In June 1960 my dad and I went tire-kicking with Smitty over at the A-1 used car lot on Highway 99, trying to find me my first car.
The right car.
We went on Sunday, when the Seattle Rainiers were on the road and there were only church shows on TV. In the Sunday paper A-1 had advertised a 1953 Mercury V-8, a Ford Motor Company car, a two-door hardtop convertible. I thought that a hardtop convertible had a wicked look.
My dad spotted a car he liked: a brown, 1952 Chevy, four-door sedan with a straight-six engine and posts between the side windows. The Chevy was a turkey car to me.
“You’ll choose your own car, Mitchell,” my dad said, “but General Motors cars beat the hell out of any Ford car.” My dad always called me Mitchell, never Mitch. My dad always bought General Motors cars.
I wasn’t blind; the Mercury needed work. The paint job was beaten up, the color like a banana that had been dropped in the dust.
“It looks like it’s been peed on, Zeigler,” Smitty said. “Gonna need paint.”
Smitty was a guy in our neighborhood who worked at Boeing but made a buck customizing street rods. Smitty had let me hang out at the body shop in his garage since I was thirteen. Smitty always called me Zeigler, never Mitchell.
The Merc’s tires were bald, and inside, the rubber floor mat was worn through near the gas pedal. Worse yet, the flesh-colored seat covers had a piece of red, plastic tape over a rip where the driver sat. Outside, on the left-side rear bumper, the Mercury had a dent.
“She was sideswiped a little,” Aldo Olson, the salesman, said, “but the frame is OK.” The dent puckered the left fender, and brown rust spread like a weed into the cracked paint.
For all that, I didn’t care. I knew.
When you rolled down all the windows, the roof would float above the windshield, and the air would whip through the sides and blow your hair about like the top was down.
It was the car I wanted to be seen in.
Right away I used up my savings account on new tires, ones with thin whitewalls, and Hollywood glass-pack mufflers that made the exhaust from my car’s V-8 rumble with heavy rhythm. It was as if the engine was running in the bottom of a well. That rumble was a nice, evil sound—a nice, menacing sound. My car sounded low to the ground, a prowler.
After I got my tires and mufflers, I cruised by Carol Webber’s house a lot. I cruised slowly, my engine rumbling, all my windows rolled down, and my radio rocking and rolling. I cruised with my left arm on the window ledge, my head nodding and jerking to the music as I tried to feel like my car, hard and on the prowl. I looked straight ahead through my sunglasses, as if I was not looking for Carol Webber.
But I was.
I knew that Carol Webber cruised with guys who drove wicked cars. I knew that they drove back and forth around Carkeek Park in chopped Fords and lowered Studebakers. When I shut my eyes, I could see Carol Webber sitting next to me after I cherried up my Merc. I could see myself driving into Dick’s Drive-In with my mufflers rumbling and Carol Webber sitting next to me with her shining blond hair and swells under her sweater. Anybody buying a nineteen-cent hamburger at Dick’s would see us together and hear the music coming out of my car.
Thinking about Carol Webber sitting next to me in my car plugged me up inside, and I had to stretch to get my blood flowing again to my arms and my fingers.
As long as I had known who he was, Russ Parker had been called Parker. Maybe three or four years older and taller than me, Parker seemed to have an extra-long shadow whenever he climbed out of his 1949 Chevy, a faded-blue, two-door humpbacked coupe. Parker’s Chevy was lowered all around and was sprayed here and there with gray primer that covered the spots where someone had stripped off the chrome trim and filled the screw holes with putty.
To make a buck, Parker and his buddies caddied at Twin Firs Golf Course. Until I was sixteen, I caddied there too. Parker never talked to any younger kids while we waited to get caddie jobs. He was always combing his hair and smoking Camels, running his black comb through his brown-blond hair. Parker’s hair always dropped back down over his eyes as soon as he finished stroking it off his forehead.
Parker cleaned his fingernails with a switchblade knife, chewing through the dirt under his nails with the point. He called his switchblade a “pigsticker,” and he took it out when the older guys were around, guys like Dwayne Bean, who wore a leather biker’s jacket and had long hair too.
Russ Parker and Dwayne Bean called themselves Rinks. When I walked to the golf course to caddy early in the morning and thought that Rinks, like Parker and Dwayne Bean, might drive by on the way, I would walk behind the trees next to the road. I would walk low and watch the ground.
Each morning the caddies drew from a card deck to see who would get the first jobs. The higher the card you drew, the higher you were on the list, and the sooner you got a job. The Rinks, wearing black leather biker’s jackets, always pushed to the front of the line and picked cards first.
At one card draw Parker drew low—only a four of clubs—and I drew high—the king. Parker grabbed my king.
“Hey,” I said, “that’s mine.”
“You owe me a card, Mole.” Parker called me one thing—Mole—although I don’t know why.
Parker tossed the four into his shadow on the ground.
“Better take the four, Mole,” he said. I picked up the four lying in Parker’s shadow and didn’t say anything. After that I tried not to look at Parker’s face when he was around.
After I was sixteen and had my Merc, I worked at my dad’s hardware store across the street from Larry’s Shell station. Steve Moffit, a guy I went to school with, worked at Larry’s. Everybody called him Moffit.
Moffit pumped gas, cleaned windows, and checked oil. From my dad’s store I watched Moffit talking to Carol Webber when she drove her dad’s Pontiac up to Larry’s Shell. Carol Webber was always driving around with her friend Annette Hurst. Annette had dark hair and worked at Spud’s Fish and Chips.
Parker and Dwayne Bean also bought gas at Larry’s for Parker’s lowered ’49 humpback Chevy. I watched Parker talk to Moffit at the gas pumps, even though Moffit was my age.
Moffit played football and cruised for girls with other guys, but he never asked me to cruise with him. Sometimes I tried to help Moffit when he worked on his dad’s 1950 Dodge four-door.
“Zeigler,” Moffit said once when we were setting the distributor points on the Dodge, “did you know that some Rinks beat up Al Ryan? Three of them, at Zesto’s, they knocked him out. Ryan. Can you believe it?” Al Ryan was a football player, like Moffit, a quarterback and tall, with a crew cut and strong hands.
“How could the Rinks have knocked Ryan out?” I asked.
“Hit him with a tire iron, I guess. Anyway, that’s what I heard. I heard they had to take Ryan to the hospital.”
“Which ones did it?” I asked. “Was it Parker? Or Dwayne Bean?”
“Didn’t hear,” Moffit said. “Could be. I don’t know. But it was Rinks. Rinks are crazy. They’ll do anything.”
Moffit shrugged his shoulders, as if that was just the way it was in nature, just as if he was talking about a wasp or a snake or about anything dangerous. It was just the way it was, and Rinks were just the way they were—dangerous and crazy.
I worked on my Merc to get it ready to paint in Smitty’s three-car garage, just around the corner from Larry’s Shell. Smitty had blue-black air compressor hoses hung on the garage walls, coiled and ready to hook into his spray painter. Underneath the hoses on the wall were pin-up-girl calendars—girls in short, tight skirts and sweaters, girls wearing two-piece swimsuits and bright smiles. I thought the pin-up girls were smiling at me when I hung out at Smitty’s, and it was always warmer in there, even in winter, because of the smiling girls, their long, great legs, and their swelling sweaters, like Carol Webber’s.
I couldn’t paint my car until I fixed the pucker in my car’s side. Smitty helped me fill the crease with plastic filler putty and showed me how to file off the extra putty and sand out the grooves and furrows with wet-dry sandpaper glued to a block of wood.
“Sand the filler real soft, Ziegler,” Smitty said, “like you’re feeling a chick’s boobs.” Too much pressure while you were sanding would leave a wallow you could only see after the new paint was applied. Then it would be too late to refill the wallow without repainting the whole car.
Parker came over to Smitty’s when I was sanding down the filler putty with wet-dry sandpaper. I saw Parker’s shadow cross my car. I looked everywhere except at his eyes.
Parker talked to Smitty, not to me.
“Saw Holmgren’s Ford, man. The man said you did the color coats. Cool beast, man. Maybe you and I could work a deal on painting my wheels.”
“Maybe,” Smitty said. “How much scratch you got?”
“Busted, man,” Parker said, “but I could be coming into something.”
Smitty held up his hands like “call me when you do.” I kept sanding the plastic filler in my car’s crease, trying to stay level, trying not to make a wallow.
Smitty wiped beads of sweat from his forehead.
“Parker,” he said, “hear the one about the guy who wiped his ass left-handed and beat off right-handed?” I looked up long enough to see Parker sneer and light up a Camel.
Smitty finished the joke like he was on a stage, his right hand in a fist moving up and down, laughing hard. “Until he looked at his hand, he didn’t know whether he was coming or going.”
Smitty wheezed when he laughed, like the wheeze of his air compressors. I saw the pin-up girls smiling right through the joke too. I didn’t get the punch line, but I laughed because it made me nervous to hear about beating off since I was afraid Smitty would ask me how often I did it.
But he didn’t.
While I was thinking about beating off, I saw Parker look at my car. Just for a second I glanced at his eyes and the bags underneath. Parker’s eyes looked dog mean, and I knew he didn’t think any more of me than the worms in the dirt behind Smitty’s garage.
I turned away fast, my eyes back on the filler putty where I was sanding, but Parker’s shadow came across the coiled hoses and pin-up girls and clouded the putty hump on my fender. I could smell cigarette smoke. Parker was close to me. I shut my eyes but I kept sanding.
“Mole,” Parker said, “you owe me a paint job.” Parker was so close he was whispering. I kept sanding as if I didn’t hear Parker but I did hear him.
“What did you say, Parker?” I said.
“You heard me, Mole. You owe me a paint job.” Parker’s voice was smooth and cold, and I kept sanding with my eyes shut. When I opened my eyes and looked up, the shadow was gone and so was Parker.
Smitty helped me pick paint for my car. I wanted candy-apple paint—two coats of paint, the top coat a skin of clear, wet, living color sprayed over a metal undercoating—but I had used up all but $250 buying the new tires and mufflers. That was not enough money to buy two paint batches. Not enough to spray my car twice.
Smitty came up with a plan.
“Choose a solid color, Zeigler,” he said. “No undercoating. We could do it right and not use up all your hard-earned.”
Smitty and I started with a light-green paint because it went OK with the flesh-colored seat covers. He took a little of the light-green paint and poured it into a clear plastic cup. Then Smitty stirred a drop of yellow paint into the cup, swirling the yellow into the green as if it were hot and needed cooling down.
“The yellow’s gonna change the green,” Smitty said. “Changes it from duck-shit green to lima-bean green.”
Smitty kept stirring and swirling, adding another yellow drop and another.
“Believe it or not,” I said, “I like lima beans.”
“You would, Zeigler.” Smitty set the cup down and walked toward the garage’s wall shelf. He picked up an open can off the wall shelf and scooped out a spoonful of metallic gold-colored undercoat flakes.
“Watch this, Zeigler.”
Smitty winked as he sprinkled gold flakes into the mix of the light-green base and the small drops of yellow paint. Smitty stared while he stirred, one eyebrow cocked up in the air as if he could see the paint better from an inch farther away from the cup. Then he tapped a little more metallic flake from the scoop into the mix. To me, each gold flake was like a light bulb flashing on and off. With each flash I thought I could see through the paint to the bottom of the cup.
Smitty stopped stirring and said, “Ya see, we could mix a little metallic flake into the paint. Shouldn’t clog the nozzle. Whaddya think, Zeigler?”
I took my hands out of my back pockets and rubbed my face to be sure I heard right.
“I think it’s great,” I said. “Outstanding. God, I love it.”
I imagined glowing metallic-green paint poured all over my car. I imagined Carol Webber wearing a two-piece swimsuit, looking at my car, coated metallic green, and not seeing the metal flakes, not seeing the light bulbs, but feeling the heat of the car on her face even when it was parked and the motor off.
Carol Webber seeing how tough I looked behind the wheel of my lima-bean-green machine.
Smitty snorted; his hands had green and yellow paint spots on them.
“It still looks like duck shit,” he said, “but it’s metallic duck shit from metallic ducks. OK, then. We’ll paint it with metallic duck shit.”
“It’s a boss color—lima-bean green—to me,” I said. Smitty handed me the green stir stick.
“Stare at it overnight anyway, Zeigler. If it gets ugly, we can bag it.”
I took the stir stick home but the color stayed boss.
The next Saturday after we had picked out the lima-bean-green color, Smitty and I got my Merc ready to paint. We peeled off all the chrome trimming. We wrapped the Merc’s windows, tires, and bumpers with masking tape and newspapers until my car looked bandaged up like an Egyptian mummy in the movies. Next we rolled the mummy into the paint booth in Smitty’s garage. Smitty had made a paint booth in there by nailing plastic sheets to the ceiling and by taping the plastic sheets to the garage floor at the bottom.
Smitty had painted hundreds of hot rods in his garage paint booth. The plastic sheets were smeared with car enamel. Standing by the sheets was like standing next to a rainbow.
Smitty took down one of the blue-black coiled hoses hanging on top of the pin-up girl calendars and hooked the hose end into the paint spray gun and the air compressor. When he switched on the compressor, it pumped air in pulses, like my blood pulsed when I looked at Carol Webber.
Before he started painting, Smitty put on a suit like a spaceman, and while in his spacesuit, he sprayed a green mist over the mummy, waving the paint gun nozzle around and up and down like he was directing an orchestra and the paint nozzle was a wand.
Outside the paint booth’s plastic sides, I watched the mummy soak up the metallic green sprinkled with gold flakes. I stood outside and watched in the strong light, waiting for the change, while gold-metal spray swirled around Smitty in his spaceman suit and my car wrapped like a mummy. The paint smelled like butterscotch and tar.
When Smitty turned off the compressor, the hose slumped and coiled in circles inside the paint booth. My car wasn’t the same anymore—not banana-pee yellow, not primer gray, not a mummy. In the strong light of Smitty’s paint booth, the metallic-flake, lima-bean-green paint shimmered like the sun shining on the grass through a lawn sprinkler late on a summer day when it was so hot that the newspapers said, “Don’t water.”
My car had a smoking glow like a beach bonfire. It was boss.
The paint had to dry for three days before I could take my car out of Smitty’s. Then I cruised Carol Webber’s house; when I didn’t see her Pontiac around, I drove over to Larry’s Shell.
Moffit came around to the driver’s side and looked in my window.
“Guess what,” he said, “a chick was around asking if I had seen a Merc with a hot, green paint job.” He was smiling but with respect.
It’s Carol Webber, I thought. She was talking to Moffit about my machine.
“Was it Carol Webber?” I asked. “Did she say she really liked it?”
“Said it was cool.” Moffit nodded. “Said the paint job’s cool.”
Moffit passed his tongue over his lips as he ran his hand along the top of the front left bumper. “Clean wheels, man,” he said and then straightened up, put his hands in his pockets, and looked down Greenwood Avenue, like he was expecting somebody.
“Maybe we should cruise Carkeek Park after work, at eight,” Moffit said. “I bet Webber and her buddies will be there. Cruise the park; see what’s happening.”
My heart was hopping around my chest. Moffit had never asked to cruise with me before. Now I would be looking for Carol Webber in my machine as I cruised with Moffit.
“After work,” I said. “That’s cool. See you after work.”
At eight, when the sky was getting dark, I went back to Larry’s Shell with Carol Webber on my mind. Parker’s lowered Chevy was alongside the restroom doors. Wearing his black leather biker’s coat, Dwayne Bean stood over by the Coke machine. Parker stood by the Coke machine too, with a Camel cigarette hanging from his lips and his eyes looking like a reptile’s.
Moffit had changed into jeans and a T-shirt.
“They’re loaded,” Moffit said, looking at Parker and Dwayne Bean. “No way when I’m that old, I’ll be hanging around a gas station, blotto. No way.”
“No way,” I said. “No way, José.”
Moffit climbed in the passenger’s side. I started my car; my Hollywood mufflers rumbled low and deep.
“Lay a patch, Zeigler,” Moffit said. “Burn a little rubber.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe I shouldn’t in front of Parker.”
“Who cares?” Moffit said. “Peel out, will ya?”
With my left foot I let the clutch out fast, popped it, and rammed the gas pedal with my right foot. The engine wrenched my whitewall tires around so fast that they screeched like a tree full of crows as we squirted onto Greenwood Avenue.
I looked in my rearview mirror to see who had watched us, looked to see if Carol Webber’s Pontiac was anywhere in sight, but all I saw was that Parker’s faded-blue and primered Chevy had left Larry’s Shell station too and was behind us, coming up behind us in our lane in a hurry, much lower than my car.
I slowed down so that I wouldn’t get a ticket, and I moved over to the slow lane. I saw through my rearview mirror that Parker’s Chevy moved over too, as if there were a line hooking our two cars together, as if I had pulled Parker’s humpback Chevy behind my ’53 Mercury when I had peeled out of Larry’s Shell station, laying a patch of rubber.
Maybe I did something wrong, I thought. Maybe you’re not supposed to peel out in front of Rinks. Rinks were dangerous and crazy, and maybe laying a patch of rubber set them off. Maybe Ryan had laid a patch of rubber when the Rinks knocked him out and put him in the hospital, even though Moffit said Ryan was OK now.
The stoplight at Greenwood and 130th, by the Bible college, was red. I slowed down and watched Parker’s faded-blue, humpback Chevy getting closer to my car, Parker not slowing down. Moffit started to turn around and look back just as I stopped, and Parker’s Chevy rammed my car. He didn’t ram us that hard, but it was enough to make my lima-bean-green car grunt like it had the air knocked out of it, and it was enough to knock Moffit backward. My chin bounced back onto the steering wheel so that my tongue went numb.
I saw Parker’s face when I looked in the rearview mirror, and he was laughing so hard that his dog-mean eyes were almost squeezed shut.
“Why’d you do that?” Moffit hollered back at Parker’s Chevy like he was tough, but he rolled up both windows on his side, front and back. Quickly I rolled up my windows.
Parker’s Chevy rammed us again, and this time my chest hit the steering wheel. I tried to hold myself back in the seat, but the ramming was too hard, and my chest got sore.
Moffit stuck his hand up in the air. He gave Parker’s Chevy the finger, hard, like his finger was a pigsticker, and he was snapping his third finger up like a knife blade.
“Don’t do that,” I said, but Parker’s Chevy just rammed us again as the light turned green. I decided I’d better get off Greenwood and head home. I forgot to signal my right turn, forgot to look straight ahead, forgot to turn on the radio. My hands were on the steering wheel, the windows rolled up tight now, my door locked. I didn’t listen to my mufflers rumbling. I wanted to make my car run away from Parker faster. My tongue was numb and my chest was sore.
Parker’s Chevy turned too and stayed a little behind me. The darkening night took all the color out of Parker’s Chevy. Now the hump was all that stood out as Parker’s car skimmed along the road, a night-painted black car on a black street. Each time I turned a corner, I could see a humpback shadow on the streets behind headlights.
“This is bullshit,” Moffit said. “Let’s fight the fuckers right now.” But Moffit had locked his door too.
I switched my headlights off, but my lima-bean-green paint job was as bright as the streetlights overhead, as if each metal flake in my paint job flashed on and off in the light. Parker couldn’t miss us no matter what I did, unless there was a place with no lights and I could get us way ahead of Parker’s humpback Chevy. It felt like there was a compressor pumping in my sore chest.
I turned my Merc into Northwest Place, a dead end with no houses or streetlamps to throw light on my metallic-green paint. I watched Parker’s Chevy coming up; I hoped it would glide by but it didn’t. Parker’s night-blackened Chevy slowed and then stopped. I heard its wheels creak as they turned on the gravel. The Chevy’s headlights shone on my car and then swung across the street, left to right, lighting the right road edge and culvert, where the dirt was loose next to the blacktop.
The Chevy, sideways at an angle, blocked the way out of Northwest Place. Without sliding into the culvert, there was no room for my car to sneak by Parker’s Chevy, no way to slip out of the dead-end street. I turned my lights on and looked hard, but there was no way to get past the Chevy on the road. There was no way out from the back.
Dwayne Bean got out of Parker’s Chevy, the collar on his black leather biker’s jacket snapped up high. He held a tire iron, its crooked neck sticking out of his fist. He tapped the pointed end, the end you stuck in the jack when you changed a tire. That end of the tire iron, he tapped into his palm over and over. Dwayne leaned against the Chevy’s front fender—just leaned back, his legs kind of crossed, and just looked at my metallic-green car, just looked at me and tapped the tire-iron end in his hand. I wouldn’t shut off my car’s engine.
The driver’s door on Parker’s Chevy opened, and Parker got out real slowly and stretched.
“Mole,” Parker said.
“Parker, is that you?” I said.
“Mole. You owe me a car, Mole.”
“What did he say?” I asked Moffit. My heart was pumping; each pulse made my chest sore all over again and kind of cut off my hearing.
“I think he said you owe him a car,” Moffit replied. “They’re both drunk. Let’s get out of here.”
“I don’t know how,” I said.
“Well, I’m not sitting here.” Moffit swung his door open and skittered over the bank of the culvert. Moffit was a football player, and he was running off toward the woods. Full speed. On the other side of the culvert.
Parker walked up in front of my headlights, laughing.
“One chickenshit hits the road; one chickenshit still inside,” he said.
Parker didn’t walk exactly. He went from side to side while he squeezed his right hand into his jeans pocket. I saw him take his pigsticker out of his pocket, his switchblade; I saw him snap the blade into the air. I could see the blade’s shadow, because my car headlights were shining on Parker.
Dwayne Bean started walking around the other side of my car, all the time tapping his hand with the tire iron.
“Hope you got your helmet on, stud,” he said. Then he swung the tire iron, swung it hard, and slapped my fender with the tire iron. The blunt point ripped the paint, going deep into the metal. I felt the thud of the tire iron in my sore chest.
There was no other way after that. I pressed hard on the gas pedal, and my car heaved forward, my hands on the steering wheel. I headed at the back end of Parker’s humpback Chevy to get away somehow, to go home, to somehow shrink in size and slip around Parker’s Chevy blocking the street.
Suddenly I was going pretty fast.
I heard Parker say, “Jesus.”
I heard glass crash, heard my right tire creak and then burst, and felt my car rise and then sag against Parker’s Chevy. The right fender buckled but my Merc wedged past Parker’s Chevy in the dark, scraping it like a giant metal rasp.
Parker must have forgotten to set his brake because his Chevy lurched forward, pointing downhill toward the culvert on the right side of the road. The Chevy slipped over the culvert edge, its lowered bottom sliding down the gravel.
Then it was quiet. My Merc’s right side slumped. The light from my unbroken taillights showed Parker’s Chevy in the culvert, stuck into a clump of weeds.
Parker and Dwayne Bean ran over to the Chevy and tried to shove it out of the ditch but it didn’t budge. They paid no attention to me. My car sat there, running, my right fender a jumble of bent metal.
Moffit came out of the dark. He opened the right door in a hurry and climbed in and said, “Let’s get out of here. Holy shit.”
I tried to drive my car toward Smitty’s, but the right wheel was flat and the fender slapped the hub as my Merc flopped up and down like a horse on a merry-go-round. After a block or so, I gave up. I pulled over on the shoulder near the trees, stopped the car, and got out. I started to walk to Smitty’s. I walked low to the ground, my chest sore. Moffit walked next to me.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have peeled out,” Moffit said after a while.
“You shouldn’t have given Parker the finger,” I said. “Now my car’s wrecked and Smitty’s going to kill me.” I had been better off before Moffit had said he would cruise with me. I wanted to wipe the whole night away.
A Pontiac came up behind. It was Carol Webber. It didn’t matter. I wouldn’t look up. I didn’t want to be seen just then.
Inside the Pontiac Carol Webber was driving. Her friend Annette Hurst, the one who had dark hair and worked at Spuds, was next to her and rolled down her window.
“Why are you guys walking?” she asked.
I didn’t say anything.
“Car broke down,” Moffit said.
I stared at the ground, my hands in my back pockets.
Inside the Pontiac Carole Webber laughed.
“Figures,” she said.
“It’s not funny,” Annette said. She turned back toward me.
“Come on, Mitch,” Annette said. “Climb in the back.”
She looked at me with worry in her eyes. I liked that. I could see that it didn’t matter to her what color my car was. And I liked being called Mitch—not Mitchell, not Mole, not Ziegler.
I have to say, I liked it a lot.
Mike’s short fiction work has appeared Streetlight Magazine, Adelaide Literary Magazine, American Writers Review, FRiGG, Penmen Review, and STORGY, magazines. His short story “The Cantor’s Window,” was acknowledged as a Shortlist Winner Nominee in Adelaide Literary Magazine’s 2018 “Voices Literary Award for Short Stories” and was included in the 2018 Literary Voices Anthology published this February.
In 2017 Mike published his first novel, Rivertown Heroes. His book of short stories “The Three of Us” will be released by Adelaide Press in the Fourth Quarter of 2018.
Mike has practiced law for over four decades. He studied fiction writing with West Coast authors Craig Lesley, Tom Spanbauer, Whitney Otto, the late Robert Gordon, and attended the Portland State Haystack Summer Workshop Conferences (1992–96,) and the University of Washington Extension Writing Workshops (1995–98.) Mike holds a BA from the University of Washington and a JD from Georgetown Law Center. He lives with his family in the Pacific Northwest.