Friday, October 12, 2012


This is a brief sample from the second chapter of my first draft memoir PHILLY BOY currently in progress.  I am posting it as a response to the Writing on Edge prompt #secretpiefridge  because I wanted to stay involved with that online group even though I am deep into writing a much longer work at this point.

This is only related to the prompt in the most cursory way.  However, it is new material just written today.

Note:  The excerpt takes place in Philadelphia in May 1974.

As always feedback and comments are much appreciated. 

- JC


That night at dinner I ate Mom's tuna noodle casserole and tried to tune out the conversation while Maureen begged Mom and Dad to let her go see some guy named Bruce Springsteen at a club in Upper Darby.  Mom and Dad would only let her go if she promised to be home by midnight. 

“The show starts at 9pm.  What if he goes on late?”

“You’ll still have enough time.”

“I can’t leave before it’s over.  The bus and the El take more than an hour.”

“It’s a concert. How long can he possibly play?”

I was imagining myself gliding down the ice, deftly handling the puck and stick with one hand while I punched out opposing players with the other, knocking them out, one after the other, as I moved toward the goal.   Marty, Frannie, and Tim each stared at me in awe clapping their hands as everything moved in slow motion like a scene from The Six Million Dollar Man.   

“Go Jimmy!”

“Kick some ass!”

“I wish I was as cool as you!”

I swung my new Bill Barber Signature stick with one hand and the puck blasted off like a rocket – the goalie tried to stop it but it tore right through his glove and into the net.  Flashbulbs popped, everyone stood and cheered and that girl in the cut off Flyers top came bouncing with the giant trophy and kissed me on the lips.   

“Putting away!”



Someone nudged me hard – knocking me out of my reverie. 

“I guess you know what that means?”  Said Kevin.

I looked up as awareness overtook me.  Everyone was getting up from the table.  Dinner was over and we had a formalized ritual where as soon as the meal was finished we had to call our cleanup assignments.  There were four possible duties.  Washing, drying and putting away the dishes – the last of which was the easiest and most desirable – and the final task was taking out the trash, which potentially included the abhorrent garbage. 

I looked around quickly – tonight was Friday.  Fish night.  We just ate canned tuna baked with noodles, mushroom soup, and bread crumbs.  What garbage could there be?

I watched in disbelief as Mom opened the coffee pot and removed the metal basket; she dumped the contents, a sopping heap of used coffee grinds, into a bowl that already contained some eggshells.  She scraped the remnants of some saucy noodle goop on top of that and placed it on the table in front of me. 

“Here you go Jimmy, this is all for now.”

I stared at the disgusting heap.  It looked like somebody puked on top of an anthill.  

“The farmer comes tomorrow so that can might be full.  Press it down so it doesn’t overflow.”

I crept toward the kitchen door with the dread of a Christian entering the Coliseum.

“Hurry back,” said Mom.  “We have a special desert as soon as the dishes are away.”

I could hear the excitement over dessert grow as the wooden screen door thwacked shut behind me.  I tried not to inhale the bitter scent of coffee grinds as I descended the cement steps.  The garbage can was beneath the stairs behind a hinged wooden door to conceal it from view.  I unhooked the hasp and heard a telling sound: the ZZzzzzz of flies in an enclosed space.

I wondered if Bobby Clarke ever took out the garbage when he was a kid up in Canada.  Or was it so cold they just scraped it out the door into the snow where it would freeze into a block of ice.

The galvanized steel can was up on bricks to keep the rain and snow from rusting out the bottom.  I leaned over and grabbed the handle – the can was too heavy to lift.  I tried tilting it forward to pry off the battered lid.  I held my breath as the flies buzzed in my face and I tried to nudge the lid off with one hand while balancing the can on the edge of the bricks.  The lid was stuck.  I pulled harder.  KALAHNGG!  The lid snapped loose and the can crashed forward spilling its contents onto the cement at my feet.  

The stench was awful.  There were potato peels, coffee grinds, eggshells, orange peels, apple cores, and chicken bones all swirled in a greyish gooey ooze of gravies and sauces.  All this was topped with a white creamy glaze that looked like rice pudding – but it was moving.  A closer look revealed hundreds of squiggling, squirming disgusting white maggots.

I nearly puked right there. Once my head stopped spinning I saw a shovel against the wall so I grabbed it and started scraping the mess back into the can.  After a few minutes it was mostly gone and I added the night’s garbage to the can and snapped on the lid.  My stomach was churning.  I kept closing my eyes to quell the nausea.  Finally I used the hose to rinse the goop off the cement and to wash the last few maggots down the drain by the corner of the house.

I went back inside.  The dishes were cleaned up and everyone was sitting at the table finishing dessert.

“What took you so long?” asked Dad. 

“Don’t ask,” I said.

“We saved you some dessert,” said Mom.

She placed a bowl in front of me and scooped a large serving from a take-out container.  I looked down and nearly wretched.   It was rice pudding. 

“Never mind,” I said.   

My stomach didn’t settle down until the end of Mission Impossible.