Short stories

Finding Benjamins

© Madsen Adventure 2

By A. Shakhete

Out walking in the cold of night half-past 10, when I run into a big find. Removed it from under the abandoned warehouse before this lone cop shows up. A good-looking skinny kid ‘bout late 30s, stand ‘bout 5/7. Smiles up one-side like a half-moon. Cop hat sits to one side. Waiting right when I come out, hand on his right holster. Looks me up and down scrunching his crooked nose. Got punched in a brawl, I bet. Couldn’t reach his gun fast enough. Punk. His kind is supposed to protect us, this new generation of what-cha call ‘em? Mellenums? Or X-Factions? I take being a tough Boomer any day. Take my age honestly with a pint of whisky, when I’m at home. Whisky makes me frisky.

I reach my large hand out to shake his.

He flashes his badge and says, “I’m Officer John Dunno.” Rears back in disgust, half-moon smile fades.

I hold my hand up to my face. Pull up my nose like his. “Whew!” I drop my hand to my side like the other. Wipe them down my stained blue jeans.

“Sorry officer. I dun-know why I offered my hand. Forget I got mud and soot on me from chimney droppings. I probably smell like shit too. Left behind by homeless peeps and vermin.”  I point at Dunno’s feet. His left foot clipping the side of vermin shit. He don’t look down; he don’t move.

Then I say, “You dun-know why I’m here?” I laugh. He don’t. I stop laughing. Don’t want Dunno to take me in ‘cause he dun-know.

I get serious and say, “Officer Dunno, I found them right in there. I wouldn’t lie about pickin’ through a pile of shit.”

“Dun-know,” says Dunno, shruggin. “How about you tell me what’s in your pocket.” He points with his right shoulder without removing his hand from his holster.

So, I tell the officer…

“I was out walking, left my house ‘bout half mile that way.” Flip, flip, flip my right hand in the direction behind him. “When I got near here, a ghastly stench attacks my nose like after inhaling boiled pig guts. Do you know what those are officer?” I ask. “Chitlins. A friend of mines’ colored wife cooks ‘em. Stink to high hell. But then I’m thinking, it’s the chili dog and warm brewskee blowing out my ass, and belching up through my throat.” I rub my throat. Burp.

Officer Dunno lifts his brows like what the fuck.

“S’cuse me, officer.” I begin again, “I was out walking because I farted up the house. Right after eating greasy chicken fried steak. Annoys my young wife Jody when I fart. “Calls my real name when she gets pissy. Haraldr Madsen take your stanky-ass outta here!” Right before I get out another fart.” I chuckle. “Otherwise I’m bubba.” I say this smugly. “I’m a lady’s man officer. Jody’s 35.” Dunno sighs, rolls his eyes around in a circle, raises his voice slightly and asks, “Why are you here? What’s up with the bulge in your pocket?”

“I’m getting to it officer,” I says. “See, I blows out most of my farts, decides to keep walking towards old town. Stop at Teddy Lumpkin’s Bar, pitch a few brewskees with friends.” I flip, flip, flip my left hand over my right shoulder toward Lumpkin’s.

“I stop here at this abandoned Worthouse Building once used for skinning chickens. Been empty for 20 years. Nothing being skinned tonight. Ha! I remember skinning a couple myself. On Tuesdays, when they allow folks to come in, pick a chicken, ring its neck and pluck the feathers. Reduce the price by a couple of dollars.” I cup my chin, thinkin’. “You probably too young to remember.”

I keep talking, ignoring his heavy sigh. “My wife complains ‘bout my big belly she rubs anyway. Probably ‘cause I still got these baby blues she fell in love with.”

“Anyhoo I turns up my nose, guessing the odor is comin’ from the rusty vents of this crumpling dirty white stucco. Leans sideways like a broken hip. You can still see the charcoal burns from the old fire.” I nod my head backwards. “A real shame how they left it. Dirt-stained, moldy glass windows ‘cross the front. Window pieces falling, cluttering the walkway with sharp shanks.”

I look down, right as a mouse crosses my foot. “Damn vermin.” Shaking my head, I look at Dunno. “They come from the large, jagged hole on the bottom next to the boarded-up door.” I nod my head backwards. “Alley cats, rats, possums constantly crunch, crunchin over these broken shanks. Disappear into that there tall, uncut grass covering the sides and back of the building.” I scrunch my forehead. “I seen newborn possum babies officer. Inside the hole.” I bend over slightly, thrust the tip of my shoulder toward the hole I come out of.

“Ugly vermin babies with raw pink skin in driblets of blood. Night predators gunna eat ‘em alive, if their mamas don’t show soon.”

Officer Dunno tilts his head left. Staring like he don’t believe me.

Don’t matter. I know what’s true. Like the hazy moon hiding half-way behind the withered roof. Blistered ivy traveling up the side of wall, up the chimney side. Topples over roping down the inside for water bugs and long-legged hairy spiders to grab hold of.

“The soot floor is where I find Benjamin after I crawled in. It was like St. Luke were guiding me over to the fireplace not far from the hole. I see the tip of something sticking from the soot. I pull on it. The angels sing. It was him. I dig through nasty soot and find more like the two I find right near the sidewalk. Count up to 5000 with the face of the statesman, inventor, diplomat and American founding father. Benjamin Franklin!

Teddy Lumpkin’s Brewskees  

© Madsen Adventure 3

By A. Shakhete

St. Luke protecting me cuzz Officer Dunno doesn’t believe a word I say about Benjamin. Ha! No skin off my ass. Son-bitch.

Dunno says, “No more trespassing. I’ll have to arrest you.”

I nod. Force my big hand back in my pocket. Protect my wad. Stroll outta there, whistling an old Scandinavian toon my dada used to whistle, when he was happy. Like right after paying mom a visit in the back room.

When I’m outta earshot of Dunno, I phone, “Jody my angel,” I call her. “I’m out walkin’ off that greasy chicken fried steak. Got gas real bad. Still fartin’ up a storm. Don’t wanna stink up the cottage.”

“Well you do that Haraldr,” she says, which means I’m still in the dog house. Any other time I’d be bothered. This time I got reason to be happy. Wanna share some of my found wealth with my guys. Brewskees on the house!

Outside Teddy’s, walkers some of ‘em homeless drunkards find Lumpkin’s hidden seven steps down at the bottom of an almost vacant building on 10th street in old town. Heavy wood door with a Schooner window, keeps out the little noise coming from the street. Once inside, down two measly steps lands me inside what we call the dungeon. The front bar to the right of me smacks me in the gut almost. It’s that close to the steps. The lowlight in here is just ripe for hittin’ brewskees. Won’t startle ya when your eyes droop from drinkin’ too much. Like me and my two buddies Joe and Ronnie do sometime. They’re warming up the stools chugging on bottle. Joe uses a glass.

The three of us know Teddy the owner from the warehouse we all work at. Teddy retired 5 years ago and bought this place. His wife Rita helps he out. She’s hittin’ 50 but is one of the cutest Brunettes I’ve ever seen.

“Hey Harold,” yells Joe the Jew.

“Harold my man,” my Negro friend Ronnie says. Always grinnin’ showing off the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen and he’s black as night, a good-lookin’ ol’ son-bitch. Jody whispered that in my ear once when I introduced her to him. We was at a company gathering where the three of us work—me, Joe and Ronnie. “Bubba,” she said. “Your friend is hella scrumptious. The football player type.” Then she kisses my cheek letting me know I’m her only.

 “Hey Joe, hey Ronnie” I yell back. Making it up to the bar, I slam my hand on the counter between Joe and Ronnie.

Patting Joe on the back, setting my face right in front of his, I say, “Your wife let you out on a Thursday night, brother?”

“She put me out,” Ronnie laughs.

Joe snickers.

Teddy the bar owner standin’ in front of us now. Sets me down a Rainer. Unhooks the cap, drops the top in his empty hand, “Hey Harold. You get put out too?”

Grabbing my Rainer, I move to Ronnie’s left. Plop my wide ass down on the stool. “I gotta excuse. I bet Ronnie here, really ran out. Your wife cookin’ them stank ass pig guts?”

Joe snickers.  

“Naw man. She only makes them for friends like you Harold.”

Scrunching my nose remembering the god-awful taste, I say, “Wrong of you brother to trick a friend into eatin’ guts.”

Joe snickers. Short and stout is what he is. Beer rounds out his gut like the rest of us.

“What the hell happened to you?” Teddy asks me. He tips his forehead at my shirt.

I look down, “Uhhh, I’m wearing some of Jody’s dinner.”

Then I remember, “Oh, hey Teddy, drinks on me. For my friends here. Hell, give ‘em a round in the corner.” I nod my head toward the interracials.

Teddy arches his brows. “You getta raise?”

“No. Just feelin’ mighty good today.”

Ronnie says, “How ‘bout whiskeys instead?”

“Whiskey makes me frisky,” I say this right as Teddy’s Brunette wife Rita, wearing tight jeans, low cut red blouse showin’ her tanned cleavage walks up. Holdin’ an empty drink tray she just emptied at the interracials table nearest the piss-room. A white haired, wrinkled faced white dude, a young black chick. We know what that’s about I’m thinkin’. Ronnie would be offended if he heard my thoughts.

“All black women ain’t hoes,” he yells at me and Joe once. He says this after I mumbled how much for this one Negro girl who had come in here. Tall, gorgeous, big eyed, almond colored skin, lanky thing with long blonde locks. Not hers. Big tits. Big butt. Right behind her come a Negro man. I was thinkin’ he’s one lucky son-bitch. Joe says he wished black women would just be natural. I think like his wife who wears a short afro. Lookin’ manly though. Not ‘cause of her hair. I’ve seen good lookin’ Negro women with short hair. Ronnie’s wife is an exception. Eatin’ too many pig guts I s’pect. Pigs are short and fat. Ronnie’s wife short and fat.

I reach in my pocket for a Benjamin. Pull it out. Slap it down on Rita’s tray. Her mouth drops wide. Ronnie’s back straightens. Joe stops snickering peers around Ronnie. She drops her hand on top Benny, fast-walks around to the back of the counter. Stands next to Teddy. Lifts up her hand. He drops his eyes, pulls his neck back. Eyes roll back up, looking at me with raised eyebrows.

“What you do?” he asks in earshot of us bar-mates.

“Long story,” I says.

The bar door opens. Slams after lettin’ in a burly white cowboy. Stomp, stomp, stomp down the two measly steps he comes. Cowboy hat half covers the top of his bushy brows, Chinese-like eyes. Mustache atop his ain’t smiling lips. Typical cowboy vest, calico shirt and boots on his person. Plops down on the stool at the far-left end of the bar. On my side. Teddy leans close to Rita, “Give ‘em what they want.”

Push my head forward, lower it quietly addin’, “Give us a couple hundred worth of rounds. Keep a hundred for yourself. Give me back the rest for Jody.”

Rita nods. Teddy walks down to the cowboy.

“What got your cool Bud?” says Teddy. He knows him.

“Went to pick up somethin’. Damn cop staking out the place. Told me to scram.”

My ear puckers up.

“Oh yeah,” says Teddy.

“Yeam,” says cowboy Bud. “Kindergarten cop Dunno can’t stand there all night. Just have to wait him out.”

The Oldest Profession: A Worker’s Memoir

By Amanishakhete  

Before my nightmare began at 16, I remember a happy childhood. Mama Lisa and me lived with her parents, grandma Lila and grandpa John, in a small country Alabama town in the late 1960s.

Our best mode of transportation for our town of 600 people is walking. At one time or another we covet the main red dusty dirt road leading through main-street with a drug store grocer, garment shop, church, barber and cafe. The dusty road starts at the main highway and ends at the corner after coming through town. Take a left and see brown skin families like me. Go right and see white folks where they have more brick homes than wooden ones less equipped for the cold, cold, cold winters we have most years.

Families with teens, tweens, babies and tots make it a point to get a long. White, white, white old folks have unspoken rules still believing black folks are beneath them yet grateful for old black nannies keeping their homes clean. When passing them white folks on a walkway downtown, they look at us with scrunched faces, noses pointed to the sky, giving their purses and wallets extra attention. Still it’s a safe place. We mind our own and men on both sides of the block keep a rifle by their bedsides, come together as one when time to ensure law and order.

Mama Lisa grew up here in the same 2-story brick house with her older brother Jessie by one-year who enlisted in the army straight out of high school eight years ago. I was two when he left. Mama Lisa had me early. She was 16, an unwed mother with a bastard child she named Jillian and she was a school dropout.

My father, whom I never met, ran off with a white girl from the rundown trailer camp on the outside of town along the main highway. Grandma Lila told me my daddy was good-for-nothing. That’s all she’d say. But the white girl she said plenty about.

“Girl was nothing but trouble like your daddy,” grandma said. “She was white trash, short and skinny with pale, pale, pale skin, scars and scratches down her arms and legs, stringy dirty brown hair. Walk barefoot through downtown looking for handouts is how she and your good-for-nothing daddy met.”

Grandma told me this after that girl’s parents still living in the trailer camp, come to town a couple of Sundays ago to fetch free food baskets from the little church we attend. I was helping out at one of the food basket tables inside the church’s rec room. They wobbled up to our table, and I couldn’t help but stare at these two obese white folks wearing soiled clothing—the white lady a tattered brown dress drawn above her wide knees, him a stained wife-beater and what looked like plaid pajama pants. Their swollen feet strangled by the thongs they wore.

Mama Lisa works a lot, mostly at night. When I was young, I didn’t know what she did exactly.  All’s I remember was pretending to fall asleep after she put me to bed. Hearing her voice downstairs preparing to leave, I’d sneak out my room, crawl on all fours over to the top of our white staircase. Grab the banister bars smash my face between them. Being a “skinny-bean,” like mama and my grandparents call me, I could make myself almost invisible in the darkness above the stairs. 

Mama Lisa, she always looked so pretty. No matter the weather she always had on the best makeup, clothes and the highest heels, making her taller than she already was at 5’9. Then on with a coat to match the weather. Tonight, it’s a below the knee red wool A-line and matching felt hat atop her beautiful silk black hair. Standing in front of the floor length mirror near the front door, she take one last look and smile. Then out she’d go into the cool night air, not to return until the day comes up. 

Mama Lisa begins dating this man named Vaughn my grandparents did not like. I suspect it’s because he liked pit bulls. The one I remembered out of all of them was Red dog because he was mean just like him. With Vaughn in our lives, I remember my childhood changing.  One day we upped and moved… 

We now live in a whole new city called Las Vegas. I go to a new school during the day while mama continues to get dressed and leave at night. The man Vaughn starts acting differently as I grow older. Then I turn 16. I didn’t have a sweet 16 party or nothing.  Instead, that was the day I finally found out my mother’s profession. A profession she’d teach me. Her next generation, baby. Is he gone, mama?” I asked blowing scared but mad tears through my eyes and snot through my nose. “I didn’t want h – h – him,” I stuttered. “I just wanted him to stop.”

Mama Lisa stood there. Her beautiful brown eyes bugged out blinking back the tears. But then she says, “That’s alright baby girl. Mama will fix it like I always do. You won’t suffer no more.”

Like mama said, she fixed things. He upped and disappeared.  

Starting at 16 and as the years passed, I got really good at it, like my mama. The hustle and bustle, different customers, most big tippers and returnees. Lots and lots of men, when they find out just how nice I was to look at.

What my mama does and now me, I wouldn’t wish on any young lady, especially a teenager like I was. My advice would be to leave here. Vegas ain’t the place for anyone smart, wanting to do something bigger than the casinos. 

Among all the jobs here, I work in the oldest profession I think is one of the worst. You stand on your feet all day and use your hands and mouth quite a bit. Until one day you are old and they want to hire someone else.

That is what my new boss, Saul did. The boss I ended up with right after leaving mama’s house and into my own. 

Saul says, “This is Vegas honey, gotta keep ‘em happy even if it means giving ‘em one of our best meals on the house with a smile. One you don’t got no more.”

So, at age 55, I said goodbye to the oldest profession that kept me clothed and fed. Kept me off the streets and out of trouble. Only had the energy for fleeting romances – too tired to care or to love really. I gave it all to my job.  

If I had to do it again, I would tell Mama doing what she does, just isn’t for me. No disrespect to her or the ladies who still choose this profession. There are some fine women who do it well and love it.

The life of a waitress is not for me. 

They have changed!To Go or Not. That WAS the Question.

Damn Sunday! Already Monday tomorrow and back to the grind. I should call in sick! Huh! Rather than rush to get things done, I didn’t get done yesterday. Then there’s more homework and more writing on the manuscript. Ah sh** Can’t forget it’s my turn to do the cookin’. Oh, and sh** forgot the damn laundry! No clean clothes for the week!

“So, are you going or not?” My daughter asks.

“Don’t know yet. Got homework to do. Dinner to cook,” I answer.

“Well mom, you don’t have to go ya know. We’re use to you sayin’ no anyway.”

“Umpf. Guilting me into it won’t –,” I start to say until…

“Ring-a-ling!” says Android.

“Ah what? My cell rarely rings. Probably some damn scam call.”

Android continues a-ringing. My daughter rolls her eyes, turns-up the right side of her lip. Turns and leaves me to, not-be-so-nice to the fool who dared to call. On mute it goes after this call.

“Hello,” I say annoyingly.

“Well hello yourself,” says the sexy male voice on the other end. “I hear you’re having trouble deciding on whether to go have a little fun?”

“Yeah maybe. Who’s calling?”

“Your favorite man. Irresistible Miguel.”

“Oh, hey Miguel. Yeah. I’m stugglin’. Don’t wanna be up till midnight getting stuff done. Then up at 4 in the morning, starting the week all over again.”

“Ah come on now my beautiful lady. A couple of hours won’t hurt,” says Mr. Irresistible. “It’ll put you in a better frame of mind. Get your writing juices pumped!”

Oooooo. I love it when this man calls me beautiful.

“Hmm. You may be right. A little break won’t hurt.”

“I’m always right beautiful. They don’t call me Ir-RESIST-ible for nothing.”

So off I go, to the skating rink with the family. Yep. Skating. Something I hadn’t done in years.

After paying $9 bucks – ouch – I check out a pair of worn-out 80s looking skates, hand over one-shoe to hold in case I don’t bring ‘em back. Lol!

Out onto the floor I go boldly. Bam! I fall. Bam! I fall again. And Bam. Again! Miguel was oh so wrong. It did hurt to have fun – my butt and hands prove it.

Returning home, a couple of hours later, I frantically finish cooking the dinner, everyone is demanding. The nerve. They forgot already we were all in the same resistance team.

Dinner is over, laundry is finished and its back to homework and manuscript writing.

11:49 p.m. Just in time I’m thinking as I upload my final assignment.

I’m hella tired and wondering hmm. Should I have resisted irresistible Miguel? The upside. The distraction was good and having fun with the family was a treat. Even though I will lose out on four hours of sleep.

But, hey. I also got a flash story out of it. What a deal.

Those damn apps! Can we do without?

“Instructions! What the hell is this! Download a free APP to continue! All I want to know is how to spell a word. It’s bad enough when you call a company, you get a computer recording telling you to press 1, only after it speaks to you in Spanish for 2 minutes – Hola espaniol, como estes? Now, I have to download this APP before I can get an answer to a simple question?

DOWNLOADING COMPLETE. Up comes a photo of a young brown-haired gentleman, a big-smile crossing his face, hair cropped a shake above his ears, with tanned skin enough to have spent the week at some tanning booth.

Hi Jina, I’m Alex. I’d like to introduce myself. I am your new friend. Don’t be fooled by the photo. I am a real person. It’s just that I am very busy and I don’t want to leave you waiting. I have my voice programmed to answer all of your questions and assist you anytime you call me. Because I will follow you wherever you go, I am your new helper to get you to any service you need. What us APPS live for, is to follow our special friend around. And you are my special friend. So, I’m stuck with you and you with me. The best part of this experience, is this new voice recognition experience. It also comes with my friendly face rather than you having to press 1, only after it speaks in Spanish – Hola espaniol, como estes?

“Oh come on, you gotta be kiddin’.

I’m afraid not Jina. I’m your new APP nightmare! Say play me again ALEX if you’d like me to repeat this message – Hola espaniol, como estes?



“Sleepless in…”

“Don’t even!” I say, grabbing my boo’s wrist before he changes the channel remote to Turner Movie Classics repeat of the 1993 movie Sleepless in Seattle.

We just finished dinner Justin made especially for our six-month anniversary. Dropped ourselves in the snug armchair in the living room, shoulder-to-shoulder, legs stretched across the coffee table in front of us.

Justin and me have been dating hot and heavy since meeting at a mutual friend’s Superbowl party in February. Can’t say it was love at first sight. It was more like sexual tension on high-alert. Come to find out we’d both been holding out, sexually, for some time and after splitting from our long-time partners. Justin had been with his ex for about two years; me I was coming up on three with a guy named Derrick. We even discussed marriage and having a boat love of kids—well at least that is what Derrick wanted.

At age 35, I probably should’ve jumped at the chance, so says my best friend Chrissy. I stood up for her last year when she married her military man. The wedding was nice and all, but not a reason to get married. I think Chrissy was in love with the idea of it all and wanted the big wedding they ended up putting on a 48-month payment plan.

“Now hold on ma-lady,” Justin says, smilingly. “I wasn’t plannin’ on watchin’ too much of it anyway. Only enough to let this food settle,” he winks.

“Hmm,” I say, turning my head enough to look at him out of the corner of my right eye. “It’s so played out. I don’t get why you like it.”

“Tom Hanks is my boy,” says Justin. “This was one of his better movies.”

“Hmm,” I say again, turning up the side of my lip.

“I love it when you do that. Curl your lip,” Justin snickers. Leaning over he kisses me right on the tip of the curl. Lettin’ me know tonight will be another one of our sleepless nights.