Frank Sinatra Lonergan, Lucky Lotto Winner Number 1 (a serial story) – Part 7

This installment of our serial story was written by Abby Barnhart. After you spend some time with her installment, make your way over to her site. She’s, good people!

To read the first SIX parts, click here.

And while you are here today, check out our Lent project.

Frank opened his door and thought before walking in. Some people deserve money, and others shouldn’t get a dime.

Where Frank fit on this social spectrum of entitlement he wasn’t so sure. Nor was he sure how long he’d been passed out in the photo booth before Thornton had dutifully dragged him home. It was just like his friend to leave him at the door, a million-dollar ticket nearly hanging out of his pocket, taunting fate to teach him the lesson he needed so badly to learn. Frank’s opinion of himself swung wildly between deep appreciation for grace and a great desire to pay for his sins. The musical voice of Elder Johnson rattled in the conscience quadrant of his mind.

The apartment door swung open, hitting the side table and knocking the last week’s bills to the floor. As he bent to pick them up, Frank felt the years in his back and the vodka in his head. He found a clear spot to crash on the couch, an open plug in a nearby outlet, and the presence of mind to press his own rewind button . . .

I didn’t really have a choice, I had to leave. And while I was gone, things got worse for Mary and Momma. The paper mill shut down, and all the work left with it. It always smacked ironic to me . . . all that paper being made so folks could take home paper, head for the bank, trade it for other paper, and then send it off here and there to settle accounts, all wrapped in paper. Seemed like there’d never not be a need for that mill with all that paper going back and forth. But I reckon somebody smarter than me decided they’d rather get their paper somewhere other than Millwood. I betcha a stack of green bills they sent a paper notice to shut her down.

Frank hit rewind again. Whirring back to the day before he left for New York City.

Mary was still sporting pigtails when Momma threw me out. Rivers of fire followed her frolicking up trees, down the hallway, through the ruffled neck-holes of bright yellow dresses. Momma’d never a called it that, but that’s what it was. True, I was too big to be thrown, but it don’t take more than a look from a mother for a son to know it’s time to go. I’ll never forgive myself for leaving Mary in that white-washed window, lying to myself that she’d be fine. That Millwood would do her better than it done me.

I might’ve stayed if she hadn’t brought Janell into it. I could’ve swallowed a lot of what an older angrier Momma dished out just to stay with Mary. I knew it was all for Daddy, not us. I knew she didn’t know where her daggers landed, only that she needed to hurl them as far away from her heart as she could manage. I would’ve stood shield in front of Mary until she was big enough to leave herself if Momma hadn’t’ve gone and dragged my Janell into the mud with all the rest. The Janell I loved – all good, all grace – didn’t deserve it, and the Momma in me – all fire, all fury – came out of nowhere, bought a ticket for New York City, and slammed the door on Millwood and Mary.

The light of the side-table lamp was no longer enough to illuminate Frank’s screen. He rubbed his squint-weary eyes and tossed the laptop aside. As he slipped to sleep, he heard the band pick up at the jazz bar on the corner. They started with “I’ll be Seeing You,” and as dream and reality melded, he thought he heard Janell begin to wail . . .

“Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own”

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

A Communal Voice – An Invitation (see (In)Courage)

Today Amber and I are over at (In)Courage asking for your help in completing a project this Lenten season. Would you participate with us? Visit (In)Courage today and sign up. And yes, we need Men!

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

On Clothes and Caskets

Joseph came into this world flailing and screaming, naked just like the rest of us. The nurse took him, sucked the mucus from his nose, and wrapped him in a blanket to cover his nakedness. Shame, that swaddling concept from birth, turned to brass belt-buckled defiance somewhere along the way. We all find a way to shiny up our pride.

Joseph was cock-sure, like that peacock the two of you saw on Cleveland Street last month. You were carpooling, like neighbors do, when that finely-arrayed bird stepped out into the middle of the road. You stopped your car to keep from creating the first Arkansan peacock road-kill.

“Is that a,” you stopped short.

“Yes, it’s a peacock in Fayetteville,” he said.

“Can’t be,” you responded.

“It is,” Joseph said.

You pulled forward, playing a slow game of chicken, or peacock as it were. He didn’t move, but instead, spread his tail feathers wide and beautiful, his head perfectly centered like an iridescent blue middle-finger. You drove around so as to avoid popping the bird.

When Joseph died last month, he chose that final act of rebellion. You remember seeing him, pumped full of embalming fluid and made up like a prom queen? It looked pretty natural except the foundation rubbed a little against the collar of his white shirt. The black lacquered casket was hermetically sealed to keep the earthworms and grubs out. To dust he shall return—in thirty or so years, I suppose.

Not to be crass or callous, I’m sure he was a good man. But clothing and caskets are little more than masquerades for the fall.

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Frank Sinatra Lonergan, Lucky Lotto Winner Number 1 (a serial story) – Part 6

To read the entire series , click here.

Matt Brock takes another crack at it with Part 6. Enjoy.

Families think their ways are best. They love to protect their own, but they can also alienate. I didn’t really have a choice, I had to leave. And while I was gon

Power Off.

Frank wanted to scream. Without any juice left for the laptop, his mind fired back to Thornton’s words about him chasing the wind. Frank couldn’t believe it. He gathered his belongings and hurried off toward Pretzel Palace, the last shop before the entrance to the mall security office. As Frank passed clothing shops, he smelled the high priced perfumes and colognes exploring the hallways and remembered how little he had growing up. He also remembered how bad he was with saving money. Frank was a duck in a sea of soggy bread crumbs and he licked his lips at the striped button-ups and boot-cut khakis. This money thing will surely be a curse, he thought.

At the door Frank gave a mini morse-code rap on the frame, not the door itself, this was one of Thornton’s rules. There was shuffling about inside and a chair screeched as it was slid along the floor.

“Can I help you?”

“It’s Frank, I need you to show me that tape.”

Thornton considered. He wished he hadn’t spoken at all. He unlatched the door in at least 3 separate places. “Get in here already.” Thornton searched back with his slow rewind button and Frank stood looking over his shoulder. Thornton turned over a metal trash can and patted on it. Frank took his seat. “Ok, here it is, but it’s ‘gainst regulations so don’t you dare go chirppin’ to nobody. This is a one time deal. You’ll have to leave right after because i’m as behind as a horse’s tail today.” Thornton raised his bushy eyebrows. “Deal.”

Frank leaned forward for the show.

Things played out as Thornton described. Random shoppers passing from both sides of the booth. The end of the line to the Japanese fast-food place extending into the top left of the frame. Frank burst out of the booth like he was escaping a burning building and then the most peculiar thing, Frank stood staring. Whatever he looked at was outside of the camera’s view, but it held his attention for almost 10 seconds, as seen by the real-time clock at the bottom of the screen. Suddenly, and at the most awkard time, Frank hurried out of shot and even bumped the shoulder of a young man walking by. He was gone. There was no woman, no red-headed child.

“See.” Thornton swivelled around and leaned back. “Now get yourself home, I got real work to do.” Frank wanted to argue, wanted to debate, but he had no case. He shut the door behind him and walked slowly back through the maze of shoe departments and stands with board games and calenders of young pop singers and small clothed puppies. The last thing he heard before awaking from his stupor at the front door of his apartment building was two men in the food court having a discussion about urban sprawl and they were laughing. The fatter man was laughing more.

Frank was at the same apartment door that he used to walk into with Janell. The same creak of 100 year old hard-wood flooring. The same. Frank dropped his keys while fumbling with them and his landlord’s wife opened up from two doors down and stepped out into the hall. Tina might have been beautiful at one time, before the meth and cigarettes.

“Frank, rent’s due.”

“Yes, i’ll have it by tomorrow.”

A small blonde child peeked her head around her mother’s skinny legs. Tina looked down. “Sissy, go get momma her cigees, ok?” The girl smiled as she trotted back and returned a moment later with a pack of Marlborough Lights. “Well, bye then.” Tina shut the door.

Frank opened his door and thought before walking in. Some people deserve money, and others shouldn’t get a dime.

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Reflections on a Coming Season

We take a brief break from the serial story. Don’t worry, there’s more coming.



We move toward a season of slow meditation upon the Stations of the Cross, the consummation of mission through the pangs of suffering. Lent is coming.

Here, we encounter the broken Jesus, the reed bruised by the weight of our chastisement. We see the wick smoldering under the weight of an oxygen depleted midnight and we pause, breath held, as if afraid to suck away the hope of reignited life. We know how the story ends, but before we hear the sounds of the shredding veil, hope seems tenuous at best.

Lent is bathed in the holy water of tension: sovereignty pulling against the free will of man; Christ’s humility pulling against human ego; life pulling against death. To call the passion story simple is to remove nuance and richness. It is terribly complicated, eternally complex. It is not as simple as saying, “he could have called 10,000 angels.” Could he have? Really?

Join me this year in exploring the richness of Lent. Join me in the pause from doing. Break from asking “what is my mission,” so that we may contemplate the perfection of his, the suffering and hope in it. And as we find ourselves confounded by the complex beauty of life, death, and resurrection, may we be suspended in the question:

“Jesus, will you rise in me again this year?”
Lent comes March 9th. Will you prepare your heart with me?

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.