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.

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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.

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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.

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As always,

John.

 

 

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Roscoe’s Marker-the Gardens.

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Roscoe jerked the mower awake. It sputtered and smoked. He watched the silver puff rise into the breeze. He wondered how to make a cloud. An image came to mind of Jesus trimming the lawn in heaven. Jesus would come up close on the street of honeysuckle and sunshine without scraping the blade. Roscoe knew Jesus could do that with no problem. By the time he finished a few rows he could smell the fresh grass in the air. He stopped and inhaled thinking that if every cemetery smelled this good nobody would mind dying. Not much.

He saw a brown Lincoln pull in. It moved slower than most cars he’d seen in the Gardens. Its right front tire slipped off the pavement, cutting a shallow rut along the road.
“Hey. You can’t ride on the grass any!”
The car drove up the curving hill over towards the older section of the Gardens. Roscoe choked out the mower. Mr. Reynolds would want him to say something.
“Say it politely. But say it anyway.” Mr. Reynolds would say.

The car squeaked to a stop so loud it echoed along the tree line.
Roscoe came up on the vehicle as the door opened.
A woman’s leg, wrapped in thick beige nylons, swirled in the air trying to find the earth.
Roscoe stood still.
“Ma’am. I gotta ask that you don’t drive on the grass.”
A mumbled reply as the foot found solid ground.

She stood no more than four feet and wore sunglasses that covered half her face along with most of her profile. Her lips danced around inaudible words. Roscoe caught a whiff of her lavender powder. He coughed. The lady didn’t move. She turned her head back and forth. Behind her sunglasses weak eyes squinted.
“Ma’am. I gotta ask you–”
“Where’s Howard?” she said. Her voice was high with cracks arriving at the end of the sentence.
“Ma’am, I can help you find anyone. Been here twenty years.”
“You moved him. You people have moved my Howard somewhere. He was over there last week. But that ain’t his marker. I know his marker. That ain’t Howard’s marker!”
“Ma’am, we don’t move nobody at the Gardens. The state don’t like it, the families don’t like it and most of all, God don’t like it, at all. We don’t move folks here, ma’am. I can help you find him if you want. Whass his lass name?”
“What? I asked where you moved Howard and you start your preaching ’bout God.”
“No ma’am. I won’t preaching on nothing at all. I was just telling you…Ma’am I can help you find him. Whass his lass name?”
“Carlyle. Howard Carlyle. He was 6 foot tall with this wavy black hair. No gray hair. Howard never had no gray hair. Beautiful black hair. He was near–”
“The white stone. He over by the white stone.” Roscoe said.
“Well, I don’t know anyone named Whitestone. And I’m sure my Howard doesn’t either.”
“No ma’am. White stone ain’t a person it’s a stone. That’s white. Is over that little hill and to the right some. You’ll see it plenty. Carlyle is next to Mrs. Hewitt”
“Abigail Hewitt! That’s right. My Howard is next to Abigail.” she said. A smile cracked the foundation on her face.
“Yes ma’am. Her marker it just say Hewitt but I know it’s a woman’s marker on account of only a man comes sees it. You can tell a person by who visits their marker.” Roscoe said.
“I bet so. Thank you. Over by the white stone? Thank you.”

She bent back into the brown Lincoln. They both topped the hill slowly. Roscoe heard the brakes squeak again before he pulled the lawn mower cord. He enjoyed the vibrations coming up through his hands. The silence hiding beneath the lawn mower’s whine let Roscoe’s mind drift into the privacy of loud noises. Cars drove by him as he cut down by the road. He felt the whoosh of warm air, smelled their exhaust but still heard nothing but the whine of the lawn mower. He noticed the grass clippings flying up and to the right. They looked like tiny helicopters to him. He remembered the helicopter seeds that would drift out of the wind in his Momma’s back yard. He’d throw them back up and laugh. When no one looked, he’d still do it. He finished up near 4 pm. The Chrysler was long gone and Roscoe had seen no other visitors all day. He liked his days productive, imaginative, and silent.

To avoid the giant gray house he left the Gardens from the back of the cemetery. Over the hill, passed that white stone and through the part where all the old, old graves where. The Confederate graves with names like Obadiah or Esther etched in them and mold sleeping on the sides. Bent over stone almost touched the earth. Roscoe let them be. God don’t want nobody touching no markers, he figured. If God wants the marker to fall, then let it fall Roscoe.
“Ain’t no mind of mine.” he said.

He cut through the woods and journeyed across the tracks. Roscoe came up on a privacy fence he hadn’t seen last time he went this way. He walked along the fence, towards the bridge, hoping to find the end so he could get back into town. The fence ended at the bridge. Roscoe came out a way up from the giant gray house. From this angle he could see the backyard completely. He looked at the landfill of a yard and letting his eyes drift upward they locked on a person in a back window.

Her hair was matted on top with ragged, unkempt bushes of hair on the side. Roscoe froze. She lifted a dirty hand and waved. Roscoe waved back. Across the top of the window an adult arm flashed then drew the curtain closed. Roscoe stood still. He didn’t know what he was waiting for, but he waited anyway. He replayed the girl’s image in his mind. Her wave, her hair.
Later that night, when Roscoe talked to Jesus, he asked
“Did you see her crying to?”

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

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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.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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.

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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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The Legend of Red Hammer, 2.

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Skinner heard the clanging. That fat bitch is calling in her pumpkin boy, he thought. Every shot pumpkin boy had at normalcy was taken the day that heifer spit him out like a bad melon. Skinner didn’t know the woman’s name. She and her pumpkin boy had lived across the street for five years. He knew none of his neighbors by name. Only the unspoken nicknames he’d assigned them upon first impression. For two years “Pedro the Burrito Lovin’ Midget” lived next to “Fat Bitch and Pumpkin Boy”. On the other side of FB & PB was “Preacher Paul”. Preacher Paul always blasted bluegrass gospel and waved as if Jesus was waving back. Skinner hated them all. Smelly, loud, waving neighbors who consistently eyed his prize-winning lawn with envy.

“Lazy asses.” Skinner said when the bell rang again. “She won’t even go call Pumpkin Boy’s name. Lazy fat bitch.” Skinner went back to lopping his boxwood carefully when he heard the echo of the back door’s slam. He was a tall man with Roman features blurred by stubble and aged jowls. A mouth too small for his face, lips too small for his mouth pursed holding in chewing tobacco. No one ever saw Skinner without a jaw full of chew. No one ever saw Skinner spit. His yard and house were immaculately maintained. The white vinyl siding contrasted the deep green of his favorite oaks and pines. For six years straight, Skinner and his perfectly coiffed yard won the Blue Ribbon from Mahalia’s Garden Club. He never attended a meeting and insisted on no pictures in the paper but Skinner always cleaned up for the ceremony. He’d don his pressed khakis, cleanest white shirt and polished black shoes before making the four-minute ride to the Community Center. The ladies would all stare at him. Men shook his hand but knew better than to linger near for more than a polite moment. He was known as a contrarian bastard with a bad temper and an opinion on everything but knowledge about nothing. His jaw would work a plug of tobacco as he let tiny insults slip out. Dagger sized nouns tucked inside barbed wire sentences. Skinner’s reputation pleased him. It let him sulk in misery and stay alone for yard work, house maintenance, and watching his lazy ass neighbors in peace.

He heard a voice coming from the stucco shack of Fat Bitch & Pumpkin Boy.
“Just do what I tell you…” the female voice yelled.
“Ok, ok.” Pumpkin boy replied letting the battered storm door close.
Skinner looked across the street at Pumpkin Boy.
Pumpkin Boy gave a crooked grin and waved.
Skinner looked away until he heard the dirt and gravel crush under the weight of Pumpkin Boy’s feet.
“Aw shit.” Skinner mumbled to the boxwood. “Damn kid’s coming over.”
Turning Skinner noticed the boy had two empty milk jugs. By the time Pumpkin Boy reached the edge of Skinner’s yard, his face was soaked. His lips flopped like seals over his teeth as Pumpkin Boy’s exhausted body clamored for oxygen. The twenty-foot journey was too much for Eugene’s chub rolls to handle. He put up a finger before dropping his hand to his knees.
“Boy what the hell is wrong with you? Did you walk over here or swim the English Channel?”
“I’ve got a genetic problem.” Eugene replied.
Skinner pictured the Fat Bitch being lowered from a Hospital Van a few weeks back. Her exposed, red legs looking like giant sausages from the big toe up.
“Yeah boy, you do.” Skinner said.
“Momma sent me over. Wanted to know if we could borrow some water?”
“Borrow water?” Skinner said, wiping his face.
“Yes sir. Our water pipe’s busted and the man is coming next week to fix it and we was just needing some water for dishes and stuff.”
“How long your water been out?”
“Since the fifteenth, I guess. Can we borrow some?”
Skinner knew the town water bills were due on the fifteenth.
“When you gonna bring it back?” Skinner said.
“I don’t know.” Eugene looked down.
“Your water doesn’t work cause you ain’t got the money. Ain’t that right boy?”
“No sir. My momma said the water pipe’s busted and I gotta, well, the man is coming next week. And we gonna get it fixed. We got plenty a money. She retired from the circus, circus folks is rich.”
Skinner looked at Pumpkin Boy’s brown squinting eyes.
“I see your ball up in the air sometimes. You throw pretty high for a fat kid.”
“I’ve got a genetic–”
“Yeah, I know. But all the same you throw pretty high for a kid with a genetic problem.”
“My Daddy was a Russian strong man in the circus. Momma says I get my inner strength from him and my outer beauty from her.”
Skinner chuckled, then repressed the action.
“How old are you boy?”
“Twelve. Can we borrow that water? Momma really wants me to do the dishes it’s almost meal time.”
“Sure. There’s a well around back. Just pump the handle up and down.”
“A handle, you mean like a faucet thingy?”
“I’ll show you.”
Skinner turned. Eugene thought the creepy old man looked like a question mark covered in green work clothes. Skinner’s back was stooped, caving in his abdomen. His shirt was tucked tight into his pants. The material was bunched up at the back causing a pleated skirt look across the old man’s non-existent butt. Eugene laughed.
“What’s so funny boy?” Skinner said turning sharply.
“Nothing sir. Just a joke my momma told me from her circus days.”
“The well’s over there. Just lift that black handle up. After you put your jug underneath I mean. Then lift it up and pump like this.”
“Like a ketchup bottle when you’re eating spaghetti.” Eugene imitated Skinner.
“Yeah, Ok. That’ll work.”
Skinner sat on the spotless back porch. His gray eyes surveyed the lawn seeking out imperfections or stray blades of grass needing trimming.
“Get off my damn lawn!” Skinner yelled when Eugene’s extra wide shoes slipped off the sidewalk.
“Sorry sir.” he yelled back.
Eugene pumped the water until both jugs were full. Suddenly he realized he had no caps. His momma yelling at him about not having water, not having money, not having a child support check and not having her career distracted the boy when he picked up the jugs. I’ll just be careful, he thought. Take my time. I’m the son of a strong man afterall.
I’m the son of a strong man.

The Legend of Red Hammer. Ch. 1

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Down Dakota Avenue, on the west side of Mahalia, was a house that looked like a Monopoly piece covered in white, peeling stucco wrapped in a baseboard of dried, red dust. The battered storm door centered two split-sliding windows with smeared and foggy panes. A faded circus sign stuck to one window hiding the broken out corner of the glass. From the outside it appeared as if the walls inside were covered in mold, filth; a house that by all reasoning could never be cleaned, inside or out. This discarded Lego block house hunkered down between two ancient maples in a squared squat of indifference. Driving slowly down Dakota a passer-by would not notice the house. It was a two-bedroom rental engulfed by a pleading humility hoping to be ignored. In the unkempt backyard with its patches of tall grass peppered atop the dusty ground, beneath the humidity fighting sway of the plush maples, throwing a baseball as high as he can, and catching it once out of hundreds tries, was Eugene Klumpkin.

Eugene’s chubby face, painted with freckles and red blotches, fell from a shock of red-orange hair so bright it looked as if he were going hunting. Even in winter he looked sweaty with fat, dimpled and stained elbows. Pale, flabby flesh inherited from his mother shimmied under his arm with each up toss. The ball would drift in a backdrop of clear summer sky blue, Eugene would grin hopefully, and the ball would thud to the ground, again. And again. And again. It was a routine of Eugene’s each summer day. His hours spent beneath the maples throwing the ball up and missing it on the way down. His glove, a blue plastic disgrace from Goodwill, barely fit over the salty ham of his sweaty hand. He lunged and twirled around trying to catch the descending ball to no avail. Sequestered in his backyard, Eugene attempted to learn baseball each sunny day, until the bell rang.

Perched above the tattered aluminum backdoor of the low-rent adobe, a rusted bell clanged as the string coming from between the door and the jam was pulled. The string ran into the house, dangled along the ceiling by thumb tacked clothes hangers and into the bloated hands of Eugene’s mother. She was fat in the sense that the ocean is wet. Her girth filled her electric scooter to a point of spilling over, leaving the impression of melting dough sliding off the black canvas seat. She smelled. Her aroma wafted in a five foot perimeter of funk that hinted at corn chips and freshly poured asphalt. It took your breath away. When she grew weary of sitting or navigating the small house on her wheezing electric scooter, she rang the bell for Eugene to come back in the house. It was meal time. She had no breakfast, lunch, and dinner since time meant nothing to her eating. It was simply, a meal time. She looked up at one of the thousands of circus play-bills adorning the walls. Tattered and peeling the reminded her of her glorious past as “Fiona the Fattest Lady on Earth”. Her caricature, now yellow and discarded, could still be seen smiling in the middle of her fleshy, clownish face.

Eugene walked in wishing the water was turned on.