The Sixth Man – Episode 4

th6E3XH28MThe Room

Steve was so lost in thought he walked past Mick’s Bar. He was two blocks away before he realized it. He walked back and found the back of the bar. A stairway led to the basement. He tried the key to the door and it opened.

It was dark. There was a heavy odor of beer and cardboard. He felt along the side of the door and found a light switch. He flicked the light on. Beer cases were stacked neatly along a brick wall. It was an old basement, but clean.

He walked down an aisle of beer cases. At the end of the aisle to his right a stairs led up and to his left was a crudely made door. Above it was a card board sign that read, “Steve’s Office.”

Steve opened the door and walked in. The room was lit by the light from a small street view window. In the room was a cot and a small chest of drawers. The cot was neatly made with olive drab army blankets. Cobwebs were between the open joist of the floor above.

He sat on the bed, leaned forward, and opened the drawers. In the top drawer was a three under shorts, two pairs of white socks, and three tee-shirts. He opened the second drawer. There was a pair of well-worn kaki pants, and a black sweatshirt. He opened the bottom drawer laid a worn and tattered black satchel.

He pulled the satchel from the drawer and sat it on the floor. He opened it. Nothing was on the inside. He unzipped a side pocket. He found a bus ticket – St. Josephs, MO to Des Moines, IA.

St. Josephs,” he muttered. “Steve is not my name. St. is short fore Steve. I made it up. I’m not even Steve.”

There was a knock at the door and it slowly opened. A thin man with red curly hair slowly slipped in.

Steve,” he said concerned. “Where the heck you been. I was about ready to throw your stuff out?”

Are you Mick?” Steve said.

Of course I’m Mick,” Mick said. “What’s going on?”

I have no recollection of being here ever,” Steve said.

Than how did you show up here?” Mick said.

This morning I woke up on a park bench,” Steve said. “I walked toward the sound of a pneumatic wrench.”

Yeah,” Mick said. “TireRamma, you work there on an as needed basis.”

I showed a guy named Hank a key that I found in my pocket and he told me it was probably to the basement door to this place,” Steve said.

You look okay,” Mick said. “You could use some cleaning up and a shave.”

Now tell me what you know about me,” Steve said.

Mick sat next to Steve. “You came in here about three months ago and asked if you could earn few bucks mopping the floor. We got to talkin’. I read people. You seemed okay to me. You said you were a little down on your luck. I told you if you kept the place clean you could have this room for free and you could have leftovers from the kitchen.”

And I told you my name was Steve Joseph?” Steve said.

That’s the name you gave me,” Mick said.

Did I tell you were I was from or anything about myself?” Steve said.

You didn’t talk much,” Mick said. “I’d give you a story or two hoping to swap with you, but you never offered up anything. But you’re a darn good worker. This place hadn’t ever been so clean. I thought about upping prices.”

Steve buried his face in his hands.

Steve,” Mick said. “What can I do for you?”

Is this my things?” Steve said.

Yeah,” Mick said.

Steve began to empty the drawers and stuff the clothing into the satchel.

What are you doing?” Mick said.

I’m fired ain’t I?” Steve said.

No,” Mick said. “I figured you got jailed and I wouldn’t see you again. You’re not fired.”

But the thing is,” Steve said. “I’m certain Steve is not my name either.”

Well that’s a heck of a thing,” Mick said. “That’s even more of a reason to stick around. What are you going to do wander around Des Moines and ask people if they know you. You should stay here.”

Maybe you’re right,” Steve said.

I was about to give you an old TV for down here,” Mick said. “Kind of make it more like home.”

I feel as if you’ve been very good to me,” Steve said.

So let’s get your things back in the drawer and try to figure some things out,” Mick said.

It’s just like staring at a blank wall,” Steve said. “But the problem is that there is nothing on the other side. I don’t know who I am now and I know I’m not Steve Joseph.”

Stay on here for a while and we’ll try to get you some help,” Mick said.

What if I’m wanted for a crime?” Steve said. “Sending me back to jail would be unbearable. The prison I’m in now is bad enough.”

Let’s keep this between me and you for now,” Mick said. “Maybe things will start to click for you before long.”

Mick stood. “Does that sound good to you?”

Yeah,” Steve said. “It’s not like I got someplace to go.”

Mick opened the door and turned to Steve. “I’ll check in on you later.”

Mick,” Steve said. “When do I mop your place?”

You usually get up, start at five in the morning, restock the coolers and then clean and mop.” Mick said. “Come up in a little while and I’ll show you where everything is again.”

Steve nodded and Mick left the room.


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The Sixth Man – Episode 3


He walked in an open bay door. It seemed natural rather than using the door to the showroom.

A man was removing a tire from a car. The man turned around and looked at him. “Steve, the boss has been looking for you.”

Thanks,” he said and played along, though not having a real clue as to where he was. “Where’s the boss?”

The man motioned with his head to a door that read Office.

He walked to the door, opened it, and entered.

A burly man with “Hank” etched on his blue work shirt looked up from behind the desk. “Steve, where the heck have you been for the last week?”

Can I sit down?”

Sure,” Hank said. “Make yourself at home.”

He sat in the chair in front of Hank’s desk.

You look troubled,” Hank said. “Ya look like you’ve been on a bender. I didn‘t think you were the drinking type. Did you fall off the wagon?”

I don’t think I’m a drinker either,” he said. “But think it’s worse than that.”

Hank leaned forward. “Ya wanna tell me what’s going on.”

I don’t know who I am,” he said.

What!” Hank said.

I walked by this place and heard someone removing a tire. It sounded familiar, so I came in.”

You’re kidding me,” Hank said.

No, I wish I were.”

You look like you’ve been through it,” Hank said.

Where do I live?” he said and pulled the key from his pocket to show Hank. “It looks like a house key.”

You don’t know where you live.” Hank appeared incredulous.

He waited for Hank to offer a clue or sympathy, but none was offered. “Honestly, Hank, I have no idea what is going on. At least tell me my name.”

Steve Joseph,” Hank said and shook is head as if not believing Steve.

I must have really made things tough for you, Hank,” Steve said, “and I’m sorry, but I just don’t have any idea what’s going on.”

You drunks and druggies are all alike,” Hank said. “Ya work until you get money for your habit and disappear.” Hank ignored Steve and read through some paperwork on his desk.

Steve paused, he stood, turned, and left.

He was nearly outside a bay door. “Hey!” Steve turned. It was Hank standing at the office door. “Didn’t you come to get this?” Steve held a brown envelope above his head.

I don’t know what it is,” Steve said.

Steve stood at the bay door as Hank walked toward him.

Hank handed him the envelope. “It’s your pay,” Hank said.

You keep it,” Steve said. “It will make up for any problems I caused.” Steve turned away.

Wait,” Hank said.

Steve turned to him.

You really don’t know what’s going on do you?” Hank said moving closer to Steve and squinting.

No clue,” Steve said.

Hank held the envelope out to Steve. “You earned it, take it.”

I don’t remember doing a thing for it,” Steve said.

Well I do,” Hank said. “What can I do to help you?”

Tell me where I live,” Steve said.

The basement of Mick’s Bar,” Hank said. “I think this is the key to the basement door. It‘s five blocks east.”

Why do I live in the basement of a bar?” Steve said.

You told be you mop up the place and stock the coolers for room and board,” Hank said.

Steve tucked the envelope in his coat pocket.

Hank shook his hand.

By the way what did I do here to earn the money?” Steve said.

One day you came in off the streets and asked if you could change tires for us,” Hank said. “I told you I couldn’t hire you, but I said if whenever you come by and you see cars lined up just come in and I’ll put you to work. We’ve been running specials for a month and been swamped. You changed tires like you were working on a pit crew. Ya did good work.”

Steve tried to smile. “Thanks for the job, Hank.” He turned and walked toward the street.

If you ever need a job…” Hank said, but Steve did not turn around. He walked east. As he walked he clutched the key tight in his hand.

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The Sixth Man – Episode 2

thBUV6CNZOThe Sound

He walked onward only looking at the sidewalk below his feet and only looking up to see if he had the light to cross the street. He was completely bewildered and no place to go and no name by which to introduce himself. “Hello,” he said, “My name is…” And his mind – a wasteland.

His walk became strange and instinctive, as if his feet knew where they were heading, but his brain did not. It was like finishing a sentence with an obvious word and not knowing what led to that word. He pondered that deep in his mind plying for answers, visions, places, people, and clues to who he is and to where he belongs. It was like pressing and squeezing the nectar from fruit. To taste the sweet nectar of remembrance seemed to be hidden just beyond his grasp.

He approached a corner and turned left and headed down another street. He studied each business and strolled by and nothing appeared familiar. No one seemed to notice him and give him a greeting of familiarity.

How long must I follow this street? Where does it lead?” he thought.

At the next corner he stopped. He didn’t know whether he should turn left, right, or continue the course. His feet and brain were both lost now. Neither knew what to do. He pressed his fingers against his forehead in some vain effort to squeeze an intellectual spark, but it seemed as if he only shoved it further into the dark recesses of his mind.

Think of something else,” he said. “I need a name.”

He turned to his right, crossed the street and continued walking, now, in a different direction.

He was lost in his thoughts; trying to come up with a name.

Bill is a good name,” he said, “but it’s common. I don’t know if it’s common because I don’t know any Bills. In fact, I don’t know anyone. I think John would be good, but no for the same reasons.”

He crossed the street. He read the street sign. “Walnut Street,” he muttered. “Maybe Walt would be a good name?” He smiled. “Or maybe, Nut. That would be a good name and descriptive.”

He walked further. “Joe’s Bar,” he read from sign that hung over the sidewalk from a tavern. “That would be a good name. Perhaps I should go inside and ask Joe if I could barrow his name until I find mine. Barr, with two Rs, that’s familiar. Maybe my name is Joe Barr. That’s it! I’m using that name. Joe can take me to court over that one. He’ll have no case, I’m using two Rs.”

He walked and pondered. “It seems like insanity runs in the Barr family. I’m changing names.”

He walked onward as if drawn by some strange force which he was more than willing to surrender for there was nothing else to cling.

There was a sound, a distant sound – a familiar sound. It became louder with each step. It was rhythmic and good. He moved hypnotically toward the sound not knowing why it tugged him.

It was the sound of a pneumatic wrench removing lug nuts. He walked hypnotically toward it not bothering to stop for cars. They stopped and honked at him. He walked toward a garage with four bays, “Big Al’s TireRama.”


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The Sixth Man – Episode 1

thS2BNC4Q6Thirty-Seven Years


It was such a strange thing; he woke up on a bench in a park in Des Moines, Iowa. It was a warm day and he shielded the sun from his eyes with his hand.

Where am I?” he thought. “Who am I?” he said quietly.

He sniffed, a terrible odor. “That’s me,” he said.

He stood and stretched. He walked about 25 yards to the entrance of the park. There was a street, not many cars – strange looking cars.

What is going on?” he said. “Is this another country?”

He followed the street for a mile walking into the downtown business district. He read the street signs. They were unfamiliar. In fact everything looked strange. He was unable to identify the makes of any car. They looked strange and very modern.

He walked further careful not to panic, but inside feeling quite anxious.

A man in a suit stood at the entrance of a building. He checked his watch as if waiting for someone to arrive and they were late.

He approached the man. “Do you mind if I look at the newspaper for just a second?”

The man looked at him condescendingly and handed over the newspaper. The man said. “I’ve read all I want to read. Take it, it’s yours.”

Thanks,” he said and walked around the corner away from the view of the man. He looked at the date. “That’s 37 years from now – I think. I thought this was 1972, but that‘s all I know.” He looked intently at every think around him. “Thank god, it looks like the hippies didn’t take over.”

What is going on,” he muttered. “Where was I yesterday and who am I now?” He swallowed hard and closed his eyes hoping to open them and return to normal.

He hurried back to the park. There was a woman changing trash bags in the refuse cans.

Ma’am,” he said, “are you here everyday?”

Yes,” she said, “it’s my job.”

Have you seen me before?” he said.

I’ve seen you around,” she said.

Do you know who I am?” he said.

No,” she said, “don’t you?”

Thanks, Ma’am,” he said and walked away as if about to stumble.

If ya wanna know who you are ask the cops,” she hollered.

He hurried out of the park fearing the police.

I must be a criminal,” he thought.

Where do I live?” he said.

He walked aimlessly for two hours hoping to see something familiar. Nothing looked familiar. He stopped at a parked car and looked into a side view mirror. “Is that me?” he said. “I don’t even look like anybody I know. In fact, I can’t think of one person I know. My god, what is going on?”

I’m hungry,” he thought. “That should trigger something. I should instinctively go to where I can find my food.” Nothing came to mind.

He reached in his pocket. It was the first time he recognized what he was wearing. He wore an old and soiled army field jacket, a tee-shirt, and ragged jeans. The shoes on his feet were cheap and well-worn running shoes. He pulled a crumbled five dollar bill from the pocket of the jacket.

He walked back two blocks to a diner he had passed a few minutes earlier. He bought a coffee and a hamburger. He ate it amid stares from people seemingly disturbed by his unkempt appearance.

Walking the streets again he fished through his pockets and found a key in his pants pocket. It was a door key. “I must live someplace,” he thought, “but where?”


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Writing Again

th2ZGOP1URI’ve been writing for over a month just not posting. I’ve been posting for a sports blog, but not my own.

Writing is cathartic; like gardening, painting, photography, music or sculpting which leads me to thinking God gave us the ability to do those things to overcome times of grief, melancholy, times for reflection, or amusement. Those things are gifts; not so much the ability to do them well, just the natural desire to do them. In many respects a noble endeavor.

A short story has been started and grown to novella proportions (a little over 20,000 words at present). I know the ending, which will likely change. I know how to get there, but not sure how long to take.

It will start appearing in a day or so. It’s called The Sixth Man – it has nothing to do with basketball.

I don’t want to post anything that is not complete, but I want to start posting something. As an example I’ve introduced parts to a plot that should have been referenced earlier. As I post, those things will be rewritten and added, but I’m concerned about later episodes. Anyway, that’s my problem.

Let me tell you a little about The Sixth Man; he does not know who he is and sets out on a journey to find out.

Hope ya’ll enjoy.

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To My Readers

Yesterday was the first day I hadn’t posted in nearly three years. I’m a little tired, sad, and overwhelmed.

The middle of July my 100 year old mother died. It was expected. She lived independently until about two months before her death. Her last two months she was unable to communicate the way she was accustomed. She was aware her end was near. She lived a grand life almost to the end. (If you wish to read about what I’ve written about her click onto “Mom” under Categories in the right sidebar.)

I had nearly two months worth of short stories and episodes ahead and able to rely on that reservoir of material.

I had committed to a work of fiction each day of 2014. I won’t be able to accomplish it.

The end of August we found out our 21 year old granddaughter has cancer. It hit my wife and I like a bolt of lightening. We still have not recovered from the shock. We not only carry the emotional burden for each other but that of our granddaughter and her mother, our daughter. There is something terrible about seeing your daughter suffer through this and not be able to help or make it go away. I recall being the master of rubbing a booboo and wiping away a tear to make it all go away. Now my wife and I feel helpless, but know that just being near is what is needed.

The end of September she had most of the tumor removed. Part of the tumor remains in her skull and will be removed during another surgery in several weeks. Beyond the surgery will be chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

It seems like this has affected my ability to concentrate for any period of time on creative endeavors. I started a couple of short stories. When writing fiction there is an emotional expenditure; I have the thoughts, the plot, the characters, the story, and so on, but little will to do what it takes to assemble it.

I just have to take a little more time before writing again. This site has a couple hundred short stories. Click “Short Stories” in the category section of the right sidebar and that will give you access to them.


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Old Black Maggie – Episode 40: The Final Episode


“This is a fourteen year old boy named Wendell,” Old Black Maggie said. “Does he look familiar to you?”

Gary hesitated and breathed deep through his nose. “He looks enough like me to be my twin.”

Old Black Maggie smiled. “You are a handsome lad.”

“Who is he?” Gary said.

“Wendell was,” Old Black Maggie sipped her cocoa, “he is my son, but he is no more; he’s dead.”

“I’m sorry,” Gary said.

“Wendell was my cousin,” Merlin said. “We were closer than brothers.”

“Thirty years ago a young rich boy took an unusual interest in Wendell,” Old Black Maggie said. “This interest was hidden from me.”

“And it was hidden from me,” Merlin added.

“The rich young man had just lost his parents in a mysterious fire,” Old Black Maggie said. “Everything was left to him. He could now live out his fantasies and perversions without fear of his parents finding out. He was now on his own able to live a life free of work and responsibility for any of his actions.”

“It was always thought this rich young man was responsible for his parents death, but it could not be proved,” Merlin said.

“This rich young man is Beez?” Gary said.

“Yes,” Old Black Maggie said.

“What happened to your son?” Gary said.

A tear rolled down her cheek. Wendell reached over and clasp Old Black Maggie’s arm.

“He was found dead,” Old Black Maggie said.

“It could never be proved,” Merlin said, “but as sure as we are sitting here it was at the hands of Beez. He was found sexually assaulted, strangled to death, and laying in an alley doorway to a downtown bar thirty years ago.”

“I was next, wasn’t I?” Gary said.

“Yeah,” Merlin said. “I was looking all night for you.”

“Did you take a leak in an alley tonight?” Beez said.

“That was me,” Merlin said.

“I was under the car next to yours,” Gary said. “What would you have done if you found me?”

“Taken you home quietly,” Merlin said.

“How did you know about me and Beez and how did you know about tonight?” Gary said.

“Beez hangs out at the drugstore,” Old Black Maggie said. “That’s where he finds his boys now. The girl behind the counter is my great niece, Rhonda, Merlin’s youngest girl.”

“We got her job there six months ago,” Merlin said.

“What about Pot?” Gary said.

“He got drunk and fell in the river,” Merlin said. “An accident and only a coincidence related to your situation.”

“But you spit in the water at him,” Gary said to Old Black Maggie.

“Ole Pot ‘as been around for years,” Old Black Maggie said. “He tried to get fresh me a few times. He just wanted a dry place to sleep and warm food in his belly. I spit his way to let him know what I think of him.”

“I thought it was a curse,” Gary said.

“So you was running and hiding from me all along because you thought I was a witch,” Old Black Maggie said. “Imagine that,” she chuckled.

“What about tonight?” Gary said.

“I’ll drive you a couple of blocks from your place and you get back in your house the same way you got out,” Merlin said. “And that will be the end of it. Can you keep this between the three of us?”

“Yeah,” Gary said. “If my mom and dad found out what I was up to I’d never see the light of day until my 18th birthday.”

“I would be kicked from the force,” Merlin said.

“And I’d stand trial,” Old Black Maggie said.

“There’s one other thing,” Gary said. “And I don’t know if any of you can help.” Gary told them about the episode with The Gravediggers.

Merlin chuckled about the episode. “Leave them up to me,” he said. “They are not so tough. I ran two of them in for stealing cigarettes two months ago. They cried like babies all the way home. I’ll tell them you’re my nephew.”

“That would make Old Black Maggie my great aunt,” Gary said.

“Yes,” Old Black Maggie said, “that would.”

“I think I’ll call you Aunt Maggie from now on,” Gary said.

“That would be sweet,” Old Black Maggie said.

Gary picked up the photo of Old Black Maggie’s son. “You know something, If your son lived and had a boy he’d probably look like me so do you mind if I call you Grandma Maggie.”

“That would be even sweeter.”



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