Five Questions About Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday has come and gone, and – surprise, surprise – Joe Biden and Donald Trump are clearly in the driver’s seats for their respective parties. It seems like, now, we’re finally going to get the last movie in the Grumpy Old Men Trilogy: Grumpy Old Men Go To Washington. 

Fun Fact: Donald Trump at 77 is older than Jack Lemon when he died, and Joe Biden at 81 is older than Walter Mathau was when he died, so this could technically be “Extremely Old Grumpy Men Who Are Lucky To Be Alive and (mostly) Ambulatory Convince People There Really Are No Better Options.” But I imagine that one would be hard to fit on a marquee.  At some point, I’d like the opportunity to vote for a candidate who wasn’t eligible for the Senior Citizen discount at Denny’s when Nixon was president. Until then, we will do our best with what we have. 

My good friend, Jamie Greening, has asked that I address FIVE BURNING QUESTIONS about Super Tuesday, specifically, and the election in general. He’s doing the same on his blog (which you can read here). So here we go. 


I guess that depends on what you mean by MAGA. For some, MAGA is synonymous with white supremacy, racism, sexism, and all the other bad -isms you can imagine. For others, MAGA is simply “the Trump faction of the Republican Party.” For others, still, it’s something like “an American, nationalistic approach to conservatism, currently spearheaded by Donald Trump. 

There are almost as many definitions for MAGA as there are for genders now, except that people don’t ask what your MAGA pronouns are when you speak it. They just make decisions about your moral turpitude based on THEIR interpretation about what MAGA means, and respond accordingly. Much like the Fashion industry, current TikTok trends, and anything Kanye West has tweeted in the last year or so, it’s all very confusing and likely has no basis in Reality. 

So, when I think about whether this was a Big Win for MAGA, I have to think about what it means for Trump in this election, what it means for the Republican Party and conservatism overall. 

For Trump, this was an obvious huge win. It was a big, massive, but, but it was an expected, massive win. The only place Nikki Haley won was Vermont, which is not exactly a Republican stronghold. You have to be somewhere left of Stalin to carry that state in the general election, so there’s a good chance this was more “Socialists Behaving Badly,” than an actual groundswell for a Trump alternative. 

For the Republican Party, it means they’ve clearly and decisively selected Trump as the standard bearer, but I don’t think it means they’ve solidified Trumpism as the prevailing party philosophy. I haven’t seen a lot of articles from Republicans or conservatives discussing what Trump’s policies mean for America post-election and into the future. It’s mainly just “Trump can beat Biden! Yay Trump!” And I think this stems from a pre-2016 election mantra I heard often. “We need to elect Trump so we can keep Hillary out of office and define who will be on the SCOTUS bench,” people said. No one was saying “Trump’s economic and foreign affairs acumen is sublime.” Whatever happens from here on out, this is Trump’s last rodeo. The Republican Party specifically and Conservatism in general need to work out their respective identities. Trump is many things, but he is not an ideological leader. The Republicans haven’t had that since Reagan, and it’s not been morning in America for a long time.  

At present, the Republican Party is whatever Trump says it is. Once Trump is gone, they will need to figure out who they are again. 


First off: props to Haley for sticking around so long. She had the only true and possible path to victory out of any of the candidates. If the Republicans are going to start figuring out who they are post-Trump, they need a diverse set of ideologies to choose from. Haley was that for this election cycle. Unfortunately for Haley, all she succeeded in was proving that, in response to the question of whatever the Republicans will become, “Not Nikki Haley” seems to be the first and easiest answer. 

If there can be unity between her supporters and Trump’s supporters, Trump might gain some ground with moderates, but I don’t see him going that way. One of the biggest criticisms of Trump I’ve seen from conservatives is that he wasn’t strong enough in response to Fauci with COVID and with members of his administration that undermined his efforts. To reach toward the middle with a selection fo Haley for VP would be to make that same mistake, at least in the eyes of his most rabid supporters. 

I expect Haley to drop out of the race and become an answer to some of the more obscure questions in Trivial Pursuit 2025 edition


TLDR: Yes. Very much so. 

Longer: Joe Biden is in trouble, but it’s trouble of his own making. The economy. The border. Foreign affairs snafus. That creeping feeling that he’s in decline. He has a lot to answer for this time around. Both candidates do, but Joe’s questions are more pressing. It will be interesting to see what happens. 


For the longest time, I’ve been expecting Joe Biden to drop out. When Jon Steward came back to the Daily Show and, right out of the gate, attacked Biden due to his age and declining mental faculties, I thought, “Well, now that Jon Steward has said it, it’s cool to say it, and all the Democratic news outlets will start pushing for him to step down.” 

That largely hasn’t happened. Jon Stewart isn’t young and hip anymore (he’s 60), and the news outlets have, instead, chosen to focus on Trump’s alleged decline. So who knows? 

I could see someone convincing Biden to step down. His declining state is clearly the most egregious, but I don’t see that happening. Absent Obama finding a loophole and running for a third term, I don’t see anyone in the Democrat Party with enough OOMPH to seriously challenge Trump in the general. 

Trump is in it for the long haul. No one will tear him out of that role. He’d have to have a heart attack and actually die from it and, even then, I think he’d find a way to run. 

Biden sticks with Kamala. If there’s going to be a change, it will be at the top. 

Trump, I think, will go with someone like Kristi Noem or Tim Scott. Personally, I’d like to see him pick J.D. Vance. But only because JD Vance is from Ohio. I’m from Ohio and I like it when hometown folks do well. 

Alright. That’s it. Go check out Jamie’s post on these same questions. Have yourselves a great week and, as always, don’t break anything.  

Predictions for 2024

My good friend and fellow scribbler, Jamie Greening, shared his predictions for 2024. As is my custom, I respond to his and then share some of my own. Here we go!


Jamie Says: The war between Israel and Hamas will expand into open war between Iran and Israel, which will increase support for Israel in the United States and the West.

Joe Says: I can see the war expanding, but I see more international support of Hamas, particularly among Slavic regions, Southeast Asia, and some of the more liberal parts of the US (the coasts … and Austin). I see the media trumpeting Israel as oppressors enacting genocide and THAT winning over lots of folks in the middle. So that, when the war DOES expand into a larger, regional conflict, Israel will be alone, particularly if Biden and/or unnamed Dem wins the election. Yeah … I know how this plays into some people’s eschatological views. But whatever. It’s what my crazy brain sees. Israel v Iran turns into full blown WW3 in 2025. 


Jamie Says: War in Ukraine will end in the first half of the year as Ukraine cedes claims to the Donbas region and the territories taken by Russia in Crimea in 2014 while Russian agrees to withdraw troops and promises to not hinder or oppose Ukraine’s full entry into NATO, thereby protecting the rest of the nation from further incursions.

Joe Says: I see the war ending soon, very early in 2024, and I see Ukraine bending to Russia’s will. I don’t see Putin allowing them entry into NATO. I think Ukraine will become a puppet state for Russia. This, too, will be part of WW3. 


Jamie Says: There will be an overthrow of the Communist rule in China.

Joe Says: I don’t know what you’re smoking, but I want some! China asserts increasing maritime control in 2024 and pushes for reunification with Taiwan in 2025 or 2026. 


Jamie Says: Contrary to the way it looks now, neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump will win a second presidency in 2024.

Joe Says: I have a hard time seeing Biden running much less winning next year. He was … off … in the 2020 election and his mental decline has continued. I think the drumbeat for someone else will increase and we’ll end up with a race between Gov Newsome, Gov Whitmer, and Secretary Pete Buttigieg. I also think that Michelle Obama is today what Colin Powell was in the ’90s. She would win in a landslide if she ran. but she won’t. On the R side, I have a hard time seeing anyone pushing Trump out of the way. DeSantis is the clear normie front runner, but I think the push to charge Trump with anything and everything under the sun will embolden his support and push him through to the nomination. I see a Trump-Haley win over a Newsome-Buttigieg ticket in 2024, but Pete Buttigieg wins a Senate seat shortly thereafter and will be a contender the next time. 


Jamie says: The San Francisco 49ers will play the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl.

Joe says: This is the Ravens’ year. Although it will be good to see the Chiefs lose early.


Jamie says: The Seattle Mariners will win a playoff series.

Joe says: You stay positive, buddy! #neverGiveUpOnyourDreams


Jamie Says: In the lame duck session a real, meaningful immigration and border reform bill will finally pass.

Joe Says: See my response to #6.


Jamie Says: Fueled by energy from the Dobbs decision, Democrats will win both the House and the Senate.

Joe Says: I get what you’re saying, but I don’t see the energy from the Dobbs Decision driving this much power. For many on the left, extreme opinions on abortion and trans rights have become the litmus test for acceptance for any candidate the same way ending Rowe was the litmus test for Republicans in the ’90s and early ’00s (and still kinda is) . You have to support abortion up to birth and sometimes after, and trans rights to teach kids graphic sex ed in school and support for puberty blockers and surgeries for kids … or you don’t get elected or have any policy influence.  It’s okay to BE that way on either side of any issue in your personal beliefs, but when you push out the folks seeking moderation and common ground – and the Dems have done that to a large extent on these issues – that translates to a bumpy road, no matter how much energy you have. I wish we could have a serious conversation about substantive due process and its effect on policy and legislation coupled with an actual, science-based analysis of when life begins and how/when we assign rights … but that will never happen because just saying those words means you hate [insert group here] for lots of folks. So, instead, I’ll say Dems lose West Virginia, Montana, and Ohio as the Senate goes Red, while Biden impeachment discussions drive the House blue under a Trump presidency, and we keep dancing our stupid dance over Abortion and Sexuality. I feel very cynical saying all that, too.  #sadJoe


Jamie says: The United Kingdom will petition to rejoin the E.U.

Joe says: Not without ceding almost all of their power and money to Brussels. I think it’s more likely that we see Italy or Greece vote to leave before the UK tries to come crawling back, but I don’t see either happening in 2024.  


Jamie says: Even though inflation is coming down, The Federal Reserve will keep interest rates high.

Joe Says: I see the Fed voting to keep rates steady or cut them in an attempt to spur the economy in the face of an election. I see inflation increasing in 2024 with a housing crash on the horizon. 

Okay. There are Jamie’s thoughts. Now, let me put MY thoughts on the line about what’s coming down the pike for all of us in 2024.


  1. Generative AI (LLM and creation) will further embed itself into society the way social media did two decades ago, and we will get to the point where we cannot extricate ourselves … same as with social media. This will have disastrous effects on mental health, creativity, productivity, and interpersonal relationships. Yeah, I know I did a TED talk on how AI taking over can be a good thing … but I totally reverse myself now. 
  2. Open AI will work with Microsoft to develop the first Artificial General intelligence systems. That’s when things get really fun/dangerous. 
  3. No matter who wins the election in November, there will be riots all over the country. No matter who loses, they will use said riots as an example of how bad the winning team was for America. Things will continue down the same, dark path. 
  4. The Cincinnati Reds will not make the playoffs. The Los Angeles Dodgers will break the record for most wins/highest winning percentage in a season, then lose to the Mets in the NLDS, who will eventually win the World Series over the Trashtros. 
  5. The Cincinnati Bengals will dominate the AFC until Joe Burrow gets injured again in early December. 
  6. A large hurricane will cause billions in damage for either The Florida Gulf coast or the Houston area. 
  7. Pope Francis will pass, and the college of cardinals will elect someone from a little-known diocese where the cardinals are more pastoral in nature and close to the poor and marginalized. There will be a resulting resurgence of faith among Catholics in 2025, following a trend of intra-denominational unity among various sects of Christianity in the next few years.
  8. Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce will break up. Taylor will write an entire album about their relationship. NFL viewership will drop by 30%. 
  9. Threads will overtake X/Twitter as the primary text-based social media. TikTok will continue to destroy our minds and our children’s minds. 
  10. Google begins to fade as the search engine is increasingly unable to detect ai-generated content and therefore becomes useless. This has been a trend since GPT-4 came out. 
  11. AI-powered content farms, producing endless pages of excrement will push out legacy media and even digital media guardians in competition for ad and click dollars, resulting in significant job losses in these sectors. 
  12. Elon Musk becomes a social pariah as the DOJ files suit against X/Twitter for not upholding standards for security and consent review. 
  13. The severe decrease in customer-focused services during and post-COVID by literally everyone except Chick- Fil-A will leave several industries ripe for disruption in 2024, resulting in many up-and-comer business in many industries winning because they simply do things in a way that doesn’t completely suck. 
  14. There will be a boom in Alternative housing, starting in 2024. Skyrocketing home purchases and rent costs will drive many to pursue options like tiny homes, off-grid living, and communal spaces like converted malls and office buildings. 
  15. Starbucks will invest in retail spaces in larger cities to open coffee restaurants that double as co-working spaces for remote and hybrid workers. 
  16. JAmie will do another prediction post at the end of the year, and I will respond with my nonsense ideas. 


“Dad,” my son said. “If you had to choose between a clue or One Million Dollars, which would you choose?”

“I’d have to go with the million.”

“No! That’s the wrong answer! You were supposed to choose the clue!”


My son pulled out the book he was reading: “The Maze of Bones” by Rick Riordan. You  might know Mr. Riordan as the author of the Percy Jackson series. Much like the Percy Jackson series, The Maze of Bones is the first in a series of books where a kid or group of kids are thrown into a mysterious plot calling them to adventure. Standard Joseph Campbell stuff, but in a format that’s easily digestible by kids.

My son eats these up.

He told me all about the story, about the kids who are searching for 39 clues to get what he said was “a very important treasure.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to just take the money and create your own adventure?” I asked.

“No, Dad. In THIS adventure, you might die!”

I sat back for a moment and tried to remember what it was like to be that age. This is Shaw Kid #4 (aka SK4). He’s only eight years old and, to him, the call to adventure in life is worth more than a Million Dollars. He doesn’t quite grasp the concept of that much money. To him, a million dollars might as well be a bajillion: an incomprehensible amount.

To my son, the call to adventure was worth more than all the money in the world. The fact that the risks might even include death only made it more exciting and, therefore, more worthwhile.

Shouldn’t it be that way for us? Sure, we have to pay the bills and take care of responsibilities. The adult world has to take these things into account. But it struck me how easily I’ve looked past good opportunities that came with some risk in favor of the easy solution, the path well-traveled.

We all have a call to adventure in our lives. We’re probably not being called to fight Greek Gods or search for Clues to unearth magical powers like in my son’s favorite novels, but we do have things we wish we could do … only if. Only if we had the time or less responsibility or if it were somehow less risky and easy to chase these adventurous options.

To chase all of them would be irresponsible. But to chase none of them is another form of death. It just takes longer.

The next time I see a call to adventure, I’m going to consider it. A million dollars would be nice, but the possibility of Real, True passion and meaning in whatever it is I’m doing is worth well more than that.

What do you think? What adventures are you considering?

A Fondue Two-Fer

Due to some scheduling mishaps on the back end, our Labor Day Explode-A-Ganza shifted around a bit. The good news for you, Dear Reader, is that, today, you get a TWO-FER.

That’s right!

Two Labor Day stories for the price of one! With all the economic uncertainty lately, extra fiction for the same low price is a win in my book.

Story #1 comes to you from Mr. Joseph Courtemanche, who explores the frustrations many of us feel about having to work on Labor Day (and many other holidays. True to his nature, Mr Courtemanche takes his story to the logical extreme, then arm-bars it, throws it to the floor, and screams Arabic curses at it. Awesometastical! That’s why we like Joe.

Check out “On the Horns of a Dilemma

Story #2 sees the unmatched stylings of Ms. Kathy Kexel and everyone’s favorite Wisconsin Heroine and star of a Chinese conspiracy mystery in The Covid Quarantine Cantina: Janelle! This time, Janelle’s knitting session is interrupted by the F.B.I. and some serious backstory. There’s a ton of intrigue. And Family drama. And knitting!

Check out “The Labor Day Misadventure

We’re working HARD for you, here, at the Fondue Writer’s secret bunker in rural Florida, and we hope you enjoy our stories. If you liked this one, why not check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet.

IF you could see your way to parting with a (very) few dollars on occasion, you might pick up a few copies of their other books as well? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, that Labor Day miracles really do come true.

You might also consider our first collection of short stories, The Covid Quarantine Catina, written during the first months of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio formats.

Rob Cely will be back tomorrow with the next Labor Day story.

The Labor Day – A Free Fiction Fondue Writer’s Story from Jamie Greening

Ladies and Gentlepersons. The day you have been waiting for, the hour you have dreamt of, the moment for which you have held out hope, the very second upon which you have rested all of your pent up antici…

…pation has finally arrived.

The Fondue Writer’s Club and Bar and Grille and Laundromat is back with a host of Labor Day stories to flirt with your fantasies. From now through Labor Day, the Fondue Writers will Bring Tha Funk and Bring the Noise, all in hopes of satiating the quivering desires of you, our most favoritest people, our constant readers (and random folks who stumbled in from the farthest reaches of the Internet.

LEADING OFF this time is Jamie Greening with a Sci-Fi-ish take on Labor Day. Dr Greening has a nigh-CS-Lewisian approach to Science Fiction, with. Stephen King Like ability to turn the story on a dime and make you question reality, and he does not shy away with his Labor Day Story: The Labor Day.

We’re working HARD for you, here, at the Fondue Writer’s secret bunker in rural Florida, and we hope you enjoy our stories. If you liked this one, why not check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. IIF you could see your way to parting with a (very) few dollars on occasion, you might pick up a few copies of their other books as well? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, that Labor Day miracles really do come true.

You might also consider our first collection of short stories, The Covid Quarantine Catina, written during the first months of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio formats.

I say our “FIRST” collection, which might imply a second collection coming down the … pipeline … soon. More on that in the weeks to come.

The Parade

Red, white, and blue streamers danced in the wind as the handlebars of a small Huffy bicycle with Spiderman designs obeyed the expert instruction of its rider, seven year old Benji Price, as he bobbed, listed, righted himself, and dove bravely through a treacherous landscape of overgrown yards, poorly-maintained patches of concrete sidewalks, and large, family vehicles which jutted meancincly across his path. He sped down the big hill on Cromwell Road, toward the traffic light which marked the intersection of Cromwell and Winton, cursing his parents the whole way. 

“They think I’m not going to the parade,” he muttered. “But I’m going. I didn’t get to go last year, we missed the Labor Day fireworks because Dad was sick again, Mom wouldn’t let us do Halloween or Easter because she’s still afraid of Covid, and Dad wouldn’t let me go see my friends at the Memorial Day party on Burley because he wanted me to clean my room.” 

He hit a spot in the sidewalk where the roots of an old oak tree jutted the concrete squares up at an odd angle, pulled back on his handlebars, and left the ground for a full second. In his mind, Benji leapt over giant canyons full of monsters, racing his bike through the jungle in search of treasure, like Indiana Jones. He landed quickly, his resolve undeterred. 

“I’m going this time. I don’t care what Dad says.” 

The light at Winton Road turned red. Benji pulled his bike to a stop, hit the crosswalk button, and waited. 

The Greenhills Fourth of July parade was the highlight of the summer for all the kids in the neighborhood, Benji Price included. It started next to the Community Building, or what used to be the Middle school as his father would sometimes reminisce on occasions when his moods were light, then made its way around the Commons, past the WWII memorial, and back to the Community Building where it all began. Each year, the mayor and several other village leaders would hand out awards for the kids, who paraded their decorated bikes around the commons along with the marching band, the truck from the local fire department, various community organizations, and the large, Red Cadillac with the sign for Humbert’s Meats.  

Benji coveted that award. He’d watched from the sidelines for as long as he could remember as older kids in the neighborhood rode their bikes full of streamers and noisemakers round and round the Commons. Two years ago, Brian Woods from up the street had won a huge trophy for decorating his bike to look like a speeder bike from Return of the Jedi. And so what if he blew up the trophy later that summer with a homemade incendiary device he’d made using a two liter, aluminum foil, and a particularly corrosive toilet bowl cleaner he’d had to order from Amazon. 

So what? He still won the thing. Just seeing Brian walking home from the parade, carrying that giant trophy, barely able to guide his bike back up Cromewell hill filled Beni’s heart with excitement, and maybe a bit of jealousy. 

Last year, Benji had covered his bike in cardboard to make it look like Enderman from MInecraft. He’d finished it a week after school let out, and missed riding bikes for what seemed like half the summer in anticipation. Then, his Dad saw the bike sitting in the garage and tore the cardboard off, yelling at him not to waste boxes. 

When Benji started crying, his Dad told him to “suck it up,” so Benji did, taking the broken Enderman pieces to the recycling bin outside. 

This year, Benji planned to cover his bike in so many streamers it would look like a Fourth of July Medusa, floating down the street as he sped his way around the commons. He’d saved up all his allowance for two months to buy the streamers (Brian Woods ordered it for him from Amazon. Brian’s parents let him do a lot of things Benji’s parents didn’t), and hid them in his Cub Scout camping backpack so his dad wouldn’t see them. 

Benji Price had it all planned out. 

But when Benji’s Mom came out of their bedroom, quietly shutting the door behind her, and told Benji that “Dad isn’t feeling well this morning. He had a late night last night. We’re going to have to miss the parade,” Benji was furious. Instead of whining, like he usually did, Benji forced a smile. 

“Okay, Mom,” he said, and read from his summer reading book until she went back into the bedroom. As soon as the door closed, he grabbed his backpack and sprinted outside to jump on his bike. 

The light at Winton Road changed green and Benji Price made his way across the busy, six-lane road. 

At first, he was afraid. He’d never before ventured this far from home by himself, and the huge, rumbling cars, waiting on Winton Road for their light to change green, seemed more daunting than the treacherous path down Cromwell hill that got him here. For a moment, Benji thought of turning back, but he closed his eyes and pushed forward. 

“I’m going,” he said, and that was that. 

Benji’s foot found the upramp on the sidewalk opposite Cromwell. He opened his eyes and watched as the cars behind him took their cue from the traffic light and made their way to and from on Winton. 

“That wasn’t so bad,” he said to himself. 

Benji rode his bike past Our Lady of the Rosary church, and stood at the crosswalk in front of the Greenhills Community Building. One more road and he was there. A few more steps and he’d be ready to start setting up his bike for the parade. 

A police cruiser stopped in front of him, and rolled down the window. 

“Hello, there son. How ya doin’?” 


“Whatch’ya up to?” 

“I’m taking my bike to the community center to get it ready for the Fourth of July Parade.” 

“Are you, now?” 

“Uh huh. My friend Brian Woods won the trophy two years ago, but he blew it up in his back yard with a bomb he made from the internet.” 

“Is that so?” 

Benji wondered if maybe he’d say something bad, but he continued.

“Yeah, and this year, I’m going to win. I’ve got a backpack full of streamers and my friend, Jason, says he has a wrestling outfit he’s going to let me use.” 

“Parade doesn’t start for another four hour, son. You know that?”

“It doesn’t?” 

“No. Where are your parents?” 

Benji lowered his head. He’d seen enough t.v. shows to know where this was heeded. 

“Back at home,” he said. 

“Why don’t you hop in the car and I’ll take you there? I’m sure they’d want to see their big boy win his first trophy.” 

“Okay,” Benji sighed. His shoulders slumped. One more year. One more missed opportunity. And, now, because the cops were bringing him home, his parents would be mad. Dad would wait for the cops to leave, and then the yelling would begin. 

“What’s your name, son?” the officer asked. 


“Good name. My name’s Officer Riley. But you can call me Ken.” 

Benji ws silent. He looked out the window as the trees and houses he’d just passed on his bike, reversed themselves toward his house. After a moment of silence, Officer Riley glanced in his rearview mirror. 

“You got a scratch on your forehead, I see.”

“Yep,” Benji said.  

“How’d that happen?” 

“Fell off my bike.” 

“Did you, now?” 

“Yep,” Benji lied. He didn’t like to talk about the scratches. Or any other injuries for that matter. 

“Well, that’s a surprise,” Officer Riley said. “I’ve seen you. You seem to have a good handle on things, riding that thing up and down Cromwell hill.” 

“I fell.” 

Officer Riley made it to the top of Cromwell turning left onto Andover Street. 

“Your parents home?” 

“Yeah, but Dad’s still asleep.” 

“He sleep a lot?” 


“He ever get mad at you?” 

Benji Price trie to change the subject. 

“That’s my house right there, Office Riley.” 


“Mr. Ken.” Benji tried to open the door, but the handle wouldn’t budge. Once you’re in the back seat of a police cruiser, you’re in. At least until they let you out.

“That’s my house right there. I can ride home from here.” 

Officer Riley did not respond. He drove up to Benji Price’s house, parked in the driveway, got out, and let Benji climb out as well. He opened the trunk to get Beni’s bike. Benji grabbed the bike and ran to the side of the house to hide it. By the time he got back, Officer Riley had already rung the doorbell. 

“Officer Riley … Ken … please don’t tell my dad I rode my bike across Winton Road. He’ll be mad, and when Dad gets mad, he…” 

The door opened. Benjamin Price Sr. stood in the doorway, his grey hair a mop of unkept thistles, hanging down over his eyebrows. He wore plaid pajama pants, a faded Dave Matthews Band t-shirt, and a pair of pink bunny slippers. Officer Riley took a step back and covered his nose. Benjamin Riley smelled as if he’d been rolled in wet mulch and left baking ni the hot sun for days. 

“What?” said Benjamin Price Sr. 

“Found your son down the road a piece. Seems he’s a bit excited for the parade today. Will you folks be joining him?” 

Benjamin Price saw Ben Jr (aka “Benji”) cowering behind Offcer Riley. HIs eyes grew wide and he stepped forward. 

“There you are! I told you we wasn’t going this year, you little son of a …” Benjamin Price looked at the stern expression on Officer Riley’s face and corrected himself. “.. young man. I told you I wasn’t feeling well. And neither is your mother.” 

Angela Price stood behind Benjamin Price Sr with her eyes lowered. When she glanced up, both Benji and Officer Riley could see the discoloration on her cheek hidden by hastily applied makeup. 

Benjamin Price Sr stepped out onto the porch, grabbing Benji firmly on his left arm. Benji winced. 

“Thank you for bringing him home, officer. I’ll make sure to teach him a lesson. Have a nice day.” 

Benjamin Price Sr moved Benji toward the door. Officer Riley placed a hand on Mr Price’s shoulder. 

“Hold on a minute. Let’s chat for a moment.” 

“About what?” 

“Mrs. Price. I can see the marks on your face. How did that happen?” 

“Ran into a door,” she said, never lifting her head. 

“Is that so?” 


“See!” said Benjamin Price Sr. “Everything is fine. Now, if you’ll excuse me, officer.” Mr Price tried to pull Benji inside, but Officer Ken Riley held firm. 

“Mrs. Price. You know what’s going to happen to your son if I leave here, right?” 

Mrs. Price did not speak. 

“I’m sure you’ve seen the scratch on his head, the mark on the back of his neck, and the way he favors his left ankle.” 

“That was a bike accident!” Mr Price said. Benji screamed as his fathers fingers dug further into his arm. 

“Mrs. Price, this isn’t the first time I’ve come here to visit you. And you know it won’t be the last. What do you say this time you speak up. It can all stop right now if you just say the word.” 

“I’ve heard enough!” Benjamin Price threw his son into the house through the doorway and stuck a finger in Officer Riley’s face. “How DARE you accuse of …” 

“Accuse you of what?” Officer Riley was calm in his questioning. 

“You know what you’re accusing me of. Get off my porch, Officer, or I’ll have your badge.” 

“Mrs Price?” 

“She has nothing to say.” 

“He hits her,” Benji Price said. All three adults looked at Benji in surprise. “When he gets drunk or when he’s mad or sometimes just because. He hits her. And he hits me, too. These scratches aren’t from a bike accident. He shoved me into a doorframe yesterday when I asked if we could go to the fourth of July Parade. It isn’t as swollen as it was yesterday, but it’s still there.” 

“What?” said Benjamin Price Sr. “He’s making it all up. You know how kids are.” 

“Mrs. Price? Is this true?” 

“Yes,” she said, then raised her head and said the words she had wanted to say for years, but had never had the courage to speak aloud. 

“Help?” she said. 

An hour and a half later, Benjamin Price Sr was in the back of another police cruiser, on his way to the Hamilton County Detention Center, and Officer Riley helped Benji Price and his mother, Angela, load some clothes and a few of their belongings, including Beji’s bike, into the trunk of his cruiser. 

“My Mom says we can stay with her as long as we need,” Mrs. Price began. “After that…” 

“After that you’ll be free,” Officer Riley said. 

“After that, we’ll be free,” Angela said, a smile washed over her face. She turned to Benji. “Should we get going? Grandma can’t wait to see you.” 

“There’s one more stop we need to make,” Officer Riley said. 

That afternoon, Benji Price rode his bike in the Greenhills Village Fourth of July Parade. The streamers poured out behind him in wild pandemonium. And for the rest of his life, whenever he thought of what it meant to be free, he would remember this exquisite joy.  

Dawn – By Joseph Courtemanche

The Fondue Writer’s Club and Bar & Grille and Laundromat Free Memorial Day Fiction Explode-A-Ganza comes to a close today, and what better way to end it than with a story from Mr. Joseph Courtemanche. Mr. Courtemanche is, himself, a veteran, and has made it a Thing(tm) to write a Memorial Day story each year, to help us keep in mind those we’ve lost.

Joe C puts it this way: “I ask merely that today you reflect on those who gave their lives for this nation. They’d want you to have the barbecue and the beer. But remember their sacrifice as well.”

Ain’t no better way to put it than that. Enjoy your celebrations. Enjoy your families. Remember the sacrifices of those who made these things possible. Check out “Dawn

We will be back in a few weeks for Independence Day. Thanks for joining us. We will see you then.

The Kid

Thomas Brown was about to salt the steaks he would soon put on the grill for the annual Burley Circle Community Memorial Day Celebration when he noticed the Kid again. This time, the Kid stood in the corner of the kitchen, watching him. 

As usual, the Kid said nothing.

The annual Burley Circle Memorial Day Celebration had grown into quite a Thing™ over the years. A few people from the row houses at the bottom of the Circle decided one year that, since there were no fences blocking off anyone’s backyards, they might as well pool their resources and do a combined party. 

“It’ll keep the Kids busy, and give us adults some time to do … adult things!” said Mrs. Paoletti of number 14, who’s twin sons Jeff and Josh were notorious for breaking windows, yard signs, and a few larger pieces of property throughout the community. A few people grumbled that she just wanted to spread her children’s destructive proclivities to houses other than hers, but most folks said that, even if that was the case, so what? Raising two boys as a single mother is hard work, and what good is a community if it can’t help bear the burdens of others now and again?

So it was that, with this collective and communal positivity, the Burley Circle Memorial Day Celebration was born. And, boy, did it grow quickly. 

One year, Mr Kellersmith from number 32 offered up his collection of wading pools and Slip & Slides. The next, Johnny Teague from number 18, owner of the local toy and hobby shop, Johnny’s Toys, brought a bevy of backyard games, including a set of lawn darts, which most of the parents forbade the little Kids to use, but then indulged in themselves later that the evening when the Kids had gone to bed and the alcohol flowed more freely. 

One year, Mrs. Bello from number 27 organized the entire community to line up everyone’s picnic and card tables so they could go for the Guinness record for “World’s Largest Salami Sandwich.” They actually got the record one year, but lost it six months later to a group of automobile engineers from Bern, Switzerland who, for reasons unknown to God and Man (as Mrs. Bello put it, when she learned they had been eclipsed), took umbrage with the idea of Midwestern Americans holding any meat-related Guinness records. 

But no matter. The party continued, year in and year out. It ws right about the time that Mrs. Paoletti’s destructive offspring had returned from their respective collegiate sojourns, ech with a wife and two sets of destructive twins in tow, that Sean Hinken from number 1 Burley Circle, who tended Bar at The Friendly Stop, a local hole-in-the-wall bar and grill, had a creative idea. 

“You ever notice how our yards slope down to that flat part at the end?” he said one evening, while sitting on his porch. 

“Yeah,” A few of the other guys responded. 

“And have you noticed how they sorta curve around, like an amphitheater?” 

“Woah,” the guys said. “Yeah.” 

“What if, this year, we built a stage and had some bands play?” 

So they did. David Hester, who taught shop at the Great Oaks Vocational School, tagged some of his students to gather supplies the morning of the next Memorial Day. They got started around 8am, and by noon they had a fully functioning stage, complete with wired sound equipment and lighting. A few local bands started the show that year about dinner time, but the highlight was when Thomas Burns invited his old college buddies to play an assortment of rock anthems, along with some of their original works. 

They played late into the night as the entirely of Burley Circle, in addition to more than a few folks from the surrounding neighborhoods, gathered to listen and just enjoy the feeling of Joy and Love that only good community brings. 

Since then, Thomas’s band, Jelly Pudding, was the highlight of the annual Burley Circle Memorial Day Celebration. After a day full of water games and good friends and more food than you can possibly eat in one sitting (despite what the grumps from Bern, Switzerland might think), everyone settled into the natural amphitheater behind the row houses on Burley Circle to hear local bands play their hearts out. And the evening came to a perfect conclusion with yet another stellar performance from Thomas Burns and the boys of Jelly pudding. 

Except, this year, things might be a little different. Because Thomas Burns saw the Kid again. 

Thomas had just started salting the steaks, which his brother brought in directly from his farm in a small town in Wisconsin, when he saw the Kid. He was an Afghan boy, about nine years old. He wore a tunic with long pants, a bright red cap over his head, and a dark, blue chapan coat under which he was strapped with enough explosives to level several buildings. 

The Kid stood in the corner of the kitchen and watched Thomas Brown. 

Thomas Brown returned the Kid’s gaze, let out a sigh, then returned to salting his steaks. 

“You again?” he said, sprinkling sea salt over row after row of Ribeye steaks. “I figured you might show up today. It IS Memorial Day after all.” 

“Here,” Thomas offered a handful of salt. “Want to help?” 

The boy stood in the corner, saying nothing. 

“Course not.” Thomas returned to salting the steaks. “You never do. Just just stand there in your tunic and your cap. A quiet, little, nine-year old bomb. And you say nothing.”

Thomas put the salt down and looked to the floor. 

“It’s been twelve years! Twelve years since you walked into that room with stupid caape of yours, that blank expression on your face. Twelve years since you walked in and killed all my friends. Everyone in the room …  but me.” 

The boy stood in the corner, saying nothing. Thomas sat on the floor aa few feet away, so his head was level with the boy’s. 

“Why? Why did you kill them? Why did you kill them and not me?” 

The boy stood in the corner, saying nothing. 

“Twelve years you’ve been doing this and you can’t answer. You have nothing to say for yourself. You just stand there and stare at me.” 

The boy stood in the corner, saying nothing. 


“Tom?” Thomas’s wife, Cheri walked into the house from the back door. She held and inflatable penguin in one hand and overly large sunglasses in another. Tom stood up quickly, focusing his attention on the steaks. “Tom, what’s wrong? Who are you talking to.” 

“No one,” Tom said, affecting a cheery tone as best he could. “Just getting these steaks ready.” 

 Cheri stood in the doorway, staring at her husband in silence as he stared intently at the steaks. 

“The Kid is back, isn’t he?” she asked, gently. 


“Where is he?” 

“Over there in the corner.” 

“You know he isn’t real, right?” 

“I know.” 

“What does Dr. Feldman say?” 

“He says hallucinations are a rare but sometimes expected side effect of PTSD.” 

“That’s true, honey.” 

“He also says exercise should help.”


“He suggests going on long bike rides. Dr. Feldman is always going on about riding bikes.” 

Cheri started gathering the now well-salted steaks. Thomas lifted the plates as they made their way to the backyard to join the party. 

“Well, it could be lots of fun. There’s a long path up by Milford we might try sometime.” 

“Yeah,” Thomas said. 

“Come on, sweetie. Everyone is excited to hear you play!” 

Thomas and Cheri Brown stepped outside to the wild applause of their neighbors. Everyone was full of joy and laughter and love, except Thomas, who watched the boy in the tunic follow him out of the corner of his eye. 

Thomas couldn’t pull his mind away from his friends. They’d set up in an abandoned house in a small town near the Hindu Kush east of Kabul. Operation Enduring Freedom had gone well, but they were a few months into the Taliban’s resurgence, and the feeling of inevitable, quick victory had just begun to turn. 

“Might as well settle in,” their commander had said on more than one occasion. “Looks like we’re gonna be here a while.” 

Thomas had been part of team chasing insurgents from small towns near the mountains. They had cleared four similar towns in the last month with very little resistance. Most of the fighting took place to the south, so Thomas and his team spent many long nights in small places like this. 

That day, Steve Erlich, a teacher and father from Austin, Texas was trying to teach everyone how to play a new card game he invented. 

“So it’s like Spdes?” of the new guys asked. 

“Uh huh!” Steve said, excited. “And Euchre, Hearts, and Rummy … all rolled into one!” 

“And you need three decks to play?” 


“Why not just play Euchre with one deck?” said James Cook, a construction worker from Ohi who had developed a small drinking habit in his time, patrolling the Hindu Kush. “Seems simpler.” 

“Nah,” said Steve. “This is way funner. You’ll see once you get the hang of it, Cookie.”

Steve dealt another complicated hand, much the consternation of everyone else. 

In the backyard amphitheater of the row houses of Burley Circle, the Annual Memorial Day Celebration was in full effect. Kids were tossing plastic footballs and frisbees, adults lunged in all manner of lawn furniture, drinking strange alcoholic concoctions that may or may not pass local ordinances on either the amount of alcohol in the drink or the process used to produce it, and a band, comprised entirely of teenagers Thomas’s Kids would have derided as “way emo” blundered their way through covers of My Chemical Romance, JImmy Eat World, and Fallout Boy. 

“Dear God, these Kids suck!” said Tim Jensen, Thomas and Cheri’s next-door neighbor. 

“They’re learning,” Thomas said. “Everyone sucks in the beginning.” 

“There’s learning,” Tim said, “and then there’s this.” he motioned toward the stage with a full glass of Long Island Ice Tea. 

“Well if you’re so good,” Thomas said, “Why don’t you go up there yourself and show them?” 

“Nah, big man. I’ll just wait for you to show them.” 

Everyone laughed, except for Thomas. The boy in the tunic and cap sat nearby, saying nothing. 

The daylight had just begun to darken in the house near the base of the Kush mountains when Jason Chao, a college student from Milwaukee who joined up the day after 9/11, threw down his cards in frustration. 

“How the hell did I lose that one?” 

Tim Suggs, a former linebacker for the Alabama Crimson Tide, chimed in. “What you should have done was play the Ace of Spades instead of the Queen.”

“Ace of Spades!” Cathy Flynn, an actuary from Chicago said in a sing-songy manner.

Suggs continued: “Then, he’d have had to follow suit and you could have taken the last three tricks.” 

“Oh yeah, Suggsie? If you’re so good, why don’t you come down here and show everyone how it’s done?”  

Suggs smiled, slapped Jason on the shoulder and almost put him through the floor. 

“Nah, big man. I’ll just wait for you to do it.” 

The room burst open with laughter, which was quickly hushed when Thomas noticed movement outside. 

“What’s that?” he said. 

Hundreds of Afghanis walked down the main street through town. Their clothes were covered in mud and their faces looked worn. It was like they’d been caught in a dust storm and then tossed into a mud pit. 

No one approached their house. 

“Looks like maybe a bunch of workers coming home at the end of the day,” said Suggs.

Outside, a light rain began to fall.  

“I don’t know,” said Thomas. “Everyone all at once?” 

“I’m calling it in,” said Steve Erlich. “Better safe than sorry.” 

Everyone agreed. 

Thomas was able to register that Cheri had spoken, but he did not know what she said, so he asked her to repeat herself. 

“Looks like those steaks have been cooking for a while, hon. Want to call it done?” 

“Yeah,” he said. “Better safe than sorry.” 

He moved the steaks from the grill to the large resting plate, then called out to the crowd. 


Everyone dug in, filling plates with burgers, hot dogs, various casseroles, fruits, veggies, and, of course, Thomas Brown’s signature steaks. A bit well done, but still tasty. 

Afterward, Thomas and his band mates made their way to the stage just as the daylight began to darken near the Burley Circle row house amphitheater. 

Thomas tightened the screws on his Sabian cymbals when he noticed the Kid standing  just offstage. 

“Can you just let me have this?” he asked. “I just want to play music with my friends and enjoy the party. I want to forget about that house, those guys, that day. Can you please just go away and let me have this?” 

The Kid stood just offstage, saying nothing. 

Thomas sighed. “Fine,” He said. 

The band started playing and the crowd stood up and swayed. Even with the Kid watching just offstage, Thomas smiled. Nothing beats that Emo crap like good, old fashioned rock.

They played AC/DC, Metallica, The Who, The Rolling Stones, and more. Every song built on the other to produce a crescendo of energy that ran through the crowd and lit up the night sky. Everyone in the neighborhood, along with people from several other neighborhoods was there to enjoy the show. Even the cops, who had shown up in response to noise complaints from nosy Karens sprinkled in the community, eschewed their duties and cheered with their community as Thomas’s band brought the evening to a wonderful climax. 

Thomas started into the heavy slow, bass drum kick of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks,” when The Kid came forward and touched his arm. The drumming continued but Thomas’s mind trailed back.

A series of long, slow, heavy knocks on the door of the house at the base of the mountains broke the peace of the card game. The drizzle of rain outside had increased to a downpour. The crowd of people had all gone to their respective houses. Steve’s communication with the command office let them know that replacements were on their way and would likely arrive in a few hours. A few hours and this particular mission would be over. 

But then, there was the knock. 

Suggs approached the door, tried to look out into the night. With the raid, there wasn’t much to be seen. 

“What is it?” Steve asked. 


“Who’s there?” 

“Shut up.” 

The door knocked again. This time, it sounded like heavy boot knocking against the door, a thick drumbeat that put them all on edge.

“We got any night vision?” Suggs asked.

“Yeah,” Jason said. “Back there. Back in the kitchen.”

“Why your dumb ass leave it back there?” 

“I don’t know,” Jason said. 

“Brown,” Suggs said. 


“Go get it.” 

“Yes, sir.” 

Thomas Brown walked toward the kitchen, and had just made it through the door when the front door blew open. Thomas turned around to see a kid walk in. He was about ten or eleven. He wore a white tunic with a red cap, and was strapped with enough explosives to level several houses. 

Thomas screamed, “NOOOO!” 

The kid made eye contact with Thomas for just a second, and then the world tore apart around them. 

Thomas Brown woke up several hours later on a helicopter. They were flying him back to base. 

“What happened?”

“Suicide bomber. Got everyone but you. Even a few townsfolk standing outside, too.” 

“Why not me?”

“The blast threw you back into the kitchen. Most of the shrapnel hit the wall. For some reason, they made that wall really strong. Saved your life.” 

“Suggs? Jason? Steve? The rest?” 

“All gone, son.” 

“And the kid. How did he make it?” 

“What kid?” 

“That Kid. Right there. Sitting in the back, staring at us. How did he make it?” 

“There’s no one here, but me and you, son. No one but me and you.” 

Thomas stared at the Kid. The Kid stared back, saying nothing. 

“Why me?” Thomas  said. “Why me?” He broke down and sobbed. 

There was silence around him as he sobbed. The band had stopped playing, the audience had grown quiet. Everyone looked at him with sad, questioning eyes. 

Cheri ran onstage and hugged her husband. SHe helped him down from his drumkit. 

“He’s alright,” she said, “He’ll be fine.” 

The audience cheered. The band began tearing down their equipment. Cheri st Thomas down in a lounger a few feet away and handed him a beer. 

“You need to see Dr. Feldman this week,” she said. “And I’ll ride with you wherever you need to ride to get past this. You hear me, Tom? I’m with you the whole way.” 

“I hear you.” 

“You need anything?” 

“Just a few minutes,” he said. Cheri went off to help clean up dishes from dinner as the party continued around them. 

The Kid sat down next to Thomas. 

“You know. I’ve hated you for a long time. Each time you show up, I hate you for killing my friends. I hate you or NOT killing me.” Thomas took a drink from his beer and looked at the night sky. 

“But it wasn’t your fault. You were a kid. I could tell from your eyes, you were terrified. No one else saw it. But I saw it, and I knew. You were terrified.” 

Thomas looked at the kid. The kid looked at Thomas. 

“It wasn’t your fault, kid.” 

“It wasn’t your fault, either, Thomas,” The kid said. 

“It feels that way, sometimes. A lot of the time.” 

“I know,” The kid said “But it wasn’t your fault, either.” 

Thomas looked up to the stars again and wept, quietly, this time. 

A while later, the crowd had diminished. The few families that were left gathered around the picnic table in Thomas Brown’s backyard. Everyone told stories. 

“I’m tired of these same, old games,” one fo the men said. “Anyone got a new game we can play?” 

“I have an idea,” Thomas said “It’s a card game. It’s a lot like Spades. Euchre, Hearts, and Rummy, too. You need three decks, though.” 

“Why not just play Euchre with one deck,” one of the wives said. “Seems simpler.” 

“That’s what I thought, but trust me. You’ll see how much fun it is once you learn.” 

Thomas dealt the cards, and the Annual Burley Circle Memorial Day Celebration continued for a while longer. After one or two hands, Thomas smiled.  

The Day of Peace – Rob Cely

Rob Cely is great at asking questions that make you think. In today’s Memorial Day short story, Rob wonders what might happen if we make peace our ultimate and only goal. How much of a cost might we pay? And are we blind to the consequences.

Check out “The Day of Peace” by Rob Cely