Hurricanes & Swan Songs was a collection conceived while drunk, laughing, and staring at a moose head nailed to the wall...as are many children, I’m told (conceived, not nailed to a wall). I don’t have children. I’m a writer. I can barely take care of myself and the ubiquitous “two cats” that writers list in their bio blurb as a euphemism for depression. Although I argue that writing a good novel is more difficult than raising a kid; otherwise, everyone would have a Pulitzer stashed in their medicine cabinet.
Occasionally other writers, who are willing to forgive my lack of social prowess in exchange for conversations about semi-colons and Hunter Thompson, lure me out to socialize. Invariably it is to the same two or three restaurants. The places with comfy booths and tsunami-strong cocktails.
I believe it was halfway into a Hurricane and long past the point of dignity that I thought, “I should be writing these conversations down.” I tried. You’d be surprised how fussy writers are about having their words stenographed and read back to them. Very fussy. So then I thought, “I should ask other writers to write their own stories about this.”
I believe the first response was something along the lines of “Write a story about a bar? It’s been done.” Yes, well, perhaps it has. But not this bar. Not this Hurricane. Not this plate of burnt ends. Writers with busy publication deadlines stopped just short of suggesting that I should look into pills for my kind of crazy. But eventually my enthusiasm, if not logic, held sway, and stories began to show up in my inbox. Good stories from good writers. That’s better than a Mai Tai.
And so was born an anthology about that restaurant, where nobody knows your name, and perhaps it’s better they do not. An anthology about love, loss, and mayonnaise. Cockroaches, spliffs, and purgatory. Ghosts, both murderous and helpful, psychokinetic battles, and even a blind date among widowers and a not-so-blind date with Hemingway.
The anthology is available in the bookstore.
There is a bar that you know, where nobody knows your name, a place of unlikely happenings, strange tales, strong drinks. Was it Barry’s? Perhaps Gary’s. Harry’s, Larry’s.... Does it really matter which? One thing is certain. Enter its doors and you step into another dimension. Silver Webb presents thirteen stories about love, loss, and mayonnaise. Cockroaches, spliffs, and purgatory. Ghosts, both murderous and helpful, psychokinetic battles, and even a blind date among widowers and a not-so-blind date with Hemingway. What was the name of the restaurant? Mary’s, Perry’s, Jerry’s...it’s that restaurant in your town, just down the street. And if you can’t find it, look no further. Have a seat next to us, order a cocktail, and let the tall tales roll.
Where Have All the Good Times Gone?
by Ted Chiles
Sitting Here in Limbo
by Max Talley
by Chella Courington
by Tom Layou
How Mad Matt Won the Nobel Prize in Literature
by Matthew J. Pallamary
by Lisa Lamb
My Dinner at the Boy Restaurant
by Shelly Lowenkopf
Ghost Moose of Clary’s Cafe
by Nicholas Deitch
The Third Hurricane
by John Reed
East Toward the Sun
by Christine Casey Logsdon
by Dennis Russell
The Hurricane: Mercury in Retrograde
by Silver Webb
A Turn with Worms
by Stephen T. Vessels
An excerpt of "Ghost Moose of Clary’s Cafe"
by Nicholas Deitch
His father would not approve. But then, his father had been dead for forty years, and the killer looked down on William Jeffers from a place of dubious honor. Thin spider trails laced the antlers, and someone had managed to land a bowler hat on the great beast’s head, and at a rakish tilt. From beneath the bowler, Moose glared at him with familiar disdain.
Jeffers looked away. “I’m not in the mood for your bullshit, Moose. Let me enjoy my beer in peace.”
The bartender wiped the counter with a slight shake of his head.
“Don’t judge me, kid. A man oughta be able to enjoy his beer without some scornful Moose looking down on him with that damn judgmental smirk.” He swallowed the last gulp and set the glass down hard. He glanced up, and the beast winked at him.
“I didn’t say anything, Mr. Jeffers. But there’s plenty of seats in this place, and you always sit in that one and complain about that moose staring at you.” The bartender grabbed the glass and pulled
the tap, amber bubbles rising to a foamy head. “And aren’t you the one who gave that thing to old man Clary in the first place?”
Jeffers sighed. “You’re new here, kid, but you oughta know. That’s not just some rustic bit of bar decor molting on the wall.” He looked up at Moose and tipped his glass. “Some would tell you he was a great Mohican Chief. A spirit warrior, with a slight chip on his shoulder.” Jeffers took a long gulp and finished his third beer. “But Chief or not, this is my stool, and I’m not about to move my sorry ass on account of this goddammed Moose. He had it coming, and he knows it. I was there.”
To find out how it ends for the moose, please visit our store and purchase Hurricanes & Swan Songs.
An Excerpt of "Closing Credits"
by Dennis Russell
“Under blue El Rancho skies
The morning air is fine
We’ll head out on that trail
Friend by friend, side by side
New adventures we will find
Open pastures we will ride
where the streams and rivers wind
under blue El Rancho skies”
—First Verse of “Blue El Rancho Skies,”
opening theme from El Rancho film and television series
Carlos Garcia pulled open the door of Gary’s Steakhouse and Grill and stepped inside. He took off his sunglasses and put them in his jacket pocket, and paused for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dim barroom light. He grimaced and waved off the hostess at the front desk and took a quick scan around the front dining room and bar. Every booth and barstool was red diamond-tufted Naugahyde, and the floor was covered in green short-pile carpet. “Gary’s” was spelled in blue stained glass in the lamps above every table. Carlos flashed a smile and waved hello to Darla, who had been working at Gary’s since the place was established in 1959.
She must be the oldest waitress in any diner in any town, Carlos thought. Darla didn’t wave back. She never waved back. He quickly walked through the archway to the second, larger dining room, decorated with historic photographs of the city of St. Hervé and some of its famous residents, and kept on to his final destination. He pushed open the stained-glass doors of El Rancho Sky Room and shut the door that separated the monthly meeting of Los Hermanos Benéficos from the regular patrons of the restaurant.
Most patrons of Gary’s never saw the inside of El Rancho Sky Room, but it was a quite familiar place to Carlos. To his left was the restroom for the exclusive use of El Rancho Sky Room patrons. The next third of the wall was lined with La Cantina, the oak bar that served the banquet room guests. For Los Hermanos Benéficos meetings, the top-shelf liquor was moved to the bottom shelf, as most of the members displayed their financial status through upscale alcohol. Carlos winked and shot his index finger gun-like at the bartender and went straight to the end of the bar, where five chafing dishes held today’s Benéfico buffet. One dish was filled with cheese enchiladas (for the vegetarians), another dish was filled with buffalo chicken wings, the third held slices of tri-tip, the fourth held miniature versions of Gary’s “world renowned” ham and cheese sandwiches, and the fifth contained Gary’s “famous” Hot Tots potatoes (tater tots with bacon and jalapenos). Neither of the world famous dishes were really very well known outside the doors of Gary’s.
There are varying degrees of fame, Carlos thought, as he used the stainless steel tongs to transfer some of the famous wings and Hot Tots onto his tiny plate. A few feet past the end of the bar was a round table where Carlos grabbed a slice of sourdough bread, a pat of butter, and a small paper ramekin with Gary’s special salsa. For those, like Carlos, who didn’t imbibe expensive liquor, there were glasses of water and iced tea. For the sloppy, there were extra napkins. Carlos grabbed a few.
To find out how it ends for Carlos, please visit our store and purchase Hurricanes & Swan Songs.
An Excerpt of "Nutritional Value"
by Lisa Lamb
Alice was nervous. Pulling into a parking space outside the restaurant where she’d agreed to meet him, she saw on the glowing dashboard clock that she was a full fifteen minutes early. Should she go in and get herself a steadying drink? Should she drive around listening to NPR until the appointed time? Or should she just go home and pretend that she had forgotten the meeting altogether?
If she did that, she could heat up some soup, drink a glass of Sauvignon blanc, and watch an episode of Masterpiece Theatre with her pants unbuttoned instead of making polite chitchat with a relative stranger. Doubtless he’d be affronted and wouldn’t bother trying to reschedule, a notion so appealing that Alice very nearly put the car into reverse there and then. But she didn’t. She was not the sort to stand a person up; she’d been raised with better manners. Also she was more than a little afraid of what her daughter would say.
She could already hear Clara’s exasperated voice castigating her for her cowardice and lack of gumption. Clara was very keen on self-improvement, particularly as it pertained to her mother, and rarely tired of suggesting the myriad ways in which it might be achieved. Alice suspected that Clara’s motives were more about restoring her mother to a state where she could be comfortably ignored than any real understanding of what might increase her overall happiness. Nonetheless, Alice was grateful for the attention. Tiresome though it was to listen to her only child’s earnest badgering, she preferred it to the sound of the telephone not ringing at all.
Clara’s latest obsession for her mother was Internet dating. At first Alice had flatly refused even to countenance the idea, but after several months of being cajoled and harangued by Clara, it had just seemed easier to let herself be signed up for “Senior Mingle” than to continue her resistance. The name alone filled Alice with a sort of scornful despair, conjuring up as it did images of bewildered pensioners playing festively inappropriate parlour games. Oh well, she reasoned; she didn’t actually have to use the site. Surely she would gain some respite merely as a result of her capitulation?
This proved a miscalculation, however, as Clara immediately turned her attention to pestering her mother with suggestions for specific potential matches. It hadn’t occurred to Alice that Clara might also be able to search the profiles of available men, and while Alice was absolutely certain that none of them could possibly be of any interest, Clara was equally assured that almost any of them would do.
“What about this guy?” she’d say, pointing to the profile of some beaming, bald-headed hopeful. “Or this one?”
If Alice demurred, and she always did, Clara would castigate her for being preemptively judgmental.
“Really, Mom! Don’t be so picky! At this rate you’ll never find a new love!”
To find out how the blind date ends for Alice, please visit our store and purchase Hurricanes & Swan Songs.