Monday, September 1, 2014

Alfie: by Michael Domino

Pompapoo (Like Lacey)
The tall man looked pale and tired, and his little dog looked dazed and confused as they meandered about the perimeter of the grassy, sloping dog run in Madison Square Park.

My dog approached them and I followed her, but they moved further away, both seeming to be in their own separate worlds.

He had earplugs on, listening to music, taking him even further away from where he actually was. The dog led the way, sniffing and snorting at the weeds with no particular direction. What a pair.

The fenced-in corral is where people take their pets to exercise. It’s not large, so our paths would invariably cross as we meandered.

My dog, Lacey, got nowhere with the pint-sized wanderer. The dog’s eyes were glazed. The two small canines passed like ships in the night without the customary sniffing greeting – the handshake of the doggie world.

I raised my sunglasses above my head to make eye contact with the man with tired eyes. After all, dog parks are not just for dogs. People meet people there, too. This particular morning the cool mist, and damp ground were keeping the regulars away, so it was just the four of us.

As we approached from opposite directions the man removed his earplugs and looked up: “He’s Alfie,” his tired voice whispered.

“Excuse me? Good Morning.”

“Alfie, his name is Alfie.”

“Great dog name. I like that. My dog is Lacey.”

Lacey is a fluffy white Pomapoo (Poodle mixed with a Pomeranian). That’s what the sales guy told us when we paid 100 bucks for her. She weighs about 20 pounds.

Alfie the Bichon
“His full name is Alfalfa but we call him Alfie. He’s a Bichon.”

Alfie was even smaller than Lacey and sort of runty.

“Oh, like Alfalfa, The Little Rascal?”

“Yes, you see he has a bump on his head and that makes his hair stick up like Alfalfa’s cowlick.”

“Ha, yes I see that – his mark of distinction.”

“He ran away once and we put up posters and got a call. They said ‘we think we found your dog.’ I asked them if he has a bump on his head and they said yes. So I said ‘That’s Alfie, I’ll come get him’.”

Alfie’s owner’s speech was very dry.

“Well, he looks like a nice pet. He walks around and doesn’t bother anybody or other dogs,” I said.

No response.

“He can’t be left alone.”

“What do you mean?”

“He goes crazy if we leave him in the house. He tears the place up. If we put him in a crate, he chews that up and all the stuffing too.”

“Why not put him in a wire mesh one or plastic, that he can’t destroy?”

“We tried but then he hurts himself. He will chew out his toenails and bite his own legs. He has extreme separation anxiety. I think the bump on his head goes into his brain. My wife and I can’t leave him. If we go out for a few hours we never know what we’ll find when we return.”

I could see now why the man looked so tired and withdrawn. This little dog was ruling his life. He told me this has been going on for nine years. I could not imagine such a life. Pets are supposed to bring you joy, not make you miserable.

“We used to have a German Shepherd but he died a few years back,” he told me. “When we left him home with our Shepherd, Alfie was okay. We could go out and he’d be fine when we got back. But Shep died, and now Alfie goes crazy again.”

I really felt bad for the guy. After nine years of being under Alfie’s tyranny, I assumed that every possible remedy must have been considered. They had consulted a number of veterinarians and dog trainers and even a dog shrink. His dilemma nagged at me, and challenged me to think of some new solutions. Then it came to me.

“Why don’t you get Alfie a cat? They are low maintenance and self-managing. You said Alfie was okay with Shep the Shepherd, so maybe any live body will do?”

For the first time, the man’s face changed from a sullen mask. His eye showed some life – and hope.

“You know, I never thought of that. That’s a great idea!”

With new energy, he reached for Alfie’s leash that he’d hung on the fence near the water guzzler.

“I think I’m going to go home now and talk to my wife. Alfie, Alfie come on, boy, let’s go – let’s go see Mommy!”

I said goodbye and good luck, feeling pleased that maybe I did something to help this one person, this one day, in this one life.

Days went by and there was no sign of Alfie and the tired man. A week passed and Lacey and I were there early the day they finally arrived. The man was not wearing earplugs, and his shirt was neatly tucked in. He looked like he’d gotten some good sleep and a little suntan maybe from a full round of golf.

He bounded right over to my sunny bench with Alfie in tow.

“Hey, how’s it going?” I said.

“Listen, I’m glad I ran into you.”

“Me too. How’ve you been?”

“We got a cat – like you suggested. Alfie is happy and we can leave him home now – we even played a full round of golf yesterday. Thanks a lot!”

“No need to thank me. It was my pleasure. I like to believe that there are no problems, only solutions. I’m just glad it worked out.”

Alfie chased Lacey and the man walked over and threw them a well worn tennis ball as both dogs chased and slobbered on with great excitement.

No big thing, perhaps, but seeing them like this sure made my day.

[from the book, "Park Avenue to Park Bench", by Vietnam veteran, Michael Domino]

Michael Domino
About the Author

Born in New York City but raised on Long Island, Michael Domino is a product of the great post-WWII American suburban experiment.

Once described by his Aunt as a curious loner who never appeared to be lonely, Michael was always drawn to rebels, outcasts, and the downtrodden.

Fortunately for the budding writer, his father, an amateur photographer and film buff, often took him to Manhattan where his imagination could run wild.

His mother, a voracious reader and graduate of Hunter College in Manhattan, encouraged her son and he wrote short stories and experimented with photography. After graduating with a degree in Industrial Arts from SUNY Oswego he went into the plastics recycling business.

For three decades he channeled his creative energy into giving new life to old scrap. He also married and raised a family. Meanwhile, on the sly, Domino’s writing simmered and he kept a journal of his impromptu bohemian adventures. 

He published Cadillac on the Bowery and Loud Whispers, before moving onto a Vietnam memoir co-written with his cousin Michael Primont.

His latest collection of eclectic Manhattan stories is titled Park Avenue to Park Bench. Michael Domino is also the writer and producer of dozens of music and spoken word videos and two short films.

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Poem: Anatomy of a Poet

Poetry bares us to the soul ...

A poet is a lonely being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music ... and then people crowd about the poet and say to her: "Sing for us soon again;" that is as much as to say, "May new sufferings torment your soul." ~Soren Kierkegaard

Anatomy of a Poet

by CJ Heck

Go in through the eyes of a poet
deep into her alphabet mind.
Ideas like flotsam and jetsam
dodge poetry fragments and lines.

Beware the dark shadows of memory,
knife-sharp and bloodied by time,
or gentle, orgasmic and sensual,
swirling eddies, some without rhyme.

Softly notice the spirit in hiding.
Tiptoe past the bruised heart mending there,
knitting poems, pearls strung on a necklace,
unfinished jewels everywhere.

Take note on your tour of this poet
the outside no different you see,
but inside, my God, a passion's abyss,
the poet, the woman, the me.

[The poem which gave the title to the book, "Anatomy of a Poet", by C.J. Heck]

Read a Preview of "Anatomy of a Poet"

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Poem: Full Circle

Playing Dress Up

If I was asked to name the one thing I'm most proud of, it would be my three daughters.

Being their mother was the most rewarding experience of my life, and they've grown into the most exceptional women that I know and have ever known. I thank them for such a prestigious honor.

For Carrie, Bethany and Heather, my 'mirrors' ...

Full Circle

by CJ Heck

A little girl clops in mommy's heels,
her dress, a floppy hat.
The borrowed pearls she's chosen
dangle halfway down her back.

Her face a shining rainbow,
ruby lips, cheeks tinted pink,
blue splashes on both eyelids,
powder snowflakes in the sink.

She'll go twirling in a ballroom,
a princess with her knight.
Or better still, be mommy
out with daddy Friday night.

In a child's imagination
everything is crystal clear,
yet the truth beneath the surface
is revealed in mommy's mirror.

That little girl is all grown up,
clothes and shoes are now my size ...
but the mirror of maturation
is now my daughters' eyes.

[From the book, "Anatomy of a Poet", by C.J. Heck]

I love you, girls.

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Monday, August 11, 2014

Poem: Waiting for the Greyhound

Lady Waiting in Bus Terminal

"You may trod me in the very dirt. But still, like dust, I'll rise." ~Maya Angelou

Waiting for the Greyhound

by CJ Heck

Red-coat lady
waiting for a bus,
your hat pulled down
to hide a swelling
monument of love,
handbag gripped two-fisted,
leaving only the sleeves
to wipe the sadness
from your eyes.
So much misery
shares your dingy bench.

What happened
to make your life fit
inside a suitcase ...
and why is it the only thing
between your legs
at two a.m.?
Maybe wasting minutes
feels better here
with your suitcase between,
instead of him.

It's merely speculation,
but I suppose yesterday's hopes
and tomorrow's dreams
die just as easily
in a one-way ticket
and anywhere's a better place
than where you were.

Greyhounds may be late
but they don't punch or yell.

[From the book, "Anatomy of a Poet", by C.J. Heck]

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Happy Birthday: by Mike Dooley

Birthday Flowers!

Happy Birrrrthday to Youuuu,
Happy Birrrrthday to Youuuu,
Happy Birrrrthday Dear CJ,
Happy Birrrrthday to Youuuu!

A few years back, not so long ago, heaven and earth erupted into a major celebration with the news of your impending adventure into this very time and space.

You see, someone like CJ Heck doesn't come along all that often. In fact, there's never been a single one like you, nor is there ever ANY possibility that another will come again. 

You're an Angel among us. Someone, whose eyes see what no others will EVER see, whose ears hear what no others will EVER hear, and whose perspective and feelings will NEVER, ever be duplicated. Without YOU, the Universe, and ALL THAT IS, would be sadly less than it is.

Quite simply:

You're the kind of person, CJ,
Who's hard to forget,
A one-in-a-million
To the people you've met.
Your friends are as varied
As the places you go,
And they all want to tell you
In case you don't know:
That you make a big difference
In the lives that you touch,
By taking so little
And giving so much!

CJ, you are so AWESOME! For your birthday, friends and angels from every corner of the Universe, including buddies you didn't know you had, will be with you to wish you the HAPPIEST of days and an exciting new year in time and space. You won't be alone!


Mike Dooley
Orlando, Florida

P.S. This is going to be YOUR year!! 

**Thank you, Mike! ~CJ

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Celebrate My Birthday: A Gift For YOU!

My Books 

HURRY, before the price goes back up!

Beginning August 10, the Kindle Format of my books
will be on sale, starting at $.99 for ALL of them!

Kindle Countdown Deal - August 10 to August 17

August 10       .99

August 12     1.99

 August 14      2.99 

 August 17      3.99 

Children's Books:

Barking Spiders and Other Such Stuff 

Barking Spiders 2 (The Sequel)

Me Too! Preschool Poetry

Adult Books:

Bits and Pieces from a Writer's Soul 

Anatomy of a Poet 

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Friday, August 1, 2014

Short Story: Old People in the Park

Benches in the Park

by C.J. Heck

One afternoon last fall, I grabbed a sweater and a book and, after stopping at Dunkin' Donuts for my favorite coffee to-go, I headed to our city's park. 

A people-watcher by nature, I love walking the pathways through the park and studying people from my bench who also love being there.

Not far into the park, I found a shaded bench where I could sit and read for awhile. Just across from me, an elderly man was talking with, who I assumed to be, a grandson.  He was seated on the bench next to him.

The boy was six, maybe seven, years old, with the most incredible blond curls framing what someday in his maturity would be a very handsome face.

His huge eyes looked adoringly up at his grandfather, as though searching his face for answers to his many questions and they were holding hands.

When I look at any beautiful child, I can’t help but think of something my mother once said, "With all of the beautiful children in the world, where do all the homely adults come from?" I smiled, partly because she had been right, but also because I still missed her terribly and the memory brought her closer to me.

I overheard the boy ask his grandfather, "Grampa, why are there so many old people in the park every day?"

The old man was quiet, thoughtful, for a minute. Then I heard him clear his throat. He let go of the boy's hand and slowly stretched an arm around the youngster's shoulders, pulling him close. 

Then in unhurried words, he told the boy, "Well, son, they're just too alone at home to want to stay there. Sometimes, old people need to be with other old people. Here in the park, they can share their favorite jokes and maybe play a lazy game of bocce ball or checkers to pass a little bit of time together."

Then, looking down at the pigeons that had gathered on the ground around the bench, the old man reached into the pocket of his tan jacket and pulled out a small brown paper bag. He handed it to his grandson.

The boy thanked him, reached into the rumpled bag, and with a big smile, began tossing pieces of popcorn, one by one, to the pigeons, favoring a gray one with a pronounced limp. 

Pigeons in the Park
As the boy did this, he asked the old man, "Grampa, why do they all call out names and wave at each new person that comes into the park?"

The grandfather cocked his head, thinking, and as though measuring each word, he slowly said, "It's just a way of keeping their minds alive and well-oiled, you know, by having to remember people and names. 

After all, your mind is just like any other muscle and all muscles need to be exercised. Remembering everyone’s name and face is like a private game they play. Maybe it even helps them to ignore their pains and their problems for a little while."

The boy nodded his understanding and continued to feed the pigeons, taking his temporary job quite seriously. Then, spotting a gray squirrel that had darted out from under the bench to steal a kernel of popcorn, he jumped down and stomped his small sneaker on the sidewalk with a loud "Shoo!" 

Of course, this also frightened the pigeons who instantly took to the air and it was so cute that it made me smile. Then the boy sat back down beside the old man, obviously disappointed by the sudden turn in events.

The boy sat quietly for awhile, as he watched the old people in the park. As I mentioned, I'm a people watcher, by nature, and I followed where his eyes traveled. They stopped first on a couple of elderly men playing a game of checkers on a stone table. Then they moved on over to settle on a group of three even older men having what seemed to be a heated verbal exchange. 

Checkers Table in the Park
As he looked from one little group to the other, he asked his grandfather whether he thought the men playing checkers ever got tired of doing that. "Do they just sit there every day doing the same thing for hours and hours?" 

Then without waiting for an answer, he glanced at the men who seemed to be arguing, and asked, "What do you think they're all angry about, Grampa?"

The old man smiled lovingly at the boy. He cleared his throat again and in a slow, determined voice, he explained to his grandson that to some of the old folks, the daily checkers games were a way of making some sense out of a changing world that they didn‘t feel a part of any more. He said, in a way, it was like keeping them in touch with a world they did know -- and it got them out of their recliner chairs and away from their TV sets for a little while, too.

The old man went on to explain to the boy that the three men who seemed to be in a heated discussion weren’t really arguing. Oh, they antagonized and criticized each other a little bit, just to keep their juices flowing, but they were careful not to be mean or hurtful. 

He said sometimes they even acted a little bit wise by bragging, or maybe griping, about the good old days. You know, talking about their old girlfriends, or teasing the others about their old girlfriends.

The boy giggled at his grampa's explanation and then in typical little-boy fashion, he wiped his nose on his sleeve.

By now, the pigeons had begun to congregate at the boy‘s feet again. They came tentatively at first, then with a little more fervor. It always amazed me how the feed-ees recognized so easily which feet belonged to the specific feed-er, because somehow they always knew and went straight to them.

The boy stuck his hand once again into the rumpled brown bag and brought out his next offering for the hungry rascals on the ground below. Both of them sat in silence, watching and grinning as the greedy winged goblins jockeyed into position for the next morsel tossed from the small hand.

The boy then turned his face up to look into his grandfather’s eyes and he asked him how long everyone stayed here in the park and how they knew when it was time to go. The old man sighed. His eyes were still focused on the pigeons. At first, I thought he hadn’t heard the boy, but then I saw him lovingly pat the blond curls on top of his grandson's head.

The grandfather told him they stayed till it started to get dark, or sometimes, until it just got too cold to be there any longer. Then, one by one, they waved goodbye, again calling each other by name just as they did every day when they first got there. Then they went home and, for many of them, back into the past, too.

The boy nodded, then he smiled up at the old man again, and both renewed their feeding ritual of the pigeons.

After a little while, the boy asked his grandfather how he knew so much. The old man told him that when you got to be his age … (a big sigh), well, there were some things you just knew. 

With that, the youngster looked up at his grandfather with a concerned look on his face and said, “Grampa, I love you. You’re NOT old. You’re … you’re like a shiny red apple. You’re ripe and you're  j u s t  right.”

The old man laughed out loud and, God help me, I did, too. And maybe it was the dwindling light, or somehow, just a trick of my eyes, but I could swear I saw the lines in his face smooth out. He looked a full ten years younger and I was surprised to find a tear on my own cheek as I watched the old man swipe at his eyes when his laughter had finally subsided.

Slowly, the old man looked up into the sky. He told his grandson they ought to be getting along home. As they rose to leave, the grandfather replaced the now empty rumpled paper bag in his pocket and stood. 

Grandfather and Grandson
One by one, the others in the park raised an arm and called him by name, almost in unison, 

“Bye, Gabe.”

He, in turn, did the same. “Bye, Herb, Sam, Max, Shorty, Charlie, Gib.”

“Hey, Gabe. We still on for checkers tomorrow at nine?” Called one man who was sitting next to the men playing checkers on the stone table.

“Sure, Sam. Lookin' forward to it,” was Gabe, the grandfather’s, response.

I was sure God would forgive his little white lie … and the last I saw of the little boy, who was at the beginning of his life, and the wise and loving old man nearing the end of his, they were walking slowly back down the path through the park, hand in hand. 

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The "Man-Rules"

Pay Attention, Ladies ... (ha ha ha, hee hee)
[Contributed by my friend, Vietnam veteran, Allan Bopp, who posted it on Facebook]

We men always hear 'The Rules' from the female point of view. 

Now finally, here are The Rules from the male point of view. 

These are our rules. They are all numbered #1 on purpose and for a good reason. 

Do your best to remember them, please.

#1. Men are NOT mind readers.

#1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining when you leave it down.

#1. Crying is blackmail.

#1. Ask for what you want. Allow us to be clear on this one:
Subtle hints do not work
Strong hints do not work
Obvious hints do not work
Just say it!
#1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question a male has.

#1. Come to us with a problem, but only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

#1. Anything we said six months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after seven days.

#1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us whether you are fat.

#1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad, or angry, we meant the other one

#1. You can either ask us to do something, or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know the best way to do it, then just do it yourself.

#1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

#1. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

#1. ALL men see in only sixteen colors, just like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

#1. If we ask what is wrong and you say 'nothing,' we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are not telling the truth, but it's just not worth the hassle.

#1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

#1. When we have to go somewhere together, absolutely anything you want to wear is fine. Really.

#1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about, unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball, football, or motor sports.

#1. You have enough clothes.

#1. You have too many shoes.

#1. I AM in shape. Round IS definitely a shape.

#1. Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight. But did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping to us.

***This is cute!  Thank you for sharing, Allan!

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck