Writers of the Month: July 2018

Poet of the Month, July 2018

Julia Alvarez

Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American writer who, according to Wikipedia, currently resides in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. A blessing and a curse! I am also Julia Alvarez, and (after careful consideration) I suppose there are only so many things Julia Alvarezes can do. I am currently in my final semester at Washington & Jefferson College where I study English. I am consumed by singularity, consistently finding a solitary moment rolling around in my mouth for far too long. My writing process is a sink into the self-indulgent sludge, a ridiculous obsession with my own history – all that blood blistering nostalgia and the melodramatic mucus. So be it! If poetry requires absurdity, then kiss the sane goodbye, and crank up the heat. (I’d rather we all melt anyway.)

“The Pantheon in which You Reside” begins with the wilding – an audible, tactile, and scented maelstrom of memory from days spent on the cusp of innocence lost. We move, suddenly, into the present, where things remain, but on the verge of going stale. Silence invades the space between driver and passenger seats. And, for the record, I am addicted to the image of adults devouring candy. The end of the poem attempts to work as a return to the radical, a reminder of the cosmic power at play in acute fixation – the weight held in shared, adolescent experience.


The Pantheon in which You Reside

You were born in a champagne bottle,

let loose with a butcher knife.

Plywood smells and citrus blistered fingertips,

secret something kissing in the basement office.

My hands on your legs felt a lot like a thing I believed in.

It all started with your neck in my mouth.

How it ended up here, and how you were

wearing green, I’m not quite sure.


Now we roll out of the market

and trade malt balls for hard-tac.

In the dark of your parked car,

we’re in the shadows, eating chocolate.

Washing the windows with milky spit

and unspoken forget-me-nots,

we mirror the dull buzz of the radiator.


I am always leaving parts of myself in parking lots,

and some nights the weather is far too temperate,

too mild to taste. But it tastes.

And so, nightfall’s metallic bolts paint your tongue –

Some new and glorious rendezvous held just past your lips.


Your mouth is a cave I crawl into.

Prose of the Month, July 2018

Shawn Mihalik is a novelist, essayist, and the managing editor of Paleo Magazine. Born in San Diego, Shawn initially studied journalism at Youngstown State University, but he dropped out after one year, deciding his talents were better directed at fiction. Since then, Shawn’s short fiction and nonfiction have been featured in various places, both on and off the Internet, and he’s released five books, all published by Asymmetrical Press. His most recent novel, The Dissection of Vertebrates, was published in 2018 and is a deeply personal tale of YouTube, sex magick (with a “k”), and open relationships.

Find out more at ShawnMihalik.com

A Note from the Author on “The Top 10 Killer Ways to Write a List Post”

I used to be a pretty cynical guy. I’m still a pretty cynical guy, but I used to be, too, back when I wrote “The Top 10 Killer Ways to Write a List Post.” I went through a brief period where I was convinced I was going to be a successful blogger. I dropped out of college, moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and, while waiting tables, started a blog. Eventually, I quit waiting tables and spent all my time working on my blog. 

Blogs are great; they really are. Everyone should have a blog. Twitter or Tumblr don’t count—in fact, my number one advice to writers: get off social media, buy your own domain name, and start publishing your writing on a platform that you own . . . but please oh please don’t do so with the goal of making money. 

Six months later I was dead broke and spending a depressive weekend lying on my mattress (which itself was lying on the floor), ignoring the vociferous pounding of my landlord on my front door by reading the entirety of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book series and pretending I couldn’t hear anything.

But “The Top 10 Killer Ways to Write a List Post” is not about me. It’s not even really about blogs. Like I said: blogs are great. What we need right now is more blogs—I’m sure of it.


The Top 10 Killer Ways to Write a List Post

So you want to start a blog, I hear. And why wouldn’t you since you know it worked so well for me? I want you to understand that I think this is a wonderful thing. But if you’re going to start writing blog posts and posting them on the internet for all of internet-accessing humanity to see, and if you want this blogging to lead to the freedom and wealth and internet fame that I and countless lucky others have enjoyed and for your blog posts to be read by a large enough group of internet-accessing humanity, you’re going to need to follow certain rules with respect to the steps of writing blog posts and coming up with a catchy blog title and post titles and effectively—what’s the word?—insinuating SEO (search engine opportunization, I think it stands for).

These certain rules are as follows:

One: Write your posts like lists because people [italics]love[italics] lists as much as they love sugary deserts like cake and ice cream and certain kinds of pies (pumpkin, cherry, apple, chicken pot). There are a great many kinds of list posts you can write. List posts like Five Ways to Write an Awesome Blog, Five Ways to Make Money from Writing on the Internet, Ten Steps to Growing Your Audience by a Very Large Percentage in Just Only 30 Days, Ten Things I’ve Learned About Life Through Writing This Blog, Five Ways to Kick Ass with Blog Posts, Ten Places Where to Get Free Pictures For Your Blog Posts, Five Reasons to Not Include Pictures in Your Blog Posts (it’s simpler, it looks less cluttered, it looks better, it allows for more white space, your readers can focus on the words).

Make your posts controversial. And flakey. Like the above mentioned picture/no picture conundrum. If the majority of the web is doing one thing, you write about doing the opposite. One important thing to remember is that if you want your blog to stick out, when writing list-type posts, don’t use your normal old-fashioned numbers like 5 or 10 because those are the numbers all the other bloggers use and so they’re over-used and the internet is kind of saturated with them; instead use the less-used numbers like 7 and 9 and 16.

Two: Move out of your parents’ house as quickly as possible because they just don’t understand what blogging is, and while you know you’re going to make it as a blogger, your parents will do nothing but discourage you and your dreams.

The conversation you have with your parents might go something like this:

You say, “I don’t need this college crap, [italics]Mom[italics]. It’s just slowing me down and preventing me from living the life I know will make me happiest.”

“Just what are you trying to tell us,” your mother says as you and her and your father sit in a dark restaurant, you on one side of the booth’s table and them on the other, them sipping wine but you drinking water because you won’t be 21 for a few more months.

“I’m trying to tell you that I’m quitting school, is what I’m trying to tell you,” you say, the exasperation you knew you were going to have to feel during this conversation already setting itself dreadfully upon you. You can just tell your parents aren’t about to like what you’re trying to tell them.

Your parents get this incredulous look and your father says, “What!”

Your father is this balding, fit man, who has worked a difficult manual job his entire life at the shipping center just one town over, every day lifting boxes onto trucks, one after the other, lifting, lifting, bending at the knees and putting the boxes on the trucks over and over again all day, until only just recently when he put in for a promotion because Hey, what the hell? he deserved it after all these years, and so now he still works at the shipping center but in administration. And he’s worked so hard because he wanted to see you taken care of. He’s pretty much paid for your tuition. He’s wearing his only suit tonight at dinner, a dark-blue wide-lapel jacket, pleated pants. His white shirt’s top button is unbuttoned, his collar open, his striped tie a little loose.

“It’s okay,” you tell them reassuringly, moving both your hands in front of you up and down, palms down, as if to say [quote]calm down[quote]. “I’m going to become a blogger and make money on the internet.”

“Oh hell you’re not!” your father says, erupting, just as you anticipated he would. And why wouldn’t he? They couldn’t understand. They don’t get how the world works anymore. It’s not the one they grew up in. We have cell phones now and laptop computers and tablets and Bluetooth devices in cars.

Your mother tries to calm him down because others in the restaurant are staring. “Honey, dear,” she says, “calm down. Others are staring at us.”

“And they should stare at us!” your father says. The silverware and glasses and appetizer plates clank as he slaps a hand down on the tabletop. “They should look over here and see what a lazy daughter I have. They should see what I’ve thrown all my money away for, paying for her education and this is the thanks I receive!”

It’s okay, though, because [italics]you[italics] know things are going to be fine. It’s been fine for every blogger you read regularly, and some of them even travel the world and have adventures.

Three: Find your niche. “Niche” looks like it should be pronounced like “Nietzsche,” so don’t get confused here. I’ll explain what a niche is:

A niche is a thing where you write about a topic and only that particular topic. Except that when I say “only that particular topic,” I don’t necessarily mean that you only have to write about that particular topic—you can write about whatever you want, as long you write about your niche most of the time.

Example of niches:

  • Fashion
  • Minimalism
  • Cooking and recipes
  • Food
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Finances
  • Meditation
  • Buddhism
  • Travel
  • Productivity and productivity systems
  • Technology
  • Vintage Moleskine notebooks
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Cell phones
  • Apple Computers

(Regarding exercise and diet: if you choose either one of these as your niches, you had better make sure beforehand that you are in pretty amazing shape yourself because nobody likes to take that kind of advice from people who don’t look like they should be giving it. If you aren’t in shape, that’s okay too, but just frame your posts as if you’re on this amazing life-altering journey the ultimate goal of which is perfect physicality and you want your readers to follow this journey with you.

Also, regarding diet: Paleo and Vegan seem to be the only diets worth writing about on the internet these days.)

Four: So you’ve quit school and your parents have disowned you (is what you tell everyone even though they—your parents—still call you daily and ask if you need any money and are you eating and can we help and we’re worried about you), but that’s okay because now you live in Portland or Boston or Seattle. Now technically you’ve spent all your money getting there and on a brand new MacBook Air and Merino wool pants, but you’ve been writing all about this, and people actually find it somewhat interesting, and so you’ve got like almost 50 whole subscribers at this point, which isn’t so bad. By the end of the month you’ll have even more and will even be making an income from your blog.

Five: Two months in, you’re couch-surfing in Portland and spending most of your day in coffee shops, writing a lot. You’re writing something around 2,000 words a day, and you end up publishing anywhere between 500-1,000 of those words around noon just after you drink your day’s second green smoothie. You’ve received some initial criticism of your blog’s first several dozen post’s spelling and grammar and use of HTML, but you’re definitely getting better. You write every morning in the coffee shop, and then in the afternoon you read other blogs, the blogs of the bloggers who first inspired you to blog, and you watch important web videos like catchy new dance songs and TED talks. Someday maybe you’ll give a TED talk. Or at least a TEDx talk.

Six: Step six is one of the most important steps in writing a killer list post, and step six is: Practice Yoga. Every evening here in Portland or Seattle you go to this little yoga studio on the corner of one of the hippest streets in town. The place is small with wooden floors and pink or blue yoga mats spread out at regular intervals, but the instructor is calm and kind and wise and certified and has been a yogi for almost three years. The practice is donation-based, which is great because your income is small and trickling in slowly because, like a digital version of the box with a slit in the top that sits by the door to the yoga studio, you’ve placed a donation button on the sidebar of your website and at the bottom of your posts, which occasionally people click on and give you a couple bucks, which you can access in a few days after the bucks have been transferred to your bank account. You can afford yoga and smoothies and vegetarian food and to save a little so you can get an apartment in this city or buy a plane ticket to the next city you’re thinking about maybe moving to, because this city is sort of used up, blogging-wise, is the blogoshpere’s consensus. Sometimes you practice yoga on your own in the park. You wear special yoga pants. You have sex with the yoga studio’s yogi three or four times.

Seven: Now you can afford your own domain name, which admittedly you should have purchased from the very beginning, so you purchase one. Your blog’s url no longer ends in .wordpress.com but in .net, which is just far more professional. You’ve also purchased domains ending in .biz., .co, and .es. You pay for hosting now, too, because your RSS and email subscribers when counted together total over 1,200. It’s still not the best, but it’s a following. You tell your parents how happy you are. They say they still don’t understand what you’re up to, what this blogging thing is, exactly, and how you’re able to earn a living, and they don’t actually even subscribe to your blog, you suspect, but they’re happy you’re happy, just be careful, they say.

Eight: Write an ebook.

Nine: Well now things are tricky. Your ebook initially sold very well, like surprisingly, insanely well, surpassing the highest sales you could have possibly expected, a relatively unknown blogger like you. It started when you sent a review copy of your ebook (in ePub, mobi, and PDF formats) to this one popular guy in your niche who’s been blogging for years and whose readers number over a million, and he actually read it, and for some reason he liked it and wrote a post about it praising its simplistic but refreshingly clairvoyant approach to a tired topic (you’ve managed to stretch a paltry 8,000 words into 114 digital pages with a clever use of whitespace and creative layout which you claim you did to make each thought more poignant and reflect-uponable), and some of his readers bought it and some of the other popular bloggers who were initially inspired by this guy also bought it and wrote about it and their readers bought it, and so in the first week something like 15,000 people bought and read your ebook, which you priced at $2.99 and sold on your own website using various plug-ins so that there would be no middle-man, and so you made almost $45,000 in seven days, and your sales comparatively died after that and you sold maybe 50-100 copies a week after that, but you had at that point enough money to relocate and so for the hell of it you moved to Japan because not many people blog from Japan, you noticed. By the time you’d purchased your ticket to Tokyo and arrived there and converted a portion of your funds to the local currency and found an apartment (which was no small feat; it was expensive and you had to pay cash upfront for several months), you had spent about half your money (because you had also invested in a new computer and a tablet and a fancy backpack to carry your belongings and two pairs of barefoot-style shoes and expensive tea and a Vitamix once you moved into your apartment and you eat almost all of your meals out because not purchasing cooking equipment cuts down on your “overhead”), so you needed some surefire way to bring in more money. Another ebook. And with the sales of your first ebook came new subscribers to your website, so you were confident your next book’s sales would be plenty high. You wrote the next book (6,500 words in 80 pages, with pictures this time, which pictures were taken with a new camera you bought upon arrival in Japan and were edited with the latest version of Adobe’s Creative Suite) in three days, rehashing much of the material in your first book, and edited it hastily. Feeling bold, and knowing that information only you could provide should be priced appropriately, you sold the book for USD $30 (because the majority of your readers were still American despite your location change). The book sold dismally and so you lowered the price, but by now the reviews had come out and the reviewers almost unanimously seemed appalled (because they just didn’t [italics] get it [italics], you argue) and you only made a few thousand dollars and within months the whole operation collapsed around you and you were unable to support the quality of life you’d set up for yourself and your permanent address was still listed as your parents house and suddenly now you have to pay a large amount of taxes on the income you made and then spent and you don’t even have enough money for food, which is why now things are tricky.

Ten: You wander the streets of Tokyo. This is it, you tell yourself—you’ve [quote] made it [quote]. You’re the talk of the blogging community. Other bloggers write about you, asking question’s like Where has she gone? and Whatever happened to her? Every few days, someone buys one of your ebooks. You can’t afford vegetarian food anymore, so you start eating cheap meat. You’re suddenly now eating worse than you did before you started blogging, because back then—was that really only months ago?—you still didn’t eat fast food, even though you were a student and most students ate fast food, because your parents always made sure you ate better than that, but now you’re eating fast food. Fast food is cheap in Tokyo. It’s only so many yen.

You still have your laptop. You’ve tried to sell your fancy tablet, but nobody cares for that particular brand in Japan, so would it really even be worth it, you ask each time someone offers you a small amount. You should sell it anyway, though, because of food.

You sit in this coffee shop connected to wifi—which you have to pay for here, a few bucks an hour, and so you don’t connect often—and you open up your email. There’s a message from that yogi you slept with, a link to the yogi’s latest blog post, the title of which has the word “Tantric” in it. There’re several emails from your parents, who it turns out did subscribe to your blog and read each and every post and are concerned now because they haven’t seen you post in a while. Are you okay? Where are you now? Are you still in Japan? Please, call us? Do you need to come home? Do you need money? You’ve got a bunch of mail waiting here for you. We can pay for your ticket home, honey, just call us. We love you. We hope all is well. Your grandma was asking about you just the other day. Why don’t you give her a call sometime? Here’s her number in case you no longer have it. Stay safe. Email us. Where are you? What’s new? Where are you? We love you. We love you. We love you. Where are you, honey? Please, at least let us know you’re safe.

Writers of the Month: October 2017

Poet of the Month, October 2017

Ali Jacobs

I am – first and foremost – a writer. I mean that in if I had to pick “one word to describe who I am” as an icebreaker, it would and could only be writer. Writing is and has only ever been the single constant in my life. When I don’t write, I feel sore and sad and out of place in this weird little world.

So to solve that never ending existential crisis, I currently have a rough manuscript of poems completed, tentatively titled Postmortem. In this book and in all my writing, I try to speak from a place of honesty, and I explore the mundane and darkness of life. I am inspired by beautiful cinematography, snapshots of life caught as an observer and the commonality of all humans. I enjoy juxtaposing life to death and trying to make sense of death and what comes after.

I look to writers like David Sedaris, Shel Silverstein, Oscar Wilde for ways to write about the ugly with humor. I look to directors like Wes Anderson, Martin Scorsese and Tim Burton for creating physical worlds that can enrich my storytelling. Musicians like Lana Del Rey, Van Morrison and Cher have informed my writing with their creative genius. I could not write fully-realized poetry without meshing all art forms into a messy, but purposeful, jumble.

I am inspired by what’s not said in line at the grocery store, political climates, acceptance speeches, sadness in the eyes of middle-aged waitresses and deaths I haven’t experienced yet. I like to keep one foot in reality with the other dangling in fantasy and a dark humor, and I never take the good fortune of my writing ability for granted. I write like every word will be my last and I always worry it will be so.



My feet
tie me to the earth,
like weathered reins.

The only worldly possessions
I may keep.

Prose Author of the Month, October 2017

Brent Herman

As long as I can remember, I have been told by friends, colleagues, and teachers that I am a “good writer”. I have always been willing enough to accept the praise, but I have always wondered what exactly it means to be a good writer. Whenever I write, I just write. I don’t have any special technique that I practice. I don’t fret over my word choice or my organization. I just take words from my head and put them on a paper.

However, I believe now that I am beginning to comprehend what good writing is. Good writing is subjective, to be sure, but I have noticed a common thread that I simply cannot ignore. I believe good writers write every second of every day without a pen in their hand. I am constantly making little notes in my mind. The shadow cast by a building as the sun is going down, the sound of a lazily moving creek, the smell of decaying leaves in the autumn woods. These are the simple, yet beautiful things that we are exposed to regularly, but so many people ignore these details. A good writer simply cannot. So, when it comes to writing, for me, it is not so much an exercise in creation as it is an exercise of memory. I have already written reams of material in my head, it is just about rearranging these notes in a palatable manner.

It makes me feel good to express these experiences the way I want to. I can make the rules and break them. But, what I truly want is to share my happiness with those around me, and to transfer my experience to whoever may take the time to read my rearranged thoughts.


With Great Power

I round the street corner walking as quickly as I dare, through the fog of a particularly damp Midwestern spring morning.  I glance at the outdated, gold trimmed pocket watch my father gave to me.  8:16. I am about thirty seconds early, as I had planned.  I unsling the leather bag from my shoulder and skillfully assemble the tool of my trade.  I look through the sight and focus on my target.  I press record.  

“What are you doing?” says a genuinely curious female voice behind me.  I do not respond verbally.  I do not even look away from my target.  Instead, I put a finger to my lips, then point at the railroad crossing across the street.  A train is approaching, but the crossing arms are not coming down.  A low rumble approaches the train tracks.  Still looking through my camera, the yellow school bus full of talkative juveniles with the rust spot on the rear fender appears in frame.  I know it is too late.  I keep my camera steady and close my eyes.  This is always the hardest part.  I hear the crash and the screams and the sound of the woman running into the corner coffee shop, presumably to call 911.  I move in on the scene and get all the angles I can get within the two and a half minutes before the corpulent police officer arrives and starts asking questions.

I am packing my bag when I first lay eyes on the owner of the curious voice.  She is short and slender with brown hair and piercing blue eyes peering out of black horn-rimmed glasses.  I pick up my bag and begin to walk away.

“You knew that was going to happen!  Why didn’t you try to stop it?”  I think about ignoring her, like I usually do when somebody is suspicious, but there was something about this young woman that made me feel obliged to respond.  

“Even if I did know what was going to happen, what was I supposed to do?  Run out in front of the bus, or the train?”  My response does not appease her.  

“I don’t know what you could do, but you should have done something!”

I sigh and look at the twisted, burning metal then back at her.

“I did.  I got it all on camera and now at least their story will be told, and I will be able to eat for another week.”  This satisfies her even less.

“How do you eat at all!?”

I smirk, turn my back to her, and head home for some R and R.  After I call the networks and start the bidding war, I won’t have to follow another Hunch for a couple weeks at least.  Seeing into the future can be quite a lucrative business.  I hear, “Coward!” called out from behind me.

I return to my downtown studio apartment.  A few phone calls and a few thousand dollars later, I allow myself to unwind.  I pour myself three fingers of Wild Turkey rye whiskey with no ice and sit down in my favorite recliner.  There is never any competition for this seat.  I do not have a cat or a dog, let alone a wife and kids.  The dreams make me a difficult roommate, as a young man found out during my first and final semester at college.  When I finally manage to fall asleep, I often wake up screaming or sobbing.  It has been this way since I was five years old, and yet it is nothing I can get used to.  It’s something different every night and it is never good.  I dream of future burglaries, homicides, suicides, the occasional rape, and pretty much every turmoil faced by humanity.  I do not have to have good dreams.  At this point I would be ecstatic to never dream again.

I look down at my pocket watch.  It reads 1:22 pm.  I am disappointed to see that my glass is nearly empty.  I take the last gulp of it with a slight grimace.  It is a warm afternoon and my insomnia and alcoholism have caught up to me simultaneously.  I am asleep before I have the chance to fear.  

I smell the familiarly bitter aroma of freshly ground coffee beans.  I hear the sound of a broom whisking dryly against a tile floor.  I soon hear another sound.  The unmistakable click-clack of a bullet being chambered in a handgun.  I have heard this sound countless times in nightmares past, and it never bodes well.  This whirl of sensation becomes focused into a scene that is too clear for my comfort.  The woman in the horned rimmed glasses drops her broom and throws her hands in the air.  A masked man is waving the handgun around and gesturing for the woman to open the register.  While the register is being emptied, I begin to hear the woman sobbing and begging the man to spare her.  He remains silent.  The woman puts the last of the bills into a plastic bag and slides it across the counter to the masked man.  He grabs it and turns around.  The store is empty and it is dark outside.  He gets halfway to the door before turning again.  There is a flash of fire, a solitary bang, followed by an unceremonious thud.  The man unlocks the door and quickly walks out to the street.  Blood runs along the pattern of the tile until it reaches the drain in the floor.  The clock reads 10:56, presumably right before closing time.  The last thing I see before the jackhammer in my chest overcomes my exhaustion is the black pair of horn-rimmed glasses with one shattered lens that has been spattered with warm blood.

My eyelids open and to my horror it is dark outside of my window.  I desperately grasp for my pocket watch and whip it open.  10:31. I have less than 30 minutes to get across town and no time to hail a cab.  I dash down the 3 flights of stairs in my building and nearly fall on the final and steepest flight.  I fly out of the door and begin down the street.  I stop when I get to the bike rack at the library at the end of the block.  There is a lone Schwinn left at this late hour and to my surprise it is not tethered to the rack by a lock or by anything else by that matter.  I normally would not condone theft, but I did not hesitate to debate the finer points of moral philosophy with myself, of all people.  I hop on and begin pedaling as hard as I can.

As I pedal the cool night air blurs my vision.  Instead of the sidewalk in front of me, I see the faces of all the people I have been too afraid to help.  The lonely man who hung himself who was not missed badly enough to be discovered until his rent became due nearly a month later, the woman and child on their way to church who got hit by a drunk driver right in front of my apartment, the children on the bus earlier today who were so unsuspecting, and finally the two that I see every night, my mother and father.  

They were stabbed in the street by a mugger after going out to dinner, as they allowed themselves to do the first Friday of every month.  It was my first week of college and my folks were so very happy that I was accepted.  They refused to believe my affliction and were scared that I would never be a “normal boy”, but when that letter came in the mail, my father told me he was proud of me the first time in my life.  He reached into his jacket pocket and gave me his prized possession, the pocket watch that had belonged to his father.  He told me that now I had no excuse to be late.  I dreamed about their death a couple weeks before their date night, but I could not bear to call them and bother them with my “nonsense.”  The fateful night came and I worked up the courage to call my parents.  My father answered and I could not find my voice.  I decided that there was nothing for me to do.  They have never believed me before, and they may as well die being proud parents of a college student rather than an incompetent freak.  I murmured, “I love you” and hung up the receiver.  That is the night I acquired an unquenchable thirst for alcohol.

My vision returns to me and I am more physically exhausted then I have ever been in my life, but I see the dim glow from the corner coffee shop at the end of the block.  It is the light house guiding my fogged mind and aching muscles.  I ditch the bike and check the pocket watch.  10:55! Without giving myself the luxury of catching my breath I run up to the locked door.  I see the masked man walking away from the counter, pausing then turning around.  I wrap the chain of my father’s treasure around my knuckles and thrust my fist through the plate glass door.  This startles the gunman and he turns his attention and his weapon to me and pulls the trigger.  The woman in the horn-rimmed glasses swiftly picks up her broom and swings ferociously, cracking her would-be murderer in the back of the head, sending him sprawling unconscious before he hits the floor.  She was no coward.  I become aware that the adrenaline that was coursing through my veins is now coursing out of my chest and through my sweatshirt.  I collapse onto my back on the sidewalk in front of the corner coffee shop.  The last thing I see before drifting out of consciousness is the shattered face of my watch. 10:55. I had no excuse to be late.