“Recycled” is a piece of Flash Fiction I wrote based on the photo below taken in St. Petersburg, FL by a college friend, John Hayes, street name, “Oops John.”

Among other things, Hayes excels as a street photographer, photo journalist, professor, writer and overall reprobate.

I encourage you to check out his work – thoughtful, fun, evocative, and usually a relaxing way to spend a few minutes of enjoyment.


It’s night.  I’m hungry … not sure of the date, day or time.  Something in the alley catches my attention.

I do the unthinkable … leave the safety of the sidewalk and walk into the alley.  I was warned about doing that.  Knew I’d catch Hell if Mama found out.

But I have to do it.

Something popped up and smiled at me.  It’s a doll … standing in a trash can.

When I reach the can, I snatch the doll outta the trash and tuck it under my coat so Mama won’t see it.  It’s smelly.  That’s okay.  I am, too.

I was standing there on the sidewalk just like she left me when Mama comes back.  She takes my hand and we walk away from the alley.  Under my coat, the doll feels a little scratchy … like it’s movin’ its arms.

When we reached the doorway … the one with the heat blowin’ in it, Mama spread my blanket over the grate and told me to go to sleep.

I told her I was hungry.  She reached in her sack and flipped the box of crackers to me … the same ones we had last night.  They were stale then.

I rollover, away from Mama and take a bite of a cracker.  Yep, still stale.

Then I hear it.  “Kin I have one uh them crackers?”  I look around thinking Mama said something to me, but she’s gone … just like every night.  I know she’ll come back.  She always comes back.

I hear it again.  “Kin I have one ah them crackers … please?”

I look down and see one of the doll’s hands extended toward me.  He has a quizzical look on his face.  “Sure,” I said.  “Here’s one … but that’s all you git.”

“Okay by me.  This’s the first cracker I ever had.”

I look straight into the doll’s big black eyes.  It was talking … to me and I didn’t think there was a thing wrong with that.  “Did you talk to the person who owned you before me?”


“Why not?”

“Didn’t need to.  I lived in ‘er house.  Got everything I needed … after they were asleep.”

“Are you a magic doll?”


“Then why can you talk … and walk around someone’s house?”

“You talk.  You walk aroun’.  You magic?”

“No, but I’m not a doll.”  I stared at the doll.

I knew I wasn’t magic ‘cause if I were magic I sure wouldn’t be here talkin’ to an old doll I pulled out of a trash can.  I’d be in my bed.  Warm.  Fed.  Probably have a new doll … and a kitten.

“No way I’m magic,” I say.

“Wanna bet?”

“What do you know about magic?”

“Ah’m talkin’ to you aren’t I?  If dolls don’t talk in your world, then I must be magic.  You’re talkin’ to me and you know just any old doll cain’t talk, so I must be magic.  It’s simple.”

“Well, if it’s so simple how’d you end up in that trash can, Mr. Smarty Pants?”

“Oh … a bit a temper, have we?  Maybe I wanted to be in thet garbage can.  Ever think about thet?”

“Who wants to be in a trash can?”

“Maybe a magic doll.  Maybe he wants to try his magic and see what happens.  Ever think of thet?”

“That’s stupid.  You’re stupid.  I’m gonna take you back to that can and throw you back in it.”

The girl grabs the doll by the red kerchief wrapped around its neck, leaves the doorway and heads toward the alley.  The doll bounces off her skinny legs and drags along the sidewalk.

“Ouch … you’re hurtin’ me.  Carry me like you woulda carried your dolls when you lived on Muldoon Street.  In that white house with the green shutters.”

The girl yanks the doll up to her face.  “How’d you know where I lived?”

The doll winks one of his big-black-orb-eyes.  “It’s all in the magic.  You know lotsa things with the magic. “

“You’re beginnin’ to scare me.  You’re goin’ back in the can.  Besides, we don’t have enough around here to feed another mouth.  Least ways that’s what Mama says.”

She drops the doll.  The kerchief tightens around its neck as it jerks up and down.  “I’m havin’ trouble breathin’ down here.  Cain’t you hold me a little more gently?  I’m not fightin’.  It’s not like I’m even askin’ ya to take me to the can.  I can walk there.”

“I’m takin’ you back to make sure you’re in the trash where you belong.  I don’t trust you.  Doll’s don’t talk and you’re not magic, either.”

Both were silent until they reached the alley.  The girl spots the trash can and pauses, “Home again, home again … jiggedy jig.  Here you go.  Better luck next time.”

She grabs the doll by the leg.  As she holds him over her head to hurl him into the bin, he reaches down with his right arm, turns her head just a bit and kisses her right on the lips.

A puff of smoke … the smell of burning incense … rustling noises fill the alleyway.  A feeling of transformation hangs in the air as the doll swishes head-over-heels landing feet first in the trash can … an enigmatic smile’s fixed on its face.

In the alleyway, a girl turns and looks at the doll.  The doll standing in the trash can seems puzzled, looks down and notices that she’s the one in jeans, a checked shirt with a red kerchief around her neck.

The little girl on the sidewalk skips away as the doll yells, “Wait!  Wait!  You can’t do this to me!  I’ll tell my Mama!  I’ll tell my Mama!”

The voice in the trash can grows weaker as she turns the corner … headed back to the doorway.

She says to no one, “Sure beats the hell outta that trash can.”

I Resolve

It’s New Year’s Eve 3:50 PM.

I just finished my last session of this year and resume again on January second of next year.  In our last session, my shrink and I talked about my New Year’s resolutions.

I think a lot about my resolutions.  I want resolutions I can keep.  You know – practical achievable goals.  I want to do what my shrink advises.  He told me:

Jason, you need successes, not failures.  Given your demeanor, I suggest you make resolutions that are manageable.  Don’t set yourself up for more failure. Your path to success must be walked one step at a time.  It’s a long path.

He said that to me at 3:20 PM during my last session.  I sat there looking at him then at the floor, alternating back-and-forth.  The remaining thirty minutes of our fifty minute session passed in silence.

I think that’s a rip-off.  After he makes one of his pronouncements or asks a question, if I don’t respond, he just sits there.  With that look.

You know, the look – the Jason, it’s your turn now look.

And there’s that thing he does with his fingers.  When he clams up after one of his smirky statements, he clasps his fingers together like we used to do when we were seven years old.  He makes that little steeple thing.  Like he’s some kind of religious church praying guy.  As he waits, he tips his finger-steeple toward his purplely lips touching the tip of his hairy nostrils.

I wonder if he knows I can see the nose hairs that grow from his nose like the Jack-in-the-beanstalk vine. What a rip-off.

Here’s another thing I hate about this guy.  I don’t get a full sixty minutes.  A full hour for the outrageous fee he charges me.  I’ve done this every other day for sixteen years and his price has gone up almost every year since I started.

So, we sit and stare.

The guy’s amazing.  It’s like he doesn’t even breathe.  We look at each other.

I’m always the first to blink.

Then I squirm a little.

Squeeze and release my butt cheeks rapidly to get some feeling back in them.  My fat ass aches and burns –   feels like it’s glued to the wooden seat of the chair.

Why don’t I ever choose the couch?  At least I’d be comfortable while my fifty minutes pass.

I look at him and I realize that in sixteen years he hasn’t aged a day.

I hear the “ping-ping” of his fifteen thousand dollar Tag Heuer.  He drops his hands, clears his throat, and closes his notebook.  It’s his sign that our session’s over.  I wish I could say, “Thanks, doc. I feel a lot better after our little talks.”

But I can’t and don’t.  I get up, walk out the door.

Later in the privacy of my bacon cheeseburger and Cheetos reeking studio hovel, I write out my resolutions.

Next year I, Jason Mariana, resolve to:

Not slit my shrink’s throat.

Cut down on the number of times I use my favorite expletive – instead of totally dropping it from my favorite’s list.  You know, quit blurting it out like I’m a Tourettes’ sufferer.

Lose only twenty pounds, instead of the sixty I need to lose.

Once a week, instead of every day, call my mom and listen to her whine over the phone about how life has screwed her.

This shouldn’t be too hard.  I can keep these.  Practical and manageable just like “Dr. Fruedin-schtein,” that’s what I call him, advises.  He’ll be happy, too.  We’re meeting tomorrow afternoon at two PM.

It’s 2:08 and I’ve just finished reading my New Year’s Resolutions.

The doc’s expression doesn’t change as he looks at me and asks, “Do you actually think you can keep these resolutions?  I must say, Jason, I’m surprised at the first one.  Do I detect a trace of hostility with regard to your first resolution?  We work hard to keep your hostility in check, Jason – in control.  Yes, I’m surprised.”

It’s 2:15 and now I’m standing here with blood on my hands.  Fruedin-schtein’s flat on his back on his precious Karistan – twitching, bleeding out.  Throat slit from ear to ear.  I’d have to say that he did have a look of surprise on his face.

Fuck.  Guess since I’ve already fucking blown number one on my fucking list, I really fucking don’t have to fucking worry about how many fucking times I use my favorite fucking expletive this fucking year.

I dial mom for the second time today.

As her phone rings I mutter, “Fuck the twenty pounds, and empty the Hershey’s Kisses from the dish on Fruedin-schtein’s desk into my jacket pocket.

As I open the office door I look down at him.  He really hasn’t aged a day.

Until now.

Fiesta Grill

My friend John Hayes was intrigued by the “flash fiction” I write and publicly issued me a creative challenge:  Write a story based on a visual prompt from a series of pictures he took recently at a Mexican Cantina overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Northern California.

The first image establishes a context; subsequent pictures hone in on plot possibilities.

Picture 2 Picture 1 oops Picture 3 oops Picture 4 oops


I’ve been coming to the Fiesta Grille ‘n Cantina for years. Too many for me to count and none of your business how many.

It’s a place where I can hang and not be bothered – too much. Most times no one really cares about anybody else’s business. It’s a show up, drink up, eat up, and don’t bother me with your goodtime place.

My senses are immediately assaulted as I walk in this afternoon. I forgot that it’s girls’ day, Saturday. I move to the end of the bar past the commotion caused by the families.

Soccer is a good all-American sport borrowed from the poorer countries where it’s enjoyed in the raw – no refs, no uniforms, no leagues – just a bunch of kids and/or adults on a vacant lot with a somewhat inflated or deflated ball — depending on your perspective. But, here in the good ole U.S. of A. we have waddled down our usual path and made soccer into a family affair, a middle-class extravaganza with official organizations, rules, structure, uniforms – and probably minimal fun.

Leave it to us to ruin a good thing.

There might be one future star in that bunch who will move to the next level, but I’ll bet it’s mostly kids trying to please parents, filling time and avoiding another lackluster Saturday. Welcome to the happy middle classes. The parents need to take a deep breath and step back from their kids’ lives. Let them feel a little freedom. The parents’ fear is transferred to their children. And so it goes from generation to generation.

I look around and think that one of the sweeties must have a birthday. Why else would there be painted faces?

Then I notice the trophies on the tables and decide the little twits have won some kinda championship. More than likely, however, they haven’t won a thing. They’ve all been given trophies for being terribly mediocre and abnormally compliant.

If any of the girls had guts, they’d say “screw you! I’m outta here and wana do my own thing.”

God I’m glad I’m not a kid and don’t have to participate in this shit.

Then that guy comes in again and orders his Dos Equis. He only shows on girls’ soccer day. The parents never pay any attention to him. They’re too busy making sure their little girls are all happy and preoccupied with “being nice.”

But I pay attention to him.

I do because the son-of-a-bitch has all the markings of a pervert and he straps a military issue K-Bar to his leg. The K-Bar’s not a utility knife used for cutting twine. That’s an ending-life knife. And it ticks me off that he brings it in here. I’ve seen what one can do to a human body – and it ain’t pretty.

I’ve also seen his kind before. Meek. Quiet. A loner. That old Lost in Space TV show with the robot’s warning races through my mind, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”

The little twirpy creep wrecks the wa – the energy in the room. At least for me. The girls and parents continue not to notice him.

I continue to sip my Corona with a slice of lime. I know. I know. Only pansy-assed Gringos use lime. I doubt the K-Bar dude drinks Corona with lime. I probably shoulda ordered a Tres Equis and one-upped the punk kid.

I feel a real mad coming on. Not sure I can let this guy go without a bit of well earned intervention on my part. Look at him. Just sitting there staring at the TV. But he’s not thinking about the TV. I bet he doesn’t even know who’s playing.

I study the guy a bit. No muscle tone. Hands and knuckles are smooth … too smooth to be much of a fighter. Probably bought the damn K-Bar at the local military surplus store and actually uses it for twine cutting. This scene just doesn’t fit together. It makes no sense. There’s something about him that makes me uncomfortable. Something not likable.

My gnarly hand wraps around the neck of my Corona. One whack on the edge of the bar will change my beer bottle into a pretty good weapon. Not a K-Bar, but definitely something of an equalizer. I suck in a deep breath and let it out slowly, then feel my pulse slow down as my fingers ease off the neck of the bottle.

The families are leaving the Fiesta. That’s good. When the action starts, I don’t want to be dodging squealing little girls and panicked parents. I need to concentrate on the pervert. He’s my target.

I smile and relax just a bit. God has spoken to me and directed my eyes to the shelf behind the bar. Right there within my reach is the equalizer – a 6-inch stainless steel cutting knife. He’s mine. I know it. I sense it. I feel it. You’re going down. You’ve just met the meanest of the mean right here in the Fiesta Grill ‘n Cantina. Say hello to …

The alarm on my cell phone beeps. I glance at it.

Damn – I’ve got just enough time to make it to my last session. I let out a big sigh, twist my neck a couple of times to release the tension, crack my knuckles, flip a twenty up on the bar and head for my anger management group.

Session number 12 – I think I’m making real progress.


Written from the prompt: 

“I’ve just watched Tennessee Williams’ ‘The Night of the Iguana,’ starring Ava Gardner and Richard Burton.”


Friday night, 10:30 p.m. I’ve just watched Tennessee Williams’ “The Night of the Iguana” starring Ava Gardner and Richard Burton.  The credits roll past my fogged eyes. I point and click my remote and the TV fades to dull gray.  It’s the 1173rd time I’ve watched Burton, the defrocked priest, totally lose it in a debauched ninety minute black and white ranting and raving tirade.

No one watches “Iguana” with me.

Why do I do this to myself?

The last time someone watched it with me, she walked out at mid-point – the 83rd time I’d watched the movie and a night that ranks as one of the ten worst dates in my career.

I’m in my forties, and crappy date nights continue as part of my bachelorhood.  Just last weekend, two short weeks after I swore I’d never date again, I fell off the wagon and asked a meter maid to meet me for dinner.  Yeah, she still gave me the ticket.  I made it clear to her that I wasn’t trying to “beat the rap.”  My battered Lime Green Neon was overwhelming evidence resting under the “No Parking” sign.  I didn’t tell her, that I honest-to-god hadn’t seen the sign because it was posted above the average man’s line of vision.

We agreed to meet at a neutral site.  I knew she wouldn’t let me pick her up at her place. She’s a cop.  You know – suspicious – first date – doesn’t know if I’m a serial killer.  By date night, I’m sure she ran my name through her computer systems checking to see if I had a record or scoff law parking tickets.

We agreed to meet at Every Night’s a Rib Night, one of my favorite spots.  In my opinion they offer the best barbecue ribs in town.  It’s casual, family oriented, well-lit, safe.  So, what does she order?  Frickin’ chicken – in a rib joint.  Plus a tossed green salad – dressing on the side, a small bowl of lima beans and unsweetened iced tea.  For crap’s sake – it’s a rib joint.

I know this place and they know me.  When it’s my turn to order, I tell our waitress, Monica, “I’ll have my usual,” meaning a pitcher of beer, fries and very thin flash-fried crispy onion rings.  I hate those thick-crusted previously frozen piles of onion glop.  As for ribs, my usual includes a full rack of meaty loin ribs.  Not those all bone, no meat, baby back ribs.  “If you’re gonna eat ribs, chow down on a meaty f’ing rib.”

That’s what I say.

Our food arrives and she asks me for a napkin.  I point to the roll of paper towels on the table.  She smiles at me, one of those meaningless empty smiles, makes no move to rip towels off the roll.  I signal Monica, and get some paper napkins.

Monica ties my personalized cloth rib-bib around my neck.  They made it especially for me, my name stitched in red block letters across the front – Daryl.  I douse my ribs in my own special sauce, a sploosh of Heinz 57’s finest and French’s yellow mustard, laced with Vlasic sweet pickle relish mixed in a dip dish.  Just another of my gastric innovations.

I start in on my lip smackin’ finger lickin’ dinner.  She unfolds her paper napkin and places it in her lap.  Then she picks up her fork in her left hand a knife in her right, and with surgical precision separates a piece of crispy glistening chicken skin from the meat. She then places the crunchy skin to the side of her plate and carefully carves the meat away from the breast bone.  She smiles at me as she thoroughly chews a bite sized piece of chicken.


In the meantime, I’ve stripped the meat off of two ribs, stabbed a couple of forks of rings and fries, dredged them in my special sauce mix and look up at her with a touch of beer foam on my upper lip.  She’s staring at me with a funny expression on her face.  Not funny “ha-ha,” but funny “odd.”

I pause and wipe my mouth with my rib bib.  No tooth picks are on the table, so I suck a piece of dangling rib fat from between my front tooth and the incisor next to it.  She’s now watching me as if I’m a science project.  I throw her my best killer smile.  She stares back, her face a complete blank.

“Daryl,” she says dabbing at her lips, “I think I’ve lost my appetite.  Good night.”

I give her a sardonic look.  A cop grossed out by a little special sauce?  But then I remember she’s not a real cop, just a meter maid.

A little burp blips through my lips.  Hey, I can tell the signs.  I’ve been blown off before. “Whatever,” I say reaching for my third shiny rib slab.  “Sorry it didn’t work out for ya. I’ll cover your tab.”

I cast a lust-filled peek at the uneaten food left on her plate.  Lima beans aren’t my favorite.  Maybe I should ask for a doggie bag.  Monica walks up and, with a bit of an edge to her voice, says, “Can’t believe she comes in here and orders chicken.  Wanna take it home for your pooch?”

I look up and for the first time I notice Monica.  As in, I really notice her.  Trying to mask my hesitancy, I ask, “Monica, have you ever watched ‘The Night of the Iguana’?”

“With Burton and Gardner?” she replies, a coy smile emphasizes her high cheek bones and blue-green eyes.  “Only 167 times.”

“What time do you get off tonight?”

She places both hands flat on the booth table, looks down at me flashing her own killer smile, “About nine-thirty.”