I woke up with grass poking in my ear. And up my nose.

“Oh, no, not again.”

Blinding sun blazed red through my eyelids. I knew I was in my front yard. I could hear Fred Willoughby’s mower. It always sounded like it was ready to gasp and die as he putt-cough-putted around his lawn, splattering dust, stones, and dandelions everywhere. A pebble bounced off my forehead as he pushed the antique machine past my place of repose. His clippings tickled as they wafted into my ear.

He shouted over the din. “Mornin’ George! Lovely day, ain’t it?”

I dimly recalled a negative proverb about someone loudly blessing their neighbor early in the morning.

Something crawled up my leg.

As I lurched upright another stone stung my ear. I karate-flailed at whatever the crawly-thing was and pried my eyes open. At least I had pajamas on this time.

A ring of red-topped toadstools fairy ring
surrounded my napping spot. Dead leaves filled my pajama pocket and, from the feel of it, my pants as well. As I brushed grass from my face, a third flying stone exploded a toadstool onto my shirt.

Fred stood still, his mower gagging and backfiring, and stared at me.


“You didn’t answer me.”

“Go away, Fred.”

He harrumphed and pushed on into a crowd of chickweed and buck corn,  taking his fusillade of mower exhaust around behind his rhubarb patch.

Despite a pounding headache, I emptied the leaves from my pocket and struggled to my feet. Then, shaking one leg after the other, I left a trail of oak, maple, and birch bits all the way to my door.

It was locked.

Although I ran out of leaves a little before I reached my back door, I still felt creepy-crawly. I kept batting at real and imagined tiny invaders as I tried the knob.

Locked, too. Jeepers! It’s not like I owned any original Picassos or priceless oriental rugs. Fred had better stuff than me, for cryin’ out loud, and he hadn’t locked his house in seven years.

Still itching and swatting, I tried one window after another. At the garage, I met with success and climbed gratefully inside. Of course, the door into the house was bolted, but I’d squirreled away an emergency key after the last time I’d locked myself out—I’d come home from a funeral to find I’d left my key in my jeans when I’d put on my suit that morning. Fred had laughed a lot as I borrowed his phone. $250 had summoned a locksmith who demolished my doorknob and let me inside.

The emergency key was exactly where I’d put it—under a now spiderweb-festooned jug of pesticide, in a dark corner between an open box of mouse poison and a small pile of half-eaten acorns.

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What Old People Do

Quiet week here in Ralph-Land. Almost a month after I wrote about it, I finally found and consumed some of those Margaritaville coconut shrimp. That was on Tuesday. I couldn’t locate the little critters at any of the local supermarkets. Finally I tried BJ’s and found a huge box of them. Everything comes in huge boxes at BJ’s, except the things that come in huge bags. Anyway, I finally had some and got that out of my system.

Since it’s critique group week (tonight, in fact) and I submitted my excerpt early, I took advantage of the slack time and picked up Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to refresh a bit. It’s been over fifty years since I last met Injun Joe, the King, an’ Becky Thatcher. I’m still floating down the Big Muddy with Huck and Jim as we speak. I did have to spend a little time today doing a MSWord markup for one of our group who can’t make it tonight. I usually just print their stuff and red-pen it. It’s easier. Okay, I’m old. So sue me.

d0jq2khThis afternoon, for a treat, I stopped at Chez Ronaldo for a Filet-O-Fish. (Yes, I would like fries with that. Thank you so much.) I used to do that occasionally when I was working out of town. Back then, I’d take my little gastronomical treasure back to my room at the Worst Western and enjoy it while fiddling with my laptop. On this occasion I elected to dine in and enjoy the ambiance. It was all just as tasty as I remembered.

Now I’m going to rejoin Huckleberry ‘til group time. Then tomorrow it’ll be back to Willie ‘n’ Me.

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Willie ‘n’ Me

A new story begins…

My name’s Orville. Orville Turpin. I was four in 1862, the year the Union Navy hung Pa for piracy in the Dry Tortugas. Ma said that was a dirty lie. She told me he was a hero who crewed on the Confederate blockade runner Sumpter.

When I was six, we moved from New Orleans to Uncle Buford’s orphan asylum near Hopefield, Arkansas. Well, I did anyway. She left me there and went off to work on the riverboat Sultana to make ends meet. Nobody ever talked about what she did there. Life at Uncle Buford’s wasn’t too bad as long as Ma kept sendin’ him money every week. I got fed pretty regular, and had a mostly dry spot in the barn to sleep. There were usually about twenty of us kids there—fathers off to war and mothers away doin’ whatever they had to do. Most sent Buford money when they could. He took us all in, sayin’ it was his human duty. Many slept in a big shed that sorta leaned against the back of his house. All worked the farm.

My first winter there, some Hopefield folks kept stealin’ Union boats and suchlike along the river. To discourage that sort of thing the bluecoats burned the town down one day. We was far enough away that they pretty much left us alone. They took our mule, though. After that, all us kids had to take the mule’s place pullin’ Uncle Buford’s plow and cartin’ corn to market. Thank goodness there was a whole bunch of us.

I was seven, right after they shot Lincoln, when the Sultana blew up a little north of Buford’s farm. Bodies and junk was washin’ up for weeks afterward. He had me’n Willie—that’s my cousin, Willamina. She was six that spring—out every morning lookin’ along the river bank for victims an’ valuables. She was scared of the swirling water, so I held her hand to make sure she didn’t fall in. Buford searched the bodies for gold teeth an’ went through their pockets, then sent ‘em off to the morgue. I got a lickin’ on the days we didn’t find anything. Willie cried a lot that month. Bein’ a year older and all, I didn’t. They never did find my Ma. My status as favored kin declined some after her money stopped.

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After Akron, then what?

Okay, I’ve finally finished Akron Aftermath. A recent critique group consensus said that I shouldn’t murder a bad guy’s daughter. Apparently stuffing her lifeless form into an antique furnace was a bit too dark for Akron’s SSSF (Sorta-Silly-Sci-Fi) genre. I re-wrote it, sending her off to a Portuguese commune to raise goats and performing hedgehogs instead. I did, however, retain the… never mind. Hopefully that will all come out when my pie-in-the-sky one-man anthology hits the stands, streets, or whatever it is that anthologies are likely to hit.

Meanwhile, it’s time to start working on something else. I thought it was going to be another western. But this morning, after listening to Jimmy Buffett’s “I Will Sing for Gumbo” and “Last Mango in Paris” on YouTube I’m not sure any more. (I don’t always spend time on YouTube, but my sister had never heard “Gumbo” and I felt it necessary to correct that.)

A line in “Paris” led me to google street view car Buzios BrazilBuzios, Brazil, where Google’s Street View car followed a woman as she walked down Av. José Bento Ribeiro Dantas. The guy’s expression in the Fiat van stuck behind him on that narrow street proves she was not in a hurry. The Google-mobile eventually sped up, left the woman behind, and took its own picture in a storefront.

All this didn’t do much for my western. Buzios was pretty much of a backwater from the time piracy and whaling stopped to 1964 when Brigitte Bardot showed up. The chamber of commerce, or somebody, was so excited they put up a statue at 804 Av. José Bento Ribeiro Dantas of her sitting on a suitcase.


Going down the rabbit hole like that is pretty much how I write, though. Usually I start out with some cockamamie opening line, then go looking for information related to it. Sometimes that even works. Other times, I just end up looking at a photograph of a silly statue in Brazil, thousands of miles away from where I need to be. Oh, and as the town went to remove the statue for restoration last month, they broke off her right foot. Sinto muito, Brigitte!


What did I expect anyway, after listening to Jimmy Buffett? Maybe I should just go out and get a box of Margaritaville calypso coconut shrimp with mango dipping sauce.

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Out of the Storm – I love it

Another reason I love the “Out of the Storm” anthology. Fun fellow authors and a great publisher. Lynellen, of Chalfont House / Hope Springs Books.

Gretchens Just West of Clovis

Gretchen is the author of Detention – A Cinderella story, with elves. She was quick enough to grab a screen shot of her GPS when she found herself Just West of Clovis. If I were still in high school, I’d return the favor next time I got sent to Detention. 🙂

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Mark Twain

I love Mark Twain. I haven’t read any of his written work in years, but I keep coming across quotes that endear him to my aberrant little heart.

“I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

and my favorite:

“Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

― Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huck Finn

He’s even better than Yogi Berra.

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Boston Fireworks – Worst Coverage Ever

I don’t usually like to complain about stuff on TV (or I’d never do anything else) but…

Most disappointing Boston fireworks show ever. All their cameras were downwind of the display, so we saw almost nothing. They had a blimp in the air, but every time it got clear of the smoke, they cut away from it.  Boo!

Pretty much, this is what we saw.


Hopefully next year they’ll talk to their weather people and set the cameras up where the wind won’t block the view.

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