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Here’s to “The Working Hours”—It’s a Short Story

Any short story that has bars, drinking and Powers (Irish whiskey) is worth reading. In this case, my daughter, Kelly, wrote it and won third prize for the best short story in the prestigious Chautauqua Literary Journal, “Wonders of the World.” It’s published once a year. You can order your 2014 copy here for a good summer read or as a gift for the reader in your family or circle of friends.

Chautauqua is a Native American (Iroquois) word meaning “a bag tied in the middle” or “two moccasins tied together.” So there are a lot of things we can call chautauqua, but there is only one Chautauqua Literary Journal. It is published by The Chautauqua Institute, “a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York State that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. Over the course of nine weeks, more than 100,000 visitors will stay at Chautauqua and participate in programs, classes and community events for all ages—all within the beautiful setting of a historic lakeside village.”

All the images in the montage are visual references to events, places and things in the short story, “The Working Hours.” They were chosen by TD Graphics to pique your interest.

 

Some excerpts follow. A proud father’s picking.

 

The uniform would have been death at the bar, the jokes unceasing with the constant visual reminder. As it was, though, the laughs at his expense usually died down the first few minutes after his arrival. A perfectly poured Guinness might get a, “Now that’s art, right Frank? Guard it while I take a piss, will ya?” But mainly, the guys focused on their drinks and their nightly debates…

 

She had her soft side, too. She still kept that postcard with the flowers tucked into her vanity mirror. Two big red blooms. Poppies, the back side said. Like the ones in The Wizard of Oz. Frank had brought it home one day from work. There was something about it he liked, them being so big and all, and he thought it’d be kind of funny, like bringing Margie flowers but not really. She’d gotten a kick out of it too—how he held his hand behind his back and presented it like a bouquet. She even sniffed the card, just to play along. I was sort of sweet…

“Hey, at least they won’t wilt in a week,” he’d pointed out.

But actually, they did, kind of. The postcard kept drooping a little every couple of days…

 

The only drawback to Thursdays was that he’d arrive at Haps [his local Irish bar]late. The boys would already be a few beers in, and he always seemed to show up right after they had come definitively to some decision of great importance, like whether this was really Jeter’s last year with the Yanks or if Bruce Lee could kick Jean Claude Van Damme’s ass. When he walked in late, it wasn’t like it was on Cheers. The bar didn’t shout his name and the boys didn’t ask him to chime in, lest those who had prevailed lose their ground. He’d usually get a Powers to help him catch up and then chase it with a beer, setting in as a listener for the evening…

 

“What do you mean, odd hour?”

“It’s a real security job, Frank. At a respectable place downtown Financial District.” The boys all nodded approvingly. “You’d work the lobby, after hours, just checkin’ in all the stiffs who come in to work late, which apparently is a lot of ‘em, especially these days. And that’s it—no areas to cover, no perimeters to walk, just sitting—and I know you’re an expert at sitting, right? It’s like your fuckin’ field.” The boys all got a chuckle out of that one.

“I got a job, Tommy.”

“This is a real job, Frank. It pays almost double what you’re gettin’ at the museum. Plus those guys down there get nice and generous come Christmas time. They still get bonuses–if you can believe that–which means you get bonuses. A real goddamn Santa fest.”

 

“One more drink,” he said, signaling to the bartender. “I can’t believe your told her, Tommy. I mean, you know, before I could.”

“Well, my friend, if it’s privacy you want, you’ve come to the wrong man. Barkeep!” Tommy was up again, red-faced and sweaty.

“See,” Tommy slogged onward, clapping his hand on the bartender’s shoulder, “in this world, Francis, there are only two kinds of people who can keep secrets: bartenders and the dead.” The bartender nodded solemnly. “Bartenders, they’ll keep your secrets because they don’t care. And the dead? Well, they’ll keep ‘em because they have to. So if it’s discretion you want, Frank, like I said, I’m not your man.”

“Least not ‘til your dead, Tommy,” Frank replied.

“You got me there.”…

 

Editor’s Note: Kelly Hammond is also the author of a popular original poem on these pages, “The Drunkard and the Drammard.”

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About Author

Josh is an author, former blogger, media critic, x-Capitol Hill legislative aide and White House assistant, business consultant, idea marketing specialist, a squatter at the global village virtual bar and an alpine rock gardener where he lives in Woodstock, NY.

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