love and deception

copyright 2011/all rights reserved


a novel by



They window-shopped along the streets of Houston in a haze of love and Hart admired his wife’s reflection in every storefront they passed.

When Sonia’s feet were so swollen they seemed to spill out of her shoes, she finally called the game.  “How about a decaf cappuccino?  There’s a little outdoor café a couple doors up.”

Hart carried a giggling Sonia the last three hundred feet and they sat down at a corner table with an umbrella for shade.  The waiter materialized, took their order, disappeared.  Hart placed Sonia’s feet on his lap and began to massage them.  She groaned with delight.

“So what’s in the envelope?”


“You are the worst liar.”

Sonia’s blushed and tried to remove her feet from Hart’s lap but he held firm.

“Why do you have to be so nosey?”

“Just trying to keep you out of trouble, is all.”  He tweaked a baby toe.



Sonia appraised her husband with narrowed eyes, the broad shoulders and chiseled arms, the blue eyes and wavy brown hair, the air of confidence that surrounded him, the gentle look he reserved only for her.  With him, she was safe.  She drew a breath.

“I was at Dad’s office.  There was a report sitting on his desk written for that coalition of oil companies.  So I looked through it.”


“And, I borrowed it.  I wanted to read the rest.”

“When was that?”

“Yesterday.  Bicky told me that if I didn’t give it back I’d be in danger.  And if I told you about it, you’d be in danger, too.”

Hart guffawed.  “He said danger, not trouble?  And you believed him?”

“It says we don’t have much oil left,” Sonia said in a whisper.

A light flashed in Hart’s eyes and he snickered.


“It’s only dangerous for the oil companies because it’s overt admission.  A smoking gun.  If they didn’t write the report themselves they could dismiss it as rubbish.  But to be caught red-handed with the information and do nothing to rectify the problem.  It’s a time bomb, even to a largely self-regulated industry.”

“But Dad really believed…”

“Well, he may be right.  But more than that, I think he senses a possible corruption of his power base and he’s trying to cover his tracks.  He doesn’t know that you won’t do something stupid like give it to the newspaper.  Not just the altruistic are passionate about causes, Sonia.  I’m sure Hitler believed his own hype.”

“Are you comparing Bicky to Hitler?”

“No.  Bicky’s got a better schtick.  But there are one or two people that can still dwarf him in the power broker department.  And he doesn’t want to piss any of them off.  Sonia rubbed her head as if the whole conversation were giving her a headache.

“Why didn’t you just give it back to him last night?”

“I don’t know.  I was thinking of using it to force his hand.”

“To do what?”

“To get you a job closer to home.”

Hart placed Sonia’s feet on the floor, leaned over and kissed her.  “Well, I am home.  For good.”

“What do you mean, for good?” Sonia asked.

“I mean, that was it.  The last job for your Dad.  Time to do something for us.”

Hart smiled and massaged Sonia’s fingers.  Sonia stared at her husband for several moments before dropping her head back to smile at the sun.


Hart roused Sonia from a half-sleep as they pulled into the driveway sometime around 7 o’clock.  He had plied her with all kinds of hot sauces at dinner because he’d heard they bring on contractions.  Sonia had appeased him until her mouth couldn’t stand anymore.  Hart laid a hand on Sonia’s belly, the only part of her not sleeping, when Sonia stirred.

“I think he’s doing backstroke,” he whispered.  “C’mon.  Let’s get you both inside.”

“Just take me with you.  I’ll stay in the car.”

“And what?  I go inside and drink cognac with your father?  How’s that going to look?”

“It’s going to look like you can’t stand to leave me.”  Sonia smiled and pouted at once.  “Pleeeaaaase.  Take me with you.”

“No.  You need to rest.  We’ve been going all day.”

“I’ll sleep in the car.  I promise.”

“What if something happens.  What if your water breaks?  You’ll be in the car.”

“Helloooo.”  Sonia pulled out her cell phone and jiggled it in Hart’s face.

“Alright, Miss Smart-Ass.  Get your butt inside or I’ll kick it from here to Broad Street.”

“What if the boogy man gets me?”

“Sonia, c’mon.  The longer we do this, the longer it is until I’m lying in bed with you.”

Sonia gripped the dashboard.

“Have it your way.”  He ran around to the passenger side and hoisted his wife out of the car.  She flailed and Hart buckled under the weight which got Sonia’s attention.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and pantomimed the part of the damsel in distress.  He staggered into the house and after several false starts because of mutual bouts of laughter, managed to navigate the stairs without mishap.  He ceremoniously draped her across the bed, covered her with a hand-woven quilt and handed her the remote.

“There’s nothing I can say to make you change your mind?” she asked.

“It’s 7 o’clock now.  I’ll be home by 9.  Promise.”

“Enough of your promises, David Hartos.  Call me later and let me know how late you’re going to be.”  She smiled, tight-lipped and sad, and he brushed a lock of hair back from her eyes.

“Hey,” he said.  “What’s wrong?”

“I missed your face.”

“After tonight you can look at it as much as you want.  All day in fact.”  The corner of her mouth suggested a smile.  He stroked her belly gently in response, slowly moving his hand lower.  Sonia moaned, rising to his touch.

“Based on field research, conducted today, I’d have to say that it’s not true what they say about pregnant women?”

“At least not this pregnant woman,” she replied, kissing him.

“Maybe I should just tell Bicky I’ll see him tomorrow.”

She grabbed his hand and kissed it.  “I can wait.  But hurry home.”  He kissed her hard and turned to go, hesitating at the door to look at her.


“It only takes seven seconds to imprint an image in the mind forever.  I’m fixing you in mine.

“Who told you that?” Sonia asked, smiling.

“My high school art teacher.”

“Well get going, Rembrandt.  I’ll have use for you later.”   She tossed a pillow at his head.  He dodged it and headed down the hall, whistling.

Hart stood at the base of the stairs in the foyer and called up.  “I’ll take the envelope for Bicky,” he yelled.  From their bedroom on the second floor came Sonia’s muffled assent.


Sonia watched from their bedroom window as Hart’s car pulled out of the driveway.  When he was gone she switched off the T.V., and reached in between the mattress and box spring, her hands coming to rest on a manila envelope.  She pried the coffee-stained report free, made herself comfortable and began to read.


to be continued. . . .

to read more scroll down. . .

the voyeur as writer


a guide to writing

cynthia gregory

 Journaling isn’t, as they say, rocket science. You don’t have to be especially creative or hold an advanced degree to do it.. The barest minimum skill you must own to successfully journal is to be an unrepentant voyeur.  Oh sure, you can go at it with purpose, review your day and record your thoughts, deeds, wishes, regrets, passions, traffic backups, lunchroom gossip, career conundrums, or epic visions. This is all very useful but as you can see, you are limited to one specific experience: your own.

Have you ever run across a photo album at an antique or thrift store? I adore old photos; especially the black and white ones with the little scalloped edges. I love to study the faces, wonder what their lives were like, who they loved, what they cared about. Photos are so wonderful because they record a single, simple moment in time. There is a girl in a light-colored dress. There is a dog. A clapboard house. A black car. There are no add-ons. There are no subtractions. The camera capturing a scene is emotionally blank, it just records the picture that appears in the lens. The best journaling does this too.

What you can also do – and actually what I whole heartedly recommend that you try – is to observe the world you inhabit not as if you were the master of it, but as if you are a camera. No feelings of good or bad, right or wrong, but impersonally. It’s good practice to have a regular place to write, but it’s also good to mix it up a bit. If you’re not in the habit of eating alone, go to a restaurant and bring your journal. Is there a waterfront park that you are especially drawn to? Book yourself out for half a day and take your journal along for the ride. Take a ferry boat across the water, park yourself on a bench at the mall, tuck into a table at the newest, hippest coffee house, and bring your journal as your sole companion. Draw it out with a flourish. Observe your surroundings. Dip your head. Listen to your heartbeat for a minute, and then write. Write about the rich detail of the scene around you. No aspect is too small to notice, not one so big you can’t break it into pieces and focus on a part of it. Who is sitting around you? What are they eating, and how do they approach their food? Do they savor each flavor or do they shovel it in with gusto? Is that nanny with the toddler a gentle grandma, or is she a young immigrant with an interesting accent? Details.

We live in a voyeur culture. Strictly speaking, we’re not talking voyeur here in a lurid, creepy way.  It used to be that a voyeur was a guy who skulked around and peered into ladies’ bedroom windows. Now everyone is famous, and everyone has a Facebook page. Privacy and solitude have become quaint ideas – artifacts of another century. In the age of reality shows, underwear models, celebrity wannabes, and You Tube, the very idea of privacy is an antique notion. It’s all about the details, baby! Not that I’m suggesting you sink so low as to reveal all. Not at all. I’m just saying look around. Notice the world around you. It’s bright, it’s wired, it’s delivered to you in dazzling color.

So become a literary voyeur. One who observes the delicious soup of life in order to enrich art. Become a human surveillance camera. You think that geezer who peers in through a strangers’  is looking for generalizations? Not close, my friend. He’s looking for the distinguishing marks:  the moles, the birthmarks, the ear hairs. They – you – me, we’re looking for those details that are not-me. She is not me – in a hundred ways. You know the love poem even Bugs Bunny could recite: “how do I love thee, let me count the ways”? Don’t let that be an idle promise. List those 100 ways and make every one of them sweet and juicy and poignant.

Don’t just write from the surface, dive in. Write about what is remarkable in the world around you, like an unblinking camera. Go deep and observe acutely. Nothing is good or bad, it just is. Look, and really see. Let go of who you are; who you think you are. Let go of the photographer; be the camera. Allow the photograph.

floating in Sonia’s belly

copyright 2011/all rights reserved


a novel by



Hart arrived home sometime before dawn.  He quickly surveyed the exterior before unlocking the door.  Sometime in her seventh month, Sonia developed bionic hearing; the tiniest creak of the floor boards and she bolted up in bed.  Not wishing to disturb her, Hart tiptoed across the threshold and placed his bags at the foot of the stairs with painstaking slowness.  As he stood, light flooded the living room.

Sonia locked him in a bear hug.  “I missed you,” she cooed, kissing his face all over.  She jumped down the last two steps, grabbed a suitcase in each hand.  They dangled like misplaced appendages.

“Sonia!  Put ‘em down,” he commanded.

Sonia dropped the suitcases to the floor with a thud and stared wide-eyed at her husband.

“What?  They were too heavy.” Hart said.

“Contraction,” she replied.  She wagged a finger to a ready-packed bag in the corner.  Hart leapfrogged over his own felled luggage as Sonia headed up the stairs.

“You call the doctor while I put some clothes on.  I’ll meet you in the car.”  She leaned over the railing and blew him a kiss before ascending.


Four hours later, they were back home, the baby still cozy, floating in Sonia’s belly.

“What are you going to do now?”  Sonia pouted.   Please don’t go into the office.”

Hart smiled and kissed her cheek.  “I’m going to take you out for breakfast and a walk along the creek.  Then we’re going to take a little nap, you and I, cause we’re both way tired, and then I’m going to do right by you.”  He squeezed her hand, intoning his meaning.  “Then an early dinner and only after I’ve popped a movie in and propped you up in bed will I go to the office.

“After dinner?!”

“I have to go see Bicky today.  He wants a debriefing.  In person.  But my person is going somewhere else right now.”

“Well, hey, what are we waiting for?  Why don’t we just go?” he said.  “Move that stuff.” He tossed her backpack to the back seat.  A large manila envelope spilled out, addressed to Bicky, marked Personal and Confidential.

“What’s that?”


“It doesn’t look like nothing.”  Hart said.

Sonia released a mini tornado of air.  “I should have never….”  She stopped and eyed Hart up, remembering Bicky’s none-too-veiled warning.  “It’s Bicky’s.  I was gonna to take it to the post office today.”

“Shall I take it to him tonight?”

Sonia hesitated.  “Okay.  I guess.”  The envelope was sealed.  If Hart opened the letter, Bicky would know it.  And David wasn’t one to pry.  She shoved the envelope into her backpack.  “I’m going to go in and squirt.  I’ll be right out.”

“You never can get yourself to say the word pee can you?  What are you going to tell our son?  C’mon, baby.  Time to squirt.”

“What’s wrong with that?”  She waddled off while Hart watched her go, a gleam in his travel-weary eyes.

to be continued. . .

to read what came before, scroll down. . .