Open Book

The story begins here...

An experiment in collective writing!

Here is the first page of a story that  will be written by you, the visitors to our web site.  The parameters are simple:  no more than 300 words. We want the experiment to continue until March 2021, so do not send an ending until we remind contributors that the . If we receive more than one submission for  a continuation, if we must, we'll have to choose one.

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I was always told to avoid trouble. 

I had a ne'er-do-well father, a small time criminal to be honest, and a mother who tried to eke out whatever joy could be found in her hard and cynical life. Nice people really. 

Dad had a love for larceny, but he nevertheless taught me many valuable life lessons. "Never give more information then asked for."

"Don't talk too much about yourself and if you do ...lie."

"No need to give a cop your real address". 

And, he could be invisible when he wanted. He taught me to be invisible too. A certain slouch in the shoulder, timing your walk, controlling your breath, your pace, your vibration to the surrounding din or just to one other person so perfectly that you could walk in their slipstream unnoticed, unseen.


He could, and did, crash any party, or sidle up to a politician or celebrity for a photo op (had the pictures to prove it). An Andy Warhol notebook and JFK's tie pin were among the many things small and large he had pilfered or cajoled from the unwitting. 

Yes, I learned a lot from him. 

But the most important lesson I ever learned came from my stoic mother. 

On my 16th birthday I came home from school to hear that dad was in jail. I was shocked and worried of course, but most of all, incredulous. I screamed and railed. How could this be!? 

My mom, ever the pragmatist, was perfectly cool and steady. Her serene voice gave her words subtle emphasis: “Remember this son", she said, “sometimes in life, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, Trouble is going to find you.” 

And of course, it did. 

Trouble first found me on the second day of summer vacation. I had just got the job and was cracking a celebratory frosty in Rico’s backyard. It was unseasonably warm that day so Rico’s kids were outside running wild, climbing trees and hitting each other with sticks.


A devoted dad only having custody on weekends, Rico tried to assuage his guilt by feeding them sugary treats in a near constant stream. He loved those kids more than his gambling addiction, so he never disciplined them farther than denying the occasional dessert. They ran amok that day, distracting us so much that we didn’t even notice as his shadow cast over us.


There stood Marvin. His nonchalant swagger and disarming smile completely betrayed the brutal man I came to know him to be. To this day I can’t think of him without marveling at how severely I had misread him. But I’ll give him this - he was everything our parents ever warned us about.