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THE LITERARY LATTÉ Fall 2013
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Patricia L. Morin for "Murder Interrupted Me"
Prompt: Adventure or Intrigue
Murder Interrupted Me
by Patricia L. Morin
I have waited for this day forever. Well, yeah, at least it seems that way. Like eons, man.
My wife rarely gives me time I can call my own. I’d say seconds, but that would be too long. I’d say nanoseconds, but you know what? The shit I take makes time meaningless. Just like my life is meaningless to my old lady.
How I’ve longed for this day! To finally unwind, fish, do drugs in the open air, and most important, be alone. Oh yeah. I love being alone. I love alone. Sitting here next to the stream, fishing, tripping, toking, just me, myself, and I. Heaven! Though on this shit, you’re never really alone.
Still, you know what I mean. Without the bitch hounding, hounding me—“Mow the lawn!” “Clean the garage!” “Fix the leaky faucet!”—I get to see the deep, rippling stream yanking at my feet, like it wants to grab them. I get to hear the rushing water and the air rustling through the long soft grass, like fingers fluffing hair, but louder. Hell, I get to focus on one blade of grass, become it and feel the heartbeat of nature pounding in my chest.
Wow, am I buzzing. Shoulda taken a little less.
Then again, maybe not. I mean, I’m sitting on the bank and hanging over it in the sky. I scan Earth through my telescopic vision, courtesy of my best girlfriend Mary Jane, and Ice, cold blue and fast, and two tasty blotters of acid, purple Popeyes painted on them. Can you feel it too? Are you getting a contact high? Oh, man, it’s the most wonderful place to be in the universe, and I mean the whole wide world, from Spain to Austral ... ya … Aus … Oz! Yeah, man, that way big continent in . . . like . . . the ocean. The ocean. Ocean big. All that water. This water, in this stream, eventually finding its way to that water, in that ocean . . . .
Where was I?
Oh, yeah, puffing, puffing, puffing along with Mary Jane. Yeah. Puff the plastic decoy lived by the stream and frolicked in a—
“What the hell are you doing!”
Hm. Is that noise inside or outside my head? Has to be inside, seeing as how my head is the universe.
I turn around, which takes a really long time, but finally I look and I see . . . boots. Workman’s boots. I think. I mean, the shape I’m in, I can’t be sure. Because they also resemble puppies, with big noses in front and all the little eyes making two big eyes, though they need floppy ears hanging over each side, maybe skimming the ground. If one puppy went to bite the other puppy’s ear, would the big workman trip and fall on his face? Too funny.
“What are you laughing at? This is my land and you’re trespassing. I’ll give you ten seconds to leave. Then I’m calling the police.”
Ten seconds? How long is that? Oh. Yeah. About as long as my wife gives me to think about what I want to do and not what she wants me to do. Oh Wow! That cloud over his shoulder. Is it the face of a woman screaming? Her mouth is getting wider and wider and wider. She must be screaming louder. There isn’t a day that doesn't go by that I don’t hear screaming. My wife screaming how unhappy she is. Screaming like the cloud.
Man, this dude is big. Towering over me. Should probably get up and talk to him, face to face, although I can’t make out his face. Where is his face? Sun’s too bright!
The puppies are glaring at me. The two metal eyes and the long nose held together by string. No, no, rope. No, no, shoelaces, no, rope, no, string. The sole is separating and mouth is opening, ready to scream at me. Like the cloud. The other puppy is looking on.
“Bite that other puppy’s ear,” I say to the quiet one.
“You’re fuckin’ stoned!” The faceless voice yells down at me. “You’re out-of-it. Can you even think straight? You were smoking pot, weren’t you? I know you were.”
“This is California. Stoned is okay. I have my medical card.” I shove my hand into my pocket and search for the card. Not there. Other pocket. I go to the other pocket and slowly pull it out. “Look.”
“You’re not just stoned! You on other drugs? Do you even know where you are?”
“Shoot, yeah. Hell, yeah. South Fork somewhere, Folsom Lake, Folsom, Folsom . . . prisons and damns. Ha! Damn prisons . . . ha . . . ha . . . ha.” I start singing, “I walk the line, ha . . . ha . . . ha. Me and Johnny.”
“I’m trying to help you stay out of prison! You’re trespassing. You better get out of here, right now.”
“Right this nanosecond?” I laugh.
The screaming cloud distorts. The mouth separates and disappears.
“That’s your Celica parked right out there on the road, isn’t it?” He points to the road behind me.
“For the last time and for your own good, I’m telling you to leave. Otherwise, you’re going to be in big trouble.”
“Okay.” The puppies are smiling at me now. Quiet puppies. Good puppies.
“Okay? Okay what? Get up and leave!”
“Okay, you’re telling me, for the last . . . Hmm . . . “
The one puppy opens its mouth. “That’s it! I’m calling the cops.”
The puppy’s a riot.
“It’s not funny. Get up!”
“Okay, puppy, I’m moving.” I figure I should anyway. The cops and all. I bend my legs and push. “I’m moving, see? You’re as mad as my wife on Saturday morning.”
“She gives me a big fuckin’ list of chores. No fishing. Just yelling. No talking like we used to. No asking. Big list to keep me away. Now I’m away.”
He shakes his head.
I get up. I’m up. I watch the current trying to grab my feet. I stomp on it. It spits at me.
“So, you’re not too fucked up to move. Good. Now go.”
I look and the huge guy without a face is now wearing bottle-thick glasses, staring at me. The better to see you with, my dear? The big brown eyes, the color of dead leaves, blink. Those glasses, I think, like microscopes.
“Go ahead. Call the cops,” I say as I stumble toward the stream. “But I gotta move this log. Can’t fish with this log in the way.”
“What log? What fish?”
I glance back at the guy. Now he doesn’t seem that big. He’s not reaching for his cell phone. He’s not moving at all. At least, I don’t think he is. But the puppies are staring down the road, like they hear something coming. And his hands have turned into claws, big rounded hooks that could tear me apart.
Wow. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that second acid blotter.
Jesus, that’s a big log for such a small stream. Seems stuck. If I move it, I’ll bet there’s a big-ass fish lurking underneath.
Ah, fishing! Finally. How long has it been since I went fishing? Can’t even begin to remember. At least since I got married. She was so nice before that. But then she—
Fuck it! Just Fish! See the water separate, no flapping. Listen to your breathing like the current. Smell the dirt. Feel the freedom as you reel it in.
“Rick, you gotta get the fuck out of here now!” he yells. “Otherwise, it’ll be too late. Leave now!”
Too late? For what? Dinner? To ride the sky? And how does this guy know my name?
He’s still talking. At least, his mouth is moving. But now I can see through him. Like the dirt, grassy shit, yeah, right through him.
And look. The log is moving toward me. I see the trees. Breeze smells funny now. I feel the water at my feet. I hear wheels on gravel.
The sun’s rays tap the water, causing little ringlets to appear next to one another. The fish bites. Lucky me. My little fly decoy caught a big-ass fish right near the log.
“Run!” he screams. “Run now! Right now!” He slowly rises from the earth, like a slow-moving helium balloon, the puppies reaching my knees, then my shoulders and finally my face. They stare at me, their ears limp, their eyes dead. One of them opens its mouth to say, “I tried to warn you, Rick. I tried. That’s all a survival instinct can do. But you wouldn’t listen. You’re too fucked up to know it’s me, your survival instinct. Run!”
Something stirs deep inside me. My stomach hurts. That’s all a survival instinct can do? Not a real guy, a survival instinct? But then I laugh it off. Ha ha! Funny, those puppies.
A pointed triangle pops out of the water, a small pointed triangle, with nostrils.
This is very strange. Fish don’t have nostrils, do they?
Strong shit. Woo.
The current’s really ripping. It will help pull in the fish.
Oh, there’s the mouth, open wide like in a circle. A car door slams behind me. I turn and see flashing lights and a man in uniform talking into a box that crackles. Another man holds a photo.
I like my puppies better.
True enough. I am here.
A man walks over to the edge of the stream and looks at a photo in his hand. “Yep, that’s her.”
Yeah, big-mouth bass, I think. On the log? No.
The man with the photo looks at me and says, “You’re under arrest for the murder of your wife.”
Someone else grabs me and pulls my arms behind my back.
“I am? No, man, I was just fishing.”
“Fishing? You don’t even have a fishing rod!”
"Murder Interrupted Me" is part of the Sisters in Crime, Sacramento Chapter's anthology Capitol Crimes 2013.
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Time for a LITERARY LATTÉ!
More STORIES By Patricia L. Morin
by Patricia L. Morin
At a traffic light on a windy San Francisco corner, through my half-open window, I watch a homeless man sitting on a worn wooden bench. He nods his black-gray matted shoulder-length hair, perhaps acknowledging a question that only he can hear. Torn army-green trousers end above his ankle, and a flip-flop has fallen off the foot that rests on his knee. A ripped canvas satchel hangs by his side with a rolled up sleeping bag stuffed underneath it. He nods his head again and again, lifts a hand, shirt-cuff wilting toward his elbow, and points toward the traffic light. We both watch red.
Where is he from? Do his knees hurt from sitting so long in one position? Is he truly staring at the red light, or does he see some phantom of the past? Is he new to San Francisco, like me, and looking for a home?
People race past him and cross the street against the wind, passing in front of my box and suitcase-filled old station wagon. They, too, seem to stare blankly into space, harboring themselves in secret worlds. Are they happy in their worlds? Do they ever feel an imaginary pull toward that weather-beaten bench like I do? Are their families a plane ride away?
The homeless man stomps his foot to the ground, slaps his knee and laughs. His energy touches me, and his laugh infects me. I chuckle, too. I want to race into his world and embrace that laughter. I want to live there on that bench, make it my home, and watch red.
A moment passes and he leans his head to one side and catches me staring. I feel as though I should wave, but I don’t. He smiles warmly. I return the gesture with a grin. His eyes return to the light, still red. He removes his ankle from his knee and, as his foot finds the fallen flip-flop, a hulk of a man in dress slacks and a windbreaker sits down next to him.
“Hello Bobby Bonito. I’m Det. Warren from the San Francisco police department.”
Bobby glances at him and then points to the red traffic light.
“Yeah, I’m sure you like red. You’re under arrest, Bobby, for starting the fire on Samson Street. A lady died in that fire. We have to take you in.” The detective speaks to the back of Bobby’s head.
As red turns to green, two police cruisers block the intersection.
Bobby laughs again and points to the light. Two policemen exit their cars and one stands next to Bobby opposite the detective, and the other policeman stands in front of Bobby blocking my view. People avoid the bench by J-walking behind my car. Some people stand on the opposite corner, watching and whispering.
“I’m going to place these handcuffs on your wrists. So don’t fight me, Bobby.” The detective’s voice is soft.
Bobby stands after the cuffs have been placed on his wrists. He’s taller than I would have imagined, and looks at me over the policeman’s shoulder. He turns to the light and I follow his eyes. Red. Again.
As the detective holds his upper arm, Bobby pushes him away and rushes toward my car.
I freeze as our eyes connect.
The two policemen grab him and pull him toward the cruisers.
“No Bobby, you can’t go with her.” The detective says looking at me, “She’s not taking you home. You’re under arrest and you have to come with me. You probably don’t understand a word I’m saying, but we gotta take you in.”
The detective places Bobby in the back seat of the police car and joins him. As he is read his rights, Bobby lowers his head down to look up at the light. The cruisers move away as the light turns green.
I stare at the worn wooden bench. Empty.
An anxious horn honks behind me.
Want more mind bending MORIN? see "Psychic Spies" in Gallery
Thoughts on mind control: see The Humour Column and City Magazine (Sarfatti)
Underground to North Beach
From “The Circus of the Sun”
an upcoming novel set in 1979 San Francisco by J. Macon King
After standing at work all day at Guitar Center, I convinced myself that I needed some exercise to earn a drink. Sprinting up Van Ness Avenue I dashed into Henry Africa's fern bar with the Tiffany lamped, stained glassed, oak décor, vintage motorcycles and overhead toy train set. A couple of daiquiri sipping eye-catching women along the bar checked me out, but I couldn't do it. The thought came to me that I should stop drinking. I walked up the hill to Polk Street. Of course there, was the competing fancier fern bar, Lord Jim’s.
I fought the urge to stop and walked into the smoggy tiled Broadway Tunnel. One night, on my motorcycle I had hit ninety-eight mph through that tunnel. I was a fast walker but the tunnel was a lot longer on foot. The walkway next to the speeding cars was rarely used. I was the solitary pedestrian.
I strode left onto bustling Stockton Street into Chinatown, through hundreds and hundreds of tiny Chinese, many of them elderly, trudging like an ant colony for the collective purpose of food gathering. A few had strangely bent over necks. Their faces were oddly intent and downward looking to their black Kung-Fu slippers. They all moved slowly, belying their reputation for their fighting being ((highpitch)) “fast as light-niiing.” I strode by them with my long legs - seemingly unnoticed.
I passed the deep fried eggroll and algae laden “fresh” fish tanks smells of their restaurants, passed the exceedingly omnivorian little markets, with whiffs of the hanging ducks, chickens, unidentifiable meats intermingling with a shuddering, what the hell is that???, and the strangely compelling shops wafting of exotic herbs, horns, mysterious powders, and under-the-counter fireworks.
Soon I was immersed in the more reassuring, lingering aromas of the Italian restaurants of North Beach, with their garlic, sausage, and tomato sauces. I resisted the urge to go there - to our old bar. So, I sat down at the stool closest to the side door in the odd, triangular shaped Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store, which was really a café, but still stocked a few cigars. Despite all I had been through, I could not help but love North Beach with its relaxing old-world warmth. I thirsted for the advertised Moretti but held strong. Ancient Mario himself served me one of their finest, a double cap, along with a fresh cannoli he had made at home. I savored that slice of heaven, and told Mario, Someday, I’m going to get out of the Haight, and move here to North Beach.
Mario encouraged, Thatsa good. I watched a carefree foursome play a game on the worn Foosball table with a broken man. As my mood caffeinated, I swiveled on the barstool and looked out the open side door across Washington Square to Saints Peter and Paul cathedral. I watched the sunlight fade on the twin spires. Like Bretta and I. The moment surged with symbolic portent, and from phantoms of that day. The abortion. An ache formed deep in my belly.
I wandered down Columbus, and under the big Gold Spike neon sign I looked in through the open door. The Gold Spike was an authentic San Francisco Italian family dinner saloon. The kind with a yellowed ceiling, papered with yellower currency, with worn red leather bar stools calling. I thought of Bretta, and the things we did, but more the things we did not. Not once had we strolled through the San Francisco Sate campus and visited the bookstore where I had worked. We never flew a kite at Stinson Beach. We never hiked Mount Tam. She never heard me play my guitar. We never danced together. What had we done the whole time? Aside from the drinking and the sex. Both of which were unbelievably good. Then, how can the most all-embracing relationship of my life, and perhaps my future life, be filled with such regret? What was wrong with me? I needed a drink.
I stood at the bar and desultorily ordered a shot of tequila. I threw it back. I had lost my resistance. I left and wandered over past the big yeasty-homey smelling bakery, to Grant Avenue.
There it was. I started to enter the familiar door. I had heard our friendly barman George was now at the classy Palace Hotel on Market Street, serving fine cocktails under Maxfield Parish’s glowing The Pied Piper. How appropriate. One of these lonely nights, I would have to follow him and his enticing lyrical liquors. I stalled. I just gazed through the window of the Savoy Tivoli, half-in-hope, half-in-fear, as if, as if She and her entire entourage would be there, forever suspended in time, drinking, joking, laughing - waiting for me, like waxen animatronics at a hybrid from hell Madame Tussaudesyland. Ha-ha. But would I buy a ticket? Pathetically, the answer was yes. I would even buy a season pass.
by J. Macon King 2013
San Francisco Stories - Great Writers on the City – Edited by John Miller
It falls down. It burns up. It goes Beatnik in the fifties and crazy in the sixties. It stays elegant throughout. Every city has its stories, but San Francisco seems to have more than most. From Jack Kerouac on working on the railroad to Anne Lamott on getting kicked out of the cafe scene, and from Jack London on the 1906 earthquake to Tom Wolfe on the acid tests of the 1960s, San Francisco Stories collects the most outstanding writings about the city from some of the most distinguished authors of the last 150 years.
Jack London's San Francisco Stories
Jack London was born in San Francisco in 1876 and wrote about the Bay Area repeatedly throughout his career. Those stories have never been previously collected in a single Bay Area-themed volume. As the back cover copy of the book states, "Although famous for his stories of the Klondike and the Pacific, London wrote extensively about his home base. This collection contains such classic stories as 'The Apostate' and 'South of the Slot' as well as extracts from John Barleycorn and The Sea-Wolf. The overlooked 1905 story cycle Tales of the Fish Patrol is included in its entirety. London's vivid eyewitness report of the Great 1906 Earthquake and Fire - which destroyed forever the old city - stands as a fitting epilogue."
The cover of the collection reproduces a photograph of Market Street in San Francisco circa 1900.
One Man's San Francisco by Herb Caen Comstock Edition, Sausalito, 1979
"Love makes this town go round, Sam, love and hate, pot and booze, despair and buckets of black coffee, most of it stale." Herb Caen 1976
The World of Herb Caen San Francisco 1939-1997 by Barnaby Conrad
The World of Herb Caen - Barnaby Conrad, formerly of Belvedere. This man among men Conrad was a respected American bullfighter in Spain! And ran a premier bar in North Beach. And wrote a bestseller fiction book, before doing so well with non-fiction. And has a couple of writer sons. A most impressive life.
Conrad here shown liquor bowling in front of his El Matador hot spot with Herb Caen - see The Literary Latte - in North Beach, and with Caen and Mill Valley's own actress Eve Arden judging a fortune cookie contest at Trader Vic's 1958. (photos from book.)
Dashiell Hammett a Life by Diane Johnson. received 250K from American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. prof at Davis prof English Lit. co-wrote the shining with Kubrick. lives in North Beach. 7th book. It is the first and only book on Hammett written with the full cooperation of his longtime friend Lillian Hellman, Hammett's late wife Josephine and his daughters.
A two-time finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, Diane Johnson has drawn comparisons to Jane Austen and Edith Wharton with her comedies of manners about Americans living and loving abroad.
Johnson’s books include L’Affaire (2004), Le Mariage (2000), and Le Divorce (1997), for which she was a National Book Award finalist and the winner of the California Book Awards gold medal for fiction. She has also won The Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; The Los Angeles Times Seidenbaum Award.
She has been a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books since the mid 1970s. With filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, Johnson co-authored the screenplay to The Shining (1980) based on the horror novel of the same name written by Stephen King. She is also the author of twelve other books, including the novels Persian Nights, Health and Happiness, Lying Low, The Shadow Knows, and Burning (all available in Plume editions).
In 2003 a movie version of her comedy of manners novel Le Divorce was released, directed by James Ivory and starring Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts. (from Red Room)
While my Guitar Gently Weeps – Deborah Grabien
see our Grabien interview in Stacks back issues
San Francisco Noir
Contemporary short Noir fiction from the foggy streets of Baghdad by the Bay.
San Francisco Noir 2
Classic reprints from: Ambrose Bierce, Frank Norris, Mark Twain, Jack London, Dashiell Hammett, Fletcher Flora, Bill Pronzini, Joe Gores, Janet Dawson, Oscar Peñaranda, Seth Morgan, Craig Clevenger, and others. Includes the Jack London classic, "South of the Slot," a Jekyll and Hyde influenced tale set during the union vs. labor days of SF.
Editor Peter Maravelis is a native San Franciscan with a life-long involvement in the art and literary scenes. He programs the events calendar at City Lights Bookstore and is editor of the first volume of San Francisco Noir. He’s been known to occasionally moonlight with private investigators.
Bill Graham Presents - The late Bill Graham - godfather of rock n' roll concerts - what can you say? Bill says it here.
Baghdad by the Bay - published in 1949, San Francisco
Alice in Wonderland – by Queen Victoria Why ? Go ask Alice!
Somebody to Love? A Rock- and-Roll Memoir by Grace Slick
Grace Slick looks back on a lifetime of sex, drugs and rock & roll in Somebody to Love?, a wisecracking memoir featuring cameos by some mighty famous faces. As the lead singer of Jefferson Airplane (later Jefferson Starship and, still later, Starship), Slick had a ringside seat for some of the decade's most notorious high jinks--Haight-Ashbury, Woodstock, the sexual revolution, and of course, '60s drug culture. Put it this way: if the dormouse said feed your head, Slick did--again and again and again. Which leads to this memoir's principal shortcoming: it's hard to document the most important decade of your life if you can't remember it. Still, even if she's a little fuzzy on some of the details, the anecdotes alone are worth the price of admission, from the time Slick and Abbie Hoffman plotted to dose Richard Nixon to her surreal sexual encounter with a nearly autistic-seeming Jim Morrison: "Although I knew there was some pattern of events going on in his head that connected what I'd just said to what he was thinking, it never made sense." Now sober and nearing her 60s, Slick frets over her aging body, campaigns against biomedical research, and feeds the raccoons in her back yard. But she hasn't lost any of her famous feistiness. This is the same woman who flashed her breasts at photographers, pulled her skirt over her head at concerts, and even once, "having ingested the entire contents of the minibar in my hotel room," stuck her fingers up an audience member's nose. Grace Slick may have mellowed, but bless her heart, she's still running off her mouth. -- Amazon Review by Mary Park
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan(This review originally appeared in MVLit Sp. 2013 - see Stacks)
An unexpected gift from a friend, Elbert Bressie of Belvedere, this book deserves a glowing review. Literally. The book glows. For details keep reading. A debut novelist from an imaginative young San Francisco man, drawing on his hi-tech experience working at Twitter, as well as his love of books, having spent much time in libraries.
The story revolves around a brick and mortar bookstore in North Beach, that no one, save for a few odd-bird regular, really even enters. Yet, it is mysteriously a 24 hour bookstore!
Sloan’s love for books, as well as his conflicts regarding e-reading vs. the tried and true paper are well etched into his intriguing story. The modern head scratcher has been “paper or plastic,” but the true conundrum is “paper or silicon?” Meaning, paper books or a computerized tablet e-reader. (no question for us at MillValleyLit – digital magazines are the future – books we love, especially older, classic ones, we want to put up like cozy, insulated wallpaper all around us. Sloan is one of the most refreshing fun writers since Christopher Moore, without the crassness and preoccupation with sex. Lighter weight than a Moore book, it makes a quick read. As a tech insider Sloan is not afraid to self-deprecate the techies and their culture, with the struggling narrator’s ever present existential humor. Describing a hotel in Manhattan catering to techies, “…it is the ultimate hacker hideout: power outlets every three feet, air so thick with Wi-Fi you can practically see it, … a direct connection to the internet trunk line that runs beneath Wall Street.” References to Star Wars, a visit to the Google campus, ever popular San Francisco locales, meta-physical secret societies.
The lack of depth and character development could be considered a minus, but this book was intended to be light fare, not Patrick Conroy. The lack of sex and violence may not satiate mature readers, it has only a few danger teasers, yet this makes the book Harry Potter reader suitable.
Glowing! A somewhat secret bonus as the parlor trick is not revealed on the jacket. The book jacket actually glows in the dark. Robin explained that to encourage readers to buy paper, give them a reason – a prize in the Crackerjacks so to speak – and his prize, not available to low cost e-readers, was that the book glows at night. We did not test it to see if it would glow for 24 hours.
The jacket blurb does try to compare Penumbra to Neal Stephenson’s adventure thriller Readme, which is a stretch, yet both have their cyber-punk roots (as we all do whether we know it or not) in William Gibson. Mr. Penumbra, as well Umberto Eco’s (co-written) This is Not the End of the Book , and Angel’s Game below, could be considered to represent a new sub-genre of books. The “book-book” genre; Books which revel in books, paper, bookstores, libraries, publishing, often with a supernatural interest. Notice both covers similarity. 2012
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uncredited photos by J. Macon King
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