Excerpt for The Mongoose & The Iguana: And Other Stories by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


And Other Stories

By Lee Duffy

Four Humorous Short Stories of Fiction

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. In the event a real name is used, it is used fictitiously.

Copyright © 2018 by Lee Duffy

Published by Smashwords

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored or transmitted by any means—whether auditory, graphic, mechanical or electronic—without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief excerpts used in critical articles and reviews. Unauthorized reproduction of any part of this work is illegal and is punishable by law.

Smashwords Edition

Also by Lee Duffy:

The Dawn’s Early Light, A Mike Elliot Novel, Book I

The Bombs Bursting in Air, A Mike Elliot Novel, Book II (Due out in 2018)

The Prison Compendium, Contributing Author

A Life Interrupted and Other Stories

Serendipity and Other Stories

Choices and Other Stories

Angela and Other Stories

The Grifters and Other Stories



Where do you go when you really want, or need, to escape the rat race? A laid-back tropical island like St Basil, of course.


Nothing ever happens in this quiet little town. When it does, though, you don’t need Facebook or Instagram to stay up to date. You can find out everything at your local barbershop, the original social media platform. And in some small towns, it still is. Check in on the latest at The Barbershop.


It can be devastating to learn that your spouse is cheating on you. So why do people cheat on their significant others? Maybe it’s not even their fault. Maybe, as humans, it’s just part of our genetic structure. We’re programmed to do it for the survival of the species. Or, maybe it’s just fun.


John is under siege—by large tropical rats, and they’re not the human type. So he declares war on the varmints! But is he really up to the task?


Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.

Will Rogers


By Lee Duffy


Kelly strolled along the fine white sand of Spice Bay, dragging her toes occasionally. The warmth of the sand soothed her. She carried her flip flops and had on a wide-brimmed straw hat and dark sunglasses. She wore a small halter top and some tight little beach shorts.

She was tanned, thin, blonde, and except for a very few infinitesimally fine lines near her eyes, she looked more like a teen than a thirty-year old woman. She had just gotten out of bed at her small cottage situated above the bay.

She sauntered into Mama’s around noon, just like she did most days. She walked into the little open-air beach bar and hung the string from her hat over the bar stool, which was a three-foot tall log cut flat on both ends. Two pegs were nailed in near the bottom which served as footrests. She took a seat at the bar. The shades stayed on, as usual. Reggae played softly in the background.

Mama’s place was nestled in a small grove of coconut trees right on the beach, a few feet from the turquoise water’s edge. Gentle surf tapped rhythmically against the little island cove. It was an idyllic Caribbean setting.

St Basil was a tiny island with a permanent population that totaled fewer than three hundred. There were a few tourists, a few expats, and a few locals. Where better to get lost than St Basil, and where better to spend your days than Mama’s?

Bennie placed a light Cruzan rum and diet coke on the bar in front of her. She never spoke until sometime after the second one. Coco Joe was at his usual place at the end of the little bar, on the right side, where he’d been since 9 a.m. As usual, a Carib beer was positioned just in front of him on the old coconut-wood bar. He was reading a tattered paperback that had no cover.

After Kelly had eased through a couple of drinks, Mama would come out from the kitchen and Kelly would order something to eat—always vegan.

Mama’s Worry Less Seaside Beach Bar was a funky little open air shack with a small kitchen in back where Mama worked her magic on some rusty, ancient, propane appliances. Her goat water stew was renowned in these parts, and don’t even talk about her jerk chicken with rice and beans, her curried goat, or her roti. Her conch fritters and fungi were to die for. Mama’s seafood callaloo, oh my!

A single electrical power line was strung through several coconut trees from the bush over to the back of Mama’s. But a little generator was also out back to provide power during the several times a day the electricity was out.

A large, old, gray iguana dragged himself over the sandy, worn, wood-plank floor just under Kelly’s feet. She paid it no mind. It finally crawled over toward Coco Joe. He shooed it on with a wave of his sandaled foot, and the old guy scrambled along smartly for a few feet. Then it just settled down in the middle of the floor on its belly, stretched out on the planks as still as could be, like it was in some sort of Zen state.

Coco Joe took the last swallow of his beer and pushed the empty bottle toward the opposite side of the bar. Almost instantly Bennie had popped the top on another frosty Carib and placed it in front of Coco.

Nobody knew much about Kelly. She was somewhat mysterious. Maybe she was running from something. Anyone who showed up on St Basil and stayed for very long usually was. But wasn’t everyone running from something?

In contrast, by mid afternoon Coco Joe would be telling anyone who would listen his entire life story. Then, he’d start over and repeat the entire episode. Coco was from New Jersey, fifty-one, white, graying, and a little heavy set. He told everyone he was a writer, yet no one had managed to pry a title out of him that he had published.

Johnny strolled in making a circle around the old iguana commanding the middle of the floor. Johnny was barefoot. He wore surfer-style swim trunks and a Budweiser tank top. Tattoos covered his arms, shoulders, and legs. He had a long, bushy, blondish mustache and a week’s worth of beard growth. His hair was shoulder length, dirty blond, and totally unkempt.

“Hey, Coco,” he said, giving Coco the local handshake, which of course involved several steps.

“Hey, Johnny, what’s up, mon?” asked Coco Joe.

“Nada, mon,” he said to Coco. “Hey, Bennie,” said Johnny, “how’s my man?” he asked, leaning in and repeating the local dap with Bennie, the bartender. Bennie had a club soda on ice on the bar before Johnny had taken his seat next to Kelly. Johnny fancied himself something of a ladies’ man, but he wasn’t getting anywhere with Kelly.

Johnny looked at Bennie, surreptitiously nodding his head toward Kelly. Bennie held up one finger—meaning: she’s on her first drink.

Oh well, thought Johnny, might as well give it a try.

“Hi, Kell,” he said, flashing his best smile.

No response.

Turning the other way, Johnny said, “So, Coco, what’s up, dude?”

“Well, Johnny, I just learned that I won the New Jersey state lottery,” he said, leaning in conspiratorially, glancing to the left and right as if he was verifying that no one was snooping on their conversation. “Two hundred and fifty million dollars. There’s a Lear jet on its way down here right now to pick me up.”

“No shit, man! That’s so damn cool!” said Johnny enthusiastically. “Hell, I didn’t even know you could buy tickets down here.”

“Johnny?” asked Coco.


“You know, dude, you’re just no fun at all, man. You’re just way too damn easy.”

“Ahhh, man, you were just messin’ with me,” he said laughing heartily. You could count on Johnny to laugh at just about anything you said or did—even if you did it to him. Truth was, Johnny was just a highly-tattooed, burned-out, drugged-up, forty-year-old hippie-like surfer dude wandering through life trying to figure out what the shit was up.

Mama was standing in the doorway to the kitchen. She kept glancing back into the kitchen with a concerned look on her face.


“Yes, Mama?”

“You leave Johnny alone.”

“Yes, Mama.”

Johnny turned to Kelly. “Hey, Kells, did you believe him?”

No response.

Mama kept one eye on the kitchen while trying to see what was going on out front—she couldn’t take her eye off the kitchen for one minute.

Kelly finished her second drink and Mama came out to the bar. The mongoose snuck into the kitchen.

“Hi, honey, you ready for something to eat?” she asked Kelly.

“Yeah, Mama, how about a salad with some tomato and onion, and some fungi?”

“You got it, sweetheart. Johnny you want anything to eat, baby?”

“Yeah, Mama, how ‘bout some of your wonderfully marvelous conch fritters?”

“You got it, dear. Try not to burn your mouth this time,” she said, wagging a finger at Johnny.

Bennie set another light ‘n diet in front of Kelly.

Mama headed back to the kitchen. The mongoose slid out through the back.

Mama just caught a glimpse of its furry tail as it went through a crack between the planks in the back wall. That damn mongoose was getting bolder and bolder. Seemed like he had the place staked out. The minute she stepped out to the bar, he’d be rummaging around back there looking for something to eat.

He loved conch, so she definitely didn’t leave any of that lying around when she went out front. But he also liked just about anything else she had in there that was digestible—and for that critter, it appeared that just about anything and everything was.

He was slick, too, because the moment she stepped back through the doorway she’d just get a glimpse of his pointed, furry tail. A mongoose was the only animal fast enough to kill a King Cobra, she had heard.

The rats she could take care of. She set three traps each evening at 9 p.m. when they were closing. Two would have rats in them the next day. Bennie, Mama’s son, would dispose of them in the bush. But you weren’t going to get a mongoose in a trap. Too damn smart for that, and too damn big.

Mama was a native islander, sixty-five, very full figured, loved to cook, and loved her customers. She had Bennie late in life, but he had proven to be a true blessing rather than a worry. He worked hard and helped keep her little place going.

Mama could cook like the queen that she was, too. The relatively few locals who were born on the little island brought her the delights from the sea that she needed, then they also delighted in taking home some of her finest cooking, as well.

“Johnny,” asked Coco Joe, “you seen any more of those black helicopters?”

“Damn it, Coco, how many times I got to tell you that was in California? And I came down here to get away from ‘em, and I did get away from ‘em. There ain’t none around here.” It wasn’t often that Johnny got stern.

“Leave him alone, Coco,” said Kelly, looking up from her salad, lowering her sunglasses and giving him the eye. Coco and Johnny both laughed.

Kelly sighed and turned her attention back to her salad and fungi.

About that time, Sammy strolled in. He was local, in his thirties. He had long, braided locks of jet-black hair that sprang straight up from his head in a dozen directions. The smell of ganja trailed close behind him.

Sammy walked up to the bar and dapped with Bennie, then Coco, then Johnny. Then he sidled up to the bar and stood on the left of Kelly.

Bennie said, “What’ll you have, mon?” With Sammy, one never knew. There was no regular drink. He might have a painkiller one day and a diet coke the next. On a rare occasion he’d have a beer. Some days a glass of water suited him fine. There was no charge for water.

A couple of young female tourists came in wearing skimpy bikinis. The iguana twitched a little and the girls screamed and tap danced a bit. The graying, four-foot long prehistoric creature lying in the middle of the floor, all scaly looking, gray spines sticking up out of its back like something from a sci-fi movie, just stared back up at them with vacant eyes.

Mama came out. The mongoose eased in.

Ushering the girls to a rickety table in the corner of the little bar, Mama said, “Honey, if you leave him alone, he’ll leave you alone. Now, what would you girls like? Want something to eat or drink?”

Johnny, with an expectant look on his face, was eyeing the girls. Then several young jocks showed up and joined the giggling, chatting girls.

Mama went back to the kitchen. The mongoose scooted out.

Bennie served the tourists some beers and a couple of painkillers. A painkiller was a nifty Caribbean concoction of spiced rum, juice, sugar and nutmeg—but mostly rum.

The tourists had walked in at just the right moment, too. One second it was sunny, the sky clear and bright blue; the next, a squall passed over the little island and there was a sudden torrential downpour. The ocean was barely visible through the white sheets of water coming down outside. Rain drummed the rusty old tin roof like a Caribbean steel pan band pounding out a rhythm. A few drops of water tap, tap, tapped on the bar; Bennie wiped the counter with a rag.

It lasted all of ten minutes and then suddenly disappeared. That was the tropics. It was sunny again and mists of steam rose from the wet sand outside. Rain water continued to drip from the roof and the coconut trees for a bit. Water ran down the drain from the roof and into the cistern tank out back.

“So, Coco,” asked Kelly, now on her third rum and coke, “writing anything?”

“As a matter of fact I am working on a major project.”

“When do you do that? You’re always here,” she intoned.

“It’s in the conceptual stages. And that particular phase can occur anywhere.”

Johnny laughed. “What in the hell did you just say?” he asked, scratching his head through his long, dirty-blond hair.

“I’m formulating a concept, a plot, in my mind, knucklehead.”

Kelly laughed, so Johnny laughed too.

“What’s it about?” she asked.

Bennie pushed another cold Carib in front of Coco. He took a long swig. “Well,” he said, burping loudly and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, “it’s a story about modern day pirates.”

“Well, you’re in the right place for that,” interjected Sammy, from the other end of the bar. His pupils looked like dinner plates.

Mama came out from the kitchen with some food for the tourists. The mongoose squeezed in through the slats in the back wall.

After she set the plates on their table, she went back behind the bar.

“Mama,” said Kelly, “Coco’s writing a book—in his head.”

“Well, what’s it about?” she asked.

“Pirates,” said Johnny enthusiastically.

“Well, you’re in the right place for that. They was all over these parts. Supposin’ to be buried treasure somewhere on St. Basil. Nobody ever found none though.”

The tourists were drinking, laughing, and talking, absorbed in each other and their conversation. The old iguana had ambled over to their table unnoticed. He was good at that. He crawled under the table looking for a scrap of food.

When his inch long claws dragged over one of the girl’s bare toes, she screamed and nearly went through the roof. Kelly and Johnny chuckled. Bennie came out from behind the bar and shooed the old guy out onto the beach. That wouldn’t last long, though. He’d be right back, probably with three or four relatives tagging along behind.

Bennie went back to the bar and poured another rum and coke for Kelly.

Mama returned to the kitchen, and the mongoose slid out the back.

Coco went back to reading his novel.

Johnny nursed his soda water.

Sammy stared into space.

The old iguana soon crawled back up onto the sandy, wood-plank floor for a nap.

The afternoon passed lazily on the beach and at Mama’s Worry Less Seaside Bar, as usual, and as the setting sun slipped toward a watery horizon, the tourists swung in broad, colorful hammocks tied between arching coconut trees, laughing, liming, and sipping fruity rum cocktails; Coco Joe started anew retelling his life’s story to a new group of tourists; and Mama’s furry nemesis peered through a crack in the kitchen wall patiently awaiting his next meal.

And since everything in the Caribbean operated on island time, there was simply no need to rush, not even for a mongoose or an iguana. Like the ocean’s tide, life on St Basil drifted along, slowly, in tune with its own tropical rhythm.

Just another splendid day in paradise.


By Lee Duffy


Sam flipped over the little sign hanging on the glass door to read Open. Above the sign, fancy gold lettering spelled out SAM’S BARBERSHOP. It was 9:00 a.m. and the beginning of a bright new day.

Andy and Jerry were still arranging their stations when Mike walked in the door. He was the first customer of the day.

“Mornin’ everyone.”

“Morning,” Sam, Andy, and Jerry replied.

Sam ushered Mike into the chair, put the apron over him, clipped it around his neck, and pumped the chair up a couple of notches.

“What’ll it be this morning, Mike?”

“Just trim it up some. Kinda close.”

Henry and Bill came in. Henry went to Andy’s chair, and Bill took a seat in Jerry’s chair. Everyone exchanged greetings.

Mike said to Sam, “Floyd got a DUI last night. Spent the night in jail.”

“That’s not his first, you know.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Henry said to Andy, “The Thompson boy made All State.”

“What’s he play?” asked Andy.

“Tight end.”

“My nephew made it last year,” said Andy proudly, clipping a few more hairs with his scissors.

Bill told Jerry, “Old man Johnson’s tractor broke down again.”

“It’s always broke,” replied Jerry.

Henry said, “No, I seen him plowing just the other day.”

Sam was finishing up Mike and removing the apron. “Okay, Mike, you’re good to go young feller. That’ll be eight dollars.”

“Thanks, Sam,” said Mike, handing him the money. “See you in a couple of weeks.”

Sally Mae walked in with her one-year old for his first haircut. Sam put the padded board across the chair’s arm rests. Both the board and the chair were antiques. Sally Mae set little James up on the board. As Sam spread the striped barber’s cloth around the boy’s small shoulders, the young fellow’s eyes were wide with fright. He looked as though he was about to be scalped.

Henry and Bill finished up, paid, and left. Preacher John came in and took a seat in Andy’s chair. Mark strolled in, hung his Peterbilt cap on a peg, and climbed into Jerry’s chair.

Sally said to Sam, “You hear Bart left me?”

“Yeah, he was in here yesterday.”

“Was he talking ‘bout me?”

“Naw,” said Sam, “just that ya’ll was working some things out.”

“What kind of things?”

“Didn’t say.”

Little James started wiggling.

Preacher John said, “Sally, why don’t you come on by and see me later on.”

“Okay, Preacher.”

He continued, “I’m looking for someone to do a little volunteer carpentry work at the church, Andy.”

“Sure, Preacher, I’ll let Reggie know,” said Andy, working the trimmer over the Preacher’s left ear.

Mark told Jerry, “My boy’s gonna start in the big game tomorrow.”

“I know where you’ll be.”

“You better believe it. Did you hear Bobby wrecked his new truck?”

“Naw. Hurt?”

“Naw, just mad.”

“I’m sure. Alright, my man, that’ll be eight big ones,” said Jerry to Mark.

“Ya’ll take care now,” said Mark, heading out the door. Preacher John left. Sally, carrying her little boy, followed the preacher out.

Tom and Bob walked in. Tom, a policeman, also known as Tall Tom, hung his patrol cap on a peg and sat down in Andy’s chair, shifting his gun belt a little to settle in between the chair’s arms. Andy let the barber chair down as low as it would go.

Bob went over to Sam’s chair. Reggie walked in and dropped down in Jerry’s chair.

Bob told Sam, “Widow Smith’s shed burned down.”

“When was this?” asked Sam.

“Yesterday,” Tom answered.

“What caused it?” asked Bob.

“Might’a been them Stillman boys horsin’ ‘round again,” said Tom. “We’re lookin’ into it.”

“Heard Floyd got a DUI,” Sam said to Tom.

“Wasn’t his first. Judge might lock him up for a while this time.”

Andy said to Reggie, “Hey, Reg, Preacher John just left. He needs a little work done at the church.”

“I’ll go by there when I leave,” said Reggie.

Floyd, Harvey, and Claude were already waiting. Bob, Tom, and Reggie finished up all about the same time. Floyd went to Sam’s chair, Harvey to Andy’s, and a moment later, Claude took Jerry’s chair.

Paul, Clem, and Larry came in and took chairs by the wall to wait.

Claude told Jerry, “My wife’s been real sick with the flu for a week.”

“That’s rough,” replied Jerry.

“You don’t know the half of it. I’m doing all the cooking and cleaning and seenin’ to the kids. I didn’t know they was such a handful.”

“Yeah, flu’s been going ‘round.”

Claude said, “Mrs. Carlton’s son got caught shoplifting over at the Dollar Store.”

“Funny, Tom didn’t mention it.”

Floyd said to Sam, “Heard Ben Turner’s daughter is going to college in the fall. First one in his family to go.”

“Where’s she going?” asked Sam.

“Didn’t hear.”

Harvey said, “My brother went for a year up to the community college. Didn’t like it none. Quit.”

“Okay, Floyd,” said Sam, “That’s about as good as I can make you look. That’ll be eight dollars.”

“Who’s next?” Sam asked.

Paul got up and climbed into Sam’s chair.

As he removed and shook the cloth, Jerry said to Claude, “There you go, you’re good for another hundred-thousand miles.

Harvey paid and left. Clem went to Andy’s chair. Larry went to Jerry’s chair. Pete came in holding the door for old Mr. Jones. They took seats by the wall. Ham came in and took a waiting chair.

Paul said to Sam, “Hear about Stanley?”

“No, what happened?”

“Heart attack. Last night. He’s in the hospital right now.”

“Is he okay?”

“Don’t know.”

“Yeah, I heard about it,” said Clem, in Andy’s chair. “They think he’s going to be okay.”

In Jerry’s chair, Larry said, “I take aspirin.”

“You got a headache?” asked Clem.

“Keeps you from having a heart attack,” said Paul, then he added, “Blake caught a seven pound bass.”

“Wow,” said Sam. “Gonna get it stuffed?”

“Naw, ate it.” Paul paid Sam and left.

Pete asked Mr. Jones if he would like to go next, but Mr. Jones just laughed and said he had nowhere to go in a hurry. He told Pete to go ahead. Pete climbed up into Sam’s chair. “Cut it shorter,” said Pete.

Clem left, and Mr. Jones, who was ninety-one, stood and made his way slowly over to Andy’s chair. He hung his cane over the armrest. Andy supported Mr. Jones’ arm and helped him into the chair. Ham went to Jerry’s chair.

Pete, a plumber, said, “Had some real excitement already this morning.”

“What happened?” asked Sam, starting with the trimmer on the sides.

“Pipe busted in Mrs. Barns’ kitchen. Flooded her whole damn house. Quite a mess. Had to put on my rubber boots and wade in there.”

“Fix it?” asked Sam.

“Course. But not the mess. She’ll be needing a contractor.”

“I’ll tell Amos.”

“Well, Mr. Jones,” asked Andy at the center station, “how would you like it today?”

“Usual. And be careful of them hearin’ aides. They’re darn right expensive.”

“I know, Mr. Jones.”

In Jerry’s chair, Ham said, “Big wreck out on the interstate last night.”

“Tom was here earlier,” said Jerry, “He didn’t mention it. Anybody killed?”

“Don’t know, but probably. There was a big rig involved.”

“Worse kind,” said Jerry.

Pete paid, and heading out the door said, “Okay, see all ya’ll later.”

“Who’s next?” asked Sam. Barry got up and climbed into Sam’s chair.

“Okay, Mr. Jones,” said Andy, “You look twenty years younger.”

“Twenty’s not gonna do it, young fellow. How much?”

“Eight dollars.”

“Eight dollars! I remember when a haircut cost twenty-five cents,” grumbled Mr. Jones.

“That was a long time ago, Mr. Jones,” said Sam laughing.

Ham went out, patiently holding the door for Mr. Jones. Bernie went to Andy’s chair and Slim went to Jerry’s. Randy came in and took a waiting chair. Soon after, Billy Joe and Amos came in and also sat along the wall. They picked through the pile of newspapers on the little side table between them.

“Barry said to Sam, “Hear about Deputy Hall?”

“What happened?”

“Shot himself in the foot.”

“Damn!” everybody said almost in unison.

“Yup, he’s in the hospital.”

Sam said, “Funny, Tom was here a little while ago, and he didn’t say anything.”

“That’s half the sheriff’s department,” said Bernie, laughing. “I almost shot my own damn foot once. Bullet hit the ground right next to my foot. Scared the hell out of me.”

In Jerry’s chair, Slim added, “If you boys had gone to the army like me, you’d know how to handle a gun.”

“I didn’t shoot my damned self,” said Barry indignantly.

“Army’ll teach you how to carry a gun and shoot it,” replied Slim.

“I know how, Slim,” said Barry. “I didn’t shoot my foot.”

“Just saying,” said Slim.

Barry sighed and shook his head. Sam gripped Barry’s head to hold it still.

“Well, I learned from my near miss,” said Bernie.

“Alright, Slim, that’ll be eight dollars,” said Jerry. Slim paid Jerry and left. Randy climbed up into Jerry’s chair.

“Just a trim today,” said Randy.

Barry and Bernie paid and left. Amos took a seat in Sam’s chair. Billy Joe got Andy. Fred came in and took a seat along the wall.

As he was putting the apron around Amos’s neck, Sam said, “Pete says you better go by Mrs. Barnes’ house. She got her house all flooded out by a kitchen pipe.”

In Andy’s chair, Billy Joe said, “I saw Brad’s truck over there. But she’ll probably want two estimates.”

“I’ll go by,” said Amos.

In Jerry’s chair, Randy said, “Had my bathroom pipe bust and flood once. It was a mess.”

“Who fixed it?” asked Billy Joe.

Buck and Hank came in and took seats along the wall.

Randy said, “My brother and me.”

“That’s good.”

“Okay, Amos,” said Sam, “short enough?”

“Yeah, that’s fine.” Sam pulled off the apron and snapped it. Andy and Jerry were both snapping their aprons. Billy Joe and Andy paid. Amos, Billy Joe, and Randy all walked out together chatting about the next hunting season.

Fred climbed into Sam’s chair, Buck into Andy’s, and Hank into Jerry’s.

Fred said, “Hear about Mrs. Hancock?”

“No,” said Sam, clipping the apron around Fred’s neck. “What happened to Mrs. Hancock?”

“Her little dog got runned over. She’s pretty messed up over it.”

“Who ran over it?” asked Buck from Andy’s chair.

“Don’t know,” replied Fred. “I’m just glad it weren’t me. She’s hoppin’ mad.”

“I’ll bet,” said Sam.

“Finally got that old Buick running,” said Buck.

“What’s it been,” asked Andy, “eight years or so it’s been sitting in your yard?”

“Nine. Weren’t in no hurry.”

“I see that,” said Andy.

Arnie and Ernest came in and took seats in the waiting chairs.

“Hear about Floyd?” asked Hank, sitting in Jerry’s chair.

“Yeah,” said Jerry, “and it’s not his first one either.”

“Reckon he’ll spend a few days in jail.”

“Well, he really needs to stop doing that.”

“Yeah, fat chance,” said Jerry, finishing up on Hank.

Harvell came in and took a seat. Fred and Buck left. Arnie took a seat in Sam’s chair. “How ya doing, Sam?”

“I’m okay, how’s things with you? How would you like it today?”

“Trim it up good.”

Hank paid and left. Ernest moved into Andy’s chair. Harvell climbed up into Jerry’s chair.

In Sam’s chair, Arnie said, “Mrs. Barnes flooded out her house.”

“Yeah,” said Sam, “Amos and Brad are checking on her.”

“Good, she’s gonna need some help.”

“Yeah, that’s what we hear.”

“Had all her furniture out in the driveway when I passed by,” said Arnie.

In Andy’s chair, Ernest asked, “Hear about Mr. Paris?”

“No,” said Andy, “what happened?”

“Ran his car plum through his garage door.”

“That old boy should’a stopped driving years ago.”

“Yeah, kinda stubborn, though.”


In Jerry’s chair, Harvell asked, “Hear about Stanley?”

“Heart attack,” said Jerry.

“Well, they thought so, but turned out it wasn’t. Just indigestion.”

“That’s good,” everybody agreed.

It was 4 p.m. and the last three customers paid and left. Sam walked over and flipped the sign on the door to read Closed. They each cleaned their stations and swept up.

“Quiet day,” remarked Jerry.

“Yeah, nothing much going on,” said Sam.

“That’s the way I like it,” said Andy, “nice ‘n quiet.”

“Night boys,” said Sam.

“Night,” said Jerry.

“Night,” said Andy, “see you boys tomorrow.”


By Lee Duffy


Bob turned left onto Route 22 headed back toward west Los Angeles. He had spent the morning on the east side making sales calls. As he drove past the Hilton on his right, something caught his eye—his wife’s car!

He did a double take. “What the…?” he muttered under his breath. It was her beige Infinity alright, complete with the Greenpeace bumper sticker on the right rear.

He drove a block farther, straining his brain to figure this out—his wife at a hotel, in east L.A., at midday? He made a U-turn, circled back, and parked across the street from the hotel. He was on the other side of a four-lane road, and he parked so that he wouldn’t be noticed, but he could still see his wife’s car across the street.

Bob sat there totally stunned, his fingers drumming restlessly against the steering wheel. He had thought everything was going well between them. She seemed happy. He was happy. They had great sex. They talked pretty often. They planned their lives together. He was in total shock.

His radar perked up as he saw his wife, June, exit the hotel and walk to her car. She was talking on her cell phone. She got into her car and drove away.

So, thought Bob, pain radiating from his midsection as if he had a sucking chest wound, she’s having a damn affair! “She’s seeing someone!” he yelled at the windshield. “How could I have been such a total moron not to have noticed this?” He slammed his hands down hard on the steering wheel.

Bob drove slowly back to his office, lost in thought. He finished out the day almost in a trance, and then went home around 6 p.m. June was in the kitchen cooking supper. “Hi sweetheart,” she yelled from the kitchen as he passed by in the hallway. He said nothing and went upstairs.

He changed clothes, went back downstairs, and on his way out the door, he said coldly, “I’m going….” The door slammed. June stood in the hall, a dishcloth still in her hand, staring wide-eyed at the closed front door.

Bob drove to a nearby cocktail lounge, went in, and took a seat at the end of the bar. It was quiet. Only three other customers were in the lounge. Bob started tossing back martinis.

After the fourth drink, the bartender said, “I’m Joe, what’s your name?”


“Problems, Bob?”

“That obvious, huh.”

“Bob, I’m a bartender. When you get your bartender’s license, they throw in a Ph.D. in psychology just for the heck of it.”

Bob grinned and said, “Joe, do you believe in the seven year itch?”

“In marriage, you mean? I guess some people get restless around that time. Human nature maybe. I suppose it also depends on the relationship.”

“Bob’s phone rang. He looked at it—June was calling. He hit ignore and tossed it on the bar.

“The little woman?” asked Joe.

“Yeah. June and I have been married seven years next month. It’s been great. I thought we had a terrific relationship. We love each other—at least I love her. Then I caught her cheating today.”

“Wow! Sorry, buddy,” replied Joe.

“Me too.”

“Well, take it easy on the booze. Not a good time to over do it.”

“Suppose so.”

“So what did she say?”

“I didn’t confront her.”

“How did you find out?”

“Saw her car at a Hilton over in east L.A.”

“Maybe it was innocent.”

“Sure, a married woman at a hotel in the middle of the damn day, all the way across town—that’s real innocent. You know as well as I do, Joe, why people go to a hotel during the day.”

“Do you love her?”

“Thought I did. Thought I knew her, too. But I don’t know crap anymore.”


“Naw, just the two of us. That’s the way we wanted it.”

Bob’s cell phone rang, and again he tapped ignore. “Give me another one, Joe.”

“You driving?”

“I’m okay.”

“That’s what they all say.”

“I’ll take a cab.”

“That’s what they all say.”

“Soundin’ like a broken record, Joe.”

“That’s what they all say,” said Joe laughing.

Bob didn’t laugh. “I’ll take a cab, Joe, and come and get my car tomorrow, okay?”

“I’ll take your word on it,” he said, shaking another martini.

“So, what about that seven year itch, Joe? You ever married?”

“Yeah, twice. And I wouldn’t know about that itch. I’ve never made seven years,” said Joe chuckling.

“This is my first marriage,” said Bob. “We almost have seven years—I mean we almost had seven years.”

“Come on, Bob, maybe you’re jumping to conclusions. It’s the booze talking.”

“Naw, Joe, it’s life. Life sucks. Life’s a bitch, then you die.”

“That’s a pretty grim assessment. Sure we have some ups and downs, some bumps in the road.”

“Naw, I trusted her with my heart and soul. Now, I don’t know if I can ever trust anyone again.”

“Bob, I really think you’re overreacting. And the booze ain’t helping one little bit.”

“Oh, it’s helping alright. It’s helping a lot. I can see the damn situation for what it is—what my stupid, idiotic, farcical life really is. Not what I thought it was, dammit!”

“Okay, calm down some. Bob, you know how many of these soap operas I’ve seen in my years behind this bar? No offense, but everybody’s got problems, and somehow, the next day, the problems seem to work themselves out. Guys come back the day after boozing, and when I ask about their problem, they don’t even remember what it was.”

“Not this one. I’m going to see my lawyer first thing in the morning.”

“Well, it’s your life, Bob, and your marriage. And I’m certainly no sterling example, with two failed marriages and all. But I’ll say this, if I had it to do over again, I’d damn sure make a few more compromises, pal. Maybe I wouldn’t be going home now all alone every night cooking TV dinners and eating them in front of the set.”

Across the lounge, Miriam and Paul Branderfelt walked in for an after dinner cocktail. They took a seat at one of the small tables in a corner of the lounge. They were friends of Bob and June.

Miriam quickly spotted Bob sitting at the bar and went over to say hi. “Bob, what on earth are you doing here at this hour? Alone,” she added. “Come on over and join us.”

“No thanks, Miriam.”

“Okay, no problem. But hey, was your wife a dynamo at today’s meeting or what? Wow! She knocked their socks off.”

“What meeting?”

“She didn’t tell you about it? Our ecology club luncheon. Well, we had some executives from the natural gas industry—you know, companies that are doing that fracking thing trying to drill for gas. They were giving a presentation about their company’s conservation efforts.

“Well, let me tell you, June started asking them some very pointed questions about some very specific scientific data, and statistics and all, and boy, those execs just did a meltdown right before our eyes. It was quite apparent that they were in no way prepared to respond to someone so knowledgeable about the facts and figures. They couldn’t respond. They finally walked out.”

“What meeting?” Bob asked again.

“Oh, Bob, our ecology club monthly meeting. We had to go over to the Hilton on the east side at the last minute because some Hollywood millionaire booked our regular place for some shindig or other. But boy, was she great!”


“Yes, Bob, today. Are you okay?”

Bob looked very pale. He felt dizzy, and his head was spinning. He looked back at Joe. Joe just shrugged with that I told you so look.

Bob suddenly jumped up, almost losing his balance, and then he hugged Miriam. She had that wide-eyed, have you flipped look.

Then Bob turned back to Joe. “I think I screwed up!”

“Yes, Bob, you did. Big time.”

“Joe, I have to get home! Oh, shit! I have to get home right away. I almost threw away the love of my life over a stupid, false, asinine assumption!”

Miriam just looked on, still agog.

“You were right, Joe!” shouted Bob.

Joe beamed at the compliment. “Well, you can’t drive. I’m taking you,” said Joe. “You can get your car tomorrow.”

Joe rushed over to one of the waiters and pulled him over to cover the bar. Then he threw his bartender’s apron in the corner and grabbed his keys and cell phone. He rushed around the bar and grabbed Bob’s arm. “Let’s go!” Bob swung around unsteadily and trailed after Joe.

They drove through the west L.A. traffic quickly, but not speeding. “When you see her,” said Joe, “you get down on your knees and you beg for her forgiveness, and you promise her you’ll never ever jump to conclusions again, and that you trust her implicitly.”

“I promise!”

“No, to her.”

“Yes, I promise!”

“And another thing,” said Joe, “when I got my bartender’s license, I also got a Ph.D. in advice giving. So see? I told you it was innocent.”

Bob nodded.

They arrived at Bob’s house but had to park on the curb because a car was parked in the drive in Bob’s normal spot.

“See?” said Joe, “she’s called a neighbor friend she’s so distraught.”

Bob got out and stood in the drive staring quizzically at the car. It wasn’t one he recognized. Joe and Bob walked to the front door.

Just as they got to the door it swung open and out walked a tall man, straight past Joe and Bob. The man got in the car in the driveway, started up, and drove off.

Then Bob looked back to the door. June was standing there in a skimpy, black negligee, staring back at him.

“Wh-who’s that?” stammered Bob.

“My lover,” she replied coyly.

Joe stood next to Bob, his mouth hanging open.

“Wh-what?” stuttered Bob.

“Well, the way you left tonight, all cold shoulder and all, I was sure you had figured it all out, and that you knew. You said you were going. I figured that meant you were leaving for good. I didn’t see any further need to hide it. I tried to call you to tell you.”

“I said I was going…out.”

Bob looked at Joe.

Joe shrugged and said, “This, I didn’t see coming.”

“Bob,” asked June, “have you ever heard of the seven year itch?”

Bob nodded dully, suddenly feeling quite sober.

“Well, you know it will be seven years next month. And frankly, I’ve had that itch since about the fourth year. Guess maybe it’s in my genes or something. I just couldn’t help but scratch it. I’ve just tried not to show it.”

“You did a good job,” said Bob, with the slightest shrug of his shoulders.

Bob looked at Joe again.

Joe shrugged again and said, “Genes! Who knew?”

Bob said, “Let’s go back to the bar, Joe.”

“Yeah,” replied Joe, “I think I’m going to get drunk with you, Bob.” As they walked back to Joe’s car, he said, “And by the way, I am so done with giving advice from behind the bar.”


By Lee Duffy


John shuffled into the tiny kitchen of his small cottage. Sleep still filled his eyes, and he was barely able to focus even with his glasses on. It was not far from the bed to the kitchen—ten steps maybe. He flipped the switch on the coffeemaker before shuffling back toward the closet-sized bathroom.

John lived in a cottage on the side of a mountain on the island of Dominica. Tropical rainforest encircled three sides. A spectacular ocean view filled out the fourth side. The little cottage was built on a hillside, and the ground sloped downward beneath it. The porch seemed as if it were in the treetops at second story level. It had the feeling of being in a tree house.

Watching the resident mongoose, the whimsically colorful birds, the sluggish iguanas, and the turquoise ocean from the wraparound porch was John’s primary entertainment. Unfortunately, though, local fauna also included very large, and aggressive, tropical rodents. Rats hunted and foraged at night, so he usually didn’t see them. However, lately they had been getting more brazen and were coming onto the porch before it was fully dark.

On several occasions, he had experienced direct encounters with the rats. Fortunately, each time, they had backed down first—though it had seemed like a close call each time.

On this bright new morning, after brushing his teeth, washing his face, and putting on his glasses, John returned to the kitchen. At first, he didn’t notice the condition of the room.

He poured a cup of coffee and went out to sit on the porch to join the world of the living. It was a typically beautiful, tropical morning. A rising sun gleamed over miles and miles of shimmering ocean. Birds flittered, screeched, sang, and chased one another through the treetops.

It was too early for the cold-blooded iguanas to be down in the yard below eating the fallen mangos. They wouldn’t begin to come down from the trees until the sun had warmed them a bit.

After the second cup of dark Jamaican coffee, John went back into the kitchen starting to think about breakfast. That is when he noticed the stove—five or six small droppings were spread around on the range top and the small countertops on either side.

He looked up at the window over the stove. A rough, baseball-size hole had been cut through the window screen. Cuttings from the screen were scattered haphazardly just underneath.

John just stood there, eyes wide. It took several minutes to process what he was seeing. He looked at the counter on the other side of the refrigerator and it seemed okay. It appeared that the rat, or mouse, or whatever it was, had been confined to the small section of counter on either side of the stove. It apparently had not figured out how to get over or around the refrigerator to the other part of the counter.

He went outside onto the porch and looked at his porch chair. It was pushed up against the wall just under the window that had the hole in the screen.

He decided that he was facilitating this rat by providing an easy-access ramp right up to the window. No wonder the creature was exploring and coming into the kitchen. He decided that he would move the porch chair away from the window each evening. Then he patched the hole in the damaged screen with duct tape as a temporary repair.

Problem solved.

The next morning, the first thing John noticed was the fresh new baseball-size hole in the same screen just over the stove. There was the trail of screen cuttings and new rat droppings. Glancing at the counter on the opposite side of the refrigerator, he quickly discerned that the rat had now figured out how to get over to the other section of countertop—probably by climbing along the tubing on the back of the refrigerator.

On the opposite countertop was a pile of apple peel; short strips of red peel lay in a small pile next to an apple, which itself had a large crater chewed into it. The thing apparently didn’t like apple peel, but it had thoroughly enjoyed the apple.

Crap, he thought. The damn rat didn’t need the porch chair to get to the windowsill. Things had now escalated to a new level.

Okay, new solution. Close the shutters over the kitchen windows at night.

Problem solved.

The next night around 3 a.m., John was sleeping soundly when suddenly something woke him. His eyes popped open as he focused on a loud scraping noise on the outside wall of the cottage next to his bed. Then the noise moved farther down the wall, away from his bed toward the porch.

John was scared. He was certain someone was trying to break in. Fully awake, he jumped up and grabbed the flashlight he kept on the nightstand. He also picked up the baseball bat he kept in the corner by the bed.

He didn’t turn on the light at first in order not to give himself away. He went from window to window, straining to see in the dim light, trying to determine if someone was outside. Finally he turned on the flashlight and swept the room and windows.

The bedroom windows were open; the screens were all intact. Everything appeared normal. He turned off the light and stood there in the dark, listening.

After twenty or thirty seconds he turned on the flashlight again and scanned the windows and screens. He stopped when he got to the porch window. He did a double take, not sure he could believe what he was seeing.

There was a jagged, baseball-size hole in the screen that wasn’t there thirty seconds ago! “What the hell?” he muttered.

That’s when it moved. John had a lump in his throat that felt as large as that baseball-size hole in the screen. He swung the flashlight slightly to the right. A pair of fiery-red eyes glowed back at him like hot rubies. A ten inch, cable-like tail swished like a bullwhip. There on one of the wooden, louvered shutter slats, was perched a rat the size of a small housecat. It stared at him with unflinching, devilish eyes.

The rat twisted one way and then the other. The tail, seemingly moving with its own life force, rapidly whipped from side to side. The creature looked like some horrible, alien monster. In an instant John went from scared to horrified. Was he under attack?

The rat suddenly leapt off the windowsill onto the porch and vanished. John quickly closed the louvered shutters on all the bedroom and bathroom windows.

The shutters on the kitchen and small living room windows were already closed. Now he was under siege, barricaded behind shuttered windows, in fear for his life. No breeze. No AC.

The damn thing had been trying to come into his bedroom. While he was sleeping. He imagined waking up to find a ten-pound rat, or two for Christ’s sake, crawling on him in the bed. They were coming after him for closing off the kitchen to them.

This was war.

The next morning John went straight to the local hardware store to look for the weapons he would use to wage this battle with the night stalkers. He shuddered. He felt like he was becoming an unwilling participant in The Night of the Living Dead.

At the little store, he quickly located the traps and carefully studied his options. There were mousetraps—three inches long and spring loaded. That would not do. These rats would laugh in his face over these toys.

Then he spotted the rattraps. He picked one up and examined it. This was a formidable weapon indeed! This trap was mounted on a thick, heavy, ten-inch long by five-inch wide piece of solid wood. Like the mousetraps, it was also spring loaded—but big and dangerous looking.

John tried to lift the thick metal wire that was attached to the spring. Wow! The spring was so strong that he could barley lift the metal trap part.

This is a damn bear trap! he thought. He pictured himself trying to set and handle this trap. He had a frightening vision of his mangled and broken fingers when the thing accidentally tripped as he fumbled it.

He shuddered and put the trap back on the shelf, and that’s when he spied The Easy Trap.

He picked up the cardboard box—it was six by nine inches and an inch thick. The box contained two large glue traps. These traps consisted of a six by nine inch plastic tray with a one-quarter inch lip around the outside of the rectangular shape. It was like a mini baking pan.

Dark, sticky glue filled the trap to one-quarter inch deep. Apparently, it had a smell that attracted rats. Once a rat stepped on the glue it was all over. There was no pulling the foot back out.

John flipped the box over and started to read the directions:


The safe, humane, non-toxic, easy method to trap and dispose of rats and other rodents. No dangerous spring-loaded trap to worry about so no hurt fingers and no bloody, messy, yucky clean ups necessary after capturing the rodent. Just follow the simple directions below:

Step 1: Remove the two….

Okay, he decided. This would do. He would read the directions at home. He bought it and left.

That evening at dusk, John stood in his kitchen and read the back of The Easy Trap box:

Just follow the simple directions below:

Step 1: Remove the two Easy Traps from the box and separate them.

He did so, setting them down on the counter. Out of curiosity, he touched the glue with his finger. It was sticky all right; when he tried to remove the appendage, The Easy Trap came along with it. He held the trap down by the edges with his free hand, and then with some effort managed to extract his finger.

After twenty minutes of washing his hands with soap and a scrub brush, he finally gave up. His finger was still sticky. Well, that should certainly hold a rat for sure, he mused.

Back to the directions.

Step 2: Place The Easy Trap, glue side up, at floor level in an area where rat activity has been observed.

It was dark outside by now, and he was actually concerned about going out on the porch with that vicious monster surely lurking nearby, watching. Do rats attack people? he wondered. Could this rat have rabies? Maybe that’s why he’s so crazy aggressive.

Okay, he decided, gotta get them out on the porch. Building his courage he opened the door and stepped out onto the porch carrying the two Easy Traps. Should have brought a flashlight, he thought.

He placed one trap on the floor beside the door, then stepped around the corner to the front of the porch and placed the other one on the floor under the bedroom window.

He was feeling pretty anxious by this point, glancing around nervously. Okay, done! Get inside!

He hurried back around the corner toward the kitchen door and promptly stepped in the first trap. His heart sank.


He stepped inside and closed and locked the door. He just stood there staring down at his bare foot firmly planted in the full length of the glue trap. Blackish glue squished up between his toes. He suddenly felt very warm. The shutters were all closed and the cottage seemed airless.

He spent the next two hours trying—unsuccessfully—to get the glue off his foot. Finally, he gave up and put a sock on the foot and made himself a strong drink. (Little did he realize that the sock would become a semi-permanent part of his foot for the foreseeable future).

Okay, he decided, one last check of the directions:

Step 3: Once a rat is captured in The Easy Trap, simply place The Easy Trap in a one-gallon-sized, sealable plastic bag and place it in the trash.

Well, that’s simple enough, he thought, should be a piece of cake. There was one more instruction:

Step 4: These instructions are progressive and interactive. If difficulties are encountered, scratch off the first silver box below and see Step 5. If problems persist, scratch off the last silver box below and refer to Step 6.

Huh? Progressive? Interactive? He noticed a couple of sections that had silver scratch-off material like on a lottery ticket.

Hidden instructions? he mused. Never seen that before. Whatever. Won’t need ‘em. This is too simple.

The next morning, before he even had a cup of coffee, John went straight out onto the porch to check the trap. “Holy cow!” There was a huge, gross, fat, brown rat stuck in The Easy Trap. It had both front legs, its lower jaw, and one hind leg stuck in the gooey glue.

When the rat detected John’s presence it started wiggling, whipping its tail, and kicking with its one free hind leg.

The rat pushed the trap around on the porch—it was kicking along like it was belly down on a skateboard, pushing with the free left leg and foot, moving the trap forward in a wide, right-handed circle like a damaged locomotive. Chug. Chug. Chug.

John moved closer, and the rat became more frantic. The damn thing had fierce determination. Its big, dark, evil-looking eyes stared up at John. It seemed to say: Going home. Going home. Chug-chug. Scoot-scoot.

John was horrified. What do I do now? He was supposed to pick that thing up and put it in a baggie?

He made a hesitant move toward the rat, and it chugged along, ever faster, making wide ovals around the porch—its long thick tail seemed like a weapon in itself. It snapped and popped and did curly cues and waved about like a drunken snake.

Even with its lower jaw stuck in the glue, the monster kept raising its snout and showing its vicious teeth.

Shit, he thought, as soon as I grab the trap and pick it up that monstrous tail is going to either lash my arm or wrap around it, and…and….

“I can’t.”

He went back inside and saw The Easy Trap box on the counter. He picked it up and looked at the directions again, hoping for a clue as to what he should do next. He got a coin and scraped off the first section of silver coating material:

Step 5: Pick up The Easy Trap, put it in a gallon-sized, resealable plastic bag, seal it, and drop it in the trash! Now do it!

Well, that was a bit sterner than the previous directions—or maybe he was just feeling a little weaker in the knees.

Gloves on, baggie in hand, fully determined, back to the porch he went. The rat’s eyes were the size of large, hot marbles as John chased it around the porch, that bullwhip-like tail writhing and snapping menacingly at him.

Finally, the rat pushed itself into a corner. It seemed exhausted. Its body expanded and contracted like a balloon as it tried to suck air into its lungs.

“Okay.” John started coaching himself. “Pick it up and put it in the bag!”

“Pick it up and put it in the bag.”

“Pick it up…and put it in the bag. Do it!”

The rat couldn’t back up, so it could only push forward. Now in the corner, it was trapped.

John closed in.

“Pick it up and put it in the bag!”

“Pick it up and put it in the bag!”

The rat couldn’t move its head with its lower jaw stuck in the glue. But it managed to turn its snout somewhat toward John. Its bulging, bloodshot eyes turned even more and fixed on him. The tail snapped a vicious warning.

John stopped short only two feet away. The rat starred at him. To John, the rat seemed to be saying with its eyes:‘Touch me you slime ball. I dare you! Go ahead! Go on, tough guy, touch me! I’m still twice the rat you’ll ever be!’

John stood up, hesitant, not sure what to do now. The menacing glare from below seemed to intensify. He backpedaled several steps, then turned and went quickly into the kitchen. His breath was elusive and sweat dripped from his brow.

He stood by the stove, somewhat shaken. He noticed The Easy Trap box on the counter. He picked it up and looked at the directions for the tenth time. There was one more scratch off box, larger than the last one.

He re-read Step 4:

Step 4: …If problems persist, scratch off the last section below and follow Step 6. (After that, you are on your own).

He didn’t remember seeing that last sentence the first time he had read it. He grabbed a coin and scraped and scraped trying to reveal the final instruction. He knew he needed help to deal with this rat. This was just too much.

The silver material piled up on the back of the box as he worked. When he finally thought he had it all removed, he held the box over the trash can and brushed the loose silver material into the bin.

Then he stood up, straightened his glasses, and read the final instruction:


Author’s Note

Dear Valued Reader,

Thank you for reading my short stories. I hope you enjoyed them. I have more stories you might like, plus my novels, so please follow me on my Smashwords Author Page.

Also, please be so kind as to leave a review on Goodreads and/or Smashwords. It doesn’t need to be long, but your review will be greatly appreciated. I am eager to hear your feedback. It will guide and shape my future writing, which frankly, cannot succeed without your help.

So please review.

Thank you,

Lee Duffy

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