“Good morning, Frank. I’ve got a nice red one for you today.”

 “It’s perfect, Margie. Red was her favorite.”

 “Frank, you really don’t have to give me the dollar.”

 “I know.”


“Here’s your coffee, Frank. I’ll bring you a menu, Leadhead.”

“Thanks, Katie. Why don’t you at least look at a menu, Frank?”

 “I like the chicken sandwich.”

“Yeah, after five years, I get that. But you might like something else.”

 “But I might not like it.”

 “Can’t argue with that.”


 “Leadhead, where does Frank get the flower he brings in every day?”

 “He puts a rose on her grave every day. Then he takes the one from the day before and brings it in here and puts it in the vase on the counter. Herb thinks it adds a little class to the place.”

 “Every day?”

 “Every day.”


 “Herb, what do you do with the flower at the end of the day?”

 “I take it home to my wife.”

 “Do you tell her where it came from?”

 “Of course not, Katie.”


“Hey, it makes her happy, and it makes me look good. It’s a win-win. Actually, it’s a win-win-win because it doesn’t cost me anything.”


“Say, Frank, a guy on my bowling team is going to be out for a while. You want to fill in for him?”

 “No thanks, Leadhead.”

"We’re old, Frank, but we’re not dead yet. I think we’re supposed to still be doing stuff.”

 “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, Leadhead, but I’m ok.”

 “I hope so.”

"More coffee, Frank?"

"Thanks, Katie."


 “Leadhead, I have to do a paper for my English class. I’m supposed to interview someone and then write a paper on their life.”

 “Why sure, Katie, I guess I’ve had a pretty interesting life.”

 “Oh, this is awkward. I was thinking about Frank. He’s always so quiet so I thought I’d ask you about it first.”

“Oh, Frank. Yeah, he’s had an interesting life, sad but interesting.”

 “Herb says he was in the war.”

“Frank was the war.”

“What do you mean?”

 “Frank experienced everything the war had to offer, leaving his sweetheart behind, lots of combat, wounded, saved a guy’s life, a real hero. Then he topped it off with a year as a prisoner of war.”

 “Wow, he would be a great interview.”

“No chance. I worked with him for thirty-five years, and he never said a word about any of it. Most of what I know I got from the papers. He won’t talk about it.”

“Well, could I talk to you about Frank’s life?”

 “Can you do that?”

“I don’t know why not. I won’t use his name.”

 “I guess. Oh, here he comes. We'll talk about it later."


“My neighbor needs a new sidewalk. It’s a small job. You interested in doing it, Frank?”

 “What? No way.”

 “You know, Frank, I always felt bad when my back gave out, and we shut down the business. You’re still strong as an ox. You could still be doing it. You must miss it a little bit.”

“Hauling cement all day long, laying brick until I couldn’t feel my fingers? No, I don’t miss any of it.”

 “Then why did you do it all those years?”

“I liked working with you, Leadhead.”


 “He was shot twice?”

“One bullet in his back and one in the leg, but he kept going. Carried the guy damn near a mile to safety.”

“I’d say he’s a hero."

“The hardest part about the war for Frank was being away from Rose. He’s the toughest son-of-a…I mean guy I’ve ever known, but it hurt him to be away from her. He always said it was him and not Lou Gehrig who was the luckiest man on earth. It was terrible watching him watch her die. He hasn’t been the same ever since.”


“Are you marching in the parade tomorrow?”

“Leadhead, you know I never march in the parade.”

 “Well, you should. You should be proud of your service.”

“I only did what I was supposed to do.”


 “He’ll never leave that house, Katie. Too many memories. The bird feeders are empty, and the flower gardens are overgrown with weeds, but that’s his home.”

“Did they have children?”

“That's the saddest part. They lost a baby. The doctors saved Rose’s life, but she could never have children. That hit Frank hard. He would have been a great dad.”

“Oh, that is so sad. Poor Frank, poor Rose.”

“After Rose died, all he had left was me and his dog Barker, and then Barker died.”

“Barker, I like that.”

 “Frank found him when we were deer hunting one year. It was the bow season because felons can’t have guns.”

 “You’re a felon?”

“Not me, Frank. Sorry, I thought you knew.”

“Frank? Can I ask what he did?”

“He just got back from the war. He lost his mom when he was only six years old, so it was just his dad that took him and Rose out to dinner. As they were leaving, some jerk slapped Rose on the butt. Frank just reacted and punched the guy in the face. For anyone else, that would have been the end of it, but Frank was so big, so strong, the guy went flying over a table. His head hit the wall, and he dropped to the floor. He was dead before the ambulance arrived.”

“Oh, my God.”

 “The judge understood the motivation and appreciated his military service, but the state doesn’t take kindly to killing someone in a bar. He got three years, one year for every second the whole thing took.”

 “Three years in prison. I’ll bet Frank wished he could have taken that punch back.”

 “Not so sure about that. Frank certainly didn’t want to kill the guy, but he sure wanted to hit him. I think he would have done it again if anyone touched his Rose.”

 “Frank is such a good guy. The war, prison, losing a baby, losing Rose. It all seems so unfair.”

“Despite all that life threw at him, Frank never used the word unfair. He just took it and kept on going.”


“Hey, Frank.”

“It’s been a troubling morning, Leadhead.”

 “What’s wrong?”

“Well, school started today…”

“Yeah, school was always tough for you.”

“No, not for me, you dope, for the kids. There has always been a crossing guard at our corner, and this morning no one showed up. So, I went out there myself and helped the kids cross the street. It was kind of fun.”

“You had fun?”

 “Shut up, Leadhead. So, I called the city, and they said it was because of budget cuts and some kind of redistricting. I offered to volunteer to do it for nothing. They said no, some BS about liability and unions.”

 “Why don’t you just do it?”

“Do what, Katie?”

“Be the crossing guard. You don’t need anyone’s permission to help little kids cross the street.”

 “Huh, I’ll think about that. Maybe I will.”

 “That’s what I’m talking about, Frank Marshall, vigilante crossing guard.”

“Very funny, Leadhead.”


“Are you the new crossing guard?”

 “Not really. I’m just going to help you kids cross the street.”

 “That’s not a real crossing guard outfit. And what’s with the Woody the Woodpecker hat?”

 “It is not a Woody the Woodpecker hat. It’s my hunting cap. And I tied this yellow rag to the end of yardstick, so I’d be noticed in the street.”

 “Oh, you’ll be noticed all right. I’m Jack. What do we call you?”

“My name is Frank, but since I’m so old, why don’t you call me Mr. Frank?”

“Mr. Frank, I’m good with that. This is my little sister, Annie. She’s in the first grade. She’s really annoying.”

 “I’m telling Mom.”

“I knew that.”

 “Hello, Princess. Do you like school?”

“Oh, yes! I love school!”

 “She’s lost her mind.”

 “And what’s your name, young man?”

 “I’m Herman, sixth grade.”

 “That looks like a pretty big lunch box, Herman.”

 "It’s not my lunch. My parents feel the school offers a suitably nutritious, well-balanced meal. Mrs. Johnson wanted me to bring in the electric motor I made at Science Camp this summer.”

“Science Camp, awesome. I loved those science projects. For my eighth-grade project, I made this really cool volcano.”

 “I did that in the first grade.”

“First grade? Well that’s…”

 "Did yours light up?”


 "Mine did.”


“Here’s your menu, Leadhead. I’ll get your coffee, Frank.”

 “And a menu, please.”


“A menu, you know, one of those things you give Leadhead every day.”

 “All of a sudden you want a menu?”

“You’ve been on me forever to look at one.”

“Here you go, Frank.”

“Wow, there are a lot of nice options here, Leadhead.”

“No kidding.”

“The kids are great. Jack, he’s the funny one. I call him Jack Benny. He said I looked like Woody the Woodpecker in my red hunting cap.”

 “You wore your hunting cap?”

 “I sure did, Leadhead. And I’ve got a little genius in the group. His name is Herman, but I call him Einstein. I told him I made a volcano for my eighth-grade science project. He said he did that in the first grade! And his lit up! What a little stinker!”

 “That’s great, Frank. I’m glad you’re enjoying it so much.”

 “I really am, Katie.”


 “You don’t have a machine gun in that case, do you, Susie?”

“Oh, no, Mr. Frank! We can’t have guns in school! It’s my violin.”

 “I was just kidding. You play an instrument? That’s great, Susie. I played an instrument in a band.”

 “What did you play?”

“The piano. It was really hard because it was a marching band.”

“What? Aw, Mr. Frank. You can’t have a piano in a marching band.”

“I told you it was hard, Jack.”

“Matt, do you dribble that basketball everywhere you go?”

 “Pretty much. We have a no-cut policy, but I don’t think I’ll play much. I’m not very good, and I’m too short.”

 “Don’t say that. Did you ever hear about Isiah Thomas?”


"Well, he was short, and he was one of the best players ever. Don’t count yourself out, Matt. Just keep practicing.”


“Do you have any books on basketball?”

“Sure, aisle Five, you’ll find lots of books about the greatest players.”

 “No, not books about a player. I want a book about how to play basketball.”

“You want to want to learn how to play basketball?”

“No, I want to teach someone else how to play basketball.”


 “Frank! You haven’t been in here for years! What do you need?”

 “Birdseed, Charlie. I forget what I used to get, so just fix me up with something the birds will like.”

“I’ll get you a nice mix.”

“Lots of it.”


“That’s it, Matt, a little more with your fingertips. Don’t be slapping at the ball. And remember to work that left hand.”

“I will, Mr. Frank.”

“Are you coming to my concert, Mr. Frank?”


 “That’s not nice, Jack. Of course, I’ll be there, Susie. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

 “Mr. Frank, do you want a copy of my basketball schedule?”


“Knock-knock, Mr. Frank.”

 “Who’s there?”


“Boo who?”

“You don’t have to cry about it. Ha, ha, ha.”

“That’s a good one, Jack!”


 “Hey, Leadhead, Knock-knock.”


“Knock-knock, Leadhead.”

 "Ok…who’s there?”


"Boo who?”

 "You don’t have to cry about it! Ha, ha, ha.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Frank.”

“I thought it was funny.”

 “Katie, do you know why Eskimo women wash their clothes in Tide?”

 “No, why?”

 “Because it’s too code out-tide. Ha, ha, ha.”

 “You’re losing it, Frank.”


“Well, good morning! We don’t get many gorillas in here. Could I interest you in a flower, maybe a nice white rose?”


 “Here you go, Mr. Gorilla. I didn’t know gorillas carried cash.”

“Grunt, grunt.”



“Annie, that’s not a real gorilla. It’s just Mr. Frank dressed up for Halloween.”

 “Are you sure?”

“When’s the last time you saw a gorilla wearing a red hunting cap and waving a yellow flag?”


 “Would you like a menu, Mr. Gorilla?”

 “Grunt, no, just some bananas, grunt.”

 “I don’t believe this. Could you put him at another table, Katie?”


 “I decided not to do my paper on Frank. I felt like it would be some kind of betrayal. I’m doing it on my uncle. He hitchhiked from Chicago to Miami when he was in college, and he says he was chased by a bear once. I think it will be ok.”

 “Good for you, Katie, good for you.”


 “Good morning, Santa! How about a nice red rose to match your suit?”

 “Perfect! I’m taking you off my naughty list! Ho, ho, ho!”


 “Are you Frank Marshall?”

 “Yes, officer. Don’t tell me I parked my sleigh too close to a fire hydrant.”

 “We’ve had some complaints about you.”

“What? Complaints? What kind of complaints? “

“Complaints about your interaction with the neighborhood children. It seems you’ve been doing things to ingratiate yourself with the children, and it’s concerning. I guess you hang out at the street corner and try to meet with them every day, mornings and afternoons.”

“I just help them cross the street.”

 “Apparently there’s a lot more than that going on, Mr. Marshall. You’ve been giving them things…let’s see, a basketball, mittens for a little girl. And treats, lots of treats.”

“They get a little treat or a sticker if they do good on their homework or on a test.”

“And they say you’ve been dressing up in funny costumes to, shall we say, get them to feel more comfortable with you.”

 “Who says that? Who’s complaining?”

“Parents, the school principal, an alderman. We’ve even heard from the mayor’s office. They question your intentions. It looks like you’re grooming them for something.”

 “What?! That’s ridiculous!”

“And you’ve been showing up at their school events, almost like you’re stalking them. It’s making the parents nervous.”

“They invited me I just wanted to…”

 “Let’s cut to the chase, Mr. Marshall. We looked you up. Parents don’t want their children spending time with a violent felon. I think you can understand that.”

“I don’t understand any of it.”

 “You don’t need to understand it. You just need to stay away from the children. We don’t want to take this to the next level.”

“The next level?! What’s that?”

 “We’d bring you in for questioning. The parents could get a Restraining Order. You don’t want that. Just stay away from the children.”


 “Hey, Santa. Where’s your beard?”

“Oh, my beard. I don’t know…I…”

“Frank, what’s wrong?”

“A police officer came to my house, Leadhead. He said people have complained about what I’ve doing.”

“Doing what, Frank?”

“Helping the kids cross the street. Parents don’t want me spending time with their children. They’re worried about my intentions. He said I had to stop doing it.”

 “What?! Your intentions?! That’s crazy! They can’t stop you from walking kids across the street.”

“I don’t know if they can or not, Katie, but I can’t go against the parents. Listen, Leadhead, I just came by to tell you I don’t feel much like eating today.”

 “I’m sorry, Frank.”

“It isn’t fair, Leadhead, it just isn’t fair.”


“What happened to Mr. Frank?”

“I hope he’s ok.”

“I miss him.”

“We all miss him, Annie.”


“I didn’t know if you’d come in today.”

“I didn’t know where else to go, Katie.”

 “It’s so terrible, I can’t believe it. I’m so sorry, Leadhead.”

 “I talked to a cop that was at the scene of the accident. He said Frank must have heard the crash, or maybe he was looking out a window still watching over his kids, but he was there in a flash. A car had skidded on the ice, flipped over, and came to rest against a tree. The little girl, Annie, Frank called her Princess, she was pinned under the car.”

“Oh, my God.”

“Frank squeezed himself under the car, got his legs under him, and lifted the car enough for her brother to pull her out to safety. He lifted the damn car, Katie. The cop said what Frank did was impossible. I guess he didn’t know Frank.”

“I guess not.”

“Then his legs gave out, he fell to the ground, and the car fell on him.”

“Do you think Frank knew he saved that little girl?”

“He did. At least we have that to be thankful for. Some lady tried to help Frank. She said his eyes were open, and he was looking right at Annie. She was sitting on the ground, crying, but she was ok, cradled in her brother’s arms. She said Annie smiled at him, and Frank smiled back.”

Katie: “A final reward for a good life.”


“Does anyone have anything to say before we conclude our service?”

 “I do.”

“Yes, Miss, please step up front.”

 “A plaque at City Hall honoring Frank, a tree planted at the school in his memory, and he’s put on a list of Police Department heroes. How nice. Too bad Frank isn’t around to see any of it. You honor him in death, but you condemned him in life. You kept him from the one thing that mattered to him, the children he loved so dearly. Frank was such a good man, and I know he would have forgiven you, but I won’t. ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’, and I hope you’re all judged harshly.”


“May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.”

 “We should go, Leadhead. It’s starting to rain.”

“I just need a moment, Katie ”

“I’ll be in the car.”


 “I liked working with you too, Frank.”

February 20, 2023 16:59

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Sharon Williams
16:15 Mar 02, 2023

Hi Murray, Critique Circle here. I enjoyed your story. It was well-structured, and I was able to follow what was happening, even though only dialogue is used. I think there's a typo here: “You want to want to learn how to play basketball?” It was a clever strategy to have Katie interview Leadhead about Frank's life. It was a good way to work Frank's backstory in. You caught the way children speak and the things that they talk about really well. A really skilled piece. Good luck with your writing Sharon.


Murray Burns
17:15 Mar 02, 2023

Oops...the typo. Thank you for pointing that out. I get upset with myself when that happens. Writing is the fun part- proofreading is the work part. I read an article suggesting you should always have someone else proofread your work. As the writer, one tends to glance over some words because your mind knows what's coming and you jump ahead...that, and perhaps a lack of discipline and patience...ok, I'll throw age in as an additional defense! I appreciate your reading the story as well as your comments. Thanks.


Sharon Williams
21:33 Mar 02, 2023

No problem. Every piece I write there's at least one typo, and that's with reading it over and over. My daughter is coming round tomorrow to read one of my uni assignments aloud to see if that solves it. Kind regards Sharon


Murray Burns
22:37 Mar 02, 2023

Great minds do think alike...a half-hour before I saw your reply I called my daughter to tell her she had to proofread my stories...and then I sent her my latest story. At least we'll have someone else to blame for any future typos.


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Kathryn Kahn
17:49 Mar 01, 2023

Good story. It's a particular challenge to tell a story with all dialogue when there are more than two characters in a conversation. Nice job.


Murray Burns
19:13 Mar 01, 2023

I appreciate your reading the story and your comments. I knew someone who couldn't outlive his past. It can be challenging...and sad. Thanks.


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Charlie Murphy
16:50 Feb 27, 2023

Frank literally was a superhero! It's sad he died. Great job!


Murray Burns
20:02 Feb 28, 2023

I appreciate your reading the story and your comments. I once knew someone who couldn't outlive his past. Sad. Thanks.


Charlie Murphy
20:13 Feb 28, 2023

You're welcome. Can you read The Wrath of Roachzilla?


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01:09 Feb 23, 2023

Murray, you made me cry! Now that's an accomplishment. LOL Wonderful job. I didn't have any trouble following who was speaking, and I liked how you separated the different conversations. Great Job. Look forward to your next piece.


Murray Burns
03:28 Feb 23, 2023

I appreciate your reading the story and your comments. I knew someone who had the challenge of putting his past behind him. Your bio...Boston! I'm a midwest guy,but I spent some time out east...many fun weekends in Boston...but, that is the worst town in history for driving. I took someone to the airport once...many years ago...after 2 stops for directions, I was still making no progress. We stopped and watched for airplanes coming and going to zero in on in it. Another trip to the airport...I dragged a friend from Boston along to drop someo...


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Delbert Griffith
15:44 Feb 22, 2023

What a great story, Murray. I feel like I've known Frank my entire life through reading this tale. Your dialogue was spot on. Nicely done, my friend. Nicely done indeed.


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Kelly Sibley
22:14 Feb 21, 2023

.... that was sad. An excellent piece well done.


Murray Burns
22:54 Feb 21, 2023

I appreciate it. One of my favorite books is Les Miserables- the struggles of Jean Valjean to move on from his past. I guess that was on my mind. Thanks.


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Lily Finch
06:07 Feb 21, 2023

Murray, An excellently written story with a bittersweet ending. The message is the most important message to pass on. Thank you for such a great read. LF6.


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Frank Lester
02:48 Feb 21, 2023

I liked your story. Sad but true. A bad past overshadows the good we're capable of. On top of that, all dialog without description or tags is very difficult, but you did a respectable job. Two comments: the story jumped back and forth between locations and was difficult to follow at times. On the other side of that coin, without tags I couldn't always follow who was speaking. In both cases, an additional comment by one of the speakers would help the reader keep both location and speaker straight. Good work. Thanks for sharing it. Stay well.


Murray Burns
22:42 Feb 21, 2023

I appreciate your reading the story and your comments. Yes, dialogue only makes location a challenge. Thanks


Frank Lester
03:49 Feb 24, 2023

You're very welcome.


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