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This little book of short stories was inspired by the author's life in Ventura, California and Boston, Massachusetts from 2003 through 2007. The stories explore the relationships that make our lives, our failures and successes and our human frailties, faults and strengths.
"Some Things Are Better Left Unknown," published orientally by Scars Publications in its literary magazine, "Down in the Dirt," explores the relationship between a young woman and her father, which is threatened by a stranger. "Lucky" shows the anguish of a young man whose girlfriend has left him and the advice of his father. "Flawed," also first published in the Scars Publications magazine tells of deceit and mystery in a relationship between a young woman and an older man. "Adapting" is about a father-son relationship and the father's efforts to bridge the generation gap. "What He Wished For," also first published in the Scars Publications magazine, shows what happened when a middle class father of three adult children comes into a lot of money. "My Dream" is a story of the sport/business of thoroughbred horse racing. "Dreams" tells of the protagonist's pursuit of a beautiful woman and what he learns from it. "Growing Up" explores the relationship of a single father raising his teenaged daughter. "Meant To Be" shows what it takes sometimes for a reluctant woman to realize she is really in love. "Matthew's Angel" follows the struggles of a depressed, blocked writer. "Amends" is a story of a German soldier during World War Two, who 50 years later returns to the people where he was stationed to make amends. "Unexpected Love" explores what an older man learns taking care of a baby girl.
SOME THINGS ARE BETTER LEFT UNKNOWN
Melissa drank the last of her morning blueberry smoothie at her grandmother’s old oak table. She pushed her index finger along the deep gashes her father had made with his pocketknife when he was 12. Melissa couldn’t imagine her father so destructive, but he had confessed. She had placed the table under the east-facing window of her apartment so she could look out at the park.
She gazed at the season’s first snowflakes floating past her window like white feathers falling from a flock of invisible birds, a scene she never would have viewed in Los Angeles. Melissa had moved to Boston four months ago. She remembered the tingling feeling in her chest when her boss at Spectrum Publishing offered her an editor’s position in their Boston office. She was unaware of why at first, but she had known right away she would accept. It was a promotion, and they probably would have laid her off if she had rejected the transfer. Anyway, she had thought, at 26, it was time for her to be on her own, away from her father. She had always been dependent on her father. She needed to learn to be independent. And places and things in L.A. reminded her of her mother, who had died a few months earlier. Boston seemed like her destiny. Still, it was hard to leave everyone.
Her thoughts returned to her dad. When she lived in L.A., a week rarely went by when they hadn’t shared a meal or gone somewhere. It had been that way since her parents separated when she was ten. She could talk to her dad like she couldn’t talk to her mother. He never seemed to judge or talk down to her. Melissa remembered him coming into the Starbucks where she worked while she was in college. She knew he never went to Starbucks otherwise. She smiled, as she thought about him calling her every Sunday since she had moved to Boston.
She visualized her ex-boyfriend, Brad. They had loved each other, but she had heard from him only once since she moved. He said his heart had been broken. So had hers, but she knew this move was right for her.
Her thoughts were interrupted by her cell phone ringing. It displayed “Brad”. Isn’t it strange how that happens sometimes—you think about somebody you haven’t heard from in a long time, and then they call, or you see them. After they exchanged awkward pleasantries, Brad said that a friend of his named Antonio was going to be in Boston for a day or two and had an idea that Melissa might be interested in.
“Would you have coffee with him?” Asked Brad. “What’s the idea?” Asked Melissa.
“I’d rather he explain it to you, Melissa,” said Brad. “Come on, Brad. Why can’t you tell me?”
“I think Antonio should be the one to present his idea,” said Brad. “You’ll understand it better. I’m just asking you to have coffee with him. He’s a really nice and talented guy, an older man. This is not a setup.”
“Okay,” said Melissa. “I don’t really like the mystery, but I suppose it can’t hurt to have coffee with him.”
Melissa went early to Starbucks near her apartment, ordered a latte and sat down at a
table near the door to wait for Antonio. A tall gray haired man with glasses wearing the navy blue suit and yellow tie he had described on the phone approached her.
“Melissa?” “Yes, Antonio. Nice to meet you.” “My pleasure,” he said, and sat down across from her. “Would you like to get a
coffee?” She asked. “No, that’s okay,” said Antonio. “How do you know Brad? She asked. “I met him at an exhibition of his sculptures in L.A. We ended up working together
on a project,” he said. “Brad had wonderful things to say about you, Melissa, and I would love to chat, but I
think it’s best if I get right to the point.” A glow of perspiration shown on his forehead, though it was a cool day. “But what I have to tell you is of a private nature. I suggest we get out of here and go for a walk.”
“Well, ah...I’m not really comfortable doing that,” said Melissa. “Let’s stay here, please.”
“Okay,” said Antonio. He briefly glanced at a couple seated nearby. “I don’t want to alarm you, Melissa, but I don’t know of a gentle way to put this. I...I believe I am your father.”
“What?” Melissa yelled in a muffled tone. The couple turned and stared. Her face was flush and her knees shook. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Are you crazy? My father lives in L.A. Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Please hear me out, Melissa.”
“No, you listen to me. Not that it’s any of your business, but my father told me when I was conceived. It was on October 23rd, 1979, the night before my mother left for New York to attend an exhibit of her paintings. When she returned she found out she
was pregnant with me? I don’t even know why I’m telling you this. Who are you, anyway? What do you really want?”
The couple stared again, as did a young man who had arrived with his laptop. Antonio spoke softly. “Melissa, I was the manager of the gallery where your mother’s paintings were exhibited. I met her on October 25th, 1979. And without going into detail, I have reason to believe that you were conceived that night.”
“No way!” said Melissa. “My mother never cheated on my father and certainly not on a one night stand like that.” Shortly before her death Melissa’s mother had told her she’d had an affair long ago, and that maybe she should have married that man, instead of living out her life alone after divorcing Melissa’s father. That man must have been Antonio, thought Melissa.
“Well, I have to tell you, Melissa. It was not a one-night stand. There were many other nights like that. I loved your mother very much. I thought when she divorced your father she would marry me, but she wouldn’t. She told me when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then I heard from a business associate she had died. I was devastated, and I flew to L.A. last year for her funeral.” When he mentioned the funeral, a vague image of a stranger sitting in the back penetrated Melissa’s consciousness. “That was the first time I saw you,” said Antonio, “and your image has haunted me ever since.”
“If you thought you were my father, why haven’t you ever contacted me?” “I would have never done that while your mother was alive. She swore me to secrecy.
I loved her too much to go against her wishes. And I’m certainly not so crass as to approach you with this at her funeral. I wanted to talk to you about this, but I didn’t know how to find you. My business associate that knew your mother didn’t know where you lived. I talked to a private investigator about how to find you, searched the Internet and did some other things to no avail, and then I met Brad.” The couple leaned toward Melissa and Antonio’s table. The young man closed his laptop.
“How in the world did my name come up between you and Brad?” Melissa asked.
“We were putting together an exhibition in Santa Monica. We’d worked late and went around the corner from the gallery to have a drink. We chatted, and I asked him if he had a girl friend. He told me he had one, but she had moved to Boston. He mentioned your first name. I know Melissa is a fairly common name. I don’t know why, maybe fate, but I asked him your last name. When he said ‘Armstrong’, I literally gasped. Brad asked me what was wrong. So I told him what I’ve just told you. What I propose is that you give me several strands of your hair. That will be enough to have our DNA compared, and then we’ll know.”