Blessings & Curses and Trouble on the Horizon – A Passage from the Novel In The Sanctity of Revenge

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse…

– Moses, Deuteronomy

Skeletal arms trembled, struggling to lift the old steel revolver. Blue and purple veins popped through celluloid skin. Shaking hands with frail fingers and rusted joints fought with the trigger to pull the heavy hammer back. Jack Hanlon smiled at the sight.

SATURDAY JUNE 5, 2010

The sun hung high in the cloudless afternoon sky, drying the sidewalks and baking away the evidence of the viscous storm of the night before. Small branches and twigs littered the lawns and gutters of the sleepy Chicago side street. The two opposing rows of brick bungalows, most redbrick, some yellow-brick, that lined either side of Mobile Street had weathered the storm as they had done for close to a century now. There was no major damage. A few basements had taken in water, but just enough to make a mess before receding back into the floor drains.

Saturday morning was uneventful at the Hanlon home. Amy had gotten up with the boys and made them blueberry pancakes for breakfast while Jack slept in. Around noon, dressed in the gym shorts he’d slept in, cheap slippers, and an old softball shirt that read “Mad Dogs” in script across the front from his Wednesday night 16” league (on the back was an ad for their sponsor Windy Ray’s Tavern), Jack lifted the lid to the black, iron mailbox hanging on the wall just outside his front door. It was empty. He stood on the front porch, and peered up and down the quiet street in hopes of seeing the mailman walking his cart down the block. No luck.

Across the street Mrs. Kelly watered her flowerbed despite the heavy rains that had doused them overnight. When she saw Jack, she waved. Jack waved back and tried to duck back into the house before the old lady could trap him into a conversation but it was too late. She’d already dropped her hose and was heading across her small patch of perfect lawn calling his name, “Jack, oh Jack. I want to talk to you.”

It’s not that Jack disliked Mrs. Kelly. In fact, he liked her very much. She reminded him of his grandmother, and he felt a sort of responsibility toward her since her husband passed. Jack would spend weekend days doing little jobs around Mrs. Kelly’s house, fixing this, patching that. Amy would take her shopping if the weather was bad and the buses were running slow. But lonely widows can talk an awfully long time, and make a big deal about things of no consequence, and frankly today Jack wasn’t up for one of those conversations. His mind was elsewhere.

“Jack,” she called hustling across the street. “Jack, I want to talk to you. Don’t go anywhere.” She hurried as quickly as a seventy-eight year old woman in Walgreen’s sneakers can. Jack stepped off his porch and met her on the sidewalk.

“Hi Mrs. Kelly, how are you?”

“Oh, I could complain, but who would listen,” she replied.

‘Apparently, this morning, it’s going to be me,’ Jack thought, but held his smile.

“Anyway, did you hear that storm last night? It woke me from a sound sleep. I thought lightening hit that big tree and that it was going to fall in on my head. Thank the Lord it was just a clap of thunder. Did it wake the children? You look like you missed a good night sleep.”

“Yeah, Timmy woke up a couple of times, but went back to bed pretty quick. Once I was up though, I had a hard time falling back to sleep. I wish I was more like Amy, she gets up with the kids, and as soon as her head hits the pillow again, she’s out cold.” Truth was, Jack was already up. He hadn’t been sleeping well lately.

“That’s because women work harder than men,” Mrs. Kelly gave a wink and a smile.

“In my house, that is certainly the case. I won the lottery when I married Amy. She’s one of a kind.”

“Don’t you forget that Jack Hanlon,” she said, her eyes narrowing, then flashed him a wink and a smile. Jack had often thought that Mrs. Kelly had probably been a very beautiful woman in her youth, and now and then a flash of that girl would appear in that wink and smile she often gave to let you know she was teasing. “Ah, she coulda done worse herself too ya know,” Mrs. Kelly continued, “Anyhow, the reason I stopped you is because I was wondering if you could do me a favor.”

“Sure Mrs. Kelly, what do you need?”

“Well, the storm last night did knock a huge branch off the neighbor’s tree into my backyard. I’ve been telling them for months now that the tree needs to be pruned, but that good for nothin’ bum sits on his backside all day doing nothing, and you know she’s not much of a housekeeper. I’ve never been inside, but from what I hear there is crusted food all over the kitchen and dust bunnies everywhere. How people could live like that is beyond me. Anyhow, I know he’d never move it from my yard, or at least I’d be waiting till my last breath for him to do it, so if you wouldn’t mind just stopping by – when you have time of course, no hurry – and just put it out in the alley for me?”

“Of course Mrs. Kelly. Give me a minute to put on a decent pair of shoes and grab a saw and I’ll be right over.”

“You’re a doll Jack, thank you. You know, since Harold died I’ve really come to realize how nice it was to have a man in the house. I am certainly for women’s equality and what not, but there’s no denying that there are some things men are better at taking care of. Maybe I’m just an old woman, I don’t know. And don’t you dare tell a soul I said that or so help me God I’ll shoot you right in the face,” she smiled and winked at him again with that twinkle in her warm blue eyes. That’s when Jack had the vision of those skinny little arms struggling to raise a pistol to eye level and fighting to pull the trigger. The thought had made him smile and he wondered if she noticed. Of course, if he knew what would eventually come of them all, he never would have found such a scene amusing.

“Okay, see you in a few minutes.” Jack turned to go inside, then stopped and turned back toward Mrs. Kelly who was about to cross the street back to her house. “Mrs. Kelly, did you happen to get your mail yet?”

“No, he hasn’t been by yet Jack. It’s that new fella. I don’t like him very much. He’s slow. When we had the black fella…” she said the word ‘black’ a little quieter than the rest, almost a whisper but not quite, “… we always got our mail by ten o’clock, even on Saturdays. This guy though, you never know when he’s gonna decide to show up. I’ve complained several times.”

“I’m sure you have. Thank you Mrs. Kelly.” Jack took another look up the street for the mailman, then dropped his head and went in the house to fetch his shoes and chainsaw.

Fog and smoke in Chicago at 4 am – a Passage from the Novel: In The Sanctity of Revenge

Jack reached in his shirt pocket for his cigarette pack, but it wasn’t there. As if snapping out of a dream, he was suddenly aware of his surroundings. It was nearly four a.m.  His kitchen was dark except for the lights under the cabinets at the far end of the room that shed just enough glow to cast faint shadows on the opposite wall and door. Jack looked around and found the cigarette box on the table in front of him. He picked it up. It was empty. He got his shoes, reached in his pocket and found a balled up ten-dollar bill, grabbed his keys and went out the back door toward the gas station at the corner.

The morning air was humid with a slight chill. Fog hung high in the alley, gathering around the lamplight like a swarm of mosquitoes. Though it was six miles east of his alley, Jack could smell the lake in the air, a mix of fresh water and stale fish. He liked it.

The city was quiet on Sunday mornings. The four o’clock bars were just emptying out and a few muffler-less cars roared down Montrose Avenue, but for the most part, everything was still. Jack breathed in the Lake Michigan air as deep as he could and exhaled slowly.

At the gas station, the store area was closed and locked. Jack had to make his transaction through an aluminum drawer and a tin speaker. From behind the glass, the muffled voice of the attendant reverberated through the speaker in a thick accent. Jack assumed he’d said something along the lines of ‘how may I help you’ or ‘what the fuck do you want’.

“Box of Marlboro Lights,” Jack pulled the ten out of his pocket and placed it in the waiting drawer. The drawer closed then opened again. The sawbuck was gone, a box of cigarettes and some change left in its place. Jack walked off smacking the pack against the palm of his hand.

When he got back home, he sat on the back steps smoking and admiring the peacefulness of the pre-dawn, the sky dark as night but on the verge of daybreak. Jack teetered between the peaceful city around him and the clanging clatter in his mind.

         — In The Sanctity of Revenge is a gripping tale of anger, betrayal, and vengeance set in Chicago in the wake of the Great Recession.

Available for purchase:  http://www.inthesanctityofrevenge.com http://www.amazon.com/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor/dp/0986297410/

Christmas Eve Remembered – a passage from the novel, ‘In The Sanctity of Revenge’

From the new novel, In The Sanctity of Revenge available now on Amazon:

Mrs. Kelly awoke Christmas Eve morning to WGN radio on her alarm clock. She shuffled to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee. Sitting alone at the kitchen table, she remembered Christmas Eves past. She could recall the children bouncing off the walls almost as soon as they got out of bed waiting for night to come so they could go back to bed and get up for Christmas morning. She remembered Harold getting up, grumbling his way through the morning’s first two cups of coffee and first three or four cigarettes. Then he’d announce to the kids that it was time to get dressed. The kids would immediately rush upstairs to their bedrooms and change out of their pajamas and into the day’s clothing.

Once dressed and back downstairs they would tug at Harold’s arm begging to head out to the stores for the day. It was their annual tradition. Harold thought it important to include the children in the shopping for their mother’s Christmas presents since it was they who benefitted most from her hard work and sacrifice.

He’d finish off his coffee and take a last drag from his cigarette, then he’d head off to the bedroom to get dressed in his cleanest white t-shirt and a pair of brown polyester pants for a day at the department stores. He’d take the kids to Sears and they would shop for dresses and slacks and scarfs for their mother. Mrs. Kelly didn’t know it, but Harold saved a few bucks a week all year long for her Christmas present. Whereas Jack shopped on Christmas Eve because he liked the fun of the spontaneity of it, Harold Kelly shopped on Christmas Eve because that was when he finally had saved enough money to give his wife a proper Christmas. Along with his yearlong savings, each child contributed a little from his/her allowance. Money that, upon their father’s orders, they were supposed to have been saving for their mother’s Christmas since August.

From there, they would take the bus to the Ideal Pastry bakery where they would buy their mother her favorite cookies and donuts, plus a cookie for each kid. After that, he’d take them to the Irish Imports Shop, where they would usually purchase a record of Irish songs like the ones Mrs. Kelly’s parents would sing when she was a child.

Her folks had both been born in Ireland and met here in the States. While little Irene was growing up, her parents would play songs from the homeland and dance around the front room of their one-bedroom apartment with their little girl. Mrs. Kelly didn’t know what happened to those records after her parents died, but every Christmas Harold would surprise her with a record album of the songs of her youth.

Harold was a stickler for tradition, and so, there was never an artificial tree in the Kelly residence, and there was no tree in the Kelly residence until Christmas Eve. So after the Irish Imports shop, it was straight to the C-Davis Truck Rental lot, where the trucks had been temporarily replaced by Christmas Trees, to choose the perfect tree for the Kelly family Christmas. Mrs. Kelly often wondered if it was truly tradition motivating her husband to shop for trees on Christmas Eve or if it was the fact that he could haggle the salesman down so easily at such a late date. The pickings were scarcer, but you couldn’t beat the price and he always managed to bring home a tree that, once decorated at least, would be brilliant.

She smiled a bitter-sweet smile as she conjured up the vision of her husband dragging a six foot tall Christmas tree onto a city bus with children in tow dragging shopping bags from Sears and the Irish Imports, bumping into other riders, needles flying and falling off the tree throughout the bus, bags and packages bumping against knees and seats. It was no wonder she never got a porcelain tea set or Waterford crystal for Christmas, it never would’ve survived the journey.

Once home, the children would run the shopping bags up to their rooms where they’d wrap them while Harold took the tree and a hacksaw to the yard and sawed off the bottom few inches. She could see him in her mind’s eye out there in the dark snowy yard in his work boots, polyester pants and plaid winter coat sawing off those few inches of tree trunk so that the fresh cut could soak up enough water to make the tree last until the Feast of the Epiphany when it would finally be taken down and the Christmas Season would officially end.

Next came the annual hour of Harold lighting the tree, mumbling words not appropriate for such a sacred Holiday, as he fought with tangles and burned out bulbs and flashing strands that had never flashed before.

Then, with the tree firmly placed in its stand and fully lit, Harold sipping from a fresh brewed cup of coffee (with a three count splash of Jameson), and enjoying a well-earned cigarette after a long day of children, store-clerks, crowds, tree salesmen, and those goddamn Christmas lights. Then Mother was presented with one record from the Irish Imports (the others to be saved for the morning). The sounds of the Emerald Isle would play on the phonograph as the children decorated the tree with the family ornaments Mrs. Kelly had brought up from the basement while they were out shopping.

With the kids in bed, the stockings stuffed, and the presents beneath the tree, Harold and Irene Kelly would slip off to bed where it was time for another Christmas Eve tradition. Both of them bursting with love – love for their family, love for their blessings, love for their Savior, and love for each other – they would nestle in beneath the covers, legs rubbing the other’s to produce some warmth, arms wrapped around the other, bodies pressed together, they would embrace and envelope each other in a physical love that only years of marriage can invoke. That well practiced tradition complete, they would both settle in to drift off into a solid slumber.

In The Sanctity of Revenge can be purchased at Amazon.  If you buy a paperback, you get a free Kindle version.

http://www.amazon.com/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor/dp/0986297410/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418233642&sr=8-1&keywords=brian+schnoor

Available world wide on Amazon:

United Kingdom-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418774369&sr=8-1&keywords=In+the+sanctity+of+revenge

Brazil —

http://www.amazon.com.br/Sanctity-Revenge-English-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418774530&sr=8-1&keywords=brian+schnoor

Austrailia –

http://www.amazon.com.au/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418774619&sr=8-1&keywords=In+the+sanctity+of+revenge

France –

http://www.amazon.fr/Sanctity-Revenge-English-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418774686&sr=8-1&keywords=brian+schnoor

A LITTLE SEX, A LITTLE VIOLENCE, AND A LOT OF SWEARING

I was sitting in a hot tub about two years ago. I did this in lieu of a workout. I sat with the water bubbling all around me, a jet hitting the soreness near my tailbone. I watched women walk by in bikinis. I watched fat guys limp past in baggy trunks and thought maybe I should’ve worked out after all. Then, without notice, I slipped deeper into my mind and wandered around in those dark corridors for a while.

It’s strange how the mind does that. One moment you’re right here in a loud hot tub at the health club fully aware of everything going on around you, and the next you’re oblivious to the outside world and lost in meandering thoughts you didn’t even know you had.

Well my mind meandered, down one hallway and up the next, then in circles and winding pathways. The economy was in the tank. I had, a few years before, watched most of my friends lose their jobs. I’d seen a gigantic corporation lie to its employees about their job security and then three months later yank the carpet out from beneath their feet. I understand business is business, but my father taught me a long time ago that “there is a right way and a wrong way to go about doing something, and that asshole did it the wrong way.” Such was the story of that workplace scenario.

On the news, there was story after story about businesses shutting down. Some with notice to their employees, others with no notice and no intention to cut those final checks for work already done. I heard horror stories from friends about how simply shifting some paperwork and new filings rearranged long-standing companies so employees lost benefits and seniority. It was happening everywhere. In every industry, nationwide, stories of this sort were coming out. Add to that the fact that even responsible people were losing their homes to foreclosure and retirement accounts were slashed almost overnight, it was frightening.

“What happens,” I thought, “when you take and take from someone, mess with his livelihood and life to the point that he has nothing left to lose? That’s probably where all these ‘going postal’ stories come from. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of that given the events of the past few years.” Of course, anyone with something to lose, be it freedom, spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, a reputation they value, wouldn’t go to that extreme. He might daydream about it, but would never actually seriously consider it because he has a lot to lose and it just isn’t worth it. “But,” I thought again, “what about those few who get pushed to the point that they have none of that, or worse, had all of that and lost it. Those are the ones who can go nuts!”

Then, for whatever reason, maybe a hot mom in a bikini walked past or a fat guy almost fell, but my mind snapped back to the world and shut the door on those darkened corridors. “Why am I still thinking about that stuff from so long ago?” I thought. “I need to shake that shit… but… I did pose some interesting questions. A curious scenario. Book fodder? You bet!” That night I drafted a rough outline of what would eventually become In The Sanctity of Revenge, my debut novel.

Yesterday, after two years of work and many drafts, I published it. I don’t know if it is any good, but I do know that it isn’t going to get any better than it is right now. I’m not going to get rich off of it, but I worked too hard for too long to save it to a hard drive and forget about it. So I put it out there, for the world to read, and that is scary.

Up until yesterday, if it really sucked, it was a private failure. Today, if it sucks, it is a public one. In this day and age, a stranger from Brazil or Pakistan can read my book and send me a message telling me how horrible it was and that I owe them hours they can never get back. Of course, the opposite is true too. If it’s good, I can relish in the accolades from around the world. In any event, I had to put it out there to live beyond my computer. Good or bad, it is there. I’m proud of it. Its value beyond me is up to each individual reader.

With Thanksgiving this week, I am anticipating the questions: what’s it about? Can my kids read it? It’s not a bunch of liberal bullshit is it? or I hope it isn’t one of those Bill O’Reilly type books and Is this a true story? Is the main character you?

To those questions I can best respond, it is politically neutral while still having something to say. There is a little sex, a little violence, and a lot of swearing… just like my real life, but that’s where the real ends. The rest is pure fiction.

Now Available at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416928439&sr=8-1&keywords=in+the+sanctity+of+revenge&pebp=1416928441212

Now Available at Amazon

In The Sanctity of Revenge is available for just $2.99 now on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416928439&sr=8-1&keywords=in+the+sanctity+of+revenge&pebp=1416928441212

Paperback available on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor/dp/0986297410/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1417203150&sr=8-2&keywords=In+The+Sanctity+of+Revenge

Here is the link to the trailer: http://youtu.be/t97mbRhRnzg

Available World-wide on Amazon:

United Kingdom-

Brazil –

http://www.amazon.com.br/Sanctity-Revenge-English-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418774530&sr=8-1&keywords=brian+schnoor

Austrailia –

http://www.amazon.com.au/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418774619&sr=8-1&keywords=In+the+sanctity+of+revenge

France –

http://www.amazon.fr/Sanctity-Revenge-English-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418774686&sr=8-1&keywords=brian+schnoor