Midlife Crisis


I clip shoots from my rosemary plant and sauté the spiky, needle-like leaves with onions, butter and wine to make a mushroom barley soup my family loves.  The scent, fragrant and alluring, makes inroads to heaven.  We eat it all, every bite.  I grew up in the “clean your plate” era, raised by parents who themselves were children of depression-era children.  My grandparents were familiar with the demoralizing nature of such demanding times, and maybe because of this collective consciousness, I abhor wasteful habits.  As kids, we didn’t question, we just cleaned our plates.  I don’t force my own kids to do this, but I ask that they take only what they think they’ll eat.  Leftovers aren’t a problem, a staple of the next day’s school and work lunches.  Most days I pack a lunch and even give my kids incentive money to pack instead of buying which serves the twin purposes of bolstering their savings accounts and assuring me they’ll eat well.  Plus they learn the value of food.

Perhaps this is why the other day my daughter brought home bags and bags of hoagie rolls.  The nationwide franchise sandwich shop where she works tosses their leftover bread and starts fresh each day.  Understandable, yet wasteful.  Fretful and disillusioned, my 17-year old couldn’t understand her employer’s policy so she rescued the bread before it took a dumpster dive, intent on giving it to someone who could benefit.  Her employer agreed to look the other way, but required that there be no mention of the bread’s origins.  We’d welcome a few loaves, but four dozen would fill our freezer to bursting.  We considered the list of places that would be good candidates while the liability issues ran an endless loop in my brain.  Today’s litigious society is fierce even where good intentions abound, but my daughter was adamant so we brainstormed.  The homeless shelter?  Day care center?  Women’s shelter?  Church?  All suggestions led back to the same quandary:  how to get the food, once debuted, from place to place before it went bad, and the trickier question, what if someone got sick?  Silly because it was bread, but lawsuits have been won over less (spilled hot coffee comes to mind).

When I was a kid, my parents had a delicatessen at the shore and we often gave the leftover food to the local nunnery.  A few times a week I’d carry the spaghetti sauce and meatballs, pasta and tuna salads, and other prepared foods possessed of a limited shelf-life the few blocks to the nuns.  They gave profuse thanks, and never once complained about the food’s second run.  Today, over 30 million tons of still usable food is landfilled each year, left to rot and turn to methane.

I later discovered organizations in neighboring Philadelphia, Philabundance, and one in Northeast New Jersey, Table to Table. The latter is a self-characterized “food rescue” program.  Five refrigerated trucks, and a partnership with local businesses that have good quality, no longer salable food form the core business plan. The company picks up and delivers fresh foods to non-profit organizations with a needy clientele all in the same day, marking the difference between them and a local food bank.  Imagine if such an organization existed in every community — the end of leftover food’s mid-life crisis!  Lacking a nearby equivalent, we distributed our stash to friends and family.  Maybe next time I’ll drive to Jersey.

police + action


Pam Lazos

Chapter Fifty-Seven

The alarm that Robbie and Jack had so meticulously wired tied directly into the police station, and when tripped, notified the dispatcher of the presence of a intruder at the Tirabi residence. The dispatcher put out the call which was received by Officer Matheson and his partner, Officer Traecy, currently on their coffee break at the local diner.

Tony, the owner of the diner was a young man in his late twenty’s taking on his first business endeavor. Looking to keep costs down, he worked the midnight shift alone, alternating between bussing tables, food and coffee prep, and customer service. Right now, he was out front wiping the counters and listening to Matheson’s myriad stories of extended familial allegiances.

“I’m not kidding ya’. Bud is $3.75 a quart at Farrell’s, my uncle’s place,” Matheson said. “He’ll even give you a to-go quart cup if you want. I used to go in a lot with my cousin, Huey. Three Hueys in one family. The dad, the grandfather and my cousin. Talk about branding your kids. All part of the circle of punishing, I guess.” Matheson and Traecy laughed while Tony restocked styrofoam.

“Just like’s Mom’s,” Matheson said, taking a sip of his coffee. His radio crackled to life. The dispatcher relayed the information regarding a potential break-in at the Tirabi’s.

“We’re on it,” Matheson said, signing off. He signaled Tony for a refill which he sipped with apparent satisfaction.

“Shouldn’t we go?” Traecy asked.

“Nah. It’s the Tirabi kids again. They set that alarm off once a month.”

“Yeah, but what if…”

Matheson waved him off. “It’ll be fine. Just let me finish this and we’ll check it out.” He forked down the last bite of an omelet.

“Hey, Tony. One to go, huh?” Matheson said, holding out his styrofoam cup.

Traecy shrugged. Ten minutes after dispatch called, they were en route.

 to be continued

start with what happened here

copyright 2013

walking in darkness



Pam Lazos

Chapter Fifty-Six

At dinnertime, Avery walked out to the barn, but Gil wouldn’t open the door. After a few minutes, he walked away. He came back with a loaded tray and a bowl of dog food for Max which he left on top of a fifty-five gallon drum next to the door. Back inside the house, he checked the window every few minutes to see if the tray was still there.

“Would you stop. You’re making me nervous,” Kori said.

“Why won’t he come in?”

“Because he’s pissed at me.


“Well, let’s see. I broke up with Jack so he’s blaming me for Jack not coming around. I told Chris he could write the article about the TDU based on his suggestion that getting things out in the open would actually make it safer for us.”

Avery cocked a single eyebrow, a technique he knew annoyed Kori because she couldn’t master it.

“I didn’t think it was bad to do that. I mean, he did have his “revelation” after Aunt Stella read his cards. I’m not making him do anything he doesn’t want to do.”

“Kori, don’t you think we have enough to handle. The minute that article is printed every guy with an engineering degree is going to be calling. And that’s the legit ones. What about the scammers? We’re paving the way for every kind of miscreant to show up.”

“Oh, stop. You’re just pissed because Gil thinks he needs more help than you can give him.”

“That is so not true and you know it,” Avery said. “I want this thing built as much as anyone.” Avery checked the window to find Gil’s tray gone. “ Finalmente .” He loaded his plate from the pan of baked ziti sitting on top of the stove, grabbed a piece of garlic bread and took a bite before he even sat down. “Mmmmm.” He turned and grabbed another piece. “So he’s happy about the article then?”

Kori loaded her own plate and sat down. “No, actually. He’s mad because I gave Chris his school picture for the article.”

“The ultimate geek picture?” Avery asked.

Kori nodded.

“No wonder he’s pissed. I’d be.”

Kori tossed the salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. “I didn’t have another head shot. They specifically needed a head shot.” She ground pepper over the salad.

“Let’s just open up the lame file and plop that little excuse in,” Avery said.

Kori shot him an arsenic-laced stare, but Avery didn’t relent.

“You could have taken another picture. We do have a digital camera, for Godsakes.”

“Alright, I’m sorry. I panicked. Chris needed it right away and Gil was at school.” Kori forked a bit of ziti into her mouth.

“He’ll get over it, I guess.”

“You think so?” she said, mouth full of pasta. “I don’t know. He’s very one-dimensional emotionally.”

Avery shrugged, ground some pepper onto his pasta. “Like you’re deep.”

Kori frowned, but didn’t respond. “What’s he doing out there anyway,” she asked, nodding in the direction of the barn.

“Getting the TDU ready for when “the man” comes.”

“I thought there was only a few hours of work left? He’s been out there for three days.”

“He’s going over the entire machine, every nut and bolt. After Aunt Stella’s reading, he thinks someone’s going to be along any second. Have I mentioned lately what a good cook I am?” Avery took a bite and rolled his eyes dreamily, enthralled by his own culinary talents. “He even gave me the final specs for the patent. I sent it off this morning.”

“Well, somebody might call,” Kori said. She wiped her mouth and put her half-filled plate in the sink. She pulled her coat off the peg and put her shoes on.

“Where you going?”



“Who do you think?”

“You never went out this many nights in a row with Jack. Is it just the idea of dating a journalist that’s appealing?”

“Yes I did go out with Jack this much. In the beginning. Don’t you remember when he and Robbie had that fight?”

A shadow fell across Avery’s face.

“What do you have against him, anyway? Other than he’s not Jack.”

“I don’t know. He’s like a bowl of alphabet soup with all the a’s missing.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kori threw her coat over her arm, grabbed her purse and opened the door.

“It means that he’s not working with a full alphabet, what do you think? And a journalist, no less.”

Kori rolled her eyes. “Now who’s lame?”

Avery shook his head. “So is Jack completely out of the picture?”

Kori smiled big at Avery, raised her eyebrows, shrugged her shoulders and left.

Avery shook his head at the empty space. “Women.”


Avery threw on a light jacket and bolted out the back door, tripping the motion sensor and flooding the deck with light. The night was balmy, unseasonably so for the second half of winter. He inhaled deeply, identifying various scents including the smell of new growth that predates the arrival of spring, as well as wet decaying leaves and cat piss. About a hundred yards from the house, the light from the motion sensor dropped off and with the moonless sky, Avery found himself walking in darkness. Gil worked by oil lamp this evening and the barn threw off only the barest illumination. Avery tripped over a half-exposed tree root and went sprawling to the ground.

“Dammit.” He brushed himself off and blinked several times, willing his rods – or was it his cones? – to become more cat-like, vowing to bring a flashlight next time.

He reached the barn and rapped on the door three times. It was quiet inside and unless Gil had earplugs in, there was no way he didn’t hear the knocking. “Gil. Open up. It’s been like four days already. You’re starting to stink. I can smell you from out here.” Avery thumbed some paint peeling off the barn door. “How much more do you have to go?” He peeled off a few strips waiting for an answer. “Don’t you think it’s time to return to civilization?”

“No,” came the monosyllabic reply. Avery smiled. That he answered the question meant that Gil was probably desperate for a shower.

“It would feel really nice, the water running all through your hair and down your back. Really, really hot water. You could stand in there so long there wouldn’t be a steam-free inch of wall space.” Avery heard some shuffling inside, but the occupants didn’t emerge.

“Hey, The Matrix is on Bravo tonight. You can stay up and watch the whole thing,” Avery said to the door. Nothing. “Well at least come inside and sleep in your own bed. Kori’s out for the night and I want to go to sleep. I’d feel better if you were inside.” He rested his head on the doorjamb and waited. “C’mon, Gil.”

Avery waited so long for an answer that he dozed off, eyes popping wide when his head hit the barn door. He made one last attempt: “Well don’t come running to me if the boogie man comes after you.” The lock clicked open, but not the door. Avery waited, but after a minute, it clicked shut, the moment lost. He rolled his eyes and walked back into the house.

Avery left the kitchen light on in case Gil decided to come in during the night, and closed the door, but didn’t lock it. He also turned the back yard’s motion sensor to the full “on” position so Gil would have a light to follow toward the house. Fixing your eyes on the outside light helped incrementally with the dark parts. He left the front porch lights on for when Kori came home, then cast an uneasy glance around the perimeter of the house, lit up like a stadium for a nighttime game. He wished everyone would come home and go to bed already, then went upstairs to his room.

At 2 o’clock, Avery’s eyes flew open and he jerked up in bed. He touched his arm, still feeling the distinct sensation of someone shaking him awake. “Hello?” He looked around, but saw nothing in the shadows. “Mom?” As soon as he said his mother’s name, a chill ran the length of his spine and his whole body shuddered. He shook his head to clear it, then tentatively stepped out of bed. He peered out the window toward the barn.

A green phosphorescent light, barely visible, swept back and forth across the length of the structure. After several sweeps the light moved around to the other side. “What the…” Another chill ran through him and he found himself pulling on his pants and shoes without any conscious effort. The light stopped, fixated on the door to the barn. Avery grabbed a sweatshirt off the chair and bolted from his bedroom.

He was down two flights of stairs and in the basement in twelve seconds flat, running to the cedar closet. He pushed through the off-season clothes hanging there: summer dresses and shorts, bathing suits, and Robbie’s one-piece surfing suit clanged noisily on their hangers as he shoved them to the side. He lunged to the back of the closet where Robbie stored his gun cabinet. Avery tried the combination lock twice and failed. “Goddamn it!” He banged on the cabinet, took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Please.” Avery tried a third time and the lock clicked open. He grabbed the biggest shotgun without even stopping to load it. He reached the top of the stairs about the same time the roar of Gil’s ATV and sound of Max’s harsh barks flooded the silent night.

He made it outside in time to see the green light of the flashlight flick wildly across the copse and then burrow into the woods, disappearing into the blackness. Gil roared into the same abyss, Max running after him.

“Gil!” Avery ran, his heart pumping wild with fear. Again, no flashlight. “Gil!!” He stumbled and cursed, found the trail and blindly followed the sound of engine, propelled by instinct not eyesight. Until he heard the sounds that made his legs buckle.

He couldn’t distinguish one from the other at the time. It was only in recollection the sounds became clear: the creaking of a tree, the swish of dead leaves, the breaking glass, the crunching metal. Max’s fanatical barking; and the most sickening sound, a dull thud, that of a body hitting the ground. “Gil!!” The tree rebounded, its sleeping branches swatting at the empty air.

The ATV lay on its back, it’s wheels spinning into infinity, the motor grinding on and on, while its tires searched for the missing earth.

to be continued . . .

start here to read more

copyright 2012

a hundred years from Monday

budbreakOIL IN WATER

Pam Lazos

Chapter Fifty-Five

A few days later, Kori was pulling out in Ruth’s minivan when Jack cruised up the driveway, forcing her to slam on the breaks to avoid a head-on collision. He stepped out of his car, an impish smile on his face, and walked over to the driver’s side. She looked beautiful.

“Better watch where you’re going,” Jack said. “You could hit somebody.”

“Better you than me.”

“Nice to see you, too.” Kori stared straight ahead, ignoring him.

“How come you haven’t returned my calls?”

“You called?”

“Very funny, Kori. What the hell’s going on?”

“Nothing. Why do you ask?”

“I’ve been calling you all week, is why I ask, and I know you haven’t been home because I’ve driven by a dozen times. Then last night one of my buddies says he saw you and some flunky out having dinner.”

“We’re just friends.”

“Oh yeah? When was the last time you lip-locked a friend?”

Kori shrugged.

“Answer me, dammit.”

Kori stared at the woods to the side of the house. Jack yanked open the driver’s side door and pulled her out by the arm.


“Oh, now I have your attention….”

Kori shook loose from his grip and stalked off across the lawn. Jack ran ahead, hampering further progress.

“What in God’s name has gotten into you? Why are you so angry?”

“Because you’re a self-centered bastard. You waste your time watching sports when you could read a book. You prefer a night of drinking with your friends to the movies with me. You have no interest in my work. But most of all, because you wouldn’t go to the Goddamn public meeting with me!” She said the last with such venom that Jack thought she was going to strike him to hammer the point home, but she just turned on her heel and walked back toward the car. He stared after her, dumbfounded, before running to catch up.

“I’m sorry. If I’d have known it meant so much I would’ve gone with you.”

“You did know.”

“I didn’t. I swear. Come here.” Jack pulled Kori in and hugged her to his chest. “I miss you. Please don’t do this.”

Kori raised her face to him.

“Besides. Robbie told me to take care of you.”

Kori grimaced and shoved Jack as hard as she could. He lost his balance and fell backwards.

“And Robbie told me to watch out for you,” she said, “but not the way you think. Anyway, Robbie’s dead. Gone. Just like you. Just like everybody.”

Jack jumped up and grabbed the back of her neck. He pushed her chin up and kissed her gruffly. “It would be a shame to lose what we have.” He wound his arms around her and whispered in her ear. “To walk away just so you can be the first to leave is a horrible waste of time. Sometimes there are things bigger and more satisfying than an indulgence of your pride.”

“Like what?

“Like happiness.”

“Oh, pull-ease”

Jack released his grip and took a step back, putting air between them. “Are you afraid to be happy with me?”

“I was happy with you until I saw what an egotistical prick you are.”

“C’mon, Kori. This is stupid.” He kissed her again and this time she responded with her mouth and her body. After a minute, she released him. He was electrified.

“Alright. You win.” She reached out and gave his dick a little squeeze. He shivered at the touch. “Call me, say, a hundred years from Monday. That should put us squarely in the next lifetime.” She strode to the van, slamming the door after her.

Jack watched as she put the transmission into all wheel drive and drove through the small forested grove to the side of the driveway, pulling out onto the road before he even registered what happened.


Jack walked around to the back of the house and, hearing music, followed it to the barn. He banged on the door, but Gil didn’t hear him over the bass. He peeked in the window and saw Gil holding Max up by his front paws and dancing to the Bacon Brothers, Philadelphia Chickens. Jack knocked on the window and when Gil saw him, he screamed and dropped Max to the ground.

Gil lowered the volume on the stereo and opened the door. “You can’t sneak up on a person.”

Jack laughed. “It’s not like it was hard.”

“Where’ve you been?” Gil demanded.

“Home. At work. Out. You want a list?”

“Why not here?”

“Your sister’s not talking to me.”

“So what? I’m talking to you.”

Jack tilted his head, shrugged his shoulders and gave Gil a lopsided smile. “Gilly.”

Gil looked askance at Jack, set his lips in a grim straight line, and closed the door.

“Gil, come on,” Jack said, knocking again.

Gil locked the door and turned up the music.

to be continued. . .

to get caught up start here

copyright 2012