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SEPTEMBER 2018

The September issue of ARTPOST magazine contains amazing Slice Of Life stories from around the world.  So come on and step into the lives of some fascinating characters!

EXCERPTS:

Fifteen Minutes by Christopher L. Malone

Henry Smith’s Seasonings by Peter J. Barbour

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ARTPOST magazine was created in 2018 with one simple goal in mind: to find and publish creative works of fiction, poetry, photography and artwork from independent authors and artists around the world and pay them fairly for their work.

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Fifteen Minutes

Game shows are a travesty to mankind. Every single one of them. I should know, because I was on one for exactly four minutes and thirty-two seconds; enough time for the producers to eagerly pump me up as a blue collar working man to the rest of the audience, just so they could eagerly watch me fall flat on my face. It’s entertaining to pull the rug out from under a guy’s feet and watch him come crashing back down to Earth. When he lands, you can point and laugh, and tell yourself, “Yeah, he’s still one of us.” Comforting, isn’t it?

That’s how all those game shows are, though. The commercials try to make them out like it’s Plain Jane’s chance at the big time, the American Dream; tune in to find out if she’s the one to finally punch that golden ticket – that whole bit. And sure, we might tune in, but not to see if she makes it. The TV is on so we can watch her fatal flaw reveal itself in our living rooms as she commits to making that one mistake. We tune in to make sure the universe is still right and that no one is ever really a winner.

You’ve probably seen my episode, too. They’ve replayed it a couple of times, and who knows – some say I’m destined to be put on one of those “Most Outrageous Game Show Moments” type montages, because so classic was my moment, right? Of course, the game show to which I refer wasn’t actually on the air for all that long – just enough to make a big splash of notoriety and cause a storm of controversy before getting cancelled for the next big flop. I’m sure the show will be back on TV in a couple of years or so, when Hollywood runs out of ideas to recycle. They’ll probably spin it, too; make it fresh, get real creative and call it “The NEW I Cannot Tell a Lie!”

In truth, “I Cannot Tell a Lie” was an affront to human decency, but good luck telling that to the networks. They’re too concerned with bleeping out words like shit and God before sparing less offensive words like damn and crap. Even the opening of the show was awful – a giant paper animation of George Washington’s head made out of dollar bills waddling across the screen trying to gobble up a bunch of cherries like he had Pac-Man fever. Can you believe that’s how they’d treat the Father of our Nation? Makes you glad we never had a mother, right?

Anyway, the concept of the game is simple. The contestant goes up on stage and answers a bunch of questions that they’ve already answered while hooked up to a lie detector the day before. If you keep telling the truth, you work your way up the cash ladder. If you lie on TV, red lights and a siren start going off like you’ve been busted doing something terrible, and you lose it all. Imagine! $50,000 dollars up for grabs and all you have to do is be honest. Except it’s in front of a live studio audience and broadcast in real time across the nation.

The first few questions are always cake, of course.

Do you know your mother’s maiden name?

Can you remember who your first kiss was?

The idea is that the more money you have at stake, the more difficult it is to be honest.

Do you hate your mother-in-law?

Everyone in the audience titters at the questions, the contestant on stage sweats, and the relatives off-stage blush. Great television, right? And when the hard hitting questions come up, the people watching at home all have the same reaction: You will not dodge this bullet.

My wife had submitted my name in an email for the competition as a joke, she said, but she wasn’t kidding around when she wrote in all the stuff about how I’d been laid off pretty recently and we were kind of having a lousy time of things. I didn’t stop her, because who thinks anything’s going to come of those things? Nobody buys a lotto ticket believing their numbers are going to hit – they do it just because they hope it will. We didn’t think we’d hear anything back, but we were shocked as all get-out when a producer called the house two weeks later and told us we were flying to Burbank. We’d been married for two years, but we never really got to have a honeymoon. Suddenly, a guy dials our number, we’ve got a paid-for vacation, and on top of that, a crack at getting $50,000!

“Imagine what we could do with that kind of money,” my wife had said on the plane-ride over, and I did, too. I imagined fifty thousand things.

Day one in Burbank, the contestant has to give the producers the info they’re looking for. The next night is when they shoot the episode in front of a crowd and air it out to the rest of the world. It takes them about a day to decide which questions out of all the ones they ask in the screening process will be the ones asked again on TV. When we arrived at the hotel, we barely had time to breathe before somebody picked me up for the pre-show screening questions. They gave my wife a hundred-dollar gift card, told her to have fun exploring Hollywood, and took me to a backroom in an old TV studio where I had to fill out a ton of forms before being hooked up to a machine designed to read my heartrate.

It was the stuff you didn’t see on TV, but it played out like something you would have seen in the actual game show. I thought it was going to be some scary interrogation out of a cop-flick. Instead, it was a bunch of guys sitting around asking questions, and because it was a polygraph, they’d sometimes repeat an answer you gave them to make it like it was a yes or no question. It wasn’t so bad if you didn’t mind having to repeat yourself.

 

Read the exciting conclusion to Fifteen Minutes in this month’s issue – on sale now!

Copyright © 2018. Fifteen Minutes by Christopher L. Malone


 

Henry Smith’s Seasonings

I remember the first time I met Henry Smith. It was outside an old factory in the summer of 1965. I was entering my senior year of high school. Hap Phillips, the coach of our summer baseball team, told me there was a job helping a client of his move into a new location. I think Coach Phillips was taking pity on me. He probably noted I was not playing with much enthusiasm even when I made a good play. The future was on my mind and my prospects seemed limited. It was my sister, mother, and I. We didn’t have much money, and I was headed for a transition, senior year of High School. It seemed like the end of the road at the time. I needed the money for college applications and such, and I didn’t mind the prospect of lifting and toting things. Anyway, I could be productive, and that was better than sitting at home or hanging out somewhere.

I’ve never liked public transportation, and I had to take the P&W trolley, a three block walk from my home in Penfield. The trolley took me to the 69th street terminal, and then I had to switch to the Media line to get to where I was going to work. It took about 40 minutes as long as the connections were good. The building Mr. Smith was moving into was a short walk from the trolley stop. Mr. Smith was at the front door when I arrived.

“You the boy Hap sent me?” Mr. Smith said.

“Yes, sir. My name is Joe,” I replied.

“I can pay you, $1.50 an hour. I need help setting up the shop. A van will be here soon. Can you unload it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You don’t have to call me sir. This isn’t the military. Just call me Henry,” he said and smiled.

That‘s how we started. He was a tall man, probably 6 feet, I’d guess taller when he was younger. He stood hunched over as he leaned on his cane. He wore a fedora and a long coat even though it was summer. His stomach stretched his white shirt to the limits of its buttons, and his tie extended well short of his belt which was pulled up well above his waist. He looked tired. The deeply creased lines on his cheeks extended to his jaw and framed his jowls. It wasn’t clear where his chin ended, and his neck began. He had kind bright eyes, bushy white brows, and thin white hair that stuck out from under his hat.

“Come inside,” he said. “Let me show you around before the van gets here. I think you’ll find this place interesting.”
He gave me the key and asked me to unlock the door. I did as he said and held the door as he pulled himself up the steps with the rail as he steadied himself with his cane.

“Dam neuropathy,” he muttered.

Once inside, he asked me to find the light switch and turn it on, even though it was quite bright inside. The room was large, two stories high. Light streamed into the building through large windows that lined three sides. There was a loft for storage over the entrance, a raised platform opposite the loft, balconies that spanned the length of the room on both sides connected to the loft, and stairs at either end of the platform that led to the balconies.

“This was an old cigar factory. The foreman sat there.” Henry pointed to the raised area, that looked like a dais, at the end of the room. “That way the boss man could see all the workers and make sure they were doing what they were supposed to be doing.”

‘Is he going to be sitting up there watching me,’ I thought.

“Don’t worry. I won’t sit up there and watch you. We better get back out side and wait for that van. When it comes, it’ll be full of barrels. You’re going to have to unload them and set them up in here. Now, help me to the door and down the steps.”

That’s when I realized, he really couldn’t see.

“Dam diabetes is taking my sight,” he murmured.

We sat on the steps in front of the building waiting for the moving truck.

“So,” Henry began. “Do you know what you want to do after this year? It’s your last year of High School? Isn’t it?

“Yes, I’ll be a senior in September. I’m not sure where I’m going. I’d like to go to college, but I have to get in somewhere. If not, then, I guess I’ll go to Viet Nam.” I answered uncomfortable about a line of questions that had a way of giving me anxiety and depression.

 

Read the exciting conclusion to Henry Smith’s Seasonings in this month’s issue – on sale now!

Copyright © 2018. Henry Smith’s Seasonings by Peter J. Barbour

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