Firefight at The Distant Light

I could barely breathe. The dank summer air, mixed with the smoke of cheap cigarettes, made my lungs burn. I grew up in California and wasn’t used to the oppressive humidity of the Southern summer nights.

Whiskey bottles were piling high in front of me, but I wasn’t drunk. To the people who crowded this hole-in-the-wall bar on the west side of downtown Atlanta, I looked like any other roughnecked boozer trying to drown his Saturday night in cheap liquor. No one suspected that I was working undercover for the FBI, tasked with bringing down a family-run crime ring that had the local police chasing their tails for years.

As luck would have it, three of the four brothers heading the organization were in a corner booth, growing louder and more intoxicated by the minute. It was like a nest of the baddest men in the state. I called the District Attorney to let him know that tonight was the best chance he’d ever get to bring down the Ferrera family.

I slid the Blackberry back into my pocket and fingered the handle of the Glock 22 stuffed in my waistband. In five minutes, federal agents would storm the place, and things would get dicey. The bartender, Charlie, poured me another shot of whiskey, and I pounded it to help take the edge off.

Then I heard a woman singing.

The lame rockabilly band that had been playing earlier was gone, and a beautiful woman had taken their place. She played a beaten-up Taylor guitar and sang a haunting version of the Beatles’ “Blackbird”. She was wearing a plain, black dress that fell to the middle of her thighs, perfectly framing her amazing long legs. She seemed oddly overdressed considering the venue, but she held herself with an air of confidence that she was destined for nicer venues than the “Distant Light”.

This woman had it all. She was tall — about 5’9″, amazing figure, dark hair, green eyes. I felt my temperature starting to rise as I imagined what it might be like to be with such a beautiful woman. Just one look, and I was a bad mess.

Suddenly, I heard the sirens, and everybody started to run. People were jumping out the doors and across the tables. The Ferrara brothers had drawn their weapons and began shooting out the windows. I ran to the woman in the black dress, held out my hand and said, “Come with me.”

On our way to the back door, I drew my weapon and began firing back at the table where the Ferrara brothers were now barricaded. My pistol was pumping in my left hand, and she was ahold of my right. I told her, “Don’t be scared,” as we made our way safely to the back alley.

Years later, I’m still amazed at what I had to endure just to be able to spend my living with the long, cool woman in the black dress.

Writing out of my comfort zone, thanks to Erica and the Summer Writer’s Series over at

I don’t know what “classic rock” will mean to you when you are my age, but “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” by the Hollies is something I consider an epic piece of classic rock gold in the year 2012. We may not always agree on music as you grow up, but I do hope you will look this song up one day and think of your old man as you listen.

  • JP

    Well I for one liked very much to read the off the norm musing you have shared here. I found it great fun to read it with your voice in my head. Awesome!

    The only thing I would say, trying to be positively critical, is that quotation marks always go outside of a period. For example it is the “cool man.” It is not the “cool man”.

    If you wrote a book, I would read it…

    • Michael Gray

      Thanks, John. I admit that the quotes-with-a-period thing is a struggle for me. Here’s why:

      Usually, in dialogue, I remember to use the period inside the end quote. But in the two examples above where I didn’t do that, it was intentional. To me, the sentences didn’t end in a quote, but actually named something at the end (name of the bar – “Distant Light” and Beatles’ song – “Blackbird”). To me, it makes sense that my proper noun designation falls inside the sentence rather than closes out the sentence. Does that make sense?

      Anyway, I know if Mrs. Meadows were here, she’d confirm your advice. It’s just one of those things that I’m stubborn about. However, I guess it doesn’t make sense to be stubborn on the side of poor grammar, does it?

      At least you know there’s a reason behind my madness. :)

  • JP

    You rebellious person, you…I think grammar is weird anyway. All for free form, stream of consciousness writing unite!


  • christina@ finallymom

    i just ADORE your letters to H at the end of your posts.

  • SnapsandBits

    I also love the letters to your son. Someday, he’s really going to love that. Great job at bringing a song to life! I love that song!

  • Joseph Cereola

    Cool song and a nice piece of writing. And btw, I’m totally clueless as to why my children think the music they listen to is, well, music.