Thursday, May 26, 2011


Cycle 32 was The Wrong Song. We were to pick one of these songs that people often make mistakes with the lyrics and use it as the title and inspiration for our story. The genre was open and the max word count was to be 1,000. This one was a lot of fun to write, and I hope it's also a lot of fun to read.


“Ma said you need to take the long view. Of course, she also told me she‘s got a first class seat on the shuttle to the planet Zenon.”

My brother, Jessie, had made his weekly pilgrimage to our mother at the home. I stopped going a year ago since she makes the same speech every time. Following updates on her travel plans, she harps about me. Just because I don’t want to end up a grocery store stock boy like Jessie doesn’t mean I don’t have any ambition. I have some, but it’s not to be promoted to the loading dock. What I want is a penthouse, a Jag and a gorgeous movie star on my arm. I’m not going to get any of those things counting cans of green beans.

“Joey,” Jessie gave me his weekly speech again. “Mr. Hanrahan is looking for another stock boy. It pays minimum, but that’s only at the start. The work’s not that hard, and after awhile, you’d get benefits too. If you don’t take advantage, he’ll pay you for being off sick. Not many will do that these days.

Ma’s book is not always on the same page as the rest of us, but one thing she’s always focused on, Joey, is you. She doesn’t want you to end up like Pop. Pop flew by the seat of his pants she used to say, and you’re living on a prayer. Same thing. You live for the moment and never think of the consequences. For you, it’s like there’s no tomorrow. We both know how Pop’s tomorrows turned out. He screwed up one time too many and his Mr. B arranged for him to take a swim wearing a cement overcoat. She’s worried you’ll end up like that too, and so am I. One of these days, Mr. B isn‘t going to be so forgiving.”

Jessie knew about my little mishaps with jobs, but Mr. B always gave me another chance. This latest gig was going to get me two grand and all I had to do was get Mr. B’s money back. This mope was supposed to pick up a satchel at Point A and drop it off at Point B, only he decided to keep it. Nobody steals from Mr. B.

I wasn’t supposed to bump him off, just scare him and get the money. I checked him out and he’s actually smaller than me, so I told Mr. B okay. The one like this before didn’t turn out too well. Nobody told me the guy was 6 foot 3 and carried a bat. I’m 5 foot 2. He broke my arm, two of my ribs and I was in the hospital for 9 days. Mr. B let it go though. Said he admired my spirit.

Nobody mentioned this sap was armed. I got to his place and he stood at barely 5 feet. I just knew I could scare the bejesus out of him until he pulled his piece. We ended up struggling on the floor and then I heard the bang. Down went the little dude with a bullet between his eyes. Collateral damage. This happened before I got the cash, but I was sure he’d stashed it in his flat. I was wrong.

On my way to Mr. B’s, I tried to work out how I was going to explain why I didn’t have his ten large. Walking past the bank downtown, I dreamed of strolling in and taking what I needed. Thing is, you can’t rob banks so easy anymore what with cameras, time locks and all. Take too long to figure out, and I only had an hour.

As I passed the entrance, a 60-ish woman came out stuffing a roll of bills in her handbag. She acted all la de da, like she could flash all that dough and nobody would take it. Well, think again, old lady, because I’m going to. I followed her across the street to her car, which was parked in front of the alley that ran between the department store and the pharmacy. I knew the alley went right through to Main, and nobody was looking, so I got behind her and grabbed her bag. She started moaning ‘why, huh?’, ‘why, huh?’, ‘why, huh?’… After around the eighth ‘why, huh’, I clocked her and ran down the alley. I mean, come on.

I ran into one of the empty warehouses at Main and Fifth, and counted my take. Ten grand to the penny. I dumped the purse, pocketed the cash and proceeded to Mr. B’s. Today was going to be my lucky day.

Mr. B was so proud. I didn’t see the need to explain the details. We were in his den and he’d just handed me my share when someone came bursting in the front door. I heard a woman crying, and Mr. B told me to wait and went to see what was up. I heard him ask what happened and then a woman moaning ‘why, huh?’, ‘why, huh?’, ‘why, huh?’…

No fucking way.

When Mr. B came back, he told me that was his wife. Somebody had robbed her and he took her upstairs to lie down. Evidently, once a month, she liked to take out ten thousand in cash and go on a shopping spree. She loved to spread all that money around. It didn’t matter because nothing would happen to her. Everybody knew who Mrs. B was. I’m thinking, not EVERYBODY. I could feel my cement overcoat getting snugger by the second.

Mr. B told me to give him a call when I wanted more work. I told him thanks, but I would be busy for awhile. I’m going to call Jessie and find out if Hanrahan‘s still hiring. I’m thinking I might join him on Friday’s visit to Ma too. I could tell her how I’m taking the long view, and she can tell me all about what she’ll be doing on Zenon…


  1. I’m thinking, not EVERYBODY.

    Now that would have me on my knees praying. Truthfully I would leave town and go as far away as possible, even to the other end of the Earth.

    With my luck I would bump into Mr.B's wife while stocking green beans on some shelf.

  2. Almost forgot to mention, great story.

  3. As a Tommy who used ta work on the docks... I hear this song a lot, and I like what you did with it. I don't think the kid'll be bagging groceries for long before he gets bagged himself!!

  4. Brava, Joyce... brava!

    What a great story! I'd feel sorry for Tommy, but... "you shouldn't oughta hit a lady, Tommy!" If he is smart, he won't come back from Zenon.

    I give this five stars, Joyce... I enjoyed very much!

    Thank you for sharing.

  5. Great story, Joyce! Joey's voice is so consistently and perfectly captured. Despite his obvious flaws, I like the little jerk. I hope he takes this lesson to heart.

    I really enjoyed this!

  6. I loved the tone of this one, you get right into the characterisation and capture the feel right away. As always your wry humour is here.

  7. Beach, Thanks for your comments. Glad you enjoyed it. That would be how Fate treated me too. My shift would be scheduled on the same day Mrs. B decided to try a corner grocer for a lark. He should have moved maybe to Argentina...

  8. Thomas, Thanks for your comments. Glad you liked it. He should insist on a job WAY in the back!

  9. Veronica, Thanks a ton for all your support and encouragement. I agree. He should see if there's an extra seat on that shuttle--even if it's coach!

  10. Barbara, Thanks for commenting. So happy you enjoyed it. You have to like Joey--a victim of circumstance? lol

  11. Richard, Thanks, as always, for your support. So glad the humor came through. Even in the darkest of circumstances, there has to be something to laugh at or about!