, Pat suffered through frigid showers in the hope of saving her fragile and delicate complexion. Only Alan, a Royal Navy Officer, was equally fastidious about his personal hygiene.

On this one particular frigid night, her shower was pleasingly warm. Pat, when she shared the story with her parents, recalled that right before the moment in question, she was singing a simple ditty that was playing on the radio before she left LA. She stepped out of the steamy shower. Emerging suddenly through the dense fog was Alan. His head was wrapped in what looked like a gingham tablecloth. He wore a rose colored robe, cinched at his slender waist and held something shiny in his upraised right hand.

Before Pat could register that it was a wet toothbrush, she screamed.

And then she screamed again.

June 15, 2015
by Lee Eiferman
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Change The Game

IMG_6443Kimberly flew to Akron because, as His people relayed via text at around ten-thirty last night in a btw kind of way, “He” didn’t want to get on a plane. He didn’t want to fly Atlanta.

Sitting in first class at the bleary hour of 4:30 a.m. and with her staff seated many rows back in coach; Kimberly had a moment to reflect on the whole notion of selflessness. Early in her career, Kimberly discovered that the trick was to make herself invisible, or nearly invisible when dealing with celebrities. This strategy was doubly true when negotiating with the next Brand Ambassador. The bigger the celebrity, the smaller she became.

Despite all the books she read and speeches she gave on the topic, this form of selflessness still left a bad taste in her mouth. Her personal life, for instance, was a caldron of clashing egos. She tried to tamp down her invincible opinions and expectations about how dates should go, but the long hours at her desk suppressing any natural expression of selfhood, had a way of exploding in a barrage of expletives as soon as she left the building.

Her personal life seemed to deteriorate in direct opposition to her rise in the heady and competitive field of celebrity endorsements. Having survived the Paula Abdul scandal, the Kobe Bryant assault case, even the Bill Cosby inferno, Kimberly knew how to handle not only the famous, but critically, the self-important Handlers that swarmed around celebrities. The Nervous Nelly whose job pivoted on his/her ability to find the impossible, say, a bottle of genuine Vermont Maple Syrup in Abu Dhabi or fresh oysters (not canned or smoked) in landlocked Racine, Wisconsin at three in the morning. The stories the Handlers shared with Kimberly on set by way of apologizing for their compulsive hyper vigilance was always a good sign. It meant she had won over the Great One’s team, which, when ignored, had the power to squash a deal.

In her bag, Kimberly carried two thermoses. One was Sprite laced with strawberry; the second was flavored with cherry. Not wild cherry, the Chemists were quick to note, but rather simple sugar cherry. Both thermoses were specially designed to retain the fizz and pop, so that when Kimberly decanted the two drinks, LeBron would be suitably impressed.

Kimberley’s flight was delayed. By the time she arrived at LeBron James’ office, her blood sugar had slid dangerously towards shaky. Having no choice but to draw attention to herself, she asked for orange juice. LeBron and her OJ arrived roughly at the same time. The two thermoses were opened with great fanfare. But LeBron didn’t like either option.

To Kimberly, it seemed like game over. Desperate for sugar, she snatched the thermos filled with cherry flavor, tossed in some OJ for good measure and gulped it. LeBron, insulted that she was drinking from his thermos, downed it, as if to assert his primary role in this exchange.

And he liked it.

And then he endorsed it.

June 3, 2015
by Lee Eiferman
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The Apocalypse

IMG_7166Eleanor was floating on her back in the middle of the lake, taking a break between the butterfly and the breaststroke when the world ended. It was over just like (snap).

There was no flash of white or sense of being yanked upwards by her hair (she was after all wearing a swim cap). One minute she was in the lake planning tonight’s dinner menu and the next she was in the middle of a crowd, a thick dense crowd, streaming forward, destination unknown. Despite the density of the mute crowd, Eleanor realized that she had time to think and watch.

She felt her prescription goggles still squeezing the bridge of her nose and noticed the world appeared through the fuzzy distortion of her lens. She had meant to buy new ones, or at the very least use spit to control the murky glaze that invariably formed midway across the lake, but at least she could see.

Which come to think of it was confusing, since death, she was led to believe, meant leaving your body and all its woes behind.

Somehow she managed to maneuver to the side, whether by thought or by kicking her feet, she couldn’t be sure. The crowd grew thicker, like the knot of pedestrians on the corner of Forty-Second and Fifth seconds before the light turned green. Dentists still holding their delicate tools, stern CEOs, trendy Baristas caught mid-gesture moved relentlessly past her. As did a school of dolphins, a bewildered bear and wart hogs. Wasps, bees and a swarm of mosquitoes that took no interest in Eleanor, occupied the in-between spaces.

Her friend Judy, who had vehemently denied having an affair with her Boss, waved enthusiastically as she passed, as if saying goodbye from the prow of a cruise ship. Her blouse was unbuttoned and her Boss, still cupping her left breast, peered ahead as if trying to assess the traffic patterns.

Was that it? Game over. Or was it merely the end of this level, like a particularly involving round of “War Craft”? Eleanor was content to wait it out.

She fought an overriding compulsion to join in. Instead she stayed rooted to her spot. Her childhood dog stood on his hind legs and barked. But no sound was heard. Finally, even her dog, she couldn’t remember his name nor her own come to think of it, scampered away and she was left alone.

Truly alone.

She took off her goggles, as she would at the end of a swim, but the world lost focus and so she kept them on. She listened and heard nothing, not her customary tinnitus or even an old Beatles song.

She had expected to hear something final like In the end the love you make…but there was nothing.

I wish I could say that Eleanor woke up. But then this wouldn’t be a story about the end of the world.

May 18, 2015
by Lee Eiferman
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Habitats

photoMarie got her job with the Building Department straight out of college. She wasn’t much of a student and her Mom warned her that going to a four year school would amount to nothing more than flushing her cash down the toilet. Two years would suffice, thank you very much. But Marie loved her college years. Not for what she learned in the classroom, but for what she saw, felt and did at night and on weekends, like she had finally drank deeply from the “chalice” (a good college show-off word) labeled “life experience”.

The first year she worked at the Building Department she went through four pair of fancy shoes all the while lobbying her bosses (all guys) to please reconsider the dress code. She also tried to bolster the vague intangibles of her work life that today might be called office culture. She put out bowls of candy at Halloween and Christmas. She made sure that the office team celebrated milestones like birthdays with a sheet cake.

Four years later, Marie has settled nicely into her job. She’s handed over the role of birthday captain to the unsuspecting newbie who was hired to work the front desk. The only decorating she now does is for Halloween, which still thrills her for reasons that have nothing to do with candy. And while her hunt for comfortable dress shoes still remains expensive and elusive, her mood grows increasingly brighter. Perhaps it has something to do with Cute Mike’s recent trouble with the permitting process. And that each time he swings by the office he brings her a little sweet something to pass the time while she dutifully processes the permit requests that his wife has completed. After all, Mike explains with a smile that shows off his cute dimples, she has the more legible handwriting of the two.

May 18, 2015
by Lee Eiferman
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Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?

FullSizeRenderLooking back on it, Marlene was clearly a poor choice for PTA treasurer. But in her defense, she never wanted the job in the first place. At the yearly kick off meeting, Sue Ellen, after being voted President, outlined the tasks of the treasurer and asked someone to volunteer. Then she begged. When no one stepped up, she tapped her good friend Marlene for the job. Marlene grimaced, being treasurer sounded like a drag, one that didn’t play to her strengths. But over coffee the next day, Sue Ellen pointed out that after dropping the kids off at school, Marlene’s days were free, and so she could easily deposit and withdraw funds as needed.

Marlene was also meticulous, another trait Sue Ellen valued in her friend. In the fall, Marlene’s job as treasurer served as an able excuse for the two friends to have lunch together on the PTA’s dime. But on the Monday following the highly successful Swingin’ Soiree fundraiser, Albert, Marlene’s unreliable husband, texted his wife to say he had filed for divorce. Marlene was happy to see him go. The fact that he busted up their marriage via text was par for the course. Financially speaking, however, Marlene was screwed. She took a part-time job at Town Hall processing building permits. But despite economizing, her bank account rapidly dwindled.

Still she held out hope that they’d be able to squeak by. It was the fender bender on the icy corner of Pine and Tanglewood that tipped the balance. Too proud to ask family or friends for a loan, she borrowed money from the PTA, but not before taking a solemn oath, alone in the bathroom, that she’d make it right on the fifteenth after getting paid. Despite her best intentions, “things” like groceries and utility bills got in the way. One miserable rainy night in April she didn’t feel like cooking and the thought of Chinese take out made her cry, so she took the kids out to a Pizza n’ Brew, reasoning that if Sue Ellen could do it so could she.

In this fashion, the boundary between her bank account and the PTA’s blurred. By the end of May she had lost track of exactly how much she had owed which made closing the books for the year tricky.

Fabricating numbers, covering up her crime, though she never called it that, was the roughest patch in a very tough year.

In July, while Sue Ellen was on vacation with her family in Nova Scotia, Marlene rented a U-Haul and moved her family back to Minnesota. Convinced that eventually the next PTA treasurer would find her out, Marlene left no forwarding address. (Photo: Tim Duch)

February 16, 2015
by Lee Eiferman
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On A Cold Night

IMG_2109Sherri fought hard to land a job as a Bartender at the red sauce joint in town. It had a well-deserved reputation among the acting community for attracting big tippers. The service was impeccable, a study in how to take orders, upsell appetizers and desserts and then how to properly bus the table. The empty plates should be arrayed on the upper arm with forks and knives facing away from the guest. Management even insisted that the table be scraped free of crumbs before the dessert menu was offered. It was, in short, an old world restaurant. The food was mediocre, but no one seemed to notice or care.

The bar was just the kind of sweet set up that Sherri had hoped for. Guests lingered while waiting for their table. The tips were more than generous and no one ever tried to grope her across the mahogany bar as they had on others jobs. Best yet, she could squeeze in an audition or callback during the day.

On a Tuesday, Sherri woke up with large welts on her wrists. The culprit was candied pecans, a favorite of management and customers alike. The pecans had a spicy kick that encouraged customers to gulp their drinks and order seconds.

Not quite buying this notion of a sudden nut allergy, Sherri ordered a Bailey’s Irish Cream on her night off and immediately felt the flush that was the prelude to itchy hives. Who knew there might be pecans in her favorite liqueur?

Sherri went to the bathroom to have a good cry. But commandeering one of two stalls at her favorite drinking hole wasn’t ethical, so Sherri lingered near the cigarette machine until she regained her composure. Her eyes were puffy. Her make-up smeared. The injustice of it all, the fact that she had to curtail anything, had to moderate her appetites because her body betrayed her at age twenty-four no less, struck Sherri as tragic.

Back at work, Sherri tried various strategies to minimize her exposure to pecans. She wrapped her wrists in gauze, as if she were nursing sprained wrists. Management sent her home. She tried getting her buddies in the kitchen to refill the bowls, which worked great in the off hours, but when the place was jumping the kitchen guys cursed her in Spanish and ordered her out.

So she quit the first job she had ever loved and sold extended warranties to Sear’s customers on the phone. Sherri honed her craft by watching soap operas during lunch in the cafeteria’s nut free zone and practicing odd accents on her calls until she was told to cut it out. But by then it was time to quit this lousy humiliating job and search for the next one.

On a happier note, Sherri just got word that she’d been cast as Girl #4 in an indy film shooting this summer.

February 13, 2015
by Lee Eiferman
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Mystery

IMG_6357Not too many tourists get around these parts, and that goes double for the summer months. It’s always real slow and quiet. People are polite to one another, thoughtful and kind. They say things like “I’ll keep you in my thoughts” and “ooh, that’s a shame” when you share bad news with them. Actually, most people can generally tell when something is amiss simply by the look on your face.

I don’t say it to brag or point a figure at some city dwellers who clearly are leading another style and pace of life. Here, what draws us out of our homes mostly is sports. Used to be that me and some of my buddies would claim a night or two to ourselves in the course of a heavy week and head down to Pete’s to shoot pool and knock around. Next day, we’d always be the worse for wear.

Pete closed shop last August in the midst of a particularly nasty hot spell. He’d had enough. One night we headed over to Pete’s and found the front door locked. No explanation. No goodbyes. He was just gone. What became of him no one knows.

That’s the first mystery. Last week his kin came by to poke around and what have you. I tagged along. Truth is I missed the place something fierce. It’s not the same knocking around Fred’s basement even though he went to the bother of buying a pool table. His wife was furious. She don’t want us turning her basement into a club house. Trust me, we all got the message. Fred still blushes straight to his ears every time he invites us over to shoot a game.

While Pete’s relatives were combing through his old files, probably looking for the code to his safe, I went on back to the poolroom. I had in mind to shoot a game or two and see whether or not I still remembered the particular dips in the table. I used to be able to work them to my advantage, which gave me a leg up on the other guys. But before I could rack it up, my eye happened to wander to the crawl space to the right of the fridge. There, in the dirt, I spied a hole, a mighty big hole, big enough to hide a body, or part of a body or a lifetime’s supply of cash. I have no idea why that notion jumped into my head. Pete gave no indication that he was the murdering type or the hording type for that matter. Like I said, people know each other around here real well. So what was in that hole?

I never did find out. I could say life is just full of mysteries but that’ll just piss you off.