by A.W. Marshall
Melton didn’t sell his Jam. And he was kinda touchy about people finding out, but I was desperate. I was gonna be a professional bowler, and my nickname was gonna be Easy Tiger. But none of that would happen unless I got some of that Jam. I saved the old brown paper sack my dad had given me for years—never ran to Melton even when bad went to worse. And believe me, there have been plenty of times like that. But two weeks ago Jaime stormed out of our bathroom with that white stick—tears coming down her eyes, I kid you not.
“Look at this! If I had a gun I’d shoot myself,” she said, holding the red plus of the pregnancy test inches from my face, “We can’t afford another! I’m becoming my mom! All I need is a wrinkly tramp stamp and to leave my kids in the car while I go to the casino.”
She flopped down on the couch next to me and started crying. Like really crying. I just sat there dumbfounded, thinking we’d done it once in four months. Thinking once again Jaime is right, we’re in trouble. The food stamps barely helps us get by, despite my job at Ty’s Hamburgers and Jaime’s part-time gig stocking at Wal-Mart.
“Travis, we can hardly take care of Rowe as it is,” Jaime said, “God, I can already hear my sister calling this a blessing.”
She stared at me, and I imagined what she was seeing: unshaven, puffy and slightly yellow. I was on that couch we found in an alley four years ago, the sweat stained undershirt I wore under the mandatory Ty’s Burger’s t-shirt, my forearms scarred up from the years of fry oil. My hair was sweated into a cap from the required hair net. If she lifted up the matted down bangs she’d see the receding hairline over the tangle of crow’s feet. What she couldn’t see is that I’d been sitting there and dreaming about the last beer in the refrigerator, trying to get up the gumption to go get it. And that under my rump was a wallet with $2 that I needed to last me, heck all of us, to Friday.
“I was gonna be a nurse,” Jaime said. “It wasn’t gonna be like this. In high school. I was so sure. Then you.”
Me. Failure. Thirty three. Shitty job. No plans. My life deciding itself: soon to be two kids, unmarried to a woman who is sick of me. One thing after another. And Jesus, times a ticking. Sometimes so fast I can hardly breathe.
“Oh sweetheart,” I said, “don’t say that. We’re gonna be okay.”
And I thought of my father on his deathbed while the hospice nurse, Lupe, slept on a chair. “You’d be surprised all the things I’d hoped for you,” he said. All those years he slaved at Wonder Bread and not one dime left after the funeral.
And still, he never pulled out that paper bag for himself.
“Make it great, son,” he said, whenever he told me about Melton and his jam. “You’ll know when it’s time.” And I’ve sure waited. Out of high school even I knew I was too dumb and stoned to focus on much of a future. After that, I staggered years away—going from shitty job to shitty job until Jaime got pregnant and I stayed put at Ty’s Hamburgers, wasting away in front of that giant sizzling 3 x 6 griddle. I bet over the last six years I’ve dripped two thousand gallons of sweat on that thing. The only reason I am so pudgy is because I stuff as much free food as I can get away with—hot dogs to chili fries to pastrami burritos. I sometimes call in an order just so I can eat it when no one picks it up. I call it my retirement plan because it ensures I’ll be dead way before sixty five.
Waiting for something “great” is maybe why I wasted so much time. Great never seemed possible, considering my life was a sink hole, what with all the credit cards, the damn car, doctor visits, those useless student loans I got and the cell phones bills and Rowe begging to start football—how did I ever wait so long? Two years ago Jaime said I had a year to buy a ring, get a better job and move them out of this tiny apartment or she and Rowe were going. And you know what I did? Nothing.
“Our life is a shit storm!” Jaime screamed, tears dropping on her Walmart vest. I held her hand but she didn’t hold back. “Life is swallowing me up, Travis. You have to figure out something, I swear to God.”
I’m gonna be thirty-four in a few months, and when was the last time anyone heard anyone making something of themselves after that? I was already a pretty good bowler, hit 215 three months ago, so the way I figured it with Melton’s jam I had more than half a chance to go pro. Now was the time. No more waiting.
“Honey, I have an idea. I swear it,” I said with my best smile. She laughed and went back to the bathroom.
“So do I. Cross your fingers. I bought a two-pack,” she called over her shoulder.
I dragged myself to the kitchenette for that beer. After a day of breathing grease, it tasted cool and delicious, and I could have used twenty-three more. Back on the couch, I sat there thinking about Melton’s Jam and the bag dad gave me sitting in the hall closet.
My dad learned about the jam when his dad told him about a time sixty-something years ago, and about this girl who played the mandolin. She waited until an August day in Tulsa where the heat soared above 100 degrees. This was in the 1940’s so before most had air conditioning. She made a bucket of homemade peach ice cream the old way—salt and a crank. Brought Ol’ Melton a fresh batch. Dad said Melton knew he could sell his Jam for a million dollars and, because of that, money didn’t interest him. So she traded that ice cream, and she rubbed that Jam into her hands real good so she could slay that Mandolin. In two months, she went from road house to round ups to night clubs to Oklahoma City to Kansas City to New York to Paris. They called her the Okie Doll. She never once lighted home again. Married herself a German that owned horses is what my dad said.
So my dad heard this from Grandpa but didn’t really believe it. Then like thirty years later dad had this neighbor, a real old feller named Yellow Evil. Dad said this was about 1975, and Yellow was in his late seventies and dad was in his forties, and one night they were drinking and Yellow Evil started telling dad about Melton, the Jam and how Melton kept it in a big jar in the bottom of an oil drum.
And Yellow told dad how in the 1920’s he had been a small-time boxer. And like that woman, he wanted to be great. And it turns out Yellow’s grandmother was Pixie Stick Wilkens, who was famous for being a clairvoyant. It was because of her Will Rogers gave up ranch work and sought out show business, and she predicted the 1921 race riots so on the spot her entire family was hiding in the all-black town of Grayson on the day of. During those horrible race riots thirty square blocks of the richest black people in the country burned to the ground, and her family was safe. Yellow said Pixie’s eyes were giant with these huge black pupils and no other color. She bragged and proved she could make any man cry if he dared look in those eyes, and Yellow said he seen her do it. Anyway, sometime after Pixie died, Yellow ended up with those eyes. See, the family requested her eyes be embalmed in a glass container, and when Yellow’s mother died years later, well, he stole them before the rest of the family could.
And sure enough, Melton knew all about Pixie Stick Wilkens and took the eyes in trade, and Yellow won twenty-four amateur fights and ten professional fights before he got a fourteen year old girl pregnant in Albany, New York and no one would deal with him anymore. He married that girl though and they were still together all those years later when my dad lived next door, if you can believe it.
Jaime stormed out of the bathroom just like before, stood two feet before me, and chucked the second white stick as hard as she could at my head. All her cute angsty disapproval—one hand triangled onto her jutted hip, the other pointing at her pursed lips—a staple of our courtship, had transformed into simply two hanging arms and slumped shoulders.
“I swear to God, Travis. The flood is coming. I just don’t know what I might do.”
So that’s why I was after the Jam. I could be flipping burgers at Ty’s for the rest of my life. Something needed to change a long time ago. How could I hold onto anything? Especially a cute lil thing like Jaime. I knew there was a Pro/Am Tournament in Bossier, Louisiana in one week; I was going to be there. How could I not think on the paper bag dad gave me all those years back and pull it out from deep in the hall closet?
In Tulsa, Melton had this long skinny lot with a shack set fifty feet off Admiral, between Harvard and Yale. As long as I can remember, Melton’s shack stood there with a giant oak over it and a large wooden sign out front that read “Melton’s Mechanical, est. 1901.” Shit, that’s over a hundred years ago, I thought when I arrived the next morning. For the first time, I feared, how old must Melton be, given all the stories I’d heard? That’s if he’s still living, I thought, and my heart sank a bit.
I turned into the driveway that cold and rainy November. Wet leaves stuck to everything. Every curb was rimmed with icy mud water, and every lick of wind found its way into my jacket. Weeds poked up through the littered gravel lot. A smashed up green suitcase, a puddle of water in its bottom, lay in one corner. Three feet from the dented and peeling door, I nearly stepped on a bloated, dead mouse. I couldn’t make out any lights through the one window.
Just as I was about to give the door a shove, I saw an index card taped inside the window that said “NO MOR JAM!” I stood there for a minute. I swear to God I would have started crying if I turned around right then. So, hating myself, I pushed open the door anyway.
The oddly comforting smell of metal and grease were the first things I noticed. From the bit of light through the window, I could make out rows of old and rusted lawnmowers and shelves of parts and tools, cans of oil and solvents. Near the toe of my sneaker I saw a spark plug. The back wall appeared to be giant heavy brown curtain. Everything was covered in grime and dust.
Before I could take another step, I heard: “I swear by God to hell I will shoot ya dead, Bobo!”
Shit, I thought.
A small grey head poked out from behind the curtain, lit up from behind with what I assumed was the dim glow of a television.
“Oh dear me, I thought you were Ol’ Bobo. Comes in morning and night looking for drink. Made the mistake of sharing some with him Christmas Eve three years ago. Not a drop since but he comes every day. More people be kind to him I could too, you know? You got a lawnmower with you? A weed whacker? Trencher? These old hands itching.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but-”
“Ah shit, don’t tell me. Ya seen the card in the window, right?”
“My dad was Juby Dell. He was a good friend of-”
“Don’t matter who anybody is if what the cards says is true. No more Jam.”
The head disappeared behind the curtain, and I heard the creak of the chair. The darkness and smell of oil sunk into me. With the Jam gone so were my dreams. I couldn’t bowl or do anything well enough for it to matter, never could. No Pro/Am Tournament. No money. No Jaime being proud of me. No feeling any better than this ever. I had that paper bag in my hand thinking: all the years my dad held onto it so he could gift it to me, “maybe one dream can come true for you, son, it’s too late for me,” he had said. And all I did with it was nothing until it didn’t matter anymore.
I begged, “He was real good friends with Yellow—”
“Too late. Don’t care,” the old man yelled.
Right then I knew I would never bowl again. And if—and that’s a big if—Jaime stuck it out with me, all we could hope for was getting by, and I mean barely. Never happy. A constantly sinking idea of being comfortable. I couldn’t offer our kids anything but my oil burned hands and some advise: Don’t wish.
“Don’t you want to even see what I have?” I called.
“I want to see your white ass leaving.”
And then I was angry. I waited too goddamn long to just leave, I thought. Shit, the man at least owes me a damn looksy no matter if the Jam was gone. And just then I remembered something I heard about Ol’ Melton and decided to give it a try.
“You let me talk to you, and I’ll bring you a bottle of Scotch in a few days.”
“Sure.” Whatever that was I couldn’t afford it, but I liked the idea of disappointing him.
A full ten seconds of nothing then, “All right.”
He pulled back the curtain, and behind it was a wall of warm air and what seemed to be his home: an old, cruddy yellow carpet, an unmade twin bed with a Star Wars comforter, a faded brown leather recliner parked in front of a giant flat-screen television, a mini-fridge with two cases of Dr. Pepper on top and an oscillating heater next to it, and, in the far corner, underneath a stack of magazines and a toaster oven, an old drum of oil.
Melton pulled out a blue milk crate and told me to sit. Then he plopped into his recliner, pulled the handle so his feet shot up. I noticed a nail sticking out of the top right corner of the chair. A leather strap was around the nail and attached to the strap was a sawed off single-barrel shotgun.
He wore these thick camouflage pajamas and bulky, black slippers. His hair was gray and mostly bald on top; his face, sunken and wrinkled; his black skin, ashy and paper thin. The knuckles of his hands looked like swelled up walnuts and he held them up like claws just above his knees—like he was afraid to lay them down. His left eye was bluish white so he turned his head to keep his right on me. He had this beautiful set of dentures, and then he yawned and his white, wrinkled gums popped out of them, disgusting me a bit. It occurred to me that no matter how old he was, he couldn’t be old enough to be part of all the stories I’d heard.
“I keep this TV nice and safe,” he said, nodding at the gun. “Cost over a grand. That milk crate cost nothing, and it’s almost as valuable to me because it grinds peoples’ asses so they don’t stay long.”
I saw a row of shelves on the far back wall. I nearly gasped when I saw the glass jar with two giant eyes rolling around in it. On one side of that was an old wooden ice cream bucket and what looked like a tomahawk wrapped in leather, tassels and two eagle feathers hanging off. Why do some get their wishes and me nothing I don’t know.
“I been waiting for years,” I said. “I wanted to make sure I chose right, you know. Yellow told my dad people often made mistakes with the Jam.”
“Shit, for fifty years people been showing up here because of Yellow’s yacking,” Melton said, then fixed his good eye on me. “You’re late. No more Jam. What we had we had a long time, but it gone. Sorry.”
“Can’t you make more?”
“Make more? Shit, it ain’t coffee, son. I didn’t make what I had. Made in Florida hundreds of years ago. My people carried it in clay jars on the Trail of Tears, what is that two hundred years ago? I don’t know. The first born sons of my family had it all this time, giving it out to help people. My daddy started in this same spot in 1901, shoeing horses and fixing wagons before cars come along. I had no sons, so I been giving the Jam away easier than I should have maybe. You should have come then.”
Yeah thanks, I thought. I couldn’t muster the resolve to leave, even though he was now flicking through channels.
“I am shit,” I said.
“Oh damn, son, don’t lay that down here.”
I sat there, thinking Jaime is gonna leave me. And then me just working at Ty’s, drinking the cheapest liquor I could find, until my body gave up and I went on disability. My secret secret was that I always suspected I would die alone in some cheap-as-shit studio apartment and no one would know until the mail box was too full to stuff anymore bills.
Melton sighed heavily and threw the pillow behind his back at me.
“Put that under your tush. Otherwise your ass get cubed. How about I tell you some stories? So you get something for that Scotch you bringing tomorrow.”
My hand simply dropped the bag with the hymnal on the floor. I could already see that shit in flames.
“Might help to know from the beginning the Jam was used to heal people who needed it. Sick people. That’s what it’s for. It was my grandfather who realized that instead of making the sick better you could make the better the best, and with that thought he dipped his hands in it and became a great poker player. Believe it or not, this was in the 1890’s. Travelled from here to New York to London to Istanbul, rich as a Rothschild. Never did anything with the Jam after that…however my father didn’t have any such grand ambitions. We the same. Give me some good liquor, a warm bed, some decent food and Everybody loves Raymond reruns and I am a content man. One of my father’s favorite sayings was, knowing you could have a million dollars is the best cure from wanting it.’”
As he talked, Melton’s hands relaxed from their claw-like state and lay flat on his thighs. With those things at the end of his arms it was hard to figure the old guy being excited about a lawnmower showing up to be fixed in this cold.
“With modern medicine less people needed the help, and less people were trusting of some gunky Jam out of a jar that an old black Indian gave you. So my father decided to trade it for the unexpected and precious. What’s precious took me years to understand, but it could be any little ol’ thing. Once daddy traded some Jam for a smoked ham butt.”
He chuckled and I clamped my lips over my gritting teeth. All the years my dad held onto this stupid book, thinking he was clever when a man could simply smoke some meat.
“My father’s favorite story was about an old Indian named Sequoyah Bushyhead. He had it something awful for the Lauren Bacall. This middle-aged Indian raised on the reservation and poor as a church mouse wanted to be loved by Lauren Bacall. Traded his family’s tomahawk that they carried from South Carolina. That’s it right there,” he said, pointing at the place on the shelf.
“My father tried to talk him out of it but Sequoyah would not budge. So he gets that Jam and rubs it all over his face and drives this old Ford to Hollywood. This is in 1955. Breaks down three times. Spends two months digging trenches in New Mexico to make enough money to keep going, and then gets there and spends three weeks trying to track down Lauren Bacall until he finally sees her with her kids, walking on a private beach in some place called San Pedro. When he was near enough, she looked up. As soon as she saw him, he said, she dropped the sweater she was carrying right into the sand and took a few steps toward him. The way she looked at him, he said, made him feel like he was Jesus on the water. Her kids started to go ‘Momma? Momma? Momma?’ and she didn’t even hear. Just stared at that old broken-down Indian with holes in his shirt and nicotine stained teeth and walked toward him. Can you imagine? Old Sequoyah watched his greatest desire approach and take his hand. She was close enough for him to see a small pimple on her neck and that her eyes were almost too wide apart. He loved her all the more. She reached out and took his dirty, calloused hand in his. That was the thing he kept saying to my father, “Lauren Bacall put her hand in mine.” Even believing in the Jam enough to do all he had, Old Sequoyah was too stunned to move. She was the one to lead him off the beach. No white woman had ever looked him in the eye and here was Lauren Bacall leading him away, her hand in his, her children weeping behind. It was Sequoyah that heard that, not her. He looked back and saw the boy, just standing there howling. The girl had just plopped down in the sand. He looked back and Lauren Bacall said, “We’ll come back for them later, sweetheart.” Sequoyah realized he would be tearing apart a family. He’d seen too much of that and so he let go of her hand and ran, all the way back to Tulsa. Died alone in a trailer park about a mile from here from the diabetes, probably twenty years ago. He said his biggest regret was not choosing a Hollywood star who wasn’t married.”
Melton stared at me, raising his large gray eyebrows as if to say “ain’t that something?” And it certainly was. That’s the kind of stuff they should be making movies about, I thought.
“Love in one form or another brought em’,” he said. “One man had a beautiful wife he was worried about leaving him, so he traded a genuine Spanish doubloon to my father and rubbed the Jam on his wick. They were madly in love for the rest of their lives. So what were you going to do with the Jam?”
“My wife is pregnant again.”
“And you want the baby to be special?”
“No… well sure, but see, I’m a bowler. I feel like I could be good, maybe great. And I feel like this is my last chance.”
Melton nodded at that, like he’d heard it a million times before. I stared at those shelves and saw a very old and empty bottle of whisky. There was a lovely serving plate with a giant rooster smashing eggs with his spurs and a very old teddy bear in a suit, one eye missing. These objects saved people, I thought.
“That’s another thing,” I said, “My dad held on to this for decades, saving it for me, so I could trade it to you when I was ready. I waited too long. I really don’t know why I waited.”
“Well, I am sorry about that.”
“I’ve wasted everything,” I said, “The hymnal. My life. Shit, what chance do my kids have?”
“I don’t mind biting, boy. Go on and show me what you got. I still have that doubloon somewhere. Maybe I trade it. That get you someplace more than now.”
I pulled the packet out of the paper bag and unwrapped the old t-shirt that surrounded the old church hymnal. The cover was black and “Mount Zion Baptist” was embossed on the front.
“Oh yes, I remember those,” he said. “We went twice a week like clockwork. Held that hymnal many, many times, but I am afraid that is not quite precious enough.”
I opened the first few pages until I found what I was looking for. I held up the book and showed it to him.
He stared for a moment in confusion, then wonder.
“Let me see that.”
I handed it over and he stared at the page, which in pencil had a big heart with flowers drawn on it and in the middle, “L.T. + M.W. forever.”
“What a thing,” he said.
Someone once told my dad that Melton had a girlfriend from when he was five years old until twelve named Leticia Tyson. They were love birds, until other boys noticed how pretty she was and she realized how homely Melton was. Apparently, every parishioner at Mount Zion Church in Tulsa knew about the broken-hearted boy. Dad had an impulse and rummaged around the church and found the hymnal in the downstairs basement closet.
“I remember when she did this,” Melton said. “We was always together. Sometimes on cold nights, she’d sneak into my window. Two little kids holding each other under thin blankets just to be warm. On Sundays, our parents made us collect the hymnals. While I was finishing up the last few rows one afternoon, she did this and kissed me on the cheek. She got into some trouble too. I still miss that girl something awful.”
He rubbed the back of his hand across his face like he was crying but he wasn’t. He shoved the Lazy-Boy lever down and slowly got to his feet. He placed the hymnal on his TV tray.
“Well shit, you got yourself a trade.”
Then he went to the far corner and grabbed several chunks of newspapers, scattering them around the oil drum. I jumped to my feet. I started to say something but decided to keep quiet. Melton moved the toaster oven and magazines to the floor and used a crowbar to wedge up the lip of the oil drum. There was a Dr. Pepper can floating on the top and when he lifted it up I saw a thin bit of oily rope. My brain began to buzz—how I would manage this one last hope? He began to pull on the rope, his hands becoming blacker than night. Thick black drops spattered the newspapers below. There was a lot more rope then necessary or else the drum reached deep beyond the floor and into the earth, but he kept pulling hand over hand.
“Last time I do this. We done something, papa. All those people. Man alive that is cold,” Melton muttered.
The pile of rope grew into a mound on the floor, and then suddenly a giant, dripping clump rose. Melton placed it on the floor, his knees cracking, and began to work on that knot. When that was off, he quickly and carefully pulled the lip of the oily burlap bag out and down.
“Come grab this.”
I walked over to the jar, which was smeared with oil. The jar had maybe four ounces of a greyish green sludge with black specks at the bottom. It certainly did not look capable of helping anyone with anything. Melton cleaned his hands off with newspaper. Then, from behind the drum he pulled out some Simple Green and sprayed his hands to dripping wet and went after them again with newspaper.
“That’s good enough for now. Hand me that please.”
He held the jar up, squinting at the contents.
“The funny thing is when I trade for something real good, I think of all the times I traded for less. Leticia not only dropped me like a hot potato, afterwards she always acted as if she never liked me much to begin with. Broke my heart clean and forever.”
“Why didn’t you use the Jam to get her back?” I asked.
“Well… I admit I thought on it some, but… needing the Jam wouldn’t exactly be my wish. It probably sounds funny but I couldn’t do that to my own broken heart. This here is the last two doses. I will give you half, and then I will have the last of the Jam. The last ever. And you know what I am going to do with it? I’m doing you a kindness, so I expect you to keep the secret unlike that big mouth Yellow, okay?”
“I am going to put it on that shelf. That will be my last precious item. It will retire.”
After that, Melton found a Ziploc bag, and I held it open while he poured half the syrupy gunk into it. Now that the trade was done he didn’t seem interested in me staying any longer. I caught him looking at that book. His eyes grew wet.
“Well, good luck with that bowling thing, and don’t forget your ass still owes me some scotch. Glenlivet, remember that. And if you see some crazy hobo-looking fella hanging around outside when you come, that’s Bobo. Just wait and come back later.”
A week later, I was in a bathroom stall of the Holiday Lanes in Bossier City, Louisiana, for that Pro Am Tournament, rubbing the Jam on my elbow, wrist and right hand. Jaime was out there waiting and so was my boy, Rowe. It took some doing to convince Jaime that the both of us should take a few days off to travel to this tournament, given all the expenses coming up. Basically, I made a lot of promises.
As I stepped toward the lanes and the small crowd of spectators, I noticed a few people glancing at my black silk shirt, grey slacks, and custom made bowling shoes. I did not try to convince Jaime of these purchases beforehand; I could see the future clearly for the first time in my life.
“Easy Tiger?” someone at the desk called on the microphone.
The rest of the competition was waiting, and Jaime and my boy sat at the small metal table near my lane. Most everyone turned to see the person that name belonged to. Perfect, I thought.
“Easy Tiger?” they announced again.
“Here,” I raised my hand, making my entrance.
I made my way leisurely, as if I didn’t even notice that a crowd of people was waiting on me. Even Jaime looked at me with something special in her eyes. I casually watched the bowlers before me throw their balls, while I sat in my chair, one leg crossed over the other, like this was just another day. I pictured Melton in his chair and that pathetic room he lived in. I saw his knobby knuckles as he took the bottle of Scotch from my hands a few days ago.
“Oh boy, this is the stuff,” he said.
He didn’t even ask if I had used the Jam, but the drum had been moved from the room, and the cleaned jar was placed on the shelf. He put the bottle in a cabinet, said “thanks” and waited for me to leave, a steaming TV dinner on a tray next to his chair. He could have had anything, I thought. He could have had Lauren Bacall and Lena Horne and Bridget Bardot and Audrey Hepburn and Leticia Tyson too. Could have put the Jam on his legs and ran a four minute mile. Could have been a surgeon, a world-renowned opera singer, an undefeated arm wrestling champ. Only his grandfather had any sense, gambling and seeing the world as a rich man. So, as I waited in that bowling alley, I pictured Melton in his chair and thought, you poor bastard never bothered to dream something for yourself.
When my turn came, I took my ball and stood in my spot, just imagining my approach and release, the ball rotating and rolling—and then all those pins just falling for the first of so many strikes. My arm didn’t feel any different, but that didn’t mean nothing to me. I stood there, knowing what I would do next, and again, the results, the word gathering, the offers, the travelling, the money, and fame. I saw it all.
A.W. Marshall has lived in Oklahoma for the last eight years, but grew up on the beaches of Southern California. His work is published or forthcoming in Red Wheelbarrow, theNewerYork, Fiction Attic, Austin Review, Appalachian Heritage, Vestal Review and The Fiddlehead. His story, “The Lover,” published in the Vestal Review was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2014. His collection of short stories, Simple Pleasures, was published in 2015 by ELJ press. In 2005, he wrote and directed the professional theater production of his play, Pan, with Long Beach Shakespeare Company. Pan was published in 2015 by Mead Hill.