Yellow Mama Archives II

Michael Fowler

Acuff, Gale
Ahern, Edward
Allen, R. A.
Alleyne, Chris
Andes, Tom
Arnold, Sandra
Aronoff, Mikki
Ayers, Tony
Baber, Bill
Baird, Meg
Baker, J. D.
Balaz, Joe
Barker, Adelaide
Barker, Tom
Barnett, Brian
Barry, Tina
Bartlett, Daniel C.
Bates, Greta T.
Bayly, Karen
Beckman, Paul
Bellani, Arnaav
Berriozabal, Luis Cuauhtemoc
Beveridge, Robert
Blakey, James
Booth, Brenton
Bracken, Michael
Burke, Wayne F.
Burnwell, Otto
Campbell, J. J.
Cancel, Charlie
Capshaw, Ron
Carr, Steve
Carrabis, Joseph
Cartwright, Steve
Centorbi, David Calogero
Cherches, Peter
Christensen, Jan
Clifton, Gary
Cody, Bethany
Costello, Bruce
Coverly, Harris
Crist, Kenneth James
Cumming, Scott
Davie, Andrew
Davis, Michael D.
Degani, Gay
De Neve, M. A.
Dillon, John J.
Dinsmoor, Robert
Dominguez, Diana
Dorman, Roy
Doughty, Brandon
Doyle, John
Dunham, T. Fox
Ebel, Pamela
Fagan, Brian Peter
Fillion, Tom
Fortier, M. L.
Fowler, Michael
Galef, David
Garnet, George
Garrett, Jack
Graysol, Jacob
Grech, Amy
Greenberg, KJ Hannah
Grey, John
Hagerty, David
Hardin, Scott
Held, Shari
Hicks, Darryl
Hivner, Christopher
Hoerner, Keith
Hohmann, Kurt
Holt, M. J.
Holtzman, Bernard
Holtzman, Bernice
Holtzman, Rebecca
Hopson, Kevin
Hubbs, Damon
Irwin, Daniel S.
Jabaut, Mark
Jermin, Wayne
Jeschonek, Robert
Johns. Roger
Kanner, Mike
Karl, Frank S.
Kempe, Lucinda
Kennedy, Cecilia
Keshigian, Michael
Kirchner, Craig
Kitcher, William
Kompany, James
Kondek, Charlie
Koperwas, Tom
Kreuiter, Victor
Larsen, Ted R.
Le Due, Richard
Leotta, Joan
Lester, Louella
Lubaczewski, Paul
Lucas, Gregory E.
Luer, Ken
Lukas, Anthony
Lyon, Hillary
Mannone, John C.
Margel, Abe
Martinez, Richard
McConnell, Logan
McQuiston, Rick
Middleton, Bradford
Milam, Chris
Miller, Dawn L. C.
Mladinic, Peter
Mobili, Juan
Mullins, Ian
Myers, Beverle Graves
Myers, Jen
Newell, Ben
Nielsen, Ayaz Daryl
Nielsen, Judith
Onken, Bernard
Owen, Deidre J.
Park, Jon
Parker, Becky
Pettus, Robert
Plath, Rob
Potter, John R. C.
Prusky, Steve
Radcliffe, Paul
Reddick, Niles M.
Reedman, Maree
Reutter, G. Emil
Riekki, Ron
Robson, Merrilee
Rockwood, KM
Rollins, Janna
Rose, Brad
Rosmus, Cindy
Ross, Gary Earl
Rowland, C. A.
Saier, Monique
Sarkar, Partha
Scharhag, Lauren
Schauber, Karen
Schildgen, Bob
Schmitt, Di
Sesling, Zvi E.
Short, John
Simpson, Henry
Slota, Richelle Lee
Smith, Elena E.
Snell, Cheryl
Snethen, Daniel G.
Steven, Michael
Stoler, Cathi
Stoll, Don
Surkiewicz, Joe
Swartz, Justin
Taylor, J. M.
Temples. Phillip
Tobin, Tim
Traverso Jr., Dionisio "Don"
Turner, Lamont A.
Tustin, John
Tyrer, DJ
Varghese, Davis
Verlaine, Rp
Viola, Saira
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Al Wassif, Amirah
Weibezahl, Robert
Weil, Lester L.
Weisfeld, Victoria
Weld, Charles
White, Robb
Wilhide, Zachary
Williams, E. E.
Williams, K. A.
Wilsky, Jim
Wiseman-Rose, Sophia
Woods, Jonathan
Young, Mark
Zackel, Fred
Zelvin, Elizabeth
Zeigler, Martin
Zimmerman, Thomas
Zumpe, Lee Clark

Everything is Not Permitted

by Michael Fowler


     As the night closed in, Mike entered the small building by the woods. He walked over to the sign-in sheet on the front desk and wrote his name, saying aloud, “Where is everyone?” He went into Dan’s office, open and vacant ten feet behind the desk, pulled out a desk drawer and rummaged through it. “What the hell?” He kept looking inside, moving papers around. Casey came in the front door and went to the sign-in sheet.

     “Hey,” said Mike, able to see Casey from where he sat. “You’re early tonight.”

     “Yeah,” said Casey, writing. “I need to stop doing that.” He put down the pen at the sign-in sheet and sat nonchalantly in one of the three chairs arranged near the desk.  

     Mike closed Dan’s drawer and came up to him, sitting in one of the chairs. “So, what do you think of our new truck out there? Hard to believe this place can afford a vehicle like that.”

     “I’ve got my eye on it,” said Casey. 

   “Your eye’s out there, is it?” said Mike. “Did it happen to spot our paychecks? Mine’s not in Dan’s drawer as usual. Did you get yours? I didn’t see yours or Ed’s, either.”

     “Really? Sure mine’s not there?”

     “I Looked. Dan didn’t mention some new arrangement, did he?”

    “Don’t think so.”

     “Aren’t you worried about your check?”

   “I’ll look for it. What’s Ed still doing here?”

     “Not sure. I get here and see Ed’s car still here, your car here early, and now no paychecks. At least mine isn’t there. Have we landed in hell?”

     “Sure, this place is hell, you don’t know that already? Ed’s supposed to get me on at the golf course where he’s a starter on weekends, but still hasn’t come through. Maybe he’s got some news for me.”

   “His news is you can caddy for some snooty elites and make more in tips than you do in a homeless shelter.”

   “Sounds about right.”

     “And if you don’t leave soon, you’ll be working for Ed and chewing his toenails for a living right here. You know he’s putting in for Dan’s job when he retires next month. Lord and master of all us widgets. That’s what Dan calls us, widgets. He’s right, of course. I once heard him say on the phone we were all mentally deficient. I don’t know if that part’s right. The jury’s still out.”  

     Ed came in the front door and confronted Mike and Casey.

   “Evening, gentlemen. Been quite an evening. One fistfight, and five minutes before my shift ends, the laundry catches fire.”

     “I don’t see any fire trucks out there,” said Mike. “You must have put it out yourself. Look good on your resume.”  

     “Just our brand-new truck sitting out there,” said Casey. “It’s too nice to fight fires in. Or haul these losers around.”

     “I did put the fire out,” said Ed, continuing to stare at the others from the doorway. “It was Tim setting his shirts on fire with a cigarette. At least the idiot had sense enough to come and get me.”

     He moved to the chair by the wall behind the desk and took down the shift log pegged there. “Anybody seen our paychecks?” he asked as he sat. “Mine is missing. So’s my wallet I left here.”  

     “My check’s missing too,” said Mike. “Someone’s got some ’splaining to do.” He looked at Casey, but not harshly.  

      “Is Bill in his dorm? Casey said to Ed. “That new guy with the tattoos?”

     “I believe he is,” said Ed, continuing to fill out his shift notes. “But before we discuss Bill and his skin art, which one of you two jokers has my check and wallet?”

     “Yeah, who could it be?” said Mike. He again looked at Casey, more expectantly this time.

     “Why’d you leave your wallet in here?” said Casey.

     “I took it out to put my check in it, then got notified of the fire. I know I locked up behind me, it wasn’t any of these loons.”

     “The office was open when I got here, but you two were here already, though not in the office,” said Mike.

     “So did you go off and leave the door unlocked, young Casey?” said Ed. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

     “I was only gone a minute, and I kept my eye on the place,” said Casey. “No one got in.”

     “That you know of,” said Ed.

     Casey stood up and started to leave. “Where are you going, partner?” said Mike. “It gets lonely up here.”

     “I need to talk to Bill about something. I’ll be back.” He left, looking preoccupied.

     “This is getting stranger and stranger,” said Ed.

     “Not really,” said Mike.

     “OK, you’ve played tricks on me before,” said Ed, holding his pen aloft. “How about handing over my wallet and check so I can get out of here? My shift ended twenty minutes ago.”

     “Ed, there’s no one I like to play tricks on more than you, who told Dan my first day here that I was incompetent, and has tried to push me around ever since. But my check’s missing too, and I think we need to talk to Dan about some new safeguards. Leaving our checks in his unlocked desk drawer overnight isn’t working anymore.”

     “And why is that, do you suppose?”

     “Have you asked yourself, Ed, what business Casey has going on with Bill? Do you conduct business with homeless guys? Think about that.”

     “I think it’s suspicious you’re trying to point the finger at Casey. Sure he’s a bit chuckleheaded and immature, but he’s not the type to steal our paychecks or wallets.”

     “Is that a fact?” said Mike.

     “He’s asked me to get him on at the golf course, and I’ve put in a word for him.”

     “You hire the chuckleheaded and immature there, do you, Ed? Good to know the kind of place it is if I ever want to dust off my clubs.”

     Ed turned in his chair and pointed the pen at a hiring notice tacked on the bulletin board behind him. “Tell you something else. If you put in for Dan’s job, I won’t stand in your way.” He tapped the paper with the pen and looked hard at Mike. “Given it any thought?”

     “I have,” said Mike. “But you’re not fooling me, Ed. I know your style. There’re only two reasons you’d tell me you won’t stand in my way. One, you think I’m no competition for you, and that's likely true. You have seniority on me, and ambition too, and I suppose your military experience counts for something, whereas I have no ambition at all, at least not here. And two, you want me to think you’re a fine and magnanimous guy, willing to give up a promotion to help a coworker get ahead. What nonsense. No one does that, least of all a self-promoter like you. You actually think you can mess with my mind, don’t you?”  

     “I know this,” said Ed, giving the notice a dismissive wave. “You’re the type to hold onto our paychecks and wallets and make it look like a theft. You’d do it as a joke. You’ve never been serious about this job.” He went back to writing.

     Minutes later Casey came back in the front door looking like he’d resolved a problem, and ignoring the two men, disappeared into the tiny rest room adjoining Dan’s office. After a brief time, he emerged and ducked into Dan’s office. The two others couldn’t see what he was doing back there, but figured he was sitting at Dan’s desk. Casey quickly came out and sat beside them.  

     “Your check was on the floor,” he said to Ed, handing over the item. “Yours is back there too,” he said to Mike. He looked calmly at the others while they stared back at him.

     “What about yours?” Mike asked Casey. “Did you find yours?”

     “Yeah, it was back there. I had it earlier. Picked it up after I got here.”

     “No sign of my wallet?” asked Ed.

      “Nope,” said Casey.

     “That’s not what you told me before,” Mike said to Casey. “You said you’d have to look for your check.”

     “No, I had it,” said Casey. “I don’t know what you heard me say.”

     “But mine’s back there now, huh. Well that’s dandy. Thanks for letting me know. You could have brought it out here with Ed’s.”

     Casey shrugged.

     “I’m going to take one more look in Dan’s office for my wallet and then get out of here,” said Ed, replacing the shift log on the wall. “I’ve got to be on the tee tomorrow at eight in the morning. I think I’ll hold off on writing a report of stolen property until I talk to Dan on Monday about how certain people here can’t be trusted.”

     Casey stood up casually and walked to the door. “Night, Ed,” he said. “I’d be at the course myself in the morning if I didn’t have the nightshift to tire me out.” He started out.

     “Where are you going now?” Mike called to him.

     “I told Bill I’d check on his bed neighbor. Bill says the guy hasn’t showered in two weeks and stinks like a sewer, and he may have a knife stashed in his locker.” He left. 

     “It looks more and more like somebody took off without locking the door, allowing some scum to get in here,” said Ed. “What do you know about this Bill person?” He headed to Dan’s office without waiting for an answer.

     “Do me a favor while you’re back there,” called Mike. “See if the shelter gas card is in its usual spot in Dan’s desk.”

     Ed was back in a minute, looking unhappy.

     “Let me guess,” said Mike. “No wallet and no gas card. Do you begin to see?”

     “No wallet,” said Ed, “but the card’s there. I think you’re getting desperate.”

     “A desperado, that’s me,” said Mike. “But when you talk to Dan about the criminal element here, be sure you can make your accusations stick.”

     “If it was you and not one of these hobos, watch out,” said Ed. “And it’s never too late to return the wallet.”

     “Let me give you a hint about what’s really going on before you take off for some well-deserved sleep, Ed. Accuse me of anything you like, but are you aware that Casey drives off with our gas card and uses it to fill his own tank? Ever notice that, Ed?”

     “No,” said Ed, poised in the doorway. “He doesn’t do it on my shift, anyway. The more I listen to you, the more I doubt what I’m hearing. Sounds to me like you’re scapegoating.” He was gone.

     Mike sniffed and stretched his neck. Usually at this time he tuned in a late-night talk show on the old TV on the stand beside the desk, to help pass the hours, but he wasn’t in the mood for a comedian. He had his book, but needed to settle down more before he could relax into reading. His insides felt jumpy.

     Casey returned, strode in his trademark sweeping way back to the men’s, flushed the commode and then detoured into Dan’s office. He didn’t speak until he was on his way out the door again.

     “I’m leaving for a while,” he said. “I need at least a six-pack to get through one of these nights. Want anything?”

     "No, I’m good,” said Mike. “I’ll put a pot of coffee on, do the ten o’clock walk-through. Why don’t you take the new truck for a test spin?”

     “If I ever get behind the wheel of that thing, me and it aren’t coming back. But Dan would notice the mileage.”

     “He would? Where you going, California?”

     “Someday, maybe,” said Casey, “but not tonight.” He gave Mike a searching look. “Hey, you and me are cool, right?”

     “Yeah, we’re cool.”

     Casey left. Through the side window, Mike watched him walk through the night under the outdoor office lights to his little red beater parked nearby, start up and drive off. He’d seen this before, and knew his coworker wouldn’t be back for an hour or two. He never asked Casey where he went, not caring. The thing was to get through the night. Get paid for it. Go home by morning. But the little punk had handled his check, considered stealing it. Would have stolen it if he could cash it. 

     He got up and walked back to Dan’s office, opened the top desk drawer and took out his paycheck. At least the kid had returned it. After Dan stashed it in his wallet, he opened the lower drawer. The gas card was missing, as he knew it would be.

     He went back up front and put on some coffee. In twenty minutes he’d do the walk-through, make sure the men were snug in their beds or at least not drinking and fighting. Maybe get a good look at Bill, refresh his memory of the loser’s inked hide. He wondered what Casey had bought from Bill with Ed’s money, but had a pretty good idea. Lately Casey seemed to have a live monkey on his back. Planned to steal a truck and bragged about it. The upstart lacked the nerve, but needed to wise up.

     Mike sat at the desk and opened his book. A dense, foreign one where a character called Ivan says, “Everything is permitted.” Sure, everything is permitted in a novel, but in a homeless shelter? On Monday he’d confront Dan with what he knew and take it from there.


Michael Fowler is a mystery and science fiction writer living in Ohio.

Enter supporting content here

Site Maintained by Fossil Publications