Friends ©2018 John Stillmunks

I saw a robin in the neighbor’s tree while I was bringing in groceries. Turns out of course that robins remain as time-worn foreshadowing signs of winter’s demise in our part of the world. I assumed I was viewing a new mom based on the season and the bird’s relative sturdiness.

“Why aren’t you building your nest?” I asked with a typical midwestern disinterested accent that is all too common around here.

“Mind your own business,” he snapped. “Do I look like I’m full of eggs?”

I apologized sincerely and looked past this bird’s attitude until he called out the kids’ deceased cat.

“Where’s your cat? I hear he can’t even catch a cold since his kidneys shut down last winter. We were laughing about that all the way down in Texas.”

“You should be nicer, Robin.”

“You should quit talking to birds in your driveway and get the damn house sold.” he replied.

“You’re right. I’ll do so right away, Mr. Robin.”

The robin responded with a “Dayumm right Bitch” and shifted his feathers to mask his shape so no one else will think he’s pregnant.

I looked toward the other neighbor’s tree across the street. Then toward the robin, who started singing his “victory song”.

My good friend, the Owl was perched and dozing in the hollow far up the tree across the street. His eyes opened wide and blinked twice when I gestured toward the robin singing at the top of his lungs in my neighbor’s tree. Owl nodded and closed his eyes again.

Friendships are important.

Still Writing . . .

Caroline is busy at the Arizona Fine Art Expo. She’s sharing a booth with two other artists. Go see and buy their work. #azfineartexpo should get you started there.

Among other things, John has been working on a series focusing on yoga entitled “Synovial”. He’s releasing some images on yoga mats as well.

We’ll post on TangledUpandTrue as soon as we can. Thanks for being forgiving as we both continue our paths while writing, painting, creating, and experimenting.

We hope to get the next chapter proofread and edited sometime this week.


Happy New Year from all of us at Caroline is getting ready for her show and John has several projects in the works. It’s been a great year for our businesses and families, we hope it has been the same for all of you as well. May we all have a healthy and prosperous 2018!!!

We will post Chapter 14 on Tuesday, January the Twoth. Happy New Year and thank you for following our work!

-The Hardworking Staff at

Chapter 13 – All Things Considered (Maybe)

Woodrow gathered up the stored paintings from last year. There were enough for a couple of shows. Florida sounded better and better as the temperature dropped outside his house. He used to think he could never be accepted into a show, especially a quality Florida show if he didn’t apply by the deadline. Nanna taught him years ago to wake the hell up and ignore such nonsense. “Everybody has a price,” she used to tell him, “the secret is to get them to come down below what you are willing to pay – or get them to pay you.” Woodrow recognized the importance of conducting “good” business as opposed to Nanna’s way. Still, some people, especially several uneducated and greedy promoters who wouldn’t know a good piece of art if someone hit them over the head with one – have learned more from Nanna than one would ever expect. All things considered, maybe.

Woodrow stood outside the storage locker and sipped a coffee while taking a break from loading his van. It was a stolen retirement facility shuttle van with an elevated ceiling. Nanna thought it would be a great van for Woodrow to do his shows. Lots of headroom and a wheelchair ramp that slid out for easy loading since Woodrow kept all his show materials on carts.

A couple favors called in at the DMV, and his van was no longer stolen. In fact, it never was stolen. Ever.  She taught Woodrow to love America. “There’s no better place to be.” She used to tell him even back when he was a child, “and I would know.”

She frequently expressed doubt about his choice in life to be an artist. She didn’t doubt his ability and she just might kill anyone who did. However, she was concerned about him living to his full potential. Once she finally accepted his career choice, she helped him understand real world principles that coincide with success in business. For example, she explained the importance of making sure the people with whom one does business always understands the importance of safety and good choices. Nanna’s words.

Woodrow smiled. He thought back to watching her negotiation skills with that smart-assed promoter who overbooked the show by about 20 booths and added non-artist booths all over the show for no charge while doubling the booth fee (non-refundable) and the “jury” fee (never-refundable). She was tagging along with Woodrow at that show just for fun and decided to educate both the promoter and Woodrow when he demanded additional fees in cash from Woodrow once he arrived and checked in to set up at that particular show.

The fact is Woodrow did not set up the night before as per the contracted agreement because of some problems they had with traffic coming into Miami. Because he missed the 7pm set up deadline and had to set up in the dark, the promoter determined a $250 late fee and a $100 information fee were appropriate. Nanna watched Woodrow plead his case and play on the supposed sorrowful sensibilities of the promoter and his two assistants. When Woodrow refused to pay the extra fees, the promoter motioned for his two assistants to approach the artist and Nanna inside the dark booth as artists and non-artists could be heard setting up all around them.

Nanna sweetly asked why the promoter was being so unreasonable (in so many words) and reached into her purse in an apparent decision to produce the funds being requested. She then removed her mini baseball bat she received in Detroit a million years ago at a baseball game. She called it her “fishwhacker”. She wasted no time using it as she smacked the first assistant across the kneecap and shattering it before pulling a reverse strike with the bat to the other assistant’s groin – softly, but firmly. As he leaned forward in surprise and an instinctual attempt to protect himself, she shoved the bat through his front teeth – shattering them as well as she just did on his partner’s patella – and removed it in time to smack each temple in a 3 Stoogesian manner that dropped him in a stupor to his knees on the ground. She then spun around and pointed her Glock (She used to prefer the two-shot Derringer, but she claimed the times have changed and we should always change with them.) The promoter was too shocked to make a sound yet, he stood numb and overwhelmed before Woodrow quickly began to see the fear and anger rise up past his eyes and beyond his forehead. Woodrow pulled the booth’s front cover down while Nanna gave each assistant a pistol-whip for good measure while alternately drawing a bead on the promoter’s nose. Nanna removed her Elmer Fudd hat and handed it to the promoter. She motioned him to fill it with “the other Goddamn fees you collected today.”. He emptied his pockets and stuffed her hunting cap with hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Roll after roll after roll.

Nanna was a bit shocked. “Why would so many people pay so much money?” She asked rhetorically.

Woodrow explained how most people in the art fair world think of the fees as business expenses that are needed in order to sell their work and become world famous artists to be respected and admired by all.

“Admired by all what? We made more now than you will probably make the first day of this show, possibly the whole show with some of the dumbasses I’ve seen here.” she said.

“That’s true, but artists always think the next show will be the best one of their life.” said Woodrow.

“Vegas was built on that very same idea.” replied Nanna.

The promoter’s eyes darted back and forth with fear and bewilderment as he watched Nanna and Woodrow talk about the pro’s and con’s of the art fair business model.

Nanna eventually started to spinn the silencer onto her Glock in an expert-like fluid motion while watching the three bad guys with her good eye. She then pointed once again at the promoter while the assistants began to moan and complain of pain.

“Tell them  to shut up and tell him to quit bleeding on my favorite artist’s booth floor”, she whispered.

The promoter quietly snapped at both of his assistants. “Knock it off. . . quit bleeding . . . shut up.”  He looked toward Nanna for approval. He wasn’t sure what he was dealing with.

Nanna softly rested the tip of the silencer squarely on the promoter’s forehead.

“Get rid of these two creeps. I don’t want to see them ever again. You work for me now,” she whispered as her good eye narrowed. I am going to let you run things as you see fit as long as I receive a share every month.” The promoter began to protest and stopped when he felt her push back onto his forehead.

Nanna pulled the gun away from the promoter. “Since we’re partners now – my nephew will show at this shitty little show anytime he feels it’s a good idea. It’s a family slash benefit thing now, you know what I mean – right?”

The assistant with the bleeding face felt he had an opportunity and took it. He reached for Nanna as she was talking to the promoter. His intent was to kill her. He was hurt and furious. No crazy-assed bitch was going to kick his ass with a promotional baseball bat – a fish-whacker thing. He saw the chance to strangle the old bat, and received a hole in his head for his trouble.

Silencers are not silent. The hubbub outside the tent stopped as people setting up for the art show wondered what the strange sound could have been. No one knew what the sound may have or could have been. Over time, the artists, vendors, early-birds, etc. started going about their business and Woodrow took a breath as he waited to see if anyone would pop their head in his tent and find two petrified guys being held at bay by his Nanna while a mostly headless body lay in his booth.

Nanna handed out the plastic wrap Woodrow used to protect his paintings whenever they sold or if he was wrapping them for between-shows. It consisted of green plastic wrapped around a cardboard tube all held together with a plastic handle. The plastic rolls out onto a painting, sculpture, or body with ease and allows for a complete seal that improves as it gets wrapped more and more by the wrapper.

The promoter and Nanna came to a conclusion that it would be best to keep the wrapped body in the back of Woodrow’s booth until later in the night. Many people sleep in their booths, so it would be best to wait until everyone is passed out or asleep.

As they waited for the opportunity to move the body later that night, the promoter agreed to Nanna’s partnership offer and terms without any argument whatsoever. Woodrow was never sure what happened to the other assistant, but he knew he could count on the promoter for inclusion to the show anytime he wanted to participate.

Woodrow shook off his daydream and sent a text to the promoter – “Take a call?”

10 seconds later, Woodrow’s phone rang with an invitation for Woodrow to join the show at one of the premium spots, in the shade, away from all distractions, far away from all buy/sell booths, no where near any food booths – with our without those noisy generators.

Woodrow politely thanked the promoter and dialed up Nanna on the latest burner phone she gave him to see if she wanted to join him in Florida for a few days. He hadn’t seen her in a while. He didn’t have much family, and she wasn’t a relative, but she was family. He thought maybe they could meet up in Cocoa Beach. He wanted to see if that one restaurant guy – Maurice – would look at a few paintings for his place since he would be down that way, in that neighborhood. Woodrow never cared for him that much – but Nanna thought the world of Maurice. That was good enough for Woodrow.

Woodrow thought about him for a minute while the call went through.

“He’s a weird bastard, but . . . oh, hey Nanna, what’s up? Well, I got an idea . . .”