It all started after Dale Bockman attended Ingrid and Tom's 50th Anniversary Party in a black tuxedo and top hat. His appearance inspired several stories written by Dale, Tom and Graeme.

Click on the writer's name to read the story.

Tom McDonald

A majority of the guests had arrived at the 50th anniversary celebration of Dr. and Mrs. McDonald at the Charleston Aquarium. I had just entered and was standing near the entrance when a man entered, walked up to me, handed me what looked like a business card and asked to be announced. I have to admit I was quite taken back by his brusque approach and was utterly confused by his request. I also found his attire to be curious. He wore a tuxedo, a top hat with a curled rim of the type worn by gentlemen during the nineteenth century, and carried an ornamental cane with a golden hand piece. Why he came up to me I’m not sure. Probably because I happened to be standing near the entrance and maybe he took me for a servant. Not knowing what to do I thought maybe his card would give me a clue. It read Dr. Dale Bockman, Esq. When I finally asked him what I could do for him he looked around and seemed amazed at the type of building he had entered. In particular, he stared at the fish tank and the variety of fish swimming in this large glass cage. He was confused and asked me, “my good man is this not the Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s wedding ball.” I said, “I’m afraid you have come to the wrong affair sir, this is a 50th wedding anniversary party.” At this he blushed, bowed to me and hurried out the door. I followed hoping I might be able to help him find his correct destination.

When I got to the base of the exit he was nowhere to be seen. I asked the security guard if he had seen a person of his description leave the area. He said, “Ya I did. He left in the carriage he came in, a beautiful vehicle bedecked with shinny brass fittings, pulled by a pair of exquisite horses and tended by a fully dressed coachman. After he went into the buildbing I had to ask the coachman to pull the carriage off to the side, which he did and one of the horses dropped a load of manure on the pavement.” The guard looked to the area where the horses apparently stood and remarked that the manure was gone. Then he said, “And the really weird thing, they took off heading down that ramp which is for launching small boats. I waited watching for them to come back, but they never did.” I told him to just forget the whole thing and began walking down the ramp toward the landing. I searched my pockets for his card but as I expected it wasn’t there. But, there were hoof and wheel tracks in the sand leading to the water. I stood for awhile looking out into the harbor, then began walking back to the aquarium. I looked again at the tracks in the sand and flicked through some with the toe of my shoe, but I knew they would be erased by the tide before morning.

Dale Bockman


They say he arrived in Cork working as a combination deckhand and galley helper.  He complained that the wind had taken his hat soon after sailing so he had to work under the sun with no protection.  His neck was more red than ever, and the top of his head was sensitive.  He didn’t slip as he came down the slatted gangplank in his rope-soled shoes; the gold headed cane was used to good advantage.  Most of the crew settled in the dockside bar, but he paused only long enough to ask directions.  The hat shop and printer’s were along the road to the castle.
Although the hat shop was his first priority, the stop there didn’t take long.  The color was not in question.  After finding the proper fit, he returned to the street and doubled back toward the print shop.  His pace had quickened and there was a noticeable bounce to his step.
The printer understood the request for an order of calling cards but was surprised by the name.  Requests were usually from locals, and this obviously was not a local name.  What was the origin of this guy?  German?  Dutch?  These didn’t seem to fit.  If it hadn’t been for the name, the guy might have been at least from somewhere on the island.  He asked about fiddle music and the location of dances.  While he waited for the cards, he shared his desire to seek passage to America and see the country by train.  The printer opened the newspaper to the shipping news page and passed it to his customer. 
That same afternoon the first mate was startled to be handed a calling card by a man applying to be a deckhand or galley helper on the trip to Savannah leaving in two days.  He knew about calling cards and canes, but he did not associate them with deckhands.  But - the guy had some experience, the pickings seemed to be a little slim around the dock, and they were close to sailing. 
Two days later the men in the bar watched the freighter ease away from the dock.  On deck was a man in a black bowler.  The gold headed cane thrust under his belt did not seem to hamper his efforts to coil the rope.  The man and the ship disappeared into the early morning mist, and the men turned to their early morning ritual.

Graeme Rock

I stood in a trench, waiting out my short break before I had to take up guns and start firing upon the Nazi swines again. I was gnawing on a rather stubborn piece of hardtack when I heard someone call to me with a voice that didn’t belong to a soldier, “I say there, where may I find the Darcy & Bennett’s String-a-Yarn, Inc.?” I turned around to the sight of a man in a fine black tux and one of those top hats that you would’ve seen in one of those old-time balls when gentlemen were considered the honorable people of the time. He was really out of place standing in a trench during World War II. He asked me again as if I was deaf instead of completely struck dumb. How did he get here? He couldn’t be a soldier. He asked me a third time and I came to. “Sorry,” I answered quickly, “I’m sorry, I don’t know.” I realized I had dropped the slab of hardtack in my astonishment and dropped to my knees to find it. After a few seconds of searching, I looked up. The man wasn’t there. It was as if he had leapt out of the ditch and disappeared onto the battlefield. Instead, there was a single piece of paper in the mud, one of those business cards. It had on it, in black embossed letters, the name “Dr. Dale Bockman.” There was no business, just the name. I checked behind me again and found the hardtack. If I didn’t know any better there might have been an extra bite taken out of it.

Tom McDonald

It was a cold February morning when I donned my black fedora, pulled on my parka and began my walk to the post office. The mail box was jammed with the usual junk mail but a quick shuffle exposed a blue, perfumed envelope. My memory was still processing the name of the sender, Marjory Maxwell, when the name of the addressee gave me the defining clue, To "ChubbyD" Bockman, a nickname I had to abide through four years of high school and didn't rid of it until I left this small burg for a job in the "Big City". Marjory Stillman was our high school homecoming queen for all four years and honored as such not only for her physical beauty but for her intellect and personality. She had it all. Within a year after graduation she married our classmate and handsome football captain, Brad Maxwell. The families of both were wealthy and although the marriage of these hometown celebrities was covered in-depth by the local papers and talked about for months after, the news never reached me.

The note inside the envelope read, "I suppose you've heard that Brad died last month. I've been a bit lonely so I've decided to invite some of my high school friends to get together and just talk. I am also inviting Mary Lu Etheridge, Martha Syckes, Bill Doric and Bobby Penford. Please come to my home at 7 PM this coming Sunday. I have an interesting evening planned for all of us."

Marjory's home was a large Victorian mansion with formal gardens attesting the wealth of the owner. When I entered the others were seated in the living room enjoying cocktails. In brief conversations I found that Bill's wife was ill and couldn't come, Bobby's lover decided not to come because he wasn't sure he would be comfortable in this particular group, and Mary Lu and Martha although both quite attractive and outgoing had never married.

It wasn't long before I found out what Marjory meant when she wrote she had an "interesting" evening planned. It began when a slim, tall person wearing gypsy clothing entered the room carrying a crystal ball about the size of a bowling ball, placed the ball on a stand in the middle of the dining room table and sat down solemnly gazing at the ball. Marjory announced that she had engaged Madam Celeste, a well known spiritualist, "so we could communicate with Brad. Would we please take our seats at the table."

Marjory dimmed the lights so only the chandelier emitted a soft blue light which reflected from the crystal ball leaving us as shadowy blue faces impelled to stare at the mesmerizing ball. Bobby mumbled something about not being ready for this but Madam Celeste interrupted in a soft droning contralto voice saying, "be absolutely quiet, join hands and meditate on the task on hand" then, "are you here Brad? Are you in this room?" For about 30 long seconds there was only silence before Madam Celeste resumed, "Brad are you with us, will you speak?" To the surprise of everyone a voice, hardly above a whisper said, "Marjory, Marjory" and after a few seconds, "hello Mary Lu," a pause, "hello Martha, Bill, Bobby and ChubbyD". Then the voice still softly, "I love you dearly Marjory, always have, always will and even now my spirit aches for you". "BASTARD !!", exploded Martha and she slammed her fist on the table shocking all of us and bouncing the crystal ball off its stand. "You love me, not her. You told me," then almost wailing, "You told me you would divorce her, marry me and we'd move to California." By this time Marjory had turned the lights up and everyone was sitting around the table trying to comprehend the bizarre situation. Then Bill fixed Martha a quick drink and ushered her to the sofa, Mary Lu went to comfort Marjory and Bobby looking wide eyed at all of us as if we were crazed, grabbed his coat and ran out the door. I went to see how Marjory was doing and overheard Mary Lu's less than comforting consolation, "don't let Martha bother you, Brad told me many times over the past 3 years he was going to divorce you and marry me". I walked to the table where Madam Celeste had taken off his wig, removed most of his gypsy costume and was putting his crystal ball in a bowling bag. When I asked what was going on he showed me the tiny recording machine hidden in the chandelier and the remote control under the table cloth. Then he finished packing and brushed past Bill and me and out the door without a word to anyone. As I walked with Bill to the foyer I mentioned I had no idea Brad could turn out to be such a womanizer. He said, "you don't know the half of it, he hit on me several times at the last two class reunions". Bill left and I looked back into the dinning room. Marjory had placed a bottle of scotch in the middle of the table. The women were talking and it was obvious that the scotch was having it convivial effect... I knew it was time for me to go.

The next morning neighborhood was abuzz talking about the screaming that went on in the Maxwell house and how four men left the place, one running up the street still putting on his coat, another was carrying a bowling ball, then came Donna Doric's husband and the last was wearing a parka and a black fedora.

Graeme Rock

He looked mighty conspicuous strutting around the streets with a yellow Star of David on his black suit, especially with that top hat perched upon his head. A couple of Green Police even came round to check him out, but he simply flashed a business card and they dismissed him. He seemed slightly drunk but picked his way down the street with a confidence a sober man could have a hard time matching. Another pair of Green Police came around the corner and spotted him. When they questioned him, he grew impatient and attempted to throw a punch. One guard wrestled him to the ground while the other arrested him. As they carried him off, I noticed a slip of paper fall from his jacket pocket. I looked and saw it was his business card. On it was the name, Dr. Bockman.

Dale Bockman

In the police car one of the green-uniformed men said, “Train or jail?”
“Well, I don’t want to go to jail and I don’t want to leave,” was the response.
“Train or jail?”
“But I don’t ...”
The drawn fist was a clear sign this was not meant to be an even discussion.

At the station, the next train out of the country was to leave for Strasbourg in 10 minutes. With two large men in green uniforms and upswept hats holding a man in handcuffs, no one protested the push directly to the ticket counter for an immediate purchase. The move to track 3 was similarly abrupt. Four eyes from the men in green remained fixed on the miscreant through the window until the train pulled out.

The view out the window was pleasant enough. He even saw two deer in the edge of a field as the Inter City Express rocked west. The trip gave him a chance to settle down. His heart rate dropped to about normal by the stop in Stuttgart. The station in Strasbourg was undergoing major renovations, and it took some searching to find where to get information about continuing travel. The man behind the counter meant to be helpful, but the change in accent presented some problems that took a bit to adjust to. They settled on a ticket to Paris. Because it wasn’t to leave for an hour and a half, he had time to kill. The men in green certainly hadn’t offered him anything to eat, so he searched for something suitable while he waited. One place had a glass cabinet with sandwiches that looked something like Subways displayed. He pointed to one of them. The man behind the cabinet picked up another one and said something. Seeing the blank look on the traveler’s face, he pointed to a metal machine with a handle and said the same thing again. The man in the black suit nodded. The attendant put the sandwich in the machine. When he took it out the bun was warm and the cheese was melted. It tasted pretty good with a Coca, and it passed the time.

As he waited on track 9, he noticed a group obviously traveling together, but with odd-shaped containers in addition to small suitcases and backpacks. Curiosity compelled him to board the same car as the group. Well into the trip, musical instruments began to appear from the containers. The ones with the saxophone, keyboard, and trumpet were grey-headed. The one with the trombone was a tall, young man with dark hair. After a few warm-up tones, they launched into “Satin Doll.” Wow! It really sounded good. People started coming in from adjacent cars. Next they played “Take the A Train.” The drum-like sound must have come from the keyboard somehow. He asked them if they knew “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise.” Amazingly, they did. The keyboard guy reached behind him and picked up a banjo. He started on the first chords while the trombone guy softly blew the beginning of the melody. What a joy!

The trip to Paris didn’t seem long because of the wonderful entertainment. When he left the East Station, he waited in the line for a taxi. Eventually he got in beside the driver and asked him how he could get to the south – he wanted to get to the sunshine. The driver nodded, held up his finger, and pulled out. After about 30 minutes, the taxi pulled up before a stone facade. The driver pointed to the meter, accepted the payment, and pulled out rapidly.

He stood alone in a swirl of people. He tried to look in their faces to establish some kind of communication, but it was difficult. He said to an old man in dark clothes, “Train to Marseille?” The man looked puzzled. More slowly – “Train... to... Marseille?” The old man’s face brightened and he said something that sounded like “EE SEE” as he pointed downward.
“EE SEE,” pointing downward.
Puzzlement on both faces.
A young man walking by heard the exchange, beckoned the traveler to follow, and showed him that he was at the train station and could get a ticket at that location.
He said “Mer cee” to the old man and the young man. He was grateful for help.

The train to Marseille was fast. The way from the station to the port was not too far to walk, but a little confusing. With hand signals and pointing, he made his way without too much difficulty. He was overjoyed to see a clothing store on his way. A black Greek fisherman’s cap in the window drew him inside. It sheltered the top of his head from the bright sun on the rest of his walk. After eating a hamburger at the Quick restaurant, he ambled over to the dock and began his inquiries to get a job on one of the fishing boats. He left his card with some of the fishwives and some of the men on the boats. The cards didn’t say how they could contact him, but he was optimistic that at sometime when he returned someone would need him. It had always worked out before.

Dale Bockman


The cart loaded with things to eat and drink had come through the car more than once, but he hesitated to buy more than that required to stave off hunger pangs.  He wondered if everything was going to be so expensive.  Stops were few.  Open vistas and small cities were replaced by the backs of multistory buildings and industrial areas as south changed to north.  Occasional tunnels added to his feeling of disorientation.  It was a relief to step down onto the platform knowing the name of the place.  It was a surprise to learn then that he would have to negotiate more tunnels on foot.  In one, a man played sketches of familiar songs on a saxophone.  Some passersby were tossing coins into the sax player's hat.  It only reminded him that he had lost the black bowler that he bought in Ireland.
He politely asked a bearded man walking through the large open area if he would mind telling him where he got his hat.  The answer was Brooklyn, and it came with instructions how to get there by subway.  After more tunnel travel, he emerged onto a cold street.  It wasn’t crowded, but it was active.  A sign looked inviting – hot dogs, Coca-Cola.  As he ate and drank he asked about the place to get a hat.  It was only a few blocks away.
The black fedora felt comfortable.  He was convinced, too, that it went well with the black raincoat with the wide collar.  He thought that should help with the cold and be just the thing if he should run into rain.  The shopkeeper remarked about his red neck as he helped him into the coat.  He explained that after some of his outdoor adventures, it just seemed to stay that way.
The trip back to the main station was uneventful.  He had plenty of time to find the platform for the westbound train.  Several others in his car were going to Chicago.  They were more than happy to help orient him to the good things to do there.  He was educated about the El, The Loop, the museums, Soldier Field, and a place to go just for fun.
He liked the place.  He had fun.