Friday, October 31, 2008

Eres Tu

Eres Tu, by Mocedades, is playing on YouTube right now. I haven't thought of that song in a while. It's hauntingly beautiful. It's a good muse song. I've written some good prose while listening to it. I have no idea what the lyrics mean beyond "it is you", or something to that effect. For all I know they're singing about wearing clean underwear in case of being hit by a bus and being brought to the hospital. The sound and spirit, however, are beyond anything I can describe. I love this song.

Elven Wings at Rest

This is the song I have been searching for. I know it cannot touch any other. But I read it now and weep. My love. My dearest love.

Elven Wings at Rest

If chance you’re had a weary flight,
Then come to me and I’ll set it right.
Lean your head against my breast.
Set your Elven wings at rest.
I’ll care for you. I’ll love you dear.
I’ll keep you safe. I’ll keep you near.

You live your life away and free.
You travel far. No time for me.
I wait alone. I toil and pray
That my love will draw you back one day.
I care for you and love you true.
I believe and hope in all you do.

So if chance you’ve had a weary flight,
Then come to me and I’ll set it right.
Lean your head against my breast.
Set your Elven wings at rest.
I’ll care for you. I’ll love you dear.
I’ll keep you safe. So have no fear.

You’re beauty’s more than I can know.
I cannot keep you and so let you go.
You must be free and not be bound.
You must take flight and leave the ground.
Your dreams and vision you must fulfil.
I cannot keep you with my will.

But if chance you’ve had a weary flight,
Then come to me. I’ll set things right.
Lean your head against my breast.
Set your Elven wings at rest.
Renew your strength within my love.
Then fly again, my ensnaring dove.

The Phoenix-Tree

I do not write much poetry. I think it. Today I was inspired. I had to say this. I didn't know why until I went to save it to my hard drive. There is a song I wrote some time ago which I have been searching for. None of my papers had it and I could not find it on my computer. I feared it was a casualty with the computer which was destroyed by a virus a few years ago. When I saved this, I found what I was looking for. Thank you, Jesus. There is a purpose in everything.

The Phoenix-Tree

What’s in a life?
For me, another is lost. It drops like fruit. I am lost.
Like a tree in a forest I fall without a sound.
Decay overwhelms me. I am no more.

The fires rage and burn. I am consumed.
From the ashes I rise again. The Phoenix-Tree.

I live again.
The storms return in force. I am broken and crushed.
Again the branches break. The bark is opened. I bleed.
Cut me down and let me burn. It is over.

The cycle goes.
I rise and I fall. I live and I die. My lives are expiring. How many remain?
My hope is my future. There is so little in hand.
The oak has become paper. Strength is nothingness.

The fires rage and burn. I am consumed.
From the ashes I rise again. The Phoenix-Tree.

Hope again.
To rise again is the hope of life. Tears feed the soil. The germ sprouts.
The pain of learning. To dream is better. Where is the bridge?
The future is before me. The flames rage around. I am a sprout.

Halloween Exercise

The Evil Editor blog (you should check it out, especially if you write) had a writing exercise last week. I had intended to make a submission, but hadn't worked up the courage yet when I had my query fiasco. After that I didn't feel much like writing. I wrote this after the deadline. The assignment didn't specify a maximum word length, but I note that previous assignments did. This one is too long. I recommend going to Evil Editor's blog to see the works which were submitted. They are quite clever. There's a lot of other stuff there which writers should find helpful. The people there are good people.

The hooded and cloaked figure heard him long before he was seen. Odd that anyone should be coming here. This was not an easy place to reach. But it sounded like whoever was coming was running, possibly in panic. That would explain a lot. The heavy thuds suggested it was a man. He was just below the rise now. He pulled up short when he broke into the clearing.

The hooded man appraised the newcomer, completely disheveled, leaves and twigs stuck into his hair, including those huge muttonchops. His clothes were torn and blood oozed from the scratches on his arms. He could have been anywhere from thirty to eighty. He stared at the shadowed figure by the fire like a cornered animal. The figure waved him over.

“Come. Sit and rest your legs,” he said, his voice a polite whisper in the dark.

The newcomer relaxed and smiled. He hurried up to the fire and sat down, warming his hands.

The air wasn’t that cold, thought the cloaked figure. To have hands that cold on a night like this meant the newcomer had to have a cold heart.

“Thank you,” said the newcomer. “I – I’ve been running a long time.”

“I see.”

“I was being chased. I feared for my life. I think I lost them, though. I haven’t heard them since I fought my way through the hedge.”

“Yes. I doubt they will come through the hedge. Only great need brings people through that hedge.”

“I had great need. Your name, Sir?”

“People just call me Hack. I am making tea. Would you care for some?”

“Yes. Thank you very much.”

“I like to put a special honey mix in mine. For you?”

The newcomer looked like he wanted to refuse, but seemed to feel a debt toward the one in the cloak.

“Yes, but only a little.”

“Very good.”

The cloaked figure poured out the tea and added his special sweetener. Then he handed the mug to the newcomer who accepted it with relish. He drank a long, slow draught, emptying the mug and sighing with satisfaction.

“Ah! I hadn’t realized how thirsty I was. All that running. I’m not used to it. I’m a little out of shape.”

“Oh, yes.”

“You know, that was really good. Could I have another?”


While the cloaked man refilled the goblet, the newcomer gave an embarrassed chuckle.

“I suppose I should tell you why I was being chased?”

“If you like.”

The newcomer accepted the mug back and took a quick sip before speaking.

“You see, I am an editor. In fact, my name is, ah, Evil Editor. I suppose you have heard of me?”

“I will not say so.”

“Oh. Well, the people who were chasing me were authors. Correction. They were writers. They were hardly authors.”

“I see.”

“Well, needless to say, they are upset with me.”

“The work that bad then?”

“Bad? You should read this latest piece of dribble I got. I still have it in my coat. I didn’t have time to reject it before I was attacked. It is an offense to the senses. Some fool named Boris thinks his book about living in isolation on an mountain is worth something. I mean, nothing happens! What tripe.”


“Well, enough about me. What about yourself? What do you do?”

“I write books.”

Evil Editor froze, his mug only inches from his lips.

“You do?”

“Oh, yes. In fact, I have just finished a work.”

Evil Editor swallowed.

“Well, I owe you a favor, I think. Perhaps you would like me to read it? But later, if you don’t mind. I’m feeling kind of sleepy.”

“Oh, no. You wouldn’t be interested in my book, I’m sure. Besides, I have already sent it away for review. I expect it will be rejected, though. A pity.”

There was a sound in the distance. Evil Editor turned his head and stared into the night.

“What was that? Do you think they may have come through the hedge after all?”

“Oh, no. Nobody comes through the hedge. They know better than that. Do you mind if I whittle while we talk?”

“What? Oh, no. Go ahead. By the way, what was your book about?”

“It’s about a man living in isolation up on an mountain. I expect to be getting it back soon.”

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Popcorn With My Dad

Some time ago I began what was to be a collection of short stories about my dad. I only wrote two. Then I allowed myself to become distracted with other things and I never got back to it. After my post from last Friday I have been thinking a lot about my dad. I think of him often anyway, but after Friday I have been missing him more than usual. What follows is the opening to the collection and then a story about us having popcorn together. I love this memory. I'm glad it is one I wrote.


My father was an alcoholic. In the minds of some that makes him a terrible father. My brother and his wife certainly think so. But not to me. To me, he was more than just a drunk. At times it didn’t seem like he was much more, but he was.

To begin a description of someone with such a negative statement certainly forces the reader into a certain train of thought. And yet the only stereotypical thing about my father being an alcoholic is that he got drunk. In my years there were no rampages, beatings (well, there was the one time), gambling, other women, etc. There had been beatings of my older siblings, especially my brothers and one of my sisters, but by the time I was five those had passed. This means my recollections of my father are quite different than those of older siblings who had to endure the Terrible Years. My memories are less cruel.

The simple truth is I love my father. It was true then and it is true now. In fact, I do not recall a time when it was not true, despite my telling him so once. But that was just because it was the only weapon I had, and in a battle you always fight to win – or at least inflict as much damage as possible in defeat. I have always regretted that statement. Not only because it was a lie, but because I think he believed it, possibly to his dying day. I struck a devastating blow which never should have volleyed.

My father was not a perfect man. He had more faults than I care to go into. But he was my father. And I do love him.


I love to tell this story about my dad, even though it happened in the later years and more fittingly belongs at a later time in the telling. But in many ways I believe it reveals the relationship I and my dad had. It is a happy memory, although it does not compliment him. But I always smile when I think about that time in Coon Rapids.

We were renting a small dark house in Coon Rapids. It was our third house in four months. The first house had burned to the ground (another tale about my dad - no, he wasn't drunk at the time), the second we had rented from the general contractor who was building us a new house, and this third house, which we moved into when the first rental house sold.

It was a Friday night and dad was expected home. He was an over-the-road truck driver. He had been a city driver, doing all the work city drivers do. Then he had become an over-the-road driver, which he liked much better. He had a steady route, from Minneapolis to Chicago and then back again. He would get a call to drive a load and he would be gone from three to five days depending on how long it took for his return load to be ready. He usually knew going out when he would be back and so we were nearly always forewarned.

Forewarned is forearmed, they say, and we knew that if he was not in the house by five or five-thirty, he was at the Wiggle Inn – his favorite tavern. That meant a drunk man who could be quite argumentative and combative. He never was physically violent, but his verbal outbursts were sudden and indefensible. At a quarter to six we knew: he was at the bar.

My mother was in no mood to put up with drunkenness this night. (When my father was drunk he took special notice of the stupid things my mother used to do. She did a lot of stupid things, too. I think it was a kind of psychological warfare she waged against him.) She announced she was not going to be home when he got home. She would go shopping, and anyone who wanted to could come along.

Now I don’t mind shopping. But I must have money. I hate looking at things I want when I know I can’t have them. But I had no money. (Neither did my parents, for that matter. But that never stopped mother.) But shopping without money is not my idea of a good time. I can do that by staying home and looking at a store catalog. That is how I window shop. So the thought of a three hour shopping spree without money did not appeal to me. It did, however, appeal to my two sisters who were still at home. They sided with mother and the three of them left.

Mother very much wanted me to leave, too. Not because she cared about my welfare or anything like that. She just wanted to get back at dad for getting drunk. Make him come home to an empty house. Punish him. That was what she wanted. But I was playing the percentages. You see, there was no more reason to believe dad would be home sooner than later. Sometimes he drank until eight or nine. Sometimes he didn’t. But if he did that would give me the house to myself for an entire Friday evening. What more could a sophomore in high school want? (Well, a date, perhaps. But none of my parents children dated until after they left home. I’m not sure why.) So a night with the television was better than a night with my mother and two sisters. You take what you can get.

For me, a night alone with the television was a night for popcorn. Especially if the night was Friday. Back then there were a lot of good shows on Friday. It’s interesting though, that thirty-six years later I cannot recall a single one. I guess they weren’t that great after all. But I was content. Anything on television goes good if you’re eating popcorn. That’s my philosophy.

And I never made small amounts, either. We had large pots and pans and I would fill them with popcorn. I would make enough for everyone to have at least three bowls. And then I would eat it all myself. As Homer Simpson might say, “Ooh. Popcorn. Mmmmm.”

Now in the “olden days” we didn’t have hot air poppers. We had cast iron skillets. One would melt a fair amount of lard in a skillet and let it heat. When the oil was hot one would drop a few kernels of corn and wait until they popped. Then a whole cupful of popcorn would be added, a cover retrieved and the pan would be shook over the heat until the popping stopped. That’s the way we did it back then.

Once the popcorn had been popped it was time to add butter. The reason for adding butter was to cover the taste of the lard. One form of fat would be used to hide another. Then a generous supply of salt would be used and we had the perfect recipe for a heart attack. It’s a wonder any of us lived.

I had just finished popping the corn. I had two very large stewpots filled to overflowing with warm popcorn. I had retrieved the butter from the refrigerator when the door leading from the dining room to the outside opened and my dad came in.

He looked around and saw no one but me. (The dining room and kitchen were kind of the same room.) The absence of my mother’s car had not gone unnoticed, nor my sisters’ absence. My father may have been drunk, but he was no fool. He knew why they were gone.

“Where is everyone?” he grumbled. I recognized the tone of his voice and wondered if I had gambled correctly. Even though I had not deserted him I could still bear the brunt of his wrath. He probably knew I had not stayed home just to talk to him. The reason I had stayed home was in the pots before him on the table. Which gave me an idea.

“They went shopping,” I said in a light and matter-of-fact voice. “I’m making some popcorn. Would you like some?”

Now if there was anyone on the entire planet who might like popcorn as much as I do, I was looking at him. My dad loved popcorn, and if I inherited my love for it from him I can only say, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” His face shifted from frown to non-descript. His wrath had been disarmed. Someone was willing to be pleasant. (If you invite someone to eat popcorn with you, you must actually stay in the room with them and socialize.)

He walked over to the cupboard and took out a large cereal bowl. (Other families used these bowls as serving dishes for salads. We used them for cereal bowls.) He dipped it in the closest pot and retrieved a full helping of popcorn. Then he started for the living room.

I was concerned. He had a bowlful of popcorn, all right, but it wasn’t finished. There was no butter. There was no salt. How would he react when he ate the lard-covered popcorn completely devoid of salt? I had to stop him.

“Ah, there isn’t any butter on that.”

He stopped and grunted, looking at his bowl as if it were some riddle to be solved. Then, to my horror, he picked up a spoon and dipped it into the butter dish which was on the table beside the popcorn. He was about to put solid – not melted - butter on his popcorn. God help me!

I had to be cool. NEVER let on to a drunk that you have caught them behaving wrongly. Everything must be normal and natural. Nothing is out of the ordinary – unless they say so.

“Ah, I’m melting some here, if you would prefer,” I said, acting as if the idea were novel and new and that the preferred way of eating popcorn was as he was about to do.


He looked at the spoon and then the bowl. Then he smiled and chuckled. I relaxed. Until he started walking toward me. I hadn’t even put the butter in the pan yet.

I quickly dropped a spoonful into the pan and cranked the flame up high. (I love gas stoves.) The butter was melted in seconds and I covered his bowl with it. He salted it and then went to the
living room and turned on the television.

The crisis over I continued my task and melted enough butter for the entire batch. Then I went to the living room to watch whatever he wanted. I would not be watching my shows, but neither would I have to endure the third degree. We sat together and quietly ate our popcorn and watched something. I don’t know what it was. There was overlap in my dad’s taste in television and mine, but not a tremendous amount. He only ate the one bowlful and then he fell asleep.

After he zonked out I stayed in the living room with him and watched my shows. When I heard my mother’s car arrive I turned off the television, grabbed all of the popcorn and went down to the basement. That was where I slept. Everyone else slept in the bedrooms on the main floor. I got a small room in the basement to myself. Who cared that it wasn’t finished? No one ever came down there except to yell at me about something, and this night no one would want to risk waking dad up.

I spent the rest of the night reading books, drinking pop and eating popcorn. Despite his being drunk, we had had a pleasant evening together. Too bad the others didn’t know how to do that anymore.

NOTE: I have been keeping a daily diary for my son since the day he was born. He will turn twelve in a few days, and in all the years I have failed to record his day only four or five times. My hope is that when he gets older he will read his journal and have have memories of his own trigger. I hope he remembers me with kindness.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Actively Searching for Inspiration

I'm searching again. I'm hoping to find Clio or Calliope and convince either/both to visit for a while. I need help with my story. I have to take it apart and put it back together, but only at half the size. And I still have to have a story when I'm finished. Hopefully, it will be something I like. But I'm not able to go forward. I tried starting last Friday, when I got the good news about how I can't write a query letter and my book is too long anyway. I jumped in with my scythe and cut down some things early, but nothing since. Just clever words to myself in an effort to get me going again.

Perhaps that is why I went to Elfwood. I hadn't visited that site in over ten years. I had found it by accident. I don't recall what I was looking for. Anyway, I was fascinated by the wonderful fantasy art. Some of it was landscapes. Some was of animals, real and mythological. I liked the dragons. Much of it was about characters, warriors and wizards and such. The site is much larger now. There are thousands upon thousands of pieces of art there. I've spent two days just going through it, page by page. All levels of skill are represented, from the beginner with only a few days/weeks/months of experience, to master crafters who earn a good living from their talent.

Since the Cere people of Prophecies of Madatar are a flying people, I did a search on angels. Most of the artwork is of female angels, and most of the artists appear to be female. I found that interesting. Of course a good percentage of the figures are nude, or partially nude. Not that I have anything against nudes. I know a lot of people consider any nudity to be pornographic, but it doesn't have to be. Some of the art I have seen comes close to that, or even crosses the line, but nudity in art isn't always erotic. Depending on how it is done it can actually give one a sense of peace. That is when the nude characters do not appear embarrassed or aroused. It's almost childlike. How can I say that? Because it's true. Sometimes.

Seeing the angels drawings/paintings/whatever made me want to see pictures of some of my non-winged characters. I was specifically thinking about Tavaar. I like Tavaar. So I did a search just on female characters in fantasy art. There are over eight thousand results. Wow. And well over half are naked - at least from the waist up. It is amusing to me to see artwork of women preparing for battle who are naked, or near naked. I mean, think about it. You're going to go fight a battle in which you must kill or be killed. What are you going to first? Well, obviously, take off all your clothes. You wouldn't want them to get dirty now, would you? Another thing I find amusing is when I see a picture of a nearly naked woman traipsing through the forest. Apparently those forests do not have any insects. Try doing that in the northwoods of Minnesota. There are millions of mosquitos there just waiting for some idiot to come walking about with with the skin exposed and smelling of sweet perfumes. No. In Minnesota, if you are going to walk in the woods you will wear long sleeved shirts and long pants. You will wear horrific smelling sprays and lotions to keep the bugs off. You will put this on your skin and your clothes.

Still, the characters in these pieces of artwork are quite beautiful, both male and female, although I must say that generally the female figures are far more striking. Such creativity. I wish I had talent.

I suppose those who would criticize any art with any nudity would criticize my book and say I have crossed the line of decency. Maybe I have. I don't know. What I do know is that at the beginning, when I steadfastly refused to write anything even remotely erotic, my characters would not come alive. Everything about them was like the old Gumby dolls: posable, but without real life. My "good" characters always acted "good", and my "bad" characters always acted "bad". People aren't like that. As Jesus said, only God is Good. And I expect only the Devil is Bad. The rest of us are capable of behaving like either, and we keep shifting back and forth.

Regarding sex, even "good" people are capable of engaging in sexual activity with people they are not supposed to. It happens a lot more than some like to admit. Those who would damn without a trial often state that these "good" people were not good people at all, but merely pretenders. I don't think so. I agree they were not "good". But they are no different than those who criticize them. In fact, in some cases, I think they are better people. Not because of what they did/are doing, but they are not so judgmental and self-righteous. In the Bible, the only people Jesus ever got angry with were the self-righteous. He called them hypocrites.

We were made a sexual beings. That is part of who we are. It was only when I accepted this and allowed that part of my characters to come alive that they also lived. I do not have to think that my characters are behaving right. But I do have to let them behave in character. Some would never behave outside acceptable norms. Some reject the norms. Others, such as my main character, are struggling to understand what the norms are and why they are the norms. That's life, isn't it?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

In Times of Weakness

Well, I did call it on Friday. It was a pip of a day, and it carried over to Saturday.

I never fully recovered from my thoughts about my father on Friday. Even so, the day was progressing nicely - until I saw my query which I had sent to Evil Editor for critique had been critiqued. Had I been using my brains for anything at all I would have waited until Saturday to read what was written. I did not. I read it in a state of emotional weakness - and I was quite devastated. I reacted poorly, and as a result I suspect they (the people who provided the critique) now believe (perhaps accurately) I am some kind of looney. The back and forth continued to Saturday. I posted what I expect will be my final comment on the matter to them at three this morning. If you are curious about the exchange you can go to Evil Editor (it's the only blog I am officially following right now) Face-Lift 566. They are all quite wonderful people.

I went to bed at three this morning. I woke just over six hours later to what I believed was the sound of thunder. It was the wind. The wind has been blowing in hard from the west today. About a half hour ago my son said he believed it has begun to snow. It has. Only fifteen minutes ago snow crystals filled the air, flying by at thirty miles per hour in what looks like some kind of mass panic. I am sitting here now listening to Mr. Lennon (John, not the Russian). The same seven songs are playing in sequence over and over. If you're curious, the songs are as follows:

Instant Karma (playing at the moment)
Whatever Gets You Through the Night
#9 Dream
Mind Games

This is hardly an extensive collection of John's music, but it is all I have - excluding some Beatles songs.

I miss John, which is odd considering I never met him. But I always had the sense John was searching for something, and he was murdered before he found it. I still remember hearing he had been shot. I felt literally sick. President Reagon was shot about the same time. I remember not giving a damn whether he lived or died.

Priorities. Who is important to us and who isn't? For me, a man capable of touching my spirit with music was far more important than a man who merely influenced my nation and the world around it. John had done something old Ronny could never do. I'm feeling nostalic again listening to the music. Music transcends time. Suddenly, I am so very much younger again. Stephen is alive. There is music and there is a future (#9 Dream is playing). What happened? Oh, God, what happened? Why did every dream wither and die? You said your thoughts for me were good and not evil.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lrod, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29:11-14 RSV

I know that was written to Israel many thousands of years ago, but you chose them to be a nation so we can see how you treat with all people everywhere. Is there nothing in that verse for me? It has not been seventy years, but it feels like such a long time. And now I have another mountain to cross. I am so weary. Give me strength to climb a little higher today. We'll worry about tomorrow later.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Wound That Will Not Heal

My third entry today and it's still not six-thiry in the morning. Oh, this is going to be a pip of a day.

I am making this entry because, like a fool, I am sitting here with tears in my eyes and my throat tighter than a new pair of shoes. Why? Somehow, while sitting here and meticulously going through the housing for each of the 352 years associated with the Swords of Fire family history, I got to thinking about my father. My dad.

I liked my father. He was not a perfect man, but he was a decent man. In my heart, he was the most decent man I ever met.

He had a very hard life. The trials he suffered make me ashamed to admit I have difficulty coping with what I am faced with. He was a bastard child in 1920s Iowa. That relegated him to subhuman status in the eyes of the community around him - which included his mother's family.

He never talked about the bad things of growing up. All I ever remember hearing him tell us (his children) were the funny things. His aunt, though, did pass on some tales, and they were so very sad. He was treated like a dog - at best. EVERY Christmas was the same. The family would gather together in the living room, the Christmas tree before them, and presents would be exchanged. My father would not be there with them. He was not allowed. He was a bastard, and bastards had no place in family functions. He had to sit in the kitchen, alone, with a single present. It was the same present every year: a top. After two or three years he came to realize this and ceased to even open the present. He just tossed it into the fire. His uncles took great pleasure in torturing him. They were all farmers, so certain items were always readily available. One of these items was burlap bags. Until my father grew too large to be stuffed into one, his uncles would do exactly that. He would tied up in a gunny sack and dropped into the nearby rain barrel. They would leave him there until the bubbles quit. Then they would lift him out, open the sack, let him get his breath, and then repeat the process until they tired of the game. It is no wonder I recall very little of family get-togethers with these relatives. I know none of them, nor their offspring.

When my dad was still young, he was sitting on top of a maypole. His classmates were circling the pole hanging on to chains, probably not unlike those used on swing sets. This was how maypole was played. Unfortunately, my father's thumb became entangled in the ever tightening chain. He cried out, but no one heeded him. Either they didn't understand, or they didn't care. I'm not clear on this. In any case, his thumb was squeezed from his hand. Reattachment surgery did not exist back in the 1920s. At least, not in farmland Iowa. My aunt related how it tore her to hear him crying through the entire night.

My aunt was probably the most pleasant thing to happen to my father in those early years. She was more kind to him than his own mother, and he always carried a special love for her.

But that is not why I have been crying. I was crying because my father was not through suffering pain. And what tears at me is that I was responsible for some of it.

My father didn't understand me. Oh, my. Surprise, surprise. That wasn't so bad, really. He loved me, and I knew it. But he always assumed I was like everybody else - and I wasn't. My sisters lied to him all the time. (They were always doing something they weren't supposed to, and they were always denying it.) He assumed I was no different. But I was. I only lied to him once. And it was the only thing I ever said to him that I think he believed. God help me.

When I was a teenager, we were in conflict. No news there. My older siblings had all left home to begin their own lives for real, but I and my younger sister were still in school and so still at home. Mom usually came home from work crabby and arguments would quickly ensue. In mother's defense, I suppose coming home and driving by the Wiggle Inn (the tavern my father frequented) and seeing my father's car there put in the wonderful mood she shared with us. Sometimes, though, our arguments would become especially difficult and I would say things which were especially cruel and hurtful. Mother's response to this was to beat the living hell out of me. (Unfortunately, it always came back.) She would also tell my father.

My father and I had a blowup of our own. We never had many, and so to have one was especially hurtful. But he was drunk - again - and I was in no mood to listen to an angry drunk rave on irrationaly - and incorrectly - about me. So I told him so. Wasn't that brilliant? In my life I can remember my dad whipping me with the belt five times. That night he didn't use the belt. He beat the piss out of me. My younger sister, too, but for reasons of her own.

I suppose the encounter bothered him. A lot. For the following night he came home sober. When he got home I went to my room and closed the door. He came and knocked. (Dad knocked. Mother never did.) He came in and sat in a chair at my bedside. He wanted to apologize. Only I, the little shit that I was (am?), was still angry. He had hurt me, both physically and emotionally, and I wanted to get some of my own back. And when he gave me the opening, I knew what to do and I did it.

He gave me the speech about how important I was and how much he loved me. He said he loved me. That was my opening.

"I don't believe that!"

I knew it would hurt him, and I expected he might even hit me again. But this time I would welcome the beating. Only that's not what he did. He believed me. I had never told him a lie before in my life and the damn son-of-a-bitch believed me when I said this! He bowed his head and cried. Damn it! He cried. I had not seem my dad cry more than three times in my entire life. And do you know what I did? I lay there on my bed like an effing shit and let him! He got up and left.

I was shaken, but too proud to admit it then, so I did nothing. Later, I didn't know how to approach him. He had showed me how. It was the only time he had ever done it, but he had showed me how. But I was afraid, and so I did nothing. Less than a year later he died to cancer.

Damn you! You never believed a word I said when I tried to tell you how important you are to me. Then I lie and say I don't believe in your love and you believe that. Damn! Why am I crying after forty years?

This is going to be a pip of a day.

Trying to Recover

I'm writing this because I don't want to leave off negative today. I was feeling kind of cheered when I got up two hours ago. It's just that I just hate it when things go wrong. Especially when they go wrong because of me, which is usually the case. Perhaps I assume too much. Certainly, I expect too much from the inanimate. I expect the appliances in my house to work on command without complaint. And every time something breaks I am painfully reminded that that just doesn't happen, Ducky.

What's seems so odd about things breaking, failing or behaving in manner contrary to expectations is that it always happens when something "important" is at stake. I put "important" in quotation marks because the truth is, so little of what we believe to be important actually is. A case in point.

Just a few weeks ago I turned on the shower with the anticipation of standing under a nice, hot waterfall. I let the water run (I hate having to let the water run, but it can take five minutes for the hot water down in the utility room to reach the shower up in the master bath, and I really do not like taking cold showers) for the appropriate amount of time and then checked the water for warmth. There was none. I've drank ice water that didn't feel that cold.

I turned the water off and went down to the half bath next to the front door. This is directly above the hot water heater below so the water from this faucet warms up nicely. Only it didn't. I went down to the utility room to check the hot water heater. It was still there. That was about the extent of my ability to detect problems. I lay down on the floor and tried to see if the pilot was on. I didn't see any flame (gas appliance), but having never looked for one before I wasn't sure I could see it. I didn't smell gas, but caution provoked me to turn the supply to the heater off. I debated about attempting to relight the pilot myself, but I kept thinking about the man in Independence who died in his sleep when his hot water heater exploded in the basement and shot up through his house like a rocket. By unfortunate coincidence the heater had been located directly under the man's bedroom. Not wishing to blow up either myself or the house, I called the local plumber. He came out and relit the thing in about two minutes. He also tested the automatic shutoff thingy to see if perhaps it was damaged. Since he was there anyway, I had him fix the dripping faucets. I watched him do it. He used an allen wrench and some other kind of tool. Between the pilot and the faucets I don't think he spent fifteen minutes. It cost me $100 for this work. Not that it wasn't worth it. I didn't know how easy it was to fix the faucets - or turn on the pilot. He was very polite, too. When I asked what I should do if the pilot went out again, he very nicely told me that since I had watched him push the button to relight it, now I could do it myself and save myself the money.

I really do hate being stupid. And afraid. Damn.

I Hate Being Stupid

You know, I really hate this software. Once again I have lost what I have written. It wasn't the same way, though. I found a new way to lose everything I write.

I learned the hard way that using arrow keys can be hazardous to unposted writing. Well guess what? There seems to be another way to do it. I was nearly finished and decided to use Preview to see how it looked. Satisfied, I arrowed back. Mistake. You see, even though Preview changes the screen and appears to go to a new page, it doesn't. You are actually still on the same page, so if you arrow away, you lose that page. There isn't even a dialog box warning you of what you are about to do. This software sucks. Yeah, yeah, I couldn't have done it any better, but good software should be idiot proof. It should also be idiot intuitive. Having lost everything I have written twice in three days, I think I qualify as an expert in idiot testing. This software failed the idiot test. But, like government, there is no alternative to having it, I guess.

C'este la guerre.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

When it Rains

It rained yesterday. It rained virtually all day. Most of the time it was kind of a drizzle and I wasn't even sure it was raining unless I went close to a window to look out. I was going to write an entry yesterday, but first I entered one at The Great Sea. Actually, first I tried to enter one at The Great Sea. My lack of familiarity with how these blog things work resulted in my losing the entirety of my planned message, leaving me feeling frustrated and foolish. I slapped together a quick something to vent some of that frustration and shut things down. For a software program to allow work to be so easily - and accidentally - lost is just plain crappy programming. I knew programmers who lost their jobs writing better software than that. I suppose I have no right to complain, though. I doubt I could have written this. Not anymore.

I wonder what it is about rain which raises feelings of nostalgia. I like rain. Most of the time. I like storms, too. I always have. I'm not keen on destruction. Don't get me wrong about that. My own house looks like something from the hills of poverty because of storm damage. The siding has been ripped off a good portion and the exposed boards are now being protected with a most attractive royal blue plastic tarp. Why wasn't it repaired? I'm not going to go there now. Suffice to say that the choice was fixing the house and losing it, or keeping the house and letting it look like something from an old Ma and Pa Kettle movie. Well, I guess the Kettles have come to roost.

I remember when I was young we lived further north. Out in the country. My family lived in an eighty-year-old, two-story, haunted farmhouse. It was actually quite large, considering it predated 1900. I seem to recall we had a lot of windstorms up there then. My family called them windstorms, not thunderstorms. We had a lot of giant oak trees clustered around the house like secret service men guarding the president. This was especially so to the east and south. The squirrels loved it. They could run along branches and jump to the house and back with ease. To the west and north this was not so. On the west side, the back side, there was a space large enough to play sandlot baseball or football, and so we did. The protection for this area came from a decaying apple orchard. Most of the fruit trees had died, being replaced by poplar, or some such tree. There were two apple trees remaining and five plum trees. I think they were plums. Do plum trees grow in Minnesota? I just remember they produced some smaller, garbage fruit that no one in our family particularly cared for. The birds took care of those. The two apple trees, although standing at least twenty feet tall, might produce a dozen apples between the two of them. They were representative of the entire place. Everything was in decay. Including the house. There were many places one could peer outside from inside without using the aide of a door or window. It could get quite cold in the wintertime, I assure you. And in a good wind the entire house shook like a dog shedding water.

I remember a tree which stood apart to the north. This was where we parked our cars. We usually had at least three, but sometimes up to five. Two were always kept in working order. The others often became part supply depots for the two which worked. But I remember that this tree, an oak, seemed to take special damage during nearly every storm. More than once I recall standing in our kitchen area looking out at the wind's activity and see part of that tree break off with a loud crack and fall with a thunder of its own to the earth. After the storm, the fallen portion became a playground for myself and my sisters as we explored the once inaccessable reaches of the mighty oak's frame. Then, in would come someone with a chain saw. They would cut it up and haul it away.

Originally, at least when we arrived, there had been two trees. But one suffered worse than the other, being slowly whittled away with each storm until, at last defeated and without strength to continue, the entire tree fell over and died. We climbed over its carcass, noticing for the first time the decay which had weakened it to the point of death. I wondered about the remaining tree. Was it also decaying from inside? How long would it last? Every year it lost another piece. The once strong, stately, beautiful and full oak was fast becoming brittle, thin and pitiful. How long did it have?

If I recall correctly, it outlasted the house, which burned down. It outlasted us. I think it was still standing after we rebuilt and then sold out. I wonder if it is still there, standing like a pillar defying the winds which ever seek to blow it over. Despite the absence of so much of its beauty, it still stood strong in defiance of the winds which sought its final demise. But the tree cannot win. Not ultimately. The winds will never quit. Ever will they blow, and beat and seek out weakness. And if ever the wind succeeds, the tree will be lost. The tree may win ten thousand victories, but the wind will never fail. The wind wins once - and the tree is gone.

And then a shoot will appear where once a mighty tree stood. A seed, perhaps? Or is it simply an undead root system seeking once again to attain the heights? I have seen this in my life. It give me hope, for once again I am down. The winds of life have blown me over, and I have crashed to the ground in a broken heap. The young ones play and laugh in my demise. The saws come to cut away the pieces and haul me away for fuel. But my root system remains, only slightly poisoned. Like a new shoot my face has broken the surface and I feel the cold wind of life upon my face. I will rise again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It Begins

I never thought I would participate in a blog. Now I have this. It's like having a podium without an auditorium. I can stand behind it and express all kinds of supposed brilliance. Just what I need. It's the perfect audience, too. The hall is empty as I speak (write). I can say whatever I want and no one will be offended. And for those who may slip in - deliberately, or by accident (most likely) - they can do so without drawing attention. And they can slip away just as quietly. I will never know. Unless they leave a calling card (comment).

The truth is, I do not expect anyone to come here and listen to what I have to say, much less let me know that they have. I have the illusion of communication, and I owe it to a book agent who suggested I go to Evil Editor to learn why my query sucks. (It does, by the way. I just haven't learned why yet.) I do not reveal the agent because I do not know that would be appreciated, and I made a promise in my thank you to them I would not pester again.

It's a pity, too. For the agent's website is a happy one. It's filled with energy and fun. I felt it every time I visited, garnering the courage to send the ill-fated query letter. If my books are ever to be published, I would one other wish of mine be granted: I would like this agent to represent those books. Of all the agent websites I have visited, this is the only one that made me feel happy to do so. The pity is, I said I would not pester again. I made my submission. I was rejected. I got up to bat and struck out on three pitches. I'm not sure I belong in the major leagues. I couldn't even see the ball. I may as well of had my eyes closed. Pity.