6 min read



I'm trying out Kindle Vella with a new serial called, "Hackneys." It will come out a chapter a month via Kindle Vella. I'll put it together as a book after 12 chapters or so.

The first three chapters are free at Kindle Vella.

So I thought it might be fun to have the first 3 chapters free here.

The entire serial is available to anyone who has an "All Access Pass."

Here's the first chapter of Hackneys

Opening in Denver

“Hey — can I put this up on your staff bulletin board?”

The cook looked up to see a white-skinned teenager standing at the alley door of the kitchen. She was wearing jeans and a purple crop-top shirt that revealed two inches of her stomach. Her long, red hair was braided into two long ponytails. Her eyes were hazel or maybe blue. It was hard to tell in the dark restaurant kitchen.

“What is it?” the cook asked, looking up from the onion he was mincing.

“A flyer,” the girl said. “We’re opening a late night diner here in Denver for working people. It’s called ‘Hackneys”

Squinting, the cook looked at her for a long moment.

“What?” the girl asked.

“I’ve heard of a Hackneys,” the cook said. “Breakfast menu? Portland?”

“That’s us,” the girl said. “My dad and I. We moved here. We bought that house a few doors down from Colfax on the alley. It had a speakeasy in the basement. We just go the city’s approval.”

The cook set down his knife and came around the counter. He took the flyer from her.

“Open 10 p.m. to 8 am,” the cook said. “You must not get a lot of customers.”

“Mostly Hackneys, like us. We’ve never had trouble filling the diner,” the girl said. She gave him a white-toothed grin. “Sometimes, people like to stop by before they go home — delay going home a bit. Most of the time, it’s just hardworking people who need a meal and a quiet place to sit. That’s what we are — a quiet place. No booze, but you can bring your own. Anyway, I have to go sign up for school. Can I put up the flyer or not?”

“Go ahead,” the cook said.

“Come tonight,” the girl said. “We always have a dinner plate for five dollars. Seven with meat.”

“What’s that?” the cook asked.

“Pancakes, two eggs, and a drink of your choice,” the girl said. “Coffee’s a dollar with refills. If you want to add bacon or sausage, it’s only a couple dollars more. We have WiFi, of course. If you want anything else, we charge twice the cost of the ingredients. My dad’s a great cook. He can make any kind of food. If we have it, we’ll make it. But you can always bring something if you want something else.”

“A place for people who work,” the cook said.

“Exactly,” the girl said.

“You work there?” the cook asked. “What about school? Sleep?”

“Sure, I’m a good student,” the girl said. “I do my homework when I get home from school. My dad didn’t get to go to school, so he’s learning with me. We sleep for a while and then go to work. We close at 8 a.m. so I can get to school.”

“Your dad?” the cook asked.

“What about him?” the girl asked.

“He’s okay with you being up all night in a diner?” the cook asked.

“We’re together,” the girl said. “He cooks, and I’m in the front. We’ve done that all of my life.”

The cook nodded at her.

“You can keep that one,” the girl said with a smile. “I’ll put this one on the board.”

While the cook watched, she put up the bright-orange flyer with an “H” on it. The hours and the address were below the “H.” Under that, it said: “Hackney: A person accustomed to drudgery; a person ready to be hired for any drudgery or dirty work.”

“I’m Sue,” the girl said.

“Nestor,” the cook said.

“See you tonight, Nestor,” the girl said.

The girl waved and left the kitchen.

The cook watched her leave. Shrugging to himself, he got back to work prepping for the afternoon rush.


Sue signed up for high school at East High School down the street. She took all of her forms for her dad to sign, but, truth be told, she usually signed all of them herself. She walked down Colfax Boulevard and turned down the alley beside the weed shop.

“You got the sign up!” Sue clapped. “You can see it from the street! Nice!”

Her father, Niti San, turned to look at her. He gave her the wide smile he always smiled when he saw her. His skin was a light-brown color. He had a straight, strong nose and white teeth. His eyes were dark brown, as was his hair. He had long braids like hers. He was fit, strong, even, mostly because Sue insisted that they workout every single day.

Sue gestured to the lit sign — an “H” on a white background that was hung off the side of the building. The sign would light up when it got dark.

“Finished the door, too,” Niti said.

He spoke in the deep, low, back-of-the-throat voice of many Native American people.

“Nice!” Sue said, gesturing to the “H” on the door to their basement. “I like it.”

“All signed up for school?” Niti asked.

“Yes,” Sue said. “A lot of nonsense, but I signed up.”

“That’s my girl,” Niti said. “Are you going to sign them again?”

“Of course,” Sue said with a big smile. “How else can I sign my own permission slips?”

“What do you need permission for?” Niti asked.

“Hanging out with you,” Sue said.

Niti grinned at her, and she gave him her big, joyous smile.

She had given him this same big smile the first time he’d seen her. She’d been wrapped in a plastic trash bag, but she was watching him through a hole in the seam of the bag. Someone had placed the child at the bottom of a trash dumpster behind the Chinese Restaurant where he had been washing dishes. For reasons that were unclear to him to this day, he’d reached into the dumpster, his feet rising off the ground in order to touch the bottom of the dumpster, and pulled the plastic off the naked baby.

He’d grabbed her and wrapped her in a large kitchen towel. With the help of the restaurant owner’s grandmother, he’d bathed her and fed her. The grandmother helped him tie her to his back with more towels. He’d gone back to work. When his shift was over, he’d taken her home to his room in a shared apartment.

Someone had spray-painted “Sue me!” in brilliant yellow on the side of the dumpster, so he named the child “Sue.”

“You have your precious papers?” Niti asked.

Sue took a folder out of her backpack and gave it to him. He opened the folder to see if she’d returned her birth certificate and her other legal documents. He nodded to her.

“Good,” Niti said. “These go back in the safe.”

She kissed his cheek.

“Thank you, Daddy,” Sue said. “Are we ready for tonight?”

“I am ready,” Niti said. “You?”

“I can’t wait!” Sue said. “I talked to a few people. They might stop by. We’ll see.”

“We always fill up,” Niti said. “No problem.”

“No problem,” Sue said.

He opened the door for Sue, and she went down the stairs to their new basement restaurant.

During the time of prohibition in the United States, the basement had once been a speakeasy — a place for illegal drinking and dancing. The walls were made of red brick. The restaurant floor had been gorgeous honey-colored wood, but the city wanted floors that they could clean. They were forced to put vinyl tiles down. Their contractor suggested the usual diner black and white, which seemed like a good idea.

There was a squared off “U,” which created a surround of bar seats. There were two-person tables along one wall and four four-person booths along the other wall. Everything was sparkling clean and ready to go.

They’d bought the entire property with the money they’d made selling their last home in Portland, which they’d bought with the proceeds of their last home, which they’d bought with the proceeds of the tiny house before that. This was their fourth owned home in the twelfth city they’d lived in.

This building was right on the alley. They lived in the apartment on the first and second floor. Her father’s bedroom was on the first floor, and Sue had the entire attic loft to herself. The property had another house on the street side which was rented when they’d bought the property. The people seemed nice, so they’d planned to just let them keep renting.

The garden had been full of weeds and junk when they’d moved in. While they’d waited for the city to work out its issues with the restaurant, Niti and Sue San had created a compost area for more than a decade of overgrown vegetation and the fallen leaves. They built large garden beds and started seedlings in a greenhouse they’d made from windows they’d found in the nearby alleys around the property.

By the time the city had gotten around to giving the permits for the restaurant, the garden was clear and ready to be planted. The interior of the diner was ready for customers. The restaurant kitchen was super clean, and every burner worked, as did the refrigerator and dishwasher. The pantry was well stocked with locally grown vegetables and food.

They were ready to get started in Denver.

“Come on, Dad,” Sue said. “Let’s get dressed.”

“After you,” Niti said.

He opened the locked gate to the yard. They walked past the table and umbrella to their front door. He unlocked their front door, and they went inside.

Hackneys will continue next month...