short story author bf oswald

 Now in print and available from SynergEbooks, Amazon, and the author.

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Readers Reviews:

A potpourri of literary offerings, varied in tone and tempo. Believable people and events. I keep it on my Kindle for bedtime reading.
—Portia Diamond, PhD, Mansfield, OH

Oswald's short stories are not extraordinary, but they are fun to read.
—Tracy Short, Aurora, CO

I have read two of Oswald's novels and enjoyed them as I did his short stories. I recommend this collection for anyone who enjoys short fiction.
—Sara Stone, MEd, Avon Park, FL

Smiles, tears, pathos and passion well put. I heard about this book from a friend and I'm glad I bought it.
—Emile Van Guilden, Philadelphia, PA

Really great stories that can be read again and again. So rich in meaning.
—Barbara Crowe, Wynnewood, PA

Description:

This collection of short stories by a talented author will prompt both laughter and tears. Some tell of lives in travail, others of people who have successfully overcome problems, and some are just fun to read for their own sake. The author makes no judgments, bangs on no drum for a cause, or implies anything other than the reality and humanity of his characters. No two stories or the people they feature are alike.

From the book:

FRED

As the old saying goes, if it weren't for bad luck, Fred would have no luck at all. Now, it's not like he went looking for hard times, he didn't need to—they found him with a repetition that was positively startling. And most of the time when he was just in the process of removing one foot from wet cement, so to speak, the other slipped on a banana peel.

This morning's events proved no exception. It was raining; nothing new in northern Ohio in the spring, and Fred was concentrating on trying to see where he was going through the half of the windshield that still had a working wiper. (The blade on the driver's side had fallen off shortly after he left his house, just after being yelled at by his shrewish wife, and just after it started to drizzle.)

His wife's vitriolic comments had been directed at his most vulnerable area, his inability to bring home enough money from his job as a clerk in a small hardware store to pay all of the bills. It isn't that Fred didn't work hard, he did. In fact, he had worked very hard to get into his present dead end situation from which he felt too old and too inexperienced to escape. Therefore, he was a little more preoccupied than usual this wet May morning as he drove down Chestnut Street toward the parking lot at the side of Silber's Hardware. So preoccupied, in fact, that he found himself stopped in the middle of the street without being immediately aware of why he couldn't go any farther.

Fred shook his head in an effort to clear out the jumble of thoughts so as to better assess his present situation. His passage down Chestnut, he determined, was being blocked by a traffic jam, something very unusual at any time in the quiet little hamlet of Deweysburg. Nor was it your usual traffic jam. Cars were stopped helter-skelter; some had just the driver's side door open, some both front doors, and all four doors of an old Cadillac just in front of his equally tired Ford had been thrown open to the elements. And the occupants were behaving very strangely, some were on their hands and knees grabbing things off the pavement, others were looking up and jumping and grabbing at something in the air. At least two-dozen citizens, many of whom Fred recognized, were involved in this bizarre behavior.

He stared bewildered at the scene before him as he tried to figure out the reason for all this frantic activity in the midst of a cloudburst, at 8:30 AM, on a Wednesday, typically a very slow day in town. He studied the situation in his usual thoughtful way until his vision became obscured by what looked like small pieces of newspaper blowing up against and sticking to his rain-spattered windshield.

Carefully Fred opened his door and held his umbrella out into the murky morning. Just as carefully he tried to open it against the rain before emerging from his car. Suddenly an obese woman, shrieking like a banshee, slammed backward into the door and Fred was faced with an immediate decision, let go of the umbrella or have his arm smashed by the rapidly closing door.

He let go of the umbrella and watched it sail away on the wind then veer into the back seat of the Cadillac. The woman careened off his car like a pinball off a rubber bumper and ran still screaming back towards the center of the melee.

Fred cautiously opened his door again to take another look at what was going on, because by this time so many of those damned pieces of paper were stuck to his car windows he couldn't see between them. Then he threw caution to the wind and jumped out of the car. Using the side of his hand like a squeegee, he swept the clutter from the windshield and quickly slid back behind the wheel closing the door tightly against the deluge. Carefully he inspected his last clean and freshly pressed pair of slacks and noted that they were none the worse for the experience. Again he gazed at the scene before him; the action had not abated. In fact, two more cars, which had apparently come into Chestnut from Market Street, swelled the ranks of cars with doors flung open to the tempest.

He wiped his damp forehead with the back of his hand, and one of the scraps of paper that had stuck to his hand was transferred to his cheek. Preoccupied as he was with the scene before him, he balled the paper up in his hand without looking at it. People were still pushing and bending and leaping about in the rain. The world, or at least his little corner of it, had apparently gone mad. Yet he still had no idea what was causing this insanity.

Then a more disturbing thought crossed his mind; he was going to be late for work. Horace Silber, the owner of Silber's Hardware, did not like tardiness; in fact, he abhorred it almost as much as sloppiness. And now Fred was caught between a rock and a hard place. As he assessed the situation, he figured he had two options. One, he could back his car up Chestnut to the municipal lot, park it there for the day, and run the block and a half to the hardware store. Of course, he would be soaked, and the crease would be out his trousers, and when he dried out, he would look sloppy.

Or he could wait out the traffic jam, then drive his car to his usual parking spot near the hardware store's loading dock from where he could get inside without getting too wet. But judging from the current state of affairs here at the corner, well almost the corner, of Chestnut and Market Streets, if he waited much longer for his apparently demented fellow citizens to regain possession of their senses and their autos, he would probably be late for work.

Fred tried to look at his watch but it had slipped up his arm when he lost his umbrella, and now the cuff of his white shirt covered its face. As he attempted to reposition the watch from under his cuff, the crumpled piece of paper fell from his right hand to his lap. It was 8:45. In five minutes Horace Silber would be positioning himself by the time clock in the warehouse so that he could glare at the latecomers. (He expected his five employees to be clocked in at least five minutes before they were to be at their stations.) Even if the crowd of crazies blocking his path was to abandon their wild pursuits immediately and flee the scene, Fred would probably still be late.

Gloomily he looked at the wadded up piece of paper in his lap. His eyes opened wider as he saw the likeness of former President U. S. Grant staring back at him. Now his attention became riveted on the windshield through which he could see the faces of other former presidents staring back at him and beyond them more bills sponging up the rain his car's hood.

In an instant, the usually meek and hesitant hardware store clerk was transformed into the most active member of the mob. With no apparent regard for his subsequent appearance, Fred leaped out of his car into the storm and began scooping up the currency that was adhering to his vehicle. When he had plucked his car clean, he plundered the coursing gutter, trapping several bills just before they disappeared forever through the bars of the storm sewer grate.

So intent was he on his pursuit of instant wealth that he scarcely noted the wail of a siren or the effect it had on the rest of the crowd. All around him doors were slamming, motors were roaring alive, and cars were magically disentangling themselves from the pack, disappearing in every direction through the sheeting rain.

Suddenly it dawned on Fred that he should follow suit. With the agility of a Hollywood stuntman, he leaped into his car, switched on the ignition, and tried the starter—nothing happened. Again he tried the starter. Again nothing happened, well almost nothing, the dash lights dimmed and went out.

Then several things did occur at the same time. A police car, its siren dying, but its lights still flashing, was sliding to a stop behind his vehicle. Another, its siren still wailing, was rapidly approaching him from the intersection that was now completely devoid of traffic. Then Fred was struck with the realization that he had left his headlights on causing the demise of his car's aged battery, leaving him trapped like a tiger between two of Deweysburg's finest.

Not that Fred had a sense of wrongdoing, he didn't. In fact, he felt rather euphoric. For once providence had literally rained its blessings upon him. So what if his battery were dead; he could buy a new one. And surely he wouldn't be ticketed for a stalled car. In fact, the two policemen now approaching him would undoubtedly be glad to help him get it started. And Mr. Silber could stare at the time clock until his eyes popped out of his scowling face because Fred was taking the day off; he had just changed his plans to include a visit to a haberdasher. Having money sure made a difference in how you looked at things.

While Fred awaited the appearance of the two men in blue, he began arranging the pile of soggy bills into neat stacks according to denomination. There were several hundreds, many more fifties, and the tens and twenties were too numerous to sort quickly. A couple of thousand dollars at least, Fred thought joyfully.

The first cop on the scene hammered on his window, which Fred obligingly rolled down. "What's the problem, officer?" he asked naively.

"Riot at the corner of Chestnut and Market," said the officer in a less than accommodating way.

"I don't think it could be called a riot," Fred volunteered, eager to clear up the confusion. "There was just a bunch of people grabbing at money that was coming down out of the sky."

The cop gave his partner, who was now standing beside him, a `this guy has slipped his moorings' look. "What money?" he inquired of Fred.

"Just money," Fred replied as if he were talking about ordinary things, like dirt particles and raindrops that typically fell out of the sky. "See?" He pointed to the soggy bills on the seat beside him.

"Get outa the car," the officer demanded gruffly.
Why, thought Fred? But in as much as he was used to doing what he was told, he complied. Not, however, until he had carefully picked up the money.

The rain had stopped, and the sun was threatening to break through the rapidly dispersing clouds. Fred smiled. When your luck changes, it changes all the way; first the money, then the sun.

The other policeman, who had gone around to the passenger's side of Fred's car, glared at him through the window. As soon as Fred got out, the cop got in and started looking under the seat and in the glove compartment. "You got any more money stashed in here?" he yelled.

"No," Fred answered politely.

"How much you got there?" asked the first policeman, eyeing the wad of bills in Fred's hand.

"I don't know; maybe a couple of thousand. I didn't realize that it was raining money until the storm was almost over. I got a late start and didn't get as much as the others."

"What others?"

"The others I told you about." Fred looked surprised. "There must have been a couple of dozen people out there scooping up money too."

"Where'd they go?" demanded the second officer who had rejoined the first.

"They got in their cars and drove off. I guess they picked up all they wanted to."

"You really mean there was more money?" The officer looked incredulous.

"I guess so." Fred was beginning to feel uncomfortable.

"You don't know?"

"Not for a fact. It was raining so hard that I couldn't see very clearly."

The second cop butted in. "You trying to tell us that this here money just fell out of the sky and you and a bunch of our other citizens gathered it up, then drove away."

"Something like that."

"Then the money don't belong to you."

"It does now. I just gathered up what was stuck to my car and floating in the gutter over there. I don't see anyone around who is looking for it. So it must be mine, OK?"

The two policemen looked at each other and then at Fred, and then at the money. "Can I go now?" Fred asked hesitantly.

Finally, the bigger of the two cops, the one who seemed to be in charge, said, "Yea," and Fred started to get back into his car.

"Wait a minute," said the other, who, it turned out, was in charge. "You'll have to leave the money with us until we can find out who it belongs to."

"But..."

"No buts about it. Hand it over."

Fred did as he was told.

"Now get that wreck out the way, you're blocking the street."

"I can't," said Fred apologetically. "The battery is dead."

"You can't leave it here," said the biggest cop.

"Will you help me push it to the curb?"

"Can't," said the officer in charge.

"Well, can I leave it here for a minute until I can get someone to help me?"

"Nope," both cops answered at the same time. Then the one in charge added, "If you do, we'll have to ticket you for illegal parking."

Like I said, if it weren't for bad luck Fred would have no luck at all.

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