Ben Firetag
Works in Progression  

Stories  

  1. m - Andrew's Vision
  2. f - Angel of the Morning
  3. h - Ase's Death
  4. j - Ayyume
  5. j - Bashan
  6. m - The Bill Collector
  7. f - Blending In
  8. l - A Blood Red Rose
  9. l - Blowing Against the Wind
  10. h - Bobby
  11. h - The Bottom Line
  12. h - The Breath of Life
  13. f - The Children of Gilgamesh
  14. l - The Crash of '65
  15. h - Cries of the Prophets
  16. m - Dance
  17. l - The Death of Lazarus
  18. l - Don't Cry
  19. l - Dulcinea's Husband
  20. h - Dust in the Wind
  21. s - Early Warning
  22. l - The Evening Breeze
  23. h - Father of Waters
  24. f - The Fifth Horseman
  25. l - Fire and Rain
  26. l - The Forgiven Man
  27. s - Hemline
  28. h - The Highwayman
  29. l - Homeless
  30. h - Horrorscope
  31. j - How the Dachshund Got it's Name
  32. j - How the Hermit Crab Got it's Name
  33. s - Impedance
  34. s - The Inner Roads
  35. j - Joseph's Face
  36. l - Judah's Son
  37. f - Let it all Begin
  38. h - Lifeblood
  39. h - Limbo
  40. s - Little Green Men
  41. l - Lonely People
  42. j - The Midnight Hour
  43. m - Monster Mash
  44. m - Mrs. Hamilton's Grief
  45. m - Mystery
  46. h - Nights in White Satin
  47. s - One Land
  48. m - Ordinary Love
  49. s - Outback
  50. l - Passionate Kisses
  51. h - Picture Perfect
  52. l - The Railman's Woman
  53. l - Rose
  54. s - The Sand
  55. m - Second Story
  56. s - The Shop
  57. m - Snake Eggs
  58. h - Sections of Life
  59. h - The Seeing Man
  60. s - The Shrink Wrapped Man
  61. l - The Sounds of Silence
  62. l - The Story of My Life
  63. j - The T. Rex Family Moves to a New Valley
  64. l - Upon a Summer's Day
  65. m - The Will of Jouquin Miller
  66. l - You Will Never be the Same
Down at the Row

I knew she lived somewhere down here. A quiet place of noise, white and black, that would let her hide in the city, out of the glare of people's stares. This was where my senses led me to find her, the woman who abandoned me before I could understand my need, before I could develop the bond that tied us together, that never was lost even after the umbilical cord quit whipping around my throat when I was thrust into a cold, lonely world.

I walked past all the bums and the winos, down on their luck in the doorways of shops that had gone bust, down the road to the gutters of humanity, where the washed out souls try to stay afloat in their cardboard boats with their goodwill coats for sails and bedding, hiding behind their translucent curtains, not out of shame, but out of disgust for our fake sounds of caring when we don't.

I stopped at the corner of Fairfax and Pico, feeling the need to turn from this place, knowing it felt wrong, knowing somehow, that I was in the wrong place, that she had to have done better, for herself, if not for me. It was an old Spanish stucco apartment building that had seen better days and better nights. Why it was there, still white in all the surrounding dirt, still looking like a clean bird rising out of the ashes, I could not know. Yet I knew, this was where she really was.

I inched along the rail in slow motion, hearing the wail of daily despair behind the remains of thin walls that hid only the idea of privacy, no better than cardboard shields to fend off the voyeurs of other people's misery as a tonic against the same fate. Her strident voice drew me like a magnet, the voice I'd never really known, the sound I could never forget, came from an open doorway, curtains pulled back on the stage where she performed her daily tirade against life.

I saw her, unmistakable in her rage, decrying how bad she had it, and how she'd had it with all the men who failed her, and I knew I too was in that list, though she'd never seen me after the first day of my life. And when she laid eyes on me, when she noticed me standing there, her face changed, she became a loving, caring, using woman who saw a chance to change her life around. And she took me in, and hugged me and kissed me and told me how she had missed me, even though I'd lived in the same house all my life, a house that was only twenty miles across town, a world away from her.

I let her take me to her relatives, not her family, she had none, but she introduced me to sisters and cousins, and people she knew, who played cards with her, with her own made up rules that made sure she would always win the penny ante pot, and the scams she played on the city and the state, that had their own rules that they'd never bend so she was sure she'd always win the monthly pot. It was then that I saw that all she'd seen in me was an increase in what they'd give her, and she wanted to share her new found bounty with all of her friends who shared their children with her so she could collect more money.

I listened to her talk about my sister like she was a piece of paper that she could use to plaster the floor, to shake at my father as a threat, to plead with the system for more money. My sister, who ran from home to home, trying to get away and get back to the mother who wanted nothing to do with her except for the money she could split with foster parents who had no children in their homes.

I reeled from the shock of truth, that fantasy is the better glass to use when looking at what is wrong in our lives, to see, only faintly, the merest outlines of the characters our family tries to be in our false memories. It is in this comfort I sought my rest as I ran from the woman who wanted me to call her mother, the woman who fits better in the role of Lilith than in the role of Eve. This is the woman I saw once, a poor performance in the role of luck.

The Bill Collector

When the Bill Collector came for his third 'interest payment' Marta Popovitch resigned herself to her shame. She so wanted her beloved Samuel to have the beautiful color television. It was a symbol to him of the freedoms in their adoptive country to be able to lie in bed and watch programs without fear. Never had she dreamed the little grocery store she worked at would close and leave her without a way to pay her obligation. When she missed her second payment, the Bill Collector knocked on the door. She tried to explain her inability to pay and her desperation to keep the link to their new world. He said there might be a way to work out a different method of payment, a type of trade, if it meant so much to her. After all, he was not such a hard man to deal with. So began the 'payments'.

Marta hated the arrangement. Life was turning out to be not so different from her homeland.

Samuel chose to walk off his job on this fateful day. He was sick and tired of the insults heaped on him by his boss, by his coworkers, even by the people who made the messes in the bar's bathrooms. In his homeland, he had been an engineer. In this new land, he was a lowly janitor. There had to be something better, even if it was starving in the arms of his precious Marta. He entered the small apartment so deep in angry thoughts that he did not hear the squeaks and heaving groans from his bedroom, which he walked into just as the big man collapsed on top of his weeping wife. Samuel was slight in build. But outrage can give even the smallest man strength to cast fear into the largest. Yelling incoherently, Samuel grabbed for the nearest heavy object to crush the cuckold and rushed toward his prey. The Bill Collector had just begun to put his feet through his pant legs when he realized that the little man was fully capable of killing. He forgot all about pulling the pants up, and as he crashed through the window, he remembered, too late, that he was on the 4th floor of a building with no balconies.

When the police entered the unlocked apartment, they found Samuel and Marta crying in each other's arms on the floor next to a broken portable television. Samuel was captive to the electric cord wrapped around his foot and he had a bruise rising on his forehead that matched the shape of the bedpost in front of him. Marta was convinced that her poor dear Samuel lay mortally wounded by a gunshot when the television tube imploded. Samuel was only thankful that he had saved his wife's life from the fat intruder. The two policemen looked at the repossession order and the owner of the appliance store, who had come with them. They all shook their heads and left Marta and Samuel in peace.
legend: f=fantasy, h=horror, j=juvenile, l=literary, m=mystery, s=science fiction
I have other stories and will be adding to this list as time permits. Clickhere to go back to thetop of the page.


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This site was created and is maintained by Ben Firetag. Site Design Copyright 2004 by Ben Firetag.  All articles, chapters and other content Copyright 1990 - 2004 by Ben Firetag unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.  See the copyright link above for attribution and reprint information. You can contact me at benf@benfiretag.com.