Frank Sinatra Lonergan, Lucky Lotto Winner Number 1 (a serial story) – Part 4

This installment of the serial story is brought to you by my good friend Kevin Still.  Kevin has a penchant for horror films and long walks on the beach (litterally).  He was made to spin yarns. He just was.  Enjoy and visit his work at Three Hands in the Popcorn Bag.

To read the entire series , click here.

Frank’s thoughts turned once to the last time he saw Janell and then to toddler Mary’s face in their Millwood window before he finally turned to follow them out.

He hurried. Past the calendar store. The sausage kiosk. The air-brush custom T-shirt stand. The Nail Salon. The ten minute massage chairs. (He waved a friendly “No, thanks”, once again, to the overzealous Oriental man’s, “You look so tense, Mista Flank”). The tuxedo depot. The rent-a-cart center. The mall directory. The lingerie ads. He glanced back a little. The community theater. And the rip-jeaned skater kids bustling in without boards.

Frank hurried, although he could not run inside the mall. Thornton told him specifically: “Frank, there are things you can and can’t do in the mall. You can shop. You can eat at the food court on your dollar, and you can put your coffee on my tab at the Maui Waui Coffee stand – not at the Starbucks. You can use the public facilities. You can make friends with the temps and try on clothes where they let you to try on clothes. But, Frank, you cannot run in the mall. You cannot chase tail. You cannot yell. You cannot use Apple Store computers for personal mail or porn. Cannot gamble or cohort business ventures. And you cannot flip through magazines wrapped in cellophone. Not even the car or cooking magazines. Ernie Sawyer nearly lost his job for jotting down cellophane-concealed meatball recipes from a skinny lady journal on his break. So don’t do it.”

Frank didn’t even like the mall bookstore.

Kendall at the cellular phone stand, seeing Frank rush by, tried to grab his attention. “Dude, you see Melanie at the Cinnabon this morning? Man! I don’t even need coffee, bro! Bro?” Frank waved at Kendall. He liked Kendall, but he didn’t have time for lady-praising at the moment. Right now, he had to catch this woman and the little girl.  This Janell and Mary.

The exit door pulled instead of pushed, and Frank cursed himself for forgetting. A young mother scuttled a stroller through the exterior door as Frank held the interior. He wanted to bypass her and her brood, looking over her shoulder into the parking lot, looking for hair that drastically challenged the bundle in front of him. But the lottery ticket burned his breast, and Frank knew he deserved nothing. So he stepped back. He waited. And he smiled at the young lady as she slowly crossed his path. Her shirt read “GIRLS DO IT BETTER”, and Frank questioned her “mother-ability”, as he’d questioned Janell’s many times. He considered himself open minded, but all bets were off at the mall. After all, he kept an office here.

The young woman pressed though his held door and looked crossly at Frank, chewing gum with artillery quickness. “I didn’t ask, noodle boy.” Frank squinted back but held his tongue. He’d learned to hold his tongue. He’d also learned not to run in the mall. And it was these rules that allowed Janell to get away. Janell and Mary. Janell and Mary and this rare chance.

Stepping outside, Frank approached the sidewalk’s edge. Yellow curb paint under his feet. He scanned the lot. So many heads. So many faces. None he knew. Janell’s head gone. Mary’s head tucked away, watching the city skitter by fast as time. Over the lot, black birds hovered, fell, and kicked each other off street lamps. He wondered what song was in their car, what outfit Janell bought for Mary. Red or black? Lollipops or skulls? Sneakers or sandals? Questions, like tumbleweeds, over the borders of his mind. Voices rolled around his head from ear to ear and behind his eyes. He was not sure if the words were his own, but his feet shuffled back indoors, back to his story, back to his thermos and his booth. Since Mary, Frank had forgotten how to want.

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

To Amber (you know, Valentines day and what-not)

“He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.”

Ephesians 1:9-10 (feel free to read aloud)

Nuclear winter only lasts for a season.  After we watched the meltdown, we tried on lead sweaters hoping that they would shield us from each others’ radiation.  But no matter how much you layer, skin must be left exposed.  People need to breathe.

I left for Mozambique to find clean air.  There was a boy there like the one Samuel Gray sketched in charcoal.  He spoke to me, said “you can wipe a canvas clean if you rub hard enough, but you’ll lose the life in the eyes.”  Then he smiled, picked up his soccer ball from the weeds and ran back to the goal slung with bed nets.

I stood on the hill and watched him.  He kicked the ball time and again into that net, the one some missionary gave him so he wouldn’t die of malaria.  Following the leader, I shed my lead sweater (boy was it heavy) and stood as tall as the Portuguese pines that lined the village.

Epiphany promised that You’d do a miracle. That day, on that Holy Hill, I knew You’d unspin her sweater too.  Knew You’d sum us up proper.

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


Sometimes I worry that words will dry up.  Evaporate like mirages from asphalt. Make me realize that the soft “e” wasn’t really there, even if it did look wet.  And it’s not just words either.  Important things too, like sour-patch kids, Woodie Guthrie records, and grace.

I was thinking of explaining myself in a song, thinking maybe I could write the next big great important work of art like The Sun Also Rises or Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation. Even at thirty-three I feel like I still have unrealized delusions of grandeur.  Maybe we all do.  After all, thirty-three is sort of the prime of life.  Jesus redeemed the universe at thirty-three, “united all things to himself.”  So I picked up my guitar, tuned it to standard–sometimes I drop the D strings, you see–tried to squeak out a mustard seed of faith.  But “the lines of my earth,” and all of that.  Matt Slocum had some things right, I think.

There was this girl on Twitter today, and no, I don’t follow her (yet).  I saw her profile. She is “addicted to the process of creativity.”  That’s what she said, anyway.  I’m not really sure what that means, to be addicted to a process and all, but I’m pretty sure that there is a twelve step program for that.  It probably meets at your local church or community center. Maybe just in front of your television.  Addictions are mirages, too.  At least, a priest told me that one time.

There are people I’d like to see soon.  Like the folks that live one town north of me. Or the lady in the Buddy Wakefield poem, the one who works at the gas station. They’re good people, even if a bit broken.  They remind me of Scripture both directly and indirectly. They are evidence of that which cannot dissipate, he whom is the catalyst for all and is in all.

When you pointed me to Colossians today, you pointed me to water. And it was real.

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 3

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, as we like to say, good people. THANKS ABBY!

To read the first two parts, click here.


Momma may have been righteous, but she was also a racist, plain and simple. There were no colored people in Millwood. Not a one for miles around. In fact there weren’t many people at all. You know a town’s tiny when all’s they do to name it is combine two family names. There was black folk in the city, sure, but Spokane was a pit even then. And Momma never went near it. Heathens. In the alleys, in the shelters. That’s all she saw. That’s all she knew.


When I told her about Janell – one N, two L’s – she looked like she’d seen the ghost of Sinatra himself. The girl’d started showin’ up around the paper mill when her Pop got transferred from the Spokane warehouse. She’d collect cans for nickels, and her voice made me forget everything. When Momma heard me singin’ those hymns, she said Janell might be fine in the Lord’s book, but I oughtn’t hang around with her if I knew what was best for my future. People talk, you know.


The laptop beeped, warning of a dying battery and distracting Frank from his rememberings. If anyone knew how people talked, it was his Momma. Mary would have been about the red-headed girl’s age when Frank first left home. She was equal parts accident and miracle when she finally showed up. Accident that his Daddy was even around long enough to make a baby, and miracle that his Momma, at 42, could carry one. She spent that whole pregnancy worried she’d never hold Mary in her arms, and the rest of her life trying to keep her little girl from jumping out. They never saw Daddy again after Mary was born, but the fact that he’d come back at all gave Frank some measure of fondness for the features they shared.

He slipped outside the booth, escaping the memory for a moment. The re-circulated air of the indoor mall felt mountain-top fresh to his crowded mind. The woman and babe were nowhere to be seen. He missed her already. With Thornton’s borrowed laptop under his arm, he ducked under the caution tape and headed for the security office. The smell of pretzels and Chinese food followed him past opening doors of department stores and winking marquees. They seemed to believe in him. They knew his secret.

He rounded the corner towards Penney’s and saw Thornton across the way. He was questioning a teenager clad in black with metal stuck everywhere on his skinny bones there was room. Thronton was resting his angry arms on a full potbelly, bolstering the intimidation factor he no doubt thought. The ticket-stub felt heavy in Frank’s shirt pocket as he slipped into Thornton’s office, and he thought about what his Momma would say if she knew how long he’d been holding onto it, how long he’d been a millionaire.

It took just a glance around his friend’s overly-organized closet of an office to find the laptop’s chord. In another moment he was crossing the Food Court again, heading back to his lair, back to his memories. He looked back once more to offer a salute of understanding to his lecturing friend and sole secret-keeper, but before he could manage a smirk, he saw them. An unlikely and irresistible pair. In slow motion, he watched the red hair bounce in sync with the black woman’s saunter. They slipped through the revolving doors and into the Crowning Plaza’s parking lot. Frank’s thoughts turned once to the last time he saw Janell and then to toddler Mary’s face in their Millwood window before he finally turned to follow them out.


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

Trucking Sideways

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


The dispatcher in Fort Smith told me to stay put. Told me that the great blizzard of 2011 was about to move through the Midwest and I was supposed to spend the night outside of Nashville. We’d reevaluate in the morning, he said. I parked the rig at the truck stop on Highway 65, went in to get a cup of coffee, went in to call my wife and my girl.

I sat at the bank of pay phones with my Styrofoam cup and dialed home. She asked me whether I’d make it in by morning. I told her that I didn’t know, probably wouldn’t make it to church, don’t wait up, normal trucker speak. I asked her if Tish was still awake. I liked to hear her voice when I was on the road, and she had a spelling test today. She was already asleep, Mags said, but asked if I wanted to wake her. No, I said. Mags said she loved me, told me to be careful, and hung up the phone. My wife is a good woman.

A fog rolled in, sweeping across the parking lot. It was the thick kind, the kind I imagined the devil could ride. I watched out the window as a long black sedan crept in behind the fog. And then another. And another. They’d be going truck-to-truck tonight. With so many drivers stranded, they’d make a killing; they’d print money. Dispatchers in Fort Smith don’t know nothing about this kind of temptation.

One of the girls came in to buy a six pack of beer and some moon pies—as if we were all still little boys so easily bribed. She walked past me, couldn’t have been more than fifteen, a few short years removed from spelling tests and playground games of red-rover. She made her purchase and turned to leave, stopping in front of me.

“They told me to get beer,” she said. “I’ll get more if you want some.” Her eyes looked like black sockets, her hair still wet from a recent shower. She dropped a moon pie, stooped to pick it up. I beat her to it, picked it up, put it in her hands.

“I don’t drink beer no more, girl,” I said. “You know you don’t have to do this.” I said.

“And you don’t have to drive a truck no more, mister,” she responded. She cut eyes at me, turned and left the store and made her way back to the fleet of sedans.

She was far too young for this business, I thought. And so I picked up the phone.

[vimeo w=400&h=225]

Truckers Against Trafficking Teaser (3min) from iEmpathize on Vimeo.

This post is inspired by some conversations I’ve been having with the folks inolved with the Idea Camp/Orphan Care. Won’t you make plans to come?

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