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

Resolved, by Jamie D Greening

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fondue Writer’s Free Fiction party is starting up again, and what better way to lead us all off than to have our resident literarian (is “literarian” even a word? I think so! Let’s go with it), Jamie D Greening, start us off with a poem.

Check out Resolved, a wonderful Memorial Day poem from Literarian and all-around good guy, Jamie D Greening.

A Passover for Maxwell Bennett

Death rarely makes house calls. But, in the case of Maxwell Bennett, he made a happy exception. 

Maxwell Bennett had been on Death’s short list for several years, much longer than any of the other miraculous escapees. Most people cheat Death at least once or twice in their lives. That’s a given. You turn left when you were supposed to have turned right, and the horrific car crash you get T-boned by a logging truck or electrocuted by a downed transformer doesn’t happen. You and everyone else go about your days none the wiser, unaware how close you came to your end. 

But Death knows. 

Death can see the results of each non-choice played out to its conclusion. Maybe not the ENTIRE consequence of each non-choice – only God can do that – but for at least a few weeks or months, he sees what might have happened to you, and he knows how close the two of you were to finally meeting. 

There are a few charmed folks, the aforementioned miraculous escapees, who seem to have a preternatural understanding of Death’s plans for their final moments. They’ll get an odd feeling in the pit of their stomach or an itch in their skin, they zig when they were supposed to have zagged, and their grisly demise becomes a pleasant afternoon in the park. This has often perplexed Death, making him wonder whether these people have some deeper insight into the machinations of all things, or if they’re just lucky. 

They can’t last forever, though. No one can. They’ll skate by for a few weeks, maybe a year. Then, one day, when they’re not looking, a bus catches them with their foot off the curb, or they’re out celebrating a friend’s wedding and that nasty shellfish allergy they didn’t know they had finally catches up to them, and that’s that. Deaths books are in order once again, and all is right with the world. 

There are these people. And then there’s Maxwell Bennett. 

Death had been tracking Maxwell Bennett for a long time; most of his life, in fact. 

The first time Maxwell Bennett was supposed to have died, he was only a year and a half old. Little Maxwell had a nasty cough, and his mother, who hadn’t slept a wink in three whole days, gave him a dose of adult cough medicine to get him down. She left the unopened bottle next to his crib and, in the middle of the night, when Little Maxie woke up, he grabbed the cough medicine like it was his bottle and downed the whole thing in one gulp. 

That should have been enough to do him in, but his teeth had just broken through his gums, and as he laid down to go back to sleep, he soothed the pain in his mouth by gnawing on the wooden posts of his bed, dislodging several splinters into his mouth in the process. This new pain woke him up immediately, and the force of his screams did what no medically administered ipecac would have, ejecting the recently consumed bottle of cough syrup all over his bed, his room, and himself. 

Mrs Bennett, unaware of the tragedy that would have ensued – should have ensued – had it been any other child, was none too pleased at the prospect of cleaning up the vomitous expectoration in her son’s room in addition to yet another sleepless night. 

When he was eight, he rode his brand new BMX bicycle down a large, grass hill, through the remnants of a wire fence denoting the property line on a farm that had long since been abandoned. Maxwell was a small boy, and the chinstrap on his helmet hung low. As he passed through at breakneck speeds, a taught cord of low-hanging wire caught the chinstrap and knocked him off his bike. He suffered a bruised tailbone instead of the outright decapitation that would have been the case for normal boys with properly positioned protective gear.. 

At ten, as Maxwell Bennett prepared to take his turn at bat in a Little League baseball game, he walked right up next to the hitter on deck just as the hitter took his practice homerun swing. He would have caught a metal bat to the face had he not ducked at just the right moment to tie his shoes. As things stood, Maxwell’s teammate struck out, and Maxwell hit into an inning-ending double-play. 

Maxwell loved baseball, but baseball rarely loved him back. 

Shortly after Maxwell’s twelfth birthday, the neighbor’s rabid pit bull attacked when Maxwell was cutting the grass behind his house. But because the canine had dislodged most of his teeth fighting a rogue German Shepherd down the street the previous night, none of the bites broke the skin. Instead, the teeth fell out of the dog’s mouth at first bite, and all Maxwell got was loud barking, a few scratches, and enough drool to fill a very large bucket. The doctors who checked him out said he was extremely lucky. “It’s a miracle!” they said. 

But it wasn’t a miracle. It was just Maxwell Bennett. 

Death’s record followed Maxwell Bennett into adulthood, enough to fill several notebooks. A near tragedy involving a table saw in high school that should have cut into his jugular, a hidden chicken bone at a sports bar on a night out with friends in college that should have become lodged in his throat, a mass shooting at a mall in Kentucky where he would have been gunned down by a madman if only he hadn’t got pulled over for running a red light two blocks shy of the mall. 

“I’m sorry, officer,” Maxwell Bennett said. “To be honest, I was distracted by a text on my phone and I didn’t see the light.” 

“Be careful, son,” the officer said, as emergency vehicles sped past them on the way to the mall. “This could have been a tragedy.”

Death just stood by and watched in disbelief. What else could he do? For nearly forty two years, whatever Death threw at him, Maxwell Bennett seemed to dodge with ease. The final tally, according to the now voluminous series of notebooks in Death’s accounting, included 792 missed encounters with wild animals, 2,297 failed food-related accidents, 4,256 missed car accidents, 1,406 walking/hiking accidents, and an eight month relationship with 1 red head who had learned from her mother how to kill a man with a ball peen hammer and dispose of the body in lye. 

Unable to ply her trade with Maxwell Bennett, the red head moved on to an author of submarine fiction in Vermont, where she was much more successful. The lye pits near Manchester proved particularly useful. 

This night, however, would be different. Death would look Maxwell Bennet in the face. And when the night was over, he could finally put a close to the most troublesome accounting problem he’d had since the births of both Methuselah and Keith Richards. 

Death walked up to the door, and knocked three times. MAxwell Benett opened it. 

“Hello,” he said. “I’ve been expecting you.” 

“You have?” 

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I? Everyone says you’re inevitable, right? You and taxes?” 

Death sighed, put his hand on the door frame, pulled it away quickly, wiping off the sticky scumon his jeans. 

“The problem with all those quotes about Death is 99% of the people who say them are still alive.” 

“What do the 1% who are dead, say?” 

“Want to find out?” 

“We’ll see,” Maxwell Bennett said, smiling. “We’ll see. Come in. Sit down. Dinner’s almost ready.” He turned around, headed for the kitchen. The sound of pots and pans being moved about emanated from the doorway.  

“Dinner?” Death stepped into the apartment and looked around, as if expecting some sort of trap. When no immediate attack presented itself, he shrugged, stepped in further, and took a seat at the kitchen table. 

“So what brings you here?” Maxwell Bennett asked. 

“I’ve been following you since you were a boy. All the many ways you’ve cheated me over the years. Your name is first on my list, and I plan to collect.” 

Maxwell Bennett laughed from the kitchen. 

“Have you been practicing that line? If so, you need to keep working on it. You sound like McDonald’s employee asking me if I want fries with my meal.” A cabinet door slammed. “Put some growl into it, some menage. You know? Really put some stank on it.”

Maxwell stuck his head out of the kitchen doorway. “Can I get you a drink? Beer? Glass of wine? Orange Juice, maybe?”

“Water is fine, thanks.”

“Sure thing.” Maxell returned to rummaging in the kitchen.

Death stared at the space in the kitchen door where Maxwell’s head used to be.

“You know, most people try to bargain with me when they find out who I am. They offer me gifts, riches, keys to their tiny, little kingdoms. Most people are afraid. But you…”

Maxwell Bennett stepped back into the dining room with a large plate.

“You serve me dinner?”

“It would be rude of me not to,” Maxwell said. “Besides, this is a special dinner.”

Death took the plate from Maxwell Bennet and set it on the table. The bitter herbs, romaine lettuce, charoset, karpas, a roast egg, and a roasted lamb bone. .

“Is this what I think it is? Is this a Seder plate?”

“Of course! It’s Passover, is it not? Are you familiar with Passover?”

Death grunted. “Of course. I was there at the first one, remember? They were trying to avoid seeing me.”

“Ah, yes,” Maxwell said. “I forgot.”

“I don’t understand, though. You’re not even Jewish.”

“You don’t have to be Jewish to celebrate Passover. God loves everyone, even us Gentiles, and we can celebrate him.”

Death smiled. “I see your plan, now,” he said. “You think affecting these rituals will keep me at bay like it did for Moses back in Egypt. Well, it won’t work.”

“No. I just had some extra lamb bones and charoset lying around, and I thought: ‘Why not?’ I had this feeling you know?”

Death swiveled his head to the corners of the apartment. Each of the miraculous escapees had reported these feelings just before escaping Death’s various traps. He wondered what trickery was at play.

Maxwell Bennet smiled, and waited.

“Well, at least you could have let me know. I’d have brought some bread to share. In fact, if you’ll allow, I can step out for just a moment and get the finest of loaves one can find in the farthest reaches of the Mediterranean. Your mouth will water just from the smell. And the taste! Oh, you will spend the rest of our life searching and never find a bread with a taste such as this.”

Matthew picked up two brown, paper bags.

“I got this Matzo at WalMart. Manager’s special! It was on sale for $1.95 with a BOGO discount. Can you believe that? I think it will work for us just fine. Plus, we need more than just bread to live, don’t we? Isn’t that in the Bible somewhere?”

“It is,” Death said. “It is.”  Death took a sip from his water. He appeared lost in thought.

Maxwell sat up straight.

“Now that the sun has gone down and we have the elements in place, why don’t we begin?Mind if I do the honors?”

“Of course.”

“True,” Maxwell Bennett said, and began.

Maxwell bowed his head to pray. Death eyed him warily.

“The sixth day. And the heavens and the earth and all that filled them were complete. And on the seventh day God completed the labor He had performed, and He refrained on the seventh day from all the labor which He had performed. And God blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it, for He then refrained from all his labor – from the act of creation that God had performed.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments, and hoped for us, and with love and intent invested us with His sacred Sabbath, as a memorial to the deed of Creation. It is the first among the holy festivals, commemorating the exodus from Egypt. For You chose us, and sanctified us, out of all nations, and with love and intent You invested us with Your Holy Sabbath.”

When Maxwell paused for breath, Death interrupted with a question.

“Tell me, Maxwell Bennett. How did you come to escape me all these years? Do you think God loves you more than everyone else?”

“No,” Maxwell Bennett said. “If that were true, the Cincinnati Bengals would have won the Super Bowl last year. I’ve been a Bengals fan since I was a kid. I love my family and friends and I help out in my community, but the one thing I’ve consistently prayed for my whole life was for the Bengals to win a Super Bowl. I figure if God loved me more than everyone else, he’d have made that happen by now.”

“But how can you tell? What if you are favored among men? Just imaging what you could do?”

“It’d be fun,” Maxwell said. “I bet I could finally get high average for my bowling league some season.”

“Here.” Death picked up a large carving knife and handed it to Maxwell. “Take this knife. Thrust it into your stomach. If God really does favor you, he will stop you from killing yourself. Then, you will know and will finally be able to celebrate.”

Maxwell laughed. “Can you imagine me showing up at the hospital with a carving knife sticking out of my gut? And when the doctors ask what happened, I tell them: ‘I was just checking to see if God loved me?’”

Maxwell took a long drink from his wine.

“Plus, whether God loves me a lot or just a little, I don’t think it’s a good idea to go testing him like that. I’ve seen a lot of televangelists go down that route, and that ain’t me.”

“What if it is?”

“Did you see Tammy Faye Baker’s tattooed mascara tears back in the day?” MAxwell asked, washing his hands. “Uh uh, Bubba. I don’t want nothing to do with the kind of thing that make people do that to themselves.”

Death laughed. Maxwell dipped vegetables into the charset and handed some to Death. Death declined. Maxwell shrugged and ate the vegetables anyway.

“You’re funny,” he said. “You’ve got a remarkable personality. Have you considered doing a podcast or TikTok or something?”

“There’s this friend of mine in Texas who does a podcast with his church. It’s called ‘Under The Water Tower.’ I thought about doing a response podcast to his podcast once. I’d call it ‘Water Tower Adjacent,’ and I’d spend my time making jokes at his expense.”

“That sounds promising. What if I could help you grow your podcast – or TikTok or YouTube Channel or whatever? What if you could get your words into every corner of the earth? Does that sound like something that would interest you? All you’d have to do is follow me.”

Maxwell Bennett was confused.

“Follow you? Like on Twitter?”

“No. Like follow my lead. Go where I tell you to go. Worship me.”

“Oh, absolutely not. My friends all tell me I’m a #nofilter kind of guy. I get myself a podcast and get the word out to the whole world, I’m liable to say something stupid. And what then? I’ve got a record of me making an ass of myself for everyone to see.”

“Don’t you already have a blog?” Death asked.

“Nobody reads blogs,” Mawell Bennet said. “And anyway. The way I figure it, worshipping God is what got me this far. I might as well keep at it now. No one’s better than him, right?”

“Right,” Death said, frustrated.

“We’re at the part where we recite the story of Exodus. Would you care to do the honors?” Maxwell asked.

“I think your passover tradition has already done its job,” Death said, standing up. He reached to shake Maxwell’s Hand. Maxwell reciprocated.

“It’s been a pleasure meeting you,” Maxwell said.

“Likewise,” Death said, and he left.

Maxwell shrugged, sat down.

“Now, I’ve got to do this all by myself,” he said as he thumbed through a well-worn Bible to the book of Exodus. Of all the weird things to happen in his life, this was by far the weirdest.

Maxwell was about to close his eyes to begin the prayers, when he noticed a slip of paper next to the chair where Death so recently sat. He opened it.

“Dear Maxwell. It truly was a pleasure meeting you this evening. You are a good man. Stay strong in the faith and God will see you through many struggles. Sincerely, Death.”

Maxwell Bennett flipped the page over, where the note continued.

“P.S. See you in six months.”

Maxwell Bennett smiled. “We’ll see,” he said. “We’ll see.”

Caramel Hill – A Free Easter Story from Jamie D Greening

The Fondue Writers are back, and this time we’re tackling Easter WITH A VENGEANCE.

Okay, so we’re not really tackling Easter, per se. We’re really more addressing it. Or commenting on it. Or writing free fiction about it. You get the idea.

Whatever it we’re doing to Easter … we are definitely doing it … WITH A VENGEANCE. That much I can assure you.

Leading us off for the Easter Explode-A-Ganza is our dear friend from Austin, Texas: Jamie D Greening. And BOY does Jamie have a good yarn for you. If all the pomp and circumstance around Easter – and most holidays in general – seems a bit STRANGE to you, well, you’re gonna like checking out “CARAMEL HILL.” 

Jamie’s got a lot of other stuff you can read at his website, jamiegreening.com, including his wildly popular Butch Gregory series (see The Little Girl Waits, How Great is the Darkness, and A Dream Within). Jamie has a few books in the works coming out later this year as well.

Stick with us for the next two weeks as we bring to you at least six short stories (one of which is from Yours Truly!) to help make your Easter Dreams come true. Or stop them. Whichever it is you’re looking for … We got you covered. 

Rejoice! Free Fiction is Upon Us Yet Again! Rejoice! 

The Ballad of Adam and Grace – A Free Valentine’s Story from Rob Cely

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! And thanks to those who have made it throgh our Valentine’s Free Fiction Explode-A-Ganza. The final story in this series comes from Rob Cely, and it defies any explanation or series of stupid words on the part of Yours Truly, other than to say: Go read it. Go read it now.

If you fell in love with this one, why not give some of the other authors a chance as well. Check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, that Christmas 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.

The Fondue Writer’s Club (and Bar & Grille and Laundromat) will be back at Easter to wow you with yet another Holiday-focused Free Fiction Explode-A-Ganza. Until then, keep your chin up, smile at old people at babies, and above all else … don’t break anything. .

Something More Than This – A Free Valentine’s Day Story in One Act

You’ve read the rest of the Fondue Writer’s Free Fiction Valentine’s Day stories. Now, it’s time to suffer through mine! Hold onto your goetta, folks. This one’s a doozie.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

SETTING: A small restaurant. The dinner patrons have just finished eating their meal and have settled into conversation. The waitress drops off the last of the drinks as Kevin, who is just hitting his stride, launches into another story to the enjoyment of his friends.

KEVIN: So I went out with Beth the other night.

ADAM: Was that the girl you met at Mike and Melissa’s Christmas party?

KEVIN: No. That was Chrissie. This was Beth, the blind date my cousin set me up on.

JOSH: Whatever happened to Jaime? Did you guys break up or something?

KEVIN: Not really. It just didn’t work out.

MIKE: What happened?

KEVIN: She had a mole and that wrecked it for me.

ADAM: A mole?

MIKE: (sarcastically) Oh no, Kevin … Not a mole!

ADAM: Moley Moley Moley Moley …

JOSH: Come on, now, Kevin, you have to look past these kinds of things. It’s the twenty first century. Society is evolving. Be a bigger man.

ADAM: Right, and besides, those women are all the rage in Borneo and Sri Lanka these days. Were you to move there with the lovely, mole-faced Jamie as your wife, you’d be a king!

MIKE: I once dated a woman who had Fred Flintstone feet and I learned to put up with it.

KEVIN: Fred Flintstone feet?

MIKE: Yeah. She had only four toes. All of them were normal at the base but spread out into a thin, flat circle around the toenail. They looked like little hammerhead sharks. And her feet looked more like flippers than normal feet.

JOSH & KEVIN: Wicked.

MIKE: She had some trouble walking straight, but get that woman into a pool and there was no stopping her.

JOSH: That’s nothing. My ex girlfriend had a moustache.


JOSH: Yessir. Big and bushy as could be. She tried to shave it off in the morning, but the five o’clock shadow was there by noon. If she let it go for a couple of days, she looked like Tom Selleck.

KEVIN: Really?

JOSH: Yeah. Well … Tom Selleck with breasts.

ADAM: You had it easy. My ex fiancé had Tourette’s syndrome.

MIKE: What’s that?

JOSH: That’s where you inadvertently scream obscenities in public for no good reason.

KEVIN: Doesn’t your mother have that, Josh?

JOSH: No. She’s just mean. She’s always yelling at my brother and me, and I’ve never understood it. It’s not like we accidentally set the neighbor’s garage on fire when we were kids. We knew what we were doing.

KEVIN: That sure was a beautiful flame.

JOSH: Yessir.

MIKE: You could see it for miles around.

ADAM: Well my ex fiancé’s Tourette’s was real. Imagine my embarrassment when I bent down on one knee to propose marriage and, in her excitement, she let out a string of obscenities just as a a bunch of kids walked past.

MIKE: Did she say yes?

ADAM: Of course! And the restaurant manager was so impressed with my demeanor, he took my picture and put it on the wall.

KEVIN: So how come you never got married?

ADAM: We had political disagreements.

JOSH: Was she one of those brainless libs?


MIKE: A right wing nut job?


KEVIN: What was it then?

ADAM: I caught her sleeping with the mayor.

MIKE: That’ll do it every time.

ADAM: How was your date with Beth, Kevin? Was it a smashing success as usual?

KEVIN: Mostly. It started out great, but I ran into some problems about halfway through.

ADAM: What happened?

KEVIN: I had it all planned out. I picked her up in the Beamer, greeted her with a massive bouquet, and I made sure there was a bottle of wine waiting for us at the restaurant.

MIKE: Classy.

JOSH: You bought her flowers? She must be hot. I never buy flowers on the first date.

ADAM: And it’s a wonder you’re still single.

JOSH: You’re already paying for dinner. Flowers on top of that is a lot of money for someone you might never see again.

ADAM: Dude, you’re hopeless.

KEVIN: We ordered dinner and did the chick talk-y thing. (pasue) The problem was I had bad gas building up for over an hour, and of course I couldn’t just beef right there at the dinner table.

ADAM: (looking at Josh, as though explaining something to a child) That’s because it’s not considered good date etiquette, Josh. Make sure to write that down.

JOSH: Shut up.

ADAM: Assuming, of course, you succeed in bribing somebody to go out with you again.

JOSH: Shut up!

KEVIN: Or if the Russian brides website takes you off their permanent ban list.

JOSH: Hey that was a misunderstanding. Customs laws are more complicated than you think.


KEVIN: When she excused herself to powder her nose, I took advantage of the opportunity and let one fly

ADAM: Of course!

KEVIN: But, I gambled and lost.

MIKE: You what?

KEVIN: Like I said, it was a lot of gas. One of those farts where you can’t tell if it’s going to be an actual bathroom incident or just hot air.

ADAM: And?

KEVIN: It wasn’t just air. (they laugh)

JOSH: So what did you do?

KEVIN: The only thing I could do. I ran to the bathroom, finished up, tossed my underpants in the trash, and made it back to the table before she did.

ADAM: You threw out your underwear in the middle of a restaurant!

KEVIN: Yep. Went commando the rest of the night.

JOSH: And she never suspected it?

KEVIN: No. I had a fresh glass of wine waiting for her when she returned.

JOSH: So the date was a success, then?

KEVIN: More or less. We had a good time, but I don’t think we’ll go out again. She’s a redhead and you know how I feel about redheads.

(The remaining men groan)

MIKE: You’ve gotta get past this redhead thing, man. Just because one or two of them were crazy …

JOSH:  … Or three …

ADAM:  … Or four …

MIKE: It doesn’t mean they’re all bad.

JOSH: Right. You don’t want to be prejudiced against redheads, now.

KEVIN: I’m not prejudiced, but I do do percentages and averages. Of the 5 redheads I’ve dated, 4 of them were nuts. I’m talking full tilt bozo, if you know what I mean.

ADAM: What about the other one?

KEVIN: She became a nun. 

(they all laugh)

JOSH: Hey, speaking of crazy people, did you guys hear about the kid that got lost at the Taste of Orlando festival last week?

ADAM: What about him? Kids get lost at those things all the time.

MIKE: Some get lost for good.

KEVIN: Yeah, that’s that survival of the fittest thing, right?

MIKE: No. I don’t think that applies to humans.

ADAM: Yeah. I think you have to be a fish or a duck or something like that.

MIKE: My cousin looks like a duck. Does that count?

ADAM: I don’t know. Maybe.

KEVIN: Well if anybody was ever naturally selected for extinction, it was my cousin Joey. He went on an all-beer diet to try to lose weight.

JOSH: Sounds interesting.

MIKE: Tell me more.

ADAM: I like the cut of his jib!

KEVIN: I told him he was nuts, but he disagreed. “Beer is nutritious,” he said. “You see bums drinking it all the time. It’s like Ensure™ for homeless people.” (pause)  So he spent a month consuming nothing but beer.

JOSH: What happened?

KEVIN: He died of cirrhosis.

ADAM: Oh, Kevin. I’m sorry.

KEVIN: That’s ok. I never liked him anyway.

MIKE: Why not?

KEVIN He was really into golf and that just got on my nerves.

JOSH: That’s strange.

KEVIN: The week before he died, he attacked me with a five iron.

ADAM: That’s understandable. He was probably hammered out of his mind.

KEVIN: It was my five iron.


KEVIN: I haven’t been able to hit a decent chip shot since.

JOSH: So this kid shoes up at the police tent at the Taste of Orlando saying he can’t find his mom, right? The cops figure someone will show up in a few minutes, all scared and apologetic like most parents would.

MIKE: My mom thought she lost me at a department store when I was a kid. She lost her mind.

ADAM: Yeah, but you’re mom’s always been crazy.

MIKE: She wanted to kill me when she found out I’d been hiding in the women’s changing room but, when she saw the four hundred pound woman who’d been trying on bras walk out of the room I’d been hiding in, she figured that was punishment enough.

KEVIN & ADAM: (shudder visibly)

JOSH: So this kid sits in the cop tent all day long and his parents never show up. The cops had to take him back to the station and he stayed there for eight days before they found out who he was.

MIKE: That reminds me of the movie “Joe Dirt.”

ADAM: At least he ate well for a couple of days, though.

KEVIN: His parents probably got confused and went to the “Taste of Crack” festival a few blocks over.

JOSH: It’s amazing. You have to get a license to fish, but you can have as many kids as you like no matter how dumb you are.

MIKE: Yeah, but if you catch a bad fish, you can always throw it back.


MIKE: What? All I’m saying there’s a difference between fishing and raising kids.

KEVIN: It’s like apples and oranges.

JOSH: Or cheese wheels and roller coasters.

MIKE: Exactly.

ADAM: What happened to the kid? Did he go back to his parents?

JOSH: I don’t know. The story went on to page ten and I didn’t feel like flipping that far into the paper. Besides, all I really wanted to do was see the line on the Super Bowl.

MIKE: That reminds me. Are you guys up for watching the hockey game this weekend at my place?

JOSH: Sure.

KEVIN: Nah. If I wanted to see toothless men beat each other senseless with sticks, I’d go to my family reunion.

ADAM: I can’t.

MIKE: Why not?

ADAM: I have to do community service this weekend.

KEVIN: Did your neighbors catch you peeing in their flowerbed again?

MIKE: How many times have we told you to stop that?

ADAM: That’s not it.

JOSH: Right. His neighbors will never catch him. He’s too stealthy.

MIKE: Er something.

ADAM: I got arrested for shoplifting.

KEVIN: You what?

ADAM: Yep. They took me downtown. Booked me and everything.

MIKE: What did you do, Adam?  (spoken like the line “What did you do, Ray?” in Ghostbusters)

ADAM: Well I was out at the mall last Saturday, looking for a new pair of sandals. My old pair is starting to pull apart at the seams and the strap cuts into my foot.

KEVIN: Oooh. I hate it when that happens. I once cut my foot on my sandals when I was at Cedar Point. By the time I got home I was limping like Quasimodo.

JOSH: I thought he had a hunchback, not a limp.

KEVIN: He had both. I think the two are connected.


ADAM: I was standing in Abercrombie and Fitch, when I noticed this smoking hot chick standing a few rows over. I’m talking long, brown hair and a gorgeous figure.

MIKE: Now this is getting interesting.

KEVIN: Tell me more.

JOSH: I like the cut of his jib!

ADAM: She has a t-shirt in her hand and she looks around real fast, like she’s checking to make sure nobody’s watching. Then she starts rolling up the t-shirt.

KEVIN: Uh oh.

ADAM: She looks around again to see who’s watching, and then stuffs the t-shirt in her purse.

KEVIN: (shaking his head) That’s what they get for charging $150 for an “all cotton tee.”

ADAM: Right then, I’m thinking maybe this was just a strange way women like to shop. Like it keeps their hands free or something. But I changed my mind when she walked out of the store.

JOSH: So how does this get you arrested?

MIKE: Yeah?

ADAM: Well I figured this was my chance, so I ran out after her and grabbed her elbow. “Undercover security, m’am,” I said. “Step this way, please?”

MIKE: Oh, that’s genius.

ADAM: She’s freaking out. She hands me the shirt from her purse and starts walking back to the store, thinking I’m going to call the cops on her. But I say, “Wait a minute. We don’t have to go through all of that. I’ll let you off with if you promise never to do it again. And if you go to dinner with me.”

JOSH: Beautiful.

KEVIN: Well played, sir!

ADAM: She handed me her driver’s license and I was halfway through copying her address and phone number when I felt a hand on my arm and heard a voice say, “Undercover security, sir. Could you step this way, please?”

MIKE: D’oh!

ADAM: I looked behind me and saw three security guards standing there. I looked back to the girl, but she bolted. She left me standing there with the shirt she’d stolen. They called the cops, I got nailed for shoplifting, and now I have to do 100 hours of community service.

KEVIN: That sucks, dude.

ADAM: It’s not all bad. I did get her number, remember.

JOSH: You didn’t call her, did you?

ADAM: I sure did. We’re going out next weekend. She’s picking me up after my morning of court-ordered, roadside trash collection.

KEVIN: That sounds … romantic?

ADAM: I think so.

JOSH: So, Mike, what’s this big news you want to tell us?

KEVIN: Yeah, what’s going on?

ADAM: Right. We’ve been waiting all night for you to tell us. Speak up!

MIKE: Well. You know how Melissa and I have been dating for almost a year now? You know how I’ve been saying we were meant to be together and all that, right?

ADAM: Is this what I think it is?

JOSH: Mike and Melissa finally broke up.


JOSH: Welcome back to the fold, my brother. Don’t worry. The pain will go away after the first couple of months.

KEVIN: Right. Take it from him. He’s a pro. He’s wrecked hundreds of relationships.

MIKE: No. We didn’t break up. We’re getting married.

(a long moment of shocked silence)

ADAM: Really?

MIKE: Yes.

KEVIN: Like … married married?

MIKE: Uh-huh.

JOSH: What? Did you lose a bet or something?


ADAM: When did this happen?

MIKE: Last night. We went out to dinner, and then we went for a walk next to the lake. I proposed and she said yes.

ADAM: This is gonna change everything.

KEVIN: Don’t you wanna hang out with us anymore?

MIKE: Yeah, I like hanging out with you guys. It’s great to sit here and tell stories over a few drinks, but there has to be a bit more to life than just that. Haven’t you guys ever thought there was something more than this?


ADAM: No way.

KEVIN: I know what you mean. It’s like when you’re playing Super Mario Brothers. You get all the way to the end and then King Koopa shoots you with a fireball. You die again and again, but then one day you beat the game. Then you sit back and you say, “What am I gonna do now?”

JOSH: Oh. Hey, yeah. I get it.

ADAM: That’s why they made Super Mario two.

KEVIN: And part three.

ADAM: And Mario Cart!

JOSH: Oooh. I love that game.

KEVIN: Me too. I like the part where…

MIKE: No. Getting married is not like beating a video game.

ADAM: (very surprised) It isn’t?

MIKE: No. It’s like…like meeting an old friend for the first time. Or finding an answer to a question that’s haunted you. It’s not something you can describe, really. That’s what Melissa is to me. Indescribable. She’s that something I’ve been looking for. I love her. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. So we’re getting married.

(more silence)

ADAM: Really?

MIKE: Yes … really. Why is it so hard to believe?

JOSH: I don’t know. It’s a shock, I guess.

ADAM: But … it’s not a bad thing.

JOSH: Yeah. It’s kinda cool.

ADAM: One of the crew, finally tying the knot.

KEVIN: I guess that means there’s hope for the rest of us.

MIKE: Well, maybe not.

KEVIN: Why do you say that?

MIKE: You’re the one who dated a girl with a Tom Selleck moustache, right.


ADAM: Yeah? What’s wrong with that?

(they all look at him with genuine looks of confusion)

MIKE: Nevermind.


JOSH: Hey. You know what this means, right?

ADAM: Oh yeah, baby!

ALL (minus Mike): Bachelor party!

ADAM: This one time I was at a bachelor party where the best man took the groom and all of his friends to a bar for some midget tossing. It was awesome!

MIKE: I don’t think that’s a good idea.

JOSH: Whatever, dude. Midget tossing is a classy sport in all those Eastern European countries. They had a special on ESPN 8, and The Ocho never lies.

KEVIN: Didn’t you start your own backyard wrestling league because The Ocho said it was “all the rage? “

ADAM: That’s how you got that concussion, right?

JOSH: Alright. So they lied to me once. They won’t do it again. I trust them.

MIKE: I’m the one getting married, and I don’t think midget tossing is …

KEVIN: We’re the ones planning the party. If we say its midget tossing, then midget tossing it is.

ADAM: We could film it and made our own DVD.

JOSH: Yeah! We could call it “Mike and the Midgets” or maybe just “Mike and Midge” for short. We’d want to save money on printing, so the less words the better.

KEVIN: This is gonna be sweet. I can’t wait!

(Mike lowers his head, shaking it slowly, while everyone else cheers with excitement)

**** **** **** ****

If you fell in love with this one, why not give some of the other authors a chance as well. Check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, that Christmas 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 to close out our Valentine’s Day Explode-A-Ganza on Monday. Until then, remember that what happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas, Cats always land on their feet, and babies cry less when they sleep on their stomachs … so long as you don’t break anything. .