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Peter got up as soon as the alarm went off, put his slippers on and trudged to the shower. The hot water felt good on his tired skin, he rubbed voraciously lathering up bubbly foam from the last of the soap. He rubbed himself dry and looked in the mirror. He saw a vigorous pressed into the feather pillow, her brown hair spread around her neck. She looked peaceful. She sensed that he was leaving, and mumbled something about going out to dinner. In a louder voice she said as she was waking up, leaning on one elbow.
“Darling we’ve been together for two years. We need to celebrate?”
“Yes, let’s go to the restaurant in the Village,” he said while putting on a crisp blue shirt and cargo pants.
“I’ll get all dressed up in that blue silk dress you like me in and even wear high heels.”
“Will you be home on time? I need to make reservations.”
“For you in that dress of yours I’ll surely be ‘smack bang on time,’ as they say.”
“Who says that, Peter?”
He kissed her night breath and she lay back down in bed.
“I wish we could have breakfast together sometimes, Jane.” It was a light hint. She was as lazy as a sloth.
She ignored him and closed her eyes.
He shook his head and finished dressing. He pulled on his highly polished brown boots and crept out of the room. “That’s right,” he thought, “This is Tuesday and they would have sex tonight around ten o’clock.” After dinner, he began to get excited and pressed his erection down with the palm of his hand. Jane was good in bed and they had a satisfying sex life, but she was a lazy bitch, he thought.

He drove to work, leaving early because the roads were empty. His listened to jazz and classical. It was Tuesday, Pressure day. He needed classical. Schubert’s military marches would do. He drummed on the steering wheel while holding his potent cup of Starbucks coffee. He always performed well under pressure.
Today he had a presentation and he was well prepared. He worked for an advertising agency. He was pushing for a new line of baby food, and his presentation was perfect. He had worked on the project for a week, day and night to the point of exhaustion, making his fiancé unhappy. His boss put all her faith in him. They needed the account. Business had been slow and Ms. Finn was pressuring all the staff, 15 of them. Their jobs were on the line.

They had worked often late into the night pouring over his sketches, without being too obvious she had sat elbow to elbow with him as close as she could. She was a lonely woman, her good looks and out-going ness often were intimating. She liked Peter, his David Bowie look, androgynous; blond tall and lean with pale blue eyes. He was very sexy.
Oh man she thought he’s probably great in bed, I’ll let him know whatever way I can, and if he doesn’t catch on he’s not worth it!
Pete had a feeling that she had a “crush” on him. She did and deliberately hung around his office making lame excuses, that he could see right through. She was sexy, a tall slender woman with freckles green eyes and a long luxurious mane of red hair that tumbled down her pale shoulders. She often wore off-the-shoulder blouses, to show off her lovely skin. She knew she turned him on, although he never showed it, but there was that glint in his blue eyes that he couldn’t hide. She looked at him thinking, He doesn’t know how much I want him and I’ll do everything to get him.

“Our clients are arriving soon Pete, hope you are well prepared?”
“Yes Ms. Finn I think they’ll be impressed.” She patted him on the back, feeling the warmth of skin through his shirt. She wanted to keep her hand there but it would be too obvious. He knew it, he had known all along that she wanted him. She would take him on his desk if he gave her inkling, or a hint. She was not one to beg. She was the boss after all.
She is very sexy but I’d have to plan it, he thought.

The Japanese businessmen sat facing the screen as Pete turned on the projector. Their eyes barely blinked. They watched a bunch of babies feeding each other. Slopping around the delicious purees. Pete used his pointer to show the expressions on the messy babies faces. Their tight mouths loosened. They began to laugh, shaking Ms. Finn’s hand.
Thanking her and Pete for a great job. “We are sold, your idea is marvelous. The head businessman wrote a big check. They bowed and left.

Ms. Finn took Pete out to a deli for lunch to celebrate, and to come on to him. They feasted on corned beef on rye sandwiches, which, being Irish, was Ms. Finn’s favorite sandwich. As they ate kosher dill pickles. With a pop and a squirt, she asked him if he was still single.
“Yes Ms. Finn, I am, but I am engaged to be married.”
“Oh when?” She said, disappointment showing through her freckled face.
“April. I planned the date and the caterers and the band. My fiancé picked her wedding dress.”
“How nice. Congratulations,” she said with mounting disappointment, all the while thinking, I still want him, and I’ll have him.

After lunch they were back in their respective offices. His with a sailing theme, boats in bottles, pictures of old schooners, shipping maps and a buoy. Hers filled with Irish souvenirs, a shamrock coffee mug, a picture of her dad in a kilt playing the bagpipes and the family genealogy framed in a poster frame. It took the edge off their high-pressure jobs, giving them homely comforts. They thought of each other in their respective offices separated by a thin wall.

That evening when Pete returned home at precisely six o’clock Jane greeted him at the door with a hug and kiss.
“Hello darling. How was your day, Pete?”
“I landed that big account I was working on.”
“You were, how come you didn’t tell me?”
“Because you are not interested.”
“Don’t say that, Pete. I’m just preoccupied.”
“With what, Jane dear?”
“I have been working on the invitations.”
“You never ask me about work, you always seem to drift off. It’s hurtful.”
“I am not going to argue. Is this what it’s going to be like when we are married, Jane?”
“Sorry, Pete. I am so discombobulated , I don’t like my wedding dress at all.”
“So get another one. I have to change out of my uncomfortable clothes.”
‘What about the restaurant?”
“Sorry Jane, I just can’t. This week has been so hectic. I am wiped out. Please change the reservation. How about tomorrow?”
She stamped away with indignation.

Pete being an obsessive compulsive, he hurried and changed into his sweats. He went into the basement of their town house, and lifted weights, used his treadmill and finished up by riding five miles on the exercise bike. He felt he had overdone it as his lower back began to hurt. Walking up the stairs was painful, but he grinned and bore it. Jane was ready with one of her easy meals ready at the table. She hasn’t put much effort into this he thought. What does she do all day, while I bust my ass? Now I have really busted my ass, ouch it hurts.
They spoke not a word as he did the few dishes. And threw away the sectioned off cardboard TV dinner containers.
“I need to lie down my ass and back are throbbing.”
“How did that happen? Did you fuck Ms. Finn?”
“Shut your ugly mouth, Jane! I am afraid you.”

He went to the bedroom and changed into his pajamas, lay on the bed and switched on the TV. He couldn’t get comfortable.
“Jane,” he yelled, “are you coming to bed soon? I need you to rub my back.”
“I’ll be up soon dear, I’ll bring the rub.”
She came up a few hours later and found him in the fetal position fast asleep.

The following day Peter woke with severe lower back pain. As he showered he felt a lump on his tailbone.
They can’t fix a tailbone I’ll just have to grin and bear it. Jeez it hurts! He pecked Jane on the top of her head, and drove to work. This time he didn’t want the music on. The ride seemed interminably long, but he got to his office on time, as always. He shut the door to fester in his pain. He was unable to sit at his drawing board to work on an ad for children’s vitamins. This was to be of a cartoon kid and a cartoon mother and a bouncing vitamin. He preferred a drawing board than designing on a computer. He was old school.

As lunchtime came close, he was unable to sit anymore; the pain was dreadful. He paced up and down and angrily swatted a pile of papers off his desk. They fluttered all around. Then he threw a stapler against the wall.
There was a soft knock on his door.
“Are you alright?” Ms Finn said, opening his door. “What’s up? Are you okay?”
“I hurt myself on my exercise bike. My tailbone hurts like a bitch. I couldn’t sleep.”
“Let me look,” she said, approaching his desk.
He pulled out his shirt from his pants. She wants me and I can’t perform I am in pain.
She pulled his pants down a bit, bent him over his desk. She saw a red lump. It was pretty big. She gasped, “That doesn’t look good, Pete. You have a ginormous lump there. You’ve really hurt yourself. I’ll get some ice.”
“Thanks, Ms. Finn.” She looked concerned. So she really doesn’t want me. She looks worried. He waited, L-shaped over his desk feeling foolish. She returned fast carrying a bag of ice, and took him into the lounge and made him lie on his side.
“Keep it on until it melts.” She stroked his fine hair and left the room.

That evening he didn’t talk about his injury to Jane, her lack of concern shut him up. She took two Hungry Man dinners out of the microwave and gave him one.
“No more of these TV dinners, Jane. They are loaded with chemicals and salt. Since you’re home all day, can’t you cook, even if it’s simple?”
“I despise cooking. You know that, Pete.’
“Yup, I know all the things you don’t like. What do you like?”
“I like shopping…what are you getting at?”
“There are so many cards in your wallet, you’ll put us in the poor house even before we’re married.” He shifted around on the kitchen chair. She didn’t notice. She was thinking he was cruel and uncaring. And he didn’t care. It was becoming clear to him that maybe his love for her was fading, like old curtains.

In the shower the next day he cautiously felt, his tailbone was bigger. The lump was pliable and prickly. As soon as he got into work Ms. Finn asked him about his injury.
“It’s getting bigger and I am getting rather concerned,” he whispered. She looked at it again, going through the same routine as the day before.
“Jeez it’s so much bigger! You have to see a doctor.”
“They can’t fix a tailbone.” Pete was terrified about doctors. What if it’s a tumor? He turned pale.
“Pete, let’s go the hospital right now.”
“I don’t want to. What if I die?! What if I have some sort of tumor—cancer?’
She encouraged Peter to go home and rest.
“I can’t Jane doesn’t give a shit anyway.”
“Come home with me. I’ll take care of you.”

He reluctantly agreed. She drove slowly so as not to cause him pain. She owned a big Victorian house that was detailed in hues of green and mauve and touches of yellow.
She made them a steaming pot of tea. They talked for many hours about their lives. She told him she had been born and raised in Boston. She was one of a large group of Irish immigrants. She had many brothers and sisters and often couldn’t remember some of their names. He laughed at her stories, she told them so well.
“And you, tell me everything about yourself.” She sat next to him on the Victorian sofa with its wooden legs, and rubbed his shoulders “Thanks for being so caring, Ms. Finn.”
“Call me Jennifer,” she said. “Now it’s time to share your life with me.”
“Well,” he said, “I was raised in New York City. I am of Italian descent and I have three sisters. My Mom and Dad both love to cook. They make huge dinners—pasta, sausages, risotto, cheesecake. We eat with them every Sunday at the beginning of the month. It’s a lot of fun.”
“Talking about food, I think we must be both hungry. I made a stew yesterday. How about I heat it up, and we’ll eat some of my homemade biscuits?”
His stomach growled at the thought of real food, and nodded heartily. They feasted on the thick stew, buttering her homemade biscuits and drank wine.
“How do you feel now? Did the conversation, meal and wine help ease your pain?” She leaned over him and kissed him gently on his mouth.
“I have to call Jane, my fiancé, and tell her I will be very late, that I am loaded down with work.” He opened his cell phone to call, but Jennifer said,
“Wait a minute, stay the night, Pete. Tell her your car broke down or something.”
It was at that moment he knew something would happen. By God, did he want this beautiful woman! All his boundaries disappeared into a fog laced place in his heart. He put the thought of Jane aside as she led him upstairs to bed. They kissed and held each other for what seemed for hours. He couldn’t wait any more and slid down her pale beautiful skin making her moan as he went down on her. She took him inside her and he thrust hard and strong until they came panting together.
“Jennifer, that was incredible.” He said kissing her lips. He eased himself on  his side remembering his painful tailbone.
“That was incredible. Are you alright?” she asked.
“I think so,” he said, touching his back. Something had changed. He felt bristles sprouting from the lump, and suddenly he got terrified. He kept it to himself. He didn’t want to gross her out, and he was sure she would be.
The next morning they showered together. He soaped up her soft skin as they clung together under the steaming hot water. They did it hungrily like teenagers for the first time.
“Stay here today, Pete. The work can wait.”
“Let me check that lump again.”
“No. I’m fine,” he said.
She looked at him with curiosity. “What’s going on?” She felt his back and then withdrew her hand fast. “You’ve got bristles growing! What’s happening to you?”
“I don’t know. I’m scared.” He lay on her couch, nervous as a Jack Rabbit, while she went to the office.
“Call me if you need me.” She kissed him and left.

He called Jane not knowing what to tell her. She complained that she was in the middle of a show.
“Fuck you, Jane! You do nothing all day. Don’t you care where I was last night?”
“You said the car broke down.”
“It did and I had to stay in a motel.’
“I’ll be home later, we have to talk.”
“Is something wrong?
“I’ll tell you later.”

When Jennifer came home Pete had gone. He had left her a note.
Jennifer I have to go home and talk to Jane. Maybe I’ll see you later if that’s okay?
She sat at the table forlorn and read the newspaper. The time was passing slowly. She began to want him. She fell into an erotic trance and couldn’t shake it off.

Pete pulled into the garage nervously. He had to talk to Jane. She was standing before the microwave, her usual place. Her usual stance.
“I have something to tell you.” He spoke first in a whisper and then into a crescendo.
“Get away from that damn microwave and sit down. This is important.”
She walked slowly to the kitchen table, her pleasant face now somber.
He sat down too. His tailbone throbbed. “Jane, I have met someone else. Sorry, but you and I are not compatible, and you are a lazy b…..”
“What about the wedding? What about us?!” A tears slowly trickled down her face and she wiped them off with her sweater sleeve. “I hate you Pete! You’ve strung me along all this time, being engaged and all.” She wriggled off her ruby engagement ring and flung it at him. It made a tinny noise as it fell to the floor. She had doubted it was real gold and a real ruby. The light tinkle gave it away. “You fucking asshole, I hate you!” She yelled between tears.
“You don’t care about me, Jane. Yesterday I asked you to rub my tailbone and you never did it. I needed you, and you were in your own world of Woman’s Day, and Soap Opera Digest. I’m so outta here!” He packed up his clothes in the suitcase that was meant for their honeymoon and stormed out, wincing in pain as he went.

An hour later he was standing outside the Victorian house with its purple painted gables. He knocked on the yellow door.
Jennifer was expecting him. All her men came back around, but Pete was special; he was now her lover. The feelings were raw and untamed. There was also a growing tinge of love.
“I missed you at the office today, you seem to cheer everyone up. How is your tailbone?”
“I haven’t had time to look but it feels really strange. I broke off my engagement today.
Jennifer’s eyes widened. She had him now, all to herself. “Come on in Pete,” she said, not knowing how to process all the information.
She pulled off his gray trench coat, pulled down his pants and underwear, as if he was a little boy, and stared at the spot. “Pete, it’s longer. Reach behind you and feel it.
He was filled with dreaded fear as his hand slowly touched the raw area. “Oh my God!” He stopped for a minute; the words were stuck like bubble gum in his throat.
“It’s about a foot long, stubby, hard and furry. It’s brown,” she said excitedly. Her nipples turned into hard cherries, and there was dampness forming in her underwear. “Come on upstairs, Pete. You turn me on.”
She led him upstairs, and he kissed her hard and furiously, flicking his new tail across her wetness. He guided his splendid tail into her.
“I could get used to this,” she said. “Do you want to move in? We’ll have lots of babies’ smushing and smearing baby food all over the place!” She said at the moment of ecstasy.
“Yes, yes, I do.” He said proudly. “I love you, Ms. Finn.”
“I love you too, Peter.”
They both laughed.

ana christy





Things were going slowly at the Mobil, it was pouring down rain, and there were few customers that day. Greg was grateful for that. He was tall and lanky, with an awkward way about him. His thinning beige hair was cut into a mullet and he had a ring in his left ear. He was wearing dirty green overalls. His name above the pocket was half ripped off, GR—in embroidered yellow thread.


            He stood in the garage doorway watching the rain stream down the gutter.

What a boring day this is, and it’s my 21st birthday of all things and here I am at 21 and look at me-I am a gas station attendant, fuck this shit. He thought as he flipped through a “Car and Driver magazine, looking at all the cars he would never drive.


Jim was in the back of the, garage under a black Civic fiddling around.


             “Hey Jim take a break and lets have a coffee break.””

            “What Greg? I can’t hear you. Turn down the boom box.”


Greg turned off the radio and repeated himself. Jim rolled out from under the car, and stood up. He was a big guy, and creaked when he stood up.


            “Still pouring huh?”

            “Yes it’s a shitty day alright.”


There was a row of dilapidated row homes and a Korean market next to them. A

delivery truck was unloading goods for the market. A tubby  woman with a tiny dog was rushing through the rain with a stripped umbrella, yelling at the pooch


            “Go make poo poo Twiddles.”

Greg and Jim looked at each other.

            “Stupid little scrawny piece of shit.”  Greg yelled, then ran inside and burst out laughing. The woman who by now was squatting down next to Twiddles with a plastic bag about to pick up the steamy shit looked up, and almost lost her balance.


       “You young men should leave me and Twiddles alone, do you hear me? I will complain to your boss if you yell anything else to insult my doggie and me.”

 She gave an angry scowl to the two men, and hurried away down the empty street -shit in hand.


It was almost 5pm. And both men were looking to get home. They locked the doors, just as Greg was climbing into his car, a blue station wagon pulled up. The windows were pulled down.

            “Happy Birthday.” Came from front and back of the car. Greg looked closer, and saw all his friends from the bowling alley.

            “What’s up guys-how do you know it’s my birthday?”

            “It’s more than that Greg, it’s your 21st-the all-important day of your life, and everything is legal-if you know what we mean. There was a roar of laughter from inside the car.

            “Come on in Greg and Jim, wes going to celebrate this joyous occasion.


Greg and Jim stuffed themselves into the already bursting wagon. The smell of pot and beer filled the car.


             “Can I have a toke on that fellas.”

            “Sure Greg.”

            “Where are we going?”                                                                                2

            “To Noddy’s for your first legal drink!”

            “Great guys that will be fun.”

Greg was somewhat high. 

They parked outside of Noddys and headed inside the bar. Many of the regulars were there, Johnny the Cab, Peter the Pizza Pie, Dave the Dry Cleaner, and others Greg knew from high school. In the corner were a bunch of girls giggling.They ordered beer and hamburgers with cheese fries. Noddy was keeping an eye on them, and the young girls. When young people barely over the age limit came into his bar they usually got rowdy.

The  giggling girls were appealing to the young men, and soon their tables were pulled together. They kept ordering beer then added shots. They became raucous as ever, spilling beer all around them. The guys were getting hooked up with the girls, and one particularly pretty girl with short blond hair and the bluest eyes Greg had ever seen cuddled up to him.


            “What’s your name?” Asked Greg.


            “ Patty, where you from?”

“Randolph, I usually go to another bar, but your friends invited me here for your birthday. It’s your 21st am I right?”

“Yeah it is but I Don’t ark to new people easy.”

“I have it all under control. Let me do the steering okay?”

Greg was puzzled with the pretty girl’s talk and shifted on his barstool.

“I have to go soon Patty maybe another time, I gotta go.”

“Come on now Greg relax, you just got here.”

 She rubbed his thigh with her leg. Greg turned red. He didn’t know what the heck to do. He’d always been shy and had a hard time meeting girls. She started to play with his hair. Greg was getting very nervous, but tried to look cool around them, anyway they were all doing their thing and weren’t looking.

             “You’re cute.” She said kissing his cheek, trying to reach his mouth.

            “Let me just kiss you.”

 He tilted his head and she kissed his mouth. She tasted of strawberries. Her big blues looked into his. He felt himself growing under his overalls.

   She whispered in his ear. “Let’s go upstairs, Noddy has a spare room he lets us use it  if  we are too drunk to drive.”

            “I can’t.” Greg stuttered.  “If I am guessing what you mean?”

“We’ll have fun Greg, I promise” She took his hand and pulled him up.

His body tangled with the expectation of that he knew not what to expect.

            “Come on, we have to sneak up, or the bartender will notice us.”

She took his hand and led his around the corner. They passed Mary in the kitchen, and crept up the creaky stairs.

             “Here Greg this door on the right.” She opened it and they went in.

 There was a big bed, with plaid pillows and comforter. She, despite his nervousness got him undressed and soon they were both under the covers kissing. Much of his nervousness disappeared as the kisses were turning him on. She climbed on top of him pressing his shoulders to the bed.

              “What are you doing he moaned.”                                              3

            “Around the world.”

            “What’s that?” He said worriedly.

            “For you a bit of everything.”

            “No fucking way, is that right?”

            “Yeah Greg for you everything.”

  She road him like a stallion, and he moaned and growled when her titties brushed his mouth. She changed positions, and while keeping him from cuming she performed everything she knew and more. Greg was soaring in ecstasy, he wanted it to last forever, but he could no longer do that than change a tire on a car.

He heaved and she moaned, and their orgasms lit the room.

              “Happy Birthday Greg from all your friends!” She got on her elbow and  lit two cigarettes handing one to him. Then laughed, tickling the bottom of his feet.

            “This was your first time.?”

            “Yes said Greg, and my first cigarette!”


An excerpt from “Noddy’s Bar & Grill” Ana Christy.

Valentine mystery solved

Hansen: A big love story behind ‘Forever in Blue Jeans’ billboard
By Matthew Hansen / World-Herald columnist  


Maybe you glanced up while driving west on Farnam Street, glanced up as you crossed 24th and noticed the billboard looming above that BBQ joint that time forgot.
And maybe you looked again and then a third time at that old, peeling billboard, the one that says “Happy Anniversary” and is signed “Forever in Blue Jeans” and prettied up with a pair of blood-red Valentine’s Day hearts.

Maybe you stared and wondered, stared and wondered, for years. Who painted that billboard? For whom? Why?

And then one day your curiosity can no longer be contained. One frigid Monday morning you slam on the brakes, veer right into the Smoke Pit BBQ’s cracked parking lot and speed-walk to the locked front door.

A woman named Kim Dubin­sky is alone inside, nursing her second cup of coffee. And because sometimes the loveliest things happen inside closed BBQ joints at 9 a.m., she unlocks the door, sits you down at a booth, sips her cup of coffee and slowly, lovingly, tells you the tale behind the Forever in Blue Jeans billboard.

It’s a story of spare ribs, cooked here for so many years that the sweet smell seeps from the walls and climbs into the fabric of your coat. It’s a story co-starring cops, criminals, judges, hookers, Prince, Jesse “The Body” Ventura and of course Neil Diamond.

Mostly, though, the story Kim tells you is a story about a 5-foot-6 man who once weighed 125 pounds soaking wet. He once finished his first marathon on a dare. He once read to their only daughter each and every night, until both their eyelids sagged. And once upon a time, after he got sick, he promised Kim the biggest anniversary card she had never seen.

“I would say, ‘I don’t know, Joe,’ ” Kim says. “ ’I don’t know if you can get one bigger than the one I’m getting you.’ ”

They met sometime before Ronald Reagan was president —  Kim won’t tell you the year, because she refuses to let you count backwards and guess her age.

Joe Dubinsky moved to Omaha fresh out of high school, a boy from Pennsylvania coal country transplanted to this land of steak and corn.


What this city needs is BBQ, he thought. So, in 1961, he opened the Smoke Pit.

Kim started working for him years after that, when he was an established business owner and she was fresh out of high school herself and in need of a steady paycheck.

She needed more than a paycheck, actually. She came from a messed-up family. Joe paid her. And he helped her, too.

“I talked, and he listened. Sometimes for an hour.”

In return, she worked harder than any other employee. Back in the old days, the Smoke Pit was a hopping, 35-seat restaurant down the street from its current location.

Kim showed up at 1 p.m. to set up. Joe unlocked the front door at 4 p.m., and people started streaming in for dinner. It grew more crowded, and more crowded still, until a 2 a.m. line of half-drunk bargoers snaked out the door. They closed at 3 a.m. Kim left around 4 a.m. She waitressed 15 hours a day, five days a week.

“And I think he saw how hard I worked, and that meant something to him.”

Joe co-signed her lease on her first apartment. Each afternoon, he picked her up at her apartment and drove her to work.

One day he picked her up like usual, stopped the car at the first red stoplight and turned toward the passenger seat.

“I love you,” he said to her.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said back to him.

But it was, and soon Joe and Kim were married and running the Smoke Pit together. They moved the Smoke Pit to a larger spot on 25th Street — “moved it to west Omaha,” Kim jokes — and bought a house in Dundee. All sorts of famous people came through the restaurant: Jay Leno stopped in and signed autographs for all the employees. Jesse Ventura was a regular each time he came to wrestle. They delivered BBQ to Prince’s tour bus, and to the tour bus of Gladys Knight, Ratt, Cheap Trick and a hundred other bands that they quickly forgot.

A group of Omaha police detectives came in regularly. So did several county judges and one-time Omaha City Councilman Frank Brown.

They had other regulars, too: A half-dozen prostitutes. Hustlers out on bail. A gangster that Kim knew only as “Smiley.”

When Joe and Kim got off work late they would come home, crank up their favorite Neil Diamond song and sing at the top of their lungs.

Money talks But it don’t sing and dance And it don’t walk And long as I can have you Here with me, I’d much rather be Forever in blue jeans

Kim teasingly called Joe “Chicken Legs.” Joe decided to do something about that. “I’m going to run a marathon,” he said. Three months later, he did. He ran another, and another, so many that the marathon T-shirts overflowed his dresser drawer. He refused to let her throw away a single shirt. I earned those, he would say.

Joe teasingly bought Kim a coffee mug that said “Rather be 40 Than Pregnant.” One of the waitresses accidentally busted the coffee mug. A couple of months later, Kim took a pregnancy test. Positive.

That night Joe and Kim talked for hours, deciding how to rearrange their lives to accommodate the soon-to-be third member of their family.

And so, when Kim gave birth to Natasha in 1990, she went back to work at the Smoke Pit, this time as manager. Joe waved goodbye as she pulled out of the driveway.

After three decades running the Smoke Pit, he became a full-time dad. He changed diapers and heated up bottles by day. At night, he laid her on the couch and read her favorite books, again and again.

OWH Columnists
Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.


“He would say how much respect he gained for women,” Kim says. “And I would say, ‘You would respect us even more if you would do a load of laundry once in a while.’ ”

Natasha was scooting around the Smoke Pit in her baby walker at 2. She had learned the first verse to “Forever in Blue Jeans” by the time she hit kindergarten. She was running the cash register by the time she entered sixth grade.

Today she is a 23-year-old graduate student at Drexel University in her father’s home state of Pennsylvania. She’s studying to become a psychia­trist.

Natasha recently called from Philadelphia and told her mother that as she gets older, her list of what she’s looking for in a boyfriend is changing. She’s looking for someone who is financially responsible. Someone who sees the world around him, and isn’t a slave to his iPhone. Fun, hardworking, a good listener.

Kim thinks it sounds a little bit like someone who used to read Natasha bedtime stories. Kim didn’t tell her that, though.

“I just said, ‘Your list is getting tougher.’ ”

They had noticed the first signs when Natasha was still in junior high.

Joe stopped running. He started forgetting things. He lost his balance easily.

Soon life became a blur of specialists and tests, antiseptic rooms and hospital gowns.

Eight years ago, for the first time since Ronald Reagan became president, Joe and Kim Dubinsky were separated.

She ran the Smoke Pit in Omaha. He was at a hospital in Minnesota, undergoing more tests and trying to get well.

Each and every morning, she wrote him a letter and dropped it in the mailbox. And each and every morning, the mailman came and handed a letter back to her. Her daily letter from Joe.

In one of those letters, Joe promised her he would be sending her the biggest anniversary card ever.

And that’s when Kim told him she doubted it, because she had an idea of her own.

She hired the ex-husband of an employee to paint it. She didn’t want anything fancy. She wanted it to look homemade, like she had done it herself.

“Happy Anniversary” Kim had him paint in Valentine’s Day red. He painted a heart on the left side of the sign, and another heart on the right.

And then, at the bottom of the billboard, Kim knew just how she wanted to sign her name to this anniversary card to her husband.

“Forever in Blue Jeans,” painted, of course, in denim blue.

For the record, Joe sent Kim a 2-foot-tall anniversary card. The day she received it, her phone rang.

It was Joe. He had received his card, a normal-sized envelope containing a photo of a newly painted billboard.

Joe was laughing. He was choking up. He was having a hard time speaking.

“I guess I couldn’t beat that one,” he said, finally.

Joe and Kim live behind the restaurant now, in an apartment connected to the Smoke Pit. He is 71, and he has good days and bad, and since he has trouble reading now, his daughter Natasha comes home from college, sits with him on the couch and reads out loud until her father’s eyes sag.

Doctors aren’t sure of his condition. Lou Gehrig’s disease, maybe. Or a neurological disorder similar to that. Or something else buried in the mysterious gray matter of the brain, something that doctors don’t yet understand.

It doesn’t really matter, Kim says. There is no magic pill to let him lace up his running shoes and go for one more jog.

But there is something else in its place. Kim Dubinsky only opens up the Smoke Pit and serves BBQ four times a week now. When she’s open, she shuttles between jobs: She unlocks the door, then runs to the apartment to see if Joe is awake. She runs the register, then hurries away to make sure Joe takes his pills.

Sometimes now in the late afternoon she goes into the apartment to take a nap. If she’s late, the phone will ring. “Come to bed,” Joe will say.

The billboard is eight years old now. Some of the white paint has peeled off. The Valentine’s Day red is fading. Some of the people who drive by and look up are so confused — they have never heard of Neil Diamond or his song about blue jeans.

“It’s getting older,” Kim says of the billboard. “Just like us.”

But when she is with her husband, she can still glance at the young, chicken-legged man turning to her at the stoplight. She can look again and see him locking the BBQ joint’s front door after a nonstop Saturday night, and she can look a third time and watch as they drive home and crank up the song forever stuck in her head.

She doesn’t need to wonder about the billboard looming above the street at 25th and Farnam. She knows what it meant. She knows what it means.

Honey’s sweet But it ain’t nothin’ next to baby’s treat And if you pardon me I’d like to say We’ll do okay Forever in blue jeans

“It’s about figuring out a way to make life work,” Kim Dubinsky says as she sips on her second cup of coffee inside a BBQ joint that time forgot. “That’s what we’re doing.”





When he opened his eyes he was confused and felt so alone. How on earth did I get here he thought.

He knew not his worth and place in the bowl, actually he didn’t even know if he was a goldfish. When he saw his reflection in the glass he saw a layer of brown course hair covering his whole body. He gasped at his apparition, for he frightened himself. It also seemed the other five goldfish were avoiding him.

Do I not have parents? He thought. Which one is my mother, and which is my father, do I have other relatives? He was thinking and he was feeling so alone when he saw all the other goldfish swim around in circles as if on a merry-go-round. What is the purpose of that? He thought-what kind of life is that? They are like a bunch of sardines side by side, heads up in a small can. I guess I am sort of lucky, I could have been a sardine right? dying little by little cramped in a can with sardines that I dislike or would never have been seen in their company.

Shouldn’t I have a name? He thought-I don’t know any names-but yes i think i know the alphabet. He drew the letter B on the murky side of the fish bowl with his left fin. Then out of his hairy orange head came a name

Benny. Yup he thought I will be called Benny the bowl, no rather he wanted to be called Benny Bowl, that suited him just fine.

He turned around wondering if he had spoken his name out loud. He had obviously done something because four fish were looking at him. The snail stuck to the bowl was oblivious to him. One fish with a dull silver skin was lying in a pink shell with a mask and oxygen tank, with rubber hosing that went up to the service.

One fish in particular had a menacing look-he was wearing a leather jacket and chaps pulled over his tail, his scales were pocked marked and he had a red bandana half way over his head. On his left fin was an exquisite fish with shimmery scales and narrow head and slanted eyes. She spoke softly.

“Good morning I am Glam short for Glamorous nice to meet you-she extended her left fin,” and this is Daddio.”

“Watch it Glam or you’ll be right back at the hatchery if you commiserate with other fish. He smacked her head with his tail. She shrugged back and let out a few soft bubbles.

“Stop that!” Bubbled Benny, “that’s no way to treat a lady.”

“Oh who says?” The big fat fish came face to face with Benny, a menacing look in his grey eyes.

“I say so; said Benny, you can’t treat people that way,especially a beautiful fishette like that. Where’s your respect?”

“You have got to be kidding; do you know who I am?”

“An big fat asshole!” laughed Benny

“My name is Daddio, and don’t you forget it.” Benny lashed out at him with his tail and bumped his belly, making Daddio spin into a whirl, choking on the waves created on top of the bowl. He eventually banged against the grimy glass. Making his head spin like a top.

“Put up you dukes,you ugly son-of a bitch, you don’t belong here anyway you freaking looking fish.”

Benny shrunk back feeling intimidated and said. “I apologize I just hate to see females of any species mistreated.

“I’ll punch your lights out if you don’t shut your trap, you scrubby freaky fish!”
“I am a goldfish just like you,I just look a bit different that’s all, so leave me alone you bully.” A watery tear spilled down his hairy face.

Glam went to say something and Daddio told her to shut up too. She complied.
Daddio muttered under his bubbly breath “Ripley’s believe it or not.”
“Don’t think I didn’t hear that!”

A large yellow fish dressed in a suit and a bow tie with a polka dot shirt, a vinyl briefcase
velcro-ed to his fin came up to them.

“I heard what just transpired and if you ever need a lawyer from Stein Stein and Stein I’m your man.”

He handed Benny a plastic coated business card. Stein Stein and Stein was embossed in silver. Address: The fish bowl”

“ Very impressive, thanks Mr. Stein, which Stein are you?”

“Ha ha very funny-the middle one.”

“Get off my turf now.” Said Daddio smacking Benny again.

“Do you want a lawyer now Mr. Benny?” Said the middle Stein.

“Well maybe sometime soon I might be in need.” Benny took a sideways glance at his opponent. Daddio was fuming, bubbles were coming out of his mouth. ​He swam to the surface for air.

Benny went to the bottom of the bowl to recoup. When he got to the bottom he saw a sleek looking dude diving off a fake rock. The fish didn’t see him, so Benny tapped him on his broad shoulders.

“Nice to make your acquaintance I am Benny Bowl.”

The diver took one look at Benny’s wild hair and shuddered. Woah he is freaky looking, he thought.

But out of respect he said it was nice to meet him too.

“My name is Willy, I am training for the fish Olympics, I practice diving most every day for many hours. It can be quite tedious.”

“So do you really like diving being it’s so repetitive?”

“No come to think of it, it’s rather monotonous.” I don’t think I’ll enter again, thanks Benny, you have set me straight, my wife is inside our house over there, he pointed to a medium sized pink painted shell, with pearls streaming down the door, and a “welcome” doormat.

“Come on out Sabrina and meet our new fella Benny.” He yelled through the pearls.

“Coming.” Said Sabrina, “Just got to set the time, I am makings stuffed clams.”
“Not fish again.” Grumbled Willy.

She shimmied out, a graceful middle aged fish with a green house coat and oven gloves over her fins.

“Oh.” She said upon seeing Benny and all his hair.

“Nice to meet you, I also am a hairdresser if you ever need one.” Willy jabbed her side, and said “Shush,that’s rather rude.”

“Oh no I meant it out of respect.” Sorry if it seemed otherwise. What sort of fish are you Mr ummm?”
“I am not sure, maybe a goldfish.” He said shyly, feeling suddenly insecure.
“That’s okay everyone seems to think I am a freak, but I am not really. I have little memory of how I came to be-I am looking for my parent’s but there is no-one in here that looks like me. My name is Benny Bowl.”

“Not knowing your identity must be so hard. Tonight we will all celebrate your “being here”, there will be great food and libations and Wendy, whom you haven’t met yet, plays a beautiful harp, perfect for under water music. Please do join us?” She asked.

“I’d love to but what about Daddio, he has it in for me.”

“He is just busting your chops, he may look menacing but he is fine when he doesn’t drink. You’ll see.”

Benny thanked them and swam back to the grimy glass. He wet his hair and slicked it down. Now I look like Fabio Fish he chuckled to himself.
A large goldfish with wild glasses dragging a piano swam up to Benny.
“Hello who might you be strange fish?”
“Benny the Bowl,and you are?”
“Elton, I am from overseas, and I am famous!”
“Yes I know who you are, you are Elton of musical fame,am I right?”
“Indeed you are,I will catch you later at the party.”

Benny noticed a bloated fish floating upside down at the top of the bowl. He wondered if the fish had died of natural causes. He shuddered.

The party began at 8pm. Everyone came in their finery, Stein had bought Stein and Stein who popped out from other crevices, bearing sushi.

“Oh I can’t be a cannibal and eat sushi,it is totally against my principles,that would be inconceivable.”
” You’ll love it with horseradish,you’ll never know it’s sushi.”
“We’ll if you say so,I am quite hungry come to think of it.”

All the Steins looked alike, Benny tried to differentiate, but couldn’t.
He popped a chunk of pink sushi in his mouth.
“That’s Tuna!” laughed Wendy as she set up her harp,wedging it between a treasure chest and a small ladder upon which was a small fake pirate.

Daddio had Glam firmy on his arm she was wearing a dazzling sea green cocktail dress and long silky gloves on her fins. They bought imitation crab legs (because they were a bit tacky) Daddio shook Benny’s fin and apologized for being rude. He kept a close and watchful eyes on Benny.

“Oh look, here comes Elton, he’s been re-writing that song over again for another celebrity who has passed away. Elton was wearing a pink silk suit and mauve glasses.

“And who might you be?” He asked Benny

“Well I am Benny Bowl. I just got here.”

“He’s trying to find out where his Ma and Pa are.” Sabrina whispered

“Look at him, there is no doubt, he is the son of Sea Hag and Sea Horse-they went searching for the “Big Ocean.”If I recall they were placed here in fresh water by accident and were dying, your Mother is Sea Hag the ugly one and sea horse the most desired man in the ocean. You were born of them Benny Bowl. But you seem to have the antibodies to sustain in fresh water. Sadly to say they didn’t and got very ill fast.They left in a great hurry to save their lives, but they forgot you,oh dear,what a terrible shame that is.”
Benny began to weep,suddenly there was silence,as the tears rolled down his hairy face.
“So I am not a goldfish then after all am I?”
Daddio feeing bad said,”You might be just a little, let him stay.” Daddio passed him a beer. “If he defies the natural order of things, he does look like an ocean fish, he can stick around if he wants to. He may be of value to us, well would you be Benny?” He raised his thick eyebrows.
” Yes I’d like to stay and become part of your fish bowl, I could stay for a while,then I must go and look for father and mother, I really must.”
They then all piped in saying Benny must search for his parents,it was the right thing to do, and since they were all peace loving they gathered around.
“We don’t care about your breed Benny.” They all said in their different ways.

Willy and Sabrina cheered,they both seemed outgoing. Then they all started to sing sea-faring songs. The headliner for the party was non other than the famous Elton.

Elton finished tuning up his piano,his stage hands were rushing here and there.
He sat back quietly on his piano stool made of polished hand carved river stone and flicked his gleaming tail sideways with a flourish. He cleared his throat.
Everyone was quite as they listened in awe to Elton’s musical twang.

So they all drank and ate of the bounty.
Glam served a rich creamy cheese cake that was shaped like an ocean whale.
There was much merriment and laughter, the booze was copious,spilling out of a pretty orange shell.
Other fish swam out of the crevices to party. It was the best time Benny could remember. Glasses clinked.

Elton cleared his throat,a signal that his concert was to begin. There was a hush,except for the rubber tube leading into the bowl, which every fish was fearful of, wondering if it was a suction hose.
Elton sang “The candle burned out long ago, but you never will” and many of his other hits. He received great applause, whistles and cheers.

That night there was much merriment, and joy. Benny Bowl was welcomed in, and his hairiness was never bought up again. Never again did he stare into the grimy glass afraid of himself, wondering about his parents. He had finally found peace,and all that mattered was to have harmony as it was in the bowl. He sighed and his eyes teared up,what a wonderful crew they were he thought,as he forked the luscious cheese cake.

Ana Christy