Archive for February, 2010




When I was around nine years old I remember making trips with my father to uptown Newark to visit bookstores to buy comic books.
The stores are now long gone, torn down and replaced by skyscrapers, but once there was a series of used bookstores, the only ones in the area, huddled together on Market Street, located where the uptown section of Newark began, just beyond Penn Station. Once you left my area of Newark and made your way to Penn Station. and under the elevated railroad you were uptown, heading toward Broad and Market, the heart of Newark.
Off I would go with my dad to buy comic books. The stores were ancient with cats perched in the dirty plate-glass windows. They were musty-smelling rooms filled with shelves piled with old books from the creaky hardwood floor to the grimy ceiling. This was my first experience visiting bookstores. During my youth, I received a gift from my mother; the love of books. She was a constant reader.
I love bookstores to this day, both old and new, and the smells of the used bookstores take me back to Market Street. The bookstores of Market Street had huge front windows crammed with books along with the before mentioned cats; the store overflowed with books. And somewhere in this maze of books were bags and bags of used comic books. The comics had their covers removed (which might have indicated something illegal) and sold for a nickel each or six for a quarter and we would buy them by the stack.
There would be romance comics for my mother, science fiction and action heroes for me and for the younger kids there would be Nancy, Donald Duck, Archie and more. We would bring home a bundle of comics, along with the musty smell of the store, sit around the kitchen table and divide them up.
Taking part of my stack of comics and hiding some in the bathroom for nature’s calls did not endear me to my family. There was a water pipe running from floor to ceiling on the outer wall and I would hide my comics rolled up and wedged between the pipe and the wall near the ceiling. Of course, they were in plain sight. I just assumed no one would ever look up.
At the age of nine comics were my entertainment; they were my entry to the world of reading and imagination. To this day I lose patience with computer games, get bored with TV and other electronic means of filling your day. But given a good book, I get lost for hours always needing to know what the next page holds.

February 13, 2010 at 10:58 pm Leave a comment


Last summer, which seems like a distant memory as I watch the snow fall, I held a gathering for my writers group. To celebrate the occasion, I wrote a story to read that night. Necrology Shorts published it.

Will Trizma was a writer of ghost stories and mined the local countryside for legends and their settings. The area abounded in both. His wife, Joan, acted as his editor and sounding board for his ideas. At times, the only comment she would make is, “You’re sick.”
Not only did he write ghost stories, but he also dreamt them. One night he conjured a most vivid story; a story from the future. But unlike most of his dreams, he could not remember this tale. The only recollection he had was that it was horrifying.
* * *
It was the evening of August 15, 1949. The time was slightly before ten as a train made its way toward West Chester. There were fifteen souls aboard, counting the crew and passengers on this quiet summer night. The steam locomotive was pushing a caboose and two passenger cars. The weather had been stormy for days and up ahead the foundation of the bridge spanning Ship Road had been undermined by runoff. Jim Purvis, making his last run in a fully-loaded fuel truck, slowly crossed the bridge. As he reached the span’s center, it collapsed leaving the truck astraddle the tracks. Jim could not believe he was still alive considering the load he was carrying. Although injured, he managed to climb out of the ravine and go seek help.
As the train slowly made its way into a depressed section of track, the conductor, Ben Elliot, sat on the caboose’s platform and began filling his pipe thinking about sharing a late dinner with his wife. He looked down to light the pipe, and once achieving a satisfactory burn, he puffed contently, and them looked up. The sight before him made his scream, “Holy sh…! He never finished the expletive.
The caboose rammed the truck, followed by the cars. The locomotive cut through the wreck until it reached the truck exploding the gas tank and turning the wreck into a funeral pyre.
* * *
Writing is a lonely profession, and years ago Will sought out a local writer’s group for support and editorial advice. During the course of a Christmas dinner attended by all the writers, Will and Joan suggested a summer party and volunteered to hold it at their house. As the day of the party approached, a spouse or two became sick and others were called away unexpectedly on business.
Will and his wife greeted their guests, their thirteen guests.
Their dog, Millie, a lab mix was her usual excited self with the arrival of every new visitor. Once everyone was there, she settled down and dozed in the sun.
The conversation was lively with all the creative minds present, and as dusk approached, Will was called upon to tell a ghost story. “Not dark enough yet,” he answered.
Dessert was served, and when there was no longer a hint of sunlight, and with the patio bathed in twilight, Will deemed the time right for his tale and went into the house. He returned with candles, one for each table, after extinguished all inside lights. “Now we have the right atmosphere,” he said. Will began his story and even Millie appeared interested, her eyes reflecting the candlelight.
The weather had been rainy the last few days, and at ten as he began to read, Will noticed a mist begin coming out of the gull bordering one side of his property. A few guests had asked him earlier about the gully and he answered that it had once harbored a railroad track.
The mist became denser and soon overtook the yard along with the guests. One by one they all fell asleep, including Millie. As the wall of fog enveloped all present, fifteen human shapes began to form. The specters slowly made their way to the dozing, and one by one, entered their bodies.
The next morning they awoke from their deep sleep and knowingly smiled at one another. Ben Elliot looked around, and Will’s eyes filled with tears. “We’ve waited sixty years for this moment.”
Millie awoke and growled. She knew there was something terribly wrong with her master.


February 10, 2010 at 4:31 pm Leave a comment


During my years in Newark I witnessed the good and the bad. This was the ugly.



It was a summer’s morning in 1967. The buses were running late, and I soon found out why. I think it was the lack of knowledge I had that morning that, helped in part, to make me the news junkie that I am today.
I was in college now, and had two summer jobs, I still had my job at the newsstand working my usual Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights. I had also started a new job. With a strong interest in science, I was studying biochemistry in college and wanted to find a job where I could gain some kind of practical laboratory training. I wrote to all the hospitals I could think of in the Newark area and asked if there was a lab job available. To my great surprise I got a positive reply from Presbyterian Hospital and an offer to work in their hospital laboratory. I found out later that most of the summer positions went to doctor’s children, and at the last moment, someone decided that the job was not for them. I guess my letter must have shown up at just the right time.
When I reported for work at Presbyterian Hospital to begin my summer job, I was shown into one of many small rooms that made up the hospital laboratory and was giver the job of dipping urinalysis sticks into urine samples and told that someday I might be able to spin down the urine and look at it under the microscope. This was not the exciting summer job that would bring me the lab experience that I had hoped to gain. But beggars can’t be choosers so I decided to stick it out for the summer. After a few days of dipping into urine, someone came around the lab and asked for volunteers to go across the street and work in the Children’s Hospital that was affiliated with Presbyterian. I figured that the job could not get more boring than what I was doing now, so off I went.
After I had volunteered, people around me told me that I had made a major mistake and that soon I would see the error of my ways.
The next day I showed up for work at Children’s Hospital and asked for directions to the lab. When I found it, I was greeted not by a huge anonymous operation, but a rather small room with just a bench for each area such as urinalysis, hematology, along with microbiology and blood chemistry. The hospital was fairly small so I should have anticipated this but, of course, I didn’t. I did find out why I had been discouraged from coming to this lab. For there was no place to hide and you really had to work.
With a little training, I went from dipping urinalysis sticks to doing all the complete urinalysis for the hospital every day, making out the reports and initialing them. If the doctors only knew who W.T. was, would they have been surprised. After I was done with the urine, I would drift over to blood chemistries and with some training was soon reporting results from that bench. I was having a ball. And as the summer progressed and some of the technicians went on vacations, I was covering all the urinalysis and blood chemistries. This was also before the days of strict laboratory practices when dealing with human samples. I was mouth pipeting human serum and plasma with what are now old fashioned glass pipettes and of course wore no gloves, but I had a great time and felt I really contributed something because they were so short-staffed.
I began my workday at the hospital laboratory at 8 o’clock in the morning, worked till about four then went home, and on my days at the newsstand, had something to eat and worked at the newsstand from 6 to 11 P.M.
One morning when I knew I would be working both jobs, I prepared to go to work at the hospital. My main task was to have some breakfast and get to the bus stop on time. I seldom had time for the news. The buses ran fairly regularly, but for some reason today the bus was late – very late. Finally, when I did see the bus coming, my bus was part of a convoy of about four buses. So I got on, found a seat and was ready for the usual thirty to forty minute ride to work, but this ride would be different than any ride to work that I had had before.
As I rode past the intersection of Broad & Market Streets, and past the newsstand where I was to work that night, I could see flames rolling out of the storefronts of some of the nearby businesses. The streets were crowded with fire engines and police cars. The streets were unusually full of activity.
Once I made it to the hospital, I found out what was going on, riots had broken out in Newark, starting the night before in the downtown area. All that day I could look down on the street from the lab window and see convoys of state police cars and jeeps with mounted and manned machine guns, a truly eerie sight to witness in your hometown. During the workday, I called my boss at the newsstand and asked if he was going to stay open that night. At first he said he would but later changed his mind, much to my relief. I think that in all the years I worked there, this was the first time the newsstand had been closed without there being a major snowstorm.
That afternoon, instead of catching the bus home, my cousins called and asked if I would want to be picked up after work, that sounded pretty good to me. While riding home, I saw sandbag emplacements with machine guns in the middle of the downtown area. The city had changed – scarred forever. Anger that had long been buried rose into full view. I also found out the next day that a man had been shot and killed at my bus stop.
The nights in the Down Neck section were quiet for the next few days due to the curfew in effect for all of Newark. Our area of the city, being far from the riots, was like a ghost town. There was no activity on the streets at all.
I have not recently revisited the area of the riots, so I have no idea what the area looks like now. I do remember that for years after the riots, once the burned-out homes and stores were torn down, the lots remained vacant, whole city blocks where nothing existed, only the rubble of human folly, anger and injustice.
One can only imagine how lives were changed forever on that day that the buses ran late.

February 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm Leave a comment





There existed a tradition back years ago that has not survived to the present, at least not to the extent that it existed back then – the Sunday drive.  With today’s complex society and fast-paced lifestyles, to say nothing of gas prices, no one just drives for the sake of driving, unless you’re a teenager with a brand-new car.  Every time you get in the car there is a definite destination at the end of the trip.  But when I was a kid, many times the trip would start at home and finish at home with nothing in between except burning gas.

On Sunday afternoons my family would pile into the old Chevy and off we would go, unencumbered by seat belts, piled high with blankets if the drive was during the winter – which was rare.  The blankets were necessary because, back then, heaters were an option and our Chevy was a bare-bones model.  The route we took was more or less the same every week.  It got to where I would know when my father would turn, when we would change lanes, never straying from the usual Sunday afternoon course.

We would leave our house in the city and venture out into the ‘country’.  For me, the country was anywhere where the houses did not sit one beside the other, places with lawns and an occasional open field and a total lack of any kind of industry.  On our journey we would go, past housing developments and until finally sighting an open field or pasture. We would journey down roads bordered by store after store, but being Sunday, many of the stores were closed.  The only stores open for business were grocery and drug stores.

You see, these were the days of the ‘blue laws’ in New Jersey.  On Sunday, there were certain items you could buy and certain items you couldn’t.  For example, you could buy food but not any type of clothing.  We had these huge Wal Mart type stores that sold everything, the section that sold food was open but there were ropes across the aisles that sold clothes.  This could be the reason for Sunday drives!  You see malls did not yet exist – and if they had most of the stores would be closed or at least partially roped off.  We all know, especially those of us lucky enough to have teenagers, that the mall is The Destination.  There were also small shore communities that would, on Sundays, put sawhorses across the streets leading into town.  No cars allowed on the streets on Sunday.

Our journey would last long, hours, but they were never far.  My father was the opposite of a lead-footed driver.  He was more of a feather foot.  It was before the interstate highway system came into existence, so speedy travel did not exist as it does today and my father was not a fast driver.  There were times we would take a ride ‘down the shore’ towards Asbury Park.  My mother would pack a lunch and halfway there we would pull over onto the shoulder and eat, then continue on our trip.  When I was older, and started to drive, I would retrace this journey and it would take me less than an hour.

There was, however, one detour that we kids loved. On our Sunday drives, we would occasionally make a stop at the doughnut man’s bus.  This was before there were any doughnut store chains.  This made the outing a great joy for everyone. The man had bought a school bus and converted it into a mobile doughnut shop – complete with cooking facilities.  He parked his brown and white school bus on the shoulder of a four-lane highway – always the same place of course – and sell doughnuts, either plain or powdered sugar.  How we kids loved those doughnuts, most of the time still warm.  One of the kids would get out with mom to go up to the window to make the doughnut purchase. If he saw a kid, he would present the buyer with a bag of doughnut pieces – mistakes that occurred during the doughnut making.  And of course the bag of doughnut pieces was free.  I know people like that still exist.  Business people whose bottom line is to see a child’s eyes light up, but they are few and far between.

The other destination that might be visited was the driving range.  This stop I could never figure out – not to this day.  Here was my father, a toggler in a tannery, who to the best of my knowledge, had never even been on a golf course, stopping to hit some golf balls.  I never even saw my father play miniature golf, but there were the Triznas at the driving range hitting buckets of balls.  I of course would aim for the jeep driving around with its protective cage gathering the golf balls, later on I actually would hit for distance.  I can’t remember how long our driving range phase lasted, a few months, maybe a year, but it soon slipped into the past.  As we got older we kids played miniature golf.  But after our driving range phase was over, my father did not pick up a golf club again.

February 5, 2010 at 8:27 pm Leave a comment





My reluctant readers, here is an offering to commemorate that day of love, Valentine’s Day.  As in most of my stories, there is a twist.  Love is precious in life, and beyond life’s existence.

This story was published by Bewildering Stories.

A Valentine’s Gift

by Walt Trizna

Jim Reed sat in a desolate park in a seedy section of the city and pulled the collar of his badly worn coat up as the North wind howled, he sipped from the bottle concealed in the brown paper bag and, with each sip, a grimace spread across his face while momentary warmth filled his empty belly.

That goddamned day is coming, he thought. He did not have a calendar for a calendar needed a wall on which to hang and his watch was gone, hocked long ago. Jim kept track of the date and headlines the world produced from the newspaper machines along the sidewalk.

He drank rapidly; trying to prevent his mind from wandering to the day he lost his future, his purpose, that Valentine’s Day five years ago. But he could not prevent his numbed mind from reviewing his life and recalling the day his reason for being was erased.

* * *

While in college, Jim developed a drinking problem, and it lingered after graduation. He found a job as an accountant, worked hard during the day and drank hard during the night.

A friend from work wanted to fix Jim up with a girl. A date was arranged, a Dutch-treat dinner. Jim arrived at the Italian restaurant early, sat at the bar drinking red wine when a stunning woman with long black hair walked in searching for someone. She approached Jim and said, “I’m Debbie Wilson, could you be Jim Reed?”

Jim could not believe that this woman was his blind date. He gulped down his wine, took her hand, and headed for the restaurant area. He drank less than he usually did on a blind date and just enjoyed talking to Debbie.

Before he knew it, they had spent two hours over dinner, and he was sober. He wanted to pay for dinner but Debbie demanded to pay her own way. She smiled and said, “Next time you can treat.”

This brought a grin to Jim’s face. Debbie paid her part of the bill, and as the cashier placed the change in her hand, Debbie exclaimed, “What’s this?” She looked down at the dirty white penny in her hand.

“That’s a steel penny,” Jim explained. “One year, during World War II, pennies were made of a lead composite in order to save copper in order to make shell casings.”

Debbie’s eyes brightened as she said, “This is going to be my lucky penny and always remind me of this night.”

Their relationship grew into love, and six months later they were married. They bought a small house and soon Debbie was pregnant. Jim’s life had a hope he had never imagined as he watched Debbie grow with their child.

They found a hospital providing a room for natural birth, but had the facilities to cope with any problems that might occur. One day, as Debbie was preparing a special dinner to celebrate a special day, her water broke. Jim rushed her to the hospital thinking, “By the time this Valentine’s Day is over, I’ll have two loves, not one.”

After they entered the hospital, a nurse took Debbie’s blood pressure and immediately had her rushed to the emergency room. Debbie’s eyes reflected the fear Jim felt as he sat at her bedside. When Debbie began to convulse, Jim was escorted to the waiting room.

Hours later their obstetrician entered the waiting room and sat next to Jim. The doctor’s eyes never left the floor. In a soft voice he told Jim, “I’m sorry but your wife is gone, we lost the baby girl too. If you will come with me, I’ll take you to your wife.”

Jim felt horror, shock and helplessness all at once. On shaky legs he followed the doctor and soon found himself standing next to a bed and staring down at Debbie’s pretty face. She seemed so much at peace while Jim was in such torment.

The next few days were a blur; Jim drank himself into numbness while friends and family expressed their regrets. Jim stayed numb for five years, never cried over his loss, keeping the grief tied up inside. He stayed numb as he was fired and eventually lost his house. He had been homeless for two years now and just didn’t give a damn about anyone or anything.

* * *

Jim left the park and made his way into the city. He mumbled, “That goddamned day is here,” as he sat on the grate of an office building immersed in the steam, trying to stay warm. The hour was late and the street strangely deserted. Steam created an odd glow around the streetlamps. Through the mist, a small girl approached and stood before him.

“I’d like to help you mister,” she said.

Jim yelled, “Get the hell away from me,” but the girl wouldn’t budge. She just stood before Jim as her eyes filled with tears.

“I’d like to help you mister,” she repeated as she placed a small cloth sack before Jim. As she turned to leave she said something strange: “We love you.”

Jim watched through the mist as the girl departed; saw the tall figure of a woman waiting in the distance for the child. The child stood next to the woman and they joined hands as they looked back, and then melted into the mist.

Jim sat there, drinking from his bag and lifted the small cloth sack. He opened it and spilled its contents into his hand. He sat there looking at the single dirty white penny. He lifted the paper bag to his lips and then tossed it away as tears coursed down his face.

Copyright © 2006 by Walt Trizna

February 1, 2010 at 8:56 pm Leave a comment


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