Publisher's Review:

A collection of twenty short, and flash fiction, stories by published poet, writer, and author, CJ Heck.  She's been
entertaining children, adults, and schools for over a decade with her humor, insight, unique perspective of life and
the human heart, through her poetry.  Now, she does it through her fiction.

Many of the stories have nostalgic themes, others, CJ's own special blend of humor and sensitivity.  Covered are
many subjects, such as, finding a headless body near a sewer drain in the city, internet dating, and a grandfather
and grandson teaching each other about life
and love while feeding pigeons in the park.   One of CJ's personal
favorites has a surprise ending, one you won't expect.

These stories truly are ... from a writer's heart and soul.

A Sample Story:

Old People in the Park

One afternoon last fall, I grabbed a sweater and a book and, after stopping at Dunkin'
Donuts for my favorite coffee to-go, I headed to our city's park.

A people-watcher by nature, I love walking the pathways through the park and
studying people from my bench who also love being there.

Not far into the park, I found a shaded bench where I could sit and read for awhile.
Just across from me, an elderly man was talking with, who I assumed to be, a
grandson.  He was seated on the bench next to him.

The boy was six, maybe seven, years old, with the most incredible blond curls framing
what someday in his maturity would be a very handsome face.

His huge eyes looked adoringly up at his grandfather, as though searching his face
for answers to his many questions and they were holding hands.

When I look at any beautiful child, I can’t help but think of something my mother
once said, "With all of the beautiful children in the world, where do all the homely
adults come from?" I smiled, partly because she had been right, but also because I
still missed her terribly and the memory brought her closer to me.

I overheard the boy ask his grandfather, "Grampa, why are there so many old people
in the park every day?"

The old man was quiet, thoughtful, for a minute. Then I heard him clear his throat.
He let go of the boy's hand and slowly stretched an arm around the youngster's
shoulders, pulling him close.

Then in unhurried words, he told the boy, "Well, son, they're just too alone at home to
want to stay there. Sometimes, old people need to be with other old people. Here in
the park, they can share their favorite jokes and maybe play a lazy game of bocce
ball or checkers to pass a little bit of time together."

Then, looking down at the pigeons that had gathered on the ground around the
bench, the old man reached into the pocket of his tan jacket and pulled out a small
brown paper bag. He handed it to his grandson.

The boy thanked him, reached into the rumpled bag, and with a big smile, began
tossing pieces of popcorn, one by one, to the pigeons, favoring a gray one with a
pronounced limp.

As the boy did this, he asked the old man, "Grampa, why do they all call out names
and wave at each new person that comes into the park?"

The grandfather cocked his head, thinking, and as though measuring each word, he
slowly said, "It's just a way of keeping their minds alive and well-oiled, you know, by
having to remember people and names.

After all, your mind is just like any other muscle and all muscles need to be
exercised. Remembering everyone’s name and face is like a private game they play.
Maybe it even helps them to ignore their pains and their problems for a little while."

The boy nodded his understanding and continued to feed the pigeons, taking his
temporary job quite seriously. Then, spotting a gray squirrel that had darted out
from under the bench to steal a kernel of popcorn, he jumped down and stomped his
small sneaker on the sidewalk with a loud "Shoo!"

Of course, this also frightened the pigeons who instantly took to the air and it was so
cute that it made me smile. Then the boy sat back down beside the old man, obviously
disappointed by the sudden turn in events.

The boy sat quietly for a while, as he watched the old people in the park. As I
mentioned, I'm a people watcher, by nature, and I followed where his eyes traveled.
They stopped first on a couple of elderly men playing a game of checkers on a stone
table. Then they moved on over to settle on a group of three even older men having
what seemed to be a heated verbal exchange.

As he looked from one little group to the other, he asked his grandfather whether he
thought the men playing checkers ever got tired of doing that. "Do they just sit there
every day doing the same thing for hours and hours?"

Then without waiting for an answer, he glanced at the men who seemed to be
arguing, and asked, "What do you think they're all angry about, Grampa?"

The old man smiled lovingly at the boy. He cleared his throat again and in a slow,
determined voice, he explained to his grandson that to some of the old folks, the daily
checkers games were a way of making some sense out of a changing world that they
didn‘t feel a part of any more.

He said, in a way, it was like keeping them in touch with a world they did know -- and
it got them out of their recliner chairs and away from their TV sets for a little while,

The old man went on to explain to the boy that the three men who seemed to be in a
heated discussion weren’t really arguing. Oh, they antagonized and criticized each
other a little bit, just to keep their juices flowing, but they were careful not to be
mean or hurtful.

He said sometimes they even acted a little bit wise by bragging, or maybe griping,
about the good old days. You know, talking about their old girlfriends, or teasing the
others about their old girlfriends.

The boy giggled at his grampa's explanation and then in typical little-boy fashion, he
wiped his nose on his sleeve.

By now, the pigeons had begun to congregate at the boy‘s feet again. They came
tentatively at first, then with a little more fervor. It always amazed me how the feed-
ees recognized so easily which feet belonged to the specific feed-er, because somehow
they always knew and went straight to them.

The boy stuck his hand once again into the rumpled brown bag and brought out his
next offering for the hungry rascals on the ground below. Both of them sat in silence,
watching and grinning as the greedy winged goblins jockeyed into position for the
next morsel tossed from the small hand.

The boy then turned his face up to look into his grandfather’s eyes and he asked him
how long everyone stayed here in the park and how they knew when it was time to go.
The old man sighed. His eyes were still focused on the pigeons. At first, I thought he
hadn’t heard the boy, but then I saw him lovingly pat the blond curls on top of his
grandson's head.

The grandfather told him they stayed till it started to get dark, or sometimes, until it
just got too cold to be there any longer. Then, one by one, they waved goodbye, again
calling each other by name just as they did every day when they first got there. Then
they went home and, for many of them, back into the past, too.

The boy nodded, then he smiled up at the old man again, and both renewed their
feeding ritual of the pigeons.

After a little while, the boy asked his grandfather how he knew so much. The old man
told him that when you got to be his age … (a big sigh), well, there were some things
you just knew.

With that, the youngster looked up at his grandfather with a concerned look on his
face and said, “Grampa, I love you. You’re NOT old. You’re … you’re like a shiny red
apple. You’re ripe and you're …you're
just  right.”

The old man laughed out loud and, God help me, I did, too. And maybe it was the
dwindling light, or somehow, just a trick of my eyes, but I could swear I saw the lines
in his face smooth out. He looked a full ten years younger and I was surprised to find
a tear on my own cheek as I watched the old man swipe at his eyes when his laughter
had finally subsided.

Slowly, the old man looked up into the sky. He told his grandson they ought to be
getting along home.

As they rose to leave, the grandfather replaced the now empty rumpled paper bag in
his pocket and stood.

One by one, the others in the park raised an arm and called him by name, almost in
unison, “Bye, Gabe.”

He, in turn, did the same. “Bye, Herb, Sam, Max, Shorty, Charlie, Gib.”

“Hey, Gabe. We still on for checkers tomorrow at nine?” Called one man who was
sitting next to the men playing checkers on the stone table.

“Sure, Sam. Lookin' forward to it,” was Gabe, the grandfather’s, response.

I was sure God would forgive his little white lie ...

The last I saw of the little boy, who was at the beginning of his life, and the wise and
loving old man nearing the end of his, they were walking slowly back down the path
through the park, hand in hand.

"You will enjoy the eclectic stories in "Bits and
Pieces" displaying CJ's vivid and wide-ranging
imagination. Writers, like CJ, should be allowed to
live one hundred fifty years. How else could they
reveal all they have to offer?  Do yourself a favor and

all of CJ's work.  She is at the peak of a mountain
of talented writers. She writes to the souls of all
men, women, and children."  ~ Russell Daily

"Every word strikes a cord deep within and stirs
us all. She breathes life into us through her work
and nourishes the heart and soul of everyone who
knows her. Innocence and beauty that radiates
from the heart and soul are rare in an adult. She
has guarded that most precious gift and secret and
joyfully shares it with us without the judgement
of an adult in the grownup world."~Bob Cosmar

"May you always see the world through the eyes of a child." ~CJ Heck

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other than brief quotations or printed reviews, without prior permission of the author.

"Bits and Pieces"
A Collection of Short and Flash Fiction Stories

Read an Excerpt Below

"I loved this book. These are a very clean short stories of a few pages each. When finished, I felt like I
knew the writer as if she was a relative or a neighbor, definitely one that I would like to see often. She has
a knack for pouring out her soul on paper and it makes you feel as if you have known her for a long time. I
would love to meet her in person some day." ~Susan East

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