Friday, March 23, 2018

Virgin Margaritas & Second Story Man

Charles Salzberg has been making virgin margaritas to match his book, Second Story Man. A celebrated and popular creative writing teacher, Charles Salzberg has been a Visiting Professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and has taught writing at Sarah Lawrence College, Hunter College, the Writer’s Voice, and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member. He is a consulting editor at the webzine and co-host, with Jonathan Kravetz, of the reading series, Trumpet Fiction, at KGB in New York City.

Francis Hoyt is a master burglar. Just ask him and he’ll tell you. Brilliant, arrogant, athletic, manipulative, he breaks into the homes of the wealthy, he follows the wealthy, moving south in the winter, and back north in the spring and summer. Two men are obsessed with bringing him to justice. Charlie Floyd, a recently retired Connecticut State investigator, is the mirror image of Hoyt: brilliant, arrogant, obsessive. He teams up with recently suspended Cuban-American Miami police detective, Manny Perez, to bring Hoyt down.

Francis Hoyt is a bad man. He steals for a living. He uses people, then when they no longer serve his purpose, he throws them away. He is also the best at what he does. Extremely athletic, he breaks into houses, often having to climb up the side of the building to gain entrance. And, when he’s finished, he makes his escape by running, sometimes as much as a mile or two, until he reaches his parked vehicle.

To keep in shape, Hoyt is a vegetarian and, although he used to drink, he now shuns all alcohol, hence this Virgin Margarita.

Francis Hoyt’s Virgin Margarita


A Virgin Margarita Mix
Fresh Mango
Fresh Cucumber
Fresh Agave
Fresh Lime (1 or 2)
Ancho powder


Open the Virgin Margarita Mix (read the directions for the amount, depending on how many glasses you are serving).

To the mixture, cut up fresh mango, cucumber, and/or agave and add to the glass. This can be done to taste. If you don't like one of the fruits, leave out.

Cut the limes and squeeze the juice into the glass, to taste.

Add ancho powder to taste.

If, unlike Hoyt, you do like alcohol in your drink, you’d then add tequila to taste or your favorite non-virgin margarita recipe. If, like Hoyt, you shun alcohol, you can add extra lime juice or lemonade.

Here's an excerpt from the book:

“I was in full work mode. I was totally focused, as I silently went over my plan in my head. I could see every step I’d make. I was in a familiar zone. I could hear better. I could see better. I could move better. I was better. I flattened myself against the hedge in front of the house then suddenly leaned my body into it, pushing myself through carefully so I didn’t make a sound. 
Crouching low, I moved quickly toward the side of the house. I pulled out the little gizmo I’d use to deactivate the alarm. But at the last second, when I noticed the electrical box, I changed my mind. I wanted a challenge. Instead of using technology, I’d disconnect the power. People are so stupid. They pay thousands of dollars for fancy, high-tech alarm systems and don’t give a thought to protecting the electrical box. The alarm installers couldn’t care less. All they care about is that their stupid system works and the monthly fees roll in. As if any system could ever keep me out. This box had such a dinky little lock on it a child could have opened it. I slipped on the surgical gloves, pulled a wad of tissues out of my pocket, wrapped it around the lock, then I used one of the knives from the restaurant to bust it open. I unhooked a couple connections. The house was now totally without electricity. Even if they had a motion detector inside the house, it would be useless. From this point on it was like cracking open a piggy bank, only easier.
I hugged the side of the house and slowly made my way toward the back, always on the lookout for the best place to make entry. A window. A back door. A storm cellar door. The best are glass doors that open up onto a pool area or the backyard. They’re  easiest to pick, and lots of times people forget to lock them at all. People with alarm systems get lazy. They rely on technology to keep them safe. Big mistake.
As I slowly edged my way back around the house, keeping one hand on the house as I felt my way in the dark, I spotted a small window by the by the back, chest-high, that had been left partially open. No more than an inch or two, but that was enough. Could they have made it any easier for me?  I wouldn’t even have to break a sweat prying my way in or risk someone hearing when I broke a pane of glass. I stood on my tiptoes and peered inside, using my small flashlight to see what was in what looked like a small room. Coats hanging from a rack on the wall and a washer/dryer tucked against the back wall, gave it away. It was the mudroom, a perfect place to land. If I did leave any residue from outside it would mix with what was already there. It was far enough from the upstairs bedrooms that I wouldn’t have to worry about any noise I might make. If there was a downstairs bedroom that was occupied, it wouldn’t be anywhere near the mudroom.
I wrapped my keychain in the wad of toilet paper so they wouldn’t jingle and give me away, then jammed them into the front pocket of my jeans. I pulled out a couple pats of tinfoil wrapped butter squares from my back pocket. They were soft, almost liquid, from my body heat. I squeezed them out on either side of the middle of the window frame so the window would slide open easily, without making noise. I carefully pushed up the window until there was an opening of about twelve inches, more than enough for me to squeeze through. I hoisted myself up on the windowsill, then went in head first. At the point at which my waist was resting on the windowsill I shimmied the rest of the way down until my hands touched the floor, at which point I pulled in the rest of my body until I was practically standing on my hands. Slowly, I leaned forward so my legs were touching the closest wall, then carefully walked them down the side of the wall until I was standing upright. 
I was in. A jolt of electricity shoot through my body ending up in my brain. It was a familiar feeling, a feeling I live for. I was Frankenstein’s monster suddenly given the gift of life.
I was now in someone else’s space, an uninvited guest. I was a ghost who could walk through that house with no one knowing I’m there. This is what I live for.
For that brief moment of time I am part of someone else’s family. I am the eccentric uncle. The prodigal son. The perfect father. The trusted family friend. I am whoever and whatever I want to be. I am taking something from them, something they will never get back. Not their most treasured valuables. Their privacy. They have been violated and their lives will never be the same.
I had no idea what the layout of the inside of the house was, but I could pretty much guess. After all, I’ve been inside enough of them. The mudroom is usually off the kitchen and this house was no different. 
The house was fifty, maybe sixty years old. I knew that from outside, by the thickness of the paint on the wood, the architecture of the house. But the kitchen is new. The refrigerator was one of those sub-zero jobs. I opened it. It was filled with food. There are leftovers from dinner. Roast beef. Broccoli. Roasted potatoes. All in blue dishes wrapped tight with Saran wrap.
I’m wasn’t hungry but still I grabbed a potato and popped it in my mouth. It was good. I took another. They probably wouldn’t even notice they were gone. But I will know there are fewer of them than there were an hour ago. That made me smile. I took out a container of orange juice from the side of the refrigerator. It was the fresh squeezed kind, not from concentrate. I opened the cap and took a swig, then put it back, not in its place on the side of the door, but in the front of the refrigerator. I wondered how long it will take for someone to realize it’s been moved. By rearranged a carton of orange juice I have rearranged lives, without them even knowing it.
I’m finished in the kitchen. The next room should be the dining room. If I was there for silver, this would be where I would find it. But I’m not. What would I do with it? Where would I put it? How would I explain it if I were caught? No, tonight is just for kicks. Just to prove how good I am.
In the dining room, I spotted the breakfront. That’s where the silver would be stored. Most of it would probably be the cheap, plated stuff. Not worth the trouble. I am curious enough to see for myself, so I opened one of the drawers. I was right. Cheap crap. I opened the glass door and took out a pitcher. This was more like it. Not antique, but real silver. I put it back. I smiled. They’ll never know how lucky they were.
I don’t want to linger long, so I moved into the living room. That’s where I really want to be. Although there might be a playroom downstairs for the kids, and a den where the man of the house can go to drink his beer and watch his football game in peace, this is the heart of the house. This is where the family meets. This is where guests are entertained.
I stood in front of the plush, cream-colored sofa and listened. There was complete silence except for the faint, harsh sound of snoring coming from upstairs. Every once in a while. there was a burst of noise, like the sound of a small cannon, but then it settled down into a monotonous mono-tonal drum beat.
I sat down on the sofa. So plush I sunk into it, as the cushion molded itself to the shape of my ass. It was more comfortable than any sofa I’d ever sat on. The couch I grew up with was hard and frayed and smelled of cat urine. I have never been in a house this long, long enough to sit and enjoy the comfort of another man’s home.
I didn’t want to get up. I wanted to stay there forever. But I knew I could not. I looked at my watch. It was twelve-thirty. I needed to get back to the motel. I will leave this burg in the morning, back on the Greyhound headed north for New York City.
I stood up but before I headed back into the dining room, on my way to the kitchen and then the mudroom, I did something I’ve never done before. I don’t know why I did it, but I did. 
There was a dish of nuts on the coffee table. I picked it up, and dropped it on the carpeted floor. It made a dull thud, and the nuts scattered all over the carpet.
I heard noise coming from upstairs. The sound of feet hitting the floor. Like someone was getting out of bed. Slower than I should have, I headed back the way I came, a smile on my face. I wished I could be here when the dad comes downstairs and finds nuts all over his floor. What the hell will he think?
But I have no time to wonder because I could hear the sound of bare footsteps starting to come down the stairs. I made it to the mudroom. I opened the window I’ve come in a little bit wider. I stood back several feet, then took a perfect dive through the window. I tumbled through the air until I landed outside on my feet. A fucking circus acrobat could not have done better.
I looked at my watch. It was twelve-thirty. I have been in the house for less than half an hour. I have taken nothing and yet I have taken everything I needed.  I was there, but I am not there any longer. 

In the blink of an eye I am someplace else.”

You can find Charles on Twitter @ CharlesSalzberg, Facebook or Goodreads.


  1. Want to give credit to Dos Caminos, the bartender, Emilio, the manager, Michael Berkey, and my great pal, Ross Klavan, who snapped the photo.