There is a silver-toned room in one of the many corridors of Studio B-9 of Universal Studios.

On one side, it is lined with several mirrors and a countertop that is flecked with blue and gold. Upon this counter, there are polished hand mirrors and jars of cold cream and bottles of eye makeup, and dozens of shades of nail polish. There is a sink area where there are tubes of hair coloring and bleaching agents. A bank of round bright lights glare from above the counter, silver globes of polished light that cast harsh, vivid shadows and make the application of makeup an easier chore. Facial flaws are easily spotted and erased with these alchemist’s potions, and beauty can be easily manufactured and flash frozen.

Buddy Ebsen’s dressing room is two doors down, and it is not nearly as choked with such accoutrements. Buddy has a pair of mirrors and a set of barber’s shears, a hair brush and some pancake makeup to help give him a suggestion of spryness. He has a four thousand dollar chocolate-brown leather sofa tucked away in the corner, and an old beige plaid chair he bought in the ‘50’s where he relaxes after each take. He is a kind man, but solitary. Continue reading Dee-Dee


Cronic, can you hear the wind gushing from the vents, the blood blushing in your veins, the appetite of so many years gone by when you were made to watch and listen rather than eat what was right before you? Do you remember the sound of his voice when he yelled at you, called you stupid and insignificant and not worthy of the seed that produced you? Do you remember the voices crying out to you in the darkness when the light bulb shattered and the dust fell upon the broken concrete floor, cracks as fine as spider legs, as wide as your heart being stuffed into a shallow pit? You are moving away, away, away, not toward something that might not even exist anymore. It doesn’t matter what’s ahead, because it’s different from what is behind. Listen to the wind gushing through the vents and around your ears. It is the sound of movement, of motion, of distancing yourself from when you were a kitten, hungry for something that could not be defined, that could not be allowed. Stop moving and stare into the eyes of that ugly dog once more and see that he means you no harm, he means to show you the proper way to get away, with dignity and sorrow for what you’re running away from. It is all right to be afraid, but it is not right to remain timid of your past. You are a man now, not a frightened kitten longing for something you thought you needed, or deserved. You are a man with thousands of miles ahead of you, ribbons of highway that can take you anywhere and everywhere. Find a place where you can be content and listen to the wind around you, breathing with you, filling your lungs with newness and opportunity. Don’t be timid, don’t be frightened of something that happened a thousand years ago. That kitten is dead, as that man who frightened you is dead. He’s dead, Cronic. Reclaim your name, reclaim your life and your dignity. Running will bring you more sorrow and bloodshed and anger.

Coming Soon….


Crazy is as crazy does… again and again and again….

You’re nothin’ but a Cronic pain in the ass,” say one mamma, and she slap my ear with a dish towel over and over till it bleeds. Some fake daddy kiss me on the mouth an’ stroke my charlie then wrap a telephone cord ‘round my neck, screamin’ and hollerin’ that I’m a bad, bad boy.

You a Cronic piece o’ shit, said one old lady who locked me in the broom closet all night and I feel crickets and bottle flies crawling on my dirty skin.

I just cry myself to sleep, sometimes bleeding from the ears or fingers, sometimes not, wantin’ Ole Mamma to come for me, wantin’ Dee-Dee Martella to come home and get me, waitin’ for Daddy to pull up in his truck and say, come on now, Charlie (or Nicky, or Danny, or who ever I am I am I am), let’s pull the plug on this ole shithole an’ go drivin’ to see your Mamma.

And I cry at bein’ so happy, an’ I cry ‘cause I don’t ever know if I’m the right boy for Mamma and Daddy, if I’m the wrong boy and they don’t want me no more. I forget my own name and they might not remember it, either.

Hey, Charlie. Hey, Charlie Coffin. Come on for a spin. I’m on a pussy hunt an’ I want you here ‘side of me.”

I ain’t no Charlie Coffin. I’m Charlie Danny Scott Cronic.”

Cronic: Doe

In a sane world, this is what should have happened:

Cronic was smitten with her from the beginning, but not in the way you’d expect. At least he didn’t react the way you’d expect. He looked at her as a pet, someone to be stroked and protected from the likes of me. It was odd, and somehow sweet, but he wanted to protect her from the crazy people of the world. Maybe he thought of her as a little sister, or a fellow kitten. Who knows? It was a strange relationship. Doe may have looked like she was auditioning for the Mickey Mouse Club, but there was something wily and angry beneath that head of shiny hair, something that might have been just as volatile and ruthless as whatever it was that brewed in Cronic’s heart.
The girl screamed, of course. I felt a bit like screaming, myself, except I was getting use to Cronic’s violent nature. That made me as much a monster as Cronic himself. I was getting use to his volatile nature and I knew and feared it had to reach its peak sometime. It had to. With every action, there has to be a reaction, and I was running out of those. I could respond to every violent act, but it’s not quite the same thing. It’s an overwhelming numbness, a feeling of inevitability and acceptance.
The girl screamed, then covered her face with her hands, her chest hitching like she was incapable of ever catching her breath again. I could almost feel and even taste the mixture of sweat and tears pouring into her small palms, a concoction of sorrow and horror. I wanted to lick her face clean like a bitch cat caring for her mewing baby. God, what had he done to me?
Then she paused and looked up at us, first at Cronic and then me. She was gathering whatever strength and courage she possessed, staring at us with ferocious concentration. She stretched her arms out to chest level, flattening her palms, and it struck me as something Zen-like, it was that deliberate and focused. She closed her eyes and let out a deep, relieving breath.
“Why?” was all she said, and it was neither choked nor hoarse. It was flat and empty and cold.

Cronic: Daddy, happy

Daddy looked like Superman, and Mamma played a dead waitress on ‘Barnaby Jones.’ I ‘member playin’ with my crayons, drawin’ a pitcher of a robin. Had about fifty bajillion diff’rnt colored crayons, but I couldn’t find the right shade o’ red. There was a weird turnip-colored crayon that had smudges of gray on the tip, and it was kinda runny havin’ set in the sunshine for so long. So I used that color instead. I did it up with bluish-brown wings and purple tail feathers. I mighta smudged the colors a bit ‘cause the sunshine was so warm, an’ I smeared the page with my wrist. But I thought it looked pretty good. It was a bird from inside a my brain; God never made a bird like that one, I knew that. So it made me feel good that I could make somethin’ not even God could imagine.

An’ my belly felt good, all fruity and warm. I ‘member burpin’ orange soda and it tickled my nose. Mostly, though, I ‘member feeling good and warm and my stomach was all filled-up and happy. Mamma was s’posed to call later that night. Daddy left the phone on the hook and sipped his beer and ate pork rinds most of the day. He didn’t smile much, but he didn’t yell much, either. Just sat in his La-Z-Boy and talked about how Mamma would be real good actin’ as a dead whore. I didn’t understand what a ‘whore’ was, but it made Daddy smile, so I smile back at him, happy and proud as a rain cloud.

Daddy were in his weekend clothes, wearin’ loose jeans an’ his shirt was opened up, showin’ his chest hairs. His chest looked like a map, like some African country, all thick with hair and sweated down. He took a swig of his beer and watched me color, shakin’ his head sometime, whistlin’ somethin’ that sound jazzy an’ rumblin’ at the same time, like Puerto Rican music. He didn’t say much – he never really did say very much when he weren’t yellin’ – but it was like there just weren’t that many words in his head. I dunno know if I ever saw Daddy… well, happy, I guess… but I thought my Daddy looked happy for the first time in a long time. We were just enjoyin’ the sun together, waitin’ to talk to Mamma later that night, just sittin’ an’ not mindin’ the time.

Sometimes, I look up and see Daddy just sittin’ there. He had the cleanest blue eyes you’d ever wanna see, like the color of an ocean. His eyebrows was straight and fine, like his jaw, and he shaved every mornin’, hungover or not. He’d shave even ‘fore he had his mornin’ coffee. That was his quiet time, he say, when he ain’t got no wife, no kid, no job. It was his wakin’ up time. He liked to listen to the hiss o’ water comin’ from the faucet and feel the steam risin’ up and cleanin’ his face. Mamma and me, we weren’t s’posed to make a single noise when Daddy were shavin’. She’d pour his coffee and set it on the table, an’ me, I’d just sit quiet with a glass o’ orange juice and a bowl of Cap’n Crunch cereal, only the cereal always get all soggy and Bobby Durro once tole me that’s what they feed the worms at the trout farm in Pocomoke City.

Cronic: Corners

I mark my life by pissing in the corners.

Mamma boiled eggs in the kitchen, tossin’ me the shells, tellin’ me to lick my plate clean, eggs don’t come cheap no more since we had to put some chickens down las’ spring and hafta buy from the Jew down road. She don’t say it mean, she just mean we poor and cain’t afford no useless scraps ‘round the kitchen, ‘specially when I’s an extra mouth to feed. She call Daddy a no-good trucker, she shoulda done better, shoulda married someone who could so somethin’ useful, like sellin’ cardboard boxes for winos to live in. Continue reading Cronic: Corners

Cronic: Wasteland

I see the light in his eyes, the buzzing, carnivorous light. I see the years of emptiness and his unfaithfulness to hope. There is no hope in those eyes, not really. Not even desperation. Just a blindness and a fury and an exasperation that he can’t understand what it is he is feeling. It’s cold but it’s also rote; rehearsed to the degree that it has become real. He can’t separate himself from feeling… or not feeling. Some people may call it sociopathic, but I call it a vast wasteland of emptiness. And there isn’t anything more frightening than peering into the eyes of someone who doesn’t even know who or what he is. And


is a

twisted loop

of wire

wrapped around my


Some may have calculated the circumference of the earth, but to see a stainless steel cable surround your foot, anchored to the armrest of a ’61 candy red Thunderbird is to give one an overwhelming perspective about the size of the real world.

You bein’ a very bad kitty.”

Cronic, aka Charlie Kitten

I was sleeping, flying, snoring when I woke up in the middle of the air. Mamma tossed me like straw. Her temper was up and I could see a river of sweat pouring down her face. Her eyes were dark from an ugly brown mascara, and I could see the spit on her teeth, hissing at me like she was a bobcat. The house smelled like overcooked bacon, or maybe that was her smell… greasy and damp and musky.

I been calling you for the past five minutes, Charlie Kitten,” she yell. Only when she yell, it came out hoarse and thick, like a hunk of cabbage was jammed down her throat. “Your Daddy’s gonna be home in five minutes, and you just layin’ there.”

She threw a dirty ashtray at me, and the ashes hung in the air like a dirty sheet. I could almost see the cigarette butts casting shadows on the linoleum.

The sun baked the whole house, even the summer kitchen where everything was s’posed to stay cool.

Do as I say, or I’m telling your daddy to drown you.” She turned around to leave the room, then stopped. Sometimes Mamma just stopped whatever she was doing and looked at the walls. Sometimes she hummed something sweet, but it always come out muddled and off-key.

Chuck Berry was playing now, something about riding around in his automobile, and Mamma woke up from her little trance. “Did you clean your plate like I told you? Betty’s in the garden, picking me some peas.”

We didn’t have a garden, didn’t have one for nearly two years, but that was Mamma’s way of saying she didn’t remember where Betty even was, even though she been dead three years. Continue reading Cronic, aka Charlie Kitten

Cronic: Excerpt

I killed my first boy when I were fifteen year old, my stomach hurt so bad.

His name was Charlie and he was showin’ off his ’61 T-Bird. I could make out the evenin’ star – Venus was her name – and everything looked like a photograph, with the soft blanket of twilight descendin’ ‘pon us.

Charlie was drinkin’ a Pabst out of the can and I was buggin’ him for a sip so’s to rinse the taste of Dr. Pepper out of my mouth. Charlie stood there like he was Bruce Springsteen — whiskers creepin’ up his cheeks, dark green shirt unbuttoned to his belly, worn Levis tucked inside engineer boots — lookin’ at me like I was a bug, or a Chevy. He stood maybe six feet, but he looked shorter on account he was always slouchin’.

Cronic, I swear your mamma would kick my ass if I gave you any beer. She could smell it on you from here to creekside.” You never knew if he was jokin’ or being dead serious. He had that reform school look in his eyes, like he could out-punk anyone in shop class. You couldn’t tell what was goin’ on in his head unless it was about his ‘Bird. She was a candy-apple red four-door, a chopped and channeled 429.

Charlie worked in a garage part-time. He spent most a’ the time workin’ on his ‘Bird. He found it in an auto wrecker’s yard while makin’ a parts-run for his boss Johnny Clifford. More like it was a beer-and-parts run, since Johnny liked his beer more than he liked his wife, or even his dog.

There stood the ‘Bird, said Charlie, crouched between an AMC Pacer and a Ford Fairlane, covered with about a hundred years worth of rust and dirt. She was lookin’ sad but not too hurt, tattooed with rust and faded pink body-fill. She was a honey even though she was busted up. Charlie just had to have her, so he dropped a few bills and ran some dope for Johnny so’s he could restore her. That was last year, and now the ‘Bird was cherry. He wanted it restored to original, not custom, mostly ‘cause he was dirt lazy and had no imagination.