The Miserable Ones

The Miserable Ones

The Miserable Ones



Sometimes a simple prompt can pull a question from the mind. Coffee shops. How old are they? I went on a bit of search and the minute I read about the Cafe Procope I smiled. Victor Hugo went there?! Amazing! Yes, Yes! I can write to this prompt.

This is the amazing thing about prompts. I had no clue this story existed in my mind until I read it:

The Reedsy Prompt was ‘Start your story in a coffee shop without using obvious words to describe it (e.g. barista, coffee cup.)


“L’habituel?” The usual?

Mais bien sur.” But of course.

Tout de suite.” Right away.

Victor settles himself and waits.

On this side of the window pane, Voltaire and Diderot still hum. It is as if they pass through the century without moving a muscle. The dead leave thought. Here it still whispers from the walls.

A tinkling of glass is heard from the far room. Laughter from the room beside that one. Each compartment within the building had a history. La Fontaine has coughed in this one. Napoleon Bonaparte in that one. Voices of both are etched into the wallpaper and the gold guild mirrors still keep their secrets. The windows blink her eyes at their ideals. On the one side, they are warm, on the other, soggy. On the one side, dry, on the other side noisy. Placement, position, perspective. Rain taps against the glass.

Victor inspects his fingers as he waits. Elongated bones bruised in ink. His right index finger and middle finger are dented where the steel squeezed out words. He rubs them absentmindedly. The dents remain. Scars of his work etched in his skin. Ink tattoo its name there. The stain of his thoughts layered and trapped. The ink would never come out. He blinks, raises his eyes, and gazes out the window.


One bruise across his cheek. Three scratches below that. His bones protruded; on his face, on his chest, on his back. Muscles that were to make him strong hadn’t been fed this day or the day before. The promise of bread is a wish. His stomach is too hungry to growl. He lifts a bushel of coal from the cart, it weighs more than him. His name is Henri. His age is ten. He had a father once and a mother too. Today he has coal and a whip held by the driver. Both are delivered.

Women dressed in silk, sitting in carriages pulled by stallions take no notice of him, and he no notice of them. He is working, they are not. They have bread, he has none. They live on the same earth, in the same city, on the same ground. They breathe the same air and feel the same rain and the coal touched by one warms the other.

A monk passes on soft feet under a cloaked hood, far enough from Sainte-Chapelle that the eyes of God don’t follow. He would raise his brow to the boy if he had noticed him, but boys, like flies, are only visible when they need swatting. A bell vibrates the air. God announces ten o’clock. The stallions pull the women away and the monk rounds the corner. Only rain keeps Henri company on the cobblestone. His teeth chatter. They’ve been chattering for three years.

He moves like his body hurts. The bones that have existed for 3650 days are bent where they should not be bent. Under the bushel, Henri slips, and the coal escapes his grasp and tumbles across the stones. Pieces roll and bounce and slide and black dust puffs behind. Raindrops mix the powder creating ink the color of anthracite. A puddle of it here, a vein of it there. Henri signs his name on the cobbles with his feet. He bends to pick up pieces and a whip comes down across his back. He flinches and raises his head before the second lash claws. He uses his arm to steady himself against the building. The window at 13 Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie blinks. Henri is staring through its glass as the whip cracks number two.


Pierre has returned to the table with a delicate cup sitting on a delicate saucer. Indigo and emerald in equal parts edged in gold. The portrait of a small child running between trees is painted into the center of the saucer, a similar portrait on the cup. The porcelain held boiled beans with milk and was placed on the linen-covered table just as Victor and Henri’s eyes met through the window.

One observes an old man with clear, soft eyes. White whiskers cover the cheeks, and white hair covers the head.

The other observes a child with eyes blackened in coal dust and hunger. They hide under a shock of coarse hair. The damp clothes him, pulling in his bones and holding them stiff. Ice doesn’t bend. The window vibrates beside his teeth.

The sound of a whip cracks and snaps his eyelids awake in time to see the boy wince within his shivers. The whip has no power to stop the chatter. The boy’s eyes shift from black to hate.

A thousand years of philosophers dance on the tip of one thousand pens. Vacuous. The boy bleeds into their ink.

Victor is silent but his thought is not. Phrases chatter through his mind faster than the boy’s teeth.

“it is in suffering that humans become angels…”

“All crimes of the man begin in the vagabondage of the child…”

“You ask me what forces me to speak? a strange thing; my conscience…”

“bad to good, bad to good..”

What is it that inspires a writer to write? To simply tell a story? Perhaps to tell the truth? Maybe yet, a whisper from God? “You saw it, now tell it! Speak what you see so others may see it too!”

The boy disappears before his liquid does. The thoughts do not, and by the time he had finished cup two, the first page had been formed and memorized.

“Not everyone will read it, but it will be written for everyone.” He thinks.

Victor stands, places a couple of Sioux on the table, pulls on his jacket, and buttons it. With his head down in continued thought, walks to the door, opens it, and exits the Café Procope.

On the cobbles in front of the window, Victor sees a drop of blood and, beside it, small footprints stamped in coal dust. He sighed, bent over, and with the tip of his index finger, he pushed the dust into words.

Les Misérables








Mark is a fictional story of true events. Not always in the exact form, and never a single country. It was written to cause the read to consider what they may never see.

The Reedsy Prompt was ‘Start your story with your character(s) going to buy some flowers.

 я куплю цветы. I’ll buy the flowers.” He cracked his gum and tucked his sunglasses into the neck of his fitted tee. He smelled good. Expensive cologne fused with aniline leather, it smelled like money, a lot of money. He knew it. He did it intentionally.

He was an eight dressed up as a ten. Ten was power and power was what he inhaled. Controlled. Calculated. Clever.

They called him The Wolf. His name was Volkov. Alexander Volkov.

“Add another flower and my Crest,” Volkov commanded.

“Another of the same flower or do you have a specific one in mind?” Natalya asked

“ The chamomile of course.” Volkov winked.

Natalya smiled, “perfect.”

“I will return in an hour. I expect it will be done by then.”

“It will,” Natalya assured him. “And the others? Do you want the others?”

Volkov’s eyes did a second scan, scrutinizing for anything he missed in his initial examination. He brought his left index finger to his lip and tapped gently in thought. He tilted his head ever so slightly. Perhaps the different perspective would reveal something else. It didn’t. He cracked his gum again. “No. I think today, just the flowers.”

“As you wish.” Natalya nodded.


Prokydaysya! Wake up!” Her mother leaned over, shaking her quickly and whispering curtly into her ear.

“Noooooo…” she moaned. She was fourteen and not a friend of the morning.

“Hurry. Get up. We must go!” Panic torched out of her mother.

Julija’s desire for a slow and languid morning was displaced with a scattered frenzy. She gasped as her thoughts caught up with her consciousness. “What? Why? What?”

Beyond her bedroom window, she heard the rumbling. Her head snapped in that direction.

“Now!” Her mother demanded.

Julija leaped out of her bed and headed to the window.

“NO!” her mother screamed, “Stay away from the window!”

A screech of something unholy screamed across the street, a moment later Julija stood on trembling legs as her bedroom walls groaned with impending doom, “RUN,” they quaked before the top corner cracked open. Leviathan grinned and chomped his jaws ready for the first bite.

Her mother pushed her back heavy and hard. Together both of them flew through the bedroom door into the living room at the same moment as the bedroom wall dropped from the sixth story to the ground floor.

Their minds didn’t work, they just did. They pulled themselves off the floor and ran to get out of the apartment. Six flights of stairs, breathlessly leaping over rubble and dogs and people. They exhaled when they met the middle of the street. Julija and her mom stared at their apartment building. Shock was silent. While the world around them roared and burned and groaned and screamed. Julija and her mother stood as still as statues desperately trying to comprehend what had just happened.

It was February 24, in Kyiv.


Titka Ameryka, Aunty America, we can go there.” Her mother whispered the words over and over. A prayer? A mantra? A hope? They were crouched on the floor their backs to the wall in the metro stuffed with humans. Fear mixed with body odor penned them in puncturing their senses.

“Aunty America?” Julija asked.

“My sister,” her mother nodded her head up and down. ” My sister. She escaped our father.”

“Yes, mama, I know, you have told me. That isn’t my question, my question is how? How do we get to her?”

Her mother’s head continued to nod up and down, “Yes, how? Visas we need visas, we have nothing, we have nothing. How do we get visas with nothing? A cell phone or a laptop maybe we can ask someone and contact Titka, maybe there is something she can do from America?” She raised her eyes scanning the crowd. Who could they ask?


Natalya surveyed her surroundings in the metro, so many people. She pulled a package of cigarettes from her bag, lit one, and took a long deep draw holding it in for a moment before exhaling the sweet smoke. She closed her eyes for a moment. So much to do, where to start? She opened her cell phone to ensure service was available. Good, nothing had changed. She started scrolling social media feeds. Pictures of the last twenty-four hours assaulted her. She put the cigarette between her lips and took another draw. Using her index finger she clicked through the pages absorbed in the screen in front of her.

“Excuse me.” A voice of a girl, not a child but not quite a woman came from beside her. Natalya looked up.

“Excuse me, would it be possible if I could use your phone for a minute?” She asked.

Natalya cocked her head with interest to one side. The girl before her was covered in dust and dirt. It looked like her hair was quite dark, black like a raven maybe if it was clean but there was a layer of war coating it. The strands hung dirty in company with the filth in the metro. Her skin was clear, unusual for a girl this age Natalya noted surprised. The girl spoke softly.

“What was that you needed dear?” Natalya asked.

“Your phone madame, we have nothing to contact my Auntie in America, we would like to try, we believe she can possibly help us get there. I was wondering if it would be possible to contact my Auntie on your phone.” Julija asked timidly.

“Are you here with your parents?” Natalya looked up and past the girl’s head expecting to see an adult hovering close.

“Yes, my mama, she’s over there..” Julija nodded at the wall next to the bathrooms. Her mother noticed and nodded back in encouragement.

“I see.” Natalya smiled. “You have no phone?”

“We have nothing madame, we barely escaped our apartment with our own skin attached.”

“I see. Here, I’m logged out of my social media, you can log into yours.” Natalya handed her phone to Julija.

“What is your name?” she asked as she did so.

“I’m Julija.” Julija beamed. That’s what hope does, it makes you grin.

“A beautiful smile !” Natalya exclaimed. “You are such a lovely girl.”

“Thank you.” Julija accepted the compliment deeply, happy that even in this terrible environment someone saw the beauty within her. Fourteen-year-old girls are the sponge of flattery.

Quick as a whip Julija logged in, and sent a message to Titka on a prayer, ‘please see it quickly! This phone won’t be here for long.’

Natalya finish her cigarette, dropped it, and stepped on the butt extinguishing it. “Do you need help? You and your mother? I know you are hoping for help from your auntie. I have some friends taking refugees out of the country, is this something I could help you with?”

Julija’s mouth dropped open. From despair to delight in a chance meeting. “Come to my mama!” She insisted.


“There’s one spot left.” Natalya read the message on her phone out loud. “It can be either you or your daughter, you will have to make that choice.” She was looking directly at Julija’s mother. “There’s not much time to choose I’m afraid, my friend says they will be here in a few minutes. They instructed me to be ready at the metro entrance. We must move quickly.”

“Mama?” Julija looked at her mother, panic dropped like a shadow across her face.

“You must go Julija.” Her mother insisted. “You must be kept safe. I can stay. I can figure something out.” Turning to Natalya, a mother’s relief released, “thank you for your kindness.” Her words in transparent gratitude tumbled out.

Natalya nodded “We do what we can. They will be sending in another vehicle,” she assured them both. “It’s only this one that’s full.”

Her mother nodded. “Have you a pen? And a bit of paper? Do you have a bit of paper?”

Natalya reached into her bag, extracted both and handed them over.

18 East 7th Street Manhattan USA was scrawled hurriedly across the paper and then torn from the leaf. She folded the address into a tiny square and opened the locket around her neck. She tucked it in and snapped it shut.

“Titka’s address.” She said as she removed the necklace from her neck and wrapped it around her daughter’s.

They stood for the moment they had and hugged. They trembled as they held each other, as the blur of the day came to this second. Fear and despair clung to hope dipped in anguish and sorrow and their tears dropped as hard as their hearts.

“Cерце моє, my child, my Julija, it isn’t goodbye, it is we will see each other soon.” Her mama held Julija’s head between her hands. Inspecting her daughter one last time. Those eyes, red-rimmed and fearful stared back at her.

“Oh God my God, please please save this girl! My Girl! серце моє! My Heart!”

Her mind screamed what her voice could not.

“We must go.” Natalya whispered.

The mother and daughter released. They kissed each other’s cheeks and wiped each other’s tears.

Julija turned and walked out of the exit. Her mother turned and walked into the crowd.

A leather whip sliced sorrow in their skin, setting its scar raw and red.


“We must shut off cell service, turn off geo tracking!” the driver demanded. “All social media must be deleted immediately! The Russians are tracking us through these and they will hunt us down to stop us!”

Julija clung to Natalya’s hand as they sat in the car. It was full as Natalya had said, they barely squeezed between the others. The ride out of Ukraine was silent. The silence was screaming.


Julija rested her forehead on the black headrest. Hope hanging from a thin gold chain in a locket swung gently as she did so. She closed her eyes as she waited.

So many. So many in so many days. She couldn’t count them all.

She brought her fingers up to the locket and touched it. “Soon”

“You have your Visa it is with Alexander Volkov,” Natalya informed her just moments before. “We are to say goodbye.”

Natalya, her friend, her savior, no more? Her Visa? She had her Visa?

The last year swung from her locket…

Flashing lights pushed the beat in a hundred rooms of a hundred cities. Music lashed deep, a throaty magnet paralyzing and pulsing. Thick neon ink glowed and the heartbeat of invisible drums thumped, beating the air, beating the room, beating her breast. Thump. Thump. Thump.

She stood on the stage alone. Lit up.

Beams of laser blue light sprayed upwards exploding into shards of color on their fingertips. One hot beam danced on the mirror beneath her feet. The heel of her red stiletto caught its edge. A hundred eyes turned to watch.

She wrapped herself around the pole for them.

She wrapped her legs around their groin for them.

She wrapped her dollars in thick, sticky bundles for them.

So many clubs in so many cities blurred together in flashing lights and throbbing men.

White pills, white powder, white lights.

Perform Child!

Dance for your Visa!

Fuck for your freedom!

So she did.

Girls marked with bruises and ink. Lines pounded into their skin. Bar codes of ownership were engraved in the soft flesh on the inside of the wrist on some, and the small of the back for others.

Stamped. Tramp. Owned. Traded. Bought.


Juliya’s forehead, still leaning against the black headrest throbbed.

Hope, hanging from a thin gold chain, folded into a golden locket, swayed against her breast.

The tattoo artist leaned his gun on her skin. He started with the wolf crest and finished with a single chamomile woven in white ink within Natalya’s mark engraved on the nape of her neck. A bouquet of flowers. 








When I was writing Spinning on a Barstool I discovered I really enjoyed researching places and people. Fortes is my imagination dipping in and out of reality.

The Reedsy Prompt was ‘write a story using the words ‘it’s the thought that counts.’




Sandwiched between Robson and Alberni streets two buildings keep company. The twenty-two-story skyscraper, a dark green prism pulled from the minds of architects at MCM sits on the corner of Thurlow and Alberni. In its shadow, on the corner of Thurlow and Robson, a rich two-story in red brick.

The brick oozes finery dipped in an age of old when men removed themselves from the world to smoking rooms where they would sit in burgundy leather wing backs sipping port and chew the end of a puro while discussing world affairs. An arched mutton window rises out of the blocks, and deep green awnings, like eyelids, hover over windows where the people on the inside observe the people on the outside and the people on the outside observe the people on the inside. The brick is reflected in the opulence of the glass tower beside it and the people in its windows watch Brunello Guchinelli wave at Prada across the street while the Audi, the BMW, and the Land Rover sit silently on the side awaiting their owner’s return.

The tower of glass feeds the business, they call it progress. The rich red brick feeds the people, they call it Fortes. Joe Fortes.

Joe Fortes didn’t start off as the seafood chophouse we know today. The luxurious interior of mahogany tables on iron legs under a soaring coffered ceiling was the invention of someone else. The real Joe Fortes was a black man. A swimmer. A swim instructor. A shoeblack. A bartender. A lifeguard. A hero.

Joe was a mixture of African, Barbarian, Spanish, and Portuguese and he swam to Vancouver on the Robert Kerr in 1885. Why he chose to leave his home in Spain to England and England to Canada we can’t know, but we can know that his arrival in Canada change the lives of at least 26 people. They remained alive because Joe saved them from drowning in English Bay. He was honored as a Vancouver City hero.

One hundred years after the lifeguard’s death someone thought to honor Joe Fortes by naming this restaurant after him. Ten years after that, Joe Fortes thought to hire Mike. Today Mike is behind the bar wiping water drop marks off of wine glasses with a soft white cloth as he watches the wealthy watch each other and the ordinary watch the wealthy. As dusk turns into night Mike watches dates depart hand in hand, business meetings close with a handshake, the ordinary leave for their stroll up Robson Street, and the wealthy as they head back to their Audi’s, BMW’s, and Land Rovers.

Hair black and thick that would curl if left too long is what one notices first about Mike, and second, his accent, lower Manhattan with just a little lilt of Irish breathed in on an ocean from far away. He rolled his R’s like St. Patrick and blew away the H in ‘thank you.’ “Tanks,” he would say and the heartbeat of every female would catch in her throat creating a certain breathlessness. He was a gentleman brought up the Irish way by his father who also tended bar. His father learned to bartend from his father before him in Ireland before the first world war. The fact was simple, the Doyles were a fine line of bartenders reaching back one hundred twenty-five years.


Some baby boys are born to their mamas dipped in sweetness and kissed by angels. Some baby boys come out screaming loudly and are kissed by Satan. Label Out was the latter.

Nobody in Fortes knew his name because they hadn’t wanted to know it. ‘Keep Off!” The warning screams when ordinary brushes up against arrogance. The staff instinctively knew to keep their distance lest he devour them. He was happy with that, he had little time to entertain the simple.

Tonight he sat alone at the bar sipping a twelve-year-old double cask neat. A large expensive watch dripped off his left wrist screeching loud money. His jacket, very carefully, very purposefully hung on the back of his chair with the label out. All of it howled raucously like the day he was born.

He was wealthy, this wasn’t to be argued. He worked very hard to make it to the top ten in his legal firm. He thrived there because as stated earlier he was kissed by Satan and when Satan lifted his lips he lifted off part of his soul. Label Out had no conscience and with no conscience, he was able to manipulate the law to benefit some very bad people. This made him a lot of money.

He was reading the menu.


She walked through the double glass door effortlessly. Mike glanced up as she stepped toward the bar and thought of three simple things simultaneously:

Stunning. Cocoa. Rosé.

In fact, Cocoa was exceedingly stunning. Her skin was iridescent. It was chocolate left in the sun melting into a bar of gold. Long dark hair the color of ink framed her face and when she pushed a strand over her right ear her temple revealed a kiss of a freckle left there by an angel long ago. Her dark lips were glossed in light pink and when she parted them to speak she revealed perfect teeth.

Anything held in contrast against each other is magnified, perhaps greater than it really is. Black coal beside a down feather makes the coal harder and darker, and the feather becomes softer and brighter. Cocoa’s teeth were that. Bright white against bronze skin. Cocoa’s wit was that. Vivacity honed along dark steel. She was saucy.

A smile pulled playfully at the edge of her lips and a hint of humor tugged the corner of her eye. She smelled like a tango. Vanilla Bean and Channel Number Five held tight in a calesita begging to be watched as they gently melded together. Sultry. Sexy. Thirsty.

Cocoa hung up her cream-colored raincoat on the back of the bar stool label in, she didn’t know there was any other way. She took a seat as Mike flagged her with a black napkin.

“What may I pour for you,” he asked fully expecting her to say Rosé.

She smiled and raised an eyebrow. “Today my friend, a shot and a beer,” she finished her order with a wink, laid her clutch on the bar top, and started playing with the corner of her napkin.

Mike was amused to be wrong his smile revealed that.

“Your preference?”

“Ah…” she glanced at the tap handles knowing full well what she would order even as she did so.

“Guinness and Jameson please.”

Mike’s Irish heart skip a beat as he tumbled into love. He turned to draw the pint and the corner of his eye caught Label Out peeking up over his menu studying hungrily, observing Cocoa as Cocoa observed the room. Mike wasn’t surprised when Label Out stood, lifted his jacket and his glass, and moved his position to the seat beside Cocoa’s. The bartender glanced to the corner of the restaurant to make sure Sebastian had noticed this too.

Sebastian was jovial and big. Hours were spent in the gym developing muscles that lay firm and rippled under roped veins. His tumultuous past cut into his skin with scars and ink. He walked away from that life five years before when he was saved by the blood of Jesus. The tattoos of his formal life were now tucked into his tuxedo, tucked into the corner of Fortes. He nodded subtly, assuring Mike he had indeed seen it. Mike knew it was safe to take his eye off Label Out and use it to flourish the Guinness with a foamy shamrock. He placed the finished masterpiece on Cocoa’s curling napkin. The shot beside it keeping company.

Without asking if he could be in her space, Label Out pulled back the barstool next to Cocoa and sat down.

She saw all that he wanted her to see; the fine watch, the pricey fitted silk shirt, the jacket’s expensive label waving. She smelled his expensive cologne and saw the bartender pour the scotch they hid behind lock and key. She took a sip of her Guinness and nodded when Mike asked her if she would like to see a menu.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you in here before.” Label Out started. “Where are you from?”

“Of course, you can take this seat. No, I’m not meeting anyone here at all…” Cocoa said sarcastically, licking the foam and her sass with the tip of her tongue from her upper lip. “Do you do this often?” she smiled genuinely.

“What do you mean? Do I come here often? Yes. I do. “

Mike winked at Cocoa, and a smirk pulled the corner of his mouth. He turned quickly to hide it from Label Out.

“Well, at least you smell nice.” She took another sip.

“You are very beautiful.”

“Thank you.”

” Are you visiting?”

“Yes, just a visit.”

“Alone or with a friend?”

“Excuse me? Bartender. May I have another napkin, please? It seems the Guinness is getting away from me today.” She smiled.

Mike nodded and swiftly placed another in front of her.

“Well?” Label Out continued to probe.

“I’m here doing some research,”

“That sounds interesting. On what?”

“Breeding Habits of the Nile Crocodile.”

Mike chuckled behind his apron.

Label Out noticed and looked visibly annoyed. “Did I miss something?” he frowned at Mike.

“Family history.” Cocoa turned her body directly toward him setting herself between his bite and Mike. “I’m from back east, I’m doing research on my family that immigrated to Vancouver from Europe. I’ve heard wonderful things about the city so I thought I’d combine a vacation with my research.”

The diversion worked. He took his teeth out of the bartender and set them back down.

“Oh, I could show you around.” He offered.

“Of course, you could.” Cocoa cocked her head to the left never letting go of her grin.

“I mean it,” Label Out continued, “this city is mine, I know all the best spots, and I can get us into all the great clubs. Hell, I even have tickets to tomorrow night’s hockey game, club seats. Gretzkey’s in town. We could go there. This gold watch isn’t a replica you know, Vancouver is mine. So what do you say? Let me show you my city.”

Cocoa died a little more inside and desperately worked at keeping her eyes from rolling back.

“I think I’d just like to chew on a steak.”

“I’ll buy it for you.”

“No thank you.”

“Why not?”

He seemed like a smart man it perplexed her and humored her that he didn’t know he was dumb. She let him continue.

“I’m a lawyer, I’ve just won another case…”

“I work for many celebrities perhaps you know them…”

“I drive a convertible coupe in the summer and hire car service in the winter.”

“See this watch, it cost me…”

and Cocoa continued to smile and nod disinterestedly until her Guinness got low.

“Bartender!” Label Out clicked his fingers together demanding attention. Immediate attention. Mike turned toward him and smiled.

“Yes sir, what can I get for you?”

“Please bring the lady another drink, put it on my tab.”

The lady looked up at Mike and said “Please don’t.”

“Let’s move over to a table I’ll buy you dinner.” He pressed.

Cocoa reached across the bar and drew her clutch purse closer to her. Calmly she opened the clasp and glanced inside. She drew out a five-dollar bill and laid it on the mahogany bar top. Closing the clasp she laid the clutch back on the bar, picked up her Guinness, and took a sip.

” I have been nothing but nice to you. I offer to take you to a game with really great seats. I offer to buy you dinner and then I offer to buy you a drink. You turn everything down. What is wrong with you?” Label Out’s agitation was visible. Sebastian noticed and moved a step closer to the bar. Mike stayed put before them not moving to the left or the right keeping his eye steady on the scene in front of him.

Heat could be felt from the being beside her. Cocoa sat calmly drinking her pint.

“Well?” He spat out.

“Which steak would you recommend today, the Rib eye or the Tenderloin?” She asked Mike.

Label Out flicked his tongue between his teeth like a serpent before he picked up the golden liquid, twirled the glass, and sipped, sucking it back through gritted teeth. Whiskey coated his tortesngue and the words continued to slide out.

“I said WELL?”

Cocoa lifted her head and looked Label Out directly in the eye.

“Honey, it seems to me you’re looking for some easy spread, may I suggest a jar of mayonnaise?”

A pin drop. Silence so silent a pin drop could be heard followed by spontaneous uncontrolled laughter lifted from deep inside Sebastian on the right and Mike on the left. Cocoa sat sweetly sipping her Guinness. Label out turned seven shades of red.

“It also looks to me,” Cocoa continued, ” that you might be maxed out on your credit cards.” She put one fingertip on the top of the five-dollar bill and slid it in front of Label Out. “Please allow me to buy you that jar.”

When arrogance is rebuffed it changes to rage and that was what stood in front of them now, rage, iced eyes hard and cold.

“Bitch.” Slid off his serpent tongue.

“It’s the thought that counts right?” Cocoa shrugged her shoulders and crinkled up her nose playfully.

“Time to go, sir.” Sebastian stepped forward with two other Tuxedos.

“Ya, ya. I’m leaving. I don’t need your help.”

As Label Out was escorted from the building, Mike put a fresh Guinness in front of Cocoa. “I don’t think he was expecting that.” He laughed as he slid the pint toward her. “That was bloody brilliant.”

“Thank you. ” Cocoa genuinely grinned. “The next show starts at ten pm get your tickets now.”

Mike laughed and put out his hand to shake hers. “My name is Mike. God, I think I’ve fallen in love with you!”

Cocoa raise her hand and slid it into his still smiling. “I’m Josephine Fortes, call me Jo.” 


15 East 7th Street Manhattan

15 East 7th Street Manhattan

15 East 7th Street Manhattan


Joseph Mitchell is one of my favorite authors. If you’ve enjoyed Humans of New York it’s like he invented it!

He wrote for the New Yorker back in the day when men dressed like men and smoked about it 😃
He wrote about McSorley’s. A pub on 15 East 7th Street Manhattan. I fell in love with him then.
If I had a bucket list, visiting Mcsorley’s would be on it.
Until then my imagination visits it.
Come visit McSorleys with me…
The Reedsy prompt for 15 East 7th Street Manhattan was ‘set your story in New York where someone has been waiting for your character.
There he sat, back to the black-bellied stove that once burned coal a little too hot. A cup filled with coffee rested on the wooden table beside a notepad. There he sat. There he wrote.
It was a time before the time of computers and laptops and cell phones. An age when the tip of a pen met paper and the mind was squeezed out in ink. Thought flowed with the sweep of the hand, pushed into tails and curls, and its sentence finished in a puddle of blue. An ink dot. The stop of the thought. The start of another.
He sat doing this, lifting his pen now and again, resting his eyes on the window pane where accents walked by. Thick accents that announced their beginnings. The Scottish ‘aye’. The Irish ‘naw’. The German ‘jawohl’. All of them woven slowly through the years netting themselves deeply into the Bowery bones. Lower East Village Manhattan, where the bricklayer tips back his pint after a day of building the walls of wall street and the Ukrainian waitress lights a candle for her mother in the church across the street. A hundred and a half years of feet walked past this window. Ordinary feet living ordinary lives on an ordinary street.
He was writing a letter. “I miss you.” was the second to last line followed by “I will love you always, your Patrick. His was an Irish accent.
He put the pen down, and picked up the coffee mug, swallowed the last swallow before he folded the letter and hid it inside his jacket pocket. He stood slowly, allowing his knees to yawn before stepping away from the table.
“Ya off now Patrick?” Matty asked, wiping the bar top with a white rag.
“Aye,” Patrick responded. “I have a letter to post.”
Matty smiled and gave Patrick a wink. “I’ll be seeing you when yer done then.”
Fear stood in an aqua Clair McCardell one piece with black piping trying to catch her breath. The wooden platform was slippery beneath her feet and a pebble was grinding itself between her pinky and fourth toe.
Her friends had talked her into an afternoon at Lions Head in Howth. Right this moment she was wondering why she ever said yes. She would have done better, she thought, to have spent the afternoon in Dublin going to the shops or meeting Lily for tea. Instead, she was peering over a diving platform into churning waves below. She gulped in the sea air. An attempt to calm her nerves? An attempt to hyperventilate herself to pass out? Neither worked. She had two options, she could turn around and go back the way she came or she could step forward and allow herself to drop into the sea.
Cheers came from behind her. Encouragement in sentences from bodies that had slipped out of their saddle shoes for a day on the rock hollered, “You’ve got this!” “There is no other gal than our Sal!” and “Don’t think about it, just jump!” It was the last one that seemed helpful. “Don’t think, just do it.”
She moved to the edge. Eyes forward. One deep breath and …
It was exhilarating.
Time stood still and moved forward simultaneously. Air danced on the soles of her feet then pulled itself around her, wrapping her, protecting her as she dropped. Strangely she felt no fear and she counted the seconds in her mind. How many till her body sheered through the surf? Would it hurt? Would she feel it? “ah, let’s not think about that, this part feels too amazing to worry about that part.” She closed her eyes and enjoyed the rest of the drop.
He saw her smile the split second before her feet entered the sea.
That was the moment he felt his heart fall in love.
He stood in front of the double glass doors of 15 East 7th Street Manhattan gazing up at the windows, his two sons strapped to their suitcases, one on his left, the other on his right.
“Is this the place, Da?” the elder boy asked.
“Aye.” Patrick confirmed. “Your Uncle Matty says our rooms are up there.” His right index finger pointed up at a bank of black-trimmed windows set in red brick. “It’s a good change, we’ll be good here.” Patrick spoke out loud, not so much to convince the boys, but to convince himself.
The last year had been a tumble of sorrow in fog. The ten years before had been a whirlwind of love. It was hard to let go of the one while trying to climb out of the other.
Then came the invitation from Matty. “Come to America, I have a place for you to stay, and a job at the pub. The change might help.”
The three of them walked through the doors into their new life.
Patrick pulled his feet along the old wood floor and opened the door to East 7th. The smell of the city hugged his soul. Another Irish accent walked by and nodded in his direction.
” Hello, Patrick.”
“Hello, John. How yer doing today?
“Above this side of the dirt still Patrick, I say it’s a fine day.” John offered a wink. “Where you off to?”
“Just to the post, to drop a letter.”
“Ah, for Bob? He’s still in University? or Mike? How is that lovely wife of his? You raised two fine sons my friend.”
Patrick smiled and nodded “Aye, they turned out well those boys, take after their mother. But the letter isn’t for them.”
“I’ll walk you then? If you don’t mind a bit of company?”
Patrick nodded and the two elderly men chatted, catching up on the neighborhood news as they strolled down the sidewalk. John turned left onto 3rd St. Patrick continued ahead to Copper Square.
When Patrick reached the post he pulled the letter from his pocket, opened the handle, and slid it in. He knew it would never get to where it should be yet he posted it as he had posted all the letters before it. He’d been doing this for thirty-five years.
It was easier for him to think she was away visiting her sister than to remember she was gone forever and so he did that. On her birthday he mailed her a letter. At Christmas, he mailed her a letter. On their wedding anniversary, he mailed her a letter. On the birthdates of their sons, he mailed her a letter. And today, the day his heart fell in love with her, the day she smiled in the sea, he mailed her a letter.
He thought of that day as he walked back to 15 East 7 street. How he watched her on the platform deciding what she was going to do. Then to watch her overcome her inner fear and enjoy it. The smile, he would never forget how she beamed. He never knew if it came from the thrill of the drop or the thrill of overcoming her terror, either way, she glowed.
He could never bring himself to jump. Perhaps that’s a bit of why he fell in love with her. She was brave.
He turned into 15 East 7 street, walked behind the old wood bar, tied his white apron on, and started pouring pints for the tired accents who had finished work.
It wasn’t long before the memory was replaced by the lives of others. Davy was having problems with his mother-in-law, Jimmy got told off by his boss, and Terry got that promotion he’d been hoping for. Jenny was waiting for her brother to take her to the pictures. Ordinary people, living ordinary lives, drinking an ordinary pint in an ordinary pub.
The shift was long and by the time the ordinary people had finished telling him of their ordinary day his head was throbbing.
Patrick locked the door on the night and sank into the chair by the black-bellied stove that once burned coal a little too hot, easing his toes out of their servitude. He closed his eyes.
The wooden platform was smooth beneath his feet, a little slippery and a little cold. Patrick opened his eyes and saw the Irish sea before him. The salt air kissed his cheek.
He heard his name being called, carried on the breeze, braiding itself around his soul.
He looked down.
Waving from the waves, that smile on her face in jubilant joy.
“Patrick.” Her voice called.
His heart leaped to his throat. It was her. My God, it was her!
“Don’t think about it, just do it.”
He moved to the edge. Eyes forward. One deep breath and …
It was exhilarating.
Time stood still and moved forward simultaneously. Air danced on the soles of his feet then pulled itself around him, wrapping him, protecting him as he dropped.
His breath was taken away only for a moment and when he surfaced she was there.
“My Patrick…” her eyes danced as her arms reached for him. “I’ve been waiting for you for such a long time.”
The wake was held at 15 East 7th Street Manhattan.
They said it was a stroke but anyone who loved Patrick Doyle knew it was his heart.


*This story was inspired by Reedsy prompt

“Set your story in New York, where someone’s been waiting for your character.”