It’s “Lightships & Sabers” Release Day

I have a story in it I’m quite proud of. I’m currently working on a prequel to my story in the anthology that I will put up for free on Amazon.

SLS2

Available at Smashwords, use code PU87T for a 25% discount, valid through May 15th:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/631853

Available at Amazon, in both .mobi and POD:
http://smile.amazon.com/Lightships-Sabers-Various-Authors-ebook/dp/B01EOZYOSK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462151423&sr=8-1&keywords=Lightships+%26+Sabers

Listening to: the film “Skyfall” from the living room
Mood: Happy

Bad Blogger – Here’s Three Speed-Writing Meeting’s Worth of Stuff

“first thing we’re a-gonna do is dig a hole. no one ‘spects a hole out in the middle o’ nowhere, so your trap’s purty well set.”
“but it’s in the middle o’ nowhere. what are you tryin’ to trap?”
“don’t matter, sooner or later somthin’ll come along.”
“what if’n it’s bigger’n the hole?”
“then it won’t get trapped, now will it?”
“but it might a break a leg or somethin’, an’ you’ll come back to a big ol’ pissed off somethin’.”
“always a danger. tell ya what, you dig a bigger hole then.”
“well, teach me to open my mouth…”
“prolly won’t, but you can dream.”
hours later…
“hole big enough?”
“What do you think?”
“well, i ain’t heard o’ no animals too big for a hole this size ‘cept dinosaurs, an’ they ain’t around no more.”
“fair enough.”
the next day…
“now, be quiet where we’re comin’ up on it. don’t want to spook whatever we mighta caught.”
“i done looked. there ain’t nothin’ in there. trap ain’t been sprung.”
next day…
“still nothin’.”
next day…
“run!”
“whyfor?”
“we caught a big ol’ 4×4, some guy out mud-dawgin’, an’ he’s plenty pissed!”
“he got a gun?”
“out here? whaddaya think?”
BLAM!
“i think it’s past time we was runnin’!”

********************

once upon a time there was a rock that nobody paid much attention to, and on the whole, the small rock, “Bob”, was happy with that. he enjoyed his time in the sun, he enjoyed his time in the shade, in the dark… okay, the rain wasn’t so great, and the winters were a fright because he worried some smaller crack in his body might fill with water that would freeze and fracture him, but after a couple of decades he got pretty confident he was fissure-free and likely to stay that way.
Bob was too small to sit on, and too large for casual throwing, so he remained undisturbed by the humans. all he had to worry about was the occasional dog marking territory on him, and that was never pleasant, but sooner or later rain would wash him down, and besides, really, rocks don’t have noses, so it wasn’t like Bob could smell the urine.
rocks don’t have ears either, or eyes, so the only way Bob knew about anything was when it interacted with his skin.
yeah, Bob was content, until a pair of soft, feminine hands lifted him in the air, brought him down on her lying cheat of a husband’s head real hard.
then she took Bob with her as she went to Milwaukee and started a new life as a yoga instructor.
and they lived happily ever after.

*****************************

i never knew my uncle Cal – he wasn’t welcome at our family gatherings, and my mother refused to discuss her twin. my father just muttered “fucker” under his breath when he thought i couldn’t hear.
so inheriting Cal’s house when i was 24 was a hell of a surprise. i was intrigued – a house and all the contents, only a half hour’s drive away.
okay, yeah, property taxes loomed on the horizon, but if things didn’t work out, i could always sell the place.
first off – that idea died when i saw the house. it would take a small fortune to make it worth demolishing. as it was, i figured about a week, maybe two, and a bird would land on it wrong and the whole damn thing would collapse.
inside, more of the same, and worse. i’d never seen so many dirty Hungry-Man TV dinner trays, and the boxes they’d come in, in my life, and beer cans… cheap beer at that.
i was planning on spending the night in the house – before i saw it – and would have reconsidered except for the storm front moving in.
candles. a leaky roof. more trash than the law allows. me…
and a map, in a frame, slid behind the sagging, moldy couch.
i’m pretty sure this big ‘X’ on it means something… it’d sure be nice if there were names or notes on the map, letting me know where it depicted.
fuck you, uncle Cal, i’m figuring this one out.

*****************************

i wasn’t going to watch him die. that simple. i’d gotten the intern’s position and been ecstatic – a chance to work for one of the greatest investigative reporters of all time, brilliantly poking his nose into whatever interested him, and then telling the true story, the complete story. perhaps not always objectively, but a damn sight more objectively than any corporate news organization.
the university had thought him quite the catch. their journalism department would have its own genius-in-residence.
somehow, they’d missed his addiction issues. his complete lack of motivation if nothing particularly interested him at the time.
how very fucking seldom anything interested him anymore.
he was turning into a Hunter S. Thompson caricature, and he wasn’t good at it.
sex, drugs, and madness might’ve worked for Hunter, but they treated Claude Monroe like the littlest baboon.
he was lying in a puddle of his own puke when i last saw him, my hero, in the flesh.

*******************************

blonde, blue-eyed, bubbly
fuckable phys ed major
drunken frat boy bait

i spear bait on hook
drop it into wading pool
goldfish ignore me

*******************************

i could see it all.
her, as lovely as ever, seated on the front porch swing, her parents carefully not watching through the parlor window, a pleasant spring evening. Julie wondering if it’s really going to happen, am i going to pop the question, me on one knee before her, her hand in mine, the music swells…
we’re not talking romantic orchestral arrangement here… it’s Nine Inch Nails, “Fuck You Like An Animal.”
i’ll hand her the .45, she’s a much better shot than i am, i’ll pick up the chainsaw, and then her parent’s little slice of suburban paradise will descend into hell.
mom and dad go first. she’ll do that, quick and merciful. her annoying fuck of a little brother? that sumbitch is mine. i’m making chopped brat out of him – not the chainsaw, i’ll use my cleaver – his balls go first, plus whatever else gets in the way.
next, the neighbors with the asshole son, the football star who’s been pushing almost hard enough to call it rape, every time he can trap her alone… with him it’s the chainsaw, perfect cure for sexual harassment.
then down the street we’ll go, merrily making mayhem.

****************************************

music, sea chanteys, all with their own rhythm, the cadence of different shipboard tasks. wind, flapping sails, whipping ropes, on a good day blowing away the smells of too many men in too small a space for too long a time…
the cries of captives. being held for ransom is better than dying, but sometimes not by much. the continual low grumble of the crew, always disgruntled about something.
and i’m happy it’s never been severe enough to put my position as captain in the hazard.
storms, Caribbean hurricanes, ridden out in safe harbor if lucky, ridden out at sea if God has cursed us… again…
shipping lanes, moving from one to another with the seasons, preying on any ship i think we can take, and luckily i haven’t been wrong yet.
boredom and scurvy and sunburn and near-starvation – all better than the Royal Navy’s “rum, sodomy, and the lash”… we cut out the lash, up the rum portion when possible. the sodomy’s about the same.
a floating hell.
all forgotten in the chase, a fat merchant praying for speed, no escape for him, and a rich haul for us.

********************************

i wasn’t allowed to go to the circus until i was ten. better said, i wasn’t allowed to go to the circus again until i was ten. somehow, when i was four, i escaped the notice of my mother and my cousins and wandered off… out into the center ring, following the clowns. so six years of no circus for me.
but when i was ten, Caligari’s Cavalcade of Chaos rolled into town and after enough piteous pleading to deafen my mother, i was allowed to go.
the sideshow captured my attention so thoroughly i never made it to the circus itself.
Venda, the woman with tarot cards tattooed all over her body… she spun on a platform and for a quarter, i got to toss a dart at her. it hit her in one of the few covered areas of her body, but she assured me it hit the Wheel of Fortune, and had stuck in the top part of the card, so it wasn’t reversed, and therefore unlucky.
Abrus, the strongest woman alive, who lifted me and five other kids by the chains connected to the big bronze platter we stood on. i watched closely, she wasn’t sweating at all. then she started spinning in place as we all clutched the chains and screamed.

(two notes – number one, me wandering off into the ring at a circus as a child actually happened, but didn’t result in any circus ban. number two, i really want to write more about Caligari’s Cavalcade of Chaos…)

*****************************

Lt. Harmon was a ninety-day-wonder. no West Point for him, he’d done four years of ROTC at Texas A&M, and after three months of training they’d pinned 2nd Lt.’s bars on him and sent him to Vietnam, there to be inflicted upon our unit. Sgt. Mick, so totally tired of Irish jokes as to bring the pain if one was even hinted at, pronounced sentence on Harmon after thirty minutes.
“fuck him.”
and as Sgt. Mick was as close to God-on-High as we could know, Lt. Harmon became an annoyance, far too scared of the Sgt. to discipline any of us for our complete disregard for the Lt. or anything he said.
it would have stayed that way, until one night on patrol, when we encountered an enemy patrol, possibly NVA, probably VC, but in the dark, who the fuck could tell.
we’re all hunkered down, staying real quiet, hoping not to be noticed, when Harmon started shouting orders. three of our squad got scragged in the ensuing firefight.
when the enemy faded off into the jungle, Mick had had enough. he pulled the ring, let fly the handle, and shoved the live grenade down Harmon’s fatigues.
and ran.
enemy action, fourth casualty of our encounter, that’s what we all swore.

*******************************

(prompt: haiku, using “silence”)

plastic bag huffing
in and out, faster, noisy
finally… silence

today, woke up deaf
watched the world gesticulate
world of mimes… silence

silence of snowfall
piles of white appearing… magic.
sun brings slushing falls

********************************

(prompt: lots of words starting with “M”)

i manhandled Marvin into the limo. could’ve approached him some other way, but he was a suspicious motherfucker. a limo, chauffeur… a mayor expects that kind of thing.
shrimp cocktails on ice in the back, i listened to him masticate them, shells and all, swilling the cheap champagne… doctored with a little something to make him more malleable.
murder and mayhem are easy… too easy. madness – that takes extra work.
aphrodisiacs, a dead end. to get the desired reaction, brain surgery, direct stimulation of 500 monkey’s pleasure centers.
not to orgasm, that would be too far, merely to the edge, where they’d have finish themselves off.
and then the room, a deep, narrow pit, surrounded by very steep bleachers. 500 monkeys worth of bleachers.
a sedated mayor, lowered into the pit, monkeys arranged carefully, wires connected…
wakey, wakey, mr. mayor!
madness… helpless, in a pit, showered with the jism of 500 masturbating monkeys.
insanity by bukkake.
imagine, not just the foulness of splattering monkey cum, but the monkeys don’t stop. they can’t. they keep masturbating until they die.
and then, dead monkeys falling into the pit with you.
500 of them.

they’ll never let him out of the asylum.
monkey masturbation madness – no cure for that shit.

***********************************

(explanation: all through the Wednesday night meeting, we suffered through the loud and incredibly boring conversation of a table full of people who all worked together. made it very hard to concentrate on writing.)

we worked the plan out, carefully, on paper, because the din of their idiocy was driving us to distraction.
an industrial mixer – certainly a restaurant has an industrial mixer. a quick sneak back into the kitchen… mixer, check.
swirlies, the dreaded torture of high school bullies, taken to a macabre and murderous extreme.
one by one, head first, into the mixer, sweet screaming snuffed out in the grinding, churning nightmare mix of machine and man… and woman…
puree of mundane, boring fucks, new dish for the buffet.

 

listening to: “Electric Avenue” – Eddy Grant
mood: okay… damn happy i’m through trying to read my handwriting to get all these typed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Party

I dreamt you went to a party,
full of the most fascinating folks,
in a house with four floors and six fireplaces,
each floor at an angle strange to the rest,
each fireplace with flames of foreign woods,
a different color coming from each.
So many costumes, from simple to ornate,
in patterns and colors to make the nebulae blush,
and people young and old,
who were all the friends you’d never met,
singing and talking and dancing and thinking
the most interesting thoughts.
There were near misses with precious objects d’art,
and rowdy tomfoolery as the walls were climbed,
(the paintings dodged)
and the brooms and brushes
clucked the hours away
getting every last footprint.
And after a time you sat alone in the round kitchen,
in the center of this most extraordinary house,
amid the remnants of the feast,
and untouched treats to come,
while you soaked in the vibrations,
thrumming through the house
like the strings of His guitar.
You were content and warm,
and people came and went past you,
leaving you unseen in your bubble,
until at last a most extraordinary girl
stopped and asked you,
with naughty daring in her one eye,
the other a great green jewel,
if you thought it was time to play a new game,
where the story began, and went from person
to person to person, with each adding a new line,
needing approval from all present to be accepted,
or face the most terrible tickling.
And you knew it was time to leave your bubble,
and join with the party again,
and so you did – and the story was full of all the best
from the imaginations of all these friends
you’d never met,
and it spread throughout the house
into every nook and cranny,
and out onto the porch where the Oak Street Boys,
a little the whimsical for drink,
were taking turns running out into the rain
to ask rainbows to dance…

and I awoke,
and I hated you
for getting your invitation,
while mine was lost in the mail.

 

listening to: silence where there should be a party
mood: melancholy

 

“Identification Issues”

Two kinds of people on the street – predators and prey. The stupid ones out there will deny it, but they’re living in a fantasy land. You either eat or be eaten, simple as that.
Me? I like eating, and let me tell you, the buffet most nights is amazing.
Purses, wallets, cars, guns, knives, and sweet young things who’ll never agree to endure a police rape investigation.
When the world’s your oyster, you come to expect pearls.
Only, you have to be realistic about things. No ride lasts forever. Sooner or later, you’re going to be caught, and the criminal justice system will slowly send you off for a tour of some penal facility. You stay smart, you do your time, you get back out on the street. I’ve done three terms already, and I’m not even thirty… of  course, one of them was juvie and that doesn’t really count. When you’re a kid, sure, juvie’s tough, but once you serve a stretch in real prison, things get put in perspective.
And every single time I’ve come back from a DOJ vacation, I’ve been better educated than when I went in. Not only street smarts – plenty of teachers inside – but book smart too. They want to provide me with the tools for an education, and lock me in with not a lot of nothing to do? I’ll learn.
So yeah, when you’re getting robbed, or beaten, or raped, by Calvin Omhearst, you’re getting it from an educated man.
Sure as shit smarter than you, prey.

I see her; tall girl, not heavy but a little curvy, and she’s broadcasting “Don’t Hurt Me” on all channels. I doubt this girl strides confidently to the bathroom in the comfort of her own home, much less out here where everything and everyone is a threat waiting to happen. I haven’t seen her around before, but that doesn’t mean anything. People come and go all the time. And this girl, wearing a big old neon “V” on her forehead, she’s just begging for it. I’m surprised no one’s taken her before she got to me.
Brunette… I like brunettes. So let’s see her face, see if I’m just robbing her, or making an evening of it.
Cute, not pretty. Little nose, clean skin, grey eyes… her mouth isn’t much to look at, all scrunched up in her “victim face”.
An evening, then. Good thing, because from the look of her clothes, I’m not going to get much cash and valuable prizes from her.
I make my approach, she pulls away, clutches her wallet and phone in one hand, the other’s up and trying to hold me back through sheer force of “pitiful”. I smile, pursue her into the alley, and there’s a sharp poke…
like…
a needle…
at the…
doctor’s…

“You talk a lot in your sleep, Mr. Omhearst.”
Female voice, don’t recognize it. Still having problems opening my eyes.
“Of course, I helped with that. The right mix of drugs, most people will tell you whatever you want to know.”
One eye opens a slit. Cinder-block walls, painted off-white.
“You’re quite a piece of work, Mr. Omhearst.”
She comes around and into my limited field of view.
Her.
“You’re an organism, perfectly adapted to its environment… don’t feel special. The streets are full of your type, although most don’t share your love of learning.”
She’s holding something in her hand.
“Come on, Mr. Omhearst, open up both eyes. I have something to show you.”
I get my other eye half open, and move my right arm… try to move my right arm… straps… shit.
“This, Mr. Omhearst… you know, that’s very formal. How about I call you Calvin, since we’re going to be spending several days together. See, this is your scrotum and penis… cleaned up a bit after severing them.”
I try to scream, but my throat’s not working right, and there’s a gag in my mouth, hard plastic.
“Soon, the drugs will be wearing off, and you’re going to feel some pain in your groin. All right, you’re going to feel a lot of pain in your groin. But that’s nothing… nothing compared to what you’ll feel later.”
I’m trying to talk, to beg, to say anything…
“Oh no, Calvin. I’ve found out everything from you I need to know.” She’s smiling, like some psycho Madonna, blessing the little victims. “The time for talking is long over.”
There’s a shrill electric whine.
“Now… now is the time for doing.”

 

created from the Story Forge cards : the monster, the criminal, desire, adversity, fortune

 

listening to: the quiet of the house, the snoring of dogs
mood: pretty good, aside from Cedar Fever bullshit

 

 

 

Potpourri

so, let’s touch base on a lot of stuff before i post the latest speed writing stuff…

the new “single POV” chapter idea for “Behind the Wall of Thorns” really wasn’t working for me. i still believe the old “everybody-and-their-grandmother” chapters got too big and too unmanageable, and i needed to change the way i write the story, but going to the extreme in the opposite direction was just too limiting. so, i’m still doing single POV chunks, but there are going to be several to a chapter and i’m going to widen my focus slightly, moving from just primary characters to primary and secondary characters, as well as those characters $25 contributors to my Patreon have created.

there will be more stories with Sharla Duquesne and the crew of the Baby Boo/Baby Boo Too. I’m working on the ‘bible’ for the series/universe, albeit slowly. so yeah, “Neck Deep in the Mire-Razors” is giving birth. look for it in the upcoming “Lightships and Sabers”, coming out from Wolfsinger Press at the end of March.

the publisher of Sky Warrior Books inquired about “Falling Angels”, the noir detective novel we talked about many conventions ago… so that’s back on the burners. see what i can do there.

Rie wants a story for Mocha Memoirs “Ghosts, Gears and Grimoires” anthology, steampunk monsters, and i have two possible ideas, but the anthology pays a flat $10 fee (and before anyone says “exposure”, it’s doubtful this anthology will get seen much in the flood of small press anthologies, and “another entry on your resume” doesn’t mean much, it seems to me, if the resume is a wealth of small press, easily forgotten, anthologies). one of the story ideas is too big, and too potentially interesting, to come in under their word count restrictions (and while they might, if i wrote it well enough, relax the word count, it’s still just $10 and afterward, any place else i might submit it would have to take reprints), and the other idea is so vague and nebulous it’s going to require a lot of seasoning and time on the stove before it’s ready. still, i may be able to come up with a little ten buck something for ’em… except it rankles me to treat an idea as less than it could be. the last steampunk anthology of theirs i had something in… well, it wasn’t shit, but it was fluff. entertaining fluff, i hope, but fluff i feel lived up to the base idea… barely.

not believing in New Year’s Resolutions, because life has enough failure in it without setting yourself up for more, i do have two… well, let’s call ’em “goals”, for this year.
1. put out one blog post a week, a post that will in all likelihood be mirrored on my Patreon page.
2. finish “Oil of Roses, Book Two, Behind the Wall of Thorns”.
in theory, from where i’m sitting now, neither should be all that hard to achieve, if i put my mind to it.

and i still owe someone a dieselpunk piece… cotton-candy-cheesecake-silliness. of course, my submission won’t fit that style, because… it just wont.

speed-writing:

prompts: far future, prison in the tropics
i wanted to kill Carlos. you never fuck with a man’s small luxuries in a hell hole. often, that stimstic, that flask, that pill pack, that small data pad – they’re the only things keeping him from attacking a guard, or making a run for it.
both result in death, the second method is just slower.
you see, the tropic belt on Vega IV is wide; thick jungle, abundant streams and rivers, no outposts of civilization other than the prison, and full up to your gills with predatory species.
and thanks to Carlos, i was eyeing the robotic guards, and looking out beyond the free-fire zone at the jungle.
it doesn’t matter what he took – what brings me comfort is my own business, not yours. but it was gone, and there wouldn’t be any replacing it for a long time, if ever. wonderful thing about robotic guards – they can’t be bribed, which punches a big  hole in the typical prison economy.
so… death, death, or murder? murder means a month in the hole…
yeah, Carlos is going to get it in the exercise yard, first chance i get.
who knows, maybe he still has it on him.

prompts: infamy, poverty, disguise
i miss you.
first off, i didn’t mean to hurt anyone. i know that doesn’t make much difference when my fuck-up on the job killed thousands, but i really didn’t. i just went to the john at an inappropriate time.
small flaw in the security system protocols. can’t have a restroom attached to the monitoring station. if anything goes wrong, the doors to the monitoring station lock down ’til the situation returns to normal. compound these issues with corporate greed – there’s no need to have two engineers on duty at all times. one is enough.
so you tell me. shit myself? keep a honey bucket in the station? or go to the restroom like i had a hundred times before when nothing happened?
funny think about chaos theory – it’s real, it’s the way the universe works.
so, this time, while i was taking a shit, the perfect storm of system failures got together and had a party in my absence.
the dam didn’t break so much as it disintegrated.
i didn’t stick around. i know how the company handles such PR disasters, and i don’t fancy being a sacrificial lamb. changed my name, cut and dyed my hair, and i’m begging by the side of the freeway.
you passed me today and didn’t see me.
i waved.

prompt: begin with “There was only one way out…”
there was only one way out –  not an escape so much as a gauntlet.
no school, successfully completed, and she wouldn’t be a citizen. she would have no status, no role in everyday society, and no legal protections or rights whatsoever. she could be killed, or worse, by anyone, for any reason, or no reason at all. she could be locked up, enslaved, tortured, and no one would care.
so, not passing Home Ec was not an option.
Angela agreed with the idea in theory – a curriculum that ensured graduates were competent to live on their own, and function as a positive and productive member of society.
but who the fuck sewed their own clothes anymore?
she could hand stitch just fine, but it seemed to her the sewing machine had been designed to make sewing far more complicated than it had to be.
“it’s so easy once you master the basics!”
yeah, Mrs. Lewis, great, but the basics were kicking her ass!
after she’d drawn a blank on the Simple Mechanics final last term, and failed Conversational Hispanic, she couldn’t afford to fail anything else, and the goddamned sewing machine bullshit was half her grade.

prompt: “hover”, “finicky”, “whistle”, “use”, “boot”
my mother, she hovers. that’s what she does. drives my father and me crazy, always with the hovering.
“do you need anything?”
“you should eat, you’re wasting away!”
“let me feel your forehead.”
“that Silverstein boy, so handsome, and in med school…”
and when my father or i eventually erupted in anger, as we were bound to do, that’s when the guilt machine went into overdrive!
“i’m sorry i’m concerned about you, God forbid i should care about you. i’m treated like the dog, just whistle when you want something. thank God i was gifted with such a husband, such a daughter, a nobody like me, do as you think best, what do i know, the woman who bore your child, the woman who carried you in her womb for nine months…”
it was a cycle, not helped at all by my father. he’s a perfectionist, as well as a finicky eater. God, the noise he made over a meal that wasn’t exactly as he liked, or how the heavens fell if i tracked in one drop of mud on my boots.
as God is my witness, it’s a miracle i haven’t killed them both…
in their sleep…
with an ax…
like the one in the shed…
so, what’s a little prison time?

prompt: write about your first artistic expression
age: barely six months.
there are masterpieces of art that are lost to time, ones that are not recognized, ignored by the plebeian sensibilities of cultural Philistines…
“landscape in feces”, bedroom wall, 502 Short St. is a triumph of artistic brilliance that suffered both of those fates.
my grandfather took a picture of it… a Polaroid, long since faded into a mass of yellowish white.
my mother? the cultural Philistine in this sad tale.
so how do i remember it, having created this perfect expression of my ‘brown period’ at such an early age?
the Polaroid, brought out at every family reunion, every exposure hastening its obliteration, along with pictures of me drinking from the shower, of me running naked through the back yard – i was two, of me eating pillbugs by the handfuls.
in retrospect, and in light of some drunken experimentation later in life, i can assure you shit is not an ideal artistic medium. to adult sensibilities, it’s gross to work with, it stinks, it dries too fast, and while a larger work involving shading is possible, the dietary requirements  to produce the colors necessary can become troublesome.
still… my first.

 
listening to: “Eight Piece Box”, Southern Culture on the Skids
mood: productive

 

Blogging, and Speed Writing

first off, once again, have said it before, it’s still abundantly clear, i suck at blogging. i spend way too much time committing my thoughts to Wastebook, and almost no time putting them here, a far more stable platform.
some days, i ain’t exactly heaven’s brightest ray o’ sunshine…

speed writing 12/5/15
prompt: a stripper at the office Christmas party

when Carter told me, i was floored. old man Pettigrew was a real Scrooge anyway, and the office parties were generally sad affairs, unless the employees pitched in and brought desserts or deli trays.
so yeah, when Carter told me Pettigrew was springing for a stripper, at a party with men and women in attendance, i couldn’t believe it.
in retrospect, the old man had been getting more and more eccentric lately – like when he talked about paying everyone in postage stamps, and he’d taken to locking himself in his office with the shades down, loud Wagnerian opera blasting from inside, with Pettigrew singing along in gibberish.
there was a pool going as to when he’d have a stroke, and another for when they’d haul him away to the laughing academy.
on the day, for once he put out a decent spread, all kinds of goodies, and with the employees contributions it was a real feast.
best party ever…
until the cake was wheeled in. red and green, Christmas colors, and when it broke open, out popped Pettigrew, dressed like a cut-rate Brunhilda in a Santa cap, singing in gibberish and flinging costume pieces off indiscriminately.
they took him away. december 19th.  dammit, i had january 4th in the crazy pool.

prompt: write about what you can’t see

never cared for the dark, and being blind has always been a nightmare of mine.
so when my eyes started going bad, and surgery wasn’t an option, i freaked out. anxiety attacks, pretty severe, until the doctors told me i wouldn’t lose my eyesight completely. that and the anxiety meds , helped a lot. the world was just going to grow dim, even in the brightest sunlight. i had my house outfitted with high lumen bulbs, and figured i would make do.
sitting in my bedroom one night, reading with the help of three intense lights mounted over the bed, someone said, “think it’s bright enough in here?”
i live alone, so i levitated three feet straight up, and looked around for who had spoken.
“give it up, kid,” the voice said. sounded male, middle-aged, with some sort of accent. “you couldn’t see me before your eyes got screwy – no chance of it now.”
“so… uh… who are you? what are you?”
i was pretty sure i was going batshit crazy.
“i ain’t nothin’ and no one. but don’t worry, you’ll hear from me again…”

prompt: so how did the house catch on fire?

one of the reasons i stopped smoking was a bad scare, falling asleep with a lit cigarette. i figured if i couldn’t trust myself n ot to end up in a burning bed, i had no business with the nasty habit anyway.
it was a rough six months, but i quit.
my uncle Mack, on the other hand, didn’t. he’d been puffing on those horrible, smelly, cheap cigars all my life, and when he and aunt May came to visit for the holidays, i set out the rules, knowing he’d ignore them.
no smoking in the house, period.
if he smoked out back, put the soggy butts of the stogies in the trash bucket i’d thoughtfully provided.
if he smoked out front, take the butts around to the back, NOT THROUGH THE HOUSE, and use said bucket.
i don’t know why i bothered, i knew he’d ignore me, but it was one of those stupid, futile things you do just so you can say you’ve tried.
four times, very first day of their visit, i shooed him outside.
i looked at my bank account and considered subsisting on ramen and mac and cheese so i could put them up in a hotel.
woke up the next morning, could smell the cigars he’d smoked in the night, and found the butts in the toilet bowl.
seven times i sent him out back that day. it seemed as soon as i turned my back, or left the room, he lit up.
if i didn’t want to stay in their will, i’d have kicked them out into the street.
(that’s when i ran out of time, but it was going to end with the uncle setting the christmas tree on fire)

prompt: you see a celebrity hitchiking

it was in the vast wasteland of arizona when the starbucks triple espresso-red bull-mountain dew concoction kicked in, and the air was suddenly filled with ravens, their cries of ‘nevermore’ providing a greek chorus to the music Sandy had playing… her Justin Bieber mix.
hellish enough indeed, and i wondered if she was secretly a Canadian were-moose, trying to pollute the vital bodily fluids of this pure-blood Texan with her evil sexual magics.
i clenched a handful of pixie stix between my teeth and threw my head back, choking on the sugary sand pouring down my throat.
Sandy slammed on the brakes, and as our speed dropped from its raven-evading ninety-five to thirty, she used the handbrake as well, spinning us across the asphalt like a carousel gone mad.
orbiting us in our dervish-like deceleration i saw a bearded figure in a bathrobe, shorts, and flip-flops, carrying a bowling ball bag.
“Sandy, Sandy, goddamnit, we can’t stop here, we have no bust of Pallas, and i can’t stand the thought of those demon bird feet getting tangled in my hair!”
Sandy’s antlers were showing, and they’d replaced her ears, so she couldn’t hear me.
“Hey Dude, need a ride?” she asked the hitchhiker.

prompt: your great-aunt leaves you a restaurant

i’ll never know why Great Aunt Maggie Fay, Southerner to the core, decided a Greek-Indian fusion restaurant was a good idea. even less idea why she thought to open it in our little town of Hadley, population 1803, and less clue how it stayed in business for 23 years.
as to why she left it to me, this i understand.
she’d hated me ever since i was a baby and had vomited all over her faux fox fur stole.
no, i’m not imagining that hatred or the reason for it – she spelled it out in her will.
so, after all the legal issues were handled, i owned ‘Shiva Nike’ – the land, the building, the adjoining lot used for parking, and a twenty-three year tradition of tasty but incomprehensible food. a menu board in Greek and whatever the hell Indian dialect she chose was a staple of the place.
no translations – ever.
no explanations – ever.
the menu board changed daily. only one employee, the cook, a wizened old albino, knew what his scribblings meant, and he didn’t tell anyone.
so, first thing – change the menu and the restaurant name.
ever had 1803 people standing outside your restaurant with pitchforks and torches, burning you in effigy?
fun times, you bet.

listening to: “Once Upon A Time In The West” – Dire Straits
mood: rather sad

 

 

Them Ol’ Revolvin’ Door Police Blues

okay, first off, let’s start from the same place.
the mid and late 1970’s (which in Central Texas meant sometime around 1957), Central Texas, small town.
your faithful correspondent is a teenager – long-haired, smoking, drinking, toking up any time there was pot to be had – be it halfway decent import, or the infamous “Peach Creek Shit” – which was grown along the banks of Peach Creek, which also served as the sewage and drainage system of the black side of town.
what’s there to do in Scintillatin’ Smithville for young ‘uns?
you drive up and down the stretch of Hwy 71 that ran through town at the time, from the U-Totem on the southeast side of town to the “Y” on the northwest end of town, where Texas 95 split off from 71.
you do this for hours, night after night, playing your music loud, windows down, waving at your friends who are pacing the same ‘cage’ you are.
most of the cops were okay. as long as you weren’t blatantly breaking the law, they didn’t hassle you.
and then there was Butch… be fucked if i can remember the buttplug’s last name… who, when on duty, rousted kids on the slightest suspicion.
and because of some past encounters, had a special hard-on for me and my friends. Butch is why i was 22 before i could hear the word “assume” and not twitch – because it was my experience it would be followed by “the position”.
damned embarrassing when it happened in class.
so, Butch dated a girl in my class, my best friend’s sister, and of course, he was a perfect gentleman with her.
he also put his dick in any other girl he could get to hold still for it, and some, we suspect, by force.
so one night, another friend of mine and i were headed under the river bridge to smoke some dope. under the bridge had its own set of rules. you cut your lights, you often cut your engine and coasted in so if the cops were staking the place out you might have a chance of ghosting out again,  you didn’t make a lot of noise, you didn’t hassle the other kids down there, you didn’t poke your nose into other people’s business.
so we’re headed down, my friend cuts the lights and the engines, and sure enough, there’s a bad, bad sign… no other cars are down there, which generally meant a cop was down there waiting for a chance to roust us, see if we had anything suspicious in our cars… which we Oh-So-Certainly-Did at that point.
now being the natural-born-coward i am, my sphincter had hit a ’20’ on the 1-10 scale. my friend turns to curve around and make our escape… and we see the cop car.
and it’s rockin’ with the motion o’ lovin’.
i’m all ready for us to just keep on goin’. but my friend is a mouthier smartass sumbitch than me (hard to believe, i know), and he stops the car. gets out of the car, takin’ the keys (FUCKER!), and goes to peer in.
and being a dumbshit, i go with him.
the girl in the backseat? we know her. we also know she’s Underage.
the cop? you guessed it. Butch. pants around his knees, motherfucker hadn’t even taken his equipment belt off.
and my friend knocks on the window.
the girl’s eyes widen to the size of small moons.
Butch appears to have a minor seizure, turning around to see my friend making the “roll your window down” gesture, so loved by our local police.
window rolls down. i seriously think in retrospect, Butch was wondering about the logistics of killing all three of us. “apoplectic”, yes, that would describe his expression.
my friend says “you’re never going to roust us again, are you, Butch?”
tense head shake.
“in face, we can do no wrong, right?”
very tense head shake.
“well then, you and (name redacted) have a good night.”
and we walked away.
it may well have been a week before i shit in anything wider than a micromillimeter stream.
(and yes, we abused the hell out of our new freedom, we were teenagers, what do you expect?)
this speaks to Butch’s character. he was a bully, and we had him by the balls.
so later another little Butch indiscretion comes to light.
see, as a good citizen and public servant, he was a school bus driver.
and as a shithead pervert, he was exposing himself to small children, and using his position as a figure of authority to shut them up.
brought up on charges? don’t be ridiculous. he was let go by the Smithville PD, was hired by another small town PD, with a recommendation from Smithville’s chief.
because fucking pigs take care of their own.
found out later, when he was hired, our chief had heard rumors of his predilections. hired him anyway.
because fucking pigs take care of their own.
all of this was thirty years ago. back in the good old days. before cops felt so threatened. before we gave them military equipment.
so in a literal case of “what do you expect from a pig but a grunt?”, i’m not surprised by anything cops do, and how easily they get away with it.

because fucking pigs take care of their own.

listening to: “Raise What’s Left of the Flag For Me”, Flogging Molly
mood: disgusted

For No Particular Reason…

for no particular reason today, i remembered a series of incidents from a place i used to work, incidents that occurred so frequently they became their own in-joke, and their own ritual.

back in ’78 & ’79, when i worked at Tracor on defense contracts (no, it’s not as exciting as it sounds – we made the housings for flares and chaff rounds that got bolted on to combat aircraft), we had a quality control engineer who was, to put it bluntly, crazy as a shithouse rat. he’d get in a mood, and no block, no matter how perfectly cleaned, would pass inspection on its first pass. in those unenlightened times, this was referred to as “Joe’s time of the month” or “Joe’s on the rag”.
yes, as i said, unenlightened.
problem was, Joe could be in one of those moods for weeks, at one point, months at a time.
at first, we tried to find the imaginary issues Joe failed the blocks on. rapidly realized that was futile, because they were imaginary.
so in our area, the ‘block cleaning area’, there was a large metal table where outgoing blocks were placed prior to going to QA.
so, we’d put a perfectly clean block on the table, the three of us in the department chorusing “SHIP IT!”
Joe would downcheck it. we’d put the unaccepted blocks to one side for a couple of hours, do absolutely nothing to them. wouldn’t even run them through the chemical bath again.
then we’d return them to the outgoing table, with “FUCK IT!”
they’d come back to us again as ‘unacceptable.”
off to the side they’d go for a few more hours, remaining untouched, and then back on to the outgoing table, with “TO HELL WITH IT!”
and that was, generally, when Joe would approve them, and away they’d go down the line to have the actual flares or chaff inserted, the electronic firing mechanism bolted onto one end, so on and so forth.

for some reason, i truly have no idea why, i remembered that today.

 

listening to: my printer chugging along
mood: productive

Speed Writing Stuff

starting with “It was a dark and stormy night.”

it was a dark and stormy night. then a cold and rainy day. a snowy night followed by a bright but cold day then an icy night, and on through the days and nights of the year, while Ed stood in his front doorway and watched the days pass like bad special effects in a cheap made-for-tv movie. season followed season and year followed year, while Ed checked his phone, trying to gauge how fast time was passing outside his grandfather’s old farmhouse.
he was dumbfounded enough by the impossibility of it all, so it was slow going, but eventually Ed pegged it at about seven-and-a-half minutes a year. he didn’t feel the cold or the rain, the wind or the sun… in fact, his central air-conditioning kept running like it was the same day he’d opened the front door to find time flying by – a warm May afternoon.
it was hypnotizing, and Ed didn’t feel too concerned about the fate of his wife or children because things in dreams – or hallucinations – didn’t affect the real world, and he lived fully in the real world, so there was no doubt what he was seeing wasn’t real in the least.
the houses in the neighborhood aged, quick flickers of motion evidently people going to and fro, and still Ed watched, and wondered which of the drugs he’d done in his youth was bringing him this flashback.
finally, growing bored by it all, Ed stepped outside.

write about a haunted character.

empty spaces on the walls where pictures had hung.
it was the first thing she noticed every time she came home.
he’d left most of the furniture. they had been her decorating choices anyway, but every picture he’d been in, he’d taken with him, leaving not a trace of his image anywhere in the house, every little bit of him gone, not a sock under the bed, not a prescription bottle in the cabinet, not a food he liked that she didn’t in the cupboard. the garage was spotless except for what she stored out there, and that wasn’t much.
she wasn’t sure what had gone so terribly wrong. they’d had their issues, just like any other couple, but one day he’d gone from loving-her-and-exasperated-by-her to just-plain-gone. everything had been fine in the morning, and when she’d come  home that evening it was as if he’d never lived there at all. she couldn’t even find their marriage certificate, their joint checking account was a single account, only her name… she’d look at the mortgage papers but that was useless as she’d been buying the house when they’d met, he wasn’t involved in that.
he’d even taken the smell of him, leaving the house smelling of her patchouli candles and Febreeze.
later that night her eyes went blank and unfocused when she found one of his combs at the very back of a bedside table drawer. dressed only in her nightgown she took it out the back door, across the two acre field to the ravine, and threw it in, on top of the his body, and everything else that had been his.
she wondered how her feet had gotten so dirty, rinsed them off, and went to bed.

o1963270

in the daylight, it wasn’t so bad. scenic, actually. a ruined church in a country full of ruins, a country where the scars of war weren’t covered up with ugly concrete bandages that pretended to be schools and offices and stores and churches.
a country that wanted to remember.
at night, the ruins took on a different tone. the church was a place where people gathered, and mourned their dead, and wrote the names of the dead and messages to their departed loved ones on scraps of paper they threw into garbage barrel fires, to be carried up to the heavens as ash. the people spoke their own language, quietly, in whispers, and prayed their conquerors had no spies in the crowd.
not that it was likely, given the differences in their appearance, but no one could completely discount the stories of humans working with ‘them’.
and when daylight returned, there were their overlords, asking in the politest of terms if the people would really prefer ugly concrete bandage buildings, put up free of charge, new and modern and convenient and comfortable.
and the people smiled politely, and said, “thank you, but no.” they returned to the crumbling remains of their home, and tended their little gardens, and their flocks of sheep and herds of goats, and pointedly looked away when the bright shiny trucks came through their towns, with free food, and supplies, and medicine, and books.
and when someone died of malnutrition, or disease, or exposure, or simple old age, their names were added to the remembered war dead, names on paper, thrown into fires.

 

listening to: a very quiet and peaceful house
mood: good, albeit very barely awake