Tag Archives: Titus Burley

A Backwoods Christmas By Titus Burley

catandhatPoppa spit chaw into his little Sanka can and told ma and the two progeny, “Put your thermals on. We gonna trek to the woods and haul back our Christmas tree.”

Momma rubbed the breading for the okra off her fingers and sniffed them once before wiping them clean on her checkerboard patterned apron. “Snow likely by evening. You sure ’bout this?”

“Might’s well.”

Daughter Amy smiled a big gap tooth grin. “Let’s get the best one, Daddy. Missus Merton letting us make ornments during free time.”

“Dress like you mean it,” reminded Ma. “If the squall comes early, lil’ brother gonna have a hard time keeping up.” Lil brother was Malcolm, called simple by those who loved him and half-wit by the crueler town folk.

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Cheaters Never Prosper by Titus Burley

catandhatManuel Enrique Ramos spun the AM dial to the sports super station. “Broadcasting from Baja, California to the Canadian Rockies” proclaimed the host, a man named Hacksaw who argued with callers from 8 p.m. until midnight. Manuel listened to escape, to hide from the sadness of Maria, her mourning of little Alfredo, lost to a fever that no amount of cold water soaked rags could put out; three years old, their frail middle child, four years younger than strong Alberto, two years older than sweet baby Lucinda. There would be no fourth child. Maria’s grief saw to that.

He tuned in the American stations as much for Alberto as himself. For the boy with the strong arm and smooth swing to have the chance, he needed the language gateway that only a grasp of English could provide.

Mystery words. Phrases Manuel would never understand. Too much for a man whose passion for life ended when the light had gone out of his wife’s eyes, when her womb closed. But a small coal glowed. A flickering hope smoldered. He smelled it in the old leather hand-me-down glove Alberto squeezed onto his left hand and he heard it in the words he did understand. Barry Bonds, Mark Maguire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa. And numbers. Such big numbers. 66 home runs. 70 home runs. 73 home runs.

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Approval Rating By Titus Burley

catandhatJerry ushered the aide and intern into his office gesturing for them to sit in the two leather chairs that had been placed in front of his mahogany desk. He hated afternoon meetings but his chief of staff had been adamant that he block fifteen minutes for these two. He appraised them as they moved to the seats, his eyes roving from the shorter young man with his Caesar cut bangs and lingering on the slim-waisted blonde in the teal mid-thigh skirt that accentuated her impossibly long legs. If it had been a morning meeting, he would have held court formally, ensconcing himself behind the desk in his throne-like, though surprisingly ergonomic, chair. Instead he moved aside a family photo and sat casually on the edge of the desk, the lip of the desk deep enough that had he wanted he could have kicked his feet like a small child on a swing set waiting to be pushed into motion.

The bifocals wearing aide looked up from a thick folder of charts, graphs and explanatory data. “Your overall favorability rating is down to fifty-two. You were at fifty-five a week ago. Fifty-eight last month.”

“It’s not a public perception freefall,” defended the intern who attended or had attended (it was hard to keep up with everyone’s biographical data) Wellesley or one of those other high profile all-girl schools. Was her name Karen or Karina? No. Katrina. Like that hurricane that decimated New Orleans.

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Matterhorn by Titus Burley

burleyScreams from inside the mountain. Distorted in pitch because of the speed with which they moved. Grimacing faces flashing in and out of view as the carts of death careened along a doomed circuitous track. A passage of courage or some collective form of voluntary madness? The unearthly wails from within suggested the latter.

Surrounding him, looming monstrous, were stinky bodies scorched red by the afternoon sun. Glistening visages and limbs slick with sweat, stifling in their proximity, moving in a slow, forward shuffle, dragging him along with them like some unrelenting human riptide.

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Slipping Under the Rope by Titus Burley

burleyWind and rain lashed the streets of downtown San Diego – a rarity, even in the middle of winter. I had cranked the wipers to their highest setting and they danced across the windshield like a couple of stick figures jitterbugging on speed.

Today was Thrift Store Friday for the little woman and I, and no typhoon, monsoon, or arctic blast was going to keep us away from our treasure seeking quest. I had drawn up a mental itinerary for the morning which took us all the way from the Goodwill and St. Vincent De Paul’s in El Cajon to the Purple Heart and Salvation Army in Chula Vista and finally to a string of independent thrift shops in the rundown warehouse district of San Diego’s downtown – a grueling course for a couple of 50-something retirees (late 50’s to be exact) but a potentially lucrative one if the pickings were good.

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