Yellow Mama Archives

Michael S. Stewart
Adhikari, Sudeep
Ahern, Edward
Aldrich, Janet M.
Allan, T. N.
Allen, M. G.
Ammonds, Phillip J.
Anderson, Peter
Andreopoulos, Elliott
Arab, Bint
Augustyn, P. K.
Aymar, E. A.
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Bagwell, Dennis
Bailey, Ashley
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Balaz, Joe
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Bauman, Michael
Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
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Beckman, Paul
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Berriozabal, Luis
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Brooke, j
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de Bruler, Connor
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Di Chellis, Peter
Dick, Earl
Dick, Paul "Deadeye"
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Glass, Donald
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Irascible, Dr. I. M.
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Jones, Mark
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Lodge, Oliver
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Muslim, Kristine Ong
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Nester, Steven
Neuda, M. C.
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Ogurek, Douglas J.
O'Keefe, Sean
Ortiz, Sergio
Pagel, Briane
Park, Jon
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Partin-Nielsen, Judith
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Perez, Robert Aguon
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Prusky, Steve
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Purfield, M. E.
Purkis, Gordon
Quinlan, Joseph R.
Quinn, Frank
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Ram, Sri
Rapth, Sam
Ravindra, Rudy
Renney, Mark
reutter, g emil
Rhatigan, Chris
Richardson, Travis
Richey, John Lunar
Ridgeway, Kevin
Ritchie, Salvadore
Robinson, John D.
Robinson, Kent
Rodgers, K. M.
Roger, Frank
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Rose, Mick
Rosenberger, Brian
Rosenblum, Mark
Rosmus, Cindy
Ruhlman, Walter
Rutherford, Scotch
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Schraeder, E. F.
Schumejda, Rebecca
See, Tom
Sethi, Sanjeev
Sexton, Rex
Seymour, J. E.
Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
Sheagren, Gerald E.
Shepherd, Robert
Shirey, D. L.
Sim, Anton
Simmler, T. Maxim
Simpson, Henry
Sinisi, J. J.
Sixsmith, JD
Slagle, Cutter
Slaviero, Susan
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Small, Alan Edward
Smith, Brian J.
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Smith, Willie
Smuts, Carolyn
Snethen, Daniel G.
Snoody, Elmore
Sojka, Carol
Solender, Michael J.
Sortwell, Pete
Sparling, George
Spicer, David
Squirrell, William
Stewart, Michael S.
Stickel, Anne
Stolec, Trina
Stryker, Joseph H.
Stucchio, Chris
Succre, Ray
Sullivan, Thomas
Swanson, Peter
Swartz, Justin A.
Sweet, John
Tarbard, Grant
Taylor, J. M.
Thompson, John L.
Thompson, Phillip
Tillman, Stephen
Titus, Lori
Tivey, Lauren
Tobin, Tim
Tu, Andy
Ullerich, Eric
Valent, Raymond A.
Valvis, James
Vilhotti, Jerry
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Walsh, Patricia
Walters, Luke
Ward, Emma
Weber, R.O.
Weil, Lester L.
White, Judy Friedman
White, Robb
White, Terry
Wilsky, Jim
Wilson, Robley
Wilson, Tabitha
Woodland, Francis
Young, Mark
Yuan, Changming
Zackel, Fred
Zafiro, Frank
Zapata, Angel
Zee, Carly
Zimmerman, Thomas

Art by Kevin Duncan © 2014

Sweet Solitude




Michael S. Stewart


He was alone now; he could feel it. The ambient environment had become suspended. It was not something he could see; it was something he felt. There was no sound, no car or truck engine running, no dog barking, no bird's chirping, nothing. Complete silence. It was deafening.  This is wonderful, he thought.  Throwing his arms wide and palms up he threw his head back and shouted, “Yes! At last! At long last! Oh God, YES!”

Edward Nobel was always a loner. Even as a little boy he much preferred the company of himself to anybody and strived to do just that. He would walk around the neighborhood and daydream, sometimes looking straight up into the sky at clouds as he walked. One day he was so preoccupied with looking up at the clouds he had not noticed that he wandered dangerously into the middle of the street when an annoying honk jolted him out of his daydream. He sheepishly looked at the driver at the truck three feet behind him and waved, moving off the road only to watch the driver shaking his head as he roared past.

In his teens it was apparent that he was not going to be killing the ladies with his looks, so he dove deeper into his hobby, which was daydreaming. Occasionally it was broken by reading a book or watching a movie, but he would always find his way back to his favorite hobby and devote a few hours a day to it if not more.  The best thing about daydreaming is you do it alone, and that is what Edward liked best, was to be alone.

In his early adulthood, he chose a profession that would allow him to work alone, mostly. He was a lab technician, and he tested blood samples for various different diseases or tested organ tissue for a myriad of different reasons. He liked his work; he enjoyed it because it gave him ample time to sit in his lab and ponder.

When another technician entered his workspace, it was like another person had invaded his home and urinated on his bedding. That is how it felt to Edward and so he worked better alone and resented having to share his space with anybody, even if it happen to be a fairly pretty female technician. Edward enjoyed female company but only occasionally, and only on his choosing the time and the place. He found that women wanted more than he was willing or capable of offering in the way of personal interaction. So he chose to date women that weren’t necessarily looking for a relationship.

He looked up and down the street and reveled in the solitude. Nobody was around.

Not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse. I am going to LOVE THIS!!

Edward smiled and wondered how he got here, to this place, wherever this was.

It doesn’t matter. He thought. I am alone! Blessed solitude! Peaceful solitude! Me time!


He walked down the empty street and then looked up at the sky while he kept walking just like he did when he was a little boy. He realized this was his old neighborhood that he grew up in, same houses, same yards, same empty lots with overgrown bushes and trees. He looked around the neighborhood again and then up at the sky and kept walking, he knew every inch of this road; he grew up on it. He remembered the diversity of the Queen Ann neighborhood of Seattle where he spent his childhood. Back then this section of the city was bustling with noise and activity.  Now it was close to total silence except for the sound of his footsteps on the ground. He looked up at the sky again and this time he noticed that the clouds weren’t moving, at first glance he had thought it was a still day and in a few hours he’d see a different sky when he looked up, but it was exactly the same sky a few hours ago.

How could that be!? Am I suspended in time? I’ve heard of stuff like this, a different dimension, or universe?

He walked around his old neighborhood until he’d seen everything that he remembered and then he walked around some more and saw things that he didn’t remember. He walked into houses and upstairs and into the bedrooms and even into closets and attics. He walked around all the shops and went into all the offices in the back of the shops and down the alleyways. He looked everywhere and recognized this must be the same neighborhood that he grew up in, down to the minutest detail.

What is that noise? It sounds like a power source. Maybe over those foothills in the next valley.

He became aware of a low hum, barely audible but constantly there. It had been with him since he got here only he did not hear it or even realize it was there until now.

How long have I been here, it feels like a long time, maybe 3 or 4 days;  maybe a week at most?


He was at a lake now from his childhood. His father used to bring him to this place from his earliest memories until his early teens when he decided it was even better to be alone in his room, rather than have to spend two or three hours in a boat hooking worms with his father.

I’d give anything to have one of those hours back with him, talking about baseball, the weather, listen to him gripe about local politicians, heck I would love to just stand at the waters edge and say nothing at all if I knew he were here; even thirty minutes, heck five minutes!!

He examined all parts of the lake just as he did when he was a boy and on some of those occasions his cousin Tommy would come along with them. Tommy didn’t like Edward that much, but that was okay with Edward. Tommy was athletic and loved to play sports.  When he asked Edward to play ball with him, he always made excuses not to go so he could be alone. So the lake was almost the only time they ever got together, aside from the occasional family picnic or holiday. They would walk along a path that went almost all the way around the lake, stopping at the dam on one end of the lake. A bridge made of rope and wood walking planks crossed the river on the other end. He went to each outlet and stared at the water and then up at the unmoving sky above him. It was hard to tell how long he’d been there at the lake after a while, a month, maybe two. The sky never changed; it had the same cloud formation as when he first arrived in this world.

He sat at the wooden picnic benches in the trees a couple of hundred feet away from the lake shore and thought about his circumstance.


How long have I been here? A couple of months ago I walked around and explored every inch of the shore. The clouds are not moving and there’s no night time, just daylight, there’s not even any wind. Everything is perfectly still unless I move it and then when I turn around and observe it again it’s back in its original place.

I haven’t eaten anything since I’ve been here or gone to the bathroom.

A shiver ran through him even though he didn’t feel cold. This shiver was a shiver of anxiety and dark feelings running through him when one comes to a cathartic realization of their own situation, and it’s not a good one. In other words, it was one hundred times worse than an ‘oh shit’ moment.

I must be dead!! It’s the only explanation! I can only see things from my past; memories of my childhood and as a young man! I’m not hungry! I don’t go to the bathroom! I don’t sleep! The sky never changes, but why doesn’t the sky change? I thought heaven would have clouds that move at least, and a night and day? I guess I was wrong about that, unless this is not heaven, or wherever the dead go for eternity.

An even darker, sinking feeling washed over him then, splashing his body with enough anxiety to bring an elephant to its knees.         

So is this hell? Jaysus! What did I ever do wrong? So this is my fate, forever?

Despair and depression began to seep into him.

Okay! Okay, let’s just calm down. I cannot even remember how I got here!  He paused a long while staring out through the tree limbs out onto the still lake, and eventually had an idea.  So far I’ve been able to go to places in this world just by thinking about them. So what if I go back to where I used to live. The last place I remember. He closed his eyes, and he remembered the apartment and the street where he used to live. He thought of his job as a lab tech and his office building and the lab itself. He thought of the Chinese food restaurant in the strip-mall on the way home where he used to grab some dinner.       



It has been years now since he has been back in the neighborhood where he used to live. He didn’t sleep in this place either, even though he felt more lethargic and weaker than he ever did. He could not remember the last time he slept. Was it years ago now? The low hum that he’d noticed years ago was now a buzz. The buzzing sound was constant; always there, inside his head, with every thought, every movement.  He desperately wanted to take a nice long nap, but every time he tried, he lay still, unable to sink into that blessed state of sleep. He became tired of looking around and seeing the same things. He became weary of walking everywhere and tired of looking at items in store windows and inside shops. He desperately wanted to see somebody, anybody. He liked to find a standee in a theater or video rental store and pretend it was a real person and would have a one-sided conversation. He longed to hear animal noises, like birds or dogs barking; he was beginning to forget what they sounded like.  He’d give his soul to hear an engine roaring down the street and the occasional boom box thumping from some punk’s low-rider, but mostly he was tired. Tired of being alone and tired of the silence and tired of that blasted humming sound! Tired! Tired! Tired!

 “YES, I GUESS I’M SAYING I’M LONELY AND I’D LIKE A LITTLE CONVERSATION!!!” he shouted as loud as he could, piercing the dead silence.

“ANYBODY!??” he paused a few seconds, “YEAH! THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT!! THANK YOU VERY F***ING MUCH!!!”

God, WHERE AM I? Why have you forsaken me? I wasn’t that bad was I? Or was I? What did I do to deserve this, God? Can you answer me? Can anyone answer me? I was a good boy, I ate all my peas and carrots, never hurt no one, uh ugh!! No sir! Not little Edward, not me, no sir!! My mama used to say that ‘God is in the stillness’, well where is he? WHERE ARE YOU!??? I’d give my soul for one f**’ing conversation! Just one word spoken from another human being! One glance! One smile! Someone to flip me the bird! Punch me in the face!!

He lifted his face to the unmoving sky and yelled with all his might, “AAAAAHHHH!!!!”





Dr. Tushar  Samaik, and Head  Physician Frank Williams, spoke quietly inside the patient’s room. 

“How long has he been here Sams?” asked Dr. Williams.

“He arrived here yesterday already in a deep comatose state. His boat capsized when he was out fishing on a lake, and he was pulled to shore by two guys fishing close by. His brain activity was almost flat-line when he came in, but now there’s nothing except for a few jumps in the hippocampus area.  I have him on oxygen and we’ve been keeping his fluids up.”

The low hum from the equipment that surrounded the patient became loud.

“I’ll get that breathing machine checked; it just started making that noise.”  Said Dr. Samaik, a little embarrassed.

“Good, make sure you do, with all the cutbacks we can’t afford a new one,” said Dr. Williams, he paused, and then followed with, “and apparently we are going to need it a long time. This guy’s only living relative, a cousin named Tom Nobel, gave us the green light to run some of the experimental drugs. So as long as we have a live test subject with a dead brain to run our tests on we’ll get our grant from the Government, which means more money in our pockets and we can keep this place running.”

“Gotcha Chief, I’ll call a tech today.”

“Good, we need to keep Mr. Noble alive a good long time; well, you know what I mean, we need to keep his ‘body’ alive.”

Both Doctors smiled and almost chuckled before Dr. Williams turned and left the room.

Art by Steve Cartwright © 2016

Captain Jack

Michael S. Stewart



I couldn’t remember being arrested.  I vaguely recall my feet being kicked. They didn’t feel like my own. And the first thing I saw were rays of light streaming in through bars above me. I blinked and felt a sense of peace suffuse my body.  I stretched. My dream, still with me. It was an old one. Same dream I always had about being a boy in Australia, sitting by still water, watching moonlight glint off the surface.

 And always, in the dream, there was a dark element lurking just beneath, unseen, like a crocodile licking their chops in want of a fat morsel on shore. But I didn’t care, I felt like I was floating on a handful of painkillers and every ache in my body had vanished.

“---mira bella durmiente.” I heard a voice and remembered. I was in Mexico. And I remembered why. The next part was a whirl in my memory, but I will tell it as best I can.

A bucket of sewage was thrown on me. I jerked up, instantly, and any feelings of tranquility I had, were gone. I wiped the back of my hand across my face, wary of the voices and laughing, blinking hard and trying to focus. The pungent aroma of urine and feces hit my nostrils. My gorge rose and I barely made the bucket in the corner after lunging on all fours, wretching horribly.

I missed, mostly, and stayed hunched over, dry-heaving what was left of the chicken fajitas, Spanish rice and Corona we had the night before. Good thing the bucket had been recently emptied, as I was trying my best to fill it up when I heard voices in the shadows.

“---chico blanco se ve como una mierda, eh Manning?” I heard a grating voice, full of malicious intent, while the echo of my own wretch filled my ears. I knew enough Spanish to know they were concerned about my welfare. Or not.

Sí, jefe, muy enferma,” the second voice, nasal-pitched, came from a smaller man a second before he kicked me in the stomach like he was delivering a winning field goal through the uprights. A blast of pain hit me on the end of his boot while I left the ground, my wind knocked out, sending me crashing into the bars on the far side of the cell.

Le di al camarero un poco de dinero para deslizarse que un mickey,” said the grating voice. “ Uh, disculpe, Lo siento--- I am sorry, you are feeling so--- ugly, my friend. But you did have good dreams, hey, chico?” He laughed.

 I couldn’t breathe, I was going to pass out, panic struck as I opened my mouth to suck air, but nothing came. Pressure was building in my head and chest.

 entonces tenemos que la policia  te va a recoger por intoxicacion publica, in case you wonder where you are,” he confessed, laughing from the shadows.

Gasping against pain, I forced a crack in my lids and saw feet moving towards me, I was snatched up, arms held tight while I tried in vain to suck air into my lungs. I pushed back with my legs until we stopped, up against the bars. I passed out briefly.

He must have loosened his grip when I became dead weight, because my lungs expanded, supplying much-needed oxygen to my body. The cell whirled. And I saw steps coming out of the shadows, cowboy boots with a paisley design. His fists clenched.

“Yo, Australia!” I heard behind me. A baritone voice in pidgin English I’d grown to love, filled me with relief.

The cowboy in front of me continued. I could see it coming. The step, the windup, the coupe de grace. I was still being held from behind and craned my neck to the side to avoid the blow.  An explosion of pain hit my head and ear. But the brunt of it was absorbed by my captor behind me. His arms went slack, and I wrenched free, falling to the floor. I later found out, Henry; the baritone voice behind me, had reached through the bars with his huge hands and choked him out, so when his hombre delivered the death blow, he was nice and steady to receive it.

I reached for my knife strapped to my beltline. Not there. They took it. Boots stepped towards me, hands outstretched. I swept my leg swinging my hips with all my strength. He went flying, and his back hit the concrete with a thud. I heard more laughing. It was guards outside the cell just beyond reach of the bars.

When boots went down by no means was he out. Surprised, wild-eyed, his glare cut at me through his long black hair. He became a blur of button-down long sleeve cowboy shirt, brown pants and silver belt buckle scrambling to get up. I knew I had one shot at this. I drew the same leg back again, and as he leaned forward on all fours to get up, I threw a jab with my heel catching his jaw. He was out before his body hit the floor. He spun, fell back like a sack of potatoes, ass in the air.

I heard a few expletives in Spanish I couldn’t decipher, then silence. I kept my eye on boots to make sure he was out.

“He got something on you, bro? He know you?” Henry leaned his face against the bars, still holding on to the smaller man, unconscious, then let him slump to the floor.

“Where are we, Henry?” I stood, still sucking wind, wiping my face on the front of my shirt.

“Jail, chief!” he laughed, a hardy, big laugh of a man without a care in the world. I always envied Henry and Sam, his brother, their sense of mirth in the darkest of times, as if ingrained to float above the agitating fray of life with the gaiety of children at play.

Adivina qué, muchacho blanco, usted y su amigo grande tonta acaba de publicar su propio fianza!” an older-looking gentleman was saying, he had a thick mustache, black eyes and the gait of a tired jailer. His eyes told me he’d just as soon shoot me as let me go free. He rattled a bunch of keys on a metal ring until he found the right one. “Too bad your cell mates couldn’t finish what they start--- they gave me forty bucks to get in your cell, Gringo.“ He looked at them disgusted and spat at boots who was closest to the bars. “But, you deserve your freedom, I think,” he said without looking at me, “I think I let them sleep here, until they give me more dinero, hey?” he smiled.

He swung the door open, and without looking at me, motioned with his head. I needed no further coaxing. He opened Henry’s cell next. I saw four men sprawled on the floor like a bomb hit, in various form of unconsciousness, a few teeth and blood spatter. And Henry, with a grin like a twelve-year-old schoolboy just walking out of the Playboy Mansion.

We left in a hurry. Our eyes blinded by light as we left the shady recesses from within. My head throbbed, and I knew vaguely what boots had told me in the cell; something about slipping us a mickey at the cantina. But it was hard to remember anything with my head throbbing.

The cement walkway gave way to cobbles and stucco white buildings, arches leading into cactus gardens, dirt roads, wire and wood pens containing chickens and small goats. A green Jeep Grand Cherokee passed us kicking up dust, a sidewalk vendor selling shaved ice with sugary blue and orange colors in a cone kept a wary eye on us while we walked towards the marina.  The Jeep Grand Cherokee made a U-turn.



Before this tale goes further, I should introduce myself. My name is Daniel Delgado, my father, from Spain, met my mother from the U.S., in a traveling circus that hit every port and town Down-Under. They were part of a high-flying act; which might explain my inane ambition for adventure. My friends, the Tongans, Henry, and Sam, are two brothers I met at age thirteen when I followed my Dad to New Zealand to open a grocery store near the sea port of Timaru.

 On my way to school, the second day, I was taken by surprise when a group of cavorting bullies decided to trip me, rip open my lunch bag, contents flying, and began to use me as a punching bag while encircling me like a pack of wolves. Instead of becoming frightened of getting my ass kicked, like most kids my age, cowering and slinking away with my tail between my legs, I got pissed. I don’t know why I was so angry, possibly because I had enough of life’s knocks and bumps by then to last me a good long time, and possibly because these assholes standing around me were just one more pothole in the road that was unnecessary. And bumps in the road that are unnecessary really light my fuse. So I picked out a taller red-headed kid with yellow eyes and freckles and swung hard, hitting him square on the mouth. His head snapped back, and a string of blood flew, hitting a kid behind him. They pounced on me, and I was on the ground in a heartbeat trying to protect myself the best I could. Kicks and punches rained down on me so fast I panicked, thinking about how my dad would find me, beaten, bloodied and bruised, limp, in a puddle of my own bodily fluid.

I kicked out, knocking a boys’ feet out from under him. I reached out and grabbed another leg, swinging up, using his leg as leverage to deliver a good kick to someone’s head.

I got picked up, punches pummeled my head and body. I swung at everybody and everything. I felt my body being moved, tumbling along with a wave of arms, legs, fists and feet, like rolling down a hill inside a ball of body parts. Finally, I made it to my feet again and the entire group of goons, including the red-haired kid holding his mouth, were sprinting down the dirt road, away from me.  My crimson rage was roaring, I wanted more, I wanted to beat them all into the ground with my fists until there was nothing but blood and dust. I watched them running, the cowards, my blood boiling. I yelled after them, my hands in the air like King Kong, “AAAAAHH! You bloody bastards!”

I had subsequently found out, while I was down taking a beating, my Tongan neighbors had seen me being surrounded, and when the shit hit the fan, to my great surprise and everlasting gratitude, they jumped in to save me, probably from ending up in a hospital, fubar as we use to say.

 “You crazy, Australia,” I heard a chuckle behind me. I whirled, and my eyes fell on my Tongan neighbors, I’d seen them out in their father’s fishing boat, helping roll the nets, stow their equipment below deck, fastening lines. I looked at my liberators, inquisitively. Dark-skinned and big for their age. As big as any grown man, but not quite as big as the behemoths they would become. Their hair, wild, black and curly, with amusement crossing their faces, their heads shaking in disbelief, “You crazy, brah.”

“Thank you,” I managed to say, spitting blood from my cut mouth, the anger in me gave way to a curious, amiable feeling towards these two. Looking back now I can even say I felt relief, and hope like a castaway adrift on a raft hearing a foghorn come through the mist.

Henry and his brother Sam introduced themselves, and we became good friends.  The next ten years were spent, mostly out of school, boating around the Islands of New Zealand, Northern coast of Australia, and some of Malaysia.  We all knew how to work a fishing boat, every aspect of it, but when it came down to fixing the diesel engine, or rigging something from scrap metal, a piece of plastic and a few car batteries to keep us going, I was the guy who figured it out. So they began calling me Captain.  The ‘Jack’ part came later when we were making more money on some fishing runs than they’d ever seen in their lives. ‘That’s a lot ‘o’ Jack, Captain,' I remember Sam saying when we got paid for bringing back a stolen yacht to their owners in Malaysia.  And so I earned my moniker. We had guessed where the pirates might be headed, and we just happened to be right, dumb luck, that one. They docked the yacht in plain sight, and we waited for the crew to head into town.

I don’t expect them to call me Captain, but I don’t correct them either. It works well this way. How does the saying go? Every man rises to the level of his own incompetence. I’m no better than my Tongan friends, I just haven’t found my level of incompetence yet. And I say that with the utmost humility, and reserved fascination at how easy certain disciplines seemed to come to me. Albeit most of academia could have been my oyster, it’s not my thing, never was, from the earliest onset I’ve taken a more exasperating road, preferring the one less traveled rather than the traditional you might say.  I yearn for the seas, adventures in every port, buried treasure if you will, you get the picture. And have had plenty of scandalous liaisons; one with a French Ambassador’s’ daughter, another with twin sisters I met in Astoria, Ore.

Excuse me for rambling, suffice it to say, my Tongan brothers and I have found ourselves, an accumulation of all life’s’ crazy moments, here, just south of the U.S. border with Mexico, scrambling for our lives to make it out of town via the inlet waterways.



Anyway, when the Grand Cherokee made its U-turn, I tapped Henry on the shoulder, and we bolted. My throat was dry and full of dust as we ran through the back alleys, skirting trash cans, hopping chicken-wire fences, ducking under clotheslines. A large canal appeared in front of us, we headed for it. Hopefully, it’d lead us to the Marina. The Grand Cherokee, in a cloud of dust, slid around the corner after us. I knew that couldn’t be good, shaded windows glinting in the sunlight, I glanced over my shoulder only long enough to see a shiny black object appear out the passenger window, before tumbling over a wooden crate. Henry picked me up on the go, and bullets hit a wall behind us. Chunks of stucco flew.   

We ran to the other side of the road, trying to duck, making a small target, we flew into the water under a walking bridge made of rock. We heard the brakes screech, backup, and wasted no time diving into the water, murky as it was, eyes closed, holding our breath downstream.

I came up for air and tasted water full of brine, swiveled my head back to the stone bridge where the Jeep was parked. Two men stood peering over the top searching the water for movement. I saw them pointing and leveling their weapons towards us. “Down!” I shouted to Henry, but he needed no more appeal from me, his head submerged before the word left my lips. I kept my mouth shut and eyes closed, but could hear the periodic splice of water as some of the bullets tore through, pulling a stream of bubbles with them.

I kicked Henry, accidently, until I had to come up for air. I breached the surface and found ourselves a few feet away from the docks mooring safely in the marina. I pulled myself up on the floating walkway and gave Henry a hand. I spared a New York second to look up the canal, and the Jeep was gone.

Henry and I ran sopping wet down the gangway towards the end of the docks looking desperately for the seiner. It was no longer at the end of the pier. Movement from the corner of my eyes told me there were others on the docks, working their boats, walking on the beach. A small Ketch was taxiing out, another coming in, but no seiner. I hadn’t expected to see it. We left Sam behind with the cargo, and he knew better than to stay if we didn’t make it back by nine the night before. But we sure could have used him now.

“She’s out of port, Capt’n!” Henry shouted, not slowing our pace down the wood planks to the end of the pier. A disturbance not going unnoticed by the fishermen stowing their gear and the onlookers on the beach. “Keep moving, Henry!” I shouted, and just as I got the words out a bullet whizzed by; others splintered the wood planks in front of us. Behind us, the Jeep had parked by the gates and the two gunmen were on foot moving fast down cement steps to the docks. I heard screaming, and people got real low in their boats.

The end of the pier, fifty feet ahead seemed like the end, and panic struck me like an electric shock just as the bow of our seiner, the Kelsey Nichole, came around the breakwater offshore. That beautiful white, blue, and rust colored chum bucket, powered by two diesel engines, looked like a slow-moving float sent from heaven.

Henry and I never slowed, we hit the water on a dive, swimming as far under the surface as possible. We surfaced just to gulp air and kept swimming for what seemed like an eternity until I saw Sam, on a surface breach. He threw an orange buoy over the starboard side attached to a line.

          Sam slowed to three knots, and when Henry and I finally reached the line and took hold, he shifted gears to full throttle. We looked back, holding tight to the buoy, splashing through the sea of Cortez, picking up speed to nine knots. The two men watched us from the end of the pier as they disappeared from our eyesight when rounding the breakwater heading north and further out to sea.


          We pulled in to the private cove of Mr. Carmine just north of San Diego, a few other multi-million dollar homes lined the cliffs, but it was clear to his neighbors who owned the beach rights. He was waiting for us at the end of his pier. The seiner was too big to pull in close without running aground so we dropped anchor a few hundred feet out.

          He and two of his men dressed more for a trip to the bank than a visit to my floating bucket of bolts, came closer. They wore sunglasses and scowls that bespoke of breaking up their beloved monotonous routine and brought their skiffs to the port side, we threw them a rope ladder to board.

We had dinner ready, steaks; BBQ’d rare. Henry was working the makeshift grill the good part the afternoon, starting three hours out, chucking in briquettes and mesquite periodically to make it white hot. Mr. Carmine liked his steaks crispy on the outside and so rare on the inside it practically moo’d when you cut into it. Sam was busy cooking spaghetti and throwing together a salad in the galley, another favorite. I had a foldout table set up on deck with a white table-cloth, some flowers we picked up on the way set in the middle of four place settings. It was clear skies, a beautiful afternoon and the water was calm.

We three; Sam, Henry and myself waited for Mr. Carmine, (“call me Frank”), to sit before we took our own seats and his men slowly began to pace the deck.



Mr. Carmine, Frank, fixed me with translucent green eyes. His raven-dark hair combed back with something slick that made it look greasy.

“Did you receive the cargo, and bring it safely across the border?” He spoke with a smooth, educated voice, chewing his meat and tossing it back with red wine he brought with him for the occasion.

“Yes, it’s below deck, in the hold.”

“Any slowdowns? Were you stopped and searched by the coast guard?”

“Just an overnight stay in jail. And it wouldn’t have mattered if we were stopped by the coast guard, we have a false bottom in the hold full of squid floating in inky water, they would never have guessed anything unusual.” He smiled at me like the Cheshire cat, his white capped teeth looked abnormal. A smile I’m sure that lingered as a last thought for many people.

“I’d like to see, if you don’t mind,” he threw down his napkin.

I had Henry dump everything from the hold with the false bottom just for this. I got up and pulled open the trap door and stepped down the ladder, the smell of the fish hold was overwhelming. Frank waited above peering down at me through the opening. I reached down and opened the second trap door, the rusty metal creaked when I opened it.

“Beautiful,” he grinned, even wider, if it was possible, “you’re a goddamn genius, Jack, I could make a fortune off you if you weren’t so goddamn insolent ---who’s idea was the false bottom?”

“Mine,” I said, unimpressed with his insulting compliment. “Henry welded it on the way down, and Sam kept ‘em fed and comfortable through a secret panel leading in from the galley on the way back.”

A few coughs echoed up from below, the light, which they’d barely seen for forty-eight hours, only when Sam slid them food through the fake panel in the galley, must have seemed bright streaming in through the hatch above them. A few shaded their eyes, palms up, as they looked at us.

“Six thousand ahead is what we ended up with,” my voice echoed in the chamber as I spoke to him, leaning over. “Had a nasty scrape with one of the coyote’s in town, who figured we were stealing his business---” I turned down to look at peering eyes, “One more hour, y yo te llevaré a la orilla” I held up a finger to signal one more. We needed to conclude our business with Frank before we could ferry them to shore.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s good, Jack, ---christ!, you are one resourceful guy,” he smiled and laughed as I climbed out and shut the lid to the hold. I put the hundred-eighty grand on the table, in a gym bag, on the table next to him. “You’re smart, Jack--- a hard worker, but I’ll never see what my Louisa saw in you.”

I felt the pang of her memory hit me hard and what came out was a reflex to his words, “maybe it was a life away from you.” His cold eyes fixed on me, he squinted, and I had a sense of what his antagonists might have seen before they disappeared forever. It was sobering. And I waited for him to speak again.

“Sit down,” he motioned to my chair. I sat, he followed. Henry and Sam hadn’t spoken a word, they knew better. He took two bundles of bills out of the bag, twenty grand, and shoved them towards me.

“Listen to me, Jack, and listen good. I’m going to say this once. I don’t know why my granddaughter wanted me to have you do this as a task, because I asked her a while ago, what would be a good mission to send your Daddy on next—,” he took another long sip of his wine, “and lo and behold, she came up with this!” —he laughed, and threw up his hands— “A run south of the border to pick up as many illegals as possible and bring em’ back to the states,”—shaking his head in disbelief— “maybe for a better life, who knows, but it’s what they want, and it’s what she wanted, for some bullshit humanitarian reasons, I don’t know, I don’t try to figure out kids nowadays,” he leaned in. “So, despite her bleeding-heart liberal motivations, I had to agree with her, it would be a good test of your resourcefulness— I agreed.” He picked up his oversized wine glass and looked me over. We began to sway from the wake of a passing boat, the gulls cawed, hovering off the stern. “If you ever hope to see your daughter again, if you hope to spend a little time with her next summer, maybe, just maybe this Christmas if you’re lucky, lose the attitude, and do as you’re told.” He took a gulp and put the glass down. Waves lapped against the side of the boat.

“Can I see her?” I said, swallowing my pride and my intense hatred for this man. He pulled out his wallet and fished out a school-sized picture and slid it to me. My heart sank and broke at the same time.  I looked at her thirteen-year-old face, halfway between a cherub and a beautiful woman, like her mother, Louisa, had been.

I felt a comfortable breeze.

“I want you to go North—,”  he leaned in, folding his hands, elbows on the table, satisfied from the meal and the control he exerted over me. Seagulls hovered and dipped close while one of his men threw pieces of bread overboard, watching them dive and fight over the scraps.

“For what?”

“There’s a mining operation up there, Gold,” he said,a big one— a ‘bonanza’ as they say.” He took out a toothpick from a small metal case he produced from his breast pocket. “Just south of Nome, it’s a big operation. I want you to disrupt it somehow —slow down their processing a bit, just enough to make ‘em miss a payment or two so I can relieve them of their struggle for financial freedom.”

Obviously, Frank was behind footing the finances for this poor sap who was sitting on a Gold Mine, literally, and by missing a payment, he would be able to swoop in and assume ownership if not operations. And as he kept his eyes on me, reading me, he sensed my thoughts.

“Now I don’t want to operate the god damn thing, mind you, but if he misses just one payment, it’ll give me a lot more leverage towards a bigger percentage of ownership.”

“I see,” I said, looking at Karysa’s, picture. “Then, can I see her? For a few weeks, this Christmas?”

“Oh, well —of course!” He threw up his hands as if it were a given. He didn’t even have to think about it. But I knew his mind was subject to change on a whim. Hadn’t he sat quietly smiling at the wedding he gave Louisa and me by the cliffs of his mansion and hadn’t he smiled like a proud grandpa when he heard Louisa was pregnant with Karysa? But how cold and hard he turned in a blink when Louisa died of complications in childbirth. How his heart turned black at the site of me.

My last summer being a full-time dad was when she was six. She had spent most of her time, up until then, hopping between my Aunt’s house in Astoria and his mansion in Southern California, when he decided it was best if she stayed there, permanently. This, he told me over an espresso at a coffee shop he had arranged to meet me at. He had (“dui”) shots, holding up his fingers in a peace sign to the waiter, a half grin crept over him that told me he was anything but joking. Sure, I protested, I put up a fight, I got up from the table and swore while his henchmen gently put their hands on my shoulders and sat me back down. What could I do? Throw a punch at him? A fat lot of good that would do, his men would have killed me.  Fight him in court? Another dead end, since he golfed with half the judges in the county and had half the politicians in Southern Cal in his back pocket. I was, as we put it distinctly in the fishing business, fucked.

He had me.

Karysa was already starting her school year at his place. A private school. She had tutors for school work and a piano teacher that gave her lessons every Tuesday. She had a horse in a million-dollar stable and a stable man to take care of it all. She had a driver-bodyguard. She had the best of everything, things I could never give her. What could I give her? I’m a fisherman. But my heart ached for her, and when he did let me see her, we spent the most wonderful times together, fishing and exploring the coast all the way up through the straits to Alaska.

At one point, he decided that Frank Jr. his son, Louisa’s younger brother, needed to get away for a while. The perfect hideaway? A deckhand on my boat. I’m not sure why he had done that at the time, I thought it was to keep an eye on me. But what reason would he have to do that? I had nothing of his, he had everything of mine. Maybe it was to get a handle on my loyalties, my emotions and see what kind of guy I was.

Frank Jr. confided in me one rainy afternoon in the cabin. He said he really didn’t want to get involved with his father’s business; something his father wished Frank Jr. to take over for him someday. ‘But first I need a little adventure,’ he said, and then it’s off to one of the Ivy League schools back East. Frank graduated some years back and was working with his father; also back East. He wrote me an email, and told me he wanted to get back on the water someday, do something simple, ‘give it all up,' he said. I wrote him back and told him he’s always welcome on my boat, his adventure awaits, as long as he realizes I’m captain. I put a smiley face after this last.

“Hey!” Frank snapped his fingers and waved his hand in front of my face, “you still with me?”

“Yes —sir,” I looked up.

“I’ll send you the address of the place when you’re on your way,” he got up and wiped his mouth with a napkin, climbed down the rope ladder and as he and his men were pulling away in the boats he yelled up, “and on your successful return, let’s talk about a few weeks with Karysa, this summer.”

There it was, ‘let’s talk about a few weeks…,’ Nothing carved in stone, a malleable nothing, an air sandwich, thank you very much, that tastes great. Another goddamn errand by his puppet before even talking about seeing my daughter.

He left me with the picture. And I took it below and taped it to the cracked mirror in my quarters. I ran my fingers over it, while Sam and Henry ferried the cargo to shore and gave them each a small ‘welcome to the U.S.’ package consisting of a small velvet bag with a compass, a map, a fake ID and a basic ‘Spanish to English’ translation book.

          I traced her long brunette hair with my fingertip. It resembled her mothers. I remembered Frank commenting after she was born, “thank the good Lord she didn’t come out with some half-mutt Jew-fro, like you, huh Jack?” My hair had always been curly, like my mothers. He laughed jabbing me with his elbow.  No, I suppose she was spared my feral mop. I’m not sure there was any resemblance to me at all, she was a carbon copy of her mother Louisa. Beautiful cheeks with rosy apples, pouty lips, dainty nose, without the slightest knowledge of how beautiful she really is. The kind of kid you knew was going to be a knock-out as soon as puberty had left the station, and the kind of kid a father would worry about, always. Never one to play with dolls; more of a tom-boy.


I spun.

I looked at my daughter standing in the doorway dripping from head to toe. She wore white shorts and a pink Roxy surf-shirt, her fashion at the moment between her and friends.

Karysa!” I snatched her up at once and held her, kissing her wet hair, her body trembled in the folds of my arms. “What are you doing here? Did you swim out here?”

“Yes, from the end of the pier as soon as Papa’s men tied off their boats, I wanted to see you, Daddy,” —she was crying,— “are you happy? Are you happy to see me? Please say you are— I’ve thought about this for so long.”

“Yes! Oh my God! Yes! But, you know what’ll happen if Frank, catches you here?! God, it’s good to see you, baby—“ I drew back and took her in, already up to my mid-chest, she had grown five inches since the last time I saw her.

“I couldn’t help it, Daddy,” she buried her head in my chest, “I had to see you, I wasn’t going to wait any longer. I want to go to Alaska with you, or wherever you go.”

I said nothing, just held her. I knew the consequences of my actions, I knew the risks and took total responsibility for what happened next. How could I not? I was her father, I could have said no, I could have reasoned with her and convinced her I would be back again, but just like a hundred times before, it would have faltered and sounded weak, and that’s the last thing I wanted to do right then. What kind of shit would she think me to be? She was the only thing in my life worth dying for, and I wasn’t going to disappoint her again by saying ‘not now, maybe later,' just because her asshole of a grandfather had me dancing by strings. A string of crimes I had committed for him, a string of love and commitment to my daughter, so I said nothing, just hugged her and dried her off.

We sat in the wheel-house and waited for Sam and Henry to return while we got caught up and talked about her friends in school.

They were just as excited to see their god-child as she was to see her uncles. My last thought before pulling up anchor and leaving the cove was, this is probably a big mistake, but it’s one I had to make, for her sake and my own, no matter what the cost.

Art by Lonni Lees © 2017

Here They Come

Michael S Stewart                                 

I smiled at Daddy and watched myself change completely, hypnotized as my hair dropped to the floor in clumps. Daddy read a magazine and peeked over it in the mirror. My hairdresser, Kim, I think her name was, continued to gab about her boyfriend, telling me embarrassing details about a scandalous friendship she’d unearthed, by accident no less, behind her back and under her very nose, if you can imagine that.

I couldn’t imagine it, and it held no interest for me. I felt she had finished with me long ago but continued to primp and comb subconsciously making a snip here, a snip there while she spoke and danced around me like a performer in the Ice Capades.

As much as it bored me to listen to her personal life it was a nice break. Mind-numbing but relaxing, almost.

One hour later the reflection of a waifish girl in bib overalls stared back at me. It made me think of Allysa Milano with a short spiky do. I liked it, I smiled in the mirror and took a quick selfie with the new phone Daddy bought me, and posted it so my friends could see. A thick perfume of hair product hung about the shop, even with the front door open the breezy morning offered little relief. I took tiny breaths through my mouth so I wouldn’t get sick and the occasional gush of wind blowing through offered little comfort.

 Digital red numbers on the wall-clock blinked five ‘til noon and my butt was numb. A man across the street paced left, then right. He had sunglasses on, like an FBI agent even though the weather was a Seattle-gray outside. Kim’s voice faded as my attention drifted to the man outside, still pacing. His hand to one ear, lips moving, he looked at the front of the shop. I felt like his eyes studied me even though I couldn’t see them through his shades.

I glanced at Daddy, my eyes pleading for his attention.

 He looked up, smiled and shrugged.

Maybe he thought I was referring to the hairdresser. After all, Papa, (“Frank Sr.”), taught me, we pay for all things with time or money and still other transactions, like this one, ‘requires us to sit and listen to someone’s stories, ad nauseum.’

 Daddy glanced up again.  And my eyes darted to the front of the shop where the man across the street had his hand to his ear facing our direction. His lips still moving, talking to an invisible man.

Daddy’s eyes widened, he stood and threw down his magazine.

Let’s go, he motioned with his head and dug in his wallet, fishing out money. I popped out of the chair, took off my apron, and brushed off as we moved.  Glad to be out of that chair. Kim, stood still, frozen by the sudden movement.

“Gotta go, Kim!” Daddy smiled and threw down a wad of cash, “You did a great job, I love it! Keep the change.” he said and waved. We flew out the door. Someone yelled after us, “Thank you! Don’t let Kim’s love life chase you away—oh, wow! Thank you! Come again!”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. FBI wannabe staying parallel with us, moving down the street as we headed towards our boat. He had short dark hair with gray highlights, curly, middle-aged. Dark blue windbreaker, tan khakis, and dark shoes. His stride was broken like his body wasn’t made for moving fast and he began to limp and fall behind.

He crossed the road and stayed behind us, fading back a block, then keeping pace. Daddy called Sam and put him on speaker. He held the phone close as we walked, speaking loud so he could hear us over the street noise. My legs pumped hard trying to keep up.

“No come here, bra, dey swarm da boat when I go fo smokes, dey barely miss me!” Sam said over the phone.

A beer can, left by a homeless man, clattered down the pavement after us. And I caught a glimpse of a hunched over body in a doorway. I could smell the dank city air and small specks began to hit my face as we moved.

“Okay—,” Daddy paused a moment weighing his options, “change of plans, we’re headed to the Shilshole marina— Shipwreck and Gunner have a boat there, remember? We’re about six blocks away, let Henry know where we’re headed. And tell him to hurry.”

“Sure thing, Cap'n.” He hung up.

“Where we going, Daddy?” my shaky voice betrayed me and things were moving sideways. And even though I had complete confidence in Daddy and my uncles, my heart raced with chaos and uncertainty. We walked, too fast, his hand holding mine. He said:

“Shipwreck—you remember him don’t you, hon? He’s got the big boat, use to be a Navy oil barge.” He gave me time for this information to soak in, I nodded, “and he owes me.”

I ran a few steps. Walked two. Ran a few more.

“I’m tired of running, Daddy,” I whined and saw hurt in his eyes, instantly mad at myself for saying it.

“I know—I know you are,” He said, slowing down, “I’m tired too.” He studied me, the fine mist on his face made his sharp features shine. “Frank—your grandfather, found us. We’ve got to have a better plan than just running away. And we’ve got to get out of here, first, so I can think. We have to have better options—”

I heard the frustration in his voice, and below that, sadness. Our options, if we had any, weighed heavy on him.

The last six months had been like that. It all started when Daddy docked his boat off Papa’s private dock in Orange County, California. He had brought back a hull full of illegals for a sizeable amount of money. Papa didn’t need the money, God knows, but he liked to keep Daddy busy and away from me. But it almost got Daddy and my uncles killed.

My uncles, I should explain, Sam and Henry, the Tongans, were childhood friends with Daddy and practically grew up together on a boat making money however they could around the waters of New Zealand. 

Some ten years later, Daddy met Mama when he had been working at one of Papa’s industrial ports, running guns south of the border. He had been Papa’s favorite captain before he met her. The way Daddy explains it, she had been sunning herself lying on a stretch of lawn in front of the office building when she smiled at Daddy and that was all it took. The rest is history, as they say. Daddy and Mama were head over heels, and Papa was beside himself. And when mama died to give birth to me, Papa was devastated and went from an uncomfortable tolerance of Daddy at the dinner table to a full-on hatred at the sight of him. After nine years something inside him snapped and he had his lawyers draft papers of legal guardianship of me, claiming Daddy was incompetent and never around.

It happened fast and I never knew any details. Papa always told me Daddy was busy working for him and I had no reason not to believe him, after all, it was the truth and for the first six months of living at the mansion in Orange County, I was happy. After a year I was lonely. And after two I was heart broke and only thought about being with Daddy and my uncles again, back on the boat. We only spoke on the phone during that time, me and Daddy. The next couple of years I saw him at Christmas for a tearful holiday and heart-wrenching departure. After two more years, I understood, fully, what was going on and my loneliness and heartache mingled with anger.

It wasn’t until he came back from Mexico six months ago that I broke away and decided it was now or never.

On a whim, I swam out to the boat when it was docked off Papa’s pier with nothing but the shirt and shorts I was wearing. I pleaded tearfully with Daddy to take me, take me anywhere, and against his better judgment, we left, together. Daddy, my uncles, and me.

We had been skulking up the coast for months, staying hidden in bays and inlets by coastal Islands. San Clemente, San Miguel, then up to the Farallons and the Sound near Seattle. We stayed hidden from the Coast Guard, who had surely been alerted. Papa could manipulate them with nothing more than a phone call, by claiming a stolen boat or tips he came by on the smuggling circuit, etc. He dealt with gray areas and knew people on both sides of the law.

And he donated to Coast Guard causes generously. One Christmas, at the mansion, we had a party with a lot of people, probably hundreds, and he gave the sitting Admiral and his small circle of commanders nautical watches made by Rolex. And before the night was over a good portion of people at the party received a gift from under our tree. A Club membership, expensive liquor, a box of Cubans, etc.

Anyway, point is, Papa had enough sway to set the government on our trail. We ended up here, in Ballard, North of Seattle. Daddy had brought me for a haircut, even though I knew he didn’t want it cut. He liked my hair long. But, I felt, I was finally working on the boat like I dreamed and, as part of the crew, I didn’t want to bother with it anymore. After all, at thirteen, it was time to grow up.

We hurried with Mr. FBI close behind. Daddy mumbled under his breath, saying something about Frank, calling off the dogs, then he mumbled, ‘ecce autem venerunt. He spoke in Latin sometimes, but I didn’t know what it meant. I was frustrated. And on the verge of tears. It broke my heart to see him worry about me. I’d do anything for him. But I wanted him to stay alive too.  Right now I couldn’t hate Papa more, I wanted him to leave us alone.  Let me be with him.

Daddy glanced at me, saw my face and slowed his pace a bit.

Sails and boats appeared through trees lining the street. A man in front of us, suit and sunglasses, rounded the corner standing between us and freedom. He faced us. And stood expressionless half a block away, beneath a tree growing out of the sidewalk. Nothing abnormal stood out, but his body language said everything. And panic shot through me.

I knew what was coming and without breaking stride, I let go of Daddy’s hand. I let my steps fade, my legs wobbled, mind numb and on autopilot. Daddy focused on the man like a wolf on prey.

The expressionless man slid his hand inside his windbreaker. “Mr. Delgado—,” he began. Daddy reacted with a speed that was hard to match. He reached into his pocket and faked throwing sand at his face. The man ducked. And Daddy threw an uppercut like Sugar Ray Leonard, smashing his glasses. His head snapped back, sunglasses flying and Daddy kicked him hard in the stomach with his heel. He flew and slammed against the side of a brick building, slumping, his hand to his middle. He groaned. Daddy was on him in a second, hands inside his windbreaker and pulled his gun out. Then a man ran up behind us. Swinging, hitting Daddy in the back of the head. He lost his feet, and the man jumped on him. And I screamed.

I looked for something to throw, a rock, anything.

He was struggling with Daddy on the ground, trying to lock his hands behind him with a zip-tie. I wanted to hit him with my fist but I couldn’t get a good angle and danced around them in a panic.

“Daddy!” I screamed, “Let him go, you shit!” I was going to jump on him and hit him when Sam launched into the frame like a college linebacker. His entire body off the ground like a missile when he hit the man. They hit the ground hard and rolled.

“Yes!—get him!” I yelled, “Get—get his hands, Sam!”

 Sam stood and used the man’s own zip-ties he found in his windbreaker to tie his hands behind him. Then he jumped on the one Daddy hit. And zip-tied him, too.

Daddy groaned and blew dirt off his face by contorting his lips. While Sam, a dark hulk with his knee squarely on the back of the FBI wannabe, stood, making the man beneath him gasp for air when the pressure lifted.

Sam grabbed Daddy’s knife and cut his tie and helped him stand. He braced against the building and felt his head wound.

“Who are you?” Daddy asked, looking at the men on the ground. People started to gather.

My heart raced and breath hitched while I tried to make sense of it. Papa had his men track us. He had to! God, I hated him. Did he want Daddy and my uncles dead? Or just roughed up and detained for a while? And just as I asked myself these questions, one of them spoke:

 “We’re U.S. Marshals.”

 Shock bolted through me. They really were the Feds! I digested this information and wondered what he was going to say next. The day turned dark and I smelled the ozone in the air and the rain came, soaking us all. It had no effect in dispersing the crowd, which angered me. I looked at the Marshals and then at Daddy.

But that’s all he said, at first. Was he buying time? Waiting for backup? I started to breathe hard and Daddy came near and put his arm around me.

“What do you want?” he finally asked the men.

I expected to hear something about a stolen boat, or drug running. Something Papa would use to get Daddy out of the picture for a good long time. My body was shaking. My heart beat uncontrollably. They were after us now, for real. Papa would have the Feds put Daddy away for years, if not a lifetime. And I’d never see him again! 

My breath hitched, and I tried to quiet myself.

 “We’re looking for—,” he groaned and took in a breath, “Daniel Delgado— also goes by Captain Jack,” he struggled while Sam moved him like a sack of potatoes, next to his buddy.

“I’m Daniel,” Daddy said. “What do you want?” his voice firm and short.

“I want to question you,” the Marshall said, “we need to talk.”

“What about?”

He said nothing, just looked at us with one eye like a fish face-down on the sidewalk.


Still nothing. Daddy sighed:

“Well, no time to water-board you or play loud music through megaphones until you talk,” he looked at the people gathering, “I suppose I could have Sam break one finger at a time, but you’re on the right side of the law, and I still respect that…,” He studied the man on the ground, “despite my checkered past. Had you been working directly for Frank, this would be a different story, entirely.”

“I appreciate that—” the man said, face pressed hard against the cement, his one eye examined us. “As it is,” he spat and blew dirt off his lips, “I’m in no position to have a civil conversation, even though I’m grateful as hell you kept your friend from breaking my fingers.”

Daddy waited, “That’s it then?”

“For now.”

Daddy told me later, the fact he was a Federal agent and wouldn’t say why he was looking for us, set off all kinds of warning bells. I understood that to be bad.

“Hele’ on, eh, Capt’n?” Sam said, looking around at the gathering crowd. Sirens in the background coming our way.

“Let’s go,” Daddy grabbed my hand and we ran the next four blocks. My mind went blank. It was hard to think. I wondered what the agents wanted as the rain whipped my face. Daddy pulled me faster towards the marina and Shipwreck’s boat. A homeless man with a shopping cart full of bags came around a corner at the wrong time. The cart exploded and his life’s belongings flew all over the street. Daddy shouted sorry and we kept running.

 We made the marina, entered a chain link gate, flew down steps leading to a floating wood plank. I remembered the boat the minute I saw it. It was big. Shipwreck sat in the wheelhouse, all white hair and beard, smoking a cigarette and looking at the dials on the dash. His sizeable arm hung out a sliding glass window like he was pulled up at a drive-thru, ordering coffee. Gunner must have been below.

When we got close Daddy whistled with his tongue rolled against his teeth, a high-pitched sound.

“Shipwreck!” he waved and we clomped our way towards him on the floating dock.

We climbed aboard, and he came down the staircase to greet us, extending his hand. Daddy took it and squeezed, shaking hard.

“Thank you, for this, my friend,” Daddy smiled with gratitude.

“Welcome,” he said, “I’m in debt to you and that Tongan crew. I’d be stone-dead and cold in Davey Jones’ locker, if you hadn’t showed up that day, in the middle of the Bering Sea, with diesel fuel and tools!” I could see him smile through his beard.

“You’ve paid your debt in full today. We’re goi—,” Daddy began, but Sam still running on adrenaline, interrupted:

“Howzit, bra?” Sam said, reaching for his hand.

“Sam! Where’s that brick-headed brother of yours?” Shipwreck shook, vigorously, whiskers contorting in huge curves on his face.

“Bruddah tryin’ to fin da kine, hana hou, you know?  He like to get lolo working on da boat…” Sam smiled as big as he was, putting his pinched fingers to his lips and sucking in.

Just as Henry was mentioned, graceful as a moose balancing on a beach ball, he burst on the scene clomping down the gangway from which we came, grocery bags swinging in hand.

Gunner emerged from below, checking the engines.

“No time fo da kine, brah!” Henry barked, spilling over the bulkhead, “We go, now! Hele on! Dey right behind, brah!”

Things happened fast. 

 “Hey Gunner—,” I waved, my head swiveled to Henry throwing grocery bags and hoisting his enormous mass over the side. Groceries spilled, oranges rolled across the deck. Everyone moved with one purpose, to launch the boat.

Hey, Karysa!” Gunner barked, slapping my palm, still in the air, as he ran by. “Hey Sam, Jack, Henry!” he said in passing. 

“Shipwreck, let’s go!” He pulled Shipwreck’s sleeve, jerking him into motion and flew down the ladder.

“The galley’s stocked!” Shipwreck shouted as he moved, “Bring her back in one piece, Jack! We’ll hold ‘em up!” And they dropped to the dock facing suits with sunglasses thudding towards them.

“Lines clear, Capt’n?!” Sam shouted, bounding up the stairs to the wheelhouse in two leaps.

Henry and Daddy scrambled to the stern, bow, and starboard clearing the lines. And Henry shouted:

“Clear!” And Sam cranked the diesel engine alive and we pulled away from the dock, slowly. Way too slowly.

I heard a noise like a car backfire and turned fast enough to see Gunner falling, holding his knee, blood between his fingers. He rolled and clutched in agony. Three agents restrained Shipwreck like handlers in a zoo trying to subdue a wild beast with white fur. He struggled while others darted around the gaggle, and hopped over Gunner.

Ten feet of water between us and the dock. Two knots, then five, too slow— excruciatingly slow. Sam was being conscious not to draw attention on the way out of the inlet, but his sense of calm turned my insides into a milkshake.

The agents sprinted. Twenty feet of water between us and the dock now. We were pulling away, far too slowly.

They jumped.

The first two hung in the air, and hit the side like a bag of hammers, clinging desperately. A third missed completely, hitting the water with a splash. The rest drew up short and watched us get further away.

Henry walked to the side and pounded on their hands until they let loose and plopped in the water, bobbing like corks in our wake, fading like the rest.

My emotions were running high.

“What do you want with my father?” I screamed and shook, I didn’t know if the agents heard me over the engines. And I clenched Daddy’s arm, glancing up at him. I looked back at the agents on shore, and the one Daddy hit. His eye, puffy and bleeding, the front of his shirt, dirty from lying face down. His countenance, angry. One hand on a gun, the other on a phone.

“We need to talk with Daniel Delgado!” he shouted.

“What for?” Daddy called.

A few seconds passed in silence. And he shouted:

“In relation to the murder of August Ingersoll!” He held his phone to his ear. “If you turn the boat around, I won’t hold your crew on obstruction!”

 “What’s your name, agent?” Daddy shouted, “I’ll call you!” Silence again. I’m not sure the agent heard. He was pointing towards our boat, talking on his cell. Then he shouted:

“Agent Allen—Thomas Allen! U.S. Marshal’s Office, Seattle!” He held up his gun hand to funnel his voice, barrel up.

A Coast Guard cutter gliding around the bend in the inlet passed us on the port side. I saw agent Allen pointing our way and talking on his phone while we rounded the bend and they disappeared. Sam increased our speed without drawing attention, and before I knew it we were out of port, up the coast. We ducked around the other side of a freighter heading north, saw the cutter come out of Salmon Bay and turn south.  And we sped up.




“Seven months ago,” Agent Allen’s voice, full of static, came over the phone. “That’s when we found the body, it was frozen by the roadside leading out to the mine. Somebody wanted us to find him.

“But he’d been alive the previous week. A lot of eyewitnesses saw him in town, he drank at a bar, signed the bar tab and he was even caught on camera at a supermarket and bank the same day.”

The boat lolled to the side when the waves of a passing boat finally hit us. We were moored offshore of Vancouver Island, Canada. A private inlet, except for a yacht two hundred yards away. We sat in the galley. All of us.

My leg was on automatic, bouncing up and down like a piston. Elbows on the table, head in my hands, I looked at Daddy and saw confidence come over him, which did a lot to alleviate my nervousness.

His eyes lit up when agent Allen gave us this last bit of information. And he shot back:

“Seven months ago, I was in La Paz, Mexico fighting for my life in a shit-hole jail off the Baja.” There was silence on the phone.

“Can you prove it?” Agent Allen finally said.

I looked at my uncles, Sam and Henry, passing a bowl between them, taking turns lighting it. Their eyes were red, but they listened close to what was being said. Sam caught my eyes and nodded as if to say, ‘it’ll be alright.’ Then he stood like someone stuck him in the butt with a needle and darted out of the galley and through the hatch towards the living quarters.

“Well, it shouldn’t be hard. I’m sure the jailer will remember me. He was taking bets on my survival, Henry was in the next cell—yeah, I’m sure he’ll remember us.”

 “We’ll make some phone calls,” Agent Allen said, “In the meantime can I get you to come in?”

“Sure, in a bit,” Daddy looked at me and winked, “I want to take my daughter up through the channels and do some camping on the way.” My heart leaped, I love to camp offshore with Daddy and my uncles. It’s like we’re the only ones in the universe and I cherished having them all to myself.

Sam burst into the Galley waving a small piece of paper, leaned across the table and handed it to Daddy.

Wait a second, Agent,” Daddy looked up and smiled at Sam. “How about a receipt for diesel from the La Paz marina?”

Long pause on the phone, I could tell the agent was thinking about it on the other end.

“That’ll certainly help—does it have your signature?”


“Well, that will certainly help, yes, fax it to me and bring the original when we meet. Where can I catch up with you, Captain?” That was the first time he called Daddy ‘Captain.’

“Can you meet me in Nome, in say—a week?”

Another pause.

“I’ll meet you there, you have my numbers. And I’ll follow up with the jailer. ”

The next week was one of the best times of my life, I’ll never forget it. Just as I’ll never forget the weeks that followed which were the worst and changed my life forever. But for the time being, I had my Daddy, and I had my uncles and it was us and only us in the universe for a while. And I was happy.

Art by Steve Cartwright © 2017

Uncle Harry

by Michael S. Stewart


My uncle Harry was bigger than life. I didn’t know who would show to pick me up but it was him. I expected him to roll up in a Lamborghini this time or a chauffeured stretch limo or even a fire truck with sirens blaring. It wouldn’t have been out of character for him. But as it was, this foggy evening, out of the mist, bright headlights flashed at me on the wet curb. He beeped his horn twice and swung in front of me, popping the trunk. He drove a classic ’73 Corvette with a paint job that changed colors like a chameleon under the florescent lights.

“Hey, Michael,” he said, rising out of the driver’s door, thick black hair blowing in the wind as he rushed around the car. Overcoat flapping.

Cars drove by and others pulled alongside coming to a squealing halt to pick up passengers. People bustled by pulling baggage behind and porters helped them. A plane flew overhead and the tumult was lost in the roar.

I couldn’t make out what Harry was saying when he glided up and wrapped me in a bear hug, squeezing me with a strength I thought left him long ago. Such was Harry, he had an effortless way of slicing through traffic, and crowds, red tape and difficult situations, like a hot knife through butter.

“…the flight?” he was saying.

“The flight? Yeah, good flight, all good, Harry,” I shouted over the cacophony of cars, planes, whistles and loud conversation.

“How are you feeling?”

 “Never felt better,” he smiled and patted his chest, “Let’s get out of here,”

 I had to agree, he looked good. And I wanted to get away from the noise.

But right in the middle of the hubbub of the airport, he looked at me, his eyes resonating a peace from within. It drew me in and for a second I sank into a lull. The clamor of the world disappeared and a stillness came over me like staring into a silent universe, one inside another, and another, and on and on forever.

I snapped out of my reverie, and Harry grinned. Something about him. More confidence? More vigor? I couldn’t decide. I threw my one bag in the trunk. Harry said, “We’ve got to make a detour on the way to the house,” his overcoat swished in the wind before he disappeared on the driver’s side.

I hopped in. Nice interior. Warm, plush, and very quiet. So quiet I couldn’t hear the outside discord of the world. I turned to Harry who looked straight ahead, collar up, long hair obscuring his face.

“Where to?” I said.

“A detour,” he said and sliced through traffic like a thought on the wind.




          Lights whirled as he sped up. Harry, always a reckless driver, seemed hell bent for time. His arms straight out, gripping the wheel tight. We swerved around cars faster and faster until I stopped looking out the side windows. It was making me dizzy. I stared straight ahead and watched the lights pass us on the sides until my insides went giddy and I shut my eyes.


A memory rose in me of a time before high school when I spent a week with him, my aunt and cousin, racing his Mercedes sedan down the highway, playing cat and mouse with some unknown driver, ending with Harry reaching into the glove box and brandishing his .44 Magnum revolver, barrel waving in the air at the motorist. The man’s eyes widened, and he moved on shortly after with his middle finger in the air. And Harry laughed.


“Whoa, Harry,” I said, almost sick to my stomach, “what’s going on? Can you slow down?” as I asked the question I felt my insides lift like someone pumped me full of helium. Time slowed and a perfect sense of calm and peace took over. I didn’t care if we exploded or careened off a cliff. I was carried, weightless through a vacuum in perfect synergy with circumstance.

I began to feel the sensation of moving backward, floating. In apprehension, I cracked my lids and stark realization hit when I was still seated, but the lights outside were moving backward like going warp speed in a tunnel. It was all around us, long streaming lights of purple, blues and gold, and colors I’ve never seen before. My mind, having trouble working this out, closed my eyes on reflex. And after a period when I felt nothing at all, I ventured to open them again.

I found myself seated on a wooden bench, surrounded by boys around nine years old, dressed in baseball uniforms. I had the sensation of participating and observing at the same time. Sitting on the bench among friends, loud baseball chatter, spitting sunflower seeds, throwing gloves against the dugout, sunshine in our eyes. The smell of cut grass and leather mitts was strong.

I took a deep breath, unconcerned with how and when I got here, but rather, illogically, accepting and sinking into the role, acquiesced.

Simultaneously, I saw my nine-year-old self, inside the dugout, turning attention from the action on the ballfield to a loud, raucous Harley Davidson motorcycle pulling up to the ballfield in the dirt parking lot. Bike revving and dust flying, everybody in the stands turned to look.

The fact it was loud was disturbing to me. It broke the sanctity of the game which had been a church to me. It was my aunt Mel and her new boyfriend, Harry. They were both eighteen. My aunt, in hip-hugger hot pants, young, with long brown hair and hot as hell, had every man’s attention as she lifted off the back of the bike and shook off the kinks of the road. Including my coach, who said:

“Damn, who is that?” He couldn’t take his eyes off her.

“My aunt, and her boyfriend,” my brother, Pat, said. Embarrassment and jealousy shot through me. After all, my hot-looking aunt, just a few years older than I, was with this young man with long hair. An interloper, an intruder, to the family and to the sanctity and purity of baseball.

“Very cool,” an older teammate said.

I scoffed, but a kernel of pride began to swell pushing aside any sense of embarrassment I might have felt. And they were very cool, and almost ten years older than me, despite their unreserved tone they set on their entrance.

They sauntered up to the back of the dugout made of chain-link.

“Hey, Mel,” I said, and more reluctant, “Harry.”

“Hey, Mikey, Pat,” my aunt chimed, “you guys winning?”

“Yep, O’course,” my brother said proudly. It was the year we were champions.

“Your Dad couldn’t make it,” Harry said, discreetly, almost in a whisper as he got close to the chain-link.

“Okay,” my brother said, looking down. But he recovered quickly, infatuated with Harry’s long hair and bike.

I nodded to my aunt and her boyfriend and I knew my father wasn’t at the game because he had too much to drink and was probably home nursing his second or third highball. And even though I was sad and hurt he couldn’t make it, I was grateful they did. More than I could say. It meant a lot to me that someone from my family was there to watch. It was the game that made us regional champions. And I knew if it hadn’t been for Harry, my aunt’s new boyfriend, no one would have shown. He seemed to take a liking to me and my brothers, for whatever reason and liked to show up unexpected at our sporting events. And the thought made me soften towards him a bit.

I became the observer and melted into my senses. I became filled with the warm breeze, the smell of cut grass, the splash of orange poppies in the field next to us and a sky so beautiful, John Constable couldn’t do it justice if he tried to paint it.

I had a sense of fading backward and it all vanished in a blink as I became suspended like floating in the air.

Before my eyes opened I was being pushed, then hit in the breadbasket, I couldn’t breathe. I sucked air and pushed back, tried to swing against whomever and caught nothing but air.  I gasped and opened my eyes to my boyhood home in Santa Cruz. Standing in the family room, TV blaring, my brother before me. He grabbed my collar with one hand and drew back for a haymaker. I rushed him, hitting him in the wind and pushing against his bodyweight with all I had, stumbling into the wall, both of us in tight grips on each other. Pushing, shoving, trying to get a punch in. He outweighed me by a hundred pounds and I was about to get my ass kicked.

“Hey, Hey! What’s going on?!” I heard a voice saying.

Harry, now my uncle, squeezed his body between me and my brother, separating us. No small task. On pushing us apart my brother reached me with a roundhouse and hit me a good one, sending sparks of light shooting through my brain and making my eyes water.

“Come on! That was a cheap shot!” he barked at my brother. He pushed my brother against the wall and stared him down until he wilted. He turned and asked if I was alright. And swallowing the lump in my throat I mouthed the words, ‘Yeah, I’m okay.’ Then I felt his hand on my shoulder as he walked me outside.

My heart pumped and I brushed away a tear.

“You’ll be okay, bud,” he said, patting my back in a paternal way, “life is going to deal you some cheap shots, believe me. All of us have to take them, including me.” And I looked at him, grateful as hell he’d been there. And not just for breaking up the fight but for the small pep talk I was receiving.

“And someday you’ll be older and bigger and able to kick your brother’s ass!” he said, shaking his fist in my face grinning. And I laughed. He broke the seriousness and lent it the brevity I needed to lighten my heart.

“Thanks, Harry,” I mumbled as we walked, his hand on my shoulder. We talked until I had calmed down.

Again, the observer, I watched my thirteen-year-old self and Harry talk, but I had no sense of point of view, I was looking at them from all angles. Then my consciousness was sucked into the vortex, falling backward, tumbling. There was no up or down. No sense of how long I’d been there. Then breath came and my eyes opened.

The chartered boat rocked horribly, stern to bow. I felt sick and green in the gills. I wanted it to end, to be on dry land. Harry walked up to me, put his arm around my shoulders, “You look pretty sick, devil-dog, do you want to go back?”

“No---,” I said.

On leave from the Marine Corps, I decided to give my favorite aunt and uncle a call and spend the weekend. Uncle Harry took me fishing in the Bay, and lunch on the pier. We were on a charter boat, five hours already, and I wasn’t looking forward to lunch anymore. The other clients on the boat looked hardcore, fishing hats, working man’s pants with plaid parkas, weathered faces and calloused hands that had been dealing with fishing hooks for a lifetime.

          I wanted to say ‘yes’, I wanted to say, ‘turn the boat around, please!’ but I was too embarrassed and ashamed. My twenty-one-year-old pride wouldn’t allow me. And Harry looked at me with eyes that not only asked the question but eyes that cared what the answer was. I tried to smile and lost my breakfast over the railing to the disgust and amusement of the men on the boat. I sat down to breathe, my arms crossed on the rail, my head down. Harry left me to speak to the captain, and when he returned he sat down, patted my shoulder and said;

“We’re going back, Michael”

“Harry,” (gasp), “you didn’t have to---“

“It’s okay, buddy, we're going back.”

“I don’t want to ruin everyone else’s fishing trip, Harry.”

“They’re being compensated for their loss, believe me” he patted my shoulder, “enough to come out another day and catch as many fish as they like.”


“Ah, ah, ah---” (holding up his hand), “I don’t want to hear it, Michael, you’re sick and miserable, buddy, we’re going back.”

“Okay,” I relented. “Thank you, Harry---,” I spewed over the side one more time and the ocean became a whirling kaleidoscope of glass and color before I got sucked back into the cyclone, suspended, until I found myself floating along the road in Harry’s corvette, once again.

I looked to my right, Harry’s face, still hidden in shadow looked straight ahead.

“Harry---,” I could barely breathe, “What the hell was that!?” Shaking, my heart pounding.

 “A detour,” he said, simply, and I heard the smirk on his lips.

The car roared and slowed to a stop in front of his house, and I sat motionless. Out of sorts and out of breath. Drained of emotion. I felt the soft leather seat against my legs and back. I turned to Harry, and he looked at me with eyes glowing from within, no longer dark brown but an amber hue. My mind no longer questioned it. It couldn’t. It didn’t know where to begin. My beating heart slowed when his gaze locked with mine.

Uncertainty gave way to a comfort that resonated with me. Permeating every fiber of my being.

“I have to go,” he said, sticking out his hand and I stared at it.

“I have no doubt,” I said, ignoring his hand and leaning across the seat I hugged him, fully. Then he sat back and I got out. My body, still trembling, felt like a fluffy bag of helium about to lift off the ground. A giddiness rose in me. He popped the trunk and I grabbed my bag.

I leaned down into the car.

“What do you want me to tell Mel?”  I asked, my clarity sharpened and I heard his response not so much with words vibrating on air but as thoughts I could feel:

“Tell her--- I’ll be back.” And I felt what he said, resonate through me, sinking in, worming its way to my core. It left me without a cross feeling in the world and forced me to smile.

“Okay,” I said, simply.

He smiled back, sinking into the shadows. The window rolled up. The engine roared and he disappeared into traffic, shimmering purple, green, then blue and was gone before I could blink. Or did I blink and then he was gone? I can’t remember. I stood on the curb looking down the road after him. But I do remember Mel and a handful of relatives pouring out of the house when they heard the corvette engine so close.

Mel ran up and hugged me. She’d been crying.

“So glad you made it, Mikey.”

“I came as quick as I could.”

“I know---,” she sighed, struggling for words, she looked tired.

“Harry picked me up--- said he’d be right back.”

Her eyes widened, concern and disbelief in them.

“He’s gone you know? You just missed him,” she choked, “just this evening. It was a beautiful sunset outside the hospital window and I sat and held his hand as he passed,” she broke and sobbed.

My cousin Sam ran out and hugged me, her eyes brimming over.

Hey, you! Where were you? Why didn’t you call when you got here?” She stammered, excitement masking the sadness in her eyes. “I thought your plane was landing a few hours ago?”

“It did--- I,” searching to find words in my bewilderment, I remember what Harry had said, “I went on a detour,” was all I could say. “Let’s go inside, I’ll tell you about it if I can, but some of it’s beyond me, so I don’t know if it’ll make sense.”

Thank you, Michael, I needed to see myself through your eyes.  I heard Uncle Harry’s words as plain as day, and looking at the others I knew I was the only one that heard them. After a pause, I said:

“Come on, Mel. This story’s for you, too.”

We walked inside and joined the wake that had already begun for Uncle Harry.




Michael Stewart works as a Designer/Architect for a major high-tech company in Puget Sound, North of Seattle.

He spent 4 years in the Marine Corps and held various jobs including
shoveling manure, working in an Animal Clinic, swamping cherries in the orchards, driving a cab, a personal trainer, digging ditches with a hand shovel, and bus boy.

He is married to a wonderful woman who supports his writing. A nurse with years in the spotlight as a circus performer and fitness professional.  His step-son has an adventurous spirit, like his mother and is a mechanical engineer on a fishing boat in the Bering Sea. He has two talented and beautiful daughters currently attending UW.

He and his wife enjoy an outdoor lifestyle, and their peace and quiet.

In Association with Fossil Publications