Monday, May 22, 2023

A short story called Harry


                                       A Short Story by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

In the pre-dawn hours of a brisk December Day, Harry walked the streets of Brooklyn, New York.  He traveled light, for he owned nothing but the tattered clothes he wore, the eight cents in his pocket, and a package carried in a plastic bag.  Ordinarily he would have been snoring in Grand Central Station at this hour, or on the 2 train if insomnia necessitated that he be rocked to sleep. But not today.  Though quite weary, Harry chose to put sweet dreams off for a while longer.  He wanted to behold the world with clarity, see beyond the veil that keeps truth hidden from all but the wisest of men before the next time his eyes were closed.

Alley cats hollered songs of love from the confines of a vacant lot that served in alternating shifts as a playground, bathroom, and brothel.  Harry was familiar with its utilitarian layout, for his footsteps had led him to the neighborhood of his childhood.

Those long ago days had been spent fighting a half dozen siblings over the insufficient room, nutrition and love provided for them.  Their fathers were each different men who were just passing through.  In exchange for either drugs or money to purchase drugs with, their mother gave what she had to give, a body she was poisoning one high at a time.

By the age of thirteen, Harry had developed a taste of his own for altered states of mind.  He needed to escape the wretchedness of his surroundings and nothing got him further away than crack cocaine.  It transported him to a world filled with light and beauty, devoid of suffering.

The last time Harry saw his mother she lay huddled on the kitchen floor.  For once her eyes did not reflect longing for the pipe of crystals she clutched onto, but for help.  There was not enough time to get her that help had he tried.  But Harry didn't try.  It was plain that the drugs were finally accomplishing what they were meant to do.  His mother’s anguish was coming to a merciless end. Harry simply waited to collect his inheritance from the palm of her hand.

A year later he met Julie.  She was a battered angel, sexually abused by her stepfather, as hooked on heroin as on oxygen.  Yet in some impossible to put a finger on way, a part of her remained untouched by the evil that men do.  When she learned she was pregnant, Julie decided to cleanse her body for the sake of the new life within her.  She begged Harry to do the same, but he vigilantly remained a lost cause. 

Rather than hanging around until he wreaked havoc in their lives, Julie vanished.  Perhaps she said goodbye the last time he saw her, but Harry was in no condition to take notice.  For a long while he expected her return, but eventually realized that she was gone for good.  He had blown what was likely his last chance at love.  He would never meet his child.  As usual, he was able to smoke his blues away.

Not long after Julie's departure, Harry became an official resident of the streets.  Too weak of body and mild of disposition to take money from others, he was left little choice but to beg for it.  The purest scores of smack failed to ease the crushing weight of his degradation.  For each coin placed in Harry's palm, a chunk of his pride was handed over.  He was pawning his soul piece by piece at bargain basement rates.

Harry did not fare well as a beggar, for he sang no songs, told no jokes, nor had so much as a decent hard luck speech.  Rather than attempting to entertain or to elicit sympathy, he would simply stand before subway passengers, hold out his coffee cup, and await donations.  They came few and far between, barely sufficient to keep him alive, if not exactly living.

His current tour was not undertaken for nostalgia's sake, but to reaffirm that his decision was the right one.  A single joyful memory may have shattered his resolution.  None came.  The years of his life blended in recall into a single interminable day spent wondering where his next high or meal, in that order of preference, would come from.

Harry picked up a piece of glass that was reflecting light from a nearby street lamp.  He sat on a curb and held the makeshift dagger over his wrist.  All was settled.  He would dispatch of an existence no longer worth the effort to preserve.  This was not the first time such a fatalistic decision had been reached by him.  But unlike the other occasions when it was no more than a vague concept rolled around his mind like a pair of dice, Harry was now determined to act upon it.

Three months earlier his friend Rico was stabbed while negotiating a freebie from a prostitute on tainted acid.  The murder gave Harry a permanent distaste for blood spill, and also for forming attachments.  Other homeless people were three dimensional reflections of everything that had gone wrong.  When his only companions were artificially enhanced thoughts, it was possible to imagine that his misfortunes were merely temporary.  But the passage of time discarded rather than judiciously spent made this illusion increasingly difficult to conjure.  Drugs could still elevate his consciousness, but no longer transported him high enough to reach the plane where hope resided.

Rather than hope, what Harry sought was an ultimate form of amnesia.  He wanted to erase all knowledge of who he was, who he had been, and what would undoubtedly become of him.

He flung the glass away.  Cutting his wrist would be painful, messy, and time consuming.  He might be found and saved by someone who didn’t know better.  There had to be a better way.

Harry rose and continued on his journey.  He wanted to be dead before sunrise, for the birth of a new day would needlessly delay the execution of his decision.  Daylight brought with it too many distractions.  The instinct for survival overpowered self-pity when the sun’s rays were in effect.  It was only natural that his desire for ultimate sleep bloomed under the cover of night.
 A car roared past at well over the speed limit, inspiring a plan.  The Brooklyn Bridge wasn't very far away.  He would walk halfway across and jump in front of the first car to come by.  

Pleased with this resolution, Harry picked up his pace and was at the bridge in ten minutes.  He positioned himself and waited for the vehicle of his demise to arrive.  The Subaru which came first left Harry safe and sound.  It wasn't going fast enough, he reasoned.  The same went for the Oldsmobile, wood paneled station wagon, and Volkswagen which drove by after.  The Mercedes would certainly have done the job, but Harry missed out because he was tightening his shoelaces as it passed.  Finally a truck came rumbling over the bridge like a stampede of elephants.  There would be no valid excuse to let this one go.  He waited until exactly the right moment, then jumped.  

A second later, Harry landed in the same spot he had been standing.  He couldn't do it.  The thought of meeting a fender head on for a goodnight kiss gave him the creeps.  His heart and mind were ready to go, but his body possessed its own opinion on the matter.  

Harry beheld the twinkling Manhattan skyline and could not deny that the view was breathtakingly beautiful.  But life was not nearly so pretty as it appeared from the Brooklyn Bridge at three in the morning.  He peered at the jet black water beneath him and realized it could grant him a perfect suicide, almost an artistic way to go.  Certainly more picturesque than being smashed to scattered pieces.  Harry wanted his body in one place when he died. The bottom of the East River was as good a location as any.

He swung a leg over the railing.  Hopefully the impact would at least knock him unconscious, if not kill him immediately.  He had never learned to swim and couldn't think of a more horrifying way to perish than by drowning.  The helplessness one must feel while sinking into murky depths had haunted him in nightmares since childhood.  It still terrified him.  This was the justification he gave himself for swinging his leg back to safe ground.  The East River would have to do without him for a snack.  It would not go completely unfed, for a nickel and three pennies fell from Harry's pants pocket and spiraled downwards like unanswered prayers.

Harry berated himself for his cowardice as he walked across the bridge.  He hated the weakness of his body that made the allure of crack cocaine irresistible.  He hated begging for survival.  He hated the way he looked, and smelled, and felt.  He abhorred when people viewed him with disgust, and even more when they looked through him as if he wasn't there.  It infuriated Harry that so much of his misfortunes had been predestined, that he was given only one legitimate opportunity to change the fate allotted to him. Yet he knew that one chance is one more than some people get, so his anger was ultimately eclipsed by regret.  He had begged for money and craved for drugs, but when the one thing which could have granted salvation was offered, Harry turned it down.  Through the densest clouds of poisonous euphoria he had been able to see that he loved Julie.  But love didn't seem all that important at the time.  Now he knew better.  He had learned that hate and anger could be enough to sustain someone, but regret did nothing but suck a person dry.

The temperature had dropped considerably since his venture got underway and a light snow now fell.  By the time he reached the city it was howling about him, transforming the night from black to white.  Harry didn't bother to head towards a subway station, for his legs felt as leaden as his spirits.  Instead he entered the corpse of what had long ago been a small but lovingly maintained park, and lay in the first place not already claimed by a rat.  He used the bag he had been lugging about as a pillow, its contents providing a fair cushion for his head.  

Inside of the bag was a rag doll found in a dumpster about nine months earlier.  One of her glass eyes was missing and nearly half of the stuffing had escaped from a rip that was now taped shut.  The doll was intended as a present for his daughter, in case he managed to find her.  His search had not been an active one, but one never knew who might be bumped into on the streets of New York City.  

Earlier that day, he had scribbled Julie’s name onto a piece of paper and placed it in the bag along with the doll.  In the event of the death he was resolved to bring about, Harry hoped his gift might somehow find the way to its intended recipient.  

As he always did before going to sleep, Harry tried to envision Julie and their child.  Once again he failed, for his daughter he had never seen and Julie's face he could scarcely remember.

Instead he saw his mother, her body and soul ravaged beyond repair, her eyes containing only a spark of humanity.  But sometimes a mere spark can initiate a conflagration.  After years of mercilessly pushing herself to a point inches away from death, in his mother’s last moments it was apparent that she wanted to redeem herself, to turn around and face the painful familiar rather than risk the unknown.  But she didn't have the strength to turn around. More often than not, a spark ignites no more than a millisecond of illumination.

“I hate her, Julie,” Harry had once said, back during a time when he had not yet abandoned the desire to make something of his life.  “We were nothing more to her than the amount of government assistance she got for each of us.  She kept getting pregnant so she could keep getting high.  She popped us out and then we had to fend for ourselves.”

“You’ve got to let your anger go, baby.”

“Why should I?”

“You’re going to be a parent yourself soon.  If you don’t forgive your mother, you won’t be able to care for your child.”

“I won’t have any trouble taking care of our kid.  I love our baby already, because the baby is coming from you.”

“I still say you have to clear the hate from your heart to make room for some love.”

“I love you and our baby plenty.”

“I know you do, Harry.  But you must also love yourself.  You got to at least try.”

“Shit, Julie.  Ever since you quit getting high you been talking like a shrink.  A shrink who keeps changing the subject.  I was talking about my mother, and nothing can fix the way I feel about her.”

“But look at all she gave you, honey.”

“All she gave me?  Are you out of your friggin’ mind?  Have you not heard a word I’ve said?”

“I’ve heard you, Harry.  But nothing you said, nothing she did changes the fact that she gave you life.”


“So that means she gave you a chance.”


“So use it.”  
Harry had proven to be a failure at both living and dying.  His sole consolation lay in the fact that at least there was always tomorrow.  He would have to find either the courage to kill himself, or a reason not to.  As long as the sun rose each morning, both remained distinct possibilities.  This thought made his sleep a peaceful one as the snow lay a natural blanket over him and he dreamt of days stitched with promise, devoid of pain.

The sun did indeed rise that morning.  Birds sang, cocks crew, alarm clocks sounded and rush hour officially began.  None of this disturbed Harry's slumber, for the frost had made his dream come true.  And though in life he wore the guise of a beggar, in death he was as stately as a king. 

                                                                      THE END

On a cheerier note, happy NBA retirement to Carmelo Anthony. It was a pleasure to watch you hoop brilliantly for my beloved New York Knicks.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Quite The Week

@mudhousebooks Lookng for a book by an #indieauthor to read for #indieapril? Consider Patches of Grey. #booktok ♬ Creepin' - Metro Boomin & The Weeknd & 21 Savage

Sunday, January 15, 2023

MATTERS OF CONVENIENCE: Audio book publication - Press Release


I decided that the time had come to make one of my books available in a format other than the written word displayed on paper or screen page. So I took the plunge, was fortunate enough to find a wonderful narrator to work with, and published Matters of Convenience: audio book edition. It is available for purchase from Amazon / Audible - and wherever else the fantastic ACX program allows consumers of audio books to find great books.

I'm hoping to hear from book listeners just as I love to get feedback from my readers. Let me know what you think of the story, the writing, and the reading performed by Mati H. Fuller. You can do so at Amazon or Audible or on GoodReads. Feel free to reach out to me directly by commenting on this blog post or dropping me a line on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or TikTok. I love to hear from people who have chosen to immerse themselves in one of my stories. A writer/book is nothing without you readers/listeners.

If you have a blog or web site of your own where book reviews are featured, regardless of the size of your audience, feel free to reach out because I have some promo codes for US as well as UK usage. They will allow you to download the audio edition of Matters of Convenience for free. Or if you're shy, rather than contacting me simply stop by this site to obtain a promo code. Giving copies away in exchange for receipt (hopefully) of impartial reviews seems like a fair deal to me. My goal isn't to get rich, though I won't complain if that happens. It's to reach as many book lovers as possible.

@mudhousebooks #NowAvailable - If you review #audiobooks and would like a promo code for a free download - just holla at me. #booktok #MattersOfConvenience #Amazon #Audible #audibletok #audiobook #indieauthor #indieauthorsoftiktok #indieauthorsofbooktok ♬ CUFF IT - Beyoncé

On an unrelated note, time sure does fly................

Monday, December 19, 2022

DEAR GOOGLE - a short story


By Roy L. Pickering Jr.

The day I met my father it snowed from early morning until sunset.  I worried that my mother would change her mind if the snow made it difficult to drive.  But the salt trucks enabled our trip to be taken despite the flurries, and she kept her word.  She always keeps her word.

People had begun putting up lights and a wide variety of decorations on their front lawns to celebrate the Christmas season.  I was particularly fond of the giant inflatable characters recognizable from my favorite holiday cartoons.  Two years earlier when my mother was temporarily out of work and could not afford the presents I had asked Santa Claus to bring, she confessed that he was only make believe.  There was no man from the North Pole who gave well behaved children whatever they desired.  The gifts I received were purchased with the money my mother worked hard to earn.  I could tell she would have preferred for me to believe in Santa Claus a little longer, but there was no way to avoid disappointing me in one way or another.  I was not too young to understand that she often sacrificed in order to provide for me.  It was obvious that she loved me very much, enough for two people, the mother who took care of my needs and the father who was little more than a rumor.  That is, until the day I finally met him.   


I was nervous and excited and frightened and thrilled about the idea of my first encounter with my father.  My mother rarely spoke of him, other than when I raised the subject.  On those occasions she would pause for a few seconds before responding to my queries, unless they were the kind that could be answered without judgment, such as how tall was he, or did he wear glasses like I did.  There were no photographs of him in our house, so I would imagine what I thought he might look like, then run to my mother for confirmation.  She said I most strongly resembled my father when throwing a temper tantrum, but I did not do that very often.


When replying to questions of personal opinion, I could tell that my mother was being selective with her words.  She did not have many nice things to say, but did her best not to speak poorly of him either.  Sometimes I saw anger in her eyes, other times sadness, but she was usually able to keep these feelings from her voice.


It did not take long to sum up all that I knew of my father up until the day I set eyes on him at last.  I had been told that he was usually out of work and low on cash.  My mother did not receive money from him for my well being.  In my nine years she had given me four gifts that were said to be from him – a football, a basketball, a baseball bat, and a Playstation video game.  I cherished each one of these items because they were seen as proof that he loved me, and that one day we would be together like a father and son are supposed to be.  When I did not receive a Playstation game system for my birthday, rendering the last of my father’s gifts of little practical use, my mother was treated to one of my infrequent tantrums.  The sports stuff caused less trouble, although I much preferred to draw superheroes or watch dinosaur movies than play sports.  This is something my father would have known if he was around, or at least bothered to ask about my interests.  Despite such evidence that he did not bother to find out much about me, I continued to inquire about him, adding to my collection of information bit by bit. 


I knew that he and my mother dated for six months, a period during which she was unknowingly pregnant for half that time.  Her announcement of my pending arrival hastened the end of their frail relationship.  His various other girlfriends had been unhappily tolerated by my mother, but the news that he would soon become a father was unacceptable to him.  I like to pretend that the vegetables on my dinner plate are pieces of chocolate in order to make my way through them.  It almost works sometimes.  Perhaps my father pretended that my mother and I belonged to a vivid dream that he could put behind him when the sun was out.


Some men are not comfortable around babies, according to my mother.  This was a notion I could sort of understand.  Babies frequently cry and they’re pretty much helpless.  They can’t walk or talk very well, they need to be fed and dressed and cleaned up after.  Babies are a great deal of work, especially to someone who prefers to avoid having a job.  As I grew older and my curiosity about the ways of the world grew stronger, I wondered with increasing frequency why my father did not visit me now that I was big.  My mother was either unwilling or unable to answer this question for me, and although I prayed like I was taught to in Sunday school, I did not learn what I wanted to know that way either.  As a last resort I took the inadvertent suggestion of my best friend Pedro, who happens to be the smartest kid in our class.  He told me that whenever he was trying to figure something out that nobody he asked knew, he would go online and enter the appropriate search words into Google.  Since he lives with both of his parents plus three older brothers and four older sisters, Pedro has plenty of resources to go through before heading to the internet.  My own set of circumstances being far different, at first opportunity I went on my mother’s computer and tried to discover why my father continued to remain at a distance from me.  I received a number of hits that appeared promising and printed out several web pages.  Sadly, reading through them led to nothing fruitful.  Or so I thought.  Three day later my mother sprung an enormous surprise on me.  We would be taking a trip to Connecticut the following weekend to pay my father a visit.


I eventually learned that my mother spotted the pages I had printed out, reviewed, and tossed in a waste paper basket with much frustration.  She realized what it was I had been trying to find out through my Google search.  It was not the Santa Claus I once wrote letters to, the God I routinely prayed to, or the internet I had desperately surfed that came through for me in the end.  Years later I would ask my mother if my impatient desire to meet my father had hurt her feelings.  She told me not to be foolish, that of course she understood my longing.  It was for that reason that she went against her instincts and took me on a long car ride as whiteness descended around us.  I would come to learn that this was the most difficult decision my mother ever made.  I would also understand one day that innocence is precious first and foremost because it can only be lost once.


He took his time answering the doorbell.  I feared he had changed his mind about meeting me.  Each second passed slower than the one to precede it.  I stared so hard at the door that it was a wonder I did not succeed in looking straight through it.  Then suddenly it opened and there he stood before me.


I have nearly every word my father spoke to me that day committed to memory, which is not really saying much, because as it would turn out, he did not have a great deal to say.


“Your mother says you wanted to meet me.  Well here I am, in the flesh.  What do you want to know, boy?”


I wasn’t quite ready to talk yet.  There was too much information for me to take in all at once.  Instead of launching an immediate interrogation, I scanned the small studio apartment for clues.  I thought that his home might tell me a little about who he was. 


His furniture consisted of a shabby sofa with stuffing spilling out of it and a coffee table that tilted to the right side.  On the coffee table lay a scattered collection of porn magazines, three long needles like you might find in a doctor’s office, and an overflowing ashtray.  His television was playing with the sound barely audible and the picture obscured by bars of static.  The show being broadcast appeared to be an old episode of Friends.  Next to the sofa, which I assumed doubled as his bed, an aquarium stood on a rusty stand.  I had a goldfish bowl at home on my nightstand.  Our first common interest seemed to have been found, but it did not strike me as being a worthy conversation starter.  That was because my father’s ten gallon tank was half filled with greenish brown water, and four dead fish floated on top of the muck. 


Several half eaten Happy Meals from McDonalds were littered about in every direction there was to turn, some of the remnants being dined on by cockroaches.  The room stunk like I imagined Hell must smell like in the summer when the air conditioning wasn’t working.


“You gonna say anything or what?”


I had envision that he would have an athletic build on account of the sports related gifts he had sent me, but he was exceptionally skinny.  He wore a snug fitting tank top and loose pair of jeans.  His arms were tracked with markings that I correctly guessed to have come from the carelessly placed needles.  My mother would later explain that he regularly poisoned himself with heroin.  Apparently the drug made him incapable of staying hungry long enough to finish a Happy Meal.


“You momma has gotten her act cleaned up,” he said.  “But ooh boy, back in the day she sure knew how to have a good time.  How about giving me some sugar for old time sake, Natalie?”


“You will not kiss, or touch, or hit me ever again, Jarvis.  Do I make myself clear?”


“Yeah, I got it.  Can’t blame me for trying though.”


With his attention focused on my mother for the moment, I allowed himself a long hard look at his face.  The shape of his mouth reminded me of my own when I stared in a mirror.  As far as I could tell, this was all I owed him.  It seemed unnecessary to be grateful for such an arbitrary trait, and with this realization, my curiosity evaporated.  I now knew everything I needed to know.  He was responsible for my existence, but this had become irrelevant to me.


“Merry Christmas, sir.  Can we go home now, Mom?”


“Yes, we certainly can.”


After waiting nine years to take a road trip of over two hours, we left my father after a mere five minutes spent in his presence, returning to the blanket of white that would accompany us home.  I have not seen him since, nor have I had any desire to.  Just as I understood that the seemingly unending snowfall would eventually cease and melt away completely in time, I also realized as I stared out the car window that the things a boy chooses to believe will not all become what he accepts to be true as a man.  


I am sixteen now, and in three weeks I will become a father.  It does not take much to become a father, as I have learned.  Considerably more effort has been required on my part to handle the stress of the situation.  Yet Jasmine and I have managed to remain together and grow closer.  When I first laid eyes on her sitting at a window booth in Burger King, my father having permanently turned me off of McDonalds, I sensed she would change my life.  My mother has always told me to trust my instincts, and on that day they were dead on. 


Perhaps Jasmine and I will get married someday, but we’re taking one hurdle at a time, with diaper changing about to become the next one.  I have not made the future any easier for myself, but nonetheless, I do believe that I’m prepared for whatever lies ahead.  My mother has educated me well about what it takes to be a decent and responsible man, and that should take me pretty far in this world.  As much as I have learned from her up until now, I know there is still much she has to teach me.  I will absorb her lessons faithfully and pass them down to my son.  This strikes me as being a solid plan.


I learned a great deal from my father as well, and it took hardly any time at all.  He showed me during his brief presence in my life what not to become, even though it was what I came from.  For the remainder of my life I will have no trouble remembering in perfect detail the day I met my father, for it was also the day that I decided to let him go.

@mudhousebooks #ComingSoon #MattersOfConvenience #AudioBook #Amazon #booktok ♬ Listen to the Music - The Doobie Brothers

Monday, October 24, 2022


I was approached by the fine folks at to put together a list of books exemplifying a theme of my choosing. Honored to be asked, I gave it my best shot. Understood was that my list would be in excellent company, since as you'll see if you peruse this fantastic web site, there are many excellent book compilations at Shepherd to examine. For example, there's this collection put together by Shannon Gibney on The best YA and MG books about the Black experience

After a good deal of contemplation I decided on a subject that I am frequently drawn to read as well as write about, and then I selected a group of novels that explore it in a most compelling fashion. It was not my intention to select only books by women, but just happened to work out that way. Now you can read my thoughts on five novels I categorized as:

Have you read The Mothers (Brit Bennett) or Silver Sparrow (Tayari Jones) or The Star Side of Bird Hill (Naomi Jackson) or The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (Heidi W. Durrow) or Breath, Eyes, Memory (Edwidge Danticat) yet? Do you agree with my take that they are among The best novels about Black family dynamics? Perhaps you have some alternate/additional suggestions? If so I'd love to hear your thoughts either here or at

Be sure to stop by, check out some of the wonderful book lists, and perhaps you'll be inspired to make lists of your own.

p.s - Below you will find not just any old video from my booktube channel Roy's Book Reviews, but my 100th video!!!


 Happy Reading! And groovy listening.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Farewell Summer - Hello Autumn

@mudhousebooks Matters of Convenience will be #Free in #Kindle format at #Amazon for 1 week in mid-September. Consider it a #backtoschool #giveaway ♬ Give It Away - Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse - available at Amazon

♬ original sound - Roy
Thanks for everything, Serena! Including your form of graciousness. Took long enough but happy to see arrival of this day. whatever you tell creatives will be largely ignored by them. After all, what's the point of being a creator if the art you make must be dictated by the silly whims of others?