ModelStory: The Alphabet

???????????????????????????????“You’ve got yourself a whole alphabet there, sir!” sang the cheery desk clerk as Al spelled his last name, checking in to Salvation Point’s luxurious Hotel Delsman. She recited it back to him as she keyed it into the computer, “A-B-D-E-R-K-O-W-I-T-C-S-Z.”

He forced a smile at the pretty blonde, but her comment sent his mind elsewhere. Fifty, sixty, was it seventy years ago?

He sat across the desk from Dr. Pickering at the Brighton School for Troubled Boys. The old shrink thumbed his file, sat forward.

“You’ve got yourself a whole alphabet there, son,” he said. “Maybe we’ll call you that.”

Al “The Alphabet” Abderkowitcsz has resisted the nickname since.

???????????????????????????????Lucky Luciano.

Bugsy Siegel.

Machine Gun Kelly.

Once they gave you a name, it was all over but the shouting. He didn’t stay on the outside, didn’t survive, didn’t play this game well into his eighties by making a name for himself.

He succeeded on anonymity.

Succeeded at what?

“Personal finance,” he would tell you, barely holding back the mischievous grin.

It was the usual stuff, the ABCs of organized crime – protection rackets, bank jobs, running a little booze way back when. He was one of those guys who worked harder keeping his shady schemes straight than he would have at a legitimate job, but the crooked money always spent sweeter.

The money, the power, the life – all sweet. Now, at eighty-seven, a great-grandfather four times over, the sun is setting on Al “The Alphabet” Abderkowitcsz.

???????????????????????????????Surveillance vans in poor disguise are appearing regularly outside his New York City apartment. Wherever he goes – even in Salvation Point – black SUVs whisper to a stop a block behind. The noose is tightening, but so what? It won’t be a grand jury, it won’t be the FBI or the DEA or some ladder-climbing prosecutor bent on putting both their names in the paper that will spell The End of The Alphabet.

They need another year, maybe two to take him down. The tumor on his thyroid will do the job in four months.

But there’s one loose end that needs tying up before he goes. He left an item of immense value high in the hills of Many Lost Ways, a legacy for those four great-grandchildren. He tucked it away when he was a younger man some fifty years ago, and if he can get it back before his time expires his great-grandchildren and their great-grandchildren will never answer to anybody, never lift a finger for their bread.

Of course it will mean the end of Many Lost Ways as we know it; Salvation Point and the FCFL will be changed forever. But he holds no special place in his heart for any of that. Him and his – nuts to anything else.

All he needs is a sturdy back that knows how to stay quiet.

Hey, you look up to it, pal. Whaddya say? Wanna score some quick cash?

(Preiser figures, Design Preservation Models Hilltowne Hotel, Atlas vehicle)


Major Awards!

Reheated leftovers this week, folks. Sorry. Back next week with new and exciting adventures from Many Lost Ways.

I’ve recently been participating in a couple of “flash fiction” writing contests, where the host offers a writing prompt – a phrase, a photograph, a word – then sets a word limit and deadline. The contests are Flash! Friday (careful Googling that) and Christian Flash Weekly.

I’ve had some recent success, winning Grand Champion on Christian Flash Weekly and 1st Runner Up on Flash! Friday.

Here are the lauded pieces:

Christain Flash Weekly:

Length: 500-700 Words

Prompt: Psalm 23:5 NIV (Or the translation of your choice.)

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

“Eternity, A Supper Club”winner

Running a quick errand one night, I skidded into a place called Eternity.

Everyone goes to Eternity but hardly anybody plans on it. When it’s your time, it’s your time.

Eternity sounds like a hip night spot, but it’s really supper clubby. You enter through a dim bar and check in with an aging hostess and then wait. It’s very ’70s – shag carpet, oranges and earth tones – and it’s hot, dry, and crowded.

Everybody has a glass but nobody has a drink. They all hold dusty, dry highballs with a cocktail straw in them and nothing else.

It made me unbearably thirsty.

“Just the water,” I told the bartender, and in my hand was a glass. I had been holding it for years, had always trusted it was there, but had never seen it.

I put it to my lips and drank deeply, and was refreshed. The glass remained full to the brim, and above the brim.

“So you’re one of THOSE,” said a woman next to me.

A woman but not a woman.

Her head was misshapen, like a burlap sack holding a ball of writhing snakes. It pulsed and squirmed beneath a bad wig. Her rose-tinted glasses hid where eyes should have been.

The woman rapped her dry highball glass on the bar and glared at the bartender, who only shook his head.

“I supposed you’ll expect to be … seated,” the woman said to me. She paused at “seated,” spat it scornfully from a mouth that wasn’t a mouth but red lipstick vibrating in a loop – the drawstring on the sack holding all those snakes.

“I know a Guy,” I said, and drank the water.

“But will He know you?” she said, the mouth flexing and pursing. “You? A liar? A cheater? A thief?”

I looked at her quizzically.

“Oh I know you’re not a … a thief,” she said. “Not like that. But, dutiful in your work, were you?”

I’d never thought of it as stealing, but sure, I cheated. I played hooky now and then, padded an occasional expense report.

Her point dawned on me. I was a thief, and therefore wouldn’t be known here. Anxiety poked my belly.

But I drank the water, and was relieved.

Annoyed, the woman tapped her glass on the bar. The bartender shook his head.

“Your wife then,” said the woman – the accuser – rising from her stool and stepping toward me. “Faithful to her were you? Forsook all others, cherished her and so forth?”

The words were hot, angry, convicting.

I was faithful to my wife, and loved her dearly.

But my eyes wandered. I coveted and compared. I said cruel words and damaged her.

Hot guilt throbbed in my chest. Surely He would deny me!

But I drank the water and was comforted.

The woman angrily banged her empty glass on the bar. The bartender shrugged.

“What about HIM then!” She advanced toward me, a bony finger in my chest. “He wanted to speak with you so often, each week! But you couldn’t be bothered to get up in time! And did you introduce anyone else to Him? Stand for Him?”

She was over me now, still a small woman but at the same time taller than me. I cowered and sank to the floor. The drawstring mouth yawned, beyond it a forest of yellow teeth and beyond that a throat of fire.

How right she was! I believed, but when did I witness for Him? How many did I bring to Him? Not one!

He wouldn’t know me. It was this woman – this accuser – who knew me. It was this beast that would have me in Eternity.

Tears rolled from my eyes. My trembling arm sloshed the glass toward my lips, but she held it fast. The mouth grew larger, the throat fire roared.

“Christian!” the hostess bellowed, hauling me to my feet with one hand and shoving the woman away with the other.

The accuser shrank back to the bar, furiously pounded her glass upon it. The bartender shook his head once more.

“Come,” said the hostess, dusting me off. “Your table is ready.”

Flash! Friday

Length: 140-160 words


This photograph, plus the admonition to “include a thunderstorm.”


“Memory Garden”

I fly the memories up, up, up to the secret place and plant them like seeds in a garden, then tend them until they bloom the only way stone can, into structure.

Knock on one door, you’ll find me with Mommy, not in my memory garden but the green garden, teaching me to plant and tend, singing silly songs until sunset. That’s a happy door.

Another door is Daddy, but it’s the only Daddy door, an old memory and Daddy can’t make new now.

The dark doors, the crumbly doors, are when Daddy hurt mommy and the darkest is the time Daddy hurt Mommy then slept while thunder roared, and while he slept I flew his memory here.

And now you ask me for the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth about that and you climb with your questions, but the secret place is up, up, up too high for you to reach.




Hand-Painted Railcar Graffiti

Graffiti is an essential element to realistic railcar models. There are graffiti decals available on the market, but using a commercial product to represent something so individual and organic doesn’t sit well with me. So, I paint my own using acrylics. The water-based paint allows me to blend colors and recreate the inconsistent coverage of spray paint. Plus, I can personalize the artwork.

I start by sketching the graffiti on scratch paper to get the right size and spacing for any letters. Then I paint the silhouette of the art in multiple colors, creating a gradient. When the gradient dries, I come back with a contrasting color and outline the letters, and add any other details I want. IMG_3086


ModelStory: Idaho


For the better part of an hour, he more or less had the full attention of a very pretty girl from Idaho.


Staggeringly exotic to a boy from Cincinnati and now that she’s gone, here he sits with a swelling heartache and a kid sister to look after until Mom and Dad come to retrieve them.

Mom and Dad. So pedestrian now, so khaki shorts and white sneakers.

He won’t be able to look at them.

Her name was Belle and it started like all summer vacation romances must, with an errant volleyball.

“Hey, little help?” Belle said.

He scooped up the ball and lobbed it back.


She flashed smiling eyes as green as kelp.

“Sure,” he said, suddenly sheepish about kneeling in the sand holding a purple plastic shovel with flowers on the handle.

He gestured toward his sister.

“She, ahh,” he shrugged. “She likes to play in the sand.”

Belle’s smile widened, soft cheeks dusted with cinnamon freckles.

“It’s sweet of you to play with her.”

She held up the volleyball and nodded toward her brothers.

“You wanna?”

Ignoring his sister’s protests, he trotted into the water.

They worked through the formalities – both 14, both going into high school, both visiting Many Lost Ways with their parents. No, he’d never been here before. Yes, she had, almost every summer. Two older brothers for her. Him, just the little sister.

For a while they batted the volleyball, then sat in the sand with waves splashing their feet. She sat right next to him – touching him – her bronzed hips framed in black bikini bottoms, red sand clinging to her and highlighting adolescent curves that fascinated him.

He found it hard to speak, but remembered his uncle’s advice to always ask a girl about herself. (“Keep you out of it, they don’t care.”) So he asked flattering questions and made her laugh.

For an hour.

Once he had talked coherently, smoothly, to Kaylie Schupel for ten minutes at the spring dance but an hour? With a girl like this? From Idaho?

Belle leaned against him, rested her head on his shoulder, traced his arm with her fingertip. Tingling sensations rippled through him, something deep in his belly tightened.

Things like this did not happen in Cincinnati.

But then her dad arrived, by boat of course – no minivan, no car-top carrier – a sleek, modern boat gleaming with chrome, the bow marked with an Idaho registration number he’ll remember until he’s 30.

She stood, crouched gracefully in front of him, held his face in her hands, and kissed his lips.

“See you around.”

She didn’t look back as she waded to the boat and effortlessly boosted herself aboard.

His parents won’t understand his obsession with Idaho this winter. Why on Earth would he write a term paper about the Shoshone? And why does he want to go to Coeur D’Alene? Next summer is Disney – they’ve talked about it – it’s always been Disney.

(Preiser figure, EnviroTex Lite “water,” Woodland Scenics ground foam, natural sand.)