News of the New
From the Dark & Ugly File
A Rose by any Other Name

I am back working on my novel "Live Fast! (Die Out of Town)" and that one shall follow the short story collection out the chute. Here's a chapter:


After all that went into getting there, graduation itself was not even anti-climatic. It just was. Rachel’s family actually made a big deal out of it. And it was the rare chance for the clique to actually give her something that she needed. None of them were using their tickets for graduation for a variety of reasons, but it was still kind of them to hand them over to Rachel. Her grandparents flew up from Florida to be there and sat proudly in between Rachel’s divorced parents. Rachel had even been able to procure tickets for her folks’ new significant others. It was an uneasy truce, but the typical family squabbling that almost always ruined every family event that required they be in close proximity to one another were put aside during the ceremony.

The truce even lasted all the way through the post-graduation lunch they all enjoyed. Since Rachel’s mother had picked the restaurant the group dined at, her father thought it only fair that he got to pick up the check. The battle over who got to drop the small piece of plastic onto the black, plastic tray made Rachel wish that she too could just become small enough to slip discretely into the waiter’s hand.

She had been disappointed that she didn’t get to introduce her extended family to the new one she had spent much of the last four years with. Deep down she was pleased that Rick could not be there. It wasn’t enough for Rachel to succeed; part of her relished seeing others – namely Rick – fail, as well. Rachel had Sandy’s tickets, too. Rather than face the fight over which of his parents to give the tickets to, Sandy had let Rick convince him that would be the ideal day to set off on their cross-country motorcycle trip.

Mike had his tickets messengered over by his publisher. Although his folks were coming down from Boston and had thrown a cocktail reception at the Harvard Club, Mike planned on being anywhere but there. He was relishing taking advantage of every perk of his contract that he could. He had considered having the publisher send someone to the snobbish event in his stead, but he remembered that he liked his burgeoning relationship with the people who were paying him. Why should somebody from the mail room be subjected to his family? It was easier and a far better way to spend the day, writing and not answering the phone.

Ghia had every intention of attending graduation. After the Ali debacle, as she thought of it in her head, she had come back to the dorm with her tail between her legs. She hadn’t meant it to be that way. She was fortunate enough to be able to get a single room despite the fact that she had turned down school housing when she paid that final year’s tuition. Someone must have heard about what happened to her and taken pity. She didn’t want the pity, but she needed the room, she needed the normalcy of one last year of having simple living. She needed a clean and safe laundry room in the basement with a stack of trashy romance novels. She needed the dining hall with the endless supply of sugary cereal, soda and the hubbub of collegiate chat.

Ghia had seen all too clearly in just a scant few months of how hard and ugly life could be outside of college. She was giving serious consideration to Graduate school. She knew that she wanted that insulated cocoon of being a student. The real world was scary and filled with people who could turn angry and mean over the simplest of things, like accidentally breaking your husband’s favorite pint glass when you were doing the dishes.

Then her father had his heart attack and everything changed with that one phone call: Her mother, babbling incoherently in a mixture of Korean, English and heart wrenching sobs. Ghia got a lot of studying done sitting in hospital waiting rooms. She got to see first hand how medical science was a guessing game, how nothing prepared you for sickness and for death. She wished that she was still eight years old when her father was the strongest, smartest man she knew. The hardest part, having gotten close to quite a number of men in the last four years at school, was that she still thought that way about her father. Especially compared to him, the men she opened her heart and her legs to were little more than boys.

Now, her father was little more than a thin shadow in bed. Back and forth between hospital beds and the one made up on the ground floor of their house. Her mother becoming larger and stronger as her father diminished. Ghia learned more in those months about what it meant to be a woman than any of the books she had read at school and in all the feminist studies classes that she had taken over the last few years.

The night before graduation, a ceremony her father wanted to attend, a ceremony her mother needed to attend – Ghia was not only the first in the family to go to college, she was graduating with honors – her father took a turn for the worse. The doctors were puzzled; not at all what any family member wants to hear in an intensive care unit. He had completely ceased to speak English and called out for Old World procedures that the physicians could not comply with.

Ghia’s tickets to graduation were left in an envelope on her mother’s dresser at home. The envelope was never opened and it sat there for a long while even after graduation.


Rick cajoled and pleaded and then finally convinced Sandy that they should set off on the motorcycles at the precise moment that the graduation ceremony in Washington Square Park was to commence. Rick wasn’t invited as he had failed to graduate. Sandy had been asked by the Business School to give a speech as part of the ceremony. When no one in the department could understand the outline he was asked to provide and delivered, Sandy finally acquiesced to Rick’s demands.

Rick had not even informed his parents that he hadn’t graduated or that he was heading out on a motorcycle from Sandy’s New Jersey home with a destination of Venice, California and the home of their former roommate Jinky. Jinky had invited them in passing. No one in their right mind would have taken the invite as gospel, but then again, neither Rick nor Sandy was in their right mind.

So, at precisely one o’clock in the afternoon on that Thursday in June, with just one change of clothes, the saddle bags on their bikes were filled with tools that Sandy had said were far more important than clean underwear, they hit the road. The gas tanks were full. The brilliant June sun reflected off their black leather motorcycle jackets and helmets.

The thunderstorm hit them, and hit them hard, less than eighty miles into their journey on the Jersey turnpike. Rick was whooping it up, manic in his glee to be free. He thought of the rain as cleansing and a good omen. Sandy, the wiser and more experienced biker of the pair, knew the rain – the first storm in some time – would make the roads treacherous and the other drivers far more dangerous.

When he spied the train trestle, he signaled Rick to pull over. They got off the Thruway and hunkered down, like two soaked-to-the-skin trolls, to wait out the storm which had no appearances of letting up anytime soon. For awhile, they just sat with their helmets under their asses and watched the teaming rain slough down from above.

Rick howled at the sky. Sandy turned to him. “You wanna go back?” said Sandy.

“I’d rather marry Rachel and have her put my balls up on her mantel,” said Rick, grabbing his crotch to emphasize his point.

“At least they’d be safe there,” said Sandy, smiling.

“I don’t care about safe,” said Rick, sounding like he actually meant the fool hardy statement.

“Obviously,” said Sandy, “you would have kept on riding in this, wouldn’t you?”

Rick looks out at the pouring rain and the speeding cars and semi trucks sending dirty water cascading over them. “Hell yeah!” said Rick.

Sandy shook his head. He sat in silence for awhile, occasionally glancing over at the obviously antsy Rick.

After about twenty minutes of nonstop, torrential downpour, Rick got up off his helmet and wandered over to the edge of the overhang and stuck his hand out. His palm was quickly filled with rain water, a fact he was oblivious to.

“Looks like it’s letting up,” said Rick.

Sandy just shook his head. “Sit down and shut up,” said Sandy.

Rick looked out at the storm and then turned back and slowly trudged back to where Sandy was seated, safe and dry.

“C’mon,” whined Rick, “a little rain won’t hurt us.”

“Yeah,” said Sandy, “but one of these trucks might kill us.”

Rick made a raspberry sound. “Then go,” said Sandy. Rick looked out at the speeding trucks and then sat back down on his helmet next to Sandy. Sandy smiled and then closed his eyes. To him, patience really was a virtue.

They listened to the rain pound them from above for a good ten minutes without saying another word.

“So,” said Sandy, without opening his eyes. Rick actually thought for a moment that his friend had fallen asleep. “What are you gonna do when we get back to New York?”

“When we get back?” said Rick.

“Yeah,” said Sandy, “after this is done.”

“Why are you thinking about what happens after?” said Rick, “We just started. I mean just barely.”

Sandy opens his eyes for a moment, looks at Rick, drenched in his black jeans and leather jacket and then closes his eyes again.

After a few minutes more with nothing but the sounds of traffic and rain, Rick turns back to Sandy. “Well,” said Rick, “what are you doing after this? Wall Street, huh?”

“That’s what everyone thinks,” said Sandy without even opening his eyes.

“Well,” said Rick, studying his friend’s face, “are they right?”

“Maybe,” said Sandy.

“Maybe?” said Rick.

Sandy nods.

“What, you got a different plan?” said Rick.

Sandy opens his eyes and catches Rick staring at him, trying to read something that just might not be there.

“I’m thinking I just might raise falcons,” said Sandy. Then he closed his eyes and listened to the rain.

Rick starts to open his mouth and then realizes he has no idea what to say. He closes his mouth and leans back on his damp helmet and listened to the rain.

Sandy opens an eye and glances at Rick. He smiles.

“Sounds like it’s starting to let up a little,” said Sandy.

“Good,” said Rick.