The Buddy Lunch

This is a short story rough, a work in progress.

* * *

“Can you help me out here?” Mark asked, his face desperate.

Fred realized Mark was talking to him. He took his headphones off, and looked around his cubicle in the vast office floor. Everyone else was eating lunch at their desk.

He looked back at Mark. “I’m actually working on something here. Can you find someone else?”
“We’re interviewing someone, and it’s gone on for a couple of hours. So the big boss said we should break for lunch. He wants to go take some calls, so he asked me to hang out with the interviewee for a bit.”

Frank frowned. “Okay, but why do you need my help?”

“It’s kind of…hard going keeping this conversation going. We want to seem natural. I can’t think of anyone else who could handle this better. Help a brother out.”

Frank sighed. “You know I’m behind here. If you really need my help…”

“I do.”

Frank put down his headphones, logged off his computer and walked with Mark towards the cafeteria. They grabbed today’s menu, what looked like some rather good cheeseburgers and some salad that came with the deal.

Frank coughed. “So what should I know about the guy? The boss must like him.”

Mark’s face froze into a mask of impassiveness. “You’ll see.”

“What do you…”

Mark pointed over to a table where a large child-sized porcelain doll was sitting, motionless. It had a white dress with a light-blue stripe around the bottom, with ruffles at the sleeves. The doll had a laptop next to it. Moving no other part of it’s form, the doll’s childlike head swiveled in Frank’s direction. It smiled.

Frank grabbed Mark’s arm, and pulled him around the corner. “Oh no. Oh you gotta be kidding me. Not again.”

“You promised, man!” Mark whispered back intensely. “I need your help on this!”

Frank shook his head. “Why do we keep interviewing soul-killing possessed dolls?”

“Because they kill at coding, you know that!”

Frank sighed. They walked towards the table, and set their plates down.

“Hello,” said the creepy porcelain doll.

“Hi,” said Mark, and very tentatively shook the tiny doll’s hand. “This is my friend Frank.”

“Hello Frank. I’m Dolly Dollerson!” It said with perfect chipped cheerfulness. “We’re gonna be great friends.” The porcelain beneath it’s eye had the lightest stain of what looked like…
Ketchup. It had to be ketchup.

“Hello Dolly,” said Frank, realizing just as he said it that he was repeating the refrain of the famous old song. He sat down.

“Hee hee,” said the doll.

“So, uh, what do you do?”

“I’m a database engineer. I also drink the souls of those who cross me. You aren’t going to cross me, are you, Frank?”

Frank threw a scowl directly at Mark. Thanks buddy. “No, of course not. I, you know, I mind my own business. It’s all about the work.”

It raised a single mechanical eyebrow. “That’s smart. You stay smart. Hee.”

Mark coughed. “Dolly here has taken up databases after her previous position working for Salesforce. She was already heading up a team before she left. She’s a natural.”

“What were you doing at Salesfo-” Frank began.

“I headed up HR.”

“Of course you did,” said Frank smoothly. “What made you take up databases?”

“I have a good mind for cold precision,” said Dolly. “Also, numbers in databases can make grown men cry.”

“Isn’t that the truth, huh?” Mark forced laughter, elbowing Frank in the ribs.

“Got that right,” agreed Frank. “What made you Oracle?”

“No one MADE me leave. I LEFT.” It moved it’s porcelain face pieces in an imitation of a scowl. “Are you suggesting something?” said Dolly with perfect pinprick perkiness.

“No, no,” said Frank smoothly. “I just meant with your, your obvious skill at precision, were they no longer challenging enough?”

“Yes. Okay, you’re off the hook for now. I’ve got my eye on you.” It kept one glass doll eye focused on him, as that side of it’s face turned a mechanical check upwards in something that was supposed to approximate a smile. “Is this a typical amount of attendance?” Dolly asked. Her other eye moved off of Frank and snapped into sync. Then she looked around, her smoothly swiveling neck covering nearly 360 degrees, like an owl.

“Pretty much,” said Frank. “Some folks are on PTO.”

“We have a lot of food options,” said Mark. “Kosher, Halal, vegan, gluten-free…”

“Do you have souls?” she asked softly.

“Uh…not that I know of.” Mark admitted.

“I’ll have to see what I can do then.”

Frank sorted through his mind, and nothing came to him but the old set of cliches. Better than silence. “What are you looking most for in a position?”

“A place where I can make everyone as happy as me! FOREVER. EVER EVER AND EVER.”

Frank raised an eyebrow. “Doesn’t that…kind of conflict with enjoying how databases can make grown men cry?”

Dolly shook her head, with the perfect smoothness of a plastic joint in a socket. “Good question. Not at all. It instead the best time to DRINK their souls so they can be HAPPY AND HAPPY.”

Frank nodded. “Well, you should fit right in then.” He saw a gleam of hope. “If you aren’t so stuck on the souls thing.”

Dolly Dollerson looked at him with a puzzled glance in its frozen eyes. “Yes Frank? Why do you say that?”

Mark looked over at Frank. “Eh, heh heh, Frank’s still getting over a bit of a breakup. He used to date someone else who was…flesh impaired.”

“A doll?” Dolly asked. “Why did you break up?”

“It was just time,” said Frank.

“So she dumped you, hee!” It swiveled both eyes back on him as it smiled.

Frank was about to respond angrily, and then laughed too, surprising himself. “You’re right.” It felt a bit of a relief to admit it. “She wanted…more interesting opportunities I guess. Anyway, she liked it here while she was here.”

“But…everyone here is still so … living,” said Dolly, puzzled. “Why would she leave before she had made everyone as HAPPY AS HER, FOREVER AND EVER, you know.”

Frank shrugged. It was a mystery to him too. For all her faults as a significant other, Amy had at least been good with his family. “She did say something once about there not being a lot of room for her to grow.”

“Let’s not dig up old negativity now, Frank,” said Mark. “Let’s stay on track about working for us. There’s so many things Dolly can do here.”

“Sure. Dolly, Have you met our current VP’s of marketing and production?” Frank indicated the corner table.

There sat two dolls, in sharp suits. They slowly raised empty spoons from bowls of red, that Frank and many others always hoped were just tomato soup. They were surrounded by several other human VPs, who also stayed quite quiet.

“I…have not,” said Dolly, suddenly somewhat unnerved.

“They came on board last year,” said Mark.

“It’s been a year now, hasn’t it?” Frank inclined his head philosophically. “I didn’t realize it was that long. To be honest, I thought it was kind of bad at the time. But, their expertise in a variety of fields has worked out really well.”

“Absolutely,” said Mark. He seemed more than a bit relieved to be back to talking on a positive note. “Yeah, it seems like they are quite happy.”

“And they’ve been able to get past the whole souls thing, too,” said Frank, a perfectly innocent look on his own face.

Mark’s face froze. “We don’t need to talk about compensation right now…”

“I disagree. Hee. I think we do.” Dolly Dollerson’s eyes narrowed. “What about compensation?”

Frank shrugged. “We had a hard time keeping interns, so we didn’t have a lot of souls to offer. So we cancelled the intern program, and they accepted stocks instead. All about the profits, for the good of the company,” said Frank.

“No souls?” the doll turned to Mark. “You foolish sack of blood. You didn’t mention NO SOULS.” It waved its arms at the cafeteria. “No souls in the dining room, no interns, no souls, only stocks instead?”

“I understand being interested in souls,” Mark responded, “But we can’t really pay in life-force any more. We could pay in happiness, maybe? Like how much enjoyment would you want to suck from each of the living per quarter?”

It frowned and gnashed it’s perfect tiny teeth. “I need a house to keep my form in, so I am not stuffed into a trunk and burned when my soul wanders for new victims. That means I must make good income, especially in this city. But once I have that money, does it bring me souls?” Dolly shook her head. “The best things in unlife cannot be paid for.”

“There’s still things that can be paid for,” said Mark, a panicked edge rising into his voice. “You can still get a lot of nice things. Think of how you can help make people happier and happier, forever and ever!”

“Is there room in the budget for hiring contractors?” said Dolly hopefully.

“I’m sure we can work something out,” said Mark.

“We do also have a general policy against soul harvesting now.” Mark kicked him under the table. Dolly noticed.
“We order food out, when we can’t cook it,” said Frank. “I don’t think there’s a startup offering souls yet.”

“That’s a good idea!” said Dolly. “I think I’ll do that! Want to join me?”

Frank blinked. “Uh…”

“I mean, I’m not working here now. No souls, this is bullshit.” Dolly crooked her finger at Frank. “You have an original way of thinking. You can keep your soul. We will make the green tickets you blood sacks think bring you joy. Just bring lots of other souls to me. We can set up a database. We can even store them in a database, hah haaaaaaa!”

“We can talk about it,” Frank said smoothly. “Send me a proposal.”

“Done.” Dolly got up and grabbed her laptop bag, and leapt off the seat. The possessed porcelain doll stood and turned it’s polished blank face up to Mark. “There’s no need to waste my or your time any further. I won’t forget you tried to hire me without telling me about the souls. Watch your back heee heeee!”

Dolly left as quickly as her doll legs could take her.

“You absolute dick,” said Mark. He sighed. “Now I have to get a whole bunch of protection hexes. Maybe even a damn salt rug and a familiar.”

“All I did was tell the truth,” said Frank. “I’ll be at my desk.”

He spent the rest of the day figuring out if he could begin a startup based on protective hexes. If he and Mark wanted them, maybe there was a way to cut out the middle witch.

Guardian Angst

This is a short story rough, a work in progress.

* * *
Guardian Angst

I came home to my apartment, to find my guardian angel.

As soon as I saw him, I knew all the things angels ask us to forget. We’re not supposed to remember them, because we’re supposed to think we’re on our own. That helps us act with the most pure intent possible. Their theory is that without knowing the safety net we can have, we will better learn to balance will and structure before we die and go to whatever’s after. I don’t know if it’s 100% true, but it’s a bit outside of my experience so who am I to judge?

I dropped my keys on my desk. “I thought we’re only supposed to see you angels in the most dire circumstances.”

“That’s right,” my angel said. “You’re driving me crazy! Do you know how hard you make me work? Do you know what it’s like when an angel goes crazy?”

“What are you talking about? I’m just – you know, I’m doing my thing. I’m exploring art, I’m working at my job…”

“You’re courting death, destruction and mayhem every day of your life. Every second! Good Lord, you can’t even be safe sitting at home. The time you spend on the Internet…the scams, the cults…then when you go outside. Do you know how many times last week I had to steer you away from a certain end?” He sighed. “I’ll give you a clue. That girl you got the wrong number from at the bar? It was the right number. I changed it. She’s a runaway with a father in the mafia.”

I blinked. “Okay. But how am I supposed to know that? I mean, what do you want from me?” I let my voice raise a little. Sure, they having nearly infinite power and benevolence tempered by love of God and all His creations, and also all the other angels all trying to do well with everything. But I get to say something. “I’m trying to do the best with my human experience, my, my living experiment that’s me here! The first real talk I can remember, and you’re just going to give me a bunch of crap because I don’t know what I’m doing? Why don’t you tell me what I *should* be doing?”

“Because that’s not the rules!”

I put my hands on my hips, of all things, feeling foolish but not enough to stop. “Should I just live the safest life possible?”

“Of course not!” My angel said, offended. “You just try so many things, and then I put good things in front of you and you just run away! You’re a good-hearted mortal. It’s just so strange how you do and then you don’t listen to yourself. I need you to get on a path and stick with it! You’re making me crazy here!”

“How do I know you’re not a guardian devil?”

It looked deeply wounded, and said nothing. I felt bad now. I knew, without even knowing it was so beyond question – this was a good being who wanted the best for me his whole life. If it was even gendered of course.

“Okay, look.” I sighed. “I’d love to hear from you how I can do better. Okay? I’m trying without a manual here.”

It’s face was tortured. “It’s stretching things just to talk this much to you.” Then an expression passed it’s face, the purest guilt and pain across such a face of clarity, light and benevolence was truly awful to see. It made me want to weep.

“Maybe we can work out a deal,” it said. “If you just…”

I stopped him suddenly. “Don’t tell me.”

“What?” his eyes stricken.

“Whatever you were about to say. I don’t want to hear it. I changed my mind.” I grit my teeth. “Whatever you tell me will mean that I’m not living *my life*.”

It began to cry. “But what will I do? Every – every time, every day, it’s just so hard!”

“I’m sorry I’ve been such a burden to you.” I wanted to make him feel better, but actual bitterness slipped through which surprised me. Was I really that difficult? I realized it probably knew my thoughts anyway, so I might as well hear them. “I’m not out here robbing banks or beating people up,” I said. “I’m just trying to do my thing.”

I looked at the bags beneath his glowing eyes. His hair was a mess. It was supposed to be some glorious glowing mane, but all kinds of stuff was stuck in it. I looked a bit closer, and it looked like twisting clumps of unproductive thoughts.

I felt bad for him. “Look man-“

“I’m not a human!”

“Okay, okay! I believe you. Look…higher being, we’re taking this moment to talk, right?” I pointed him towards my chair. “Why don’t you take a seat.”


“Take a break. Let’s talk it through.”

It looked over at my chair. “I don’t know if I have taken the time to sit down for … three centuries.”

I spread my hands. “I’m right here. You can still keep me from doing harm. Maybe I’ll be safer if you’re sitting, or something? Less chance something will get knocked off a bookshelf?” I nudged him towards the chair. “Just take a load off”

He sighed and sat, closing his eyes. Flaming tears of sunlight came poured from underneath his glorious eyelashes.

On impulse I went to the fridge, brought back a couple beers, and held one out for him. He opened his eyes and looked at it, without raising his hands. I pushed it into his chest until he grasped it. He held it in his hand.

“It feels cold.”

“That’s right.”

“I understand some humans prefer their beers warm.”

“Yeah, they’re just wrong. Give it a try.”

He took a sip and made a face. “It tastes awful.”

“Okay. Just take a sip any time you feel like disagreeing with me. Now let’s talk about you for a bit.”

The angel took a sip, but said nothing, watching me almost suspiciously.

I sat at my desk chair across from him. “When’s the last time you just enjoyed something for you?”

“I enjoy things all the time! The birth of babies, the growth of a flower, peaceful transitions in to the afterlife, helping keep a human protected from bad paths until they have a chance to grow…”

“No, no. Not things for other people. When is the last time you had a chance to just enjoy a thing because it was something good for you. Not because it was helpful to any other being.”

He thought long and hard. His eyes drifted into a misty glow.

“Several thousand years ago, I was floating over the pacific. There were fewer humans to manage then. In the time between one islander dying and another being born, I was distracted by…the most amazing dawn. It was just after a mighty storm and the sky was almost cloudless, with just a few puffs of clouds to show their beauty against the multicolored sky. The mostly placid but still-moving ocean beneath me. A squad of dolphins enjoying the sun rising before us. They might have even seen me, some nonhuman creatures can have an easier time with that. We all floated in that moment, them in the water and me in the air just about it, as we bore silent witness to God’s creation. A beauty that…”

He took another sip. “That was not for disagreement,” he clarified. “A beauty that it is easy to forget about.”

I nodded. “Alright.” I cracked open my own beer. “Look, you’ve been with me my whole life, and I appreciate it. I don’t even know how many things you’ve saved me from-”

“You have no God-damn idea,” he said. Shocked at his own words, he took another sip. “Hits fast!”

“Sure does. So how about you be kind to you for a bit? Seems to me you’re close to cracking.”

The angel started at me for a second, and then began to cry. Great job, I thought to myself. You made your angel cry. “Alright, come here being.” I held my eyes open.

It looked at me, as if it couldn’t stand to trust me. “Come on, I’m here. It’s okay.”

It came up out of the chair, and I gave it a hug.

I wrapped my arms around it, and it wrapped it’s arms around me, and I could feel a bit of its infinite power. But also, its infinite sadness. I just stayed there with it, trying not to think about how it could probably keep crying until I grew old and died, and then some. I could spare this moment, and quite a few more. So I just gave him the attention he deserved for each moment.

Eventually it separated. “Thank you,” it said. “I’m really grateful. I don’t have many other beings I can talk to.”

“Really?” I shook my head. “What about, you know, other angels?”

“They’ve all got the same things to deal with. They never tire. They can’t allow themselves to wait a moment.”

“How about…” I wondered. “Do you have a guardian angel for yourself?”

“No! Don’t be insane.”

“How would you know? Maybe you would be set to not remember them unless they’re around, like you are for me.”

The angel paused. It took another sip. “This beer does make such an idea easier to contemplate.”

“That’s it’s job.”

“I don’t think so,” it said at last. “We are less of the experience of free will combined with less certainty.”

“Really?” I shook my head in sympathy. “Other angels are largely in the same boat as you, aren’t they?”

The angel considered it. “I guess they’ve all got the same things to deal with. They never tire. They can’t allow themselves to wait a moment.”

“Well, maybe you aren’t as alone as you think? But also, I sure appreciate you. Appreciate yourself too.”

It smiled. “Thanks, -” and it mentioned a name I had never heard before, that I also knew from the depths of my being was mine. Perhaps the name was beyond time. If there was anything to reincarnation, this might be the name of the me that experienced them all.

“You’re welcome,” I said in return.

It moved a bit away from me, and placed a hand on my shoulder. It’s wings spread out, going through the walls of my space.

“You might not remember this, but I remember you. I’ll keep protecting you, and I’ll also find a way to be kind to me. I ask the same for you, of you.”

I nodded. “Easy to say, hard to do, I know.” Not knowing what else to do, I somewhat awkwardly shook his hand. He laughed, wiped away some his streaming sunlight tears, and disappeared.

I woke up, and found myself staring at Facebook. What was I about to write again?

I closed my browser. Maybe it wasn’t a good use of today to have more arguments with strangers.

It was beautiful outside. No matter what the weather was. It was time to take a walk and enjoy all of this life.

But maybe I’d stay inside a couple of minutes more. Maybe meditate or something. I wasn’t sure why, but I felt it might be good to stay in until someone had fully sobered up.

A new never-before-seen tale continues my publishing streak!

Enter the shadowy secret world of the Bros, and experience their quandary in dealing with…a whole new kind of bro.


Continuing my publishing streak, I’m so proud to announce a revised and updated version of “My Undead Dad”, complete with a grand new cover.


An undead breadwinner, crawling to work to support his family.

After much tribulation, my satire and adventure novel is complete and published!

Check it out here:

Many thanks to all who supported me in this adventure.

A truly magnificent cover.

Two-Fisted Jesus Tales, Book 1: The Book of the Job

After training in secret waiting for the sign, this novel is almost ready to release upon the world!

I.e., pre-orders will be available soon. If you want to make sure you’re notified, join my mailing list below. These email addresses will never be shared with any third party, and will only be for letting you know about this or other works of mine you might care about.

I thank you!


~j : )


Nightworld (Adversary Cycle, #6)Nightworld by F. Paul Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an interesting idea, for the most part pulled off well. F. Paul Wilson brings two different series to a close in this one book- the “Adversary Cycle” and “Repairman Jack”.

There is a lot to like about this book. Spoilers follow.

One of the things I liked most about this book is the way it handles the climax and the aftermath. As an author, Wilson has the straight-up guts to allow the Earth and its inhabitants’ lives to be changed at the end, forever. This is not some simple happy ending. Continents are damaged, cities are ruined, people die and lives are broken. Disaster is not averted – only disasters that would have been *much worse*.

I also find his “Secret History” concepts fun and interesting, and enjoy the other characters from the “Adversary Cycle”.

But probably the main reason I am giving this a 3-star rating instead of a 4, is that I don’t enjoy those other characters and concepts as much as I enjoy Repairman Jack. I’m really reading this book for him. He’s such an absolutely great character – a Jack Reacher everyman before Jack Reacher. A noir fixer for those with no one else to turn to, who gets sucked unwillingly into dealing with impossible forces and retains a pragmatic mindset throughout. F. Paul Wilson wrote such great page-turning thrillers throughout that series, that I was hoping for a heaping chunk of that in this finale. Instead so much is left on the table – a true showdown with the white trash nemesis group the Kickers, their half-magical rackets and the malevolent intent behind their populist front; a teenage oracle with solid black eyes; a man and his brother’s ghost, and many others. I wanted them and Jack front and center, fighting it out face to face or side by side.

Still a fun read. Also to be fair I am not a reader of the “Adversary Cycle” – perhaps that would provide the fourth star. But for me, a much fuller and delicious reading experience is to be found in the other “Repairman Jack” books.

To sum up, this is a good coda to a fine series – I guess I’m just not as interested in the other notes that come from the other symphony.

Available here.

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Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala SiouxBlack Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux by Black Elk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On it’s surface this is a first-hand account of the life of the famous Sioux holy man and leader Black Elk, as told in translation through a series of conversations to the poet John G. Neihardt. This occurred in 1930, when Black Elk was one of the few still-living witnesses to both the death of Custer and the massacre at Wounded Knee. So on that level it’s already quite fascinating. What is transcendent is the beautiful space the seemingly simple elegance of the prose creates. It’s no accident.

I just now turned at random to a page where Black Elk ends a chapter on the killing and unknown final resting place of Crazy Horse:

“It does not matter where his body lies, for it is grass; but where his spirit is, it will be good to be.”

I say this as an agnostic: that’s beautiful.

Get it here.

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From a pilot made by myself and Craig Cartwright, comes this story ripped straight from the headlines of another dimension.

Well, if that other dimension consisted of rejected cartoon characters who wrote their own headlines.

It was great fun to write, let me tell you. : )