An Ability I Wish I had?

Daily writing prompt
What’s a secret skill or ability you have or wish you had?

A daily writing prompt asked me to share a secret skill or ability that I have or wish I had. I don’t necessarily wish it to be secret if I had it, but I wish I could comfortably speak in front of large groups of people. I wish I could sing. I always wanted to sing. But I am not sure if singing would take precedent over my desire play the piano or guitar. The truth is, I know that I cannot sing, but I am not sure that I could not learn to play piano or guitar. I did pick a few chords on guitar in my tween years and teens, but dropped it. I sure wish I had kept up with it.

But, since I cannot stand to be in front of large crowds, maybe none of those skills would have done me much good. 🙂

Sal and Ness. (A Chicago Down Excerpt)

Greetings everyone,

Here is another excerpt from Chicago Down. This a very rough first draft and is mostly dialogue – for a purpose, of course. I gave this a once over, so I’m sure that you’ll find something goofy in there. LOL. Thanks for reading…And please keep all Tommy Guns under your coats. 😉


SAL & NESS October 1931

A car skidded to a halt in front of Eliot Ness’s home. Salbatora Guerrera shoved the door open before the driver could make it around to her side.

“I can do it, David! I’m not helpless you know.”

“I know, Sal, I just…”

Sal stormed across the front lawn, fuming like a challenged rhino, leaves rustling and crackling as she treaded.

“Ness! You come out here!” She screamed. Ness!

“Sal,” David started toward her. “Someone’s going to call the cops.”

“Eliot! Eliot Ness!”

“Sal, please,” David pleaded.

“David,” her arm jutted outward, pointer finger aimed toward the car. “Get…your…ass…in the car!” Her teeth clenched together, and her cheeks were cherry red.

“Yes, ma’am,” David complied. He hurried to the driver’s side of the vehicle, but he kept vigil by the door.

“Eliot!” She screamed.

“Salbatora,” Ness was on the stairs.

“Eliot, what did you do?” Sal’s face was red and wet, her chest heaved from anger and Eliot thought she might hyperventilate. “I knew it would come to this. You!” She pointed an accusing finger. “You betrayed us.”

He came cautiously toward her, arms outstretched in surrender, palms facing her. “Take it easy, Salbatora.”

“What happened? Why did you go to the court?” Sal’s eyes welled with water. “Why did you let them destroy Al like that? Why?”

“You knew I was going, Salbatora. You knew I went. Why are you here, four months later?”

“I’m so disappointed.”

“Now, Salbatora. You know why I went. I need you to understand. Al does,” Eliot put his hands down and approached her. “Besides…he isn’t going down for bootlegging or prohibition violations is he? No. Some tax wise ass got the jump on me… Oh, never mind.”

“They gave him eleven years, Eliot. This is not a time for jokes.” she cried. “Please. If you have one shred of decency you will do something. Help Al.”

“I can’t, Salbatora. I wish I could. My hands are tied. I wish I was that guy…the one who could help you. But I don’t have that kind of power.”

“That’s okay,” Sal straightened herself up, smoothed out her coat. “Uh-huh.”

“Salbatora,” Eliot breathed a sigh. Something so simple, but Sal believed he couldn’t help. He looked so defeated.

“These asses running Chicago,” Sal said. “Running Illinois. They can try to cover it all up. Run it into the ground…what we did. You, me, Al, Bugs, and the Commissioner – God rest him. But, they can’t. And if they think for one minute that putting Al Capone in jail is going to change it, it won’t. He’s Al Capone. He’ll live forever…”

“Salbatora,” Eliot said, “there’s a big chance Al won’t even serve the full eleven years. Maybe half. But things are about to change. Chicago’s going to change. And, you know…”

“Eliot. Chicago will never change. It’ll always be home to barbarians who need tending to. This is Al Capone’s city. He can’t trust too many. But I’ll be here…in Chicago…to make sure it stays Al’s territory,” she trembled again, maybe from grief, or anger, but it was making Eliot Ness question the last couple of years of his own life. Question his own sanity. “They have no right to put Al in prison after all he’s done for them…this no good town! He doesn’t deserve to be in prison, Eliot. He doesn’t. He was good to everyone. Vultures!”

“Yes, Salbatora. He does. He belongs in prison. And he knows it, and you know it too,” Eliot took her gently by the arms, his voice low and soothing. “There’s nothing I can do, or you can do, to change events that were set in motion long before you came to Chicago. We can’t undo…”

“Oh, I’ll make them pay… I’ll kill them, every single one,” Sal said, hell bent on vengeance.


“Those bastard jurors…one by one, I’ll kill them. That’s right. And they’ll be scared, each of them, waiting and wondering which of them will be next. Holding their breaths…scared to death. Hiding…”

Eliot shook Sal a little. “Salbatora, listen to yourself. Those are innocent people…”

“Oh, Chicago needs a leader. They need a boss…and I’ll give them one. Me. I’ll be the father of this town until Al can return and take back what’s his. I’ll do that. I’ll kill them. And that judge. I’ll kill his whole family. I’ll blow that whole courtroom to hell…I’ll kill…”

“Salbatora!” Eliot yelled. “Nonsense. Stop it.

“He’s not bad. He did everything for me and Leandro, and he never asked to be paid back. Never. Nothing.”

“You are not a killer, Salbatora.”

“Oh, no?” Sal stepped back out of Eliot’s reach and opened her arms wide. “I am not?” She opened her coat to reveal her holstered weapon.”

“You have to wear that because you are in the Capone Family mess,” Eliot said. “You have to protect yourself from people that hate Al Capone.”

“Yes. Not just that. They look at me all nasty like I am some damned no good moll,” she raved.

Eliot shook his head. “No, Salbatora, you’re no…m”

“Not a moll?…unless you don’t consider a trouser-wearing-tommy-gun-toting woman a moll. I killed many people, Eliot. You know it.”

“Most of them were already dead. I mean, who else is there? Who? Roger McClennan? He was an idiot with half a brain. So what…and he left your best pal to die,” he ran his fingers through his hair. “Killer told us that the bastard didn’t want to wait.” He laughed, nervously. “So, you killed some people. But you are not THAT kind of killer.” He laughed.

“That kind of killer? What’s that? Funny, huh, Eliot? You’re…a killer too.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’m a killer too,” he threw his hands up. He gave up. “Okay, Salbatora. You’re a killer. Is that what you want to hear? That you’re a murderer? Fine, then, be a fucking killer!”

“I will, then!”

“Good. Go ahead. See if I give one damn!”

Sal turned and slowly started toward the waiting car.

“Salbatora,” Eliot followed her to the car. “Please. We can argue all day. The only sense there is, is in you letting this go.”

“I cannot. I have everything because of Al. He gave me work. He taught me business. Made his ruffians treat me like a lady…like they’d treat Mae,” her memories were fine ones. “Mae. She taught me that I can still be strong willed when wearing a skirt,” she laughed, tickled by memories of her and Mae that Eliot didn’t share. “She hates trousers, you know,” she smiled at times past. “She taught me how to bake a turkey.”

Eliot felt her distress and uncertainty. He saw that despite her young age, just 20 years old, her youth had long gone. In fact, it was history before she ever met Al and him. And as for Al Capone, as she saw it, he may as well be dead.

“But you can still have that, Sal,” Eliot said. He was looking for any way to make her see what was right. To make her see that killing innocent people was not the answer. “Mae. She’s not going to jail. She’ll still be here for you. My God, Sal, can you imagine Mae running between prisons trying to keep up with you and Al?…The two idiots that drive her the most nuts? And what about Rudy? Huh? What’s going to happen to good ol’ sweet Rudy if you end up in the clink? Or dead?” He looked around, lost for words to describe the outcome. “That guy…brave as he is…is not too good at caring for himself, Sal. He can’t even boil an egg. Even Al said that himself…Rudy can’t boil water. He was always afraid to let Rudy have weapons,” he laughed. “But, that boy’s handy dandy with explosives and grenades. I’ll tell ya.”

There was silence for a few seconds. Nothing to be heard but the wind rustling the trees.

“I can’t let it go,” Sal said. “This is Al’s town. And I’ll keep it warm for him until he comes home, Eliot. And you can help me, or try hinder me, but it’s going to happen. Chicago needs a babysitter. Just so happens I’m free. And besides that…they already know me. And if those police and the rest of them law-wielding hypocrites don’t like it… I’ll burn this mother fucking town to the ground. Besides, there’s bigger fish to fry in this world.”

Gently, Eliot took Sal’s face in his hands. Just a last-ditch effort to talk sense into her. He couldn’t save Al, or himself, or Roger McClennan, but maybe, just maybe… “Sal, Al Capone is not your father. He’s not your father.”

Shattered. That was the outcome. Sal was crushed. Troubled, she stared at Eliot. He couldn’t move, couldn’t take his hands from her face. No thoughts came to him. His own words stunned him as much as they did Sal.

She stared at Eliot for a few seconds, tears streaming. “You’re right, Eliot,” she choked. “Al is not my father. I killed my father. He’s just another victim of mine.”

“You didn’t kill your father, Salbatora. You know that. He was…already… He was one of them,” Eliot stepped back, nodding his head, shoved his hands into his trouser pockets. “And you met Al Capone, and through him you gained another family. Your mother and father. Your sister, Nancy. Big brother, Pedro. You and Leandro…you lost them for good. And Al Capone and his people. His wife and his mother. They gave that back to you. Trust me, Salbatora – Savior, you were worthy of every minute of their time. Every dime you earned. Everything. Not to mention, you earned your short-lived place in history. But. Like me. Like Al. You’ll never be notorious again. Our time is ending, Sal.”

They stared at each other quietly. The sight of Eliot’s wife, Edna, caught her eye. She was standing on the porch. How much had she witnessed? Sal then looked the other way to find the driver, David, staring at her slack jawed, speechless.

“Not yet, Eliot. The book’s not done.” She walk toward the car.

“Stop,” he started toward her. “Come on now.”

She turned her back to Eliot and as she slid into the backseat, “David. Drive,” She slammed the door shut.

David looked at Eliot Ness and drove off as ordered.

Edna came down the stairs and met Eliot on his way to the house.

“Eliot, you’ve got to do something. I’m afraid Sal’s going to get killed.” She hugged Eliot tight. “What happened to our sweet-n-sour Sal?”

“I know,” he said. “I know what to do.”

Copyright 2022 Wanda S. Paryla



Since my last actual blog posting, prior to my 9/11 post, I believe it was May 3, 2021, my brother, Joseph, lost his battle with small-cell cancer. I was silent and did not blog about this experience, however much I wanted to. I should have, maybe. But I did not want to bring others down, or appear to act like we were all the only ones going through it. Or that he was the only one dying. Truth is, really, that if I did post it here and made it public, it would be true then. Facing his loss in silence might just make it go away. The truth actually was – if I had shared my experiences, maybe it would’ve been helpful to not just me, but anyone else suffering the losing of anyone they loved. And another real truth…I thought about at the time…was why am I moaning? After all, I was not the one dying. I did not know what to do.

Joe died about two months short of his 57th birthday. He could not take the treatments he needed to extend his life with any quality due to he had Rheumatoid Arthritis. It was explained that the immunotherapy he needed would severely cripple him if the RA was not in remission. He was able to take the treatment once due to the RA was in remission. But the treatments caused the RA to make a comeback, thereby being a main cause of his death. He fought this, and I could do nothing to help him. I just did what I could to take other burdens from him. I focused on what I could aid him with, or what I could fix, to make life easier for him so he could concentrate on other things. I think it helped him a small bit. He told other people that it did, and that he was grateful and he “didn’t know what I would’ve done without her.” That’s what I was told. It makes me feel better that I was able to do something to ease his burdens, since I could not save his life.

My brother worked his whole adult life as a commercial truck driver. 18-wheelers mostly. He had good jobs, decent pay and usually had perks and benefits with most of these jobs. But, when he could not work any longer – which was immediately at the time of his diagnosis. He was already sick for a long time before it got to where he could not close the doors of a container; even turn the large steering wheel. Well, he ended up on state benefits for the 11 months he lived after. Blue Cross Blue Shield, who I will call out right here, gave him few options for his treatments. Always denying, denying, fighting, fighting. But not fighting for my brother who paid taxes and worked his whole life. No they fought AGAINST his doctors and his treatments. I hate that company. Trash. I often wished I was a millionaire so that I could have taken my brother to a place like Cancer Treatments Centers of America, or even just over to Rush. I do not feel that the care he got at the medical system he was in was so great either. My brother was very ill the last week he lived. He had symptoms his girlfriend – who he lived with – could not find reason for. She called and called the cancer doctor. Over and over again. She got nothing from them at first. Then doctor said — there’s no reason for a particular symptom he was having. And that was it.

Well, yes there was – it was liver cancer. The day of his last cancer doctor office appointment, he ended up going to the emergency room, being admitted and dying two days later. Of course, there would have really been nothing they could have done during the week before. But, WTF! Sometimes, I think maybe it was better that he never knew what hit him. But, I know. I remember. I will remember forever.

Joe’s cancer was diagnosed in early June 2020 and he was told by his cancer doctor that it was absolutely cause from smoking cigarettes. Our story as siblings is a long one, but in short he was estranged from me and some other family for over two years. It does not matter at this point whose fault it originally was, but we all had chances to fix it and did not take those chances. Everyone is guilty, so let us just let it go at that. In the end, for the last year of his life, we were together. That’s what mattered most.

He was ill for quite some time before he was diagnosed. Thereby giving him a lesser chance of better treatments for a longer life with quality. He and his doctors attempted to fight this disease as it spread throughout his body. They were successful at shutting it down with chemo and radiation each time it hit somewhere, or some strange seemingly non-cancerous lesion showed up in a place. The cancer started in his lungs, and they got rid of it; it never returned there. Small-cell is just everywhere. It travels all around like a train running full-speed ahead with nothing to stop it, and only, and just maybe, able to slow it down here and there at a curve. It just keeps rolling, boldly, during the light of day, even right smack-dab at high noon…like a villainous gunslinger. You can just barely catch up to it, but you can never get in front of that filthy bitch.

Due to not being able to get life-extending immunotherapy, liver cancer took him out. The toxins crushed him and destroyed his body in a short few days. The day my brother died, hospice was supposed to come to the hospital to care for him. The cancer doctor wanted him to have in-hospital hospice. Well, the hospice called on to care for him did not take his stupid, worthless state-issued Medicaid Blue Cross – that insurance not accepted anywhere, by anyone who could have truly helped him during the last year of his life.

So, in the last hours of his death, starting at about 5pm on Friday, 05/21/21, his long-time girlfriend looked at me and my sister, and our mother, and said, “Well, it looks like we’re hospice.” It upset us all at first. But as the minutes rolled on, we would not have had it any other way. The hospital staff at Christ Hospital took good care of him in his final hours, and I commend them – the nurses who made his dying easier. I wish that I could describe to you what my brother went through that night. All I can say is that if you smoke – stop! And, while my brother was not a drinker, I’d recommend that if you drink too much. Stop it! It was so horrific I nearly had a nervous breakdown. Our then 85 year old mother, now 86, watched her only son dying and could not do anything about it. Do not let your parents or children see you die like that. Stop smoking! It was awful to see.

My father died in 10/2000. He went peacefully. Without moving. Without sound. Not my brother. I was NOT expecting this horror. I learned then that not all of us will go peacefully or quietly into the night…or day…or winter…or summer.

Our mother was tired, and after the medical staff calmed my brother’s body down, I took Mom home. Traveling at night with little traffic, the hospital is only about 20 minutes from our house. I was only gone a little more than 45 when he left us. I was on my way back to the hospital, unaware of what was happening there as I raced back. I made a right turn and then there it was. The smell of stale cigarettes on a hot summer day. It caught me off guard and then I recall saying aloud, “No. Wait for me.” But he did not wait, as by the time the spirit visits us, the body has stopped working.

When I arrived back to the hospital room, he was still. Our sister and Joe’s girlfriend were just sitting there, quiet. They told me the staff was in to check him once but thought they heard vital signs. Then the charge nurse came in soon after I arrived, and then went to get a doctor. Doctor came in and looked at the clock. She checked him for several minutes, then called his time of death at 11:11pm, 05/21/21. And I will never be the same.

I wrote the following poem quickly to read at Joe’s graveside during his funeral. I have tweaked it a bit since, but I will share it here. It might not make sense to you, but it does to me.

I will miss you, Joe, for the rest of my life. Until we meet again…….

(a tribute to my brother, Joe: August 20, 1964 – May 21, 2021)

Born in the summer
Summer turned into spring
Spring imitated summer
Because summer was really not meant to be

In among the daylight
Daylight out by dusk
Dusk turned into a balmy night
When spring imitated summer

Out before daylight
Light up among the stars
Stars shine bright
In the balmy spring night
Night be damned

Damned be the light of day
Day of the passing of a summer’s star
Star gone by quickly
Too quickly burned out

Gone out to light up
Up before the stars
Star amidst the galaxy
Galaxy of stars of that balmy spring night

Born in the summer
Summer stolen by spring
Spring then imitated summer
Because summer was really not meant to be

Copyright 2021 Wanda S. Paryla

My big brother, Joe, and I – January 2021.

Mom and Joe – January 2021