Archive for the 'writing' Category

28
Feb
09

New Short Story–Part 1

The Welder

 

I been thinkin bout this thing for a while now. I gots to tell someone bout it.

I been thinkin bout what makes people go. Well, what makes them do good in life. How come some people’s so sad and others strut around all giddy and happy.

 So what came to me was Jake Stephens. Ol Jake lived in a trailer down my driveway right next to the garage. Skinny? You aint seen a man skinny as Jake, but he’d work as a horse every day. Every damn day. Never had friends ova. Don’t know he had any cept maybe the guys he worked with.

“Beer?” Jake’d ask me anytime I went to check on him. He’d hold out a cold can. Kept nudgin it at me. “Beer?” Now I don’t drink much. Can admit there’s a day or two when a sip of Single Barrel does me some good, but not too often.

See, here’s what was strange about Jake. He was the only man I ever met seemed happy without connections.

“That’s life,” he’d say before taking another sip of beer. “You wake up, go to work, come back home, have a little somethin’, get up do it again.”

He had eyes brighter’n a light house. But like an icy color–blue. Arms like taut ropes, always movin, doin somthing. Always got a project.

“I’m a mechanic, John. That’s what I  do, jus like my father did.” He’d pull out a smoke  after he’d said something like that. “That’s alls I got to offer anyone. What a man does is what he is. ” His eyes would sparkle like you wouldn’t believe when he start talkin and drinkin a few. Still be in green Dickys, holes burned through all over like someone’d poured holes out a shaker. His hands had cracks on em, an his fingers were knotted up. Looked like driftwood.

Then he’d say this after he kept drinkin: “Yep, a man is what he does. That’s what Dad use a say.” A man jus layin there don’t mount to much. Some people likes ta think a man’s worth somethin even when he’s layin round. I say he’s worth less than nothin. He’s takin, not makin.”  He’d take a few more sips.  ” An a man either has a family or’s tryin ta get one.”By then Jake’d have a sheen coverin his eyeballs. A glow bout his face, too. He’d fall asleep for two minutes at a time. Think he’d be sleepin anyway, then his eyes’d pop open an he’d start jabberin away again s’if he’d been pretendin ta sleep. Maybe he’d jus been thinkin.

“You know I love ma boy, John. Evey day I get up an go and do my thing so I can be a man worth bein, jus hopin ma boy’ll see me an be proud for the first time. Proud a his papa.”

Now Jake never said a word bout his boy till he’d made a twelve pack disappear. But the beer washed away all Jake’s surface thoughts so that the thoughts he’d been thinkin without even knowin it came out.

I guess I’d known Jake then for at least fifteen years. Knew him from when we used to have breakfast at Jill’s Diner. Heard he was a drinker, but just sos you know, I never known him ta miss a day’s work on account of it. When he’d start talkin about the work he’d do on the cars and some weldin job he had comin up–I knew he was the real deal. I’m a welder myself.

When Jake got his divorce, only thing he had left was his camper–trailer. I had plenty of place to put him on my lot, so I let him settle down by my garage. He was down there, I’d say, bout three years. Didn’t change his schedule much. Sometimes he sucked up some overtime at work on Saturdays. Generally, we’d have breakfast most everyday at Jill’s, and most nights Jake’d pull down another twelve-pack.

Then, bout four months ago, somethin clicked in im. Jus somethin I could see was different. Despite everything, divorce from his wife an the beer an not havin his house, Jake was such a happy guy. Least he seemed it.

Right before Christmas I think it was, yeah I remember cause it was about twenty below with the wind that night–I went down to make sure Jake didn’t need anything.

“Common in, John”, Jake said. He stepped away from the door and fell back into his chair, which should have hit the dump about ten years prior. The way he fell back looked as if he’d given up on somthin. Normally, Jake’s a wiry lookin fellow. All stringy an jumpy. But that night he was kinda swishin around all loosy–goosy. His eyes told the rest of it, cause even when Jake was three sheets to the wind, his eyes normally sparkled.

He started in on me.

“John,” He looked like he’d start bawlin. “You know a man’s either got a family or’s tryin ta get one?” He chucked an empty can he’d been holdin, right over his shoulder. It bounced off the bathroom door an settled back by his foot.

“Yeah, you said that before an I guess you’re right.”

“An I’m glad for a lot of things, you know. Got a good job. That’s more’n my father had most a the time. Prolly worse a man not have a good job than no family. Wanna hand me anotha?” He flicked his hand at the beer case, which was torn open an layin by the front door. Bout six left in it. Guess maybe a draft was keepin the beer cool cause there was a pile of snow hedged along the bottom of that door an I could see flakes flyin up from the wind gettin in. I did what he wanted.

“Mind?” I said. I held another beer in my paw after he’d grabbed his.

“Plenty more where tha came from, John.”

So I popped it open and took a draw.

“This is it, I think.” Jake took me by surprise when he said that.

There was a long time before I said anythin. Just sat there waitin for him to finish.

“What’s it?”

“This is the last Christmas, I think.” He cleared his throat, settled down a little further in his chair. But then the old Jake showed up, a little grin on his face. “Sent Bobby, ma boy, Bobby, a letter. Told im how good I’d done. Told im how sorry I was for all the stupid shit I’d done long time ago.” His grin went down. “Sent the letter last week an told his mother ta tell im to look for it. Ain’t heard back yet.”

“He’ll  get it, Jake. Just take it easy. Why not come up to the house an have some pumpin pie? Vanessa made it today. She puts extra cinnemon in it. It’d win a ribbon somewhere.”

“Naw. That’s alright. Think I’m settled in for the night. Jus thinkin.”

“Don’t think too much,” I said. “it’ll get you in trouble, is all. All the thinkers out there, seems ta me ain’t done much but get us in trouble. Don’t get much done, an others seem a take their ideas places they weren’t meant ta go.”

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01
Feb
09

Part 3 Free-ebook project

Continuing Chapter 1

Or click as it were. David even gave a theatrical jump as if a bullet had really passed through his Medulla Oblongata. He fell back onto the bed, dissatisified with the experiment. His ability to carry out his own assissination could never be proven beforehand. That was the problem with all models. They really didn’t prove much. They just made people–mostly labratory-bound scientists–feel secure and smart. Like prophets. He hid the pistol under the mattress. The phone rang.

***

“It could get worse”, said Andrew. He dropped a magazine from his assault rifle, pulled a fully loaded one from his battle vest and stuffed it into the mag well.

“I really fucking hate it when people say that.” Trindle Drake stopped firing just long enough to glare at Andrew, both of them huddled like rabbits in a hole. Their hole happened to be surrounded by sandbags, their only protection against the withering fire that had kept them pinned for two hours now. Trindle returned to firing at the figures some 100 meters away behind a rock outcropping. “How the hell could it get worse?” He squeezed off a burst, then snapped on the mic on his helmet. ” Space Superiority Ship, Hoden, this is Reaper Eight, do you copy, over?” He leaned his head down near the damp clay at the bottom of the hole so that he could hear any reponse from Hoden’s crew.  Andrew was firing again.

“Tell them I’m running out of ammo,” said Andrew over his own gunfire.

Hoden, do you copy?” He could only shake his head. The Russians were already too close. It was only a matter of time before they’d pull a suppress and flank manuever. Trindle was surprised he and Andrew hadn’t caught a spiker grenade already. He removed his next to last magazine from its pouch and slammed it into his rifle. “Single shots. Go to singles. We’re purely defensive now.” He watched Andrew flip the fire selector on his rifle then go back to a supported position.

“This is Hoden, Reaper Eight, we copy. What is your grid?”

25
Jan
09

Octavia Butler

Science Fiction Author, Octavia Butler

Science Fiction Author, Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler, who passed away in 2006, was the only female, black, science fiction writer that know of. I’m going to try to find some of her novels here at the library. It’s very interesting to me when someone steps outside of their demographs comfort zone. She won a bunch of awards, including the Hugo Award, which is one of the highest honors of science fiction.

I’d like to see how much Butler was able to, if at all, to stay outside the easy, politically correct tide. I’ve read some of her interviews and I’m very impressed. For instance,in one interview which took place around the time of Hurricane Katrina and the openings of the Iraq war, she was asked how she felt at that time. Her answer impressed me in that, while she was not happy at all with either of the situation, she didn’t think it was the End of America. Here’s Butler: “But that doesn’t mean I think we’re all going down the toilet, I just don’t see where that hope will come from. I think we need people with stronger ideals than John Kerry or Bill Clinton. I think we need people with more courage and vision. It’s a shame we have had people who are so damn weak.”

Precisely, Octavia, and bless you for saying so.

She was also asked about what fiction had her attention at the time, and she responded about a book called Crater of Doom, by Walter Alvarez. On this she says: “It’s a history of the finding of the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs. I like it because it shows more about how science is done than most books that you read about the subject. It’s talks about how the way we think about science can become religious if we are not careful. There were people who were firmly entrenched in the belief that things can only happen one way, they found it difficult that it could happen another way.” 

Butler’s views are almost assuredly left-leaning. For one thing, that seems to be the current science fiction trend, as most sci-fi assumes a godless universe. None the less, I’m willing to give anything a shot. Maybe I’ll learn something along the way.

I’ll give some book reviews to tell everyone what I think about Butler’s work.

My favorite science fiction authors are: Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, Roger Zelazny, Lucius Shepard, Robert O’Brien, and most of all–PK Dick.  I almost added William Gibson to this list but I think he’s overrated in hind-sight.

I tend to avoid “hard science fiction” as I believe it’s an effort to dazzle an audience with scientific knowledge, most of which is probably actually quasi-scientific. I like sci-fi to tell me a good story, get me involved in the characters and effectively transport me to another reality. Hard sci-fi seems stilted and void of humanity. There are exceptional stories is the sub-genre of course, but such legends as Asimov and Arthur C. Clark

Till then.

04
Jan
09

Story Hits #1 on Helium.

Here it is: http://www.helium.com/items/488564-short-stories-life-lessons

23
Dec
08

Story I wrote a while ago

I wrote this story today. It’s short but says something. I think.

“I support a woman’s right to choose. It’s as simple as that. It’s her body.” Linda repeated the statement as mantra, just as she’d heard it said to her so many times by her classmates at Stanford.

“But it’s a baby, or it could be,” said Neil. He sipped his coffee and leaned back in his chair. He smashed down a rising anger within.

“It’s the mother’s body,” she repeated.

That evening, Linda went to bed with the normal and human expectation of waking the next morning. She had no terminal disease of which she was aware.

But aliens from the planet Halmatrus decided that they wanted to experiment with human ethical reasoning. How far could the Halmatrusians stretch the ethos of any given human being? Linda happened to be one of the subjects chosen for the alien’s scientific experiment which consisted of this: A person was chosen who held strong opinions on a given subject. The human was then transported back in time, and placed in a situation that challenged the person’s ability to remain faithful to his or her professed beliefs.

“You will be sent back in time, Linda Higgins,” the chief scientist explained to her. “and there, you will make some very important choices that could change the future.”

Linda thought that this was a grand opportunity. How many people get the chance to change the future? She had several things in mind. Several ways in which she could make the time to come much better than it had turned out in the future.

One day, in the past, Linda found a young woman, about the same age as Linda herself, crying at a bus stop. It took Linda several minutes to calm the lady down.

“What’s wrong? Can I help?” Linda loved to feel as though she were helping those who couldn’t help themselves.

“I just found out I’m pregnant,” said the young woman. “I can’t bring up a baby alone. My parents will disown me.”

“There are options you know.” Linda reassuringly ran her hand over the crying woman’s hair. “There’s a family planning clinic down the street. Have you considered it?”

“I couldn’t.” The woman looked up at Linda, searching for Linda’s argument. It was then that Linda delivered the most beautiful, succinct speech on a woman’s right to choose if she gave birth or not. The speech was soft, yet strong; she gave all of the reasons that a woman should only have babies that they felt were fated for a good life. “This is a bad world, a tough world,” Linda said. “why bring a life to it that has less than it will need to thrive?”

When Linda was done talking, the woman felt better. She wiped the tears from her cheeks. Only a rose colored glow gave evidence that she had been crying. She was convinced and relieved. The woman knew, now and thanks to Linda, that she would not have to live with the burden of an unwanted baby.

Two weeks later, the woman scheduled an appointment with a doctor at the family planning clinic. And two weeks after that, she went in to have a procedure done. A procedure that guaranteed that the fetus growing in her womb would not grow too large and become what we call a baby, and that baby would not have to deal with the pains of life. That was how the woman made herself feel better about what she’d done. She’d spared the child unnecessary pain.

Guilt may have taken root in the woman if she had known the effects of her actions. Just as the doctor completed the procedure, Linda blinked from existence. She simply disappeared, leaving a void in space for a nano second. The void closed with a crack, leaving no evidence that Linda had ever existed.

If only Linda would have asked the young woman her last name. If only. She may have recognized the name as her mother’s maiden name. And then, Linda may have considered the metaphysical aspects of her actions, that she had endorsed her own wiping from history.

Back on the planet Halmatrus, the scientists there were awed by humanity’s ability to stand up for what it believed in.

21
Dec
08

Whiskey diplomacy

The soldier limped under the weight of his large, canvas duffel. Tired yes, from jet-lag, and yet energized by the possibilities that lie before him at his new German duty station.

Several other soldiers walked with him, through the hospital-like cleanliness of the Frankfurt Airport. Monotone voices–Teutonic and feminine–rose on invisible intercoms, as if parroting some 1970s movie on a future and numbing Dystopia. But the soldier was glad to be back in the real, if alien, world. The people smiling, and the thin clicking of female pumps on waxed tile. He could tell by the metronome sound of a person’s gait, their sex and build. Somewhere too ,within that resonance , he was sure much more could be told about a person. Maybe the type of car that they drove, their favorite novels, their political affiliations.

He and three other soldiers stepped into the elevator. It deposited them on a the ground floor, where they were led by a contracted employee to a seldom-used exit. Once removed from the elevator, the fragrance of cigarette smoke and drying urine wafted to the soldier’s nose.  In a small foyer area, at the top of an escalator which led to the laberynthine tunnels beneath the airport, three vagrants sat on a low, metal window sill. Upon seeing the soldier, dressed in his duty uniform, all three of the vagrants seemed to lose their masks of perpetual victim-hood. One of them, a lady as best the soldier could tell, smiled then tugged at a cigarette, it’s end glowing angrily. The teeth that remained in her mouth sported brown nicotine paint.

One of them stood from the sill and walked spryly to the soldier, extending the darkened hand of the homeless. Fingernails resembled claws and face bore two days of facial hair.

American Whiskey. Very gut, ja. American Whiskey and Obama. Obama is gut.” The man smiled and unabashedly showed his own dental gaps. The smile revealed the homeless man’s sycophantic soul, where power replaced the Golden Rule. Where a life of begging had robbed him of the ability to contemplate morality. There was only cigarettes, a sandwich–and the next bottle of American Whiskey.

A murder of chuckles burst from the the vagrant’s comrades, followed by those of fellow soldiers. The soldier nodded in acknowledgement as he shook the rough, dirty hand. He smiled thinly.

When the damp German air swiped his face out on the sidewalk, the soldier knew now that the world could love America again. The world only needed a small excuse to love the soldier’s homeland, which had given so much to so many. An excuse that would remove the thinly veiled jealously which many Europeans felt toward their American allies.

It was that easy. Whisky and Obama.

Writer’s Note: This is a true story, stylized for literature. .. It happened to me when I was leaving the Frankfurt airport this year to come to Wiesbaden.

09
Nov
08

Possibly the best book I’ve ever read

0939767287 When I worked at the police department, I found a little paperback in a metal desk’s drawer. The desk was inside the commanding officer’s glass cubicle. It was called Night Dogs, authored by Kent Anderson. At the top of the book was an endorsement by James Patterson, probably the best selling author of suspense and police procedural books. He said that Night Dogs was the truest and best police book he’d ever read. Heavy props…

I took the book home and began to read. I was drawn into a psychologically dark world, where the main character, former Vietnam-vet and now Portland, Oregon police officer, Hanson, battled not only against crime, but his memories of the war in Indo-China and against the greatest war that can be waged: The war against self.

The book is semi-autobiographical. Kent Anderson himself was a special forces sergeant in Vietnam and a police officer in Portland in the seventies. He knows what runs through a cop’s mind, the constant battle of violence against benevolence. At once, a cop must be a servant, and then a warrior ready to kill. No easy task. In one scene, which reminded me of several instances I’d encountered, Hanson goes to a call for service where a mentally ill Vietnam-vet is causing a noise disturbance. Hanson speaks with the vet inside his apartment. The veteran is mentally deranged, still wearing old army issue clothes with pictures of his war-buddies pinned to them, speaking ominously about laser beams being shot through his windows and all along there is an air of danger, that at any moment this man may snap and try to kill the police officer. Hanson thinks to himself about what he’ll do if he’s attacked, and decides he’d probably have to punch the man in the throat, that that’ll stop anyone, but he concludes that you never know what a deranged person can withstand and still keep going. I remember dealing with some mentally ill people. They’d stare and speak as if they knew something you didn’t, saw into worlds that only they knew existed and sometimes they were convincing enough to make you wonder if that other world really did exist…

I highly recommend this book. I’m not even sure if it’s in print, but I think Random House still puts it out. There’s also a prequel, called Sympathy for the Devil. It’s about Hanson’s time in the Nam.





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