Smoke and Mirrors

In a perfect world . . .

Month: December 2008 (page 1 of 2)


Reading, Writing and Blogging in ’09

I made it through the holiday, y’all.
Christmas Eve found me a bit crazy though (as my wife will attest)
What can I say, Maker’s Mark bourbon makes me silly.
Go figure.

But, I had fun, ‘kissing-my-brother-in-law on the cheek’ fun.
Yeah, I don’t think he liked it though.
My sister did give me the holiday hat of my dreams though.

We had all kinds of wonderful food to eat, music playing, inspired conversation, barrels of laughter, Rum Swizzles on ice, wine, beer and we were comfortably surrounded by family;
everything one needs to make the season bright.
You can probably tell from the picture at the top of the post which book I’m currently reading
(a present from my 3 wonderful girls)
I love Wally Lamb but his books do take some perseverance to get through.
Not that I’m complaining.
As a Patriots fan, after yesterday, I have lots of time to get my nose stuck in a book anyway.

I have realized that I’ve been seriously slacking in the reading department, something that changes today, not on January 1st.
To write, you have to read.
And today, it started with no conceivable end in sight.
As far as writing goes, reading helps me and pushes me in a forward direction.
I have no doubt that 2009 will be a great writing year for me.
As far as the blog goes, I won’t be very far away but I’ve made some serious creative promises to myself and will try like hell to keep them. (or Laho will kick my arse)
Damn these New Year resolutions.

Will I give up Guinness?
Yeah, right.

Will I give up blogging?
Don’t think so.

Will I cook less Risotto?
Not if my daughters have anything to do with it.

Will I stop smoking cigars?

It’s a new year and a fresh chance to chase my dreams.
Many will come true this year.
I just have to keep on believing and praying.
Catch all of you in ’09.
I wish all of you the very best that this life has to offer.
The candles are lit and the prayers waiting to be whispered.
Please let me know if you need one.
Happy New Year, folks.
And go easy on the MSG, okay?
My pen is ready.
It’s time to rock, folks . . .


Research has led to the discovery of one of the heaviest elements yet known to science.
The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neuron, 25 assistant neurons, 88 deputy neurons and 198 assistant deputy neurons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.
These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.
Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact.
A minute amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that normally takes less than a second to as long as 4 years to complete.
Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2-6 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neurons and deputy neurons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization causes more morons to become neurons, forming isodopes.
This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass. When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, which has half as many peons but twice the number of morons.
Science is amazing sometimes,  isn’t it?


Happy Belated Birthday, Sas
love you,

Love is the answer

Just wanted to say Merry Christmas to all.
Know that in the grand scheme of things, no matter what happens, love IS the answer.
It’s all that the ‘babe’ ever wanted all of us to agree on anyway.
It’s a shame that we’re still fighting it . . .
Be safe, be warm, be loved.
I wish this for each and everyone that visits here over the next few days.
Merry Christmas.
Love is the answer.


Short story for Mrs. Mac

My daughter Hannah takes an Honors English class with a very cool teacher named “Mrs. Mac”.
Pamela and I met her a few months ago at ‘Parents Night’ and thought she was one seriously intelligent woman.
Make no bones about it, this woman doesn’t put up with mediocrity.
That said, Hannah showed me a short story she recently wrote for Mrs. Mac’s class.
She received a 96 and kudos from a brilliant teacher.
After reading it, I had to smile.
Not only can my Hannah bake some of the most wonderful creations you will ever eat, but she can write too.
Her imagination and creativity astounded me here.
No help from Dad, btw.
Now if she’d asked, I would have helped her with some of the grammatical errors in the story (which were minimal at best)
Just thought I’d give her a day in the sun and a bit of love for Christmas.
Enjoy Hannah’s imaginary fright night.


In the small town of Princeton, Ohio, one thing was branded into everyone’s mind:
Never Go to Lake Shawnee Amusement Part at Night or Alone!
Something about this run-down, screaming, metal death trap lures people in, especially those damn teenagers. Despite the rumors of ghosts and vengeance-filled poltergeists, not to mention the bogus folklore, one brave soul was bold enough to slip through those enormous, rusted gates and spend a night there, with a video camera. . .

Kelly Swan was your stereotypical popular girl in Princeton, Ohio.
She was tall, lean, blond, and tan.
She was head cheerleader, class president, and was dating the quarterback at Princeton Prep.
Everyday, Kelly would pull into the parking lot in her pink corvette.
She’d be blasting Chris Brown, T-Pain, and Weezy F; all heads turned when she arrived.
No, necks almost broke when Kelly made her entrance.
All the girls loved her, while secretly hating her for her long blond hair that blew in the daily zephyr, and her body of a Victoria’s Secret Model.

Kelly’s boyfriend, Jasper Montez, was your classic jock; tall, muscular, gorgeous, and always had a football with him. Kelly and Jasper were inseparable; nothing could split those two, except Mr. Qwatts, their history teacher. They were studying legends and folk-lore of old Native American tribes in Ohio.
Mr. Qwatts assigned a project on the subject, and partners.
Each pair was to research and prepare a presentation of either a video or lecture of factual information.
Kelly was paired with Gertrude Zinger, the class brainiac.
Kelly was not too keen on working with “Grease-Head Gertie” but Kelly knew this was an instant A+ with Gertrude as her partner, or so she thought.
Within the first five minutes of working with each other, Gertrude laid down the laws.

“No slacking off, or I’ll make sure we fail!” she barked. “I know your type.”

Gertrude hesitated and then began to say something, but held it back as if she was looking Kelly over and making assumptions.

“Pull your own weight or else!” Gertrude warned.

“Or else what?!” Kelly snapped. “Are you going to turn me into one of you?”

From then on, neither girl talked, unless it was directed toward the project.
This didn’t stop their minds from shouting rude and obnoxious comments.
“Why does Kelly have to get everything served to her on a 24 karat gold platter?!”
“Who does Good Ol’ Gertie this she is?! I rule the school! I could make her life. . .”
Kelly’s thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the constant vibration of her silver Blackberry Storm.
Gert rolled her eyes in disgust.
Kelly’s eyes grew wide with excitement and then shrunk in fear.
Apparently, Jasper couldn’t wait until after Gert & Kelly’s brainstorming session was over.
Kelly’s phone glowed as she gazed at the text she just received:

Hey Kel. So Listen, me and the crew
Were thinking of having a bonfire at
Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. You in?
Let me know. It will be Friday at 8pm.
Love ya!

As Kelly scrolled down, she saw it wasn’t Jasper’s number, and Kelly didn’t recognize the callback number. She thought it must have been Alice’s new number, and Jasper stole her phone to text her.
That assumption made perfect sense to Kelly; she let that consume her thoughts, until the little light bulb went off in her head. It hit Kelly like a snowball during an intense snowball fight, the project topic.

“How about I videotape a night at Lake Shawnee Amusement park and we can research that place!” Kelly shouted with the glee of a small child on Christmas morning.
“Umm, sure. Why not? It’s right in town, and I can do research the night you go there.” Gert offered kindly.
“I guess you’re not as dumb as I thought you were.”
“Thanks! I get that a lot.” Kelly expressed ruefully.

The time between Monday’s brainstorming session and Friday’s last period class flew by faster than Air Force 1. Kelly allowed her mind wander aimlessly during her English class.
She didn’t even pick up on anything her teacher was saying about Shakespeare.
All Kelly could think about was 8 o’clock and the bonfire. Kelly lived for bonfires.
Kelly’s eyes darted to the clock. One minute to go, the minute seemed like a century to Kelly.
Finally the 2pm bell rang at Princeton Prep, signaling the “Intelligent Thoughts” and “Common Sense” meters to shut down for the weekend.
When Kelly got home, she packed clothes, makeup, and her brother’s video camera to capture what would be, a night to remember.

The Swan’s grandfather clock struck 7 o’clock and Kelly’s heart skipped a beat.
She was getting more excited with each passing minute.
At 7:45 pm, Kelly left her colossal home on the hill to go to the bonfire at Lake Shawnee Amusement park. When she got to the gates, Kelly took out her camera and started filming her documentary.
The wind suddenly picked up a bit and died.
It seemed to know a secret that Kelly would soon find out, the hard way.
It was October and the air was warmer than usual but Kelly hadn’t noticed anything, since her excitement blinded her. The massive, iron gates had an eerie sense to them, and the “Danger! Unstable Structures DEAD Ahead” sign was practically invisible to Kelly.
As she hastened along the pebble-filled walkway that curved through the tall grass, Kelly saw that the bonfire had already started. She thought to herself,
“Its only 7:55. Why would they have already started without me? I am always the one to throw the first log in.”
While Kelly inched closer, she saw it wasn’t her friends at all.
There were no people there at all.
“They have to be playing a joke on me,” Kelly reassured herself.
She dropped her stuff off and started her portion of the history project.
Kelly filmed the giant Ferris wheel, and a couple of its carts swinging back and fourth with (oddly) little wind. She filmed the broken swings swaying in the non-existent wind and then her camera started going berserk. The buttons were not cooperating and the camera screen was getting very static with the power light flickering on and off.
Kelly was staring in amazement at the camera that was working fine five minutes ago.
She neglected to see the figure that was rising out of the water and approaching her in the darkness.
Kelly started to run to the gates and the safety of her car, when she tripped.
When Kelly looked to see what she had tripped over all she saw was that her new white capri’s were stained with grass and blood.
Kelly was really freaking out now.
She started whimpering like a baby when she tried to scurry away from this dreaded place.
Kelly felt something grab her ankle and try to yank her back.
The thing was like ice, it burned, it was so cold.
She fought against it with all the will and might she could gather up in those few seconds.
The mysterious thing was wrenching her back.
Kelly kicked and screamed as if she was a 4-year-old throwing a temper tantrum.
There was crack followed by a blood-curdling shriek. Kelly’s right leg and left arm were broken.
She tried with all her might to scurry away, but found herself staying stationary.
She kept on screaming in hopes of someone hearing her, but no one ever did.
Kelly inched towards highest place she could see, the Ferris wheel.
She got into a carriage and then what happened next is a mystery.
The final scream of pain from Kelly was followed by silence, a dead silence.

The next day there was no notification of Kelly being gone.
Her pink corvette was parked in her driveway.
Lake Shawnee Amusement park was clear of blood and her video camera.
The only remnant of the night of horror that led to Kelly’s death was her video camera.
But where was it?

Gertrude Zinger woke up at 8am on Saturday morning, eager to watch and analyze what Kelly found.
She poured some cereal into a bowl and saturated it with some milk.
Gertrude sat down on the couch eating her Captain Crunch and flicked on some Saturday morning cartoons. Suddenly, the doorbell rang.
“How odd. Its 8am on a Saturday morning in October. The girl scouts sure like to get up early to try and sell cookies.” Gert said to herself.
It wasn’t the girl scouts. Someone had left a video camera and a very long letter. Gert took these random objects inside, while trying to think why someone would have done this, and spread them out next to her cereal. She read the note first. It said:
“Dear Gertrude,
You are probably wondering why I have put a video camera, this note, and a box on your porch this morning. Last night, your friend Kelly Swan trespassed on my property. She got what she deserved. I suggest before you read the second half of this note, you watch the video tape in the video camera . . . “

She did as the note directed her.
Pushing her cereal aside, Gert hooked up the video camera to her computer and watched.
At first the video was normal, Kelly being her usual self, not noticing anything like the warning sign, or seeing a person in the bush.
Things started to get a little weird when the video switched to Kelly filming the Ferris wheel.
It moved by itself! And was that a person in the top most cart?
Gert jotted down every unusual sighting she saw.
She already had a page and a half.
The video was getting down right bizarre after the swings.
Everything was fuzzy and going haywire, but there was a man, a transparent man, with feathers jetting out of his balding head. He looked rather intimidating.
At this point in the video, Kelly’s breath had picked up, as did her walk, it was almost at a sprint.
You could see her pink corvette through the gates and then nothing but a very shabby-looking snack bar. Kelly had fallen in the video and the video camera was capturing her suffering.
Gertrude’s eyes were as huge as watermelons at this point.
What was going on?
Did Kelly die at Lake Shawnee Amusement Park?
Gertrude kept on watching and added another note to her five pages of unusual happenings.
The video turned to the point where it showed Kelly climbing into a Ferris wheel carriage, and rested her broken leg on the seat when the body of a Shawnee Indian appeared with a bloody tomahawk and swung at Kelly. He missed her by inches; she fell 30 feet, broke her neck and died instantly.
Gertrude stared blankly at her computer in disbelief, as she reached to read the rest of the note.

“Pretty poor way to go if you ask me. Like I said, she got what she deserved. I am guessing at this point you don’t believe what you just watched. I thought we might hit this little snag. This is where my little gift to you comes in handy. This little present is a reminder stay off my land, or you will end up like your friend.

Gertrude was dumbfounded.
There was no gift, what gift was this mysterious phantom speaking of?
Gertrude’s hands trembled as she reached for her vibrating phone on the table.
She got a text from an unknown number saying:

Go look on your porch.
There was a ragged looking box sitting there.
Who had sent it?
What was inside it?
The box smelled as if it had been in an old dresser for 20 years.
It was filled with a scent of musk and mothballs and the flies seemed to like it as well.
She hesitated, and looked around to see if she could see anyone who might have left it, before she picked it up and went inside. She set the box on the table and stared at it for a while.
The only thing that could be heard was the pitter-patter of water droplets striking the bottom of the sink. Then the vibrating of Gertrude’s phone broke the peculiar silence. It was another text from the same unknown number. It said:
Aren’t you going to open my gift?
It will help you think better.

Her hands started creeping towards the box.
Gert whipped the cover off to reveal a horrific sight.
A severed and horribly mutilated human arm was in the box.
Kelly’s severed arm was in the box.
Gert jumped back into the wall so bad that she accidentally knocked the shelf that held her family’s DVD’s onto the ground.
This sight would scar her for the rest of her life.

Over the following weeks, Kelly’s disappearance had been confirmed as a death.
Gertrude, was the only one who knew the whole story, and she cringed every time she thought about it.
When it came time to present her project on the legends of Lake Shawnee Amusement Park and the Shawnee Indians, immense amounts of guilt swarmed her as she walked to the front of the room.
Gert found hiding the secret of knowing how her partner had died while doing this project was easier than she thought. The hard part of this was living with the guilt and remorse she felt for her partner.
Gertrude wanted to show someone else the tape, but was afraid to how they would react.
She kept that secret to herself.
And to this day, all anyone knew about Kelly Swan’s death was how she went to Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, and never came back.

Epilogue: 20 years later

“This is Gertrude Zinger reporting for Channel 6 News. I’m here in Princeton, Ohio investigating the bizarre stories behind these gates. (Points to big iron gates behind her)
Local legends say that kids, teens, adults, anybody really shouldn’t come here to Lake Shawnee Amusement Park alone at night, especially with a video camera.”  Gertrude walks along fence of Lake Shawnee Amusement Park.
“Twenty years ago, today a young girl named, Kel-Kelly S-Swan died. Now the question is how did she die? We are here today to try and figure that out. ”
Suddenly the tape stopped, and the old caretaker took the tape out of the video player and threw it on the shelf with the others and muttered under his breath,
“Rotten, good-for-nothin’newscasters!  Always messing around on my land. That’s now the 32nd story they’ve filmed on my property!”
He fiercely stomped to his desk, jerked open the draw and snatched his tomahawk and exclaimed as he walked out the door,
“Time to go teach another lesson to those good-for-nothin’ kids!”

(c) Hannah Murphy, 2008

Merry {video} Christmas

Sending these videos out to two people that have ultimately changed my stygian-like Christmas mood.
They made my inner Grinch go running for the hills in ways unimagined.
No names, no links, they know who they are.
The first video is just plain hilarious.
The second you need to get your headphones.
I’m not a big Celine Dion fan but you have to admit the woman has some serious pipes.
A Merry Christmas to two people that have shown me what it really means to give of your heart.
I am truly blessed this year.


His shadow, embedded in ice
frozen in time,
Inescapable in ways unimaginable
with cold that numbs the very soul,

Night train, with no destination in sight
on the broken hands of time,
a window seat overlooking an arctic world
searching for signs of his life,

Eyes cry freezing rain
a polarized crystalline blue
with hopes of some homeward bound image
but it’s never safe from zero

michael’s on ice,
a seasonal flatline in black
like the snow-tipped mountains of forever
with a soul numbing wind of 1 below zero,

Calling St. Anthony

I was up and out of bed at 5:45 this morning, a bit early on a Tuesday but I had some things to do before heading into Boston. I could hear freezing rain ‘ticking’ off the windows in the living room and thought, “Early train.”
Icy conditions bamboozle the commuter rail and taking an early train would ensure me an on-time arrival at work.
The train left at 7:30 and being an express train should have arrived in Boston by 9 allowing me an hour or so to grab a bagel, coffee and a quick glance at the morning paper while sitting on my perch high above Copley Square. (@Finagle-a-Bagel on Boylston St.)
Faulty rail signals, an express train turned local (all stops)
and a medical emergency 15 minutes outside of the city got a very livid Mick to Back Bay Station at 9:50am.
Smack my ass and call me Betty, but I was ready to kill someone.
So much for the leisurely coffee and toasted bagel, so much for a glance at the newspaper, so much for a break from the incessant insanity surrounding the holiday.
Fuck a fruitcake, I was pissed.
And I gave up 45 minutes of sleep to run to work.
That was the start of the day.
I should have stayed in bed and continued scratching my ass.
This was not what I had in mind to start my day.
The month of December has me searching, every single year, looking for something that allows me to make some kind of logical sense of the holidays.
It gets harder every year, folks.
Some years, I’m lucky and it falls into my hands like a subtle grace from heaven.
I remember coming home one Christmas Eve several years ago from wherever I was working at the time.
I felt grumpy and tired, filled with enough vitriolic wassail that I was eager to share it with anyone unfortunate enough to cross my path.
It was snowing that night and the roads were all unplowed, (another opportunity for me to curse the Gods) making the going very slippery.
I pulled up to the top of my driveway, turned off my truck and closed my eyes.
After a few deep breaths I said, “It’s over, Michael. Another season is over.”
I got out of my truck and began walking towards the house when I stopped.
Beyond the candles in our windows and the twinkling Christmas tree I could see Pamela and my three girls.
They were laughing, they were happy and they were waiting for me.
With snow falling all around me, my mind took a lifelong snapshot of that image.
In an instant, the world changed and in that snowflake-filled moment, so did I.
I found exactly what I was looking for (and thanked St.Anthony, btw).
That Christmas Eve would turn out to be something magical.
This year, the task is turning out to be something of a scavenger hunt.
8 days left and I’m still looking . . .
and saying my fervent prayers to St.Anthony . . .

Gone Walking

I’ll be home for Christmas . . .

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