Issue #56

Fall 2015

No Sequels, Please and
The Chief Deacon's Report on the Rumored Return of the Broken Boys

by Bob Thurber

No Sequels, Please

First we meet the writer, who, being blind, starts with an apology, because how else? Even a distracted, indifferent reader can detect when an author, sightless or not, is posturing for position, merely flexing his syntactical muscles to attract attention. Genuine literary sincerity is in such short supply these days, on and off the page.

No. Far better to deal with these thorny issues upfront: admit perplexity, confess confusion, plead ambiguity rather than risk accusations of cleverness (or, god forbid, artificiality). No point grumbling how it's not his fault his protagonist, without checking with anyone, has already penned a sequel to his yet-to-be-published novel, or that a secondary character (a femme fatale utilizing a mannish nom de plume) has drafted a prequel, or that a number of insignificant stock characters (many of whom exist only in a single declarative sentence) are right now jotting summaries on index cards in preparation for meetings with movie producers.

What infuriates the most is that each and every one of these fictitious folks has acquired a real-life, first-rate agent -- top tier, fiercely aggressive, highly assertive representation, the kind of industry savvy, workaholic devils that drive major deals, negotiate huge advances, bring in mucho bucks. Meanwhile, the writer's agent, though a seasoned pro, is a frail, flamboyant, talkative, though less-than-aggressive elderly man (74 years and counting) named Jack. Semi-retired and semi-affluent, he dresses like he owns a plantation, wearing heavily starched gauzy shirts and vibrant bowties beneath sandy-white cotton suits. He dons a wig weaved from thick black Asian hair, cut and styled like Moe from the Three Stooges. This hairpiece is always precisely arranged beneath some stylish hat.

He, the writer's agent, owns an extensive assortment of vintage hats that are, as a whole, a registered collection of artifacts, fully insured for their outlandish collective worth. Most of this headgear belonged to movie stars, writers, artists and politicians from the 40s and 50s, all dead, though there is at least one hat from the 60s, a blue velvet bowler that belonged to George Harrison of the Beatles. But he's dead too. Sadly. So these hats are, unequivocally, dead man's hats that the agent dons about town and demonstrates taking off and putting on fifty times a day. He claims he does this to tease, not the living but the dead, that spirits, good and bad, are everywhere, constantly reaching out to retrieve the things they've left behind, disturbing air, making waves. That's why I became an agent in the first place, he says to the blind writer on the phone. To keep good spirits content to keep trying, to inspire them to repeatedly grasp for what they can no longer possess.


The Chief Deacon's Report on the Rumored Return of the Broken Boys

First Sunday after Easter a rumor spread among our congregation that the broken boys were back. I got wind of it from one of the ushers while emptying the collection plates, and as chief deacon I considered it my duty to investigate the source of this unsettling gossip.

A hunter had reported seeing the boys just before daybreak. I knew the fellow, an ex-neighbor, and a drinking man notorious for his sunrise delusions. Supposedly, after making a clean kill, he had, while looking the other way, glimpsed three boys on a hill, standing with their arms extended, like scarecrows against the horizon.

A short time later, a mother making pancakes for her sleeping darlings, claimed she'd heard whispers through the cracks in her ceiling. Which she thought an odd thing because the cracks had recently been spackled and painted over. And an even odder thing, seeing the house had no attic, and a steeply slanted roof, which she described as virtually unclimbable. Initially she passed the whispers off as a trick of sound, the trapped reverberations of her own children's voices bouncing from room to room straight to her ear.

When asked what she discerned from the murmurs, she said, Not much. Just talk.

When pressed, she replied: Nonsense, really. Mere childish chatter.

When pushed for a more definitive response, she said: Talk of hunger, fear, isolation. Cold nights and trembling days.

It made no sense to her, but she still thought it best to call the hotline. It made no sense to the volunteer on duty, who had just gotten off the phone with the hunter. How could boys so far removed from the rest of us, ill-behaved, stubborn boys lacking even a simple map, find their way without guidance? Nearly a year had passed since the rascals had been blindfolded and transported across the river, marched through the foothills then abandoned on the north side of the mountain with nothing more than a few loafs of stale bread. How had they survived all these months, sustained themselves though such a long and severe winter, lacking adequate supplies.

Though I had not lobbied for the boys' expulsion, I had not voted against it. And so, regrettably, when the third report confirmed that the boys had somehow traced their way home, I was profoundly shaken. I logged that sighting myself, after spotting a dozen of them outside my window while eating my supper alone. This was at twilight during a thunderstorm. A startling rumble caused me to glance up just as a flash of lightning turned night to daylight. And there they were, running through the blinding rain.

Author Bio


Bob Thurber is an old, unschooled writer widely published in literary journals, magazines, and on the Internet. This is the tenth time his work has appeared in The Cafe Irreal. “The Cat Who Waved,” appeared in Issue #5; “Shuteye” appeared in Issue #15; “The Bartender Story” appeared in Issue #32; “You Don’t Belong Here” appeared in Issue #34; “A Woman on the Bus” appeared in Issue #38; "Crackers" in Issue #40; "Mister Fumble Bumble and The Merry Widow of The Shoemaker" in Issue #43; "Old Sharp Photo" in Issue #45; and "The Manufacturing of Sorrow" in Issue #51. Bob is the author of four books, including Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel, a novel that depicts the unapologetically explicit reality of a boy growing up in an impoverished, dysfunctional family during the summer of the first moon landing. His latest story collection, Nothing But Trouble, was released in the spring of 2014. For more information visit