Born To Serve Time: The Wonderful Family Portraits- The Illustrated Short Story Excerpts


Here read excerpts from the fictitious novel, Born To Serve Time, which tells the individual stories of the Wonderfuls, a crime-destined family from the Catskills.






Drake ‘Stitch Bitch’ Wunderbar, taxidermist/installation artist, unauthorized possession of human body parts



because sewing had seemed natural from his early years, beginning with costumes for school plays and uniforms for cheerleaders and majorettes.    As a college fashion major he was lovingly nicknamed Stitch Bitch by his dorm mates and it was here that he first encountered fur.  Enlisted to costume Medea for her frozen revenge, his fingers sank into the primal luxury of a fox pelt and taxidermy wrapped its tail around his heart. 

          Now, six years later, Drake stepped forward to blur the line between man and all mammals in an installation entitled, And On The Sixth Day.  The police immediately stepped forward themselves to take him into custody.  Stubbornly tightlipped about his mortuary source, the sentence was severe.  But the Stitch Bitch took it in stride believing it to be “a small price to pay for art,” the same feeling he had for the limbless corpses lying  quietly  in the Poughkeepsie churchyard.



                                      from BORN TO SERVE TIME







Heather Ann Wunderbar, Miss Ulster County 1998, arsonist



that pageant duties fell to the first runner up.  Arson, the panel concluded, could not be aligned with a platform of global peace.



                                      from BORN TO SERVE TIME







Liesl Wonderful, wild mushroom harvester, distribution of an illegal substance




          “Careful, watch your step and cut gently at the base.  We don’t want to…”

          “To disturb the root mass, yes, mother, you’ve told me a billion zillion times.”  Her daughter sliced the mushroom stem expertly and tiptoed as stealthily as a tightrope walker out of the shade and into the August sun.

          Liesl Wunderbar had raised five children on wild mushroom proceeds and thin mountain air.  A now-remote desertion and divorce had left her the sole provider for her family and led her onto the peaks above Woodstock.  Barefooted in diaphanous skirts with a daisy behind her ear, she had never found a reason to change or look further.  Childrearing here was simpler, freer, wilder, like her coveted mushrooms that spiked the sauces in the kitchens of SoHo and Chelsea.   Words like infused and subtly layered would pop up on menus during Liesl’s harvest season.  She was famous on that circuit, and mysterious, appearing unannounced in a kitchen doorway, basket over her arm, treated like royalty by chefs who treated their staffs like scum.




          It was the explosion in demand that led to the events of that Thursday.  Needing help with the delivery run, she entrusted the day’s bounty to her oldest son, Hendrix, and his runaway buddy.  Both     













were nineteen in the classic way, beautiful and awkward, wired for experimentation.   The experiment of the last two weeks had been with mushrooms of the hallucinogenic variety, pulled from potent cow dung in the valley. Today the van vibrated up through the soles of their feet, through their shins, buttocks, up their spines to squeeze hair from its follicles, each its own, stretching, reaching for, applauding the sun.  Traffic, Manhattan-bound and away, blurred into see-through air trains backed by congregations of deer in green churches, doors thrown open charging into, through the trains one leap to the otherside   intobearcavesdarkwithstinksurprisedandtrampledbythunderinghoovesandoutared-litholeintolavendarpoppieswithopiumbuds….

          It was the runaway prophet’s idea to sprinkle a dusting of shrooms into each of Liesl’s brown paper bags.  “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, the medicine…”


That evening…


          Dinner hour at Aux Champignons began with the firing of the always-late wactress, made tardy by a second callback.  Firings put Chef in a good mood and he sent out starters of oysters duxelles to the staff, so fragrant with Liesl’s mushrooms that no customer could resist the enthusiastic wide-eyed descriptions from the wait staff.

          At 7:43, Chef was called from the kitchen to witness the  behavior of the busboy who, having stooped down to retrieve a dropped fork, had become spellbound with the pattern of the carpet and crawled under a table to lap soup from a bowl placed there by a patron who scratched him between the ears.  All was lost on the Hungarian waiter delivering air poultry and the hostess listening intently to the wall and murmuring over and over, ‘I knew you loved me, I knew it…”

          Poor Liesl.



                             excerpt from BORN TO SERVE TIME






Justin Wonderful, architecture student, four counts of assault against a police officer



because she had counseled fourteen of the Wunderbar family members that the prison psychologist had an exclusive roadmap into the head of Justin before she met him that afternoon.

    “Any dreams?” she asked.

    “Hmmm…well…maybe one.”

    “Want to tell me about it?”

    “I was playing a game of poker with my parole officer, Patrick, I think you know him, don’t you?  It must have been morning because he had a cup of coffee and his aftershave was still powerful.  I looked down to study my hand and when I looked back up I was playing with God.  He was younger than I expected, looking off in the distance, sort of daydreamy.  And when I looked back up from my hand again, it was my mother sitting there.  Staring straight into my eyes and never looking down, she laid her cards out one by one.  King, king, king, king, queen.”

    “Any ideas?”

    “Authority again, I expect…”


                                                  from BORN TO SERVE TIME





     Waylon Wonderful, guitarist, flees police pursuit

and Saturday night found them just riding through downtown and around and around.  The band had played no gig for the past three weekends and none was in sight, a dark tunnel that made the four anxious and broke.

       Flashes of red pulsed across the back of their heads and then the annoying whine of a siren, a mosquito around the heads of four dogs chained under the house too long.  Waylon grinned.


       He slowed the car, put on the blinker easily, courteously, a grandmother with a backseat full of cakes.  Rolling to a stop without touching the brakes, he watched the cop get out of the car and swagger toward them.  Sunglasses at night, what an idiot.

       Waylon let him get four feet from the bumper and slammed the pedal to the floor, spraying the pig with mud and gravel.  He jerked the car back on the road and flew for the dim cover of the warehouse district on the edge of town.  The darkest alley ran through the cannery and back out to Sun Street.  He knew it, he had done this before.

       But the flashes ahead said the pigs had beaten him to the trough.  He had to turn now.


       Somewhere here there was an opening…he had seen it but never…on the right I think…this block maybe…or…THERE.  He cut the headlights and jerked the wheel right.

       A faint light glowed in the hole at the end.  Waylon pressed the gas and for three, maybe four seconds they flew along.  But the brick walls narrowed, pressed in slowly, first kissing the rear view mirrors, then ripping them off, scraping the side paint, the headlights shattered and crumbled, the doors tore from their hinges, taking two arms and two legs with them.

       Surgery, coma, therapy, judge, jury and jail made up that year, but the next one found the band together as Blind Alley Robot, managed and scheduled to open for Lucinda Williams on her Japanese tour.


              excerpt from BORN TO SERVE TIME







Mona Lisa Wonderful, homemaker, jury tampering and attempting to bribe a public official




So, naturally, the Sunday visits to the penitentiary fell to her.  She was the middle child, the care giver, the rock, the nail biter.


                                                            From Born To Serve Time