Sad Inspirational Contemporary

December 23, 2022

Anna tossed a photograph onto Simon’s desk. The face in the photograph was lifeless and bloody, blank eyes staring into a camera they could not see.

“It’s done,” Anna said, slumping into a chair and yawning.

Simon stared at the photograph for a long time, his impassive features giving away nothing. After fully five minutes, Simon put the photograph into the shredder by his desk and looked up at Anna. Anna merely glanced at Simon before looking away.

“Thank you, neshama.”

“Happy birthday, old man.”

Simon shook his head, frowning slightly.

“My birthday was yesterday.”

Anna stood up and went to the window behind Simon’s desk. She stared at the cars and people passing by, all of them unaware that they were in the vicinity of two killers. She watched as a kid dropped his hot chocolate on the sidewalk, the brown, milky liquid splattering his mother and staining the sidewalk. The child stared at his lost treat and started to cry.

“I know. It was done yesterday.”

Simon looked into Anna’s face again. She quickly looked away.

The symbolism wasn’t lost on Simon. His birthday gift was the death of the man who had killed his wife. He felt his heart constrict just a little, his throat tightening ever so slightly.

“Go home, Anna. I need to be alone.”

Anna ruffled Simon’s thinning hair gently and walked out of his office, leaving through the back door. She needed a shower anyway. Anna hadn’t been able to get all of the blood off her after the deed had been done.


December 25, 2022

Simon’s Diner had been closed for almost an hour, yet Anna remained, polishing off a double cheeseburger, two orders of fries, and two milkshakes. She was contemplating which type of pie would nicely round off her meal when Simon slid into the seat across from her.

“Why are you open on Christmas?”

“For the lonely people who need a meal today.”

Anna smiled wryly at Simon and chuckled.

“Like me?”

“Yes, like you. And others.”

The winter sun had hidden itself behind the buildings across from the diner, leaving the two inhabitants in a light dusk that would waste no time in turning into night and bringing the interminable fog with it.

“And you’re Jewish.”

Simon looked at her, frowning at the statement.

“So what?”

“Just an observation. I like it that a Jewish man is taking care of lonely Christians.”

Simon grunted and lit a cigarette. Dusk was deepening outside and he wanted to get home before the fog became too thick.

“You pray?”

Anna paused and considered how to answer the question. Tricky, she thought.

“Yes. Every day. And I pray even more before a kill. I want God on my side when the bullets start flying.”

Simon sat back in the booth, cocking his head to the side and gazing at Anna. Anna knew that look; it was Simon’s ‘I’m judging the hell out of you’ look. She had been the recipient of this look many times.

“So, you think God is on the side of murderers?”

“He’s on the side of justice. I deliver justice.”

Simon nodded, though he didn’t necessarily agree with Anna. He also didn’t disagree with her. Simon really wanted to believe in a kind and just god, but recent events made that difficult to do. He missed his wife terribly. Terribly, he thought. What a strange word to convey depth of feeling.

“Go home, old man. I’ll lock up after I have some pie, ok?”

Simon nodded and limped his way back to the kitchen. Anna strode after him and handed him his cane.

“Don’t act like you don’t need it,” she said severely.

“Don’t eat all of my pie,” Simon retorted.


December 31, 2022


“Yes. You and I need to celebrate a new year, old man.”

“Stop calling me old man.”

“Stop acting like one.”

Simon glared at Anna, but it didn’t take.

“Anyway, I don’t like your apartment. It’s so small. You have money. Why don’t you get a bigger place?”

“Why do I need a bigger place? It’s just me and my guns.”

Simon grimaced.

“Yes, you and your guns. They make me nervous.”

Anna barked out a laugh, spewing coffee all over the counter.

“That’s rich, coming from a Mossad badass.”

“Ex-Mossad, and I’ll thank you to keep your voice down.”

Anna held up her arms and gave an exaggerated look around the diner.

“Who’s gonna hear us? The okra and the legs of lamb?”

“One never knows.”

Anna wagged a finger at Simon.

“You’re deflecting.”

Simon heaved a deep sigh and wiped up the mess that Anna had created. Anna looked around the diner. It was, as usual, gleaming with brightness, but it wasn’t the warm shine that inhabited the place when Simon’s wife had been here. Everything seemed cold and lonely now. Even the pie cases looked forlorn, despite the beautiful array of blueberry, lemon meringue, and pumpkin pies on display.

“No,” Simon said, the softness in his voice melding into a guttural liquidness.

“We will go to my house,” he continued after a pause.

“Sure. Ok. Whatcha got to drink?”

Simon tossed the cleaning rag into a dish bin and lit a cigarette.


“That it?”

Simon considered for a moment, running through what he had available in his house.

“Water. Coffee. Orange juice. Pomegranate juice. Milk…”

“Ok, I get the picture. I’m stopping by my place to bring some fine Irish whiskey. I know that’s a redundancy but there it is.”

Simon grimaced.

“That stuff is vile.”

Anna laughed and shook her head at Simon.

“Better not say that around the Irish, my friend. That’s sacrilege.”

Simon moved the salt and pepper shakers around on the counter, quite unnecessarily. He lit another cigarette and puffed on it slowly, inhaling the smoke and letting it out into the semi-dark interior of the diner.

“Thank you, neshama.”

Anna looked at Simon and let a small drop of compassion bleed into her soul. Simon looked smaller than ever, and breakable. Like she could touch him and he would shatter into a thousand shards of misery.

“I don’t want to be alone tonight, Simon,” Anna said softly.

It was the truth, but the more substantial truth was that Anna didn’t want Simon to be alone tonight. All they had now was each other. Simon was clinging to memories of his dead wife, slipping into a dark and melancholy morass from which he might never recover. Anna felt the loss of Simon’s wife as well, but she let her rage and her taste for vengeance satisfy the emptiness that she felt when his wife was murdered.

“Go home and get your toxic liquid. Give me an hour or so before you come over. I have some things to do,” Simon said. He walked slowly toward the back door. Anna sighed in exasperation; she rushed to the exit and thrust Simon’s cane into his hands.

“And don’t leave it in the car, old man!” Anna yelled at Simon’s retreating back, a smile on her face.

Simon waved his free hand and kept on walking, lost in thought. Only one of those thoughts made him happy.


December 31, 2022

“Sláinte!” Anna held up a shot glass full of the amber liquid that she was so fond of. Simon raised his thin, crystal wine glass and clinked it against the squat, thick glass that Anna held aloft.

“Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?”

Anna laughed, surprised by the question.

“Look at you, being all American!”

Simon nodded but he didn’t smile.

Anna poured herself another shot and downed it as quickly as she did the first one. Simon sipped his red liquid and sat quietly at the table, eyeing Anna fondly. One could do worse than to love this girl. Talia had also loved her. So very much.

“Ok, I’ll tell you. I never tell anyone this, so I guess this means that you’re special.”

Anna grinned at Simon. He remained politely impassive.

“So. I make the same resolution every year. Well, for the last ten years anyway. I always resolve to stop killing people for money and find a new method of employment.”

“But you never stop, do you?”

Anna laughed harshly.

“No. Simon, there’s just too many bad people out there who need killing. You were Mossad, so you understand.”

Simon nodded. He had indeed killed for idealistic purposes. That didn’t make it any less bloody, and it didn’t make the nightmares any less horrible.

“And this year?”

“The same. I’ll make the same resolution and I’ll probably break it by March.”

“If you stopped killing, what would you do?”

Anna considered this, as she had done many times before. She had no real skills other than hand-to-hand combat and sniper-level skills. And a good sense of who needed to be killed.

“Dunno. Maybe you could train me to be a cook at your little diner.”

Simon nodded his head. His future actions and Anna’s present words catalyzed him into action.

He returned after a brief absence, exiting the inner recesses of his basement with a briefcase. He slid it over to Anna. She looked up, puzzled.

“You may open this when you return home. To help you with your resolution.”

Anna laughed.

“I guess it’s not a gun, then.”

Simon looked at her sadly and shook his head.

“No, neshama. Not a gun. A new beginning.”

“Ok, that’s fairly mysterious. Nice briefcase.”

Simon reflected that, of the eight billion people on this planet, Anna would accede to only his requests. He wanted to feel good about this but he couldn’t. Anna may not do as he wished, and this filled him with a feeling of dread. He needed Anna to love him enough to do as he wanted her to do.

The clock struck midnight, though it would be fairer to say that the clock’s hands moved silently to indicate 12:00 A.M. Fireworks could be seen from the patio, and mild explosions pushed through the night air. The ex-Mossad badass and the young American badass toasted each other and gave each other a kiss on the cheek.

“Your wife would be happy to see you like this.”

Simon looked at Anna, blinking slowly.

“She has a name, you know.”

“Yeah, she does. And as soon as you say it, I’ll say it.”

Simon had no response to this very excellent argument.

“Call a taxi, neshama. Go home. You have a big day tomorrow.”

Anna looked at Simon with a curiosity that belied her calm demeanor. Something was up with Simon, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on, and it was more disturbing than she wanted it to be.

“I already have an Uber waiting, old man.”

“Stop calling me old man.”

Anna turned to Simon and took his hands.

“Say your wife’s name.”

Simon smiled and sighed, giving Anna a small hug and a pat on the head.

“I promise to say her name tomorrow.”

Anna hugged him back, but with a little more feeling and gusto than he had given her.

Simon spoke before Anna could leave.

Neshama? I…uh…”

Anna kissed him on the cheek again.

“I know. Me too.”

The door closed quietly behind her. Simon went to bed, forgetting to pray for the first time in several years.


January 1, 2023

Anna sat at her kitchen table and opened the briefcase, taking out thick sheaves of paper, a set of keys, and a map. Placing the whiskey bottle to the side, she began to read. Almost immediately, she stood up so suddenly that her chair toppled over.


She grabbed the whiskey bottle and drank deeply from it. She repeated this after a slight grimace. Shaking, she sat down again and kept on reading. She re-read the words that Simon had written, and then she did it again.


I have a brain tumor that is killing me. The doctors tell me I have three months to live, at most. They want me in the hospital next week. I will not go.

The deed to the diner and to the house have been willed to you. Keep them or sell them, but I would like you to keep them. It would make Talia and me happy. Beatrice is the new server. Be kind to her, if you can.

I will visit my Talia this morning and tell her I am coming to her. 8:00 is a good time for this. There will be no one there and it will be light enough to see. I pray that the fog is not a problem.

If you look at the map, I have a spot for you. It is prepared. Enclosed is a key to my storage unit. I put your beloved IWI DAN in there because I know that’s the rifle you’re most comfortable with.

Neshama, I need you to do this for me. I do not want to die in a hospital. I do not want to die strapped to tubes in my bedroom, wading through the pain and waiting to meet God. Most of all, I don’t want to see the pity in your eyes when you come to see me, and I know you will come to see me.

Please, do this for me. You say you believe in killing for justice, but I need you to kill for love. If you care about me as much as you cared for my Talia, you’ll do this.

I could never say it to you, but I love you as much as Talia loved you. She could say it because she was strong. Me? I’m not so strong. Forgive me, neshama.

I believe that your Jesus will smile kindly on your actions. May He be with you until the end of your days. Good-bye, neshama.

Anna slumped in her chair, letting loose a deep, shuddering sigh. She angrily brushed a couple of stray tears away. Why do you have to die, old man? Why couldn’t you just stay here?

The new day of a new year passed in silence at Anna’s apartment. She had put the whiskey bottle away and sat in the dark, trying to keep her mind off of everything. Ghosts tiptoed through the darkened apartment, and Anna let them keep her company. She had no one else.

Simon knelt in front of Talia’s grave, smiling wanly and offering her a bouquet of flowers. His suit felt too stiff, but he insisted on wearing it; a man should look good for his wife.

“I finally told Anna. Well, I wrote it to her in a note. I don’t think I could have said it to her face, Talia. She might have cried, and I don’t think I could have taken that.”

The sun was making its way over the hills and trees of San Francisco, casting a watery but substantial light over the countryside. The fog had drifted away to parts unknown, waiting for the next morning. Today, the fog listened to Simon’s plea for a clear line of sight to his heart.

“I told her to wait until we finished our conversation. She’s a good girl, Talia. We have time.”


Anna set up the IWI DAN and scoped the kill site. She was early, but today was a day to be early. It had to go well.

She leaned back and closed her eyes. Images came unbidden to her mind; she let them dance lightly though her head. Simon and Talia, dancing in the kitchen after the diner had closed. Talia, taking Simon’s hand, and the acerbic Simon letting her. Simon, deftly and lovingly moving his wife aside so that he could get back to the grill. Talia, slapping her husband’s rear end and Simon smiling at her when she did so. Aged lips kissing wrinkled cheeks.

It was all a smoky ballet, a silent slide across some unknown stage, with only Anna in the audience. The movements slowed but became more graceful, taking on the aspect of flowing water. And then it ended. The dancers melted into the stage and Anna was left with a broken heart and a memory that would never leave her. New ghosts to comfort her old soul.


At 8:33, a shot rent the air, shattering the silence. The sound echoed through the hills and towards downtown, silencing itself before it got to the diner. Simon crumpled to the ground near the entrance to the cemetery. He was smiling.

Anna left the IWI DAN where it was. She wiped away all traces of her presence and walked to the diner. The tears that she had been holding back rushed through her eyes and down her cheeks. Rivulets of desolation. A baptism in love. Glittering drops of pain and cleansing.


Beatrice smiled at Anna, offering her a menu.

“Something to eat, dearie? Rico can fix you up in no time,” she said brightly. Anna was kind to her, as Simon had wanted.

“Coffee and a piece of blueberry pie.”

Beatrice nodded.

“Good choice, dearie. Best blueberry pie in California.”

Beatrice hustled off to get the coffee and the pie. Anna stared at the photograph of Talia and Simon, posed in front of their diner on the day it opened. Simon looked uncomfortable in a suit. Talia looked resplendent in her dress.

Anna ate the piece of pie slowly, for it would be the last blueberry pie made by Simon’s hands, with Simon’s magic. She left Beatrice a $10 tip and exited the diner before the tears came again. She promised Beatrice that she would ‘come back soon, dearie!”

Anna set a resolute face for home and quickened her pace, for she had things to do. Blueberry pies didn’t make themselves, and new ghosts needed a proper welcome.

January 06, 2023 19:14

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Helen A Smith
09:48 Jan 13, 2023

This story made me want to cry. It started strongly and continued to develop. Simon’s request was unexpected and shocking, but completely fitting. The skill was in making Anna a sympathetic and believable character, someone who I could invest in. Thanks Delbert.


Delbert Griffith
10:43 Jan 13, 2023

Thanks so much, Helen. I really appreciate the kind words and the thoughtful analysis. I certainly hope Anna was worth the investment; I wanted her to be someone we could empathize with. Again, thank you. Cheers!


Helen A Smith
10:47 Jan 13, 2023

It definitely worked. Maybe you can develop her character in another story.


Delbert Griffith
11:23 Jan 13, 2023

Funny you should say that. I have been toying with the idea of expanding this tale. You must be a mind reader, Helen! LOL


Helen A Smith
11:30 Jan 13, 2023



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Sorchia DuBois
17:31 Jan 12, 2023

Beautiful! As has been mentioned--so many layers and all so subtly presented. Michal hit all the high points quite well so I won't repeat his excellent summary. I have my doubts about how well Anna will keep her resolution--not counting Simon's death--but any story about her struggle will be entertaining. Such a wonderful tale!


Delbert Griffith
18:02 Jan 12, 2023

You must be a mind reader, Sorchia! Yes, Anna should be explored further and, no, she will struggle but ultimately fail at keeping her 'no kill' resolution. Thanks so much for reading this tale, and thanks for the thoughtful analysis. I truly appreciate this.


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Michał Przywara
21:38 Jan 11, 2023

That's a hell of a request to make! But these two are unusual people, with unusual histories and jobs. I'm struck by the conflict in this. Simon doesn't want treatment as the idea of a slow, painful death terrifies him. Even if he did go that route, he'd only buy himself a couple months. So, his request to go out on his own terms is understandable. Given his history, he also might not be in a mental place where he could stomach being bedridden and alone, with only his ghosts for company. But this is an emotional manipulation. He knows ex...


Delbert Griffith
22:06 Jan 11, 2023

Thanks so much for commenting on my little tale, Michal. I always appreciate what you have to say because you explain what my story means better than I could. LOL You're right on all counts. He manipulates Anna, but he does so because he trusts her to kill him expertly, and he trusts that she won't feel any remorse about it. So, there's that. But Anna is complex. Yes, she likes killing bad people - at least, she likes killing people that she deems to be worthy of death. If you read the last line of the story, you think that Anna has commi...


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03:59 Jan 11, 2023

Well written, and very believable!


Delbert Griffith
11:09 Jan 11, 2023

Thanks so much, Denise. I appreciate the kind review. :)


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Laurel Hanson
20:56 Jan 10, 2023

A tender thoughtful exploration of one of those unsolvable moral dilemmas we face - or perhaps I should say, don't face.


Delbert Griffith
21:10 Jan 10, 2023

Thank you so much, Laurel. I appreciate the kind words. The moral dilemma made the story, don't you think? I'm pleased that you got that bit.


Laurel Hanson
22:55 Jan 10, 2023

Yes, I do. I really like it when some level of social commentary or ethical situation can be incorporated along without sacrificing the plot. You do that well.


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Susan Catucci
15:39 Jan 10, 2023

I've said it before; these relationships that you manage to bring to life ring so true and are so rich, and richly intriguing, I just get caught up every time (and I've been known to shed a tear or two, as you know.) Seriously, only you could make murderers and thieves as sympathetic as the residents of the Island of Misfit Toys. It's a gift.


Delbert Griffith
16:44 Jan 10, 2023

Thanks so much for those observations, Susan. Your words warm me like a nice fire and a glass of old port. I have always liked the antihero/miscreant character, but I try to imbue them with likeable characteristics. Maybe you have given me some insight into my writing flavor? LOL You always have something startling and insightful to say about my tales, and I always look forward to your reviews. Thanks so much, Susan. Truly.


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Chris Campbell
00:22 Jan 09, 2023

Simon gave Anna the utmost respect and honour by choosing her to be the one to end his life quickly. Love really does hurt. Nicely woven story, Delbert. Well done!


Delbert Griffith
00:26 Jan 09, 2023

Thanks so much, Chris. Yeah, it was all so complicated, but in the end, it comes down to love. I am happy to see your comments because you always get my tales. I appreciate that.


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Lily Finch
20:26 Jan 08, 2023

Killing in the name of God for a loved one who is ill. That concept (doctor-assisted suicide) is legal in Canada. I saw this story as an act of love and a difficult decision, as so often comes with loving someone. Anna did what she always did each year - she broke her New Year's Resolution. Simon counted on her doing that and used her love for his wife and him to fuel Anna's 'passion' for killing. This story is intricate and well done. LF6


Delbert Griffith
22:28 Jan 08, 2023

Wow, you really understood the dynamics of the tale, Lily. I'm glad you liked it, and I always appreciate your thoughtful analysis. You're a jewel!


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Wendy Kaminski
18:04 Jan 07, 2023

This is bittersweet like dreaming of someone you used to love. It definitely had a dreamlike quality throughout, too: Simon dreaming of Talia, Anna dreaming of a different life. Two conflicting dreams, and a background of fog, but with a solid resolution. Loved the way you wove this story!


Delbert Griffith
18:15 Jan 07, 2023

Thanks so much, Wendy. Your comments mean a lot to me, truly. Talia was the glue, though she was absent from the tale. I'm glad you liked the fog; it was there for a reason, as you saw. I'm still working on dialogue, so it may have been rough in places - but so is Anna! LOL Again, thank you. I really appreciate it.


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Tommy Goround
22:18 Jan 06, 2023

Ot: God will make your enemies a footstool. Book of Psalms. NT: God will make your enemies a footstool. (Book of Hebrews, chapter one) I asked a fellow about this and his opinion was that David had to defend Israel as a king. (You can go into the entire concept of Israel as a bride to God or whatever)... The demarcation appears to be that if you do something for a nation it is different than doing it for an individual. I don't know if I'm sold on this perspective... But it certainly seems cheap when we all slap each other just to slap ea...


Delbert Griffith
00:36 Jan 07, 2023

The sad truth is that people, religious leaders, and entire religions, will put their own particular spin on a passage and run with it. We love God just enough to kill in His name, but not quite enough to forgive our enemies. But I could use a nice footstool.


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Tommy Goround
22:15 Jan 06, 2023



Delbert Griffith
10:25 Jan 07, 2023

I got the clap! Yeah, I know how that sounds. Thanks, Tommy. I appreciate it, my man.


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