GutterBall

Meredith studied the pool table, studying the ways she could make a shot. She was stripes tonight. She had a slight lead, and felt like she could increase the gap, but that stupid blue ball over in the corner… it was too close to call. But if somehow she could avoid it, it would get two of her pieces in the pocket. She didn’t want to, but maybe it was a necessary sacrifice. She lined up her pool cue, slowly eyeing up the pocket….

Only for a paper plate of greasy, shiny pizza to come smacking down right next to her. She looked up to see John giving her a small smile. He folded his own slice by the crust and took a small bite out of it. She had not heard him approach, the continuous sound of bowling balls thundering down their lanes covering up any footsteps he may have made.

She gave him a love tap on the side with the end of her cue, then moved her paper plate to the table so she could make her shot.

“Classic, coming in to save your own ass,” she laughed. He snickered and placed his own pizza down, shooting that bothersome solid ball into the pocket.

“You just didn’t make your move fast enough,” John’s reply was. She gave him a sour face, and went to look at the table for another shot.

“I’m going to win, so just give up now,” she told him. “You enjoy coming here for the neon anyways, you don’t actually care about beating me.”

“I like to think of it as letting you think you have the upper hand,” he cackled. She rolled her eyes, bending down to hit her next shot. It missed, and she cursed, giving a small smack to the table.

“Is she beating you again?” came a voice. The two of them looked around to see a familiar face floating by the pool table, their friend Steve with a pitcher and stack of cups in his hands.

“Hey,” John greeted him. Meredith flashed him a smile, leaning in onto her opponent. John’s arm slid in between her waist and her arm on her hip. “What brings you here tonight?”

“Birthday party,” Steve pointed the pitcher to the room at the end of the alley. “One of Briana’s friends, we’re just here for the fun.”

“How old?” Meredith asked. “I thought maybe we were going for the pony party this year.”

“Oh no, hopefully not,” Steve said. “I’m not ready for that. But it’s Taylor’s kid, we just wanted to enjoy some adult bowling on the side. Party’s not much longer though, kids just wanted some juice before we started packing up.”

“Your yard isn’t ready for the big horse?” John asked. Steve nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, plus I have too many tasty plants for a stupid horse to kick or chew up,” Steve shook his head. “One mess I don’t want to have to clean up afterwards. They make such a mess.”

They exchanged a few more lines of conversation, and then Steve went back to his get together, leaving this couple to their game. Withdrawing his arm from the waist of his girlfriend, John placed his hand in his pocket, feeling for what was there. Meredith was perfectly distracted, looking in the distance for the party room to see any kids in there. He made his way to the other side, dropping the small object into one of the pockets. Meredith looked over at him unsuspecting, and gave a small smile, eyes narrow.

“You’ve had your chance to find a good shot,” she said. “But you’re still going to lose.”

John ended winning the game, due to a lucky shot. He couldn’t stop chuckling, much to her annoyance, and insisted on another game. She agreed, started to empty the pockets on her side. He watched her carefully, having to hide his baited breath when she found what was inside the pocket.

But nothing came of it. All that came out of that pocket were pool balls, and nothing more. The grin slowly disappeared from his face when he realized she didn’t have it. That’s not right, he said, backtracking his memory. He also patted his pocket. I definitely put it in there.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Don’t think you can make it a streak?”

“Just break,” he said, trying to remain humorous as worry set in.

That was their last game, and John did his best to disguise his worry. He let Meredith won, trying his best to show everything was a-ok. He checked the pockets as best as he could. Nothing was in there that game besides whatever ball fell into it, and there were no holes in the leather as best as he could feel. It wasn’t on the floor either, nor any other pocket. Not even his pockets. It was just gone.

Nobody had come and seen the object. He was the only one who knew it went in, or even that it was here.

“I think that’s game,” Meredith said at one point, seeing that her significant other was not as immersed in the game as he once was. “But I think we should play another game. At home.”

“Oh should we now?” he asked her. She smiled with a devilish twinkle in her eye. “I think I can beat your butt at this one too.”

“I think you’ll be sorely mistaken,” she said, giving him a kiss before putting her pool cue away. John watched her go, quickly digging his hand in another pocket. Just to check. But nothing. Where the hell did his ring go?

He handed her the cash to pay for the games, hoping to find it before she would return. But he couldn’t think of anywhere else it could be. Color was draining from John’s face faster than people leaving the bowling alley.

“All set?” she asked him. He shook his head, taking a knee and looking under the table. “What’s wrong, did you lose your wallet? Because I just saw you put it in your pocket.”

“No, it’s not that,” he said.

“Sir, the alley is closing, and I’m going to need to ask you to leave,” an attendant drifting by said. Meredith gave his hand and tugged. He gave her the one minute finger, but she pulled harder.

“Hold up,” John said. He gave her the keys, letting her go to the car to warm it up. “I have to talk to him real quick.”

He came out of the alley twenty minutes later, much to Meredith’s concern. John’s face looked bleak, and for some reason it wasn’t from the cold.

“Is everything ok?” she asked him as he slid into the driver’s seat. He was quiet for a minute. His hands were on 10 and 2 on the steering wheel and he just sat there, watching the neon lights of the alley go dark.

“Be honest,” John said to her. “Did you find something in the pool table tonight?”

“No,” she asked, confused. “Did you lose something?”

“Yes, something important,” he told her. “I asked the people to look for it, but I can’t think of where else it would be.”

“Maybe it’s in the car,” she said, digging through the cupholder. John at this point was certain, she was not playing him.

“It’s not,” he told her with a heavy sigh.

“Well what was it?”

“Your ring.”

“My what?”

“Mer, I was going to propose to you,” John confessed. The words came out so easily but it was incredibly hard to admit this to her. “I was going to propose. I left the ring in one of the pockets of the pool table, so you would pick it out. But it went into the pocket, and it didn’t come out. I’ve spent four years waiting to propose to you, and I messed it up. And now I’m freaking—-“

She leaned over and kissed him. “You always know how to play it clever,” she said. “And I’m telling you, ring or not, the answer is yes!”

He hugged her close, feeling her warmth underneath her jacket.

“What made you think of it this way?” she asked him.

“I was at dinner with my parents, and one of their friends came by, he said. Then his wife came by, and the way she leaned against him, that’s the way you lean against me, I thought. And I wanted to have that, I already have that. But I wanted it forever. To be able to walk through a restaurant, run into our friends, and be able to talk to someone and have you lean against me like that, and just be a happy couple.”

She leaned over and lightly kissed him on the neck.

“We’ll find it, it’ll be ok,” she said. “Let’s go home for the night, and then we can figure out where it went in the morning.” ns-monogram1

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Kokuviki

Previous Chapter

A sudden bump jolted Bour awake. Sitting up he found himself in his wagon…which was moving. Had his Mahi steeds simply taken off while he was sleeping? No, they couldn’t have. They had not been harnessed to the wagon last night. Incredulous, he scrambled to the front of the wagon. A Kikinalo strode alongside the wagon, its saddle empty while its rider was at the reins of Bour’s Mahi.

“Nireta?” Bour asked, spying the shape of her Kakama from behind. Turning to see he was awake, she smiled. “How did you find…what are you doing here?”

“Bringing you back,” she answered. “Tell me, how do Po-Matoran even survive in this heat? Kokovuki is coming, and I wanted to celebrate with you.”

“But the Rhode—“ Bour protested.

“Can be found another time,” Nireta she said matter-of-factly.  “You should come be amongst friends.”

“But I was getting out there!” the Po-Matoran insisted. “Another day and I could have found something!”

“Then you will know exactly where to look again,” she reminded him. “You were also low on supplies.” There was an uncomfortable silence as they both knew why Bour wanted to be out in the desert by himself. “I miss him too Bour. But I’d also miss you if you disappeared into the desert forever. Just because your best friend isn’t here doesn’t mean you can’t be amongst company.”

The Po-Matoran looked at her. He was upset still, yes, but she was right. He did need to be with company. “I will celebrate Kokovuki with you,” he agreed, “but afterwards I’m coming right back out here. We need to find a way home once our stay here ends.”

“Then I find another reason for you to stay,” she resolved.

“Is it tonight?” Bour asked. Nireta shook her head.

“In a few days time,” she said. “I’m taking you back to the jungle, so you can get some fresh food.”

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Ocean City Magazine– July and August 2017

Grouping the two summer issues together, the July and August Issues of Ocean City Magazine feature a few articles from yours truly. img_4827.jpg

In the July Issue:

  • In the Kitchen– “Del’s Grill” (page 8)
  • The Interview with Edwin Nusbaum, Tennis Pro (page 24)
  • Good Karma– “Ocean City Fire Department Charitable Fund” (page 60)

In the August Issue:

  • In the Kitchen –Jon and Patty’s” (page 8)
  • The Interview with Bob Rose, Music Promoter (page 24)
  • Good Karma– “The Exchange Club” (page 61)

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Shelter Found

Previous Chapter 

Their initial stumbling had stopped, and now the two Utywan Matoran simply struggled the long hike up the mountain path. Their guide, Okoth, turned for the thirty-ninth time to make sure Bour and Nireta were still with her, watching them grapple with the challenges the landscape of Tenpravih gave them. The air was starting to thin as they ascended, and Okoth could see the chests of the two visitors heavily rising and falling.

“Do you need to rest?” she finally asked.

“Maybe— we should have waited a few hours— to get our land legs back…” Nireta replied. The Ga-Matoran straightened herself.  “We’ll get them back, don’t worry,” she reassured her guide. They both looked at Bour, who stood doubled over with his hands on his knees. The Po-Matoran gave them a thumbs up, his eyepiece on his Akaku extending to the path they still had to climb. Okoth nodded, waiting for them to restart their pace before she continued to guide.

The Utywans had allowed their cloaks to drift behind them as they climbed the base of the mountain, but the warmth of the bay was quickly left behind as they entered the bleaker parts of the island. The two wrapped themselves tightly as the mountain air sent shivers up the back of their necks. A wind unlike the far seas crept slowly around them, their expressions of exhaustion now of concerns. Okoth seemed unaffected by the cold, and did not express any concern about the weather.

“They are travelers,” explained Okoth to the guard of the bastion. Bour and Nireta, wrapped in their cloaks, marveled at the structure before them; seemingly carved out of the mountain itself. Though they had hiked a considerable distance, the walls of the place extended considerably higher than the Utywans  would have thought. Large windows looked out from various points facing this side of the mountain, balconies looking down along the path. They had come up the jungle side of the mountain, and far to their right, they could see a river rushing down the face of the mountain, to where it would meet the waterfalls of the beaches they had landed on far, far below.

“What business do travelers have in the Bioaku?” asked the guard.

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Shelter Needed

Previous Chapter

A Po-Matoran stood atop a rocky outcropping, squinting underneath his Kanohi as he tried to see through the white radiance of the afternoon sun immersing the plains around him. He gleaned small sprouts of shrubbery along the endless stretches of sand, but his Akaku kept scanning, his eyes never settling. Rays of sunlight streamed from the sun, an orb in a sky so fair blue that it looked white. It was one of those days where one could forget it was still the depths of winter, true spring many months away. The wind had even died down to a breeze as it participated in the weather’s charade, the Matoran’s tunic robe barely flapping atop the rocks.

Having seen enough of the rolling desert, he climbed down from the crest to where his covered wagon lie. The two Mahi that carried him here grazed on nearby brush, looking up at his return. Climbing back on his wagon, he urged the Rahi forward, continuing his journey. What the Matoran was looking for he did not find, so he would continue exploring the further depths of the desert.

Beneath the desert dirt, beyond what his Kanohi could see, the Rhode was buried, a highway system connecting this place to the rest of the continent of Del Vienvi. Somewhere out here, half buried in the desert, the elders of Tenpravih claimed that the Rhode still existed. The Matoran had been sent out to find it; their home having been destroyed by hurricanes, his village had sailed to find new lands, to only find that they had not left their country at all. If the Rhode existed in this desert, then he and his own people—the Utywans—could possibly make their way back home this way once the winter ended. There could be food on the Rhode, and they would be able to be away from the ocean they’d grown to hate sailing on. He shuddered at the thought—across the sea had been an unforgiving and unforgettable journey; if they found the Rhode, they would not have to endure that ordeal again.

The first step, however, was trampling through the desert in the direction he thought was right. Now a few days journey beyond the westernmost homes of the most withdrawn hermits, even the silhouette of the largest mountain of Tenpravih no longer visible. Out here existed nothing but the wilderness, (and hopefully the Rhode) the grasslands even fading to the beginnings of the deep desert. While the pair of Mahi pulled the traveler, their footing shifted, the sand turning from stretches of hard packed and rocky to soft and hilly. There were hours when sweat poured from the three of them, falling into the waves of heat that rippled off of the dunes. The Matoran would watch them, before looking into his wagon, unsure on how many more days he could travel in this direction before being forced to turn back.

The nights were cool, where the extremes of the day gave way to the comfort of the stars. While his steeds rested, the Matoran would lay on the dunes, watching the constellations in the blackness. His Akaku contained starcharts from previous adventures, and he would compare where the stars rested in the sky; most nights, however, he would just gaze up, seeing what made the night milky. The Red Star still was up there, hanging stoically amongst the whiter stars, while bursts of the cosmos were plastered against the sky for his viewing pleasure.

He would lay like this, watching the nights, until he fell asleep. In his slumber he would dream, most nights of how he first came to the Tenpravihn shores…

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Ocean City Magazine– June 2017

This month’s edition of Ocean City Magazine features three articles written by me. The content can be read in the Issu PDF reader below.IMG_4652

  • In the Kitchen “Voltaco’s” (page 6)
  • The Interview With Hiba Ahmad (page 20)
  • Inside the World of the 5k (page 48)

 

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Ocean City Magazine– May 2017

IMG_4591.JPGFreelancing for Ocean City Magazine (Ocean City, New Jersey, not MD), four articles in the May 2017 Edition are to my name. The articles can be read in the Issu PDF reader below.

  • The Interview with Mark Jamieson (page 18)
  • In the Kitchen “Philly Pretzel Factory” (page 6)
  • Good Karma “After Prom” (page 60)
  • Activity of the Month “Aerial Yoga at PLAAY Fitness” (page 42)

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