Tag Archives: events

Holidays, Haunts and Hearts (The #AtoZChallenge)


Welcome to the A to Z Challenge during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building


Do you remember walking into your parents or grandparents home during a holiday, and the smells that engulfed you as you opened the door? Close your eyes and think about that for a moment. Take it in, remember the smells that made you salivate, wanting the special meal to be ready right now instead of “sit, drink, mingle, How are you?” small talk. Take the hugs and kisses, take off the coats, and take in the aromas that drift about.

Now, imagine that smell times fourteen:  the elevator doors open and you walk onto the apartment building floor. It doesn’t matter what floor you walk onto: the aromatics pounce and you breathe them in, letting the deliciousness find its way to the pleasure centers in your brain. If you were a cartoon, you’d be able to see the tendrils of this olfactory desire pick you up and float you to your destination. Your stomach would growl in anticipation, gurgles that needed to be sated, and soon.

During the first three decades of Swan Rise Apartments, the scents were a mixture of Italian, Jewish and some Irish. Everyone celebrated St. Patty’s Day: boiled cabbage left its special tang throughout the building and out onto the parking lot and street. During the other main holidays you had a bouquet, an olio of cooking meats, sauces, gravies, spices, all spilling out into the hallways, melding into a gastronomic dance.

People moved on, one way or the other, over the years, and the traditional smells seemed to decrease as the building found new salivary accompaniments: Asian, Mexican, Island, Southern and more entered the aroma grounds, replacing some, adding overall to the party.

Some say the building was haunted, and more so during the holidays.

Meredith in 5G, and her guests at her first Seder, heard the tinkling sound of dog tags by the front door. Her beloved pup, Pooh, had been gone for two years now, and she couldn’t face up to getting another dog after a fourteen year bond. She would not let anyone open the door for Elijah, cup full of wine or not.

Mrs. Clarke would feel her mother when she was baking Christmas treats, especially when she was making their favorites. She felt Mama with her, helping her mix the bowl, drop the cookies onto the baking sheet, and in all the years since her passing Mrs. Clarke turned out perfect cookie after perfect cookie…just like her mother had.

It was the small noises that creeped Mrs. Beatty out the most: the window blind’s light clanking against the pane or the glass, when there was no wind, no window open; the creaking on the ceiling (she lived on the top floor); the kitchen cabinet door that squealed when it swung open on its own;  the taps, mutters, growls, scratchings, whispers, thumps…all of these things preyed upon Mrs. Beatty. She did not need a holiday to fear them, they just seemed worse to her, then.

Scott and James felt the spirits enter them on most holidays, and most weekend nights, leaving them worse for wear the mornings after.

The holidays also produced a lot of joy in the Swan Rise over the years. So many marriage proposals happened during these hectic days, or announcements were made at the family gatherings. Cheers rang out from behind many apartment doors, and the good will and sentiments spilled out around the building  in the days after, passed around in the elevator rides and the laundry room gossip and waiting for the mail.

Smiles were produced on an ongoing basis as the children grew up and found themselves starting their own families. Many ended, many more stayed together, and many produced new little feet to run down the hallways.

James’ older sister, Katherine, went into labor during a holiday. Went into labor AT the Thanksgiving dinner. Little Sara did not want to wait for her father to get the car, nor for any fancy machinery or her mother’s protestations of OOohhhs and Gahhhhs and other squeals of through-gritted-teeth pain. Her grandmother had been a nurse, and that was good enough.

Sara’s grandfather said, upon seeing his newborn first granddaughter, that she looked like a small naked turkey. His wife smacked him in the arm and shooed him out of the room.

The fragrances of the many Thanksgiving dinners wafted into the apartment to greet Sara, welcoming her to a world of vast sensory caring. Sara’s parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts milled around, stirring the fragrance pot.

If they hadn’t been cooing and ahhing over Sara, they would also have heard the sound of the tinkling of a dog’s tags and the rapid swishing of a tail, all by the front door.


Author’s Note:

I apologize to all who read The Apartment Building series for being so late in posting today. MY holidays got in the way, and I found myself doing a lot more traveling than anticipated.

I hope this story makes up for it, and I’ll do my darnedest not to let this happen again.

Thou Premonished…Beware the Hundred Handed


Holly and Faith ran, ran, ran for all they were worth, and then some. The clanking and yelling followed them no matter where they ran or climbed or hid. “StupidStupidStupidSTUPID,” cried Faith, lagging just a breath behind Holly.

Not even having the air to answer her “shut up!”, Holly dodged the tree limbs and roots, the rocks and drops of land as she raced along. She couldn’t see far, the leaves of the trees slicing apart what light from the moon there was. Her face was a tattoo of bloody welts, crisscrossing in abstract intersecting lines, and her arms and hands were no better. Faith looked the same, the one time she was racing beside her, but she was wearing shorts and her legs looked…Holly gagged at the thought. She ran.

100 stones through the air, crashing around the two, nicking and gouging them. 100 more followed, smashing into body parts already at the breaking numb stage. 100 eyes, 50 pair, tracked the movements of the two that fled, as the Hecatonchire crashed after them, plowing the earth in its quake. Gyes took out its’ swords, the 100 for the Hundred Handed, the short and long, the double and serrated edged, the barbed and hooked and curved, and let out a piercing scream that you would swear would cause any animal in a siriometer to flee for its life.

It did spur Holly and Faith to find a renewed pace, as their hearts gripped them in desperate fear.

Faith wanted to cry. She wanted to just drop, but she couldn’t abandon Holly. Everyone else was dead. The monster killed their parents, her boyfriend, the professors and their friends. It emerged from the cave so fast, so utterly savage. It had all these blades, and they swirled so fast and cut so deep. Body parts flew all around and only a few had time to utter a scream, or tried to run. Holly and Faith were holding fort by the camp, bored with the whole idea, wanting to go home. They were dragged kicking and screaming the whole way.

Now they were running and screaming away. The tried to get to the cars, but the damned thing cut them off, and they had no choice but to run in the opposite direction. Faith couldn’t get the sound of the whirling whooshing cutting of air sound the monster made, the blades cleaving the air in its attempt to get them. It almost did, twice. The first time just as they jumped off the ledge into the lake. Not a far jump, but enough to cause the thing to stop.

Holly and Faith swam to the other side as fast as they could, not a large width at all but it felt like miles. Rising out, sodden, they looked back to see the thing sheath the swords and start making it’s way down to them. That was hours ago, when it was still light out.

The second time it almost got them was when they hit the line of trees, thick closely grown together trees that had wide enough spaces for the two of them, but not many that would accept the size of the thing after them. This time is was rocks and stones, and the trees at first saved them. Faith in shock laughed that the Ents saved them, and Holly slapped her out of her descending madness. They raced on, but not as fast, with not as much wind, with very little hope.

Gyes sliced the hindrance before it. The tree that had stood for hundreds of years became splinters. As did the next one, and the next. Tall or thick, it did not matter. Gyes only had one thing driving it, and the quarry was getting closer. Slash, stab, thrust at a speed and ballet-like beauty, the Hundred Handed smiled through deadly teeth as it made it’s way forward. Gyes only had one purpose, to guard it’s charge. They had their warning, and did not heed it. It had been engraved above the rock warren: “Thou Premonished… Beware The Hundred Handed.”

Holly tripped and began to fall. Faith tried to catch her, but their combined momentum sent them both down. Both winded, with no wind left. Holly began to cry dry tears. She clawed her way up a tree trunk, and reached down to grab Faith.

Faith saw Holly’s arm fly off into a hundred pieces, the blood splattering the air and Faith and the tree..and the swords. She screamed, back peddling the way, shoving her fist into her mouth to stiffle the scream as she saw her sister cut into a hundred hundred bits. She saw the too many heads smile in unison, she saw the blades and the arms arc their way through her younger sister, the good child, the good girl. Sliced and diced, like those they only caught glimpses of from the camp site.

Faith whimpered, biting into the hand that was in her mouth, causing more blood to foam. She defecated and urinated, unable to control any part of herself. Her eyes were near bursting with the fear that her heart and stomach were pumping out. Fell into complete darkness as the shadow of the thing blocked out all moon light.

Gyes came forwards, raising its arms its swords its laughing to the sky, opening itself up so it could return to the cave…

A huge scythe sliced through the middle of Gyes, now separating the Hundred Handed. Gyes fell in two parts, its top half barely missing crushing Faith. She was still shaking, still whimpering, still biting her hand, when she passed out.

It was dawn light when she became aware again. There was light in the sky, enough to see. Faith moved her hands in front of her. No blood. No cuts. She raised herself was only fixated on what she could see of herself. Except for tears and rents in her clothing, and feeling her face, she was unmarred. Tears swept out of her, running down her face, as she remembered Holly and the others. She looked over where Holly had been..where Holly had been..where there was a giant of a being standing, looking down at her.

Colorless, but holding all the colors coalescing so it hurt her head to look upon this…man? She stood up, afraid but not, but more afraid when she took in the giant sized whopper of a scythe.

“I am Cronus,” the words came to her, not spoken out loud but known all the same. “You and yours freed me from an eternity of imprisonment and despair. Gyes left me alone too long, so blindly following its command. Gyes was the stupidest one of the three Hecatonchires. Deadly, but ultimately stupid. Stupid to leave me unattended for so long.  Stupid to leave my tool so close at hand. He could not stand up to the sickle which had once separated heaven and earth.  I am free, and that…” he nodded to the two halves, “is not.”

“What are you?” she asked, more out of nerve and trying to hold herself together then really wanting to know. This was almost too much for her to handle, and she felt herself slipping away, but she couldn’t allow herself to do so.

Cronus looked down upon Faith. “I am the first of the Titans, their ruler. I overthrew my father and created a Golden Age, but I was betrayed myself. It is time for revenge.” Peering down and into her, he knew.

“Faith, it is your time for revenge as well. I could heal your wounds, your fouling of yourself, but I can not bring your family back.” Her tears stopped as he said this.”You are their champion, Faith. Be mine as well.”

She knew her answer. She spit upon Gyes twice, both halves, and walked over to join Cronus.

A to Z Challenge: N(octurne in Tune)


To read the entire story…

Part 12: Nocturne in Tune


It was a peaceful night, which had followed a peaceful but eventful day. Elora had her hair chopped and shorn, and it was  so very,  very freeing. That was in the early morning, nano seconds after Wonderland Beauty Salon opened it’s doors.  Freedom drunk as Elora was, she did what she had wanted to do since she was twelve: she got the beginnings of a back tattoo! The outline stretched between her shoulder blades and up to the nape of her neck. A beautiful rendition of Vincent’s Starry Night, arcing across her back…which was now in pain, and caused her to wince in a major wincing way when she moved just like “OW!”, or leaned on something, forgetting, “OH MAN!” She had her A&D ointment, her non-scented lotion, and had to ask her neighbor to help change the paper taped, saran covered bandage a few times. Three weeks until the next step. She couldn’t wait.

Bandaged up, clean for now, she knew she was in for at least three weeks of OWies, and no bras. Not until it healed properly. Nine weeks no bras? The thought of no bras made her think of her missing very expensive bra, and of Daniel, who she was pretty sure was the decolletage bra thief. That was for another time. She took her California Malbec in hand, streamed her favorite AAA radio station over her lap top auxiliary speakers with special sub woofer attachment, and went to sit on the windowsill of the wide open window in her living room. A couple of  nondescript songs came and went. She sipped her wine, looking at the stars. She was in bliss. Pained bliss, but bliss.

First Movement:

But then.. one of Elora’s favorite singer/songwriters,  Harlan Regan, a new song, from his new CD, Quoted,  played, and she stopped sipping, stopped wincing, stopped focusing on the stars, and was enveloped by this:

Don’t limit to just one dream,
And let them go where you want
At the place in your life that you are when you dream them..
Open those doorways
That you often find closed
Dream the big dream for no one but yourself
Don’t let the mediocre minds
Crush your great spirit
They’re jealous and scared
Because you are unknown
And the unknown is frightening
As closed minds are to me as well
One day  I hope you’ll find
What you’ve been wishing
Hope is not just pie in the sky
One day I know you find what you’re dreaming
One day I know you’ll live your dream
One day I know, another dream will find you
Take that road…see where it goes.

Elora cried, hugging her knees to her bra-less chest, her short spiked shock haired head leaned down, resting sideways to the field beyond the window.

Second Movement:

Daniel stood in the field that was just beyond where Elora sat in the window, crying. He saw her shake silently, illuminated in a glaze of softly spun light. He realized his mouth was agape, and winching it shut he felt and heard his heart beating away, like a Great Rift Gold Dwarf hammering away at his foes, aberrations from the Underdark.

“Dork,” he thought,  “the most exquisite woman I’ve ever seen, crying her eyes out over a song, and I go to D&D.” He shook his head, and only then realized that he had been steadily walking towards Elora. Stopping, he looked into her eyes, and…


Daniel fainted.

Third Movement:

Elora raced out of her room, well, racing as much as she could with an “ouch ouch OUCH” running across her shoulders, the shoulder blades, down and up her back, into her leg (“Leg? What the…”), out the door, and over to where the peeper splendidly lay in the grass. Kneeling down was like a Herculean chore, but she made it. Elora stared down, not knowing what to do, exactly.

Daniel came to, his heart doing a hot tamborim infused Samba while he lay on the night grass. His eyes opened slowly, and he was “SHEISRIGHTABOVEMELOOKINGATME!”

Fourth Movement:

“Are you ok?” she asked.

“Um, uh..” he answered.

“What were you doing outside of my place, staring stalking me? What is your major malfunction?” Her arms were akimbo across her chest, very aware of being bra-less at that moment with somethings poking into her loose, but not loose enough, night shirt.

“What happened to your hair?”was the first thing that came to his uber-fogged state of mind. “And your back?” he continued.

She would have kneed him if (a) they were both standing and (b) if she wasn’t in massive itchy pain at that second. Punching him was also out of the question due to (b). Instead, she went into a five minute vocal kick-punch about men, men with their thing about women with long hair, men who don’t know not to ogle women, men who are weak lily liveried lying lumps of…..

Daniel was gobsmacked. He couldn’t believe he actually was hearing her voice, her soaring musical, lilting lift of joy and heavenly words. He grinned in the best moronic way.

“Hi, I’m Daniel,” he said as nonchalantly as he could,when she stopped to take a breath,  tucking away Captain Chickenshit as best he could. “…and, I meant to say, I really like your new hair do.”

A minute passed. Sucking in her breath, she let it out in a slow, steady stream. She just said “Elora.”

Fifth Movement:

“I know,” they both said in unison. They stared at each other, smiled, and began to laugh, one more uneasy then the other, but pretty soon it melded into a harmonic blend that filled the night. The stars blinked above them.


Winston, who had been following Daniel all day and night, watched the scene unfold from behind a fence that straddled the land between Elora’s place and her neighbors, who were now…unnaturally…out.

Hearing the laughter, Winston put his finger in his mouth and made like he was gagging. Straightening up, he realized in 100% certainty: he’d found his fool.


A to Z Blog Challenge: G(obsmacked)


Part 4: Freak

Part 5: Gobsmacked

It was 9:06, and Ms. Hemple still had not arrived. “Later then usual,” he harrumphed, a trilling mumble under his precise breath. His fingers were dancing around the IO Gear Wireless 5.8 GHz Keyboard. The Viewsonic VX2250wm 24.5 LED monitor was ablaze with activity, and Winston’s eyes never left the screen. The monitor time stamp byte it’s way to 9:07 when the door to the office opened, and in rushed Ms. Hemple. Winston gritted his finely honed brushed teeth and bit back a scathing remark.

“Everything is precision, Ms. Hemple,” he said in his crisp disciplined way that Ms. Hemple so hated.

“Yes, Mr. Wynne. I know” she said, while thinking “I know I know I know because I’ve heard it too often you f…”It was out of my hands,” she answered to his question of why she was late. “The bus just stopped. The driver had no clue what was wrong, so we waited until another bus came along.”

Winston had already begun to ignore her, not really caring for any of her excuses. Tuning her out, he tuned out the rest of everything that did not exist beyond the data he was linking into his Thinkstation E50. He sat like this, ignoring any remarks Ms. Hemple made, for the next 68.8 minutes. A file appeared, with multiple folders and notes and photos that left Winston struck dumb. His eyes bulged just a tiny fraction, but it was enough to know he was truly struck speechless, if he had intended to speak.

“Oh, yes,” he inwardly smiled as one piece, one huge piece fell finally into place. This was his win-win scenario. He could hook this fool to do as he needed, he would not have to worry about sullying any part of himself, let alone his hands, and this..this Daniel would only be the first. “He’s perfect. My perfect fool.”

Winston chuckled, and the sound not only made Ms. Hemple’s  skin crawl, but her stomach, which had been filled with that lovely breakfast Don..Dan..Dave..last night’s and this morning interlude made for her, roiled in disgust.

If Winston’s hands were not glued to the keyboard as his eyes were glued to the monitor screen, he would have clenched them, in an out of character ecstatic glee, raising them to the heavens.


World Storytelling Day: Sunday, March 20th, 2011

The World Storytelling Day logo was designed by Mats Rehnman of Fabula Storytelling, Stockholm.

Founded in the early ’90s in Sweden, World Storytelling Day has truly become a global event.  Originally more of a celebratory day of Swedish tellers, it has grown to an organization that embraces and entwines the world’s storytellers together.

I am proud to be telling at this event on the PACE University,  White Plains, NY campus, with some amazing people: Jonathan Kruk; Melissa Chernowetz; Ron Sopyla; Katie Issel Pitre; and Bernie Libster.

Everyone talks about how stressed they are..well, this is an excellent way to relax with family and friends. Everyone talks about how prices are skyrocketing and what they can’t afford…well, this event is FREE.

Parking available? Check.
Close to public transportation? Check
A beautiful location (The Tudor Room in Preston Hall)? Check.
Family Friendly? Check.

Come be part of a global experience!


Save The Dust Bunnies Benefit: September 4, 2011


I was doing my annual sweeping and mopping today, and I came across a thriving community of Dust Bunnies. Since the last time I cleaned, not only did they proliferate, but there was an entire infrastructure existing under the hard to reach places.

The Grand Pookah of the DBs (my short affectionate term for them), Mes Usup, cautiously approached me, rolling to a stop just before my WMD (the broom, or Big Betsy). “If it pleases ye, sirrah, we have grown accustomed to the wonders of the labyrinth that is this wonder land of joy and dropped food bits,” he stated in a wafty way. “Please, let my people exist here in exquisite communion. We, the Pulvis, will be eternally grateful…and will do our best to be out of the way when others of your kind come to enter this lofty realm.”

What could I say to that? I dropped my WMD back into it’s silo (the hall closet), got down on the floor, and had a lovely time meeting all the Pulvis population. You’ve never known cute until you held a baby DB in your hand, as it rolls here and there.

A call to arms is needed! Dust Bunnies have a right to colonize and live in peace! Join me on September 4th, 2001, in a benefit storytelling concert to Save The Dust Bunnies!

More news to come!

Bronx Stories at the Bronx Museum: March 18


I just had a wonderful time exploring and learning about the Bronx Museum (open since 2006) on 165th & The Grand Concourse in, of course, THE Bronx. I met with two of the women who are supportive keystones to making the museum place to visit again and again: Hannie & Bridget. It was a real pleasure meeting both of them and they should be commended for the dedication they have to making the Bronx Museum a community landmark.

They are planning a series of storytelling events, and I urge…strongly urge…all The Bronx refugees & natives & storytelling and art to support the museum and this series. The first evening is on Friday, March 18th, from 6:00-8:30pm. There will be two more events of Bronx Stories on May 20th and June 10th.

It is so close to where I grew up (just south of 161st Street on Gerard Avenue) that the whole experience made me nostalgic. I may live in Yonkers, but I’m from THE BRONX!

I’ll be there on Friday March 18th to support this wonderful new art outlet. Please join me there. They’re having an open mic after the main tellers, so if you have a short story of your life in The Bronx, come share it. I might tell everyone about the time Ricky fell through the roof of a convertible, or watching the Pope on home plate at Yankee Stadium, or standing on a long line at the Earl theater to see “Hard Days Night”, and then not being able to hear the movie ’cause all the girls screamed through the whole thing!

See you there.


Update: World Storytelling Day, March 20th in White Plains NY


Well, from nothing to something in less than a week. There’s a folklore story in there for another time.

Sunday, March 20th, from 3:00 to 5:00 PM, our first Annual World Storytelling Day will take place on the PACE University White Plains Campus. Held in the beautiful Preston Hall’s Tudor Room, the theme of “Water” will float, surge, drift, buoy, course, ebb and flow through the stories being presented.

As of this writing, we have four storytellers: Jonathan Kruk, Ron Sopyla, Melissa Chernowetz, and myself (Stuart Nager). More to come as we firm up our roster. This is being done to support The Center for Literacy Enrichment.

I will be building a site on FB, so look for that posting soon.

Hope to see you as the water tales take us far and wide.