Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hannah's Plea

Like I promised, I'm posting the second short story.  This one, titled Hannah's Plea, is also set in a small coastal town but the subject matter is quite different.  Again, the length is 1,200 words.  I hope you enjoy the reading.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lick Skillet

I imagine many of my blog followers are probably rolling their eyes at some of my musings so I thought I would do something a little different this week.  I'm posting a short story called Lick Skillet today and a second entitled Hannah's Plea on Friday.  I wrote these for a contest -- which I didn't win -- but thought you might enjoy them.  Gal Friday (GF)  thinks they're good and she's my harshest critic so I feel safe in subjecting my self to the slings and arrows of any readers.  As per the requirements, the story length was limited to 1,200 words and had to have a coastal theme.  My novels are 90,000 to 105,000 words long so you can imagine how difficult it was for me to tell a good story in only 1,200 well-chosen words.  Hell, it's hard for me to quip a passable joke in so few words.  If you move your mouse over to the page listings on the top left under "My Profile," you can click on "Lick Skillet" to read the story.      

Monday, January 10, 2011

Daybreak

The break of my day usually starts around 11 am or possibly might even slip into the 1 0'clock afternoon hour or later.  Of course my days usually end in the wee hours of the morning.  When I was gainfully employed, I sprang from my bed bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, exuberant and ready to excel at around 6 am or earlier.  This begs the question - why the dramatic change in schedule?  The answer lies simply in two words - Gal Friday (and every other day of the week).

Gal Friday (GF) is a true night owl and slowly and methodically has cast the bewitching-hours spell upon me until I too have become a predator of the darkness.  My father used to tell me I couldn't soar with the eagles in the morning if I partied with the owls at night.   Dad, if you were with us today, you'd be wondering what the hell kind of lifestyle I'm now living.  You wouldn't be the Lone Ranger as I wonder the same thing. 

GF tells me she has kept this type of schedule since college days many (many) years ago.  I asked her if those 8 o'clock classes were a little tough on her and she replied, "No, I just studied through the night and didn't go to bed."  Now I'll admit I pulled quite a few all-nighters in college, but they didn't have anything to do with studying...unless it was "How to Drink Beer 101" or upper level anatomy.  That's when I joined Tap-A-Keg-A-Day fraternity at ICU, the peek-a-boo school.  GF pledged I-Felt-A-Thigh sorority, but her grades were too high and they rejected the poor girl.

When she began her career path to eventually become a dean and vice-president of a highly respected community college, her sleeping habits got worse.  When people were supposed to be hitting the mattress for 8 hours, she thought the 8 looked like a 3.  Maybe this misconception came from tired eyes?  She put in more late hours than the night watchman.  People thought she forgot to turn off her office light at night, but they didn't realize she was in there churning away at the next committee report or strategic plan.  (My thought on committees...a great way to get a bunch of people together to dodge work.)

Since I have adopted this new late night schedule, I find it completely wonderful.  I get to see old movies I love; I miss the God-awful jarring of the early morning alarm; I love breakfast food and now I eat it between the hours of 1 pm to 4 pm when my taste buds are awake and alert.  Some days, when I seem a little too lethargic from staying in bed too long, I take a nap.  Works every time.  

You may notice some time lapses in my daily routine.  You may puzzle over the discrepancy or time lag between rising at 11 am and not breakfasting till 4 in the afternoon, or to put it another way, a mere 60 minutes prior to the cocktail hour.  No alcohol passes my lips until 5.  Of course if GF decides to surprise me with a breakfast Bloody Mary, I woefully accept it so I don't hurt her feelings - don't cha know.

The time lag is filled with GF preparing me for my day.  First she takes off my sleep apnea mask and gets me from the bed to my faithful Red Chariot, the greatest power chair in the world.  Roy Rogers didn't love Trigger any more than I adore my old faithful Red Chariot.  And I don't have to supply oats.  Next she shaves me and transports me to the shower chair where I sit under the shower head while she washes off yesterday's dirt from the dusty trail.  Allow me to give a little more detail about the shaving process.  My daughters gave me an expensive electric razor with all the bells and whistles.  This thing has 4-wheel drive, power everything and is turbo-charged.  I think it bakes cakes too.  It does everything a man could ask, with one exception; it doesn't shave worth a tinker's damn.

So instead of taking 10 minutes to scrape the hair off my face, GF keeps going over my now raw skin for about 45 minutes.  Then the next instrument she pulls from the cabinet of horrors is a shiny silver missile-like nose hair trimmer.  Oh, joy.  This is followed by another trimmer for my ears, neck and hairline.  Some days she retrieves the nail clippers and file too.  I shudder.  I'm not saying anything about the scissors 'cause I get nightmares just thinking about that scenario.  Our bathroom cabinet would make any psychopathic torturer a very happy man.

Now to the bathroom sink where she pours 3 different mouthwashes for me prescribed by my dentist, gynecologist and local veterinarian. (I get a little befuddled trying to keep straight which doctors do what.) Then she squeezes the toothpaste on my electric brush.  After my sad attempt at brushing, she dresses me which is no easy task.  By this time I'm hungry, but not man enough to ask her to cook breakfast.  I'm tired just talking about this, but her day is just beginning.  She is busy from when her little feet hit the floor until 3 to 4 in the morning.  I'm talkin' non-stop here.  She has cut down on the all-nighters, but not completely.

I was going to write more, but I'm tired. I think I'll take a nap!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

KranK

Sometimes, during mealtimes, Gal Friday (GF...and every other day of the week)  asks me how I would answer questions submitted to "Dear Abby."  The fact that GF reads a newspaper while eating instead of engaging in sparkling conversation with her dedicated partner says a lot.  I mean folks, I sit on the edge of my rolling seat eagerly anticipating keen dialogue with her as we repast.  Does her reading the paper mean my retorts and words of wisdom may not be quite so sparkling?  I shudder at the thought.

Now that I've pretty much given up on reading the latest or stalest newspapers, I figure she thinks anything on the printed page other than "Dear Abby" would be useless to discuss with me.  The reasons I don't read the paper anymore are many.  Anything I read is second-hand; I've already seen it on the Internet.  The content of the daily news sucks.  Oh, I'm sorry, that may be somewhat harsh.  How about I just say stinks.  We, the readers, are fed a daily dose of crime and sensationalism.  We get editorializing in raw news stories.  Redundancy is now a kingpin of content; I mean how many times do we need to read about some celeb getting drunk or a politician's affairs?

During political campaigns, things get worse.  Every candidate, regardless of party, claims the same thing.  They all expound on needed change, saving the taxpayers' money, cutting government spending, etc.  This has been true since Gutenberg ran his first bulletin off his shiny new press.  Let's face it, every presidential candidate since the first one I remember, which was Ike, tells us the current election is the most important one ever.  So you know the next one will be the most important one ever as well as the one after that and the one...well, you get the picture.

Since I am far from a news junkie, about the only thing I can speak to GF about in the newspaper is "Dear Abby."  Oh, there are a few times when she reads what she considers an exceptionally interesting article to me, but generally speaking my mind stays tuned to the puzzle I'm trying so desperately to solve or the olive I'm unsuccessfully attempting to balance on my fork.  However, when she asks me how I would answer one of those idiotic questions to Abby, I listen.  I listen because they're hysterical and bring laughing tears to my dry eyes.

A recent one went something like this.  "Dear Abby, my wife's mother, Matilda, is coming to live with us.  She detests me, but loves her daughter and our children, Billie Bob and Mary Sue.  I know she hates me because she once tried to stab me with a kitchen knife but missed.  The problem is, if we don't allow her to move in, she will disinherit our children and they would suffer financially as mother-in-law is very rich; I'm talkin' boodles.  Her lawyer owes me from a football bet so I was able to make him read me her will and now I know the amount of her fortune and the will's stipulations.  She is a control freak and will ruin our family's loving household.  My wife strongly feels we should comply with her mother's wishes for the sake of the children.  This is such an important matter, we are abiding by your decision. Worried in Wilmington"

A likely Abby reply might read, "Dear Worried in Wilmington, Your mother-in-law sounds like she suffered from a dark disturbance as a child.  This may have roots in the unsolved disappearance of her late maternal grandmother's second cousin by marriage, Uncle Rudolph, on his father's side.  I suggest you seek professional help.  Many of my readers have experienced similar situations and, with professional consultation, have come to understand that compromise costs money and hair loss, but in the long run, may or may not be your resolution.  I wish you peace and tranquility."

OK, so GF reads this to me and asks, "What would your answer to Worried in Wilmington be?  I hesitate only because I can't stop my guffawing and I"m about ready to swallow a couple of pain relievers to thwart the sharp ache in my rib cage from uncontrollable laughter.

When I finally regain composure, I reply with something like this, "Dear Worried, Be thankful your mother-in-law didn't try to whack you with a machete as they have longer blades.and she may have hit the mark  Your problem can be easily eliminated.  Before she takes up residence and before she has time to change her will, have her killed.  The contract on her life may cost, but the rewards from the will will prove one hell of a return on investment.  Yours truly, KranK"

Notice my pseudonym is KranK.  I have been fooling with the idea of initiating my own personal advice column under the heading "KranK's Corner."  Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?  KranK is a cantankerous old coot who doesn't shuck and jive, but instead, gives his readers the down and dirty.  No warm and fuzzy double talk from KranK.   He tells it like it is.

Do you think Abby makes up these questions or are there real people who allow her or her daughter to determine life- altering decisions?  Could anyone actually believe a newspaper columnist can advise someone in deep trouble?  I guess a question like which side of the toilet paper should be up or down can be handled, but some letters are about real serious problems touching almost every sociological issue in our culture.  Many of her answers may affect lives for generations.  Kinda scary to think about.

As for my decision to start an advice column...well, I'm not sure.  Hey, I think I'll ask Abby.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Will and Lou

Gal Friday and I were blessed with a weekend visit from our cherished friends, Will and Lou.  That sounds like a vaudeville act, but they are far from it.  This couple epitomizes all the good characteristics and principles taught me by my hopeful parents.  If mom and dad were with us today, they would point to this pair and say, "This, son, is what we were talking about."  Then they would give me the once-over and throw their hands up in hopeless despair.

So I didn't turn out to be the pride of my parents--so what?  Every boy in America can't become President.  All us kids didn't turn out to be overachievers who changed the world like Gandhi or Susan B. Anthony.  It's declared that all men are born equal, but we all know that's about as true as Gal Friday not able to see any of my faults.  I don't look like Brad Pitt or have the innate intelligence of Albert Einstein; my SAT scores proved that.  I don't possess the natural athletic abilities of Brett Favre though I have noticed, when I talk with my friends, the older we get, the better we were.  It won't take too many more years before we all were more talented than poor ole Brett.  If things continue down this same path, it won't be long before I'll believe I could have taken the gold at the Olympics...in any sport I chose.  Move over Jim Thorpe.

My parents prayed for me to be a shining conglomeration of all the aforementioned, with the exception of Susie...well, maybe even her.  I did wear hand-me-downs, which in itself isn't so bad, but unfortunately, I had older sisters.

OK, so I turned out a few waves short of an ocean, but who didn't.  Nobody is perfect, at least no one I've come in contact with.  There are some "standout" people I've met, but not the complete package parents wish for.  Most parents expect too much of their first-born and beyond...and then are a wee disappointed when their little ones don't grow quite into their expectations.  And if their children do attain this lofty goal, they marry beneath their status.  You just can't win.

I've been fortunate to meet many "standout" personalities in a number of different fields.  Contemplating this subject, the recognition of Will's and Lou's contributions immediately jump into my thoughts.  You won't find them on any "hot stuff" radar screen.  They are not listed on Forbes' top ten or in Who's Who.  So why are they so special you may wonder?  Glad you asked.  They are loving. caring and low-key people who truly make a positive difference in so many lives.  These two give their hearts, time and money to helping others in need.

I've never met two people so committed to the Good Samaritan theory of life.  They volunteer whenever called upon or see a need to be fulfilled.  They'd make Mother Teresa blush.  Since meeting them about 12 years ago, I've witnessed many of their extraordinary actions and can honestly say their outpouring to family, friends and community needs equals that of many charitable organizations.  

I considered listing all the good deeds I've seen them enact since I've known them, but time, computer space and my fading memory fail me.  Did I mention fading memory?  Two things I'm certain of...the first is they are wonderful friends and two--I know their parents are looking down on them with satisfied smiles.