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Calendar >  Surviving with Style Thomas Calabrese

Surviving with Style Thomas Calabrese

By   /  June 19, 2022  /  14 Comments


A life of quiet inspiration

Great thoughts sometimes come from a common mind, Greats actions often come from an honorable heart- Thomas Calabrese

Zoey Logan grew up in Oceanside, California. Her parents separated when she was two-years old and divorced several years later. Her father Cooper Logan was a larger-than-life kind of guy, an adrenalin junkie who loved adventure, challenges and risks and was not cut out for the routine of family life.

Jill Logan was working as an emergency room nurse at Tri-City Medical Center when she met Cooper. He had dislocated his shoulder riding his mountain bike in the Calaveras Hills of Carlsbad and came in for treatment. In hindsight, they probably should not have gotten married, but there was an instant attraction and their passion got in the way of their common sense.

 After three years of struggling to be something that he could never be, Cooper finally admitted to his wife, “I feel like a failure because no matter how hard I try, I can’t get to where I want to be.”

            “Where is that?” Jill asked.

Cooper tried to explain, “This might not make sense, but I can’t get in the moment. It’s like I keep thinking something is missing. It’s isn’t that I don’t love you, it just that we’re going in different directions.”

Jill wanted to believe that there was still hope for them, but was open-minded enough to know that what Cooper was saying made a lot sense. Why? Because she felt the same way “What about Zoey? She’ll be broken-hearted if you leave.”

            “I’m leaving, I’m not going away,” Cooper said.

Jill was slightly confused, “Sounds like a change without a difference.”

            “It would be except that I’ll only be a few blocks away. One of the guys at the gym is renting a room at his house. I did some figuring and I can pay the rent there without it affecting my financial obligations here. This will give us some space to figure things out.”

            “I don’t want you to stay if you don’t want to,” Jill said.

The couple amicably separated and coordinated their schedules so someone was home with their daughter. Jill worked three 12-hour shifts a week at the hospital while Cooper worked as a fuel truck driver. He arranged his schedule so that he was never on the road when his wife worked. The only times that Jill had to made arrangements for daycare was when her husband was working as a stuntman for a television show or a movie. The money was so good that Cooper did not want to turn down any assignment, besides once he started turning down work, they would find someone else to do it. Cooper always gave his wife 30% of whatever he earned to compensate for any expenses or inconvenience she experienced during his absences. Sometimes it would be as much as several thousand dollars. Jill always put the money in her daughter’s college fund.

As Zoey got older, Cooper began taking her with him when he was doing stunts or going on his personal adventures. She loved every minute of it, especially the surfing, rock climbing and sky diving. Cooper taught Zoey to how fake a punch and take a fall and before long she began doing minor stunts for child actors.

Jill could say that Cooper was far from being the ideal husband, but as far as being a good father, and a good man she had nothing but compliments to say about him. When Zoey reached high school age, she expanded her activities to include gymnastics and martial arts and began getting more work thanks to her skills and work ethic. Cooper had been a stuntman for almost 19 years and during that time he sustained a variety of injuries that included broken bones, pulled muscles and numerous cuts and abrasions. As much as he hated to admit it, he was no longer able to perform at the level that he wanted to. Like in sports, it is better to walk away a little early than too late.

 Luckily, with his vast experience, Cooper was able to transition to stunt coordinator. He was currently working on the fourth John Wick movie, starring Keanu Reeves. Like the three previous movies in the franchise, it was filled with fight scenes. One of the supporting roles was for a teenage female assassin that was left for dead by the High Table and nursed back to health by John Wick. Together they go after members of the twelve crime families.

Zoey Logan auditioned for the part, figuring she had no chance of being selected, but she got it. It was a hard and physical shoot, but Keanu Reeves was great to work with and she learned a lot about professionalism from him.  Zoey learned the value of courtesy to all on the set and being prompt and prepared at all times by the generous and good-hearted actor.

There was this one scene where they were fighting a group of assassins on a freighter. Zoey was supposed to run around a bulkhead and do a slide while firing her pistol. Unfortunately, one of the prop people positioned a pipe in her path that was a little too low. She banged her head against the pipe and temporarily lost consciousness. Zoey did not want to make a big deal out of it, but Keanu was adamant that she go to the hospital for examination. Despite the additional costs of shutting down production for the day, Keanu refused to proceed ahead until Zoey received a clean bill of health. After a battery of tests, Zoey was cleared to return to filming.

After completing her scenes, Zoey returned to Carlsbad to wait for her next assignment.  She attributed her cognitive issues to fatigue rather than brain injury. She started finding it hard to read and process information. Her hand-eye coordination was slightly off and her feelings toward her mother and father suddenly changed. Zoey lost her emotional connection with them. In order to hide these changes, she overcompensated by increasing the intensity of her fitness regimen to a destructive level. Zoey was continuously injuring herself because she would not allow her body to rest and recover. She could only sleep when her body was completely exhausted, and even then it was only for a few hours at a time. Being an actress and stuntwoman, Zoey was able to maintain a façade that everything was fine. Even when her parents questioned her, she was able to deceive them with a smile and the response, “Feeling great.”

Zoey was working out at Spartan Fitness, a facility that catered to hardcore exercise fanatics and mixed martial arts practitioners. She was practicing her kicks on the heavy bag and when she stepped backward, Zoey temporarily lost her balance.

A young man in his late twenties stopped his workout and walked over and said. “I usually don’t make it a practice of commenting on people’s workout, but I saw something that might be of use to you. Permission to speak freely?”

Zoey looked at the handsome young man with the engaging smile and said, “Please do.”

            “I’ve seen you working out in here before and noticed that you lose balance once in a while or shuffle your feet.”

            “I have a tendency to overdo it sometimes,” Zoey said.

            “My name is Jack Dash and I had similar issues, otherwise I wouldn’t have even noticed. I don’t want to interfere with your workout so just tell me if I’m bothering you..”

A big brutish man weighing about 300 pounds with tattoos all over his body came up and snarled. “Are you going to talk or workout?” and moved toward the exercise equipment.

Jack Dash faced the man and calmly said, “Right now I’m talking and since it’s a private conversation, you need to find something else to do.”

The big man didn’t like being told what to do. His ego wrote a check that his body couldn’t cash. He pushed Jack, who came up behind the man and choked him out in a matter of twenty seconds.

Zoey commented. “Nice move.”

The manager of the club walked over and looked at the big hunk of flesh on the floor and asked, “Did you have a problem?”

            “Nothing I couldn’t handle, thanks for asking, Dave. If this guy wants to continue this conversation, tell him I’ll be glad to meet him in the ring whenever he wants.”

Dave noticed that the big guy was starting to come around. “Once I tell him what you’re capable of …he’ll consider himself lucky this is all you did to him.”

Zoey smiled. “Sounds like you have a reputation around here.”

            “One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the years is that a man or a woman who is ready for a fight is usually more capable than someone who goes looking for one.” Jack added with a sly grin, “I work hard at maintaining my readiness.”

Zoey laughed.

            “Did I say something funny?”

            “Sounds like something my dad would say,” Zoey answered.

Zoey and Jack walked out back and sat on a bench and Jack explained. “I sustained a traumatic brain injury and over time I noticed some distinct changes both in my behavior and the way I felt about things. It didn’t help that I got conflicting medical opinions and the side effects of the medications made me feel weird. The structural integrity of my body was breaking down and loss of balance and dragging my foot were two of my symptoms.”

Zoey sighed. “What did you do?”

            “The brain controls the body and a traumatic brain injury affects each person differently. What worked for me might not work for you, but what I did were mind exercises while doing physical tasks. This drove blood to areas of my brain that were deficient or restricted. It’s a form of therapeutic multi-tasking.”

            “Right now I’m willing to try anything, and any assistance would be greatly appreciated,” Zoey said.

Zoey met Jack at the fitness center the next morning and they began running side by side on the treadmills. Jack asked, “Give me ten words that begin with the letter R.”

            “Run, ram, roam, rage, rest, rug, row, real, ramp and raft.” Zoey responded without hesitation.

For the next few days, Jack gave Zoey a series of unusual questions while they were working out together and she did her best to answer them. Two week passed and Zoey had her first good night’s sleep since the injury.

After several weeks of training, Jack said, “I’ve done all I can do. You’ve made remarkable progress, better than I did. You can handle it from here…just remember what you’ve learned and keep doing it and you’ll be fine.”

As Jack walked off, Zoey called to him, “Would you come to dinner if I asked?”

            “I would.”

Zoey wanted Jack to meet her parents so she could finally explain what she had been going through and how Jack helped her. She figured it would be easier if he was there to tell them how his brain injury affected him.

Jack was at his apartment when he received a phone call from former Navy Seal teammate, Clifford Bowman. “Hi Jack…what’s going on?”

Jack was surprised, “ Cliff Bowman, I haven’t heard from you in over a year. What have you been up to?”

            “This and that and that and this…you know.” Cliff was evasive.

As a former special operator, Jack knew better that to be overly inquisitive so he got right to the point, “You must have a reason for calling besides hearing the sound of my voice…what is it?”

            “You heard about the January 6th protest at the Capitol?” Cliff asked.

            “Not by choice.”

Cliff explained. “I was hired to put together a team and agitate the situation. The pay was good and I figured it was just another political dog and pony show that would eventually pass. Now they’ve got these hearings going on and I don’t fit the narrative that they’re pushing. My sources tell me that they’re tying up loose ends.”

            “Which means that you’ve become expendable. I’ve warned you about selling your services to the highest bidder.” Jack said.

            “I know, I’ve gotten used to the money. My lifestyle is writing checks that my heart is having trouble cashing anymore. I remember when we were in the Seals together. It was about the code, the mission and the brotherhood. I guess I’ve been crawling with snakes so long, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to soar with eagles.  I’m going to get off the grid for a while and see if I can find my old self again.”

            “Good luck, Cliff,” Jack said.

Cliff added. “I sent you some information about the real conspiracy behind the Jan 6th protests.”

            “Why would you do something like that? You know that I don’t get involved in politics!” Jack protested.

            “A lot of innocent people are being punished right now and a lot more are going to be hurt. Throw it away, ignore it, do whatever you want. I hate to put you in this position, but I have faith in your judgment.” Cliff looked out the window and saw a car pull up. Four men got out and began walking toward his front door, “Got to go.” Cliff disconnected the call, checked his weapon and climbed out the window and came up behind them and called out. “Here I am.”

The men instinctively reached for their weapons but Cliff was too fast. He shot them then walked up and gave each man the customary coup de grace. (a final shot to kill a wounded person.)

In Washington DC, a man walked into a private office where a woman was sitting behind the desk. She asked, “Is it done?”

The man responded, “Bowman took out the team, he’s in the wind.”

The woman grumbled. “He wouldn’t have left without a plan. Access all his communications for the last 72 hours.”

            “We’ll need a warrant for that.”

Call the judge and tell we have an imminent threat to national security. He’ll give it to you.”

The man hesitated and the woman became impatient. “What part of what I just told you don’t you understand?”

            “It’s not an imminent threat.”

The woman became angry. “It’s called business as usual. Laws are subject to the interpretation of those that are entrusted to enforce them. Do like I tell you or put in your resignation, it’s your call.”

The man weakly replied, “Yes ma’am.”

Three days later, Jack was having dinner with the Logan family. The mood was festive and Cooper immediately liked the young man who was cordial, authentic and polite. When Jack admitted to being a former Navy Seal, Cooper was even more impressed.  He suggested, “With your military experience, I might be able to get you hired as a technical advisor or get you some stunt work once you learn the basics.”

Zoey interjected, “Dad’s one of the best, he taught me everything I know.”

            “Sounds interesting,” Jack commented.

            “I got word from the director that he wants to re-shoot some scenes for a movie that Zoey and I were working on. It will be at Julian. Why don’t you be our guest? This way you can see for yourself what we do.”

Zoey encouraged Jack. “Stunt people’s jobs are pretty quick, which means a lot of free time waiting for the crew to get things set up.”

            “Thanks for the invitation.” Jack said, “I might just do that.”

Back in Washington DC, the man entered the office with a folder. “I compiled a list of every phone call that Bowman made going back three days from the time that he killed our team. I did a background check on every person that he called.” The man handed the folder to the woman. “The last call is of special interest. I highlighted it for you.”

The woman looked at the name and commented.  “Jack Dash, former Navy Seal. I want everything you can find on him.”

The man handed the woman another folder. “Here it is.”

            “Very good, I like it when my subordinates anticipate my requests. There might be some hope for you yet.” The woman quickly looked at the history of Jack Dash and said, “He’s very good. I don’t want to take any chances, put the Russians on it.”

            “What do I tell them?”

The woman instructed, “Find out how deep his connection is to Bowman.”

The Russian mercenaries received the call and loaded their equipment into their Mercedes sedan and left their mansion in the exclusive Brentwood area of Los Angeles for Carlsbad.

Cliff Bowman was sitting in his car outside Jack’s apartment when all of sudden he felt the cold steel of a pistol barrel against his ear.  “Is that you, Jack?”  

            “Yeah…let’s go inside.”

Once inside the apartment, Cliff asked. “What gave me away?”

            “You knew that they would access your phone records and that would lead them to me. What did you plan on doing …ambush them before they could get to me?”

            “My plan was to draw them out and if I failed I knew you could handle yourself.”

Jack was visibly angry. “I would have appreciated knowing your plan ahead of time. I’m not partial to being used as bait.”

Before the conversation could continue, the Mercedes sedan with the Russians pulled into the parking lot and four men got out. Jack whispered to Cliff, “We’ talk about this later.” then got into the passenger seat of Cliff’s vehicle, opened the window and rested the barrel of his pistol on the door.

Cliff slowly pulled alongside the men and Jack asked. “Are you lost?”

The four Russian assassins reached for their weapons and Jack opened fire. Cliff jumped out of the car and starting shooting from behind the vehicle. Both men didn’t stop firing until there was no more movement. The two former Seals searched the four men, took their wallets, weapons and cellphones. The dead Russians were placed inside their vehicle and Jack drove the Mercedes to the Hilton Cape Rey Resort in South Carlsbad with Cliff following in his car. The Mercedes was parked in the corner of the lot and Jack hoped that it would take at least a few days before anybody got suspicious.

When they got  back at Jack’s apartment, Jack and Cliff looked through the phones for any actionable Intel. What Jack found on one of them was very disturbing. He showed the photo to Cliff.

            “Who’s that?”

Jack responded. “Zoey Logan…a friend.”

Cliff apologized again. “I’m sorry, Jack. I didn’t think…”

Jack interrupted, “You screwed up, but right now that’s not important. Our mission is to make sure that my friend doesn’t get hurt, regardless of what happens to us…got it?”

            “You tell me what to do and I’ll do it!” Cliff pledged.

Jack and Cliff drove to Julian to meet with Zoey and Cooper Logan at the location where the film crew had set up. Jack introduced his comrade. “This is Cliff Bowman, we served together.”

Cliff responded. “I hope that it is alright to watch?”

            “Absolutely, any friend of Jack is welcome. Thank you for your service.” Cooper smiled, “I’ve got to get to work, I’ll see you later.”

Jack turned to Cliff, “Scout the area, I’m going to talk to my friend.”

            “Roger that.”

Zoey was getting ready for her scene with Keanu Reeves when she saw Jack and called out. “I’m glad you made it.”

Right about this time, Cliff waved to Jack to get his attention. After talking to Zoey for a couple minutes Jack walked over to Cliff and asked. “What’s up?”

Cliff pointed off into the distance where a group of men were standing along the road next to their vehicles and said, “They don’t look like curious townspeople or part of the movie crew. What do you think?”

 Cliff responded. “Keep an eye on them, if they move, we move.”

Zoey and Keanu Reeves finished their scene and were taking a break when they heard gunshots in the distance and was wondered was going on. They moved to a better vantage point and Zoey saw Jack and Cliff involved in a gunfight. She turned to Keanu, “Is that part of our movie?”

Keanu replied, “Not as far as I know.”

When the shooting stopped. Zoey, Cooper and Keanu walked over and saw a group of men lying dead on the ground.

            “I bet right about now, you’d like an explanation,” Jack shrugged.

Two weeks later, the woman who had been giving the orders got into her limo and said, “Airport.”

Jack was dressed like a chauffeur. He turned around and fired one round into the head of the evil bureaucrat and exited the vehicle.

As time passed, Jack and Cliff both began working as stuntmen. Zoey and Jack’s relationship was strong and steady. While sitting on the set in waiting for their upcoming fight scene on top of the Palm Springs Tram, Cliff asked, “Are we ever going to do anything with that Intel about January 6th?”

            “Maybe someday, right now the country is too politicized to hear the truth especially from a couple doorkickers like us,” Jack said. “Right now let’s focus on surviving in style.”

Cliff echoed the same sentiment. “Never underestimate the value of a life of quiet inspiration.”

Zoey walked over with Keanu Reeves who was the executive producer on this film. She said, “It’s going to be a hard day. Are you up to it?”

The two American warriors responded in unison with the Navy Seal motto, “The only easy day was yesterday.”

The End

Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance

The Veterans Writing Group of San Diego County invites all writers to join us at our monthly meetings. Veterans and Non-Veterans are equally welcome. For more information go to our website: www.veteranswritinggroup.org


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  1. Tom Holston says:

    Navy SEALs and Keanu Reeves…a tough combination to beat. Well done, Tom!

  2. Clyde says:

    A very enjoyable read.

  3. John michels says:

    Really enjoyable read.

  4. Robert says:

    Another entertaining and enjoyable story.

  5. wolf says:

    Good story. Certainly, a possible theory leading up to the Jan 6 event.

    The female bureaucrat initials would not happen to be N P?

  6. Tony says:

    What a fine and intriguing mystery story one would expect from the likes of Stephen King, James Patterson, John Gresham or other writer’s of fame. Mr Calabrese writes with passion and intrigue in this Sunday Column for the Vista Press. Good triumphs the evil doer’s that sell their souls to the highest bidder but true justice prevails.
    I enjoyed the twist and turns of this story and the lady that is the true villain receives her just sentence.
    Happy Father’s Day to all Dad’s, enjoy your day.

  7. Dan says:

    Another story that kept my interest from beginning to end.

  8. Tamra says:

    Great story Tom!

  9. Patrick Madden says:

    Another good one, Tom

  10. Steve says:

    I’m a big fan of Keanu Reeves, I’m glad he was a good guy in a good story.

  11. Jeremy says:

    Happy Father’s Day and thanks for the story.

  12. Mona says:

    Excellent story! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  13. Josh says:

    Well done…loved the backstory and how everything tied in.

  14. Jon Gregory Nielsen says:

    Thanks for another entertaining and timely story.

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