Struts & Frets
by Shelly Lowenkopf
Santa Fe Psychosis
by Max Talley
An Interview of Shelly Lowenkopf
by Max Talley
No writing is easy, but short stories are a particularly demanding art. To give the depth of a novel’s arc in the space of a long poem is no task for the timid. The inspiration for Dames & Doppelgangers, or the Onesie-Twosie, as it is known around the office, came from the idea of celebrating this often-anthologized genre. A friend gave me some copies of One Story, a longstanding series of single stories, published in rather modest design terms, small enough to fit in the pocket and contemplate on the subway to work.
I like the idea of featuring the short story as a standalone genre with literary merit, and also unusual design concepts. I don’t think inventiveness need be relegated to a bygone era before Kindles and E-readers. So I decided if a onesie was good, a twosie was better. And why not make it a 5x8", 70-page beauty that can fit in your pocket or your purse?
I'm happy, then, to present two stories by authors whom I respect, both of whom have been writing and publishing short stories regularly and with sharp, well-honed pens. “Struts & Frets” by Shelly Lowenkopf features a perplexing mystery for his character Matt Bender to waffle over.
And high-desert mystery can be found in “Santa Fe Psychosis” by Max Talley. One features a dame, the other a doppelganger. Max's painting, "Kim's Encounter," is featured as the cover art.
I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I do. The anthology is available in the bookstore.
An excerpt of "Struts & Frets"
by Shelly Lowenkopf
When the casting director said, “Thank you,” Matt Bender got her meaning. Like a Southerner’s, “Why, bless your heart.” A suggestion from some L.A. showrunner, “Let’s do lunch.”
Less than a minute into his audition, Dana McKay stopped him cold. “Thank you. Whoever you are, you’re sure not Matt Bender.”
A stress ploy, right? Dana McKay known to stir things up. Surprise actors. Coax an unexpected twist and depth out of them. Why come all the way to the Ashland Shakespeare Festival to audition, then not show his chops? Go ahead, play the character he wanted.
He took a knee, like a pro footballer. Extended his hand toward McKay. “Hath not Matt Bender eyes? Hath not Bender hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is?”
Got a smile out of Dana McKay, but she cut him off again, a dramatic raise of a silvery brow.
“Quick response. Admirable. But I couldn’t help wondering—”
“Wondering?” Bender said.
“How the real Matt Bender would read those lines.”
Half an hour later, Bender paced around his Camry, wanted to walk off frustration that didn’t go away. Few cars in the Shakespeare Festival parking lot this early in the day. Cell phone to his ear, he waited for Lew Lessing to pick up at the other end.
“This plan of yours? Not the plan we discussed,” Bender told Lessing. Had to repeat it against a sudden crowd roar from Lessing’s end. “Where the hell are you?”
“Great American Ball Park, beautiful downtown Cincinnati. Reds versus Cards. Can you be more specific? We’ve got a few plans in play. Which one you talking about?”
“You posing as me in a Chick ‘n Waf commercial. Nothing said about you doing auditions at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival.”
Had to wait while Lessing ordered a bratwurst and beer. “Intriguing idea,” Lessing said. “Could be a hoot to do that.”
“Not something you’ve already done?”
“You telling me someone showed up at auditions, claiming to be you?”
Another roar from the crowd.
“One of the oldest museums in the U.S. Pays me big bucks to chaperone art loans to other sites. Tell me about your doppelganger.”
“I show up here in Ashland, start my audition, get called out for being an impostor. Nothing convinces them I’m Matt Bender. Not even my driver’s license.”
“This ever happen before?”
Another crowd roar. Bender able to get in, “Never.”
“You think to mention the commercial ads?”
“Not cool to mix commercial work with stage work.”
“Fucking Cards,” Lessing said at another crowd roar. “Okay. I’m in on this. No cost to you, of course. We need to find out who and why, right? Call you when I have something.”
To find out how the blind date ends for Bender, please visit our store and purchase Dames & Doppelgangers.
An Excerpt of "Santa Fe Psychosis"
by Max Talley
The calls came after midnight. Jackson Bardo could have ignored them, but recognizing the New Mexico number, he always picked up. No backbone.
“I need you,” Jenny said, her voice breathy. “Made a big mistake leaving you, leaving California. I’m lost now. It’s never been the same.”
They split up three years ago, and for two of those he was fine. Seeing women who were more stable helped. Unfortunately, due to his aversion to marriage, Bardo had been single for much of the third year. His memories of Jenny’s erratic behavior, her weakness for liquor, drugs, and nicotine as she rushed toward forty, and her infidelities when substance abuse mixed with mood medications, had faded in the ether of Bardo’s loneliness.
He shouldn’t have saved photos either. People didn’t generally call Jenny Dawson pretty, but she was cute, and so sensuous it didn’t matter. Around five foot four, full-figured with a miraculously slim waist and a mess of dirty blonde hair. Jenny’s clothes always clung too tight, her body struggling to break free.
Bardo knew that women who lived on cigarettes, coke, and whiskey, turned into the frightening character at the end of a bar by age fifty—with a weather-beaten face and a hoarse laugh. That sad realization only spurred Bardo to see Jenny now, before brutal time and gravity took their toll.
“I’m scared,” she said two nights later on the phone. “I think they might hurt me...”
“Who?” he asked. She disconnected, and when he called back her voicemail picked up.
After a week of this, Bardo told her, “I bought a plane ticket to Santa Fe.”
“Bring money,” she said. “Just a loan. I’m in deep, Jackson.”
To find out how it ends for Bardo, please visit our store and purchase Dames & Doppelgangers.