Thursday, February 20, 2014

Almost the Oatmeal

Got to the Spokane Poetry Slam at the Lantern Tap House last Sunday.  The only other time I competed was six months ago.  It's good to be among writers.  It's less and less weird to be around people who know me as "Eighty Six".

Last time I felt I did great.  I delivered with strength from memory and only paused to remember once.  I entertained the crowd.  The judges, however, were not amazed.  I was one-tenth of a point from last place.  Now, at a Slam judges are chosen voluntarily from the audience.  Often they need to be pushed.  The sport prefers judges without much poetry experience or preconceived anything.

So you never take the numbers too seriously.

This time I finished two-tenths of a point out of third.  I did stumble a bit on my second piece.  Ironically, it was the one I thought I knew best: "She Scratch the Record".  My first piece was new and I was worried about that.

So a stumble kept me out of third.  Had I finished #3, I would have bumped the Slam points leader Chris Cook into fourth, scored one point myself and won third place prize.  First place was $50.  For second and third: a box of oatmeal.  Peaches & Cream and Apple Cinnamon, respectively.  My wife and kiddos eat Apple Cinnamon all the time. My sons would have probably preferred the oatmeal over $50, which is inedible.

Don't worry about us.  We still have oatmeal in the pantry.  Nobody's starving because I got excited and hurdled a couple of lines and had to back-track.

Yet, I would have liked the point.  I have a realistic chance of finishing in the top eight and therefore getting a shot at the finals in May.  A top four finish there would give me a chance to represent Spokane at the National Poetry Slam.  I just have to finish up strong.

Travis Naught took second.  Never anything wrong with finishing behind him.  Always funny, sharp and in touch with himself.

And Katie Laughlin just crushed it.  Both of her pieces successfully established a core metaphor and carried it through, with a balance of smart and sexy the way the crowd likes it.  Halfway through her second reading I though "yeah, she can beat me" before catching the second meaning.

Well, close but no oatmeal.

PS: Writing on the blog daily is nuts.  I can do it, but I'll write little else.  More important to me is finishing the Marcel story by July and finding another place to write about football.  I'll still be putting stuff here, but that rigid schedule I mentioned two weeks ago is out the window.

Friday, February 14, 2014

How To Buy Cigars

Some places on this planet, it's tough finding good cigars.  I have very few choices.

A couple of shops with limited selection where a good stick costs at least $7 are within 10 miles of me.  These shops are open regular business hours and are not there for me when I have a late night want.

I can go to the cigar bar I used to work at where I'll spend at least $12 for one but most likely will spend a couple hours there, have a few drinks and drop a bill.  That's if I don't go to the attached casino.

But I'm a cheap dude and work late.  If I want a puff after midnight, I have to plan ahead.

Good news.  This is the 21st century.  And every once in a while, I do plan ahead.  I've learned a couple things about getting good cigars at good prices.

Step One: Get a humidor.  I posted on that last week.  Get it seasoned.  Now you can buy in bulk and store them.

Step Two: Buy some cigars.  You want one now.  Just buy a few.  Put them in your box.  Read "Cigar for the End of the World".  Now you can be patient for a good deal.  

Step Three: Sign up for the mailing list on the following sites and a few more.  Make looking for deals a hobby.  Things go on sale for 60% off or more all the time.  You just need to wait for a bargain to pop up on something you like someplace.  Easier to do with a cigar in your jaw and a few in your humidor.

These guys seem to have the best buying power of anyone.  Always grabbing things for their closeout corner.  Always putting good stuff on sale.  Check them daily.  The Joe Cigar deal is great.  They always do a weekly and a weekend sale plus occasional 24 hour deals.  When you see a good one, pounce.

They rival CI in ability to get great product at great prices.  Plus, I can always find a free shipping plus 10% off coupon online.  Just search for "thompson cigar coupon".  I hate paying for shipping.  Avoid their cigar club, unless you consume mass quantities.  They'll want to auto-ship you stuff that's not as cheap or good as you like.

Not as solid as the other two, but they produce their own house brands that are good buys.  So does Thompson, but I've tried neither.  I always find a name brand one I like for a good price.

Also with a solid selection and good sales.  You never know when a steal will show up.  Keep an eye on them.

This is where I got my humidor.  They have a questionable selection of cigars, but you can nab a combo deal.

Bottom Line
Make shopping online a hobby.  Get on the mailing list for a bunch of sites and cruise them.  Stuff goes on sale for only hours sometimes.  When you run into 10 LGC Serie Ns for $37 plus a $10 gift card, grab them.  Tomorrow, they will be gone.

Happy smoking and shopping.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What My Gorgeous Illustrator Did in our Dining Room

When you buy a house, you fill it up with all the things you need: appliances and furniture.  You do necessary repairs.  You customize things, like new paint and curtains.  Then you have these blank spaces on the walls.

We bought a new dining room table built from dark wood.  We repainted the kitchen and dining room in a warm soft brown.  Then we needed something over the table.  Too much wall.  Not enough personality.

So my wife got some canvases.  She's fond of multi-panel works and did an attention-grabbing triptych for our entry way.  She imagined a four-panel rectangular collection in the shape of a window.

She got to work.  She created some patterns I liked then painted over them.  Her standards are always higher than mine.  Eventually she had a finished product utilizing the primary colors from the room.  To me, it reminds me of rising steam, growing trees and lightning.

Now, she always disagrees with me because she lacks confidence in her own ability, but I know she can do more of this.  With practice, she can expand on this style and do custom pieces based on primary colors in any environment.  "No, I can never do that," she would say.

How to bring out confidence in a budding artist?  It takes positive feedback from unbiased sources.  To have your husband say it is great is one thing.  To hear it from a stranger is another entirely.

On the eve of Valentine's Day, I'll take this platform to express my ongoing adoration for my wife.  This painting style encapsulates what she brings to my life.  She knows how to strip away all that's unimportant.  She can make something beautiful from something simple.  She is a gently curving collection of ribbons.

And women who paint are sexy.

Miluji tě,  Miláčku.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What is a Ten-By-Ten Poem?

I'm not saying I invented it.  Not saying that at all. The world of poetry is huge.  Somewhere someone at some time in history or today is using the same form.  But I didn't get it from anywhere.  It just made sense.

The Ten-By-Ten.  Ten syllables per line.  Ten lines per stanza.  A nice little hundred syllable machine for performing poetic work.

It's like a shortened sonnet.  A square window.  Anyway, I've written about it for Bright Hub.

Then read this:


Two dudes walk down stairs, around the bend, bounce
Into a pair of ladies. Eyelashes.
Green eyes and blue. Brunette and blonde. Done up.
Bright smiling teeth, earrings twinkle like ice,
Flowers and gems in their hair, showing throat
And neck, dresses fit right, curving from top
To bottom. They whisper and climb the stairs.
High-heels. Calves. Tassels on skirts, hips swishing.
“Come down off the ceiling,” Will says to Chance,
Slugs his shoulder. “You sprang like a kitten.”

“Those things scare me to death,” Chance says. “Spooky.”
Will gets more beer. “Those things? Explain yourself.”
Chance sips. “What if they don't like me? Say no.
I talk to the next girls. They don't like me.”
Will throws up his hands. “Who cares? Their problem.”
“But wait...” Chance holds up one finger. “What if
It works?” He takes a deep swig. “She likes me,
Wants to have my kids, a house. My whole life:
Me and her?” He looks around at sculptures,
Paintings, dresses and suits. “That's scary stuff.”

The chandelier hangs with glass slippers, lit
With neon tubes. Will shrugs. “I don't think 'scared'
Is the right word.” Chance lifts his eyebrows. “Oh?
Increased heart rate. Sweaty palms. Trembling hands.
Adrenalin. You start hunting for doors.”
He leans against the wall. Looks left and right.
“You're creeping through the jungle. A tigress
Leaps out and stares you down. How do you feel?”
He kills his beer. Hands in pockets, he drifts
Past tasteful male nudes and cryptic abstracts.

They re-climb the stairs, stroll the mezzanine
Over a sea of slick-haired gents in silk,
Ladies with pearls, curls, and plunging necklines,
Pairs towing each other from art to art.
A canvas covered in bright red lip-prints
To form a field of flowers. A collage
Of scavenged kitchenware, pot-shards, hot-glue.
“You know, I didn't meet Jane being scared,”
Will reminds Chance, who laughs. “You got lucky,
Captain Braveheart. Pulled her name from a hat.”

Will shrugs. “So I scored a hot lab partner.
Had the nuts to ask her out.” Chance nods: “True.”
They stop. The brunette and blond have found friends,
Chat and giggle in a ring. One's pregnant.
They rub the bump, coo, and pass ultrasounds.
“Feel that kick?” Chance makes eye-contact, blushes.
“Going for more drinks,” Will says. “Good luck, bro.”
Chance takes his hands from his pockets, freezes
Between the group of girls and the back door:
“Emergency Exit. Alarm Will Sound.”

Now write your own for me.  If I like it, I'll put it here.  Put it in the comments and I'll have no choice.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My Three Culinary Shadows

Three pantry ingredients I can no longer be without.  Each member of the trio brings an essential element, but lurking deeper within are mysterious savory subtleties.

I cannot be without molasses, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.  I mix them together for marinades, glazes and vinaigrettes.  I use them as a triangular base to build bigger flavors.

They each come from different parts of the world, but combine to create something of a different planet entirely: sticky yet sharp, sweet yet earthy, salty and round.

Let me tell you what I love about each of the Three Shadows:

Molasses: The dark, syrupy by-product of extracting sugar from the cane.  White sugar bores me.  I prefer turbinado sugar for my dry rub and molasses for wet applications.  Molasses brings sweetness, but also a savory rich darkness.

Umami.  That fifth flavor, along with sweet, salty, sour and bitter.  I like my ingredients to bring more than just one note to the song.

Soy Sauce: Fermented soy beans with roasted grain, salt and yeast.  Aged then filtered and bottled.  From wine and beer to salami, kim chi and bread, where would we be without fermentation?

For allergy reasons, we use Tamari gluten-free in my house.  I often use soy sauce instead of salt.  Together with molasses, it balances the sweet with salty while delivering its own version of umami.

Balsamic Vinegar: The boiled and aged pressings of Trebbiano grapes.  Reduced over the years in casks of various woods.  I'm not using the century old stuff here.  Just the $3 a bottle stuff.

It brings that necessary tangy acidity with its own sweet woodsiness.  I like vinegar for providing a penetrating sourness and aroma.  It adds tart to the sweet and salt of the other Shadows, again with its own style of umami.

Where's the Heat?

The only core flavor not represented here is spicy. Add it in your own favorite way.  A hot sauce of some sort would be appropriate.  Something smokey like a chipotle works well.  If simmering the Three Shadows into a thicker sauce, chili flakes or poblano peppers make a good fourth player.

Already Asia, Italy and the Caribbean are represented.  Pick a spice from anywhere on the globe you like.  You know the heat tolerance of your audience.  Don't burn them.  Just wake them up.

How Will You Use Them?

Play around as you like, but here are three ideas:

Vinaigrette: Add one part each to three parts of toasted sesame oil.  Heat the molasses first or it will be too thick to mix.  Add Sriracha or another chili sauce to taste.  Shake well.  Adjust the proportion of Three Shadows to suit your preferences for salt, sweet and acidic.  Put this on salad, cooked vegetables or whatever you like.

Glaze: Add the Three Shadows in equal parts to a saucepan.  Add dried or fresh whole chilies.  Apply low heat and stir often.  Reduce it to the consistency of honey.  Remove the chilies.  Then drizzle over your favorite cooked meats and grill quickly.  Do not allow it to burn.  Or place the cooked meat directly into the pan and stir to coat.

Marinade: Microwave the molasses until warm then stir in the other Two Shadows.  Add hot sauce to taste.  Consider adding dried herbs or a squeeze of citrus.  Place in a zip-top bag or sealed container with your meat.  Top off with apple juice, wine or beer.  For small pieces of meat, let rest in the refrigerator at least overnight.  For larger cuts, marinate for a few days if possible.

I will revisit my friends, the Three Shadows, with future recipes in more detail.  Until then, play around with them and enjoy.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cats with Sexy Lips, Your New Humidor and Epic YouTube Fails

Blogging is hard.  Blogging is fun.  I've taken on a big project.

Week One of the 86 the Poet rebirth has featured multiple discussions of a Super Bowl victory, how to buy the right humidor, cannibal poetry, cats with sexy lips and an epic YouTube fail.

I'll figure that video thing out.  Who out there knows more about YouTube or putting video on your blog than me?  OK, everyone?  Then help an old-fashioned poet out.  I wasn't born this way.  I graduated college without an email address.

So my wife recorded me reading the first chapter of Cathartes Aura and the Apocalypse Zoo and now I have this six and a half minute long MOV file.  YouTube says it accepts MOV, but it just ain't uploading.  Blogger won't take that file, though it has a spot to add video.  Whatever.  You'll just have to wait until I figure it out.

I finally found a voice for Marcel in my mystery story.  I just need to get to serious work on it.  I'm caught between two things: trying to build blog traffic to grow an audience for the book release and actually writing the book.  Ironic that one is preventing the other.

Coming up this week: how to brine meat, Marcel talks to the police, more from My Gorgeous Illustrator, online cigar shopping basics, Apocalypse Zoo Chapter 2, I hope, and my Seahawks' MVPs.  And oh yeah, updates on my Bright Hub work.

February is on pace to double the page views of any other month.  But what really satisfies me is feedback.  Leave a comment and let me know about you.  This is a two way street.

Stay tuned, Vultureheads.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Seahawks' 12th Man Scores First in the Super Bowl

I've been wondering since it happened: what went wrong with that first play for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos that resulted in a safety?

Astronomical to think such a polished and professional offensive unit would screw up a shotgun snap.  The center Manny Ramirez took initial responsibility.  Tough for me to decipher all the Manning pre-snap chatter and know how he changed the original call.  Who's fault was it?

Now that NFL Films has released the Sound FX for the game, we can listen to Peyton Manning himself as he talks to his center and his coach after the play.  Watch and listen.  I'll wait.  Then let's see what you think.

"I called the snap count," Manning said to Ramirez as they trotted off the field.  "You didn't hear me?"

When he reached coach John Fox, he told him: "I couldn't hear anything."

Fox replied, "Hey, a little louder than we though."

He later said to his team he should have started with the silent count.  A silent count in the Super Bowl?

Crowd noise absolutely caused that fumbled snap and safety.

Process that for a moment.

The Super Bowl is a neutral site by design.  New Jersey is almost 3000 miles from Seattle.  The Seahawks' 12th Man still affected the game.

Not only affected the game, but single-handedly put points on the board.

Seattle's fans at CenturyLink Field are credited with causing false starts, making opponents burn time-outs and limiting audible calling.  But this time, the 11 Seahawks on the field could have had their backs to the Broncos.  The snap would still have sailed past Manning and into the end-zone.

At the moment I can't think of another time when crowd noise so directly led to a score.  In the Super Bowl no less.  That's truly playing 12-on-11 football.

8% of the tickets were sold to Colorado residents.  17% were sold to Washington residents.  That does not directly mean that three-quarters of the fans present were neutral.  It does mean that Seahawks pride is contagious.

A good friend was in town for the game.  He told me Blue & Green outnumbered Orange on the streets.  Seahawks fans were loudly befriending anyone in similar colors.  Broncos fans looked bored and would walk silently past each other on the sidewalks.  New Yorkers embraced the brash, aggressive, gregarious Seahawks.  Did the Richard Sherman rant make more Broncos fans?  Not in New York.  Sherman #25s were impossible to find.

So the Seattle fans at the Super Bowl created more Seattle fans.  People realized it was fun to get behind a team and holler at the opposing offense until it screwed up.  This was a loud crowd for a Super Bowl.  Loud for the Seahawks.

The 12th Man travels.  The 12th Man breeds.  The attitude is contagious.

Anyone else's fans ever score in a Super Bowl?  Did they ever put a team on tilt on the first play of the game and keep them there?

The more I think about it, the more monumental the accomplishment is for Seahawks fans.  The 12th Man actually scored in the Super Bowl.  I salute you.

There's a reason #12 is retired in Seattle.  The 12th Man continually earns the honor.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Cathartes Aura and the Apocalypse Zoo - Chapter One

I got it figured out.  Here's me reading the first chapter of Apocalypse Zoo.  Enjoy and please share.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Oscuro Corner - How To Find the Perfect Humidor

If you smoke cigars with any regularity, you need a humidor.  If you eat with any regularity, you need a refrigerator.  If you don't like walking around naked all the time, you should own clothes.

So let's get you a humidor.


You can't store cigars for any length of time unless they are at about 70 degrees fahrenheit and 70 percent humidity.  They will dry out or mold or crack or have all sorts of bad things happen.  Don't just put one in a plastic bag in your desk drawer and expect it to taste top quality when you find it again.

Similar to wine, cigars improve with age.  Again like wine, it's important they age under the right conditions.  Once you get a humidor, you can prove this to yourself.  Until then, trust me.

When I get a new box or bundle, I'm always excited and I try one the same day.  Tastes good, but when I try another after days or weeks in the box, the flavors have expanded.  It burns better.  It's more smooth and complex.  Months or even years later, the improvement has continued.  Buy good cigars and age them until you have great cigars.


What kind of humidor do you want?  First of all, you need a box made from Spanish cedar with a good seal.  You don't need anything fancier than that really.  A tight humidor will keep your cigars at proper humidity with little maintenance.  You'll only lose moisture when you open it.

Don't mess with any other kind of wood.  Don't get anything weird.  Unless you're into something fancy, a good plain box will do.

I did decide it was important to have one with a built it hygrometer.  That's a device to measure humidity.  I wanted a front-mounted one so I could read it when the box was on my shelf without opening it.  From what I read, analog hygrometers are usually off by a bit and can't be calibrated.  You can easily test yours and remember how much is the variance.  I found a good deal on one with a digital hygrometer and thermometer in it.

How big do you need it?  Depends on how much you want to spend and how much you smoke.  If you and your buddies will be using it and will be going through a box or more a week, you need storage for a couple hundred sticks.

The advertised storage space will be a little optimistic. My 100 cigar humidor will only hold 70-80 big cigars.  Plus, they work better if they're only half full.  You never now when you'll find a killer deal and will buy another box or two, so get one a little bigger than you need.

I smoke a couple a week, at most.  I have room for  maybe four boxes.  When it gets a little low, I keep my eyes open for a great deal and pounce when the right one opens up.

If you have the cash and need the storage, a custom built or furniture style one will be a treat.  These will have an active humidifying system that keeps temperature and humidity at optimum levels, taking most of the worry and maintenance out of the equation.


How will you maintain proper humidity?  You can get an electronic humidifier for around $100 or more.  Your basic humidor will come with a basic humidifier: just a plastic case with absorbent foam in it.  Add distilled water.  The water will evaporate, creating a humid environment for your cigars.  For not too many dollars you can get gel crystals that release and absorb moisture to maintain around 70%.

I still use the basic unit that came with my box.  My humidity is usually in the mid-sixties, but I've had cigars in their for months that still taste good and burn right.  If you want to spend money on the fancier methods, you can, but I have found so far that cigars won't explode at 65%.  Don't worry too much.


Put "cigars" or "humidors" in your search engine and a number of sites will pop up.  Important to note that good places to buy humidors are not always good places to buy cigars.

After much contemplation, I got mine at Premium Humidors.  Not an impressive selection of cigars or accessories here, but a good spread of boxes at good prices.  I even found an online coupon for 10% and free shipping.  Always search for coupons before buying anything.

Cigars International, Thompson Cigars, JR Cigars, Mike's Cigars and Famous Smoke all carry good cigars, humidors and accessories.

Try to bundle together deals to get the best price on your humidor.  Certain cigar purchases will get you free shipping on your whole order.  I hate to pay for shipping.  Sometimes hitting a certain price will get you some freebies.  Of course, check for coupon codes.

You can often find small humidors given away with boxes of cigars.  Typically they are of the 20 capacity size and probably too small for your needs.

And consider irregular humidors.  They might have a little scratch or imperfection, but you'll save 10% or more.  It's only cosmetic and it will work perfectly fine.  I bought an irregular one and it took me a couple weeks to find the scratch in the glass top.  It gets the job done.  I spent the extra money on cigars to put in it.

But at the end of it all, you'll have this humidor a long time.  So get the one you love and don't sweat  a few bucks.  My one mistake in buying mine was worrying about the deal.

The box was about $65.  If I spent $100, the site would give me a lighter, a cutter and two free cigars plus free shipping.  Already I had a code to get me 10% plus free shipping.  So I picked some cheap no-name cigars (Premium Humidors does not carry many good ones) until I reached $100 and got my freebies.

The lighter was a crappy Djeep.  The cutter was cheap but works just fine.  The free cigars were the worst ones in the batch.  I should have bought only the humidor there and my cigars from another site.

But I'm smarter now so I can teach you.

How Long?

You will need to spend at least a couple days seasoning your humidor before you use it.  Being patient is no fun, but if you don't, your brand new absorbent wood will pull all the moisture out of your smokes and turn them to newspaper.  Take your time and follow this process.  Or buy a seasoning kit that will drastically shorten the time.  I don't personally know how well they work.  I did it the old fashioned way.

I hope I got you thinking.  It's an important choice.  Everyone needs a good humidor.  It will be a friend for life for you and your cigars.

Questions or stories?  I'm always here to help.

Cigar Aficionado has a great beginner's section with lots of information.

And by the way, here's my Frontier digital humidor:

A Cigar for the End of the World

Friends, could be the end. Let’s do it our way:
Pop the finest corks. Wake old barley malt.
Filet the fat calf. Rub pepper and salt. 
Send us heaven or hell? Now who's to say?

They’ll look down upon us, speak of our smiles,
Our glasses, our plates, our smokes and our brew.
Surrounded with chums: some old and some new.
Boldly declare: “Man, they did it with style.” 

Dead with a dollar or a million bucks?
Let’s toast the fellow. He's just one of us.
Unknown or famous? Stretch limo or bus?
What’s it matter now? Don't ruffle my tux.

We might die today? Always been the case.
Bug me none with it. I've smoke in my face. 
Written for the Legends of the Fire "End of the World" party.  Featured in "Growing at the Sun".

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Gorgeous Illustrator and the Cheshire House

In 2012, my friend and writer Pavarti K Tyler challenged her associates to contribute to an anthology of erotica stories.  I've never worked in that genre, although parts of David Priest dip into the dirty, but I'm willing to try anything.

However, the project failed to come together.  Still, I had this erotica story sitting around so I decided to publish it as an ebook.  All I really needed was a cover for The Cheshire House.

I asked my wife to produce a winking cat with a mischievous smile and full, feminine lips.   She began searching the web for various images to inspire her.  She looked at eyes, both feline and human.  She looked at lips, both real and cartoon.  Finally, she found her best model in our own cat.

Her sketchbook began to bloom with feline faces at various angles with various expressions.  She erased and re-drew.  I really hate to see erasing and wish she'd just turn to another page, but I can't mess with her process.  I always figure you should always keep every draft around for later use or comparison.  But I can't draw at all, so I shut up.

Gradually she progressed from a fairly ordinary cat to one with luscious lips.  She denied having any ability to make it wink so I asked her for a twinkle in the eye.  She said should couldn't do twinkles.  Eventually, she had something I was satisfied with.

But she was not satisfied.  She couldn't explain what was missing but wouldn't let me publish until she found it.  Next time I turned around, she had this:

This feline-fetale had what I wanted all along.  She knew something.  Something sultry and mysterious.  I wanted to know, but she wouldn't tell me.

She was perfect.

I added a shade of color to the background.  Something between a lady's rogue and Pinot Noir. I tucked in the title and my name.  Finit.

My Gorgeous Illustrator still thinks she has no talent and no one but me likes her work.  Tell @jajamilevska she's wrong on Twitter.

Oh, and you can get The Cheshire House at Smashwords for 99 cents.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Seattle Seahawks and Old Women: Bronco Bustin'

A guest post by Kathe Frahm

As the old women file into the Rec room at the Home, one said she heard that the Broncos come to play with a briefcase and the Seahawks come to play with brass knucks. She should get an extra slice of pizza for remembering that. Free pizza brings in more old people than usual. There is more junk food and a bowl of cut-up fresh fruit. No Anchor Steam. No damn Coors.

The annoying old men are not here. Old women are not subtle about turning a cold shoulder or laser stare when patronized.

Renee Fleming's National Anthem rendition reduced the old women to teary gratitude for the joy of hearing her.

The old women collapsed hysterically when the Denver team was led out of the tunnel by a babe on a white horse. Really?

First out of the tunnel for the Seahawks was Taima, who showed a lot more class. Taima, whose name means thunder, is called the hardest working bird in showbiz. First out of the tunnel and last off the field. A worthy symbol.

The first 12 seconds of the game set the pattern for the Broncos. Not good. Had to be Peyton Manning's worst nightmare. The old women said that he looked like a first grade teacher at recess with the bratty little boys running all over him.

Watching the Broncos get creamed brought out the nastiness of these old women. Even they could see by protecting Manning so much, the Broncos missed the 'Hawks murderous defense aimed at their feeble receivers. Oh, this rout was fun to watch. And as legendary as 'noodle arm' Manning is, the old women were so happy to have their boys hand him his old butt.

Many of the old women had what was referred to as 'kennel cough' so the yelling left several of them voiceless. There might have been a flask or two in the rec room for medicinal purposes.

The Broncos just never got the keep “Russell Wilson in the pocket” thing. So much fun to watch him out-run and out-throw Manning. The only thing the Broncos got right was keeping Marshawn Lynch tied up. But having Malcolm Smith and Percy Harvin and the rest of the team play so aggressively was just the icing on the old women's bargain Seahawk cake.

The game just got better and better. It wasn't 'til the last 10 minutes though, that some old women accepted that their boys couldn't be beat. THAT was fun. Some wanted the 'Hawks to run up the score even more for the nay-sayers.

The old women are going to miss these Sunday afternoons. Getting out of their tiny apartments is good. Free food and yelling with each other for their boys is good. Winning is good. Not always being alone is good.

See the rest of Kathe's "Seahawks and Old Women" series at The Penalty Flag.

Such a Shimmering Maquereau

Chapter One

Look at her. She is the one. She leaps to the surface, breaking from the circling school. They swim around in dull orbit while she splashes to be free and be with me.

I raise her from the bait well and kiss her on the lips. Such a lovely and shimmering maquereau. Rainbow and vivid with the sun of the Caribbean in her eyes.

Bon chance, petit ami,” I say and hook her through the nostrils.

I flip her overboard and sink her to the bottom.

Resting my rod in the holder, I sink into my chair and sip. My cocktail is rich with roasted sugar depth, smoking oak, the sweetness of Bordeaux and citrus air. The sun, she is rising.

Salted flowers on marine air. The island is igniting magenta. A riffle of wind tousles the transparent water. The ripples stand up gold. How did I get here? How long may I stay?

The oscuro from my humidor reclines on my glass tray. The wrapper is inky as midnight with a faint sheen of oil on its gnarled skin. With sickled scissors, I snip off the cap. I toast the foot while La Prévoyance drifts at anchor in twelve fathoms, just away from the coral.

Then I puff, imagining groupers and snappers ignoring my bait until I have achieved a proper cherry glow.

Mahogany and amber. An edge of black paprika.

Another sip while wishing the fishes leave me alone for a small time. Guava and mango, grapefruit and papaya I have sliced for my breakfast. I have no appetite for chumming. For les touristes I'll be bloody as a savage sawing fish heads for the slick, but I do not desire such dirtiness today.

Clear is my schedule. No charters or dives. Only my appetites, my boat and the massage of the waves.

Eins zwei Polizei,” comes a voice from my shorts. I'm vibrating. “Drei vier Offizier.”

That's the ring of El Comisionado. From my pocket, I pull my phone.

Allo?” I reply.

I hear a hand rub whiskers. A throat clears. “We have a problem.”

Always, when rarely I have no problems, El C brings one to me.

“The problem, what kind?”

“We have a body.”

At least it's not mine. “What kind of body?”

Ven rápido.” The line is dead. So is my morning. My day and my week also, perhaps.

Standing, I finish my drink in one leaning gulp. I set my cigar in the tray next to my phone. The sky, she is so placid and blue like the water.

I fall overboard.

How silent are all things underwater. The coral makes no sound growing across the marine floor. The schools do no shout orders as they swim in formation. The sharks, they do not snarl as they stalk the fishes. My shimmering maquereau does not wail as she struggles against the steel piercing her nose.

Down here, all maintains the sound of peace.

I pull myself onto the dive step. I wipe water from my scalp. Time to discover how and why a person became a body.

From the ashtray, my robusto sends a ribbon into the unblemished sky. My rod tip bounces in time with the scarce rolling of the boat.

But I must go.

I strip, squeeze the sea from my clothes and drape them over the stern rail. I descend below deck. I pull on dry shorts. My M9, she has fifteen in the clip with one chambered. I shrug into my shoulder holster. The pistol rides under my left arm with two spare clips under my right.

My stiletto, I draw from between my shoulders. I shave my thumb-nail with both edges before returning her to the sheath. I flick open my latest souvenir: a switchblade scarcely thicker than a credit card. Also razor sharp. I drop her in my pocket.

May I need none of it.

I slip into a blue short-sleeve embroidered with golden tuna. I button up halfway and look in the mirror. Concealed, but not so much. This island's tourists like to sunbathe and sip rum while believing cowboys and pirates still exist. Today, I am neither. Only a deputy.

My rod is bounding when I return. I snatch the pole, set the hook and reel. I pull up a grouper, too small to give much fight.

Today is your day, mon frere.” I rub noses with him and pull the hook from his mouth. Not bad, he is injured. May I free myself so easily.

I drop him back into the blue. On another day, his two fillets would make a nice lunch.

My bait, she is bitten and stunned. Gently as I can, I turn the hook from her nostrils. The barb cuts her.

“You have done your best.” I slip her back into the sea. She splashes a circle, leaving a ribbon of blood.

White gulls swoop on black wings for my bait, each lunging at the others. Not the ending you deserve, mon petit maquereau, yet so few of us will end how we wish. Someone is dead on the island. If the end came placidly after a century of joy drenched in an abundance of pleasure, El C would not have called.

A blue bullet nose then a dorsal fin break the water and my bait is gone. With a splashing thrust, the shark disappears. The gulls scatter, screeching back into the air.

A more fitting finale.

I brew coffee and rinse my cocktail glass. I stow my fishing gear before weighing anchor and climbing to the bridge with my mug and cigar.

I am coming, but not rápido. Why should I move? I look across the gem-like water with palettes of coral beneath and rainbows of fish. The sky is a light year of blue with a single cloud. Shaped like a mermaid, I think, or a yacht with a maiden on the bow.

Ah yes, death. That is why I must go. All that guides me is death. To explain one or prevent my own, that is why I move.

I fire the motors. La Prévoyance rumbles deep, subdued and controlled. Bolted tight, she is, and damped to keep the racing diesels from dominating my soundscape. Rarely do I need the power, but sometimes one needs escapability.

Chapter Two

My finger-tips touch the throttles and we edge away from the reef. We cut the slightest of wakes as we purr towards the marina. The water is clear at this hour. The fishermen have already headed out. The tourists are not yet awake. I pass the jungle topped cliffs on the island's east side and the harbor opens.

Moorage for hundred foot yachts, jet skis and everything in between. I pull into my slip in the charter fishermen's section.

A shirtless man with a knotted mess of dreads dances in leather sandals along the dock. “I wish I had sun,” he sings, “oh, right here. I wish I had water... wait, right here.”

A woven satchel hangs across his shoulders and off his hip. “Working early, Chitchat?” I ask him.

“Every single morning, I'm right here,” he continues, shaking his hair. “While de fishermon is sleeping off beer. Breath in my lungs? It's right here.” He pats his satchel. “If you need something, got it right here.”

Chitchat shuffles on toward the end of the pier. Perhaps he will not stop when the boards end and the water begins. For sure, he will still be singing.

I finish my mug, puff again and clamp the robusto in my teeth. I pull on socks and sneakers. I would love to be dancing in sandals as well, but they bring me bad luck. Whenever I wear shoes that are no good for running, I find myself chasing or fleeing.

Just before setting foot on the dock, I pivot and return to my galley fridge. I pick a box of Belgian chocolates filled with raspberry crème.

I set my alarm and pocket my key fob. Briskly, I walk along the pier, ignoring fellow charter captains dozing or toying with tackle. I wish the chocolates not to melt. Plus I need to find my question and answer it so I may return to life.

The pier ends in a broad ramp which passes under a carved wooden arch in the shape of a leaping marlin. “No Motors Past this Point” mentions a sign in English, Spanish and French. They mean it. Gasoline and diesel are for boats. Electric carts and mopeds are too fast for the image of this place. The tourists, they walk or are ferried around. The locals, they bicycle.

At the top of the ramp is courtyard paved in local stone. I smell coffee and fried plantains from one side. On the other, coriander simmers with turmeric and chiles. A man arranges stools in front of a street bar. He opens his arms.

“Comrade, come sit.” He waves his thick hands and forearms to his taps and bottles. “The night, it must be very late.”

I must not tip my hand to my business this morning. “Soon, Sergei. Soon.”

I take one last drag from my cigar in front of the vast grey facade of The Keep. It's the only old building in this place. A castle that looks like it belongs in the days of Sir Lancelot, but it is only a century old. Turrets on the corners. One moat and a few gargoyles short of a fairy tale. The fancy of an English nobleman before his servants rose up to kill him, or something.

The oral history of this island is like the lace of a dancer. Decorative and entertaining while not revealing as much as you'd like.

I stub my cigar and drop it in the trash. Pulling a great iron ring, I swing open one of the broad teak doors. Inside, beams of sun stream down from tall window slits.

Bonjour, Marcel,” says a bright-eyed Hindi woman behind the receptionist desk. Her French is very clipped and British. Her teeth and smiling lips, illuminated by her computer screen, twinkle like the stones decorating her neck, ears and nose. She should not be inside this cavern. She should be in a sarong on the beach, doing whatever so she pleases.

Enchante,” I reply. A nod and a grin are all the identification I need here, unfortunately. She knows where I am going. I descend an unmarked steel staircase, trying not to cause echoes. Soon, the temperature is like a cave. Gone is any trace of sunlight. Only bare bulbs with orange filaments.

At the end of the gray hall is a steel door. I knock and hear silence. Of course he is here. I turn the knob and enter.

Every time I wish for a jacket. Every time I wonder if I own one. My pistol is suddenly icy on my side. This man uses more air conditioning than any building on this island. At least the chocolates, they will not melt.

El C sits at his tin desk, the blotter covered in pictures and stapled papers in tan folders. Behind him are four flat monitors, blank but powered up. They are dark blue, not black. His face is lit by the screen on his desk and the tubes overhead.

His black handlebar mustache is bunched at the corners of his mouth. He is grinning at the information in front of him. I set the chocolates on the barest part of his desk.

Callebaut avec framboises. Only available from...” The crinkling of the plastic wrapper interrupts me. The lid of the box hits the floor. His mustache bends back to its customary inverted horseshoe shape as he chews one and then another.

I drag a screeching steel chair across the stone floor of his office and cringe. I carry it the rest of the way and sit on the stiff, frozen vinyl cushion.

He wears a khaki uniform shirt with epaulets and a polished badge. His black hair is slicked under a stiff peaked hat of matching khaki. Under that brim, his face is much too pale for a hispanic.

A month after I am dead and buried, my European face will still be more tan.

“The body?” I finally ask. Ribbons flap from the grille of his air conditioner.

“KJ Dupree.”

Perhaps the worst name other than my own I could have heard. The island's first celebrity. An American footballer here for a wedding and a honeymoon. The his entourage and the one of his fiance plus the accompanying paparazzi were creating quite an opportunity for this budding tourist paradise.

His cheeks lifted back to a scrunched smile. His bristles poked his face. “He was found with the caymans.”

“How much?”

“How many?” His head tilted and he gulped another chocolate. “All of them.”

Non. How much? How much of him was left? Surely, they were not playing cards together.”

“Extremities missing. Face beyond recognition. The remains were naked.”

“Can you be sure it is him?”

As the sentence left my mouth he flipped over a photo. One buttock and a thigh with wrenched tendons. Shoulders with one stump, mangled with splinters of protruding bone. The back of a head, hair faded up to a black curly top. A ravaged cheek with the wreckage of a lower mandible. The back largely untouched except for a narrow wedge of puncture wounds. A fresh tattoo across African skin: Forever Angelique's.

“Say no more,” I reply. That ink has been all over digital and print media since Sir Jerry did the work a block from here a few days ago. I saw it on my boat just yesterday when I took the couple fishing.

“Where is it?” The island has a clinic for the basic medical needs of guests and locals. Anyone needing more serious help is flown to Grenada or Miami. For certain, we have no morgue.

“At the hotel. The guard thinks he's protecting special food for the wedding,” El C says, grinning at his own plan like he'd been stamped by a horse. “Tell him you are there to check on the caviar.”

I was wondering if I could look at a fish egg correctly again when he continued. “But first,” he said to the chocolate in his palm, “make sure no one talks to the bride.” He gulped it down. “And she talks to no one. Get her someplace out of sight. Keep the lenses off of her.”

“Is she a suspect?”

“You figure that out. Who ever killed him, the island will pay for the crime. Wash our hands.”

When the island wakes up, everyone will look to see what the power couple is doing. Especially the flock of media watching from the street, the sea, helicopters and satellites. They can't know about this yet. What will I do with her?

“What are you waiting for? Vaya.


The murder mystery is growing. I'm on it. It's in my head and it won't let go. Stay tuned.