An untitled project. Yes, another one.

The doorbell rang, interrupting the otherwise perfect afternoon.

Eric Albin hastily finished spreading mayonnaise on the bread, so as not to lay an overly-soiled knife on his pristine kitchen counter. The chime of the doorbell had barely finished its echo when he reached the door and swung it open.

There on his porch stood a man who just seemed… off. He smiled a sheepish smile within his five o’clock shadow and extended a beefy hand with no explanation. Eric tentatively took it and gave it a strong shake, despite the strange presentation. “C-can I help you?”

“Hi, sir,” the man said. He gave the slightest pause as if confirming the man he now saw was the one he meant to see. “My name is Tom Bellars.” He gave another pause to see if the revelation of his name made any impression on Eric. It did not.

Eric stepped backward slightly, sure the man was about to try to sell him on some pyramid scheme or overembellished expensive cleaning kit. “What can I do for you, Tom?”

Tom’s eyes grew wide with anticipation before he revealed his objective. “I… am… your son.” He let out a nervous twitter and awaited his father’s response.

Nothing could have prepared Eric for an earth-shattering statement like that. The man standing on his porch was obviously nervous, and he still seemed a little enigmatic in his jitters and overall presentation, but nothing about him seemed insane or malicious. Still, Eric knew that such a statement was false. Impossible, even. He cleared his throat. “N-no… I-I don’t think you are.”

Tom’s smile dampened, but didn’t disappear entirely. “I’m pretty sure I am,” he said with confidence. He leaned slightly to one side, awaiting an admission of fatherhood from Eric. It never came. The two stood there staring at each other for a few moments before Tom decided to break the silence again. “Your name is Eric, right? Eric Albin?”

“It, um… Yes. It is.”

“You’ve lived here for fifteen years? You work at Tandy Machining?”

Eric raised an eyebrow. He wasn’t sure how much information he should be confirming with this stranger, but he was sure it was all available publicly in some form or another. “Y-yes, that’s true.”

Tom returned to his wider smile. “Well, I truly believe I am your son. I’ve been searching for years. I’ve spent so much time at different libraries around the country, and poured through genealogical records online… It’s all led me here.”

Eric blinked. “W-well, I’m sorry to disappoint you. T-truly, I-I am. But I’m just not your father.” He felt bad, especially as he watched a pang of sadness flush over this strange man’s face. He almost wished he was the man’s father.

Tom looked down at the “Home Sweet Home” welcome mat. When he came to this door just four minutes ago, the mat seemed welcoming. Now it mocked him. “How are you so certain you’re not my father?” he asked.

Eric again cleared his throat. “I suppose I could ask you how you’re so certain I am.”

“I told you. A lot of research has gone into this.”

“B-but I don’t understand how that research could have possibly led you to me.”

Tom was hoping that they could go inside to discuss this further. The arthritis in his hip was acting up again. But he didn’t want to impose on Eric, especially since it seemed he was unwanted by his father a second time over. “There’s a lot of moving parts. But I was left on the doorstep of an orphanage at four weeks old with a birth certificate and a letter. Those were the only clues as to who I was. The orphanage made an attempt to figure out who left me there and where I came from, but their resources and time were limited. So, once I got old enough to understand my situation, I decided to figure out who I really am. I devoted hours every day for weeks… Months… Years. And all my research has led me here.”

Eric was touched. Sympathetic, even. This strange man was certainly earnest and seemed genuinely convinced he had finally received the answers to his life’s search. He looked Tom up and down. He was nearly as tall as Eric, though Eric was above average in height. The two men both had short brown hair, Eric’s neatly combed back and Tom’s frazzled in most directions. But this was where the similarities ended in Eric’s mind.

“How old are you, Tom?”

“I’m thirty.”

Eric let out a small gasp. “Y-you can’t possibly be thirty, Tom.” The man looked like he was in his mid-twenties. He had young, wrinkle-less skin, and bright youthful eyes that belied his tragic past.

“Well, I am.”

“O-okay, well that should prove it right there. I’m thirty-seven. I can’t be your father if there’s only seven years separating us.”

Tom swallowed hard. “Well…” He paused. “I wish you had asked some other question.”


“I don’t actually know how old I am.”

Eric was puzzled. “Why did you so confidently tell me you were thirty then?”

“That’s the number I usually go with. That’s the number on my driver’s license. But I’m, like, ninety-five percent sure it’s inaccurate.”

Tom’s credibility took a hit with that response, but Eric decided to entertain him further. “Didn’t you say you had a birth certificate? Why not use that?”

“It was doctored,” said Tom. “Most of it was blank, but my birthdate was listed as August 12, 1882, which of course makes no sense.” He took off his backpack, which Eric hadn’t noticed him wearing, and knelt on the concrete as he rummaged through it. He pulled out a laminated document and offered it to Eric.

‘BIRTH – NAISSANCE.’ Eric read at the top of the paper. ‘NEW BRUNSWICK – NOUVEAU-BRUNSWICK.’ “You’re Canadian?” he asked.

“I believe I’m American, actually. But I was left at an orphanage in New Brunswick and that is where I lived a good portion of my life, yes.”

Eric scanned the rest of the document. His mother and father’s name and place of birth were indeed blank, and the date of his birth was listed as 12 AUG 1882. Ironically, the date of issuance was listed at the bottom as 05 MAR 2012. “Was this the same copy that you had with you as a baby?”

“No. I got a new copy to see what was officially on file. This—” he handed another birth certificate to Eric, “was the one I had at birth. And you can see that the information is the same.”

Eric quickly corroborated the two documents. The older certificate had a different format and the paper was yellowed and worn, but the information certainly matched. He handed the papers back to Tom. “Y-you know, I’ve never been to Canada.”

“That doesn’t mean you’re not my father.”

Eric was taken aback. “I suppose you’re technically c-correct, b-but I’m n-not.”

“Okay. How are you so certain?” Tom challenged.

Eric swallowed. He was uncomfortable sharing personal information with a complete stranger, but it was harder to justify that qualm when he had just seen the man’s birth certificate, doctored though it may be. “Tom, I, um… I just am.”

“Can’t you give me a reason why?”

Eric nearly closed the door then and there. He was venturing into territory he didn’t even enjoy confronting by himself. “T-Tom… Um…”

Tom waited, seemingly unfazed by Eric’s obvious discomfort.

Eric knew that his problem was not as big a deal as he made it out to be in his mind. And he was certain that this would be the last time he’d ever see Tom. He cleared his throat, and said quietly, “I’m sterile, Tom.”

Tom blinked. “You… You have no children?”

“I can’t have children.” That was all the detail he wanted to offer.

Tom was unsure of what to say. “Are you sure of this?”

“I wish I could’ve been your father. But I’m just not.”

Tom zipped his backpack up and threw it over a shoulder again. “This morning I thought I was going to meet my dad. And now I feel so lost again.”

The door opened slightly more, pulled by a young girl in pajamas. “Daddy, I thought you were making me a sandwich.”

Tom looked down at the girl, and back at Eric.

Eric’s face grew wide with embarrassment. “How many times have I told you to stop calling me that?”

“Excuse me?” Tom shouted. “What kind of man are you? You give up a son to the system in Canada, denying any sort of responsibility for him. Then when he shows up at your doorstep years later, you deny him again, and then lie to his face about not being able to have kids? And then when your own daughter exposes you, you deny her too? You know what? I’m glad—”

The little girl began to cry, unsure of what she walked into. Eric quickly scooped her up in his arms before turning back to Tom. “Th-this is not my child, Tom! Y-you can’t just assume that because a little girl called me daddy that she’s telling the truth!” He paused, realizing how crazy he sounded, but he was flustered. He started bouncing up and down to calm the girl.

“So the girl is lying? Why is she even here if she’s not your child?”

“She’s my neighbor’s kid. This is Melody.” He looked at the girl. “Melody, this is Tom.”

The girl looked at Tom, but didn’t say anything.

“Melody,” Eric continued. “You know I’m not your daddy. Your daddy is—” He wasn’t sure how to end the sentence. Instead he just lowered her back to the floor. “Go play, okay? I’ll give you that sandwich in just a moment.”

She ran off to the living room, feet pounding hard on the linoleum for such a small creature.

“Melody’s father left his family about two years ago. One of those ‘going-out-for-cigarettes’ scenarios. She’s five years old. She has memories of her father, but doesn’t understand that he isn’t coming back. So she calls a bunch of men in her life Daddy. I think it’s a way to cope.”

“I see,” said Tom.

“But her mom is trying to get her to stop calling everyone daddy and I’m trying to respect her wishes. I watch Melody often when her mom has to run out for this or that, so she sees me a lot. I wish I could—” he caught himself from saying the words out loud, before ultimately deciding he could trust this strange man who called him the same thing. “I wish I could be her daddy. B-but I can’t. And I’m not yours. I g-guess I’m just not supposed to have kids.” He could fell a lump in his throat.

Tom sighed in sympathy. He felt tears start to form. Tears for a man he wished was his father. Tears for himself who was suddenly fatherless again. And tears for Melody. He knew the pain she was going through.

To be continued…

Velma’s Diced Life: A Memoir

“No one is going to read that.”

The smile faded from Velma’s face. She was so proud of her work that the thought of anyone being negative about it hadn’t even occurred to her. This wasn’t fiction—this was her life! This was a tell-all memoir about her fame.

Gloria realized she struck a nerve. “I’m sorry for being so blunt, Velma. But I really don’t know who would even be interested in something like that.”

“I was famous!” Velma defended. “People enjoy learning about celebrities!”

“You weren’t famous!” Gloria realized she suddenly backpedaled from her apology, but her friend was deluded. “You were in an infomercial for two seconds! And probably not even a full two seconds!”

Velma jumped to her feet. “My testimonial was instrumental in the viral success of the Dice-Woah! Do you honestly believe that sales would be as astronomical without my riveting and talented first-hand review? I mean, honestly, Gloria! Tell me right now you think I’m a sham!”

“I never said you were a sham.”

“Tell me what you really think!”

Gloria started to speak, but decided against it. She did not mean to betray the trust of her closest friend, but using words like “astronomical” and “talented” were a little conceited and overblown. She wanted to be supportive, but she also wanted her friend to be realistic. But Velma wasn’t satisfied with her friend’s sudden withdrawal.

“Tell me your opinion, Gloria! Why are you jealous of me if my testimonial was indeed not pivotal?”

“Oh, I am far from jealous of you.” Now it was Velma who struck a nerve. “You think your testimonial was the driving factor for the success of the Dice-Woah? Far from it, sister. I could have said the same thing you did, and the result would have been the same.”

Velma gasped. “I knew you were jealous!”

Gloria rolled her eyes. “I’m not jealous. I’ll take it a step further. They could have removed the testimonials from the entire commercial and there would be no difference in sales today.”

Velma was stunned. Her friend was fast becoming an enemy. She knew a life of fame and fortune would change her relationships with those around her, but Gloria? This was the ultimate betrayal. “I never thought I’d lose my closest friend over my fame, but I guess you never really see this sort of thing coming anyway.”

“I’m not rejecting you or your friendship, Velma. I’m rejecting this lunacy you call a tell-all memoir. The Dice-Woah hasn’t even been relevant in twenty years! And do you really want to associate yourself with a product that was heavily recalled after that lead paint fiasco?”

Velma wasn’t listening. She began digging through her entertainment center to find the VHS marked “My Portfolio.” This was meant to be a portfolio of her work she would send to talent agencies, though she never sent it to anyone. She did play it several times over the past twenty years to friends and family, however, who quickly grew tired of her pomposity, especially because the portfolio contained only one entry: the entirety of the original Dice-Woah infomercial.

Velma located the VHS and hastily jammed it into her player. She whirled around to her former friend who was staring in stunned silence. “Watch this performance and tell me with a straight face that I am not crucial to the advertisement.”

Gloria didn’t know what to say. She had seen the infomercial dozens of times. Seeing it again was unnecessary.

The television blinked blue before giving way to thick lines of static. The words “DICE-WOAH BY TELESELL. COPYRIGHT 2007” flashed quickly into view. Then the ad began.

A frenetic messy-haired man in his early thirties walked into a makeshift kitchen. His every movement was jittery, as if he hadn’t had coffee for a week after drinking it exclusively for the past thirty years. His voice was a stark contrast—confident and clear. “Hey, guys! It’s Jerry Jelbow here for the Dice-Woah. You use this thing and you don’t say ‘Woah!’ then you’re probably just an idiot.” This was a very controversial line to use, but Telesell demanded the ad air with Jerry’s unique pitching flair. This was probably the real reason the ad achieved brief viral success, though the same couldn’t be said for the product itself.

Jerry continued. “Look, dicing food is tough. You ask the pros? They still struggle with it. Forget about trying to impress your friends by shaking a knife at breakneck speed through a ripe tomato. You’re going to lose a finger and you’re going to lose respect.” He threw the knife behind him and it embedded in the wall. In a later interview, this was revealed to be an impromptu move by Jerry. Telesell’s legal team were very unhappy with it, but they aired the knife throw anyway.

“Bust out your Dice-Woah, fellas. Look—the tomato goes into the chamber. Pop the lid on. Pull this lever, you got your slice. Pull this lever, you got your dice. A one-two punch, and the tomato never saw it coming. Look, here’s the best part. Pull right here to get the false bottom, and you’ve got fresh-diced tomato in a container, never looked better. No mess, no stress, go about your day.”

Gloria started mouthing the words as they came out of the TV. She’d seen this ad way too many times.

“I know what you’re thinking. Jerry, those are some big ol’ chonkers! I want a real fine dice. Don’t be naïve, guys. Surely you’re not that dumb. Look what I’ve got in store for you. Squeeze right here to get those blades close together. Now, let me get an onion. Pop it in, and look how easy. Here’s the slice. There’s the dice. Pull out the bottom, and WOAH! You can’t get finer than that by conventional methods, my friends. I dare you to even try!”

Velma shot a look at her friend. Her testimonial was coming up and she wanted to make sure Gloria gave it her full undivided attention.

“Ever see something like this in stores? You’re going to pay an arm and a leg for it, and it doesn’t even work as well. But we’re so flipping crazy, we’re throwing the Dice-Woah your way for only twenty-nine ninety-five. You’re not going to find it cheaper, better, or dicier out there, my friends, I’m telling you right now.”

Without warning, the ad cut to the testimonial section. Members of the general population who were patient or crazy enough to stand through a live presentation at some fair or convention were given time with the product and a chance to get their face in the commercial. Other products might have tried to get the craziest performances from these people as a sort of marketing ploy, but this is where the Dice-Woah differed. Dice-Woah’s testimonials were infamously dry.

An elderly mustachioed man appeared on the screen. “I’ve never seen anything like this. It’ll definitely be the next thing I talk about at my book club.” His voice dealt a very monotone, unexcited delivery.

After a screen wipe, a young mother with three children appeared on the screen. “As a single mother,” she explained, “I’ve desperately needed something that can make my time in the kitchen just a couple seconds shorter. And this will definitely do that.” This testimonial was fun to re-watch, only because the youngest child could be seen picking her nose, but the clip still made it to air through several editorial reviews.

After a final screen wipe, Velma’s face filled the screen. Both Velmas—the one on the television and the one in the living room—beamed with pride. “All I can say is… Dice-WOAH!”

And that was it. The screen went back to Jerry Jelbow, who carried the sales pitch home with his general frenetic aplomb. Velma shot her friend a look, talking over Jerry. “I mentioned the product by name! Those other two jokers couldn’t even be bothered to do that!”

Gloria stared at Velma. This sounded like some sort of joke, but she could tell her friend was dead serious. “Velma—”

“Don’t ‘Velma’ me. That sounded very much like you were about to talk down to me.”

“I was about to talk down to you! You barely have a part in the commercial! You can’t possibly think that because you said the words ‘Dice-Woah,’ you had any more impact on sales numbers! Furthermore, that line was it! You can’t write a tell-all memoir about nothing! No one is interested, you self-absorbed, entitled, pompous ass!”

Velma stared at her friend. This was a betrayal of the highest order, and she never would have guessed Gloria would be the one to deliver it.

The weight of her own words hit Gloria hard. Sure, Velma may have had delusions of grandeur. She may have wished so hard for a better life that she already believed she had one. But whatever was going on in her head, she didn’t deserve that outburst. “Velma, I’m—”

Velma quickly held up her hand. “I get it. You don’t need to say anything else.”

“But I—”

“No. That’s okay.” She left a moment of guilt-increasing silence hang in the air before continuing. “Elmer isn’t coming back this weekend like I thought. Something was spelled out in his contract that basically means another six months over there.”

Gloria felt the loneliness of her friend. “Oh, Velma, I’m so sorry.”

Velma shook her head. “These things happen. But either way, it’s getting to be that time for me to go to work.”

Gloria nodded slowly. Whatever damage she had done would not be resolved today. “Okay. Well, maybe I’ll come by tomorrow with some steaks. Tony did so well on that client that he got a huge bonus. Figured we’d splurge on something.” She realized immediately after saying this the insensitivity of her timing, but the words were already out there.

“Yeah. Maybe.”


Velma drove to the Littner Plastics Consolidated factory at the north end of town, where she’d worked ever since Elmer was deployed. She always told people she’d forgotten how long it had been since she’d seen her husband, but she knew. And she also knew the army was lying to her with these constant redeployments. No one stays in the military into their sixties.

Velma stood at her post next to the etcher, reflecting on the conversation with her friend. Was she really so self-interested? She’d spent over a year writing her tell-all memoir. Was that entire time wasted?

A horrifying screech interrupted her thoughts. She whirled around. The machine responsible for this noise was also responsible for taking plastic and chopping it into smaller pieces to begin recycling it into newer products. Her years of experience told her the problem immediately; it was jammed. No one was standing by the control panel for the machine, which meant she was the closest person who could stop it. She ran across the concrete aisleway to the controls and slapped the oversized red button. The machine stopped its screeching and ground to a halt. Anyone on that side of the aisle would have to stop their work until the jam could be cleared.

Curious, Velma peered through the chain-link fence where the jam-inducing plastics were contained. It looked like a massive number of the same thing. This happened sometimes when companies discontinued a product line. They’d ship them off to Littner to recycle their old unwanted or unsold merchandise and get a nice discount on newly-made plastics.

“Get away from the fence, please!” the safety officer shouted to her, as he ran down the nearby stairs to inspect the issue.

She began to comply, but looked back at the fence one more time. There was something so familiar about the plastics. As she continued to stare, she was finally able to make out the words she had personally etched on that same product about twenty years ago.


Yankee Swap

I became the general manager of a low-volume, casual dining restaurant two days before Christmas last year. The restaurant was burdened with several issues that worked against it ever having success, but I threw everything I had at it to try to reverse the public perception of the place. If only I knew it was doomed from the start.

One, it was difficult to enter the lot. You had to circle the perimeter of the building and drive to the far end of a strip mall, then double back and navigate a large pothole while going uphill. By the time you did all that, you really wanted a perfect dining experience, but that wouldn’t happen, because…

Two, it was understaffed. Criminally understaffed. This could be because the employees also would have had a tough time entering the lot, shortening the hiring pool, but whatever the case, the staffing list was small.

This was a fairly new building and location, opening in 2012, if I’m not mistaken. There was a plaque in the lobby commemorating the opening of the restaurant signed by the mayor. And the design was modern and chic. You could tell expectations were high for the restaurant’s success when it opened.

Unfortunately, the store did not do well. Sales were miserable, and what few customers they received did not get great service. This was because the staff was either nonexistent, poorly trained, or both. The few busy periods would be considered incredibly slow by most restaurant standards, but even these would prove too difficult for this crew.

You might be inclined to blame management, as so many members of the public are quick to do. But the turnover for managers at that store rivaled the employees. There were few that stayed for any long period of time, so no one got hired and no one got trained.

Public perception was abysmal. No one wanted to eat there, either because of past poor experiences, or because they had heard of someone else’s past poor experience.

This was what I inherited. Two days before Christmas, I became the general manager of this failing restaurant.

Immediately, I knew things had to change. I began hiring people. Writing schedules and making people stick to them. Ordering the right amount of food. Cleaning the place more than it has in recent times. Organizing and labeling everything. Training people the correct way of doing things. Tracking and curtailing food waste. Encouraging guests to send in comment cards and feedback. And, while I don’t think I’m the greatest manager in the world, I think I was doing a great job. Positive reviews were going up. Staffing levels had reached acceptable levels. Cleanliness was again a priority. It was nice.

And then along came COVID-19. This pandemic wreaked havoc on restaurants worldwide, and mine was no exception. Just three months after I had taken over this store, it was shut down. This was a business move. All locations were expected to take a huge sales hit, and mine was already a very low-performing store. I got moved to a different location for the time being, and I waited anxiously for its reopening.

But it didn’t reopen.

I suppose I could have seen this from the beginning of the pandemic. It was a wonder we were open to begin with. But it was in a nice, high-rent area, and closing it, I was told, would cost more than keeping it open.

Now that it is permanently closed, the local news decided to write a small blurb about it. I do mean “small.” More or less, “This restaurant in this county is closing, though there other ones in the county aren’t.” That was about it.

And the comments people left about it closing were disheartening, to say the least. My short three months were a waste of time. People were unsurprised, judgmental, and almost happy at it’s closure. They listed all sorts of problems and negative experiences at that store.

It was a tough thing to read. I can’t help but feel like if I had just a little more time, maybe I would have been able to make a difference. Maybe I could’ve changed things for the better.

But alas, we’ll never know.


I’m trying to write more things. I know I say that all the time, but it is true. One day I won’t have to manage restaurants.

Anywho, this is something I’ve written. Though normally I opt for fiction, this is a true story, and I felt like writing it for some reason.

See you on the next one…

A Criminal Since Eden

I recently entered a 100-word microfiction contest through NYC Midnight. I’d never written any sort of microfiction before, but I enjoyed the challenge. All participants were grouped into specific conditions that had to be met. My group had to write a sci-fi story about robbing a bank using the word “develop.”

The results came last night. I did not make the top 20 in my round to move on, unfortunately, though I did get an honorable mention. And out of roughly 100 entries in my group, I’ll take it. So, here was my submission:

A Criminal Since Eden

As I pointed my laser-blaster at the teller, noting the fear in her eyes, I couldn’t help but think of my ancestors. Likely, they would be ashamed their legacy was tarnished by such scum, but what little shame I could muster didn’t lower my aim.

“Why do this?” she pleaded. Centuries of technological developments and modern marvels made most think in this day, on this planet “safe-haven” no one would buck the status-quo.

I heard the sirens. Speed was key. “There’s been a criminal since Eden,” I told her, squeezing the trigger.

And there always will be.

Beginnings (Writing Exercise #3)

I am the worst at discipline. Writing shouldn’t feel like a chore, should it? I don’t even want to admit how long it took me to write the following blurb. It’s not even good. But it’s an exercise in developing discipline and exploring style. Read it if you like, but this is more for posterity purposes than anything.



What I am saying now is a lie.


Will Armand shot and killed a fourteen-year-old girl one night when he had too much to drink. If he did it before, he’ll do it again. History, after all, is subjective. Those with superior powers of diction and persuasion are the ones who get to alter the course of history, whether it has actually passed into history or not. A flimsy line of evidence is enough for conviction.

History… has proven this.

You might think to yourself that this is not fair, but it is. It is the way the world was ordered from the beginning.

Will Armand was destined to take the fall for your mistake. Just like you are destined to take advantage of his destiny. Neither of you can help the predicament you are now in. You must fully realize—and this is important—that nothing you’ve done or could have done would have changed anything.

You’re sitting in that faux leather chair across from me right now with a look of confusion, but I should let you know that you are not the first person to sit in that chair and give me that look. I’ve worked wonders for those people and I will do the same for you. Now you are about to nod to indicate that you understand me.

You didn’t nod.

You should believe me.

Well… You’ll see soon enough.


I am not an evil man. I am not an evil man. I am not an evil man.

He can’t do this to me. I never wanted to destroy anyone or anything. This has all been one stupid mistake after another.

He sounds confident in himself. And if he’s right, all my problems will go away. They will.

I’ll have to live with this huge lie afterwards, but I can do that. Time heals all wounds, right? Or forgives all sins, or something like that. It will just take time.

This seat isn’t that comfortable to begin with. Maybe the others who sat here before me were just uncomfortable, not confused. Their destinies ended up okay, supposedly. It’s not as if he’s given me a portfolio of his work. I’m just supposed to take him at his word. That’s probably what they did too. Probably.

Well, I didn’t dig myself into this mess, but I guess it’s time to dig myself out.


What I am saying now is the truth.