Yellow Mama Archives II

Fred Zackel

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.
Bayly, Karen
Beckman, Paul
Bellani, Arnaav
Berriozabal, Luis Cuauhtemoc
Beveridge, Robert
Blakey, James
Burke, Wayne F.
Burnwell, Otto
Campbell, J. J.
Cancel, Charlie
Capshaw, Ron
Carr, Steve
Carrabis, Joseph
Cartwright, Steve
Centorbi, David Calogero
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.
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, Bernice
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
Kitcher, William
Kompany, James
Koperwas, Tom
Larsen, Ted R.
Le Due, Richard
Leotta, Joan
Lester, Louella
Lubaczewski, Paul
Lucas, Gregory E.
Luer, Ken
Lukas, Anthony
Lyon, Hillary
Mannone, John C.
Martinez, Richard
McConnell, Logan
McQuiston, Rick
Middleton, Bradford
Milam, Chris
Mladinic, Peter
Mobili, Juan
Mullins, Ian
Myers, Beverle Graves
Myers, Jen
Nielsen, Ayaz Daryl
Nielsen, Judith
Onken, Bernard
Owen, Deidre J.
Park, Jon
Parker, Becky
Pettus, Robert
Plath, Rob
Prusky, Steve
Radcliffe, Paul
Reddick, Niles M.
Reutter, G. Emil
Robson, Merrilee
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
Traverso Jr., Dionisio "Don"
Turner, Lamont A.
Tustin, John
Tyrer, DJ
Varghese, Davis
Verlaine, Rp
Viola, Saira
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Weibezahl, Robert
Weil, Lester L.
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

Sheriff Holmes and the 65-Inch Big-Screen TV


Fred Zackel



Sheriff Felicia Holmes was too slim and too tall for a woman, almost gaunt in others’ eyes. She had steady gray eyes amid a long, lean, and chiseled face with a hawkish nose. She was so tall, but so lean that she looked taller. Her whole being looked weathered more than an old sailor.

The Sheriff looked around the windblown farmland surrounding the house. The corn was in, and the first snow was expected. The sky had clouded over. Overcast was common in the Midwest winters. A winter wonderland? Not yet. A wintry wasteland, she decided.

The homeowner and his missus came out.

“Sheriff Felicia Holmes,” she said.

“Mick Cleaver.” The homeowner shook hands with Sheriff Holmes. He had a hard face and short gray wavy hair. Grimed fingernails. He was puffy-eyed and weary. He wore an old T-shirt covered with sweat stains, blue jeans, and mud-caked boots.

 “Pleased to meet with you,” the Sheriff said.

“This is my wife, Tessie.”

“Theresa,” she corrected him.

She was in her sixties, a curly bleached blonde with dark roots showing. A pink sweater with red ducks on it. Smoking, huddled against the rain, she wore her shirt sleeves rolled up to her elbows.

“I want to report a burglar,” the homeowner said.

“And a break-in,” his missus said in a quiet, lifeless voice.

Their ranch-style house was green clapboard, tucked in a quiet, wooded area on the outskirts of the county seat. A driveway of bleached white gravel was slashed on the left side of the yard. A two-car garage was attached to the house and a Dodge truck was parked inside. A workbench in his garage stood out, too, alongside the old refrigerator that now just held beer. Just beyond, trucks roared past on the highway, even though the road was riddled with potholes.

The Cleavers were retired. They stayed up late, woke up at ten in the morning, maybe eleven, sometimes not until noon. But they were retired.

Mick Cleaver liked sitting with a beer in his lawn chair in his garage in good weather. “Just watching the world go by.”

The Sheriff smiled. “It’s good to be retired.”

“If I had known…” Theresa Cleaver said.

But she stopped. Her brows knit. She had pulled back.

The Sheriff played dumb. “Tell us how you were targeted.”

The Sheriff and her deputy followed the homeowner and his missus inside.

“I didn’t think you’d come by yourself, Sheriff,” the homeowner said.

“Just checking up on my deputies.”

“Making sure they stay on the straight and narrow?” the homeowner’s missus said. She was still digesting something sour.

The Sheriff said, “The first thing you saw when you came home from the supermarket was your drapes were closed. Do you always keep your drapes open?”

The homeowner said, “Well, when you live in the country… I grew up—you too probably, Sheriff—we grew up without ever locking our front door.”

“You do lock your doors now?”

“What? Oh yes, I do!”

“And you pulled your truck into your garage.”

The Sheriff reconnoitered inside the garage.

“Here’s where he kicked the door in,” Mick Cleaver said.

They went through a blue door.

Then the strong smell of furniture polish hit them.

“You almost have the door fixed and back on its hinges.”

“You can’t just have people walking in on you,” the missus said.

The Sheriff played a finger across the new crack in the door.

 “You only have that red truck, right? The one in the garage, right?”

“That’s right, Sheriff,” the missus said.

The Sheriff examined the door from the garage inside the house.

“Is that his boot print?” the Sheriff said.

“Uh-huh. And his kick broke the lock…”

“And you always keep this door to your garage locked, right?”

“I always keep it locked, yes, I do.”

“But you always keep your garage door open.”

“Well, except in snowstorms…”

“Because the snow builds up inside, right?”

“Otherwise, I always keep it open.”

“There’s only this door between the garage and the inside of your house, right?”

“I always keep that door locked and closed.”

“And the burglar kicked the lock in.”

“That’s right, Sheriff.”

“Photograph the boot print, deputy,” the Sheriff said.

The missus said, “So you can match him with it when you catch him?”

The Sheriff stayed attentive to her deputies’ work.

Inside the living room a ketchup-red sofa was against one wall. Two green leather recliners flanked the sofa on both sides. The wall opposite was where the big-screen TV had been. A coffee table sat in the center.

The Sheriff summarized the scene of the crime.

“Your burglar came in this way from the garage by kicking down the door to your garage and then he took your big-screen TV…”

“He took all the wires and the DVR. He took the wall frame, too, for the TV.”

“He did it fast, too,” the Sheriff said. “While you were at the store.”

“We came home, and it was gone.”

“And your house was broken into.”

The family dog wandered into the room. He was very happy with all the visitors and was hysterically wagging his tail.

The Sheriff stood in the twilight, in the Cleavers’ living room, her voice taking on a deferential and overly polite tone.

“And that’s your dog, right?” A dog person herself, the Sheriff bent and played with the big, friendly dog. “Hello, puppy, how are you? Oh, what a good dog you are!” She roughhoused with it, ruffled its fur, and rubbed its butt. “Part of the family, right?”

“He always goes where we go.”

“Part of the family,” the Sheriff said. She scratched hard the dog’s butt and the dog’s tail was frantically wagging, almost hysterically wagging. “Never knew a dog that didn’t love a good scratch here, eh, pup?”

The dog loved the Sheriff.

She straightened. “When you went to church, you took your dog with you because you always do.”

“He always goes where we go.”

“Not a very good watchdog for when you’re gone,” the Sheriff said.

“I guess not,” the homeowner said.

“Your burglar saw you leave, drove across the highway, parked his truck in your garage, so no one could see it from the road, and kicked your door in. Then he stole your TV.”

In the kitchen, red chairs were spaced around an ancient stainless-steel table. Some dishes were drying in a plastic rack. The tabletop was clear of all objects.

Theresa Cleaver did not hesitate to speak her mind.

 “Do you think he had an accomplice?”

“No, I don’t think so. One man alone could carry that TV, they make them so light these days, but it was big and bulky for one man to carry, and you could see where he nicked the corner of the garage door frame when he was leaving.”

“Oh! You sussed that out, Sheriff!”

“I hope he didn’t damage your TV when he nicked the frame.”

Theresa Cleaver was glum. “It’s his TV, now.”

“Oh, maybe we’ll get it back,” the Sheriff said.

The homeowner was surprised. “You think so?”

His wife was unbowed. “Do you think you’ll catch him, Sheriff?”

The Sheriff couldn’t answer that. “Parked in your garage,” she did say, “no, no one could see him from the highway.”

Theresa Cleaver said, “Any idea who did this, Sheriff?”

“No idea at all.” She reconsidered. “Anybody driving by more than once.”

“Why would you say that?”

The Sheriff pointed at the empty space in the living room. “When did you get this TV?”

Mick was proud of his purchase. “Brand new. Just got it. Last weekend.”

“How big was it?”

“Sixty-five inches. Bought it at Costco.”

The Sheriff approved.

“Good place to get one. But they’re a little expensive.”

“But you get all those extra features, Sheriff.”

“And you set it up right there in front of your front window, across from your recliner, the sofa in-between, and your missus’ recliner.”

“That’s right, Sheriff.”

The Sheriff pressed her fingertips together and closed her eyes to almost a squint. The deputy wondered if she was holding back a laugh or was thinking too hard.

“Do you have the serial number on the TV?”

Theresa Cleaver said, “Do you really think you can get it back?”

“We won’t know we get it back until the numbers jibe.”

The homeowner returned with the extended warranty documents.

The deputy took note of the numbers.

The homeowner groaned. “We made it so easy for him.”

“And you will never do it that way ever again,” the Sheriff observed.

The Cleavers left the room together. The wife had a bone to pick with him.

The Sheriff and the deputy were left alone for a moment.

They looked out the big front window.

The deputy said, “Always they left their front drapes open.”

She mused. “As they always left their garage door open.”

“Could it be a homeowner’s insurance scam?”

“File a claim for theft just after they bought it?”

“Probably not,” the deputy said. “Right, Sheriff?”

“People in the country don’t expect crime to strike them.”

“They made the burglar’s work easy enough,” the deputy argued. “Anybody driving by their house could see into their living room. Bad enough in the daytime, but at night that 65-inch big screen television glowed in the dark like a flying saucer.”

“Easy peasy,” the Sheriff agreed. “And they never close their drapes, do they?”

“They live in the country,” the deputy said.

“When they went to the store, he closed the drapes but left the garage door up?” The Sheriff shrugged over the logic. “He never closes the garage door. That’s how the burglar always knew he was home.”

When the Cleavers returned, Theresa Cleaver wore wool socks but no shoes. She was even unhappier, and her husband looked freshly chewed out.

The Sheriff had a plan of action for the homeowner. “I want you to stay up all night, as long as you can, Mick, and you can fall asleep in your recliner, with the living room light on and your dog in your lap.”

“How about my shotgun in my lap?”

“I want you to stay home tonight,” the Sheriff said. “Just sit in your living room with the lights on.”

“Should I move my truck?”

“Just leave it as it is in the garage.”

“Should I sit in my living room with my shotgun?”

“That’s a good idea. Might want to keep it unloaded.”

The missus was argumentative. “If the burglar returns to the scene of the crime, why can’t Mick shoot him?”

“I would have to arrest you both for premeditated murder,” the Sheriff said.

“But my home is my castle,” the missus said. “He’d be defending what’s mine, right?”

“I will still arrest you both.”

Theresa Cleaver said, “Well, he got my TV…”

“Ma’am, I cannot defend your right to shoot him, no.”

“What am I supposed to do, Sheriff, if he shows?”

The Sheriff said. “Just open your drapes and leave the lights on.”

 Mick Cleaver said, “Thank you, Sheriff.”

“Just sit in that chair with your gun in your lap and the lights on,” the missus said. She thought the plan was lousy.

“Make sure the living room light is on,” the Sheriff said.

“With the drapes open,” the missus said.

“He can see I’m waiting up for him,” the homeowner said.

Theresa Cleaver gave an impatient eyeroll over her husband.

The Sheriff added, “And some of us will stop by tomorrow morning before you go to church.”



Outside, the sheriff and her deputy walked to their vehicle, autumn leaves crunching underfoot.

The deputy said, “I’ll get back to the station and start running files to see previous burglars and MOs.”

The Sheriff said no. “Probably a virgin thief.”

“Isn’t he a career criminal?”

“Probably not. Probably he stole it just out of temptation. Stealing it looked easy peasy.”

For one last time they scoped out the crime scene.

“Our burglar sat over there in his truck at the auto dealership across the highway and waited and watched until he saw our victim’s truck leaving his garage.”

“Do you think he’s watching us now?”

The Sheriff didn’t care. “I hope so.”

The deputy asked, “Isn’t that dangerous?”

“What is?”

“Leaving him all night with a shotgun?”

“Not with the lights on all night,” the Sheriff said, “and the drapes open.”

“But somebody took his TV already.”

“Nobody can steal it again, right?”



Sheriff Holmes came by the next morning.

“How was your night?”

“Quiet,” Mick Cleaver said. “Nobody came by.”

The Sheriff looked long and hard out the living room window.

“Anybody slowing down when passing your house?”

“All of my neighbors did. They knew I got robbed.”

“From now on you’ll keep your drapes closed, okay?”

“Oh, now I should keep the drapes closed?”

“When you go to church today, close the drapes, but leave the garage door up.”

“We never close the garage door.”

 “That reminds me. Are you going to replace the TV?”

“How do you live without a TV?”

“Well, it is hard, Mick. We’ve made them so much a part of our lives.”

“I feel like waiting a while,” Mick said.

The Sheriff said, “I think you and the missus should go price one today.”

“You do? Right after church?”

“At Costco, right? That’s where you got the one that got burgled.”

“I did. Costco costs more, but you get more features…”

“The two of you.”

“You want us to pick out a new TV today?”

“Shop for one, least ways. As soon as it’s dark.”

“The Costco is out by the Interstate.”

“You should check it out. See what they have. Maybe they have one just like yours in stock.”

The missus was there. “We know what TVs they have.” She wore a fancy citrus yellow dress. A Sunday go-to-church dress.

“Close your drapes and go out after church.”

“I’ll never leave my drapes open again.”

“This time close the drapes and go out together. Take the dog, too.”

The missus was skeptical. “How come you want us gone, Sheriff?”

“And give me a spare set of your house keys,” the Sheriff added.



When the Cleavers returned from church, the deputies were bringing out a beefy, angry man from their garage. He wasn’t resisting arrest, but he was pissed that he’d been caught. He struggled, too, but was easily tamped down.

The Sheriff interrogated them.

“Have you ever seen this man before?”

“No. Is he our burglar?”

“His name is Brian Tolliver. Lives down the pike about two or three miles that way.” Then Sheriff Felicia Holmes turned and pointed in the opposite direction up the highway. “He works at Brimstone about five miles that way. And he drives past your house at least twice daily.”

“Who is he?” Theresa Cleaver asked the Sheriff.

“The bearded mechanic from the motorcycle shop.”

“The biker shop guy?” Mick asked.

“Twice daily?” the missus said.

“That’s how he always knew you were home,” the Sheriff said.

“He could see the TV every time,” the homeowner said.

“And whether your truck was in the garage,” the Sheriff added.

“We made it so easy for him,” the missus said.

The Sheriff said, “Last night he drove past your house, saw the drapes open, the lights on, your truck’s in its garage, and he figured you were waiting for him.”

“Well, I was!”

“That’s what we wanted him to think,” the Sheriff said. “This morning the truck was gone, the drapes were closed, and he figured you didn’t want people to know you were gone. He stopped, parked in your garage so your neighbors wouldn’t see him, and then he kicked in the door, figuring he would be in and out in a flash.”

“While we were in church!” the missus said.

“And you were waiting for him,” the homeowner said.

“Why did he come back?” the missus said.

A deputy came and parked in the gravel drive.

“Just like you said, Sheriff. There it was, in his utility room.”

“The serial numbers matched? That’s good,” The Sheriff faced the Cleavers. “We have your big-screen TV.”

The homeowners were both so grateful.

“Why did you want me staying up all night with my shotgun?”

“The dog stayed up, too, right?”

“Well, he slept on the sofa.”

“But he was with you all night.”


“Why did you want me staying up all night with my shotgun?”

“I didn’t want him coming back until I was ready.”

“How did you know he was coming back?”

“And I didn’t want you, or the missus, or the dog getting hurt. Let him drive by your house, see that you’re home and leave you both alone.”

“But you knew he’d come by today?”

“After he drove by your house and see the empty garage, yes.”



The weather was changing. The wind was howling.

“Maybe snow tonight,” the Sheriff said.

They went inside the house. One of the deputies held up a camera.

“His boot will match both boot prints on the door,” he said. “Evidence of two break-ins.”

The Sheriff played a finger on the new crack in the door from the garage into the house. “That’s from the second kick.”

Mick Cleaver said, “Were you lying in wait for him now?”

The Sheriff said yes. “My deputy and I waited for him to kick down the door again. He thought no one was home. No car in the garage. When he kicked down the door, the deputies were waiting, and I took photographs of him to use in the trial, and the deputies arrested him.”

“You got him dead to rights?”

“Two counts of felony burglary,” the deputy said.

Theresa Cleaver now had a look of annoyance.

“How did you know he’d return to the scene of the crime?” she asked.

“The other night when he burgled, stealing the TV, he left this behind.”

The Sheriff pointed to the coffee table in between the TV and the fake leather recliners.

The remote control sat on the coffee table.

Chuck Cody


by Fred Zackel



I bought him brandy at Enrico’s in San Francisco, and so he talked: 



My name is Chuck Cody, I’m a fisherman, and I’m 59 years old, but I look ten years younger with all my black, wavy hair. I have spent three years growing my beard and I like drinking brandy. 

I have epilepsy because I drink. My hair hides the scars from epilepsy. My hands have large scars, too. The scars there come from stingrays. I got eight stitches here, five here, one there.  

That stingray, he slapped me, so I slapped him back with my other hand. He got me again. 

That sound—that paddy wagon sound makes me nervous. You know how Indians gets treated. 

I am a Sioux Indian. I was born in Texoma. Grew up on the Delta in Louisiana. Grew up fishing for catfish. 

Before I came here to San Francisco, I was in the Florida Keys. The sand fleas left me scarred on the knees. See? 

When I fish for white bass, I make $45 a day. 

I still fish for shrimp. Fat shrimp, that is. I won’t tell you my bait. But I go out to the mudflats. Two hours later I got boxes. I caught 180 pounds yesterday. 

I know how to cadge a meal. I know where to get loaves of bread free or free steaks, too. A hundred years ago I would have been a pioneer. Instead, I was a saddle tramp and a bum. 

I drove taxicab in Chicago. Yellow Cab. 




I was driving along Lake Shore Drive, got two little old ladies in the back seat. I seen this jetty sticking out. Hell, I did it. I drove off the jetty into eight feet of water. 

I didn’t get fired. My boss, he couldn’t fire me. I owed him a hundred bucks. Boss ain’t gonna fire you if you owe him money. 

My wife—I was married for thirty-seven years. We worked the cotton fields together. She’s dead now. She was riding her horse and my dog ran between the horse’s legs. She fell off and started spitting blood. 

She and my dog— When she steps on his tail, she would cuss him in Indian and then in Italian. I don’t know where the Italian came from. 

She likes drinking brandy, too. She’d come on to you, then say, Can you give me a ride to the bus terminal? Then she’d borrow five bucks, but then she would buy you a drink. 

My dog was part wolf. Lemme tell you, you treat women like your dog. Not as some souvenir, not as a pet. You treat her as a companion. 

I get misty. I’m still repeating myself. I reach out in bed. Aw, forget it. She was gone. I went out and looked at the full moon instead. Yeah, I get lonesome. 

I went to a funeral in Diego. Indian funeral. Real rare Indian he was. He was going bald. Going bald for an Indian’s like losing your manhood. 

He sliced his own throat just for going bald. 

No guts to do that. 

Bury me standing up and facing east. I want the largest processional of Caddys they can find.

 I want an Indian burial. It’s in my will that I’ll be facing east. It’s insured. Eight feet down and two feet from the bottom. 

Can you give me a ride to the East Bay Terminal? 


(He borrowed five bucks, then he bought me a drink.) 


 I gotta get home. I’m supposed to show up at Al’s Liquors in Oakland at 5 AM. I’ll be on the boat by 6 AM

Want to know my secret? 

Come by the Lorraine by DiMaggio’s at Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s the third boat, the one with LA plates. LA is Louisiana. 

My bait is a sardine can slightly opened up. Sardine oil, that’s what brings the shrimp. 

Come by and I’ll buy you a brandy. 


The Charcoal Man


  by Fred Zackel



     She was trembling, wide-eyed, and she needed him to hold her close.

        He came to her in a dream.

     “The rough man,” she called him. “The rumpled man. The raggedy man. No, none of those are right.”

     “But it’s an r sound.”

      “And he’s gray and charcoal and smudged and blurry, like a charcoal drawing. Like seen through a telescope at night. Blurry figure of a man. All wrapped in heavy winter clothes. A muffler around his neck covers the bottom part of his mouth. But I know he’s grinning. He’s got his eyes on me and there’s no one else in this world he is looking at. I am the only thing he sees and the only thing he wants. His mouth is all teeth, and he is grinning, and it’s covered by this woolly muffler and sweeps up behind his head and covers like, like a hood or a shawl. And it’s all one piece, his coat and his baggy pants and his muffler and the dirty charcoal and gray shadowy. . . .”

    “What does he want?”

     “He wants to touch my skin. My creamy skin. That’s what he is thinking. The very words he is thinking. He wants to touch my sides, not even an embrace, or a hug, and just rub his dark charcoal hand along my waist on either side of me. He wants to touch my skin. I can hear his thoughts. He wants to touch my skin, and I want to let him.”

     “He doesn’t repulse you?”

     “No, no. He should. But I am mesmerized. I would let him.”

      “What happens then? When he touches you?”

     “I go away with him. I go willingly because he touched my skin.”

     “And where does he take you?”

     “Into the shadows. Into his shadows. Into the dark and I never come back.”

     “Is he death?”

     She puzzled over that.

     “What is he wearing?”

     “Like two thick overcoats, one atop the other. A pair of heavy overcoats. They make him look squat, bulkier than he might be. They make him look wider than he really is. I think. I hope. I can’t see them distinctly, clearly, but he has them buttoned almost to the top button. He might be wearing an old-fashioned hat, or it might be the peak of a hood flattened out, I can’t tell.”

     “Where does he come from?”

     “Nowhere good. Nowhere people should be. Nowhere people can live and breathe. . . .”

     “How does he get through from there to here?”

     “He comes when we’re dreaming. Or almost awake. When we sit sidesaddle between waking and dreaming.”

     “But he is a nightmare?”

     “Oh, yes!”

     “How old is he?”

     “He is old. In his fifties, his sixties. Or maybe that’s just how he wants me to see him. Maybe he is so much older than that. Maybe he is camouflaged, and he is younger, in his thirties.”

     “But you can’t see him clearly, distinctly.”

     “He’s like in a dark gray mist, a grungy charcoal gray mist. He is part of the mist, and the mist is part of him. It oozes all around him.”

     “Emanates from him?”

     “He is the source of it, yes.”

     “Is he a phantom?”

     “He has . . . texture. Like cloth. Fabric. Ashes piled together, smashed together, like a book you find afterwards in a fire. Sometimes parts of him are white as old cigar smoke. But mostly? The color of the grave . . . that’s what he is!”

     “Where does he come from?”

     “The charcoal man?” She shrugged, confused, still disturbed. “The charcoal man. And he is swirling, or the world around him, behind him is swirling. Not fast, but very slowly, gently even, corkscrewing behind him, and he is at the center, and he is stirring the cloud, the mist himself, so I don’t get spooked.”

     “And he wants you.”

     “If he gets me, he kills us both.”

     “Us . . . both?”

     She grinned. A very wicked grin. All teeth. Glittering and gleaming like the carving knife she rammed up under his ribs.


Fred Zackel has published more than a hundred stories, poems & essays and a dozen or so novels. Most all of his writings are on Kindle or the web.


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