A Talk With Rhapsody In Red Author, Pete Molnar

On December 17th of this glorious year, my good friend, Pete Molnar, released his second book, Rhapsody in Red. It’s a two novella collection that is sure to keep you up at night. Having read some of Pete’s work, I’m really excited to get my hands on a copy.

Here’s the thing about Pete: he is a true lover of horror and one hell of a nice guy. I got to meet him a couple of years ago at Scares That Care and the time I spent with him and his wife was one of the highlights of the event. I couldn’t think of a better person to support than Pete.

Shortly after the release of Rhapsody in Red, Pete and I had a chat through PM’s on social media. The following is our conversation, in it’s entirety.

A.J.: So, Pete, talk to me about your new book, Rhapsody in Red.

PETE: Well, it started out with just one novella I had been working on about a second Civil War sparked by a pair of Undead Confederate vampires. Then I started a second novella and it just so happened to center around the same vampire theme, only it came from a very different place. 

I’m always listening to the news and following stories and the subject of gun rights and the school shooting epidemic just wouldn’t leave me be. Just as the first novella was sparked by the ongoing tragedy of systemic racism, the second was sparked by another social crisis. My mind married both issues to a sanguinarian plot line and the result is Rhapsody in Red

I’m deeply concerned with societal ills and this is how I process them, so as not to wallow in hopelessness when it comes to some sort of divine reckoning or soothing of the masses. Basically, I worry about the world just as much as I dread what’s underneath the bed, so to speak.

A.J.: I’m curious, what role do the vampires play in these societal ills?

PETE: They take advantage of our weaknesses as human beings as well as manipulate our vices and tragic flaws.

A.J.: That makes sense. 

You state something intriguing in your first response: Basically, I worry about the world just as much as I dread what’s underneath the bed, so to speak.

With this in mind, could the world itself be considered the boogeyman or the monster beneath the bed or in the closet?

PETE: Absolutely. I liken that to the main theme of one of my favorite books, Lord of the Flies. The boys on the island think the island is evil and there is a monster stalking them. In reality, they fail to realize the monster is within each and every one of them. That hits me hard.

A.J.: In Lord of the Flies, Piggy’s death is what I feel is a turning point for the story. Though Roger was responsible for his death, the events leading up to that point all build up to the moment where Piggy dies. In this way, the evil is kind of a creeping up type of thing. Do the events of the two stories in Rhapsody in Red have that same build up where the reader possibly starts dreading turning the next page?

PETE: I think so. Each chapter of each novella is like another couple of steps in the downward spiral.

A.J.: Do the two novellas go together or are they standalone stories?

PETE: They are conjoined by the presence of The Familiar, an ageless vampire who has taken the form of The Tumor Deer. It watches and waits, sort of like a god.

A.J.: Nice. Do you feel like you are tackling subject matters that others might shy away from?

PETE: I used to write straight horror when I started out, but I started to realize that I had other things to say that were pressing to me. I realized I was kind of walling myself into a very specific far too stringent genre of writing, and I decided if I was going to keep writing horror then I wanted to do more with it than I was before. And I had to start grounding it in the real things and people that have always scared the sh*t out of me. I mean, sorry, but Cthulhu doesn’t quicken my pulse in the slightest. But a student walking the hallways with an AR-15, picking off anyone that moves, well, that’s something I could find outside my classroom one day.

And that’s horror.

A.J.: That is, indeed, horror—a real horror.

When writing the two stories for Rhapsody in Red, did you find yourself rooting for any characters in particular or did you know where the stories were going and knew the fates of the characters already?

PETE: I always know the ending, but the journey towards that end is almost always a surprise in how it plays out. And the heroines in both novellas have been living their lives under perpetually black clouds of bad luck and hardship. To watch them both grapple with evil and rise above their own difficult circumstances made me feel really good and it kept me writing because I wanted to get them to the finish line!

A.J.: Did those characters surprise you in how they overcame their circumstances?

PETE: Yes, and they made me very proud of them.

A.J.: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Rhapsody in Red?

PETE: I think we covered everything.

If you’re looking for your horror grounded in both myth and reality, then Pete is your guy. If you’re looking to support a small press author who won’t disappoint you, again, Pete is your guy. If you’re looking to support someone I support, for the third time, Pete is your guy. I love this guy like a brother, and y’all know me, y’all know I’m all about quality work and good people. Give my buddy a try. You can do so on his website where he has several stories posted to whet your appetite, and by purchasing his books, Broken Birds and Rhapsody in Red. 

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.


Visit Pete at his Amazon author page and his website.

A Conversation With Pete Molnar

Writing horror is not easy. Sure, it sounds like it should be, but good horror is difficult. It’s not about shock and gore and gimmicks. It’s not about grossing people out with a million different ways to kill someone. True horror, at its core, is not even about monsters that go bump in the night. It’s about making people feel something. Something like dread, fear or uneasiness about what they are reading. Its the squirming sensation you get when you think of getting a shot at the doctor’s office or when a bug crawls onto your foot.It’s the heebee jeebies, baby.

PeteI guess you could say life, in and of itself, is horror. After all, some of the things people do to each other is far worse than anything a writer can conjure up. One such story is Broken Birds, by Pete Molnar. In his debut novel, Molnar delivers punch after punch in a story that feels all too real. 

I had a chance to meet Pete at Scares That Cares 6 over the first weekend in August. He is too humble and often doesn’t give himself the credit he deserves. I also got to listen to him do a reading from Broken Birds. That reading was powerful, engaging and cringe-worthy in all the right ways. 

I sat down to talk with Pete recently. Here is what he had to say.

A.J.: First things first: why horror?

Pete: I read Pet Sematary when I was twelve while on vacation in Disneyworld with my family. The book scared me so much I don’t remember much of the trip because I was so preoccupied with holding myself together. Mickey Mouse didn’t phase me, but reading that book changed the trajectory of my life. I knew I wanted to evoke the same kind of fear and terror in another person with something I’d write and I’ve been striving towards that ever since. Then, there is the fact I have been battling depression and social anxiety for much of my adult life. I greatly fear death and dread losing the ones I love, almost on an irrational level. Confronting my own fears and phobias (and they are Legion) through writing horror stories is therapeutic and when its is going well, quite cathartic.

A.J.: Pete, when you set out to write Broken Birds, did you know exactly where the story was going or did you say a prayer and wing it?

1438845475Pete: I started out writing as a “pantser” because I had read Stephen King writes that way. It was a mistake to have stuck to that approach for so long and for such a simplistic reason. Then I signed up for James Patterson’s Masterclass. Drafting a “flexible outline” had confounded me for the longest time, until Patterson laid it out in plain language and broke it down into something less intimidating for me. I am now a sworn “plotter” after having written three previous novels the other way, and Broken Birds was the first novel I wrote using an outline. I used to think using an outline would rob the writer of the magical experience of telling the story to themselves. Now, I swear by this approach, because even with an outline, characters are still going to do whatever they want and they’re going to surprise you no matter what.

A.J.: Some people love animals more than they love people (understandably so). Are you one of these people? If so, did that make writing certain scenes in Broken Birds difficult?

Pete: At first, I was really concerned that the treatment of animals in Broken Birds would turn readers off. Not to mention, the scenes that feature animal abuse were very difficult to write and I almost abandoned the project as a result. Then I realized I was not merely writing a novel about hurting animals, as much as I was writing a testament to the bond between humans and their pets. Will Bentley sacrifices everything to save his dog, Alberta. This is a guy who demonstrates how much his pet means to him, so much so he is willing to put his own life in danger and turn his seemingly idyllic existence upside down to save his dog from the clutches of two twisted, sociopathic people.  

A.J.: Are any of the characters based (loosely or solely) on people you have met?

Pete: I can tell you Will’s girlfriend, Mina, as she is described, is my wife. Dark hair. Light eyes. A book-lover and a deep-thinker. Karl Tarlick is a composite of Charles Manson and Gary Heidnik, a serial killer who created a “real-life” House of Horrors in his Philadelphia rowhome. Will Bentley is modeled after Tim O’Brien, who wrote the critically-acclaimed war memoir The Things They Carried. I’m thankful I’ve never met a woman like Stella or Jack Post, but they are both sides of the Battered Woman-Battering Man coin. I conducted hours of research on this disconcerting and baffling relationship, as well as the phenomenons of agoraphobia and borderline-disorder to flesh out Stella especially.   

A.J.: After writing Broken Birds, did you intend to get it published or did you have help deciding it was worth the shot?

Pete: This was the book I shared with Lisa Vasquez during my mentorship with her. She offered a great deal of encouragement and guidance during the novel’s early chapters. I really put my heart and soul into this book, because I didn’t want to see another full-length novel doomed to imprisonment on my hard drive. I wanted this one to see the light of day and I wanted it to be worthy of publication. Lisa must have seen something of merit in the early stages of the book because she invited me to become a VIP author at Stitched Smile Publications. Prayers answered!

A.J.: How did you find your publisher, Stitched Smile Publications?

Pete: I signed up for the Horror Writers Association Mentorship Program and Lisa Vasquez reached out to me shortly thereafter. She took me under her wing, teaching me the in’s and out’s of marketing and the business of writing. She also offered me invaluable advice and regular critiques of Broken Birds, chapter by chapter. Stitched Smile scooped me up at a time in my life when I had nearly come to terms with the prospect I would never land a publisher or an agent. I had queried roughly eighty agents to no avail for my previous novel The Clockwork Lazarus. It was a tough time, and SSP delivered me from what might have been a lifetime of regret.

A.J.: What was the publishing process like for you, the writer? On the same token, what was it like for you, the person?

Pete: As a writer, the publishing process was as exciting as it was an education. The editorial staff at Stitched Smile made numerous passes through the book and eliminated the weaknesses I had missed during my own three passes. Inconsistencies and grammar mistakes that I believe would have slipped through at many other presses. Their attention to detail was laser-focused. As a person, the journey from draft to finished, packaged novel was pretty magical, and to this day when I see my book lying on a dresser or see my wife reading it, I have to take a second look. It’s so surreal.    

A.J.: Did I hear correctly, that Broken Birds was not the original title?

Pete: That’s true. Originally, the book was titled Moonshadow after the Cat Stevens song. When I imagined how Karl Tarlick, the main antagonist in the book, would look, for some reason Cat Stevens just popped into my head. Long, black hair in thick ringlets that frame and nearly close over his face like curtains. Then, I researched the lyrics to some of Cat Stevens’ songs and stumbled across the lyrics to Moonshadow. When I read them, they seemed to fit the context of who Karl Tarlick is way too perfectly. The lyrics bore a sinister tone, like the song was written by a stalker. 

A.J.: Why did you change the title?

Pete: As I kept writing, I realized the title should be changed to Broken Birds. This was for  two reasons. The first being the psychological phenomenon of “broken bird syndrome” is front and center in the novel’s plot line. But also, I noticed a symbolic thread running through the story itself. That all the main characters are broken in some way. Psychologically damaged and dealing with it as only they know how. In a productive way, or, well, not so productive. I’ll say that. 

A.J.: You went to Scares That Cares 6 this year. What was that experience like for you?

Pete: My first night there, my head was on a swivel. One minute, I’m walking past Sid Haig, and the next I see Josh Malerman a few feet away signing books. Paul Tremblay. Jonathan Maberry. Then there was the fact I was finally able to meet my Stitched family in person. Up until that event, I’d only ever communicated with Lisa, Donelle, Larissa, Deanna, Tara, and yourself through group chat, DM, or Hangouts. I was so thrilled to meet everyone in person and the click was immediate.  

A.J.: If I’m correct, you sold out of your books. How did that make you feel?

Pete: Pleasantly surprised doesn’t even cover it. I had expected to be bringing many of them home with me to sell around my neck of the woods. But Sunday rolled around and they just went and I couldn’t believe it. So cool! 

A.J.: What was it like to sign that first book?

Pete: Another unreal experience. I felt like I’d finally come full circle. My 8th grade yearbook had a section in it where all the students were asked where they saw themselves in ten years. I wrote “Autographing my novel or touring the nation.” I wanted to be a writer or a rockstar. But really, writing was always my first love. Took longer than ten years to get there. It took thirty years, but there it was. Dream fulfilled!

A.J.: You did a reading at Scares That Cares 6. Being there to witness it, I think you knocked it out of the park. Were you nervous at all before reading?

Pete: Not at all. Being an English teacher, I read entire novels to my classes. And if I really want to hold the attention of a bunch of fifteen-year-old kids in 2019, a dramatic reading is required. Voices. Acting out Shakespeare. Playing Macbeth. Otherwise, the words are dead on the page for them. I have no problem making a fool out of myself or stepping out of a comfort zone in order to evoke emotion through live reading. Also, having been a singer in bands for fifteen years, I’m quite at home in front of an audience. It’s a lot of fun!

A.J.: How did you feel after you finished the reading?

Pete: It was exhilarating. But I was a little worried about alienating the audience with the particular scene I had chosen to read. That’s why I did a little disclaimer beforehand. It turned out to be okay after all. I think people enjoyed it. 

A.J.: Writing is such a solitary endeavor and authors often spend hundreds of hours alone with the characters in the worlds they create. But who would you like to thank—someone outside of your head—for helping you along the way?

Pete: My wife, Dana, and my daughter, Ani, gave me the time and the space I needed to do the work. Writing takes you away from your family for periods of time each day, but they both were extremely supportive and understanding. They continue to be, and I’m grateful for their love and for believing in this guy. 

A.J.: Before I let you go, Broken Birds is a great debut novel, but is there more from Pete Molnar? What can we expect from you in the future?

Pete: I’ve got a few irons in the fire as far as short stories go. A short story called Swipe-right about a twenty-something girl who stumbles across a different kind of dating site where if she swipes left on a guy’s picture she doesn’t like, the poor guy just winks out of existence. The guys she swipes right on become obsessed with her to the point of becoming dangerous, sociopathic stalkers. Having a good time writing that one! Then there’s my novel-in-progress titled Undiscovered Countries, which centers around a phenomenon known as “coffin-birth” where a dead woman’s body can be scientifically manipulated into birthing a viable child. This one I’m really excited about. It’s already mapped out and outlined. And it’s going to take on a lot more than just the horrific scenario of a “coffin-birth.” It’s going to tackle the twenty-four hour news cycle, religious fundamentalist groups, as well as the persistent scourges of hate, intolerance, and bias in this country. I really think it’s going to be something special for my readers.  

A.J.: Any final words, Pete?

Pete: A.J., this has been a lot of fun! Thank you so much! For my readers, present and future, I extend the deepest gratitude to all of you. Thanks for taking a chance on a new writer!

For those of you who have not heard of Pete Molnar, get ready to. Broken Birds is just the beginning for this talented writer. Beyond the writing, Pete is also a good guy with a big heart and great pipes for singing. Check Pete out at the following links.





Voices, The Interviews: Stephanie (Part 2 of 2)

If you have not read the first part of this interview with a book character, then please follow this LINK to catch up. Please, keep in mind, this interview contains spoilers, so if you have not read Voices, a collection of short stories, please consider doing so before continuing. You can find Voices HERE.

Lisa had known as well, but …

“Did you plan what you were going to do or …”

“I planned the entire thing. I planned it right down to me dying. If it went wrong, at least I would be dead … and free. If it went right, we both would be dead. It went partially right. He died. I …” Stephanie holds up her arms, shows Lisa the long scars that run from wrists to elbow. “… didn’t.”

She had guts to do something about her situation, Lisa.

Scary GIrl KnifeThe voice of Mr. Worrywort is back, but this time the dripping malice it had before is gone. In this voice is the childish taunt of a scared school yard bully, one that knows when he gets home, his dad is going to do so much worse to him than he could ever do to a third grader with a lisp or who wore glasses or, Heaven forbid, who came from a poor family who couldn’t afford to by him decent clothing and he had to wear the same jeans multiple times a week. 

Lisa pulls her legs up the best she can, but the pain in them and in her hip and her back are too much. One of her knees feels loose, as if it will pop out of place. She lets her legs slide down, but this time not crossing them, afraid her ankles might dislocate if she did so. Her shoulders shake and her chest heaves as a sob tears from her.

“I couldn’t do it,” Lisa says. “I couldn’t do what you did. I wanted to, but I …”

And the realization comes to her, furious in its intent. “I still want … I still want to kill him, but …”

But he is already dead and has been for nearly two decades. In the darkest part of her heart, she hopes he suffered and he died a miserable, lonely and hurting man. She hopes he is suffering now in whatever afterlife there is, be it Hell or something else. If it is Hell, she hopes there is a special place for men who rape helpless little children. In her mind she sees him, bent over a smoldering rock as a line of demons takes their turns with him, doing to him what he did to her. This makes her smile, but it doesn’t take away the truth that she wished she had killed him. That would have been more satisfying for her. 

“I admire your conviction,” she says as she thinks about the light fading, fading, fading from her step father’s eyes, until, finally, it winked out all together. She never got to see that, never got to experience the unadulterated joy of watching the very man who ruined everything about her life die. It angers her. It makes her clench her hands into tight fists. Heat runs up her chest, into her neck, then high on her cheeks. 

“How did it feel, Stephanie?” she says suddenly. “How did it feel to end his life? To end his miserable, worthless existence? How did it feel!?” Her teeth are clenched now and she is not asking a question, but demanding an answer. This is no longer about Stephanie. She thinks it is no longer about any of the characters of a freaking book. It’s been about her the entire time. It’s always been about her. But … but … but …

Stephanie smiles. It is something so haunting and full of despair, Lisa believes the answer will not be what she hopes it will be. “It felt like rebirth,” Stephanie says. “It felt like I was cleansed of … of him.”

Lisa feels her own smile forming. It is something she believes looks similar to Stephanie’s, but now she can feel it, now she understands why Stephanie did it. And she longs to have been able to do to her stepfather what Stephanie did to Carson. 

Maybe I can, she thinks. Maybe …

Go ahead, Mr. Worrywort says in that smooth used car salesman voice. Go ahead and invite him into your head. 

“I think I will,” she responds. “I think I will!”

Even if it’s dangerous?

“Especially because it’s dangerous.”

You won’t do it. You can’t do it. The taunt brings with it laughter.

“Shut up!” she screams and turns on her bottom. A sharp pain races up her hip and into her spine but she pays it no attention at all. She looks at the shadow along the wall, at the thing taunting her this entire time. “Shut your stinking mouth!”

Then she looks back at Stephanie, her eyes burning with anger and full of a lust she has never felt before. “Did it help? Did it help at all?” There is desperation in her voice. 

Stephanie hasn’t moved from her spot on the floor. She looks at Lisa with what can be considered pity. “Yes and …”

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 2.26.45 PMLisa doesn’t hear the ‘no.’ She only hears the ‘yes,’ and then she grits her teeth tightly together. Some of the characters she interviewed had gone through such terrible things. They all had something in common, something Lisa didn’t have: Revenge. Spencer made a deal with the shadow people and they took Sarah and her boyfriend instead of him. They had picked on him and taunted him, and even tricked him, but in the end, he had gotten the last laugh. Nothing carved his father up with a broken beer bottle, using the very thing his father had thrown at him when he was little. It had shattered and given Nothing his first scar. Sweet Claire shot her dad to death at the biggest awards show of the year. She had acted out the very things she had gone through at his hands, and somehow, she won an award for it. Dane took it a little further than that when she killed her uncle who abused her and then killed every head doctor who came her way, every person who tried to reach her. And poor Brian, who was big for his age and whose father neglected him and his siblings. No, Brian was nothing like his father. Lewis got revenge as well, though not against someone who directly caused him pain. No, he only murdered the man his Michelle had married after she divorced him while he was in prison. It wasn’t jealousy that made him do it, but Michelle’s busted face. Then there was Cody, whose brother Jake, knew the truth about their mother, though with his scrambled brain, he could never really say what that truth was. But it wasn’t their mother Cody got revenge for. It was little Jenny Harris, who died outside of her apartment door, thanks to the brutal rape their father had committed on her. 

And, of course, there was Stephanie, who had been raped by her best friend, a guy she loved, but hadn’t been able to tell at that point. She killed him. She had been courageous and killed him, and she felt good about it. Lisa believes if she asks the young lady if she regrets murdering Carson, the answer will be ‘no.’

What if someone would have stopped each of these people when they first started? What if Nothing’s mom would have left her husband after the beer bottle incident? She wouldn’t have died and Nothing wouldn’t have suffered the way he did. What if Jenny Harris’s mother hadn’t rented the poor child out to one of the drug dealers that first time? Maybe Jenny wouldn’t have died so horribly and alone. What if Michelle didn’t give into her father’s demands to divorce Lewis after he went to prison? Would things have been different? Of course they would have. What if Brian’s father … What if? What if? 

What if you would have killed John when you were old enough to do so? Mr. Worrywort asked, his voice holding the condescending tone of a prosecuting attorney with the defendant on the stand. He wouldn’t have met the other woman. You know, the one with the young daughter? You know you weren’t the only one. Oh no, that man had the lust in him and only little girls could quell it. 

Lisa’s heart sinks as she thinks of that little girl. She never stood a chance. She looks to the door, the one she entered through what feels like ten years ago. She wills it to open. She wills it to do so with a burning hatred in her heart. She wills it, not only to open, but for the very man who started the vicious cycle of rapes and sexual assaults to come strolling through, even though he has been dead nearly two decades. 

Come on, Lisa. Do it. Go kill old dead John.

John! That’s right. All this time she had tried to visualize him, to make him as real as the other characters currently in her head. His name was John and he wasn’t a big guy, but still a giant to a little girl who hadn’t reached first grade yet. 

You can’t do it, Mr. Worrywort laughs. You can’t do it, just like before. You can’t kill him. You’re too scared of him. You’re nothing but a coward.

Something inside of Lisa snaps. “I can and I will,” she growls. Though it hurts her to do so, she rolls onto her knees. The left one wobbles, but she doesn’t wait for it to dislocate or hyperextend. She grabs hold of her seat and pushes up, praying her elbows or wrists don’t buckle with the added pressure. Her arms shake as she does this. Her legs tremble with the effort of standing after being seated on a hard floor for the last few minutes. She gets to her feet and stares hard at the door, even as her body trembles with pain. 

“Walk through the door,” she growls. 

The doorknob clicks and the door opens. In steps a man who hasn’t aged a day, much less one who has died and whose body has probably rotted down to bones with skin like parchment wrapped around them. He is somehow shorter than she recalled. His glasses are thick black plastic with thick lenses that make his blue eyes appear almost as black as his hair. 

She will never be able to recall where the broken bottle came from, but it is there, in her hand. Lisa lets out a hateful scream and runs toward John, the man who has tormented her her entire life. He tries to back away, to turn and run back out the door, but it slams shut. Though her legs and hips and arms feel like they are going to come apart at any moment, she doesn’t let it stop her. The growl tearing from her throat matches the anger in her heart, mind and soul. 

Lisa reaches him as he lets go of the knob. He turns and his eyes are wide and there is no blue to be seen in them behind the thick lenses. She drives the broken bottle downward. John raises an arm to protect himself and the jagged glass rips through his blue uniform shirt, gashing his arm and drawing a crimson spray that splatters against the light yellow wall behind him. 

John backs away, his face no longer that of a predatory monster, but of a scared man, one who knows his bad deeds have caught up with him. Lisa slashes at him again, this time connecting with an outstretched hand. Three of his fingers open up and tip backward. Lisa sees none of this and drives the bottle at him again, this time catching him in the shoulder. John stumbles backward, strikes the wall and falls, leaving a swath of his blood behind.

Lisa, feeling young and spry and moving like a woman in her late teens with no pains in her joints, drops onto John. She slams the bottle down, striking him over and over in his chest, shoulder, stomach, anywhere his arms aren’t trying to block. She doesn’t hear his screams or his pleading. Her brain blocks out all noises. She doesn’t need that nightmare playing over and over in her head. The bottle strikes John’s face. A piece of green glass breaks off in his cheek. 

John tries to shove her away, but manages only to doom himself. Lisa lifts the bottle high above her head and brings it down into the side of his neck. The bottle rips through the vulnerable skin and tissue there, spraying blood on her body and face. He coughs several times. A fine mist of blood and saliva fills the air around them, then falls to the floor like red rain. His shredded hands fall away and his body relaxes against the floor. 

Broken HeartHer breaths are hard and painful. A million pins poke at her legs, hips, back, shoulders, elbows and even her fingers. She stands, slips in the blood, but catches herself on the wall. Any other time and that slip would have sent her to the floor, with one or more dislocations in her hips and legs. Her chest heaves up and down and the look on her face is nothing shy of insanity. It is a look she feels and she likes it.

“Walk through the door,” she says again. The world that was is now gone. She feels heat boiling up from the depths of the Hell parts of her her life has been. 

The door clicks and opens again and a tall man. clean shaven and wearing the bewildered expression of someone who has been in a coma and has just woken. His hair is brown and she knows him right away as Claire Edgecomb’s father. The front of his dress shirt is a blossom of red and his face holds the pale, pale skin of someone who has lost a lot of blood. 

She lifts her hands and in them are guns. She points them at him. 


Lisa turns. Standing at her chair is Claire and she is shaking her head. 

“He is mine,” Claire says and lifts her own gun. It is something she has held before and it belongs in her hand. She pulls the trigger. The blast is loud and the center of her father’s chest opens up again. He spins in a macabre pirouette and strikes the wall near where John lays dead. He bounces off the wall and falls to the floor.

Claire lower the gun, and from somewhere else in the room comes the words, “Walk through the door.” 

Like before, the door opens and in walks Cody and Jake’s Dad, but there is no Cody or Jake. Instead, there is Jenny Harris and her torn and broken body. She clutches a huge knife in her little hands. She appears behind him and brings the knife across the backs of his knees. Face first, he falls and clutches at his legs, his screams are loud at first, but end quickly when Jenny brings the knife down on his back.

Again, the words, “Walk through the door,” comes and Nothing’s Dad enters the room. Then comes Dane’s tormentor, her uncle who thought little girls were his playground. Followed by him are the duo of Sarah and Bobby, there bodies mangled masses of flesh, their faces ripped and torn. Brian’s dad appears next, limping, his face sagging on his busted skull. 

Brian walks toward him, a bloodied hammer in hand. He cocks his head but doesn’t raise the hammer. He only stares at the man who had been his father once upon a time on the pages of a book, one where violence seemed to rule each story. 

“No, son,” Lewis says. He steps up beside Brian and takes his hand. “You’ve done your deed. No need to repeat it.”

Brian gives a simple nod, then drops the hammer. It clatters on the floor, one that had vanished while Lisa exacted a measure of revenge on the man who first touched her in a way he should have never done. 

Lisa is breathing much too hard for her liking and there are no longer guns in her hand, but the broken bottle she used on John. The adrenaline that had coursed through her blood earlier is now gone and the pain, true and raw, inches its way along the nerves of her body. She stumbles, weak and exhausted, hoping to get to her seat before she collapses to the floor and suffers the very real possibility of broken bones. 

I’m not going to make it. I’m not going to make it.

Her hands go out in front of her. Not that they will do much good. A fall on this hard floor would surely break bones in her hands and wrists, at the very least. She tilts forward and braces herself for the pain she is about to be in.

It is Stephanie who catches her and keeps her from the devastation of the fall. She holds her up, balances her the best she can, then helps Lisa to her seat. Her muscles ache and she lets out weak breath after weak breath. She closes her eyes. She wants to be done with this. The interviews have opened so many memories and let out so many … voices. She shakes her head and wishes herself back to the room where the writer waits for her return. When she opens her eyes, the room is still there. Lisa lets out a laughing sob. 

“I can’t leave until it is finished,” she says. Her voice sounds so far away, as if it belongs to someone else and she is not in this broken body, but outside of it, watching, watching, watching. 

“Until what’s finished?” Stephanie asks. 

Lisa turns to the young woman who looks at her with a frown that holds more sorrow in it than before they began talking. “This,” she says and lifts her aching arms as if to say, ‘look around you.’

She realizes then that she has one more question for Stephanie. She sits up in her seat the best she can.

“Stephanie, did you learn to trust men again?”

Stephanie doesn’t answer the question. Instead, she poses one of her own. “Did you?”

Lisa laughs. “Did I?”

“Yes. Did you learn to trust men again?”

Lisa gives a slow shake of her head. It’s an easy question to answer, but one burdened by the truth and sadness of it all. “Not completely, no.”

“Then maybe I can help.”

Lisa and Stephanie both look to the young man—well, younger than Lisa, but older than Stephanie. He has a sheepish smile on his face, one that says ‘you can trust me,’ though Lisa doubts that very much.

“How can you help me?”

“I know a place and I know a person.”

Voices, The Interviews: Jenny


Before reading today’s post, I want to tell you about our little project. In the coming months one character from each story in my collection, Voices, will be interviewed by Lisa Lee with Bibliophilia Templum. 

No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.

Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing (you can pick up a copy here. If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers. 

One more thing before the first session: if you have read Voices and would like to ask a question of today’s character, leave a comment at the end, and I will see about getting an answer from the character for you. Don’t be shy, ask your questions. You may get an interesting response.


… With that said, Danny stands, picks up his chair, and takes it back to where he originally was. He sits, and Lisa turns her attention to the notepad once again. She flips the page, and her breath vanishes. The name at the top of the sheet makes her stomach turn. Angry moths flutter about inside, and she suddenly wants to throw up. Lisa stares at it and realizes she is getting very close to the end of the interviews. There are just three people left, two of which she knows could be the most difficult of them all. 

As she sits, staring at the name at the top of the page, written in her hand, she knows when she looks up, the interviewee will be in sight, just as all the rest of them have been. 

“Go ahead,” the silky wet voice comes from beside her left ear. A cold finger traces down her arm, leaving a white line in its wake, until it runs out of skin and touches the paper. The finger tapping it is charcoal black with a long pail nail on its end. “Go ahead, Lisa. Look up. Have a chat with little Jenny Harris, the dead girl.”

She shakes her head. This is too much. This is way more than she bargained for. There is too much … too much …

“Too much what?” Mr. Worrywort whispers. His tongue slithers from his mouth and licks the side of her face. Though it is as dry as sandpaper, she imagines it leaving a slimy residue behind. 

“Too much pain in this room.”

Mr. Worrywort lets out a whistle. It is not shrill and high-pitched, but low and as mournful as the sound of a train in the middle of a cold night. It’s haunting, and her body jerks from the shock of it. He laughs, a throaty sound that scares her. And that is something she wishes she could control: her fear. It is also something she doesn’t believe she is going to be able to get hold of right away. The shock of Mr. Worrywort’s gleeful voice shakes her badly. “Not enough pain,” he says, his voice like dry leaves rubbing together.

Not enough? she thinks. You’ve got to be kidding.

“Look, Lisa. Look at …” he pauses, as if he doesn’t know what he wishes to say. “Look at herrrrrr.”

Mr. Worrywort taps the pad on Lisa’s lap. She glances at it: Jenny.

Lisa looks up. There, in one of the chairs is the waif of a child, too thin to be healthy, her clothes dirty and her eyes sitting in the deep hollows of her sockets. Her bottom lip is chapped and cracked, and her skin is like ivory. A skirt covers her thighs, but Lisa can see her knees are bruised, and is that blood along the inner parts of her calves? The little girl looks down at her hands, turns them over. Her fingers are brittle sticks, the fingernails cracked and dirty.

Lisa opens her mouth to speak, but finds she can’t. Her mouth is dry, and her tongue feels much too large. The girl looks up, and Lisa’s tongue almost shrinks to the back of her throat. The eyes are void of any shine and hold the glazed over look of someone who is no longer among the living. 

Lisa lets out a long breath and forces herself to speak. “Hello … hello, Jenny.”

The little girl says nothing. 

“No one will hurt you here,” Lisa coaxes. “I won’t let them.”

Still, Jenny doesn’t speak. She doesn’t move. She doesn’t blink. She is as still as a … as a corpse. She imagines if she was to touch Jenny’s skin it would be cold and stiff.

“Can we talk, Jenny? Is that okay?”

Jenny finally moves her head, slightly cocking it to the side.


“I want you to be okay with it. I’m not going to force you to do anything. Okay?”


Lisa barely hears Jenny’s voice. It is not more than a whisper and sounds like it hurts for her to speak. 

“Are you sure you want to talk to me?”

She nods, a simple dip of her head, down, then up. “Yes.”

“Okay, Jenny.” Lisa looks down at the notepad. Her stomach rumbles and she truly believes she is going to throw up right there, just let it all out onto the floor between herself and Jenny. When she doesn’t vomit, she proceeds. “Remember when you were nine, and those boys saw your momma give you to the bad men? Was that the first time?”

Her head moves slowly to the left, then the right, then back to center. “No.”

Lisa’s heart sinks into her stomach, joining the angry black moths and the sour milk threatening to come up.

“So, there were other times?”

Jenny nods.

“Do you know how many times she gave you away like that?”

Again, left, right, center. “No.”

Lisa licks her lips. “Do you know how many times there were after the time the boys saw you? Do you remember?”


“She’s not going to talk to you, Lisa.” Mr. Worrywort says. He is still standing behind her. His hands settle on her shoulders.

Lisa stiffens. She doesn’t take her eyes off of Jenny, who is now looking, not at Lisa, but beyond her, behind her, to the shadow of a man standing over her. 

“Jenny, are you going to talk to me? You said you would, but so far, you don’t seem to want to.”


“Are you sure?”


Mr. Worrywort’s hands falls away from Lisa’s shoulders. 

“Okay.” Lisa swallows the nothing in her mouth. “Did your momma ever tell you why?”

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 2.26.45 PM“Why what?”

“Why she gave you to those men?”

Jenny shrugs. The breath she takes is visibly deep and when she releases it, something in her rattles. Tears form in her dead eyes.

“It’s okay, Jenny. You don’t have to say. You don’t—“

“Momma likes men. She doesn’t like me.”

“Then why didn’t she give herself to the men if she liked them so much?”

“They don’t like her.”

“But they like you?”

One side of Jenny’s lips inch up in a sad, haunting smile. She doesn’t answer the question. She doesn’t need to. The sour milk and angry moths begin to give way to a hot anger of her own. 

What is wrong with some people?


Lisa licks her lips. “How did your momma treat you other than that? Other than giving you to the bad men?”

The terrible smile remains and the dead stare seems to grow more distant, something Lisa doesn’t believe, even though she sees it. 

“The men weren’t the bad ones. Momma was the bad person. She gave me to them for her powder.”

“Her powder?”

Jenny nods. “She sniffed it on the kitchen table.”

“Oh … her powder.” Lisa’s eyes are wide. She had a feeling that is what Jenny meant, but it didn’t register, not right away. Once it did, that anger boils up like lava in a volcano threatening to erupt.

“Quite the wretch, her momma,” Mr. Worrywort says. The cheer in his voice makes Lisa want to stand and punch him as hard as she can. To do that would mean she would have to look at him, face to face, woman to … whatever he is. She isn’t quite ready for that, but she has a feeling if she wants to get out of here with her sanity after the interviews are over, she is going to have to look him in his 


eyes. She shudders at the thought and turns all of her attention back to Jenny. She notices the little girl’s skin has changed. The pale white has given way to a tinge of gray. The blood she thought she saw on Jenny’s inner calves is more visible on the hem of her dress, and has it dripped onto the floor beneath her feet?

“Jenny, did your momma know Jake and Cody’s dad had you?”

The smile falters. “Yes.”

“Did she give you to him, too?”

Jenny nods.

“Some people will do anything, Lissssaaa.” 

She ignores the hateful voice behind her the best she can, even as her skin crawls and the hairs on the back of her neck stand on ends. “Can you tell me what happened? You don’t have to, but I would like it if you could.”

“He hurt me. He … hurt me.” 

Jenny’s hands are trembling. The nails on her fingers have become a light purple and her skin has grown a darker shade of gray, almost like the color of ash in a fire pit.

“Oh, you’re going to make her suffer, aren’t you? I’m going to enjoy this.”

Lisa’s hands clench into fists as the heat on her face intensifies. She relaxes them, tries to remain calm, and stares at Jenny. She can see the torture in the poor child’s eyes, even if they are void of any other emotion. Death has a way of showing people the last visages of life before it fades out, and what Lisa sees on Jenny’s face is fear mixed with the pain of being ripped open in her soft spots by a horrible man and allowed to do so by an even more horrible woman. 

“It’s okay,” Lisa blurts out. “You don’t have to say what happened. I have a feeling I know already.”

Jenny opens her mouth to speak and the tendons in her jaw creak. Both sides of her lips where bottom meets top cracks, but no blood spills from the wounds. Lisa closes her eyes, opens them and is staring at the notepad. She looks back up at the now decaying little girl and tries to hold herself together in hopes of getting through the last couple of questions. She’s not sure she’ll be able to without going absolutely mad with heartache.

“Your … your spirit got trapped after …” Lisa can’t keep a clear thought in her head. Everything runs together. “… it got trapped after … after what happened after … after it was over …”

Mr. Worrywort laughs, high-pitched and full of joy. He has fallen away from her, but still close by. Lisa feels desperation rising in her heart. Not only is her skin humming, her stomach quivers and both of the heels of her feet bounce up and down, her toes feeling numb from the pressure on them.

“Do you remember that, Jenny? Do you remember being trapped?”  


“Yes! Trapped! Do you remember being trapped after you died?!”

Mr. Worrywort’s laughter suddenly ceases. Lisa can feel him staring at the back of her head. He—like herself—probably didn’t expect her to tell Jenny she had died, but she had, and now all she can do is watch the little girl and hope she will respond.

“I remember pain and crying and his nasty breath as he did … things … to me. I remember screaming for him to stop. I remember being slapped and …” her voice grows louder and her words begin to come out faster as she speaks, even as she stares at her no longer shaking hands. “I remember the burn of a cigarette on my stomach. I remember the pillow on my face. I remember wet and sticky and sweat and …” Still, her words grow faster and the center of her bottom lip cracks and the skin around the edges of the sides of her lips begins to tear. “I remember walking through the apartment and reachingforthedoorknobandleaving. Irememberfallingasleepagainstthewallanddreamingeverythingoverandoveragainandwantingtowakeup …”

Lisa’s face is streaked with tears and her lips are pulled down in a frown so sad and so long, she fears she will never be able to smile again. Behind her, Mr. Worrywort is clapping his hands and shouting like a mad preacher giving the gospel of hellfire and brimstone and all the bad little boys and girls are going to go to Ha-yell!

Jenny stops. As suddenly as she started, she stops. She looks at Lisa with her now white-filmed eyes. “I couldn’t wake up,” she whispers.

Then there is silence. Jenny’s body sags, as if all the life that had ever been in her is now truly gone. Mr. Worrywort’s clapping stops, but he is still there. She can feel him. Lisa’s sobs end with a sniffle and a deep breath. 

“But Jake set you free … remember? When … when he killed his dad.”

Jenny’s face holds the tattered ruins of innocence lost. Her head lulls on her shoulders for several seconds before her neck seems to gather strength. She looks up at Lisa and her lips are no longer cracked and splintered. Her skin is not ashen, but back to a light shade of gray, almost as if she is reverting back to the way she was when she first appeared.

Lisa is careful when she asks the next question, but she feels it is necessary. “Jenny, do you hate your mother?”

The once sad smile became wide, showing glints of grayed teeth. She doesn’t respond, but Lisa knows the answer. She supposes she always knew.

“What would you say to her if you could?”

Jenny’s dead, glossed over eyes stare straight at Lisa and she says one word. “Nothing.”

Voices, The Interviews: Danny


Before reading today’s post, I want to tell you about our little project. In the coming months one character from each story in my collection, Voices, will be interviewed by Lisa Lee with Bibliophilia Templum. 

No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.

Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing (you can pick up a copy here: HERE). If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers. 

One more thing before the first session: if you have read Voices and would like to ask a question of today’s character, leave a comment at the end, and I will see about getting an answer from the character for you. Don’t be shy, ask your questions. You may get an interesting response.


Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 2.26.45 PMShe had not been ready for the final words Lewis said to her before looking down at his leathery hands and seeing tear drops strike the floor between his feet. He takes a deep breath and leans back in his chair. He gives a dismissive wave and shakes his head. He doesn’t have the heart to go any further.

Lisa’s mouth hangs open and she shakes her head from side to side, not knowing what to say. She wants to get up from her seat and give him a hug, but that won’t happen. 

Laughter comes from her right. Mr. Worrywart bends down beside her, his shadowy face just inches from hers. She can smell his fetid breath, feel the heat from it on her cheek and neck. “Way to go there, Lady,” he says in his smooth, sinister voice. “You’ve done went and made him cry.”

Lisa swallows hard. Though she disagrees with him, she also thinks he is right. Lewis was bound to cry at some point between his story and his interview. He doesn’t feel guilt about anything he’s done. He is lonely and had been since he found out his Michelle divorced him while he was in prison. Her questions—her final question—and his answers—his final one, specifically—was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It cracked the dam and tears were bound to flood his face as he thought about being alone for the rest of what was left of his life.

“I didn’t cause this,” she says.

Mr. Worrywort laughs again. “Sure, you didn’t.”

“I didn’t.”

“You didn’t what, Ma’am?”

Lisa turns at the sound of someone else’s voice. The man kneeling in front of her has kind eyes and dark hair, peppered with white streaks. Though his face doesn’t hold a lot of wrinkles, making him appear younger than he probably is, his eyes hold an age and wisdom in them that is unmistakeable. A half smile is on his lips, and Lisa knows instantly he can be a charmer when he wants to be.

“I … umm … I don’t know,” she says. The world around her shrinks a little. Her face grows hot. 

“You look a little upset,” the man says. He glances at Lewis, who has his hands between his knees and his eyes to the floor. “I guess I understand. The old man got a little emotional there.” 

“Yeah, he did.”

“It’s okay, Ma’am. We all have those moments where someone else’s life affects us.”

Lisa smiles, takes a deep breath, smiles and says, “Hello, Danny.”


“Do you prefer Danny or Coach?”

“Well, I guess it doesn’t matter. All the kids called me ‘Coach,’ but no one outside of baseball ever has.”

“Then Danny it is, if that is okay with you?”

“Absolutely.” Danny stands straight, walks to his chair, picks it up by the metal back, and sets it in front of Lisa. He sits down, crosses one ankle over his knee, and places both hands on that ankle. He smiles and nods to her. “Do you have some questions for me, Ma’am?”

“I do.”

Lisa looks down at her notepad, turns the page and reads the one word at the top: COACH. She looks up at Danny and asks the first question. “Being dubbed ‘Coach’ is a respected honor where I’m from. You must have done great things with those kids.”

DSCN1640Danny shrugs in an aww-shucks manner. “I wouldn’t say I did anything great. I just listened to them, their words, their body language. Kids are fairly transparent when they are young so reading them is easy. It’s when they become teens that you really  have to pay attention to what they are saying. Being a coach isn’t about winning. It’s about teaching; it’s about showing these young people how to become young adults and then young men and women and how to respect themselves and others. Show them respect, and they are bound to respect you back.”

“Well, if we can get right to it, how old were you the first time you saw The White?”

Danny rubs his hands together as if he is cold. His brows crinkle as he thinks. “I guess I was in my early teens the first time it happened. I got really sick—bad headache, an odd dazzle in my eyes that were similar to the washed-out spots on old film reels. I was sitting in the dugout. My dad was the head coach of that team. It was the championship game. I remember that easily enough. I had a hit on three at bats and made an error in the top of the inning that got me benched for a defensive replacement. I was pissed. I couldn’t believe my own dad would take me out of the game because I made an error.”

“There was this kid on the other team—his name was Scott Hall—and he was the team’s star. He struck out to end the game. I’ll never forget the look on his face—or the half look, I saw mostly white where the left side of his face should have been. I remember the intense pain bloom behind my eyes. I remember sitting on the dugout’s concrete floor, my head in my hands and crying like a baby. My dad thought I was upset that he benched me. I was, but that wasn’t why I was crying. One look at my eyes and they knew something was wrong.

“We won the game. While everyone else went out for pizza and ice cream, Dad’s treat, I went home and went to bed. Six days later, Scott Hall came up missing. A few years passed, and some kid named Reed Baker decided to dig a hole at the ball park. He found Scott’s body.

“So, I would say that was the first time the White came on. I just didn’t know it.”

“You mentioned thinking it was a migraine. Do you get migraines often?  More specifically, have you been diagnosed with migraines by a doctor?”

“Yeah, clinically the types of migraines I get are called ocular migraines. They start in the eyes and within twenty minutes or so, if I don’t take any medicine, they become full blown explosions in by head. It sucks, and when one comes on, I can never tell if it is the White or just a normal migraine, at least until I see the white wash over someone’s body. Then I know.”

“Can we talk about Coach Davis for a minute?”


“To be blunt, Coach Davis did not seem like a nice man or a good person. Tell me about why you were so driven to try to save him when you knew trying to save people had not worked in the past.”

DSCN1668“There’s always a first time for everything, right?” Danny pauses. “Peter wasn’t such a bad person. He was just a bad coach. He wanted to win more than anything else. He was a lot like the guy who coached Scott Hall. His name was Barry Windstrom. I don’t remember much about him—I never played for him—but what I do remember is he yelled a lot on the field, but off of it, he was supposedly a kind man, wouldn’t harm anyone. Turns out, he was the person who killed Scott Hall. 

“There was good in Windstrom. There was good in Peter. Most people just didn’t get to see it because they saw his on field antics, specifically on the day he died, and that is what they remember about him. 

“Besides, if I didn’t try, I would have to live with the ‘what if I would have tried to help him?’ thoughts running in my head. Guilt is a horrible thing, and I didn’t want any unnecessary guilt.”

“You were shot for your trouble. You could have been killed. How do you feel about that?”

“How do I feel? Well, it told me to stop waiting around for life to happen. I had spent the majority of my kids’ lives coaching them. My wife divorced me, and I went into a small bout of depression. When I came out the other side of it, I told myself I wouldn’t ever date again. That was a mistake. I let one thing, one person, change how I viewed an important aspect of my life. When I got out of the hospital, I went back to the ball field and sought out an old friend, a team mom, and I stopped wasting time wishing I had married her instead of the woman I chose to be the mother of my children. It gave me an appreciation for life.

“On the other end of that, a good man went to jail. I’m not happy about that.”

“I can’t help but wonder why this manifests as White when other people who report similar, um, abilities describe it differently.  Where do you think this ability to see when people are near death comes from?”

“Head trauma,” Danny says matter-of-factly. “At least for me. A couple of days before I saw Scott Hall, I had been hit by a pitch.” He touches a spot above his left ear. “Right here. I walked it off. That’s what we did back then. Right after the championship game, my parents took me to the doctor. There’s a dent in my skull where the ball hit. The doctor claimed that is where the migraine came from, and I chalk it up as the reason I still have them and why I see the White.”

“That makes sense. Does it frighten you?”

“Every time.”

“So, how do you think you will handle it going forward?”

“The same way I always have. If there is a chance I can help them, maybe alter the course of their life so they don’t die, then I’ll do what I can. It’s a burden, but I have to try, right?”

“I guess so, Coach,” Lisa says. “Thank you for your time.”

“And, Lisa, whatever is there, that voice you are hearing right now, it can’t harm you. It won’t. I think it is scared of you. I think it knows the only way to get to you is to taunt you.”

“Can you see him?” Lisa asks. 

“Oh yeah. But he can’t see you—not the real you. It only sees what you allow it to see.”

With that said, Danny stands, picks up his chair, and takes it back to where he originally sat. He sits, and Lisa turns her attention to the notepad once again.


Voices, The Interviews: Lewis


Before reading today’s post, I want to tell you about our little project. In the coming months one character from each story in my collection, Voices, will be interviewed by Lisa Lee with Bibliophilia Templum. 

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 2.26.45 PMNo, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.

Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing (you can pick up a copy here: If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers. 

One more thing before the first session: if you have read Voices and would like to ask a question of today’s character, leave a comment at the end, and I will see about getting an answer from the character for you. Don’t be shy, ask your questions. You may get an interesting response.


“That be a good child,” said the old black man sitting almost directly across from Lisa. He’s hunched forward, elbows on his knees. In his hands is an old cap, folded almost in half. His fingernails are yellow and his hands look like those of a man who had done hard labor his entire life. In truth, he had, and sometimes still does, even though he is well into his seventies. 

“Hello, Lewis,” Lisa says.

“Hello, Ma’am.” He nods appropriately. His voice is deep and holds a rasp in it. 

“How are you today?”

“I’m fine, Ma’am. You?”

“I’m not sure yet. I’ll let you know when we’re done here. How’s that?”

Lewis nods. “That be fine, Ma’am.”

“Lewis, I would like to be candid for a moment, if that is okay?”

Sad Woes of the Trashman“Yes, Ma’am. I ain’t got nothin’ to hide, so you go on ahead and be … what’s that word you said?”


“Yes, Ma’am. You go on ahead and be candid.”

“You seem like a really good man.  A hard worker.  A caring person. So … Why …? What made you think it was acceptable to steal another person’s car?”

“Umm … I ain’t never said it was accep’ble. It ain’t. I just, well, I wanted my Michelle to be happy. You know, not regret marryin’ a man of my color. You know her pappy wasn’t all too keen on us gettin’ together.” Lewis takes a breath, lets it out in a long, sad sigh. “I reckon I was scared she would leave me, so I stole the car for some money. I didn’t do it out of malice or spite. I reckon I went and took it out of love.”


“Yes, Ma’am.” He shakes his head. His hands twist the cap a little. “Love makes you do some bad things. Stupid things.”

Lisa nods. “Yes, I suppose it does.” She pauses, then says, “It must have been degrading to be called ‘boy’ and, um, other things by the policemen.”

“I reckon so, Ma’am, but back then that’s just the way things were. Boy was the least insultin’ thing I was called by any white man back then.”

“You endured a lot in prison, Lewis.”

He shrugs. “Yes, Ma’am.”

“How did you keep your composure when they killed Marvin Jackson?”

Lewis shakes his head and twist the cap some more. “It ain’t all that hard when you want to stay alive. I was ‘fraid they was goin’ to kill me, too, so I just did what I hads to do to stay on this side of the ground.”

“That’s a smart way of looking at things.”

“It’s the only way in prison, Ma’am.”

“And you went to prison because of your wife, right?”

“Oh no, Ma’am. I went to prison ‘cause I was stupid and wanted to impress my Michelle. If I had just been me …” he shrugs again. “things might’ve been diff’rent.” 

“You obviously loved your wife very much.”

“I still do. Though she’s dead and all, I still love her.”


“Is it fair to say you loved her so much you have no remorse for killing her second husband?”

“That wasn’t no husband, Ma’am. He was a monster. I just saved her from the monster. That’s all.”

“What about when you killed the other man?”

“Well,  I reckon that was self-defense, Ma’am.”

“After everything you have been through, can you tell me why you decided to turn yourself in to the police?”

Lewis sits silent for a few seconds. Then a few more. He looks up with tears in his eyes. “When you ain’t got nothin’ you need somethin’ to hold onto. Somethin’ like structure. And prison has structure. Besides, I ain’t long for this world, Ma’am. Ain’t nothin’ worse than dyin’ alone.”


(The wonderful artwork for The Sad Woes of the Trash Man was provided by the amazing Troy Rider.)

Voices, The Interviews: Brian


Before reading today’s post, I want to tell you about our little project. In the coming months one character from each story in my collection, Voices, will be interviewed by Lisa Lee with Bibliophilia Templum. 

No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.

Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing (you can pick up a copy here. If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers. 

One more thing before the first session: if you have read Voices and would like to ask a question of today’s character, leave a comment at the end, and I will see about getting an answer from the character for you. Don’t be shy, ask your questions. You may get an interesting response.


She is tired. Her body sags. Her legs are weak. Lisa wants to take a nap, to go home and be done with these interviews. Yes, she knows it’s not time to be done, but some of these conversations have been intense and that tension has worn on her body, on her mind, and maybe even on her soul.

The cut on Lisa’s arm isn’t too deep. It bleeds, but not like it could have. She sees the blood that spilled down her arm and is dismayed by how bright the red is, or rather, how much of it there is.

“Excuse me, Ma’am,”

She turns her eyes to the young boy standing in front of her, his arm extended, a white kerchief in it. He is a big boy, probably quite big for his age. His eyes hold a distant stare in them, though he looks directly at her. 

“You’re bleeding.”

“Thank you,” Lisa says and takes the handkerchief. 

The boy nods, turns and lumbers back to his seat. She is amazed at how soft and gentle his voice is, especially being such a big boy. No, he’s not fat, just big and tall with sweet eyes that seem too innocent for any wrong doing, especially … Lisa shakes her head. She knows who he is, just as she has known most of the characters.

“Hello Brian.”

“Hi,” he responds. 

“Can we talk? Is that okay?”


“First, let’s talk about your grandparents.”


“You love your grandparents, don’t you?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“How long have you lived with them?”

Brian looks up at the ceiling. Lisa does, too, and she stares at where Dane’s family once tried to come through.

“Well, I’m ten now, and I’ve been with them since I was four. So that’s …” He holds up his fingers, then counts backwards silently, until six fingers remain. “Six years.”

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 2.26.45 PMThat’s a long time, Lisa thinks. “Do you like living with them?”

He nods. It’s a quick jerk of the head. “Yeah. Their place is clean.”



“What do you mean?”

“There’s no bugs, and they don’t smoke, so the house doesn’t stink.”

An image appears in Lisa’s mind. It’s of a boy lying in bed in the middle of the night. On the bed is a large roach. It crawls along the cover and then onto the exposed skin of the young boy. She shivers, pushes the thought away.

“Do you like going to church with grandparents?”


Simple, quick answers. As Lisa looks at him, she sees there is no need for him to think up an answer. He’s as honest as they come, and the responses he gives her are genuine.

“Do you get along with your brother and sister?”

“My sister is cool, but my little brother is a butthead.”

Lisa smiles at this. So matter of fact. Brian seems to be okay with the conversation and she doesn’t want to turn it toward something he might not like, but what’s the point of interviewing someone if you can’t ask a tough question or two?

“Brian, tell me about your daddy.”

His expression doesn’t change. The look in his eyes doesn’t waver. No gray cloud comes over him. He speaks as he has for all the other questions.

“He’s my dad.”

“Is there anything about him you wish to talk about?”

“No. He’s just my dad.”

“The pastor at your grandparents’ church said the things your daddy did were … evil. Was your daddy a bad man?”

He shrugs. “He was lazy.”

“Did your daddy do other things that were … bad?”

“I guess. The people came and said we had to leave the house and live with Grandmomma and Granddaddy. Aunt Norry said they don’t do that unless there is a problem.”

“Was there a problem?”

“I don’t know. I guess.”

“Sweetie, where’s your momma?”

“She sleeps a lot. She’s always asleep.”

Lisa doesn’t know what that means, but she hopes it doesn’t mean she had passed away.

“Brian … do you think you were doing God’s work when you … when you killed your daddy?”

“I didn’t kill him. He was already dead.”

This strikes her as profound. The boy in front of her doesn’t believe his father was even alive when he took the hammer to him. He was lazy, so he was dead. Or maybe he died when Ben and his siblings were taken from him and his wife. 

“Brian, are you anything like your daddy?”

Again, no change in his expression. “No, not really. Do you think I’m like him?”

“No, I don’t think you’re like your daddy at all.”

Brian nods again.

“Thank you, Brian.”

“You’re welcome.”

To be continued …


Voices, The Interviews: The Angel


Before reading today’s post, I want to tell you about our continuing project. In the coming months one character from each story in my collection, Voices, will be interviewed by Lisa Lee with Bibliophilia Templum. 

No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.

Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing (you can pick up a copy here. If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers. 

One more thing: if you have read Voices and would like to ask a question of today’s character, leave a comment at the end, and I will see about getting an answer from the character for you. Don’t be shy, ask your questions. You may get an interesting response.


Lisa releases Dane. It was an embrace akin to a mother and a daughter. It’s one she had experienced many times raising her own kids, but this one had been different. Dane had needed her touch, her reassurance—she ventures to believe she still will, maybe even always will. 

Dane takes a deep breath, goes back to her chair, and sits down. Lisa does the same. She picks up her pad from the floor where she dropped it. She flips through the pages until she comes to the next name on the list: Kimberly. She recalls the young lady whose boyfriend broke up with her before they could get married. She recalls the house, the room she knelt in. 

An eerie feeling crawls up her legs and into her spine. The room feels damp. The walls are somehow moldy, the ceiling sagging. Though the floor is intact, there are dips in it. More importantly, there is blood in the center of the room and there are images on the walls. Lisa tries to recall if they were there when she first arrived. She believes they were, but now, with Kimberly in front of her, the graffiti on the walls looks more real, as if at any moment they can come alive. 

The prophets holding Bibles wear black suits and their eyes are punched out holes—something she feels is different from before, but somehow the same. Graffiti gangsters hold boom boxes and music notes rise up from them in whites, blues, yellows and oranges. A knight in dull armor sits on a hobby horse, the lance he once probably used in jousting competitions splintered at one end. A snake slithers along the baseboard, but the image that holds her attention is the angel with black wings, like a demon’s, leathery and too short to actually carry him on the wind; blue eyes like bright lights that mesmerize, and shockingly white hair that covers his ears and flows down his back. It is this creature she feels uneasy about.

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 2.26.45 PMNonsense, she thinks. Kimberly is the one here to talk to you. She is right there, directly to your left.

And she is. Though she doesn’t bear the scars of the young woman who died in the story, her arms and clothes are covered in blood, as is her long blonde hair. She, however, doesn’t look at Lisa. She looks beyond her, to the wall where the angel hangs, painted there by an artist probably named K. Kwik (or something like that) with spray paint that is neither expensive nor cheap, but somewhere in the middle. 

“Kimberly,” Lisa whispers.

The young lady doesn’t react. She doesn’t blink, but her head slowly tilts to one side, as if she sees something no one else can. Lisa now knows it is quite possible she does. After all, so many of these characters have seen things she hasn’t, but she has seen things they haven’t either.

Lisa reaches over and touches the young woman’s leg. “Kimberly.”

Kimberly looks at her, her eyes focusing for a couple of seconds, then growing distant quickly. “To know me is to feel me.”

“But to feel me is to know …” Another voice says.

“Pain,” Kimberly finishes.

Lisa’s body jerks with the new voice, one she is afraid of. She looks to her right, to the wall of graffiti art. The angel’s head is free of its sheetrock home. His cartoon features have faded from his face. His white hair somehow flows behind him, as if there is a wind blowing through the millions of strands. His body doesn’t tear from the wall. It peels, like a sticker …

Like a Fathead, Lisa thinks.

… and he is much bigger than she had thought he was when reading the story of Kimberly’s demise.

He doesn’t walk, but glides across the floor; his legs are shrouded in gray clouds. He is beside them quicker than he should be. His leathery wings are not black, but brown and Lisa can see the many bones that make up its forearm-like wings. Unlike a bat or bird, she doesn’t think the angel’s wings could help him fly and she doesn’t believe they are anything like homologous structures, handed down from an ancestry of flying creatures. Heat radiates off him, and from the short distance between them, she feels as if she sits next to a hot furnace.

“What are you?” Lisa asks.

He smiles, though it isn’t radiant. There is something inherently creepy about him, and it’s not just because one minute ago he was firmly attached to a wall fifty feet away from them. 

“I am an angel, young lady.”

“Young lady? That’s cute. Flattery will get you nowhere. Neither will lies. What are you really?”

The angel’s smile doesn’t falter, but there is a twinkle in his eyes. Lisa believes he is about to try and deceive her. When he speaks again, she knows that is what his intention is.

“I am an angel. That is true,” he says. “But what I am an angel of does not concern you. It only concerns those … I visit.”

“Oh boy, I’ve got the evil version of the Riddler here,” she says, then adds, “Why have you chosen the image of an angel?”

“Because I bring release.”

“Angels bring the Word of God. You bring blood and death to the innocent.”

“The innocent?” The angel doesn’t quite laugh, but she can see humor in his eyes. She can feel the laughter spilling from the heat of his body. “No one is innocent. Everyone has sinned, young lady. Everyone. I only bring to the desperate what they long for.”

From behind his back, the angel produces a long knife, one with the blackened handle of ancient bone. The blade curves in the center, giving it a decided hook at the end. He holds it out to her. 

Lisa looks at it. A rainbow appears in the blade, shimmers, vanishes, then reappears. It’s mesmerizing.

“What are you?” Lisa asks again. Her voice is dreamy and distant.

“I am pain.”

The notepad slips from her hands but remains on her lap. Her right hand reaches up, hesitant at first.

“To know me is to feel me.”

A female voice comes from her left, soft and sweet and hypnotic. “To feel him is to hurt.”

“To hurt is to bleed,” the angel whispers. He turns the knife in his hand so the blade is on his palm and the handle facing away from him.

Lisa’s arm extends further. The blade glistens with its rainbows and the voices of Kimberly and the angel are a harmony in her ears that doesn’t scare her, but entices. Her fingers stretch, touching the cold bone handle. 

“To bleed is to live.” they say in unison.

Lisa takes the blade and holds it inches from her face. She can see a reflection in the rainbow of colors, but it is not hers, at least not the her of the here and now. The image staring back at her is younger. Her hair is darker, the lines on her face are barely there. Her eyes still hold the vibrancy of a little girl. 

“To know me is to feel me,” the duo says. “To feel me is to hurt.”

The image changes. The young girl is gone. Replacing her is a teenager, maybe even someone who she was in her early twenties. The vibrancy in her eyes, though still there, has dulled. And in her hand she holds a knife, just as Lisa does now. The young woman holds the knife to her wrist, as if she is going to bring the blade straight across it. Then she turns the knife, the point touching the base of her palm. If she pulls it straight up, it will flay the skin from palm to elbow and …

“To bleed is to live,” the duo chants.

She repeats it back. The tip digs into her palm. She feels pain as it breaks skin. A drop of blood squeezes from the small wound and slides down into her palm. Her breath catches.

“To live is to die.”

She grips the knife tight. Her mind screams, No. No. No. NO! but she can’t release the blade. Her other arm comes up. She watches as the blade moves toward it, almost in slow motion, but still entirely too fast for her liking.

He killed her! Lisa’s mind screams.

And now he is going to kill you. Mr. Worrywort says from his corner. He is not near. She knows this. She feels this. He is afraid of the angel or whatever it is.

She turns to Kimberly. She is holding her hand out in front of her, much like Lisa is, though there is no knife gripped in her fingers. “He killed you,” Lisa says.

The young woman looks at her. There are tears in her eyes.

Then a hand is on her wrists, one that holds scars on the fingers. Lisa looks at the hand, then up the scarred arm to the young man in front of her. Nothing takes the hand that holds the knife in it and pulls it away from her palm. There is a hint of blood on the blade, but nothing like it could be. Though he is clearly a strong man, he can’t remove the knife from Lisa’s hand.

Nothing looks at Kimberly. One of her hands is clenched into a fist, as if she holds a knife in it. Her other arm is up the way Lisa’s is. 

“Let her go,” Nothing says.

Kimberly blinks. Behind her, Mr. Worrywort appears. His face is nothing but a shadow, but the grin in the darkness is outlined in white, the teeth within yellow. A hand settles on her shoulder and her eyes widen, her lips become an O. 

“She can’t,” Mr. Worrywort says.

“I wasn’t talking to her,” Nothing says. Both of his hands hold the knife from Lisa’s arm. “I’m talking to you.”

Mr. Worrywort’s face changes. He doesn’t look as defiant now as he did seconds earlier. Then the smile returns and he laughs. “Make me.”

Nothing squeezes Lisa’s hand. The pain is sharp and intense and her fingers straighten involuntarily. The knife slides into his hand, and before Lisa realizes it, he lets go of her and slings the knife toward Kimberly. The knife doesn’t have to travel far, so the chances of him hitting her is high. It zips by her head and strikes Mr. Worrywort’s shoulder. He spins away from Kimberly, releasing her as he does so. 

Kimberly’s arms drop, her hand unclenches from a fist to an open palm. Lisa’s arms drop. She rubs the bleeding palm on her pants

“How did you do that?” the angel asks.

“I’m not weak,” Nothing said. “Suicide is a sin. You feed on the hopeless. You create monsters who feed on the blood and suffering of the living. You create them from the living.”  

“Why?” Lisa asks. “Why do you do this?”

The angel and Nothing and everyone else turn back to her. 

“Because I can,” the angel says. “You understand that, don’t you?”

“No, I don’t understand.”

“I think you do.”

“No, I don’t.  I don’t.”

“Everyone does things because they can. Everyone.” The angel stares down at her, his eyes like angry embers.

“Not everyone,” Lisa responds.


“Even you?” Lisa asks. She knows what he is. She even thinks she knows why he is, but those two things could be different. “What are you?”

“I am Death, young lady, and I come for everyone.” 

“No, you’re not,” Nothing says. He steps between the angel and Lisa. “Death is indiscriminate. He favors no one and he doesn’t choose when someone’s time has come. He certainly doesn’t help someone kill herself.” He looks toward Kimberly. Her head is down. Tears fall from her eyes and land on her bare legs. “You are opportunity. You weed out the weak, one at a time. Those who are hurting are your prey, your victims. You are a bottom feeder, at best. And by that token, you are nothing, like me.”

“I can kill you.”

“No. You can’t. I’ve faced my demon and I conquered him. I have the scars to prove it. You exist on fear and if no one is afraid of you, then you … don’t exist.”

The angel steps back, not voluntarily, but as if he is pulled backward. He reaches for Nothing, his hand catching only air. “You fool.”

“Maybe once upon a time,” Nothing responds. “Not anymore. Go away. You are not welcome here.”

“You have no sway over me.”

“Not true. You have no sway over me. Go away. Be gone. No one here fears you.”

The angel looks to Lisa. “She does.”

Lisa stands, straightens her back and steps beside Nothing. “I’m not afraid of you,” she says, her voice strong. “I’m not afraid of the demons in the ceiling or Mr. Worrywort, who keeps trying to get into my head. You are nothing to me.” She looks to the young man beside her, “No offense meant.”

Nothing laughs. 

“She is,” the angel yells, his voice booming and bouncing off the walls in vibrating echoes. He points at Kimberly. “She is terrified of me.”

“She’s not,” Nothing says. “Are you?”

Kimberly looks up. The tears in her eyes aren’t from fear, but pain. “I don’t fear death—not anymore. I fear being alone, dying without ever being loved. But I don’t fear him.”

The prophets on the wall pull free. They tuck their Bibles under their arms and approach the angel. They grab him by his arms.

“No! You can’t touch me!”

They say nothing as they pull him away from the circle, away from the group of characters assembled for their interviews. 

“Let me go!”

One of the prophets howls when they reach the wall. He grips the sheetrock with one hand, the angel with the other. The prophet’s face distorts into a grotesque grimace, his jaw dropping to his chest, his eyes melting as he pulls, first himself, then the angel into the wall. The angel’s white hair bursts into flames; his blue eyes explode; his flowing robe smolders, then gets swallowed into the fire, consuming him. The other prophets follow the first one into the wall, but they don’t melt away like the first one, like the angel. They reattach themselves to the sheetrock, their eyes fixed on the smoldering creature on the artistic floor at their feet; at the angel’s hand reaching from the ashes of its body, its hand still smoking. Then they are all frozen in place and once again become nothing but drawings.

Nothing stands beside Lisa. At some point, he had taken her hand. He releases it now. 

“What just happened?” Lisa asks.

“An opportunity lost, I think,” Nothing says.

“What was he?”

Again, the young man laughs. “It doesn’t matter. He is nothing now.”

To be continued …

Voices, The Interviews: Dane


Before reading today’s post, I want to tell you about our little project. In the coming months one character from each story in my collection, Voices, will be interviewed by Lisa Lee with Bibliophilia Templum. 

No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.

Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing (you can pick up a copy here. If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers. 

One more thing before the first session: if you have read Voices and would like to ask a question of today’s character, leave a comment at the end, and I will see about getting an answer from the character for you. Don’t be shy, ask your questions. You may get an interesting response.


There is a moment where Lisa says nothing, only stares down at the pad, at the page she just flipped to. At the top are the words “NUMBERS—DANE” in black print. She can see where her hand shook when considering what to ask for this part of the interview. She thinks this one could be the death of her. A touch of fear edges along the sides of heart. The title holds her eyes.


Lisa considers her own carefully repressed and controlled obsession with numbers; odd numbers, prime numbers, exponential sequences, other numbers she doesn’t like.  It’s a childhood quirk. Nothing more. At least that is what the doctors always said. She knows better. She knows it is not just a childhood quirk. It is so much more, even to the point of a phobia with a name: Imparnumerophobia. 

She thinks of Spencer and his fear of shadows. Some would say he is ridiculous and he needs to get over the mental hurdle in his head. But there is no getting over something that terrifies you. Though Imparnumerophobia is more of an obsessive-compulsive disorder, the truth, at least in her eyes, is simple: odd numbers might mean nothing to most, but to people like Dane, they are bad. Worse than that, they are life threatening. 

She shoves the thoughts aside, locks it away with some of the other things from her childhood best left alone. A deep breath follows, then she looks up at the only person in the room (besides herself) who might suffer from this … this … disorder. 

“Hello, Dane.”

The young lady’s body jerks as if she had been jabbed by a hot poker. Her lip trembles and she clutches her arms in a terrified self-embrace. Her lips move. Lisa’s not sure what she is doing until Dane speaks.


Three letters, Lisa thinks. Odd numbers.

She considers how to ask her first question. It is the only one she believes she must ask to move forward. She considers the words and the letters in each one. 3-2-4-4-7-5. The odd numbered words equal the even numbered ones. She licks her lips.

“Are we safe from numbers today?”

Again, Dane jerks. It’s something Lisa is not expecting. If she was to look up the case study on this child, she would see a nervous twitch, or in this case an almost violent full body spasm, is unlike Dane.

A sound ripples through the room. It sounds like someone tearing a large sheet of paper. But that’s not it. Lisa knows this. She knows that somewhere in the room a hole will appear in the ceiling or maybe the floor or one of the walls. She knows this one could be dangerous and part of her is scared. Pushing aside her childhood concerns might be too hard for this one.

Dane shakes her head, her eyes wide and shimmering, as if tears are about to roll from them.

“Which numbers are … “ She pauses. She believes the answer will be ‘odd,’ but does she know for certain? “… safe?”

Dane shivers, but the nervousness is not as bad as a few seconds before. She looks up at the ceiling. Her fingers move, as does her lips.

She’s counting, Lisa thinks. Trying to determine the numbers in each word before responding.

Dane licks her lips. “Odd.”

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 2.26.45 PMLisa nods, then asks again for clarity. “Odd numbers are … safer?” She counts the numbers in the last word to make sure all of them are odd.

A nod from Dane. “Yes.”

Lisa wipes her lips. Odd numbers are safe. She almost laughs. Anything even could be dangerous for the two of them—for all the characters still sitting around the U in that room. But odd numbers … odd numbers bug her and speaking in solely odd numbered words feels off. 

Go ahead, the voice in her head whispers to her. She knows it is Mr. Worrywort, or one of the other demons in the room, all of whom speak to those around her as if they can control them, can make them do whatever they want. Speak in even numbered words and see what happens. It could be quite entertaining.

“No,” she blurts out without thinking.

The tearing paper grows louder. Lisa doesn’t need to search for the sound. She can see by the looks on several of the other characters in the room that it is just behind her and off to her left. She wants to look back, but finds she can’t, finds she is terrified. She knows from reading the story that the hole expands and retracts based on the number of letters in each word.

Look. The voice—the demon in her head, no doubt—holds the sinister glee of a murderer just before putting a knife in the throat of his victim. It’s a taunt she finds hard to resist. She can almost feel the knife at her throat.


Her muscles tense up. She takes a deep breath that feels as if it wants to stop halfway into her lungs, as if it will go no further and will not come back out. 


She grits her teeth, trying to figure out what to say, how to get the hole that has surely opened behind her to close back. 

“Not …” In her mind, she counts the letters of the next word. Nine. “… happening.”

Though the voice grows quiet, she can feel it tap tapping on her shoulder with a long-fingered hand. The sound of tearing paper has also become silent. She lets out the breath and tries to smile through the pain in her chest she knows is high anxiety.

“You … are …” she grimaces, knowing she can’t avoid all even numbered words. “… ready to … discuss?”

Dane shakes her head. She doesn’t take as long as Lisa did to respond. “Not. I can.”

All odd numbered. Dane exhales. One edge of her lips curls up a little. It’s not quite innocent, but it doesn’t hold the sinister evil Lisa believes could be behind those dark eyes and that pale face, behind the mask she no doubt wears.

Dane then adds, “You are?”

Lisa waits for her to finish the statement, then realizes she has. Dane wants to know her name. 

Double whammy, Lisa thinks, recalling the head shrink who last saw Dane. His name was even numbered. A double whammy. She thinks hard on this. The wrong combination is dangerous. She knows she will sound ridiculous, maybe even illiterate, but doesn’t particularly care. Now, her concern is with surviving … again.

“I …” she taps her chest with one finger, “… named … Lisa Lee.” She pauses. The combination is good so far. Three words with odd numbered letters to one with even. Still safe. “You calls me Lee. All right?” She wanted to say ‘okay,’ but four letters are bad. Even is bad. 

Dane nods. “Yes.”

Lisa relaxes and slips at the same time, going into her question, but catching herself immediately “Your … you! You! Uncle raped you?”

Dane nods again, gives another, “Yes.”

“Uncle was a bad man. It’s not your fault.” She lets out a long breath. Nine words, eight of them odd numbered.

“Bad man. Yes. Bad. Bad man.”

“Discuss, maybe?” She feels childish, as if she and Dane have their own language, one most people will not understand. 

“No,” Dane says sharply. The tear in the ceiling begins again. She thinks she hears a giggle from behind her. She can’t tell if it is from above or directly in her ear, but she knows someone is there, and that someone is waiting for her to make a mistake.

Lisa’s hands go out in front of her in a warding off gesture. 

“Not. Discuss. Got it.” She waits for the tearing sound again, but it doesn’t come. Though her last word was even, the previous three were odd. She’s catching on. She believes if the odd numbered words outweigh the even numbered ones she will be safe. It will be dangerous, but she doesn’t believe the demons can—or will—get her if she continues this way.

She looks down at her pad. The next question makes her nervous. There are too many even numbered words. 

You summoned your dead family to save you.  

How am I going to ask that question without getting killed?

You can’t, Mr. Worrywort hisses in the back of her brain. She feels his hand on her left shoulder, his breath on the nape of her neck, flapping several strands of her long hair. She is going to get you. They are all going to get you, and I’m going to watch them do it.

Dealing with demons scares her, but dealing with a voice in her head, or even one outside of it trying to get in, didn’t bother her so much. She dealt with him earlier, she can do it again. 

“You can … not,” she says, a smile on her face. “You can get lost.” Seven words. Six odd. One even. She’s safe. She waits a moment, listening for the tear in the fabric of the world around her. It doesn’t come. 

Though Mr. Worrywort grows silent again, she can still feel him behind her, his hands wanting so badly to caress her face, maybe touch her chin with his elongated claws, maybe twist that chin fast enough and hard enough to snap her neck. Then he would laugh and dance like he’s at a funeral in New Orleans.

“Get lost?” Dane asks. Two words. One odd. One even.

Lisa hears the tearing noise behind her. A hiss follows. Lisa knows it to be Dane’s mother.

“Not you, Dane. Not you.”

“I do not … understands.”

“There is another one who is among us.” She does some mental math. Eight words. Five odd. Three even. She waits. Listens. There is no tearing sound. “I have questions for you. One about you family …” More counting. Nine words. Seven odd. Two Even. Safe. She lets out a breath. 

Dane releases a long breath. She looks down at her feet. “Ask.”

Lisa looks up at the ceiling. “You … calls … family …” She cringes at the six-letter word because she knows she will follow it up with a two letter one. “to … aid you. Right?”

Dane nods. “Yes.”

“Why?” Yes, her mind screams. She didn’t think she would ever get the question out, but she did and now it was in Dane’s hands. She hopes—even prays—she answers the right way.

“‘Cause I needs the helps.” Dane cringes. Lisa can see it on her face, the way her shoulders shrug involuntarily; the way her eyes squeeze together; the way her lips pull apart, showing off her yellowing teeth. Her mother had been an English teacher. The grammar she displayed in that sentence would have made her mother twitch. 

“You needed aid?”

A nod, then, “Yes. You understand, right? You do, right?”

Lisa sees determination in Dane’s face, but there is something else, maybe even a little bit of malice in her eyes. She knows Dane can turn at any second if she doesn’t like the question or if she feels like Lisa—or anyone—is out to get her. She will string together a line of even numbered words and the demons will be able to crawl from the ceiling where they hide. They would take Lisa, and quite possibly, some of the other characters in the room, and the end will not be pleasant for them. 

I wonder what the demons will leave behind, what trophy Dane will take to remember me by?

“I … I understand … I get it … I …” She listens for the rip in the ceiling, for the electric hum the demons bring with them, but doesn’t hear them. What she does hear is the giggling from behind her. Mr. Worrywort is here, and he is taking delight in her struggles to ask the questions she feels needs to be asked of Dane. 

He’s getting stronger, she thinks. No, that’s the wrong word. He’s getting bolder. Why is that? Too many thoughts. Too many questions. Too many …

Lisa looks up at Dane. The young girl’s head is cocked to the side. I’m taking too long. She takes a deep breath and pushes on.

“How? How did you … summon?”

The rip comes this time. It’s not much, but it is there, and it is loud enough for Dane to look up to the ceiling and wince. 

“I …” she says, then stops. The single letter word seems to make her relax again. “ … calls thems and theys comes.”

Dane smiles the best she can. Lisa thinks it is forced, but it is better than the sad looking child in front of her. 

“The other … persons … Why? Why let them die?”

This time Dane’s smile is not forced. It holds that underlying sinisterness about it. It is what Lisa has worried about from the beginning of the interview with Dane. 

“They needs to eat.” 

The tear in the ceiling is louder this time. Four words. Two even. Two odd. They don’t cancel each other out like Lisa thinks they should have. Another giggle comes from behind her, but this one is different. It’s a cackle, and it’s feminine. Joining it is Mr. Worrywort’s laugh, deep and full of glee.

Fear grips Lisa now. I’m going crazy, she thinks. She tries to swallow, but her throat is dry, and she is thirsty. 

She would take my notepad, Lisa thinks and looks up at Dane. The smile on her face is one so knowing that Lisa’s skin prickles. I’m going to die. Right here. Right now. Unless …

“But the woman … you liked the woman! You did!”

Dane doesn’t hesitate. She has confidence. It shines in her eyes. It shows in her smile.

“She was angry.”

“Why? Why was she angry?”

The laughter dies down.

“She blamed me for what happened.”

Another rip, louder this time, follows Dane’s statement. Six words. Four even. Two odd. The demons in the ceiling are laughing, all of them, not just Dane’s mother. Mr. Worrywort is clapping and his maniacal shrieks of joy blend with the demons.

Lisa blurts out, not worrying about the words or whether they are odd or even. She no longer believes it matters, not where Dane is concerned. She is going to let them kill her. This much Lisa knows with certainty. “I’m not angry with you … at you … Not angry. Not mad. I just…  I … Please…”

Fifteen words. Ten odd. Five even.

The ripping stops, but she can still hear the demons, though their laughter is somewhat muffled now.

“Why the woman? She cared about you.”

“Did she?”

“Yes! Yes, she did.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes! Why can’t you not let someone help you?”


The demons hiss in anger and what Lisa thinks is excitement. They are hungry, and they can smell her, smell all of them.
“Yes! I can help you.”

“No one can help!”

Laughter. Tearing. Hissing. They all come from behind her. Lisa can feel them peering out of a hole that is probably larger than she thinks it is. She can feel Mr. Worrywort’s hands on the back of her neck, his fingers wanting to wrap around her throat. He would show himself to her, what he really looks like, as he chokes the life from her. 

“I can! Why can’t you let someone care for you?”

Dane puts one hand up in a wait gesture. Though Lisa hears the demons and feels Mr. Worrywort behind her, she feels that, for at least a minute or a few, she is safe. 

“People only want to hurt me.”

All six words are even. They are spoken with a determined resolve to get it through Lisa’s head that no one can help her. They are spoken with intent. Her hand is still out and the demons are silent. 

Lisa licks her lips. She knows she doesn’t have much time to make an impression. If ever there is a time to do an elevator pitch, it is now. 

“I know how you feel,” she says. Oh my God, am I about to do this? “I’ve been hurt, too. Many times. By people who I loved and who I thought loved me. I could have chosen to hide away in a shell or to get bitter, and for a while, I did. I did what you are doing, but not with the demonic form of dead family members. I have scars, both outside and in. They are part of me. They are part of who I am. Would I like to go back and change things? Sometimes I think so. Sometimes, I’m like, ‘hell yeah, let’s change the outcome of this situation.’ But if I did that, I would not be who I am today. I learned from those situations, from each heartache and lie and every single bit of pain that was inflicted on me.” 

Tears are in her eyes, not from fear of dying, but from trying to get through to Dane, trying to get her to understand she doesn’t need to hurt anyone else. Sweat beads on her forehead.

“I can help you. I’m not like the shrinks. I’m not angry with you. I want to help you. You and I are alike in so many ways. Let me care for you. Can’t you do that? Can’t you just try to let someone help you?”

They stare at each other for a long time. Tears are in both their eyes. The silence is loud. The other characters sit, watching, none of them speaking or moving or possibly even breathing. 

“Yes,” Dane says.


“Yes. I’ll let you help me.”

Then something odd happens that not even Lisa expected when she walked into the room that morning. Dane stands, walks over to her and puts her arms out. Lisa stands, folds her arms around the young woman and hugs her tight as Dane cries into her shoulder. When she finishes, Dane pulls away, wipes her eyes and looks up at Lisa. 

“Thank you,” Dane says.

“You’re welcome, Dane. Now, can you do me a favor?”

Dane frowns and cocks her head to one side. “What’s that?”

“Your family, can you put them back?”

Dane smiles. “Yes.”

To be continued …

Voices, The Interviews: Dave


Before reading today’s post, I want to tell you about our little project. In the coming months one character from each story in my collection, Voices, will be interviewed by Lisa Lee with Bibliophilia Templum. 

No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.

Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing (you can pick up a copy here. If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers. 

One more thing before the first session: if you have read Voices and would like to ask a question of today’s character, leave a comment at the end, and I will see about getting an answer from the character for you. Don’t be shy, ask your questions. You may get an interesting response.


Lisa feels better about the interviews. B’s went well. The young lady had been honest and forthcoming. She had given Lisa hope that all of the interviews wouldn’t be filled with deception or anger or lies. She looks at B and smiles. As she does so, she has a feeling her interview is the only one that will go that well. 

On the pad in her hands is the name ‘Dave’ and the words Crisp Sounds. She looks off to her left, a slight smile still on her face. The guy sits not quite apart from the others, but the two people on either side of him have moved their chairs away from him, leaving gaps to his right and left. His hair is shaggy. His face is dirty and a rough beard covers the lower half. His clothes are filthy and there is an odor coming off of him. Beside his chair is a mangy teddy bear, one that looks like it had spent some time in a trash dump somewhere.

“Hello, Dave.”

“Hello, Ma’am,” he says and smiles. He doesn’t come across as nervous or scared. Both legs are bent. He looks like a man about to tell a story. Maybe he will.

“You’ve been through quite an ordeal, Dave.”

He nods. “I guess you could say that.” 

Lisa waits a few seconds before continuing. “Do you care to talk about how you ended up on the streets after losing your job?”

“Do I care to talk about it? Not really, but I will.”

“So, what happened, Dave? How did you end up on the street?”

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 2.26.45 PMDave smiles. It’s not a bad smile. Sure, his teeth are slightly yellow, but many people who are not homeless have yellow teeth. Smoking or coffee or not brushing can cause that. 

“I fell down a flight of steps at work one day, and well, they felt their money was better spent on someone with two good legs and no chronic pain.”

“That’s sad.”

“Yeah. I guess so. That is the way it is, though, you know? You are only worth the money if you can perform the job or until someone better and cheaper comes along.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Dave shrugs. “It is what it is.”

“What happened after that?”

“I couldn’t find a job. Not even fast food joints or grocery stores were willing to take a chance on a hobbled man.”

Lisa is shaking her head as she listens. She feels bad for Dave, for all the people out there like him, who did nothing wrong except get hurt on the job and then get dumped, not just by the job, but by …

“When you can’t get a job, you can’t pay the bills. When you can’t pay the bills, well, your lady doesn’t tend to stick around, and well, mine left me and went home to Mommy and Daddy.”

His face changes from someone just talking, shooting the breeze with another person, to an angry scowl. Lisa wonders if he is reliving the part of his life where his lady left him. 

Of course he is, a voice in her ear whispers. What else would he be thinking about?

She doesn’t want to imagine what that feels like, but part of her can’t help it. She feels a touch of sadness sink into her heart. As he continues his story she fights back tears, even as she imagines what it would be like if she had lost her job and her man had left her in pain and alone and without money. 

Whatever happened to death do you part? she wonders.

You believe in that crap? the voice asks. She knows who the voice belongs to, but she can’t help but answer it, even though it is only there to break her down.


So did he.

“When Cammie left I had nowhere to go. I got evicted from my apartment and ended up on the street. I wanted to go home, but … but I just didn’t want to face my dad, I didn’t want him knowing I couldn’t make it out there, you know, on my own.”

“You don’t think your dad would have understood? I mean, you got hurt on the job. That’s not like it was your fault.”

Dave shrugs again. “I don’t know. Well, I didn’t know. I left home in a fit after we got into an argument.”

“Arguments can be forgiven,” Lisa says.

“It came to blows and he told me to leave, to get out of his home and don’t come back.”

“I see.”

“Instead of swallowing my pride, I went to the streets and stayed there until, well, until a cold night in the middle of the winter.”

Lisa nods. “I guess I can understand that.”

“It was stupid.”

His response surprises her. It also washes away the sadness in her heart, quieting the voice whispering in her ear.

“Dave, I would like to ask you something a bit more personal … if that’s okay?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“I understand that during your ordeal, you heard your dad’s voice in your head … like a conscience or, um, an angel-on-your-shoulder, so to speak. Is that right?”

“Well, he wasn’t the only one, but yes, I heard his voice several times. I always did. Sometimes I still do.”

“At one point you rejected the voice as not being your dad’s.”

“Yeah, I guess I did. That happens a lot, though. I’m sure everyone hears voices and argues with them. Sometimes, you just have to reject it to keep your sanity. You know?”

That statement makes so much sense to her. The voices can be controlling and demanding. “I do,” she says, then adds, “So, if the voice wasn’t your dad’s who was it?”

Dave rubs his chin and shakes his head from side to side. “When I reject the voice, you mean?”


“Well, my grandma always said voices that tell you to do things that could hurt you belong to the devil. So, I guess that’s the voice that gets rejected—it’s the devil.”

“That makes sense, Dave.”

“I guess.”

“Can I ask you one last question?”


“Dave, did you finally go back home?”

He smiles. His face turns a slight pink, but not because he is embarrassed. Lisa knows the answer before he says it.


Lisa smiles. She doesn’t need to ask if his dad accepted him back. She knows he did.

To be continued …