Baffled and Other Stories

Twelve stories about growing up -- or not.

Twelve stories about growing up — or not.

My short story collection Baffled And Other Stories is currently available in hard-copy, audio, and now e-book form. See written and audio excerpts of the first lines/paragraphs/openings below.

NEW! BUY THE E-BOOK (KINDLE, .MOBI FILE) NOW!!
AVAILBLE FOR AN AMAZING INTRODUCTORY PRICE OF ONLY $4.99!!!
All twelve stories. File will be sent to you to upload — be sure to leave an email address on order form. Fulfillment within 2-3 days.
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BUY THE FIRST-EDITION HARD-COVER BOOK NOW
Baffled the book contains 12-14 stories (depending on how you count), including the title story “Baffled.” The 207-page first edition also contains “Gary’s Extras:” “How To Get More Out of Any Short Story,” an interview with the author, author commentary on each story, discussion questions, and more.

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BUY THE AUDIO VERSION NOW
All twelve stories plus commentary — as read by the author. An MP3 file for each story to download to your favorite device — or the entire book in one MP3 file. Approximately six hours of audio. Be sure to provide your email when purchasing to receive the audio file access information.

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Baffled

A couple visits Summerfest for their first overnight date, and experience more than they bargained for.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
Up until Summerfest, I thought things were going pretty good with Ann and me. My buddy Paul’s girlfriend Tammy Rae introduced us one Thursday at karaoke night at Spanky’s Bar and Grill downtown. Ann was a looker: blonde, blue-eyed, short and petite, mostly, but big in all the right places, you know? She was also a mama’s girl in the best sense, one of those girls that will stick with you through thick and thin, a real keeper.

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Showtime

“Showtime” is about a reality TV show in the near future where the victim confronts the accused.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
The court room studio audience was restless. The previous trial had not lived up to its billing. Ratings were down for the third quarter in a row. Asses were on the line. Someone’s head was going to roll if ratings didn’t improve quickly, the people upstairs said. Mr. Monney, the show’s producer, scurried back and forth between cameras, wringing his hands and shaking his head. Every time someone in the audience complained or got up to leave, he took flight to another camera, back and forth, back and forth.

“Not good. No no. Not good.”

“Showtime” is one of the more exciting stories in Baffled and Other Stories and is not for the weak-at-heart… Buy Baffled and Other Stories NOW!

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Famous

Life for a boy and his family is always more exciting when “Famous” is around, especially when he brings home a new puppy instead of a washer and dryer.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
My dad was Famous. I mean literally; that’s what everyone called him. Not just me growing up, everyone. Famous. My old man could drive farther, faster, better than any other trucker in the world — just ask him, he’d tell you.

At the time I thought he was special. Hell, at the time I thought I was special. Probably every dad must be famous to his ten-year-old boy somehow or other, right? Maybe long, long ago even my grandpa was famous to my ten-year-old dad, huh? I’m famous now to my own kids, too, I imagine — for a little while yet.

Staying famous. Now there’s the real trick, isn’t it?

“Famous” is one of the most powerful stories in Baffled and Other Stories… Buy Baffled and Other Stories NOW!

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You Just Had to Do It

A boy talks himself through his situation in the aftermath of a fight between his parents.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
You just had to do it, didn’t you?
I could have told you she was in a pissy mood today, if you would have asked me. Saturdays are always like that with her. Saturday is her cleaning day. I used to look forward to Saturday mornings like the other kids do, then I learned and tried to escape them by going to the Junior Bowling League up at Reitch’s. But she caught on to that quick and just left my chores for me to do later and got all over me if I didn’t do them right. But even that was better than having her follow me around while I cleaned and her yelling at me for not doing something right.
Of course, she doesn’t really yell at me with words, she just shoves me aside and redoes the chore I’ve just done, silently, like if I got close enough or watched long enough or enough times I’d eventually “get it.” It must be a girl thing…a guy would call you a dumb shit and maybe smack you on the side of the head and talk you through what you were supposed to do instead of just pushing you aside and glaring at you.

“You Just had To Do It (1963)” is one of three stories in the short story sequence “Trinity” in Gary Lawrence’s debut collectionBaffled and Other Stories… Buy Baffled and Other Stories NOW!

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The Wait (1983)

A recently-divorced dad tries to explain “things” to his teenage son.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
The drive home from Chicago wore on. Rob and Jeff’d had a great father-son weekend together. Two nights at an Embassy Suite in Schaumberg with the soccer team. Saturday and Sunday – the Club’s last three games of the year. All weekend long he’d wanted to pull Rob aside for a talk, but it just hadn’t worked out. He thought about talking to him several times on the hour-and-a-half drive home too — but he couldn’t. His tongue was too fat; his breathing, too hard. He felt it most in his throat, a quick rising and catch. He held his emotions in his throat, something about himself he knew too well, something he both hated and appreciated. He felt stranded and alone in the car, even though Rob was only feet away from him.
He turned onto Shaw Street from State. Two blocks from home. Her home, now. Time was running out.

“The Wait (1983) is one of three stories in the short-story sequence “Trinity,” part of the collection Baffled and Other Stories. For the rest of the story… Buy Baffled NOW!

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Dreamer (2003)

A wheelchair-bound mother waits for her son to arrive at the nursing home to celebrate her birthday.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
“Jeff’ll be here. He promised. He probably just had to work late.” She slammed her wheelchair into the nightstand, trying to steer around the hospital bed in the small room. “It’s my 70th birthday. He wouldn’t miss it for the world. He wouldn’t dare. Now get down my purple dress, the pretty one.” She snapped her good eye quickly at the aide. Since the stroke the other eye was taped over. “I want to be ready when he gets here. I don’t want him to have to wait for me.”
“Si, senora.”
She waved a curled crooked hand toward the closet. “No not that one! The other one.”
“Si.”

“Dreamer (2003)” is one of three stories that make up the short story sequence “Trinity” in the powerful collection, Baffled and Other Stories. For the complete story… Buy Baffled and Other Stories NOW!

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Throwing Snowballs at Cars

Real life intrudes on three boys busy throwing snowballs at cars.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
We’d seen some pissed off people in our time, but this guy was in a class all his own. He left his beautiful bronze-and-copper ’68 Hurst Olds 442 sitting in the middle of the dark and snowy December street, red air scoop shuttering to the chug chug chug chuuug gasp beat of the four-barrel carb and oversized cam, barely over the train tracks on Custer Avenue, our favorite snowball target range.
To us throwing snowballs at cars was like a winter baseball league: Conditioning for the real thing in the summer. Not all drivers saw it that way, apparently.

“Throwing Snowballs At Cars” is one of the powerful stories in Baffled and Other Stories… Buy Baffled and Other Stories NOW!

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Wrestleback

A high-school sports assembly fuels racial tensions.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
Sure, the School Board wants to promote school spirit and encourage greater participation by the student body or some other silly bullshit — but who would have thought they’d actually tell us to stage a fight at West High in those days? A wrestling match — as a school assembly? Come on. Half the people in Rockford don’t know what real wrestling is – all they know is that fake WWF crap.
Who really gives a shit, anyways?
That’s what we all thought when Coach Germano gave us the word. Imagine how I felt when he told me I was going to be one of the wrestlers.

“Wrestleback” is one of the powerful stories in Baffled and Other Stories… Buy Baffled and Other Stories NOW!

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Why I’m Here

A high-school English teacher “walks the talk” when he offers Philosophy to his wayward students.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
“On an experimental basis.” That’s how they worded it. And they scheduled it for seven in the frigging morning — for graduating seniors only, honors students too, no less. When we heard Strokes had gotten permission from the school board to teach philosophy to us, we wondered what he had over them. How much it cost him. Rumor was that the school board thought that Plato was a planet, but they approved Strokes’ request anyways. Ideas of Man, the class was called. Literature 352.

“Why I’m Here” is one of the powerful stories in Baffled and Other Stories… Buy Baffled and Other Stories NOW!

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Garage Sale

Life is difficult for an expectant couple struggling to get by — until they find the garage sale.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
“Now where we going?”
“Right here,“ Jeff said, slowing to turn the old pale-blue Chevy pickup truck at the next street. “There’s a garage sale just down here.”
“I didn’t think you even knew what a garage sale was.”
He looked over and smiled weakly. “Got somewhere better to go?”
Jenny shrugged. She blew air through her lips loudly. “Okay with me,” she said. “I’m just along for the ride.”
Jeff double-clutched to keep second gear from grinding on the downshift, a trick he’d learned plowing snow off driveways and parking lots last winter. He would’ve been working this weekend too, a side job, except he’d decided at the last minute that he better be with her instead of out at some farm laying shingles. There were groceries to buy and rent to pay and, since last Fall, his student loans to pay off.
And now there was the baby.

“Garage Sale” is one of the more touching stories in Baffled and Other Stories… Buy Baffled and Other Stories NOW!

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The Sum of All Fears

A family wedding dredges up suppressed emotions that beg to be confronted and dealt with.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
He sat on the front porch until the sun broke just over the treetops, then he got up and climbed the stairs to their bedroom. It was deathly quiet there, and still dark. He slipped into his side of the bed and watched and listened to make sure she was still breathing. His own breathing was louder than hers for a couple minutes until his heart settled.
Finally he brushed the side of her arm softly with his fingertips. She shivered, then pulled away.
“Don’t touch me.”

“The Sum of All Fears” is one of the powerful stories in Baffled and Other Stories… Buy Baffled and Other Stories NOW!

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Working Class

A father and son struggle with the everyday trials and larger consequences of a neighborhood paper route.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
Jeff woke with a start, one minute before the alarm sounded. Four a.m. came quickly in the dark bedroom. He noted it had snowed a little overnight and grunted as he rolled out of bed. It was always tougher to get Rob out of bed and going when it was cold. Sam would be dropping off the newspapers any minute – you could set your watch by Sam. Jeff pulled on his cold crumpled socks and jeans and stumbled to the bathroom, closed the door before turning on the light. He threw on a T-shirt frayed around the throat, added a turtle neck and pulled a ragged old Rockford College hoodie over that. He yanked his White Sox cap over his uncombed hair, then shut off the bathroom light before he opened the door.
“Pongo, Perdita. C’mon,” Jeff hissed, waving his arm. Ten seconds passed. “Dammit, you two: Get a move on!” The two Dalmatians lay still on the bed for several more seconds. Then they rolled lazily from their backs to their sides to stretch and yawn. Pongo looked at Perdita out of the corner of his eye and leaped off the bed, and then she was after him, and they ran noisily down the stairs, pushing and shoving, jumping back and forth over each other like two dolphins playing in the wake of a speedboat.

“Working Class” is one of the powerful stories in Baffled and Other Stories… Buy Baffled and Other Stories NOW!

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Turnabout

An outing to the yearly On The Waterfront festival holds some harrowing twists and turns for a middle-aged dad.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
Jack looked at his fifty-four-year-old body in the steamy bathroom mirror. In his younger days he’d wrestled in high school, been a brown belt in Tae Kwon-Do, and played Class A softball three nights a week. Being fit came naturally back then. But then those twelve-hour days on the construction crew gave way to long days sitting in the office, frequent-flyer Gold cards, and way too many expense-account appetizers. The receding hairline and gray hair were bad enough. Getting reading glasses last year just about killed him.
Even he had to admit that he was “past almost gone” now, as his wife Karen liked to put it. What’s a guy gonna do? Might have to think about doing something about all that one of these days, he mused in the mirror. Getting old ain’t for sissies.

“Turnabout” is one of the touching stories in Baffled and Other Stories… Buy Baffled and Other Stories NOW!

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Coming Home

A young man comes home to the farm he grew up on for the first time in the three years since his mother died — to check on his dog.

OPENING SENTENCE(S):
Jim hadn’t been back to the farm for three years since his fight with Ike, his dad. Took off the day his mom died. Didn’t even stay for the funeral, whatever that was like, what with Ike in charge.
The only reason he was going home now was because Dutch called him and told him that Jimmer had had a seizure. Dutch’d grown up on the farm next to theirs, gone to school with Jim’s mother, had been his 4-H leader and wrestling coach through high school – Dutch was more than just a neighbor. But Jim needed to see for himself that the old hound was okay. Needed to get Jimmer out of there, make sure his old man Ike didn’t do something stupid.
Like put his dog down.
He didn’t put it past him.

“Coming Home” is the powerful closing story of Baffled and Other Stories… Buy Baffled and Other Stories NOW!

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You can also buy Baffled at www.shortstoryamerica.com . A portion of the proceeds for books sold through SSA goes to SSA.

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