Luke the Drifter, a comeuppance and Tom Robbins calls it quits…

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Art is subjective and the first subject is the soul of the artist.

I recently watched I Saw The Light, a Hank Williams biopic starring Loki and the Red Witch.  Old Hank was a lyrical genius with more than his share of inspiration and damnation.  He put it out there and out there and still it wasn’t enough to allow him the thing all artists crave.

Connection.

Connection with others.  Connection with the world at large.  Connection with an understanding of their own psyche.  When filled with the emptiness of lonesome, any connection will do; alcohol, drugs, sex, food, money, power, fame, failure.  Connection.

I spent time in Alabama this week.  Hank’s home state.  I had connection on the brain when I pulled in Sunday night and kept it there all week.

He wrote from the heart.  Quickly, without much editing and without much regret.  His alter ego, Luke The Drifter, carried the weight of his more soul-searching work, but Hank was the canvas of Luke’s art.  He was a tormented soul yearning to break out and be free.

Let’s regroup….

I pulled into Alabama thinking of Hank and my writing and the unspoken reality that connecting with others has never been easy for me.  Does it look easy?  Sure.  I learned to use humor years ago to impress, deflect, entertain, flirt and distract as I saw fit.  A manipulative skill but one that leaves them laughing and wanting more…

My own art is suffering from a plague of mediocrity that only I will openly admit.  Others won’t for fear of hurting my feelings or disrupting a friendship etc.  Craig S. stands out on this topic for his brutal honesty.  But, as a Man dealing in reality, he is as honest with Me about Me as he is about Himself.  This makes his criticisms constructive, reasonable and easy to swallow.

I started this years ago because I had this Tom Robbins inspired notion of writing 500 words per day, no matter what.  Broadcasting to the world seemed to satisfy two criteria:  Engage an audience, receive feedback.

Both failed.

So now is the time to rethink this entire pile and focus on turning mediocrity into something that is not mediocrity.

I hit Alabama by reaching out to writer friends about editors/publishers and the writing community at large.  I never really considered myself a writing group type of guy.  I don’t even know what genre is fitting for my writing.  I just write the words in my head and let them go.  Full disclosure:  I’ve never edited any story on this page.  100% of what is presented was written directly into the blog and only after the fact was it saved.  Including the Romeos stories.

You deserve better.

I deserve better.

My characters deserve better.

My soul deserves better.

To that end, no more stories will appear here.  I’m engaging an editor and moving in the direction of publication and becoming a serious, if underrated, underpaid and unknown, writer.

My last story, Purpose, was written in the San Antonio airport after reading three pages of Notes from the Underground.  What if the people we think of as having Special Needs were able to think clearly, perhaps more clearly than us, and were using our ignorance and compassion to fulfill their goals.  Be they good, evil or indifferent.

++++++++++++++++++++

Back to ranting then.

I could rant for hours about a limitless number of topics.  The desire to express one’s self, so necessary for artist, makes me a boorish snob at dinner parties, a know-it-all ass successful in self-aggrandizement others can only envy.  I’m fun to drink with, tough to get close to and unforgettable for reasons I forget.  I admire Bukowski because he shuns admiration and love Kerouac because he needs it.  Palaniuk is my favorite modern writer.  His writing, satire, wit and intelligence is unrivaled in this Stephanie Myers world.

I often think I should disappear to a remote island.  Indulge in my alcoholic dreams, consume Rum and write a memoir no one will read.  But the truth is I would end up sunburned, arrested and my memoir would consist of two paragraphs about railroads, midgets and the smell of Schlitz.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Trump and Hillary are symptoms of the same disease.  We’ve spent decades accepting the lesser of two evils.  Now we have nothing but evil to choose from and, ye gods, we double-down on this fact.

We have to take sides.  If you’re Liberal, you’re a Libtard.  If you’re Conservative, you’re a KKKonservative.  If you’re pro-Black, you’re anti-White.  If you’re pro-Cop, you’re anti-Black.  If you’re pro-White, you’re the KKK.  The Hispanics show up in here somewhere but seem to have the sense to recuse themselves for the most part.  You’re either pro-Gun or a Socialist.  You’re either a Socialist or bible thumping gay-hater stuck in an all-White past.  If you disagree with Me, you’re a Communist.  If I disagree with you, I’m a Fox News watching Zombie who should be mocked.  You’re either forever Rich or forever Poor.  Pick a side God-Damn you!  If you don’t repost that video about a Black kid getting killed, you’re a bigot and part of the problem.  If you don’t repost that video about a Cop being killed by a Black kid, then you’re not American.  You must fly Old Glory just above your Don’t Tread On Me Banner or you’re some sort of commie-fucker and probably love Obama.

We…that means YOU and I…encourage, support, promote, reblog, repost, share, LIKE, Retweet, Comment and otherwise ENDORSE the very DIVISION we lament…

We the people, have created a less perfect Union which divides us along superficial, political borders…

We ask our kids to pick sides and then wonder why our country is divided.  Being Conservative doesn’t make you anti-Gay anymore than being Liberal makes you anti-White.  Plug in any names/agendas/topics  you wish in that sentence and it makes just as little as sense as the original.

We’ve let our Politics decide our Principles instead of our Principles deciding our Politics.

I think most people view their own lives as a Conservative and the lives of their neighbors as a Liberal.  I know I do.  I don’t care what you do, at all.  Just don’t ask me to pay for it.  I’ll stay out of your bedroom and take my wallet when I leave.   The Ten Commandments at a courthouse don’t bother me because I don’t feel as if my government is forcing me into Christianity anymore than their Speed Limit sign tricks me into going 55…

I believe that most people are Libertarians.  They just don’t understand Libertarians-so they naturally are apprehensive-and the media/education system has convinced them it is some sort of no holds barred Anarchy.  The Sheep count themselves to sleep…

Think of it this way.  Fiscally conservative, socially liberal.  That sounds like most everyone I know…

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I’ve been reading Seneca, Letters from a Stoic.

Try it.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As always,

John.

 

 

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Waiting.

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Hank woke up when the tobacco juice swam down his throat. He coughed, jumped from the recliner, and wiped brown drool from his chin.
“Aw shit jesus.” he said.
He’s slept through the game but what did it matter.
Damn Skins suck, he thought. Probably lost anyway. Josie looked up at him and barked.
“Shut up, Josie” he said. “We’ll go out in a minute, promise.”
Josie twitched her tail as she ran into Elise’s old room.

It had been six months since the fight. But still, the room smelled of Elise’s perfume, her hair on the pillowcases.
Josie hopped on Elise’s bed, circled twice, and hunkered down next to the pillow. Hank spit his wad of Red Man in the overflowing trashcan. The black, wet leaves bounced off a whiskey bottle and fell to the floor.
“Shit Jesus” he said.

Rain clouds smothered the light, suffocating the room with a sudden darkness. Once, months before, Hank would’ve wondered about his Harley, or the windows of his truck. But now, he stared out the kitchen window hoping it would rain. And rain. And rain.

He felt his hand twitching as the first few drops hit the window. It was one of the replacement windows he’d bought, that she’d wanted… Whenever he looked out of them he saw her face. Her smile. Her tears. Her fears. After the fight, he’d seen her outlined by the new patio door. She was wearing a red sweater with tight jeans. Her hair was in a ponytail but covered with dirt and leaves.
“Turn off the light.” she said.
Hank had gotten up, spit tobacco on the floor, and turned off the light.
She was gone with the light.

The green leaves turned white in the wind as the rains picked up. He pulled back the patio curtains and watched the door. He could picture the river’s edge. The earth melting into the rushing water, twigs and leaves resisting, then giving in… Hank twisted the bottle open. He took a big pull from it and wondered how long it’s been since whiskey made him wince. His mind wandered back to the patio door.

Josie slept on the pillow until the crashing thunder pulled a yelp from her. She scurried down the hall, back into the living room. Hank was on his fifth pull by then. She sat next to Hank and watched the patio door.

Water pelted against the patio. It was the only sound in the room. Each heavy rain, Hank waited this way. Sitting. Drinking. Watching the patio door. One day, he knew, something would happen. The why of her leaving, the how of her leaving would all be discovered during a heavy rain. Until then, he waited.

He heard her voice.
“Don’t forget the cheese.”
The words of his memory never lined up. Never made sense. The fight was over a big thing. One of those big things that makes or breaks a couple. Something big that changes your life while your busy screaming, crying, and arguing. Hank couldn’t remember why they were fighting.
“Honey, open this jar for me, please.”

She had walked in and then it was raining.
“We should get new windows Hank.”
And something was on her face.
“Do you want burgers or steak?”
A mark.
“I called your Dad. He’s feeling better.”
She stood in the kitchen. Her voice echoing in the scarcely furnished home.
He stood up. He knew that. To the bathroom? Or the bedroom? He couldn’t remember. Even now. Six months of asking and not knowing.

Lightening cracked, knocking out the one working lightbulb. Hank and Josie sat in darkness. Josie began to bark.
“Shut up Josie.” Hank said. “We can’t go out now.”
Josie went to the kitchen and peed.

She was missing for a while. He knew that. People called and came by and offered help and prayed and… He remembers seeing her face on TV and the police asking him, “What did she have on last time you saw her Mr. Burke?” He thought it was funny. Them calling him Mr. Burke.

“Burgers” he said. “Burgers will be fine.”
“Cool” Elise said.
Was that it? He thought. Did we fight about fucking burgers?
“How did your job interview go?”
“I skipped it, wasn’t feeling good, you know.” Hank said.

Hank watched the rain twinkle against the black woods behind their house. The safety light made it seem as if the rain began at the top of the pole. He looked down into the woods and waited.
“She’ll come back.” he said.

Then his picture was on the TV set. No one would say for sure, but he knew it. They all thought he had killed her. He told them they had a fight but he couldn’t remember about what.
“Have you seen my car keys?”
A detective who squinted when he spoke visited.
“Mr. Burke. Tell me exactly what happened the day you say your wife disappeared.”
“She came home. We decided to have burgers. We got in a fight. Then she was gone. I haven’t seen her since.” Hank didn’t cry.
“What did you, better yet, how did you two fight?”
“Well.” Hank said.

They found a security video in Richmond that showed Elise at an ATM two hours after Hank said they fought. She was crying and withdrew two-hundred dollars. The cops laid off Hank but kept asking him where she might have gone.
“I can’t remember what we fought about.” he said. When the paper hit with a still frame of her at the ATM, everyone left Hank and Josie alone. The store let Hank have the video.
“We figured you might want it.” the young manager said.
He threw it in the trash.

Hank watched the rain and thought about that video.
“Honey, you want to rent a movie?”
Maybe it was the burgers. He didn’t know. Hank remembered the rain though. The windshield wipers thumped as he watched Elise take the two hundred dollars. He watched her jump back into her car. He knew he followed. He knew he was mad.
Why? He couldn’t remember. Something in her face? On her face?

Hank and Josie watched the night pass by. Hank waited for the earth to give way completely. One day she’ll be back.
“Why the hell did you follow me you nutcase?”
Somebody would notice her there, after the rain.
“Hank!”
Sometimes he could feel her wet face against his hard hand.
Something about burgers, maybe.
“Hank, stop! I’m sorry.”
He couldn’t remember what they fought about.
Hank pulled some tobacco out.
And waited.

Allison’s dancing again.

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There was a time when it was easy. Back when all she had to do was shower, throw on a little make up, and head out with a Screwdriver and that man-melting grin of hers. She’d get in her beat-up car and fish for the cover charge on the floorboard. A few crumpled bills in the clean ashtray. Scattered tip money from the night before. Music would pulsate through the brick walls of Joe B’s. It was a warehouse converted nightclub full of soldiers and rich kids from the local private college. Looking this way–casual, perfect hair and perfumed pressure points sending out waves of ‘you want me’–she belonged. Soldiers would stare at her as she entered the dark club. Cute, broad-shouldered boys with high-n-tights, clean hard faces, and stamina. She loved their shoulders and respected their service. But more than anything, it was the stamina. Lots of stamina.

She met Dave there. He was sitting at the end of the bar, bobbing his head and looking around. She smiled at him. He came over and cracked the dumbest jokes she’d ever heard.
“You aren’t good at this are you?” she said.
“Lots of folks say I make an ass of myself real good actually.” His smile was crooked and something about his face told her he’d never grow a beard. But still she laughed at him.
“Let’s go dance, come on.” she said.
Dave shrugged it off. “I got more left feet than a centipede!”
She leaned in to hear him talk. To let him smell the perfume and make his move.
“We could dance slow. Nobody’d notice if you held onto me tight.”
“Let me request a song.”
He took off into the crowd. She ordered them two more drinks.
When he came back, she asked,
“What song did you request?”
The DJ let the hip-hop song die down.
“We’ve got a request from Dave to Allison.”
She smiled. He took her hand.
Steel guitars began to play as the dance floor cleared. A twangy singer she didn’t know sang about meeting a girl and falling in love.
She and Dave were the only two on the floor. He held her tight.
“Everyone will notice us now.” She said with a grin.
“When a man like me dances with a woman like you, we want everyone to know it.”

Dave got out of the Army and started working at Coleman Trucking. A dedicated job running loads to Nashville and back four times a day. Allison stayed on waitressing until their first child arrived. She stayed with the baby in a two-room efficiency. Dave came home each night, held the baby, drank beer, and watched the news. Allison walked down to the phone booth to call her mother.
“Something’s wrong Mama.” She’d say.
“What honey?”
“I don’t know. I just thought it was gonna be different.”
“We all did.”

Dave was laid off four weeks before their third Christmas. Coleman went out of business. He played with they baby in the complex’s courtyard. Dave crushed beer cans on his head. The baby would laugh. Allison sold cars downtown for a while. She’d drive by Joe B’s sometimes. It had been converted into self-storage. She thought maybe there was symbolism in that. She smoked in secret. Never knew what would make Dave angry.

Dave talked about reenlisting while she made dinner.
“I’d still be an E-3 I bet. That’s about a thousand a month.”
“Who’d watch the baby when you went to basic. I’d still have to work.”
“So, you wouldn’t miss me?”
“Sure.”
“But you’re not telling me not to go. You’d know we’d be separated a lot. Maybe a year or two at a time.”
“We have to do something.”
“I couldn’t pass the PT test to get back in anyway. My back is fucked up.”
She stirred the Hamburger Helper.
“I didn’t know your back was hurt.”
“What?” he turned down the TV.
“I said dinner is done.”
“Great.” He opened another beer.

She stood in the gym beneath a banner that said, “Welcome Back Alumni!” Everyone from ten years ago hugged and shook hands like old people.
“Allison, you look so good! What’s your secret?”
“Sixty hours a week of mind numbing labor.”
Laughter.
“You always were the funny one. Somebody told me you married a soldier. That’s gotta be exciting!”
“He got kicked out the month we got married. He hit an officer. Broke his jaw in two places.”
Laughter.
“Oh, I’m sure. You’re so funny.”
“Anybody spike the punch yet?” Allison asked.

He was drunk when she got home.
“Anybody ask about me?” he said.
“None of them knew you Dave.”
“Damn baby needs a change. Little fucker, shit all over the place.”
“Just now?” she said going over to the crib.
“A couple of hours ago I guess. Is the store still open?”
She began to change the baby’s diaper. Feces stuck to the girl’s folds, dried up on her thighs.
Dave put on his shoes.
“You got any money? I’m walking up the street.”
“Honey, I’ll go up for you. You want a 12-pack? Maybe some chips?”
“You’re the greatest.” Dave said letting his shoes fall back to the floor.
Allison picked up the baby.
“I’ll take her to give you some peace. You deserve it.”
“Hurry back.” he said.
“I will honey. I love you.” she said.
“What?”
“Nothing. Be back in a bit.”

The store was closed so she drove passed it. The baby fussed some. Allison found a 24 hour store and bought some formula, one bottle, and small pack of nipples.
“You guys sell Grain?” she said.
“Yeah.” the clerk said looking at the clock. “For about five more minutes.”
“Great.”

The baby was asleep. Allison drove around town listening to music on the one working speaker. She drove by Joe B’s. It was being converted back into a nightclub.
A sign advertised. “Coming Soon: GRINDERS!”
“Grinders.” she said to herself.
She took a sip of the grain alcohol. She grimaced.

The baby didn’t wake up when the driver’s door closed. Allison walked up to the door of Joe B’s/Grinders. It was quiet and dark. She broke out the glass on the door and worked the lock open. The building smelled of drying varnish and fresh-cut pine. Moonlight came in through a high window, brushing the dance floor a gray-white hue. She remembered the music. The shoulders. She saw herself out there again. Laughing.

Allison began to weep. She took another sip then threw the bottle into the air. The glass shattered four feet in front of her. She pulled out her lighter and bent down.

When she exited the building the flames were spreading faster than expected. Fire licked the blackness leading to the second floor. It spread like wings to the walls. Allison turned back to look at the building. The baby still asleep.
She got in the car and drove away slowly.
She stopped to fill up at a station near the interstate. Allison read the big green signs. Knoxville. Charlotte. Richmond. She bought two packs of diapers. When they pulled on I-24 East, Allison glanced at the rearview mirror several times but knew they’d never be followed.

Accept the Fringe.

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I’m sitting there Wal-Mart checking the cheap-ass prices and wondering why they don’t carry Old Milwaukee in six packs so the non-drunk rednecks have something to drink. I was also thinking of The Doors because writing was on the back burner and what is writing without Brother Jim et al telling you its O-fucking-K to be a little nuts sometimes, when the mother of an old dead friend pops up next to me like a guilt trip with no ticket.

She says, “I want a copy of the poem you wrote about Harmon. Send it to Gary.”

Now let’s be honest here for a moment. I can’t tell you fine folks about Harmon, or Gary, or Betty, or the fishing trips, or the jokes, or the memories without crying in my Pabst like a two-year old. Harmon is off-limits. But there I was, in Wal-Mart (as sterile an environment as any operating room) and being reminded that a tad bit over a year ago one of my oldest, most loved friends was killed and I-in my rampage of ambitious bullshit and comfortable insecurities-never sent her my thoughts.

Let’s get down to some ugly monkey balls about this whole “Writing” thing if we can Pedro.
I put it in quotes because so many of us (capital US) consider “Writing” a sort of neo-religion that we assume there is some mystical language to solving its mystical power.
I call Bullshit so loud a headstone falls over…

You don’t have to be the best writer. Or published. Or edited. Or polished. Or worthy of your “fav” writer’s attention without a restraining order…BUT to someone, somewhere, at some point…YOU are the greatest writer alive.

You are it. The Hemingway of their memories. The Kerouac of their dreams. The Irving of their sorrow. YOU ARE FUCKING IT…

Bright as Time Square. Hot as a Forest Fire. YOU are it. You have the feelings, the emotions, the words, the ability,the talent, the time, the willingness to express whatever they feel.

Call it Obligation.

Call it Guilt.

Call it Love.

It is You and you, my virtual friends, are It.

You are the best writer they know because no one else is willing to sit down and write something while crying a little…while dying a little…while wondering “WHY ME?” so loud God grabs his (or hers) ear plugs.

>>>>>>>>>>

I read my poem about Harmon.
I read my post about Harmon.
I cried about Harmon while hiding in a dark kitchen like a rat.

By the time Gary opens his Facebook, Brother Jim will be silent, and the Pabst will all be gone.
My talk will be about a newborn Son, my potential house, and other realities.
But my mind will remember that I’m the best writer others know simply because I’m willing to cast it all out and let them reel it in…my tears will remember Harmon and his Mother’s request in the middle of Wal-Mart.

And when I have the time…
I’ll sit down, again, to write.

Because that is who I am.
Like it.
Lump it.
Fuck it.

It is all there is…

So be it…

That’s what we do. That’s who YOU are.

Accept the Fringe.

-John.

Room 106.

2 Comments

I heard that old song about “Do you like Pina Coladas?” today on the way to work. By the time I got to work and had a moment, the entire song had become a twisted little story in my head. I’ll probably drop this one, but here it is…

She goes by ‘SuzYchaTTer4U’.
He goes by ‘FunButchie512′.

She’s at the clean end of a single-wide. Diapers overflowing the trash can. Another scream. Another cry for Mommy.
She types, “Hey, enybody out ther?”
He’s on floor two of a three level McMansion. A stolen day from work.
Call in slick. Look for something else. Something to fill the space between.
He types, “Fun Butchie’s here baby!”

The right words, the right time.
Back and forth.
Shallow.
Sexual.
Deeper.
Back off.
Keep it light.

She types, “U evr ben in-love?”
He types, “Let’s not talk about that.”
She types, “Ok. Favorite Movie?”
He types, “Body Heat.”
She types, ” ;-)”

He asks about meeting up.
“A late lunch….or more….?…”
Another cry. “Mommy, Joey took my chicken nugget.”
She calls a friend. They exchange baby sitting when it gets too much.
It gets too much more often lately.
She types, “I’m free. The nanny is coming.”
He types, “U have a nanny?”
She types, “Hubby pays.”

He’s got to pick her up.
Hubby has the car.
She’s gotta broken leg she avoids explaining.
Address.
GPS.
He’s on the road wondering.
She’s running through the single-wide.
Quick shower. Hair won’t dry in time.
Make up. Light on the cheeks, heavy on the eyes.
A spray of perfume.
She sees a red car pull up out front.
It idles.
She watches it through the window.
The sitter comes in the back.
“Wow girl. You gotta date?”
“Sort of.”
“Gettin’ some?”
“Maybe.”

She limps out to the car. He reaches over to open the door.
He smells dollar store perfume as she sits.
“What do you wanna do?” he asks.
They ride aimlessly down a city street.
“It’s been a while. I want what we talked about.”
“I guess we can find a motel somewhere.”
“So long as you pay.”
“Ok.”
“And I want some wine coolers. Any flavor.”
They stop at a gas station to buy wine coolers.
The clerk gives a smile.
“Wine Coolers at one in the afternoon?”
The clerk glances out towards the car.
“I work midnight shifts.” he says.
“Yep. I bet.” the clerk says.

They pull up in front of the Roundabout Motel.
A sign with peeling paint advertises Free HBO.
“They got cable.” he says.
“You watchin’ TV?” she says.
He pays the dot Indian behind the counter.
Fifty-Nine bucks + tax. Cash.
“You don’t have an hourly rate?” he says.
“You pay for all 24 of them at once.” the dot Indian says.

Room 106, a smoking room. She looks like a smoker to him.
They don’t talk. He moves around the room. As if checking for something.
“What’re you looking for?” she asks.
“Just looking.”
“I’m gonna shower off.” she says.
He walks over. Gets close to her face and touches her hair.
“Your hair’s still wet from a shower.”
“Still.” She gulps the second wine cooler.
“It’s been a while.” she says.
“You and Hubby don’t have sex?”
“Hubby? Oh yeah. We do. It’s not much though. I sleep through it.”
“Oh.”
“How about you and wifey?” she says.
“Let’s not talk about that.”
“Ok. Favorite Food?” she says.
“Onion Rings.” he says.
“I’m gonna shower first.”

She’s drying off when he gets undressed.
He sees the freckles on her chest.
She asks about the scar on his back.
“How?”
“Let’s not talk about that.”
“Ok. Favorite drink?” she says.
“Shirley Temple”
He showers off as she pulls the sheets down.

She runs a hand over the bed. Cool and clean. He gets out of the shower.
“Come here. Dry me off.”
She smiles.
“Yes sir.”
She walks over and dries him off. She reaches up to kiss him.
“Not ’till I say so.”
“Yes sir.”

He lays back on the bed.
She obeys his commands.
Hesitant explorations.
“Hurt me” she says. “Like you said online.”
“Ok.”
He looks at her.
He wonders if she was ever pretty.
“You’re beautiful.” he says.
“Just do what you said online.”
“Ok.”

Moments pass with grunts and moans. She scratches his back and apologizes. They laugh.
“Turn this way. No the other way.” she says.
They laugh again.

Afterwards, she lights a cigarette.
She gulps wine cooler number four.
“It’s warm.” she says.
“Set it on the A/C.” he says.
“I’m gonna shower off.” she says.
She throws the bottle in the trash.

He’s dressed when she comes out of the bathroom.
He ignores the freckles on her chest.
She lights another cigarette.
“Smoking bother you?” she says.
“No.” he says.
“Good. I hate to be rude.”

They wait for the conversation that would lead to a logical ending.
She smokes.
He turns on the TV.
“So, you are watchin’ TV.”
“Free cable.” he says.
“You’re silly.”
“I need to get home.” she says.
“Ok. I’ll take you.”

They drive with the radio on.
A pool company is offering a discount.
“You gotta pool at your house?” she says.
“Yes.”
“Must be nice.”
“It can be until you have to clean it.”
“I gotta friend who had a pool. Her kid drowned in it.”
“That sucks.” he says.
“Yeah.”

They idle outside her single-wide.
She tries to kiss him good-bye.
He moves to the side and kisses her cheek.
“That’s ok.” she says.
She limps up the sidewalk.
He waits until she’s inside, then drives off.

She gets inside and changes her name.
She becomes ‘LisaReady4U’.

He gets back to his second floor.
He becomes ‘HeyLadyz451’.

Listing history, calling the faithful, reflecting on a fictional childhood…

2 Comments

We are looking to buy a house. Yes, I’m 40, married and the father of 4 (known) children and just getting around to buying a house. I had a choice once about 8 years ago: Buy a house or start a business. Currently I don’t own a house or a business so yeah…not too bright.

We contacted the real estate folks and they sent listings. Growing up in Crewe (population hovering 1,000) I lived in a total of 9 different houses in 18 years. In the last 5 years we lived in 5 different houses. The constant moving was a reminder that money was a theory, not a fact.

Of the houses I lived in, three are now for sale and within our price range. The one my parents had built before their divorce in 1980 now has English Ivy growing INTO the chimney while a foreclosure notice flaps on the breezy front porch. Two others were rentals but now have been “renovated” by homeowners hoping to make a profit.
I think about that country song out at this time. A woman sings about visiting her old home and refers to it as “The House that built me” or something like that. I like the song. As interesting it may be to buy a home that my family once rented, or to renovate the home my parents built I just can’t see it. Crewe is still Crewe. We are waiting for a house in the country with some land. We like living in the back yard during summer, turning up the music, having open containers of alcohol, riding four-wheelers, swimming in the pool and letting the dog run free. We enjoy telling the kids to go outside and knowing they’ll be alone.
Those old houses built me, but now they need to build someone else.

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I started this blog to talk about writing but soon realized I don’t have much to talk about. I don’t organize an outline, agonize over characterization, develop symbolism or consider writing ‘hard work’. Maybe that’s my problem, but so far, my editor doesn’t think so.
She calls it free writing.
Editing requires work, writing requires courage. Or stupidity. Or arrogance. Truth is I’ve got plenty of courage, stupidity, and arrogance. I’m covered.

You need some courage to say what you want to say and not give a monkey’s nut if anyone else gets it. Someone will ‘get it’, even if the first person who reads it says, “Yeah, maybe you need a urinalysis and some therapy.”

For the record, taking a whiz quiz doesn’t show how much Robotussin you drink or if you slip a blotter of acid under you tongue every other Friday night.

So I don’t have neat little lists and writing prompts to offer. Sorry.
But I do offer you faith.

I have faith you can write the words you hear in your head.

I have faith those words will ring true to someone, somewhere, one day, eventually.

I have faith that if you think about writing, want to write, and enjoy writing then you are a Writer. Period.

I have faith that Life is much simpler than the human brain can fathom.

I have faith that sitting in front of a computer waiting for inspiration is akin to playing the lottery; odds are you lose and feel stupid for even trying. Go Live. Inspiration is a grown up, it’ll take care of itself. Promise.
Writing is your Life reflected by a mirror disguised as Inspiration.

Being yourself isn’t easy, that’s why so few people do it.

>>>>>>>>>>>

Monday I plan on posting the beginning of a story called, “Roscoe’s Marker”. It’s another story based around Mahalia, VA. The idea is to eventually collect the short stories based in Mahalia. Right now, they are being edited for submission to magazines (print & online) in hopes of developing a resume. A writer’s resume is essentially a list of published work, workshops attended, awards etc.

Mahalia is a place filled with tragedy, rumor, gossip, inspiration, comedy, beauty, abortionists, love, pedophiles, drunks, one-eyed midgets, circus freaks, ghosts, retired secret agents, homeless Phds, rednecks, Yankees, rapists, preachers, monkeys, and suicidal buildings. We have no grocery store but seven places to buy beer & lottery tickets. Storefront churches fill main street as old churches are demolished for parking lots. We had a canibal but he was killed years ago when his propane grill blew up. There are rumors of a voodoo lady who lives just out of town, but others say she’s more of a witch doctor. Apparently, there’s a difference. We have one “buy-here, pay-here” car dealership run by a bible-thumping Nazi with a lisp and an out of control shoe fetish. The cemetery has a tombstone shaped like a dollhouse. Everyone is related to someone who goes by the name “Bubba”. No one waves at strangers since that accident up on the big highway.
There are 3 degrees of seperation in Mahalia.
Six is just too much.
The whole town is on the wrong side of the tracks.

>>>>>>>

Watch The Bucket List.

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Learning to swim like an edited Salt shaker.

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I dipped another toe in the literary pool yesterday by meeting with a professional editor. Her office is on the fifth floor of a renovated Presbyterian Church in the financial district of Richmond. It was tidy with a love seat that matches our own living room furniture. My Hallmark Channel side took it as a sign I was in the right place.

Over the years I’ve had friends and family read stories I’ve written. The responses have been predictably positive because those people seem to like me for some peculiar reason. But my notion of “John Duffy-Writer” is not a popularity contest or even an ego-stroking love fest by my peoples. My goal is “John Duffy-Best Writer he can be”. My excuses–ignorance, Army, Marriage, Children, Money, Career, starting college, finishing college–were either memories, supportive, or over. In order to push that vision forward I had to endure several Negative views of my work. In a practical sense, I know Writers face rejection more than approval, meaning my history of approval was more a sign of my adolescent fears than my creative abilities.

beep

In the summer of 1985 I picked up a part-time job at a little restaurant in Crewe, Virginia. A now deceased friend, Timmy, was hired as well. The still living man who owned the place was showing us how to make the Pizza sauce. While half-way listening to his instructions I put in too much salt. The Dead Sea level of too much salt. Timmy laughed mentioning something about my getting fired on the first day. The man, who I still refer to as “Sir” or “Mr. Breeden”, responded with this approximate quote.
“Hey, you can’t screw up if you just stand there and watch.”
Directed at Timmy, the comment still resonates in the rubber room of my mind.

beep

I think Writers should focus on their thoughts, ideas, and emotions when writing. I think Editors should focus on the Reader’s thoughts, ideas, and emotions when reading. All of my submissions to magazines returned rejection letter signatures. My inquiries to Literary Agencies resulted in virtual yawns. I’ve endured impersonal, negative feedback. I wasn’t standing around watching someone else make mistakes. But those could be rationalized.
“I sent it to the wrong mag.”
“They get too many submissions to really, really, really read my stories.”

I sent a story over to the editor via email three days before the meeting. I was nervous as hell when I walked in. Part of who I am was sitting on her desk covered in penciled slashes and question marks. Great. Hand me some more salt. She was a pleasant person with a soft-spoken demeanor and shoes too big for her ankles.

We talked for two hours about my short stories, novel ideas, editing needs, and finally, the story I’d sent over. I prefer blunt realism to dulled emotionalism. Apparently, she only knows blunt realism. She was honest but not brutal.

I detached my emotions from the writing so I would avoid the histrionic responses she later told me many writers bring to editing sessions. Perhaps praise is easiest from friends and critique is easiest from strangers. I don’t know.

If you write because you can’t help it, then you need to get rejected more often. Call it the clichéd baptism by fire if you wish. There is no need for sadomasochism but let people know you want the bloodied thorns, not just the plastic roses. If all you receive are plastic roses, find different people.

When I left we had agreed to work together.
My story needed revision in several spots but overall wasn’t bad.
I hadn’t paid a dime for the bloodied thorns.
As I walked to my car holding my manuscript I got the same goofy look on my face I did when I got my rejection letters and agency responses.
It was a look of amused disapproval. I knew I was a little closer.
This was a bit more of the water in which I wanted to swim.
I thought about that day in 1985.

I’m glad I didn’t stand there and watch.