I saw her at the window, and I wondered if she was looking at me. The pensive look on her face was inscrutable at a distance, but I didn’t know her well, so would I dare to get closer? I decided…I’m not getting any younger. If I don’t overcome my shyness now I’ll be forever cursed by it. How long is long enough, anyway?
For so many years I’d hung back…but how many times can you do so when a kind young woman looks your way and smiles? Someone has to make the first move. But as I moved closer, Mandy’s face beamed. My like response was involuntary. She swung the window open and shouted. “I wondered if you’d ever notice me.” She was teasing, but I knew it wasn’t meant unkindly. And she was right.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know if you’d welcome my attention. I guess my fears were unwarranted.”
“Ya think?” I detected a slightly mocking tone, but she was smiling more all the time. So was I. I’d heard of long relationships coming from far less than this. Was it too much to hope for? Was it too soon to have such thoughts? It probably was, but the ball’s rolling now, and I’m not one to stand in the way of seeing where it goes.
Whatever happens from here on out, it’s better late than never…better something than nothing. It occurred to me that I was quickly going all-in. I’m not really a gambling man…but a chance at love wasn’t something my head could talk me out of. Losing would only come by not trying. So, yeah…all-in.
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You can call me Bartleby. That’s not my real name, but it’s close enough. I think someone once said…I write, therefore I am…or something like that. No matter. I write. And I am. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll tell you why I’m here. For years I kept quiet, even as I became more dissatisfied, more disconcerted, with what I saw all around me. Personal disappointments and frustration with a deteriorating world finally brought me to the breaking point. So I began to write. Do you dare to think you can now shut me up?

Pushed into decisions that weren’t what I wanted, justified by fabrications, didn’t help me or anyone. Have you ever heard the stories of someone not feeling the need to tell the whole truth, minus embellishments? If I was there too, would I back them up? Would you? The truth matters, and the truth is that I won’t buy the big lie, nor will I let it slide. That isn’t nitpicking. It’s basic decency. For awhile, to keep the peace, you may learn to close your ears…pretend you heard nothing unusual. But after awhile, you’ll feel complicit…and compromised. Like I did, you’ll reach a crossroads…either you reach the breaking point or surrender your integrity.
“I am not a crook!”
“Welfare Cadillacs”
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
“Weapons of mass destruction”
“Better and cheaper healthcare”
Just to name a few examples everyone has heard doesn’t cover the breadth of the problem. Anyway, the beat goes on. In a world where there’s so little regard for truth, does it make lies, or even tall tales acceptable? It doesn’t just happen in the political world. Much of what offends my ears is very personal. Politics, though, should provide examples everyone has heard…if only people cared enough to seek out the truth as vigorously as they seek out the latest Christmas toy phenomenon or see the latest “must see TV”. You may call me cynical…or a curmudgeon. Have at it if you don’t want to look into the mirror at yourself. I’m speaking truth, and you know it. Or are you willing to lie to yourself? I won’t be complicit.


The long-haired male ginger cat I called my buddy saw me sitting on the bottom step by the back door and hurried toward me. Soon, as always, he was in my lap and purring vigorously. The goofy look on his face told me he was enjoying it as I scratched the top of his head and behind his ears. He stretched out, and soon the purring slowed, and he knew he was asleep. I knew I had to leave soon, but how do you bring yourself to disturb a cat at peace with the world? I was glad that my cat whispering was all it took to get his attention.

My allergies keep me from having a cat of my own, but I’m always glad to welcome a cat friend. My buddy actually belongs to my neighbor. I think he’d gladly change families if I could survive it. When he’s on my lap, there’s nothing his cat mom or dad owner can say to get him to go to them. Perhaps it’s a bit malicious on my part, but I never encourage him to leave to go home.

I heard cat mom calling. “Rusty! Here, Kitty!” Only a few seconds passed before she repeated her call. No response from “Rusty” told me he wanted to stay. When I looked toward their house, I saw the muzzle of a black and white dog poking through a hole in the board fence. In his eyes, I thought I detected longing…or maybe it was jealousy. He whined.

“Sorry, Killer. I know you’d like me to pet you too,” I said quietly, then finished my sentence, “…but I’m a cat lover.” My buddy just stirred briefly, then put his head down and fell back asleep. When there’s a cat sleeping in your lap, all is good in the world. Isn’t it?

© 2017 Robert Mihaly
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As Jim came downstairs on Christmas morning, he saw, once again, the wretched excess of way too much. The Christmas tree, a real tree he’d selected and mounted in the stand, was bedecked with all manner of ornaments and the large lights that were so much more appealing than the miniatures. Some lights were solid color, some translucent colors, and many blinked on and off randomly. Tinsel hung from the tips of every branch made the lights look more in number than they were, but there were plenty. And then he saw it…the stacks of brightly colored packages, many with his name on the tags. Jim had asked for nothing from Mary, and with all the things he’d been giving away, or selling if he could, Jim could have wondered the reason for so much. But he already knew.
Some people think that they’re showing love when they give you something…a gift. In their minds, the gift is love. Jim never saw it that way, but he knew it happens. So how do you speak to someone like that? Is it love? He didn’t know…maybe for some it is, but it never spoke to him. And how do you love them back, if someone sees it that way? Throw caution to the wind, go against the grain, and do the same? It didn’t feel right…or good in any way. Jim’s a bit of a dreamer, but also practical. How many shirts does one person need? And what do you say when there are two more added to the collection? He thought of shirts, but it also applied to ties, pants, underwear, tools…you see the pattern. It was endless. And so were the bills after Christmas. He didn’t look forward to the arguments with Mary when they came due.
So Jim looked at the stack of boxes, all in brightly colored Christmas wrap, all sporting ribbons and bows, and he again wondered why…why so much? Maybe someday, someone smarter than him will figure it out…do the research…write a best-seller. But an ordinary guy has to struggle to get by until then. And he’ll have to say thank you, even while he crams yet more shirts into the closet…and wait for the next charity that calls to ask for donations of “gently worn clothing”. He knew he’d have plenty to give them.


Harley took off his reading glasses and glanced out the window at the fall sky. He’d needed a break from his task anyway. Writing an historical novel required a lot of reading obscure bits of history if he was to get the details right, but now he was suffering eye strain. He’d not slept well, waking way before his usual 8am alarm setting. He looked around the room, eyes passing by the shelves, overloaded with his reference, finally coming again to the window. Fall skies are unlike any other, presaging the arrival of Winter. Winter…a season that once delighted him…but that was when he was still a boy.

He thought about the past year, and the fall he’d taken…the fall that laid him up with severe pain for months. Recovery came slowly, but finally was complete. Now, the return of Winter and more ice and snow filled him with a new dread. All he could do was be careful. Until he fell, he’d thought he was careful enough. Nope. The cost was more than the pain of feeling like his leg was being ripped off. Nine months later, he was still unsure whether all the bills would be paid without having to resort to a lawsuit. What a pain that would be. He was as fond of lawyers as he was of dentists.

There’s no rest for the weary. Harley topped off his coffee mug and leaned back in his chair with a book about the reign of Richard Nixon, one of the worst U.S. Presidents, and the only one who had to resign in disgrace. A thought crossed his mind, that brought a smile. If only George W. Bush had been similarly compromised. History is strange enough the first time. Why do so many seem to want to repeat it…or make it worse the second time around?

© 2016 Robert Mihaly
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The prompt…

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He knew it…he’d struck out once again. He’d fallen asleep thinking he’d really gotten lucky. Billy looked at the alarm clock, saw 5am, then saw that the dream from last night had split. Only later did he realize that she’d rifled his pants pockets and emptied his wallet of money and credit cards. That was how his day began. It was about to become more than a long weekend.

Billy’s a normal guy…maybe a little too normal…and not the player he brags about to his buddies. The fact is, last night was his first time out in a month. A blind date, Lola was a friend of a girl at work…or so he thought. A night of drinking, dining, and a night in bed was unusual for him. He now realized he’d been a dutiful sucker. Ginny was gonna hear about it when he got to work on Tuesday. But, for now, he had phone calls to make…to cancel his cards before Lola, if that was her name, could run up a huge credit card tally. Not even 8am, and he’d already called 3 companies. He’s lucky he had the latest charge statements handy…the cards gone, he’d never have been able to get the right 800 numbers. There goes the weekend, he groused. He hoped he hadn’t gotten a social disease…Billy actually prayed the worst was over.

Tuesday came. Ginny was there before him, but when he asked her about Lola, she looked puzzled. “I spent Friday night with Lola. That wasn’t Lola who robbed you.”

Billy knew he hadn’t dreamt what happened. The money and credit cards were gone. The other shoe was yet to drop…the debit card he’d forgotten to call to cancel. When he went to the bank before lunch, he had his checkbook, but the teller said he was overdrawn.  Billy protested, “There’s gotta be a mistake. I made sure there was $500 in checking on Friday.” A look at the bank records said otherwise. That $500 had been withdrawn early Saturday morning. There was nothing but chicken feed left. Billy wondered if there was more bad news to come. Even as upset as he was, he chuckled as he thought to himself…was he going to find out now that he was pregnant? He sure felt screwed. Whatever else he felt, he didn’t want to talk about it with his buddies. That night never happened. He decided that was his story…and he stuck to it.

© 2016 Robert Mihaly
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