Wednesday, November 29, 2006


a short story

Etienne Espye 

GOOCHA CAME HOME WITH an arrow in him. He knew he was home, but couldn’t get through the cat door as the shaft was sticking out both sides of his body. A good cat, he sat at the back door waiting for Josa to return, but she was at the other house. Goocha didn’t know that.

            Goocha couldn’t have gone to the other house if he wanted to. It was too far away, three hours by car. He had liked the other house when he lived there by the lake with Josa and Jan. Now Jan was gone and he and Josa lived in this small town in the mountains, where there was only one grocery store which did not stock brand of cat food he required, so his bowel movements had become loose, and he gagged up quite frequently. It was also a town where frustrated, or perhaps just bored, deer hunters shot arrows at any small creature that moved. 

            Initially it had almost been fun. Goocha had never seen a bow hunter in his former hometown by the lake, which banned all hunting, except that done by cats. The first arrow that came his way while he was stalking a squirrel in the woods had missed. Here was something different, something he had not seen before. The long straight stick had come from the man very fast, and with a twang and then a hiss. Now it stuck into the ground at a strange angle. On the other end was something that looked like feathers from a bird. Goocha knew about birds. He hunted them; not that he ever caught one. He had once, and Josa had taken it from him, and scolded him telling him he “mustn't do that.” So now when he waited for them in ambush, and dived out of his cover, he only scattered them into the sky, holding up if it seemed like he might actually get one. He did the same thing with squirrels, even though no one had warned him against catching them. After all, he had plenty of food at home in his dish, which Josa always kept filled.

            The sound of the arrow had startled Goocha, and caused him to break off his chase of the squirrel, a change of track that probably saved his life. Now, he heard the swishing sound again, and quickly dived under some ferns. The arrow stuck in a tree trunk, vibrating just above his head. The man walked toward him, then stopped to pull his first stick out of the ground. Goocha took advantage of the man’s distraction and scooted for home, careful to keep his tail down.

            It was a new game to play, he thought. No one had ever harmed Goocha, or even threatened him; although he had had his tail accidentally stepped on once. He had no fear. Then one day, while chasing a squirrel, Goocha saw one of the arrows find the little animals back. The squirrel was pinned in place. It tried to run, but eventually realized it was going nowhere. Then it shuddered and went stiff. Goocha watched from his concealment as the man came to claim his stick, and the skewered squirrel was pulled off and thrown into the brush. The cat went looking for his friend, wanting to know what had happened to him. Spying the squirrel trashing behind some bushes, Goocha approached cautiously, stalking through the low grass in a crouch, with his ears back. He was near, but now the grass had given way to a grave path. Caution told him he must hurry across this open space. In the middle of the path he felt one of the sticks go through him. He tried to run, but could only drag his back legs behind him. His body hurt, like it had never hurt before, and now fluid was coming out of him, warm fluid which he licked at with his tongue. Not knowing what else to do, he hid in the bushes until the hunter was gone, then he crawled home to find Josa. He knew she would help him, as she always did. But she wasn’t home. Goocha waited at the back door for three hours, and then he died.


Etienne Espye was born in Paris in 1938, and moved to the U. S. A. with his parents just after the Germans invaded Poland. Etienne grew up in New York City where he attended public schools, and took night classes at the New School for Social Research. He presently lives in Upstate New York, where he works as a part-time cat sitter. 


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Friday, November 17, 2006


a short story

S. Francis Pringle


THE PINE GLADE INN, an old stone tavern standing next to the two lane highway that ran between the river bridge and the mall, had become the main watering hole for our small college’s underage drinkers.  Despite its name, The Pine Glade Inn possessed neither pine trees nor a glade. Peter, the owner, was fond of explaining away this apparent inconsistency. “In revolutionary times, before the farmers cut down all the trees, this tavern did stand in a cool glade of pines, where travelers could rest their horses,” he would expound, hoping his customers had not noticed the date 1938 on the tavern’s cornerstone as they came in. “Well, my name is Peter Rams,” the innkeeper would reveal, pausing to wipe the bar with a sour rag, allowing his listeners a moment to think about this fact before delivering the punch line: “Now, I couldn’t very well have named this place The Peter Rams Inn. . . .” This usually brought a curious look and perhaps a grunt from the customer, but Peter always laughed.

Few outsiders visited our town as nothing ever happened here, but those who did knew “The Glade” and made it their hangout, probably because, besides the college students, the place attracted an abundance of town girls known for their beauty, and their putatively loose morals. Prize winning poets, and writers-in-residence, although there were fewer of them now as the college was facing severe budget cuts, often gyrated on the dance floor among college kids clad in sweatshirts displaying the logos of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. The only people wearing the name of the local school, Trumpett College, were the town girls, who didn’t go there anyway.

A kind of caste system existed among the students at Trumpett. The students who had transferred from some other school, where they  bought their logo gear at the campus store rather than from a mail order catalog, having flunked out before coming to Trumpett, considered themselves superior to those students who had gone directly to the local institution. The two groups did not interact socially; in fact they were rather hostile to one another. Although Trumpett College had been my only choice, the one school my parents could afford, I was, because of my friendship with a transfer student named Hank Kolada, allowed to mingle, if only incidentally, with this group.

Outside my window the early winter’s night was being dampened by a gentle snow as I hurried to finish typing a term paper before going out for the evening. Across town my friend Hank would be shivering in his yellow rain slicker, as the volunteer Civil Defense Policeman waved his red baton-flashlight at the steady line of cars coming and going around a three ton boulder that had slid down a cut in the road and was occupying the southbound lane of Route 609. In another hour Hank would be off duty, and meeting me at The Glade for a beer. No one was scheduled to replace Hank Kolada; the cars would just have to get around the rock on their own, which they seemed to be capable of doing when he wasn’t there. Hank didn’t let the fact that his task was rather make-work to keep him from botching up a more serious job bother him. He enjoyed playing policeman, which was why Hank was a volunteer. Hank hoped to become a law enforcement officer when he graduated from Trumpett, the third college he had attended, which made him a kind of super hero among the transfer students. Plus, his father was the chief of police in Shankerburg, the township where The Glade was located.

Everyone, at least everyone under the legal drinking age of 21, professed to be Hank’s friend. If The Glade was going to be raided, they reasoned, Hank Kolada would be sure to know about it. The sight of Hank hunkered over the bar nursing his beer brought considerable comfort to the minds of those customers whose real ages did not match the ages on the ID cards in their wallets.

Looking out, my breath frosted the window. I imagined Hank tugging his slicker tighter around his neck against the cold, and checking his watch. Hank too liked to hang out with the “fast” crowd at The Glade. It gave him a sense of importance that someone who had already flunked out of two colleges by the age of twenty desperately needed. Unfortunately, Hank and I had been less welcome at the Glade since perpetrating our hoax.

It had been Hank’s idea. I still wonder how I had the temerity to agreed to the bizarre scheme, perhaps because I was rarely asked by anyone to participate in anything. Hank, as a volunteer Civil Defense Policeman, displayed an official-looking rack of warning lights on the roof of his car. He also carried in the trunk a complete store of emergency gear: helmets, yellow slickers, nightsticks, flashlights, whistles, hand-held radios; a mini police station complete with everything but guns.

The Glade, as a widely-known underage drinking spot, operated in constant fear of being raided by the Liquor Control Board, its young patrons speculating on how much of their nightly tab went into paying off whoever was being paid off, and when these payments mightrun out, and the curtain brought down. But this risk was part of the attraction of drinking at The Glade, a frisson that made the beer taste sweeter there than the same beer drunk from a can in a parked car, or out of a paper at a fraternity party.

Hank, nicknamed “Pina” to his chagrin, possessed of a strange sense of humor anyway, and perhaps to spite those insiders at the tavern who regularly mocked him, especially the owner Peter the inventor of his tag “Pina Kolada”, contrived to orchestrate a mock raid on his favorite drinking establishment.

The Friday night before the Homecoming Parade, wearing his Civil Defense Police slicker and helmet, and blowing a whistle, Hank had burst through the double front door of The Glade, the warning lights on his car flooding the background with flashing red and blue, its siren howling like the dogs from hell, and shouted through a bullhorn: “Don’t anybody move this is a raid!”

For a moment dancers on the polished floor froze in place, chuggers halted in mid chug-a-lug, the good times hung suspended. Then a crescendo of too young drinkers panicked for the side exit, where I, in similar faux police costume, had taken up my position also blowing a whistle, and rapping on the window with a billy club. Seeking an escape the crowd  in the back room had bolted through the kitchen, and out the back door, which to their grief opened on a field that had been freshly fertilized with barn manure.

Clambering on an overturned wastebasket a ex-Yaleman got stuck trying to squeeze out the men’s room window. Harvard and Princeton sweatshirt wearers were found cowering on the toilet seat, the stall door locked.

At the first blast of Hank’s whistle Peter and his wife had fled up the backstairs, seeking sanctuary in their apartment above, where they would claim they had been all night, planning to place all the blame on their newly hired bartender.

The bogus attack lasted less than a minute: Hank, now Pina again, throwing off his helmet and yelling, “Surprise”.  But before I could also reveal the joke, all of the underaged patrons, which meant most of the patrons, excluding those still hiding in the toilets, or out back running through cowpie up to their ankles, had rushed past me and gotten into their cars and fled.

The rest of the night was rather quiet at The Glade. Hank and I apologized profusely for our joke, which all agreed was in poor taste. Peter swore we were banned from his establishment forever, only relenting when he remembered how useful it was to have the son of the local police chief as a regular customer.

I was allowed back into The Glade perhaps because I was Hank’s best friend, or so everyone thought. Of all the people Hank Kolada knew there must have a dozen or so closer to him than me, but none, I suppose, quite as desperate and gullible as I was then.


S. Francis Pringle is a writer who lives in upstate New York. He has published numerous short stories. including one in the June issue of this journal. A RAID AT THE G is an excerpt from a longer work.

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