Thanks, Big Papi!

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You helped pigs fly three times in Boston!

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Yawkey Way is a brighter place now.

Tessie, “Nuff said” McGreevy shouted
We’re not here to mess around
Boston, you know we love you madly
Hear the crowd roar to your sound
Don’t blame us if we ever doubt you
You know we couldn’t live without you
Red Sox! you are the only, only, o-o-only!

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Awakening Wrapped

awakeningPart IV of Awakening, my latest short story, which is more novelette length now, is edited after critique group review pointed out some needed changes. I’ve just finished the story with Part V. My sweet bride, Clarice, has reviewed that, and it now it’s out with the group, who will heap praises and scorn upon it next week.

After eight months of down time because of Leukemia, I finally got busy and picked up where I left off in January. Poor George Hammond’s trials are at last at an end.

Clarice says I should cobble all the stories into an anthology and go to press with them. All together, my seven stories total about 56,000 words. I feel like I should perhaps add one more tale to the collection so folks would feel like they’d gotten their money’s worth.

Last night I thought of an opening for a new story…

Another body. Blood was everywhere. At least this guy was in one piece.

“Oh, for cryin’ out loud!” Tom exclaimed. “I can’t stand any more of this tripe.” He flung the pulp novel into the trash and went to bed.

Okay, I admit that doesn’t leave much room for story development.  Ideas that show up when you’re half asleep tend to seem better than they really are.

Speaking of Tom’s, I’d inadvertently written two of those into Awakening. Clarice spotted my error, and “Poof!” Valentine’s effete, BMW driving friend is now Aiden because I have a special feeling in my heart for that name. Perhaps he wears an ascot. Such is the author’s power.

Something is brewing. I can tell because random stuff pops into my head while I’m in the shower. This morning it was this:

James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George DuPree
Took great care of his mother though he was only three
James James said to his mother:
“Mother,” he said, said he
“You must never go down to the end of the town,
if you don’t go down with me.
Don’t ever go down to the end of the town,
if you don’t go down with me.”

James James Morrison’s mother put on her golden gown
James James Morrison’s mother, she drove to the end of the town
James James Morrison’s mother
She said to herself, said she
“Well, I can get down to the end of the town
And be back in time for tea.
Well, I can get down to the end of the town
And be back in time for tea.”

King John put up a notice: “Lost, stolen or strayed,
James James Morrison’s mother,
She seems to have been mislaid
Last seen wandering vaguely quite of her own accord
She tried to get down to the end of the town–
Forty shillings reward.
She tried to get down to the end of the town–
Forty shillings reward.

James James Morrison Morrison, commonly known as “Jim”
Said to his other relations not to go blaming him
For James James said to his mother
“Mother”, he said, said he
“Don’t ever go down to the end of the town,
If you don’t go down with me.
You must never go down to the end of the town,
If you don’t go down with me.”

Now James James Morrison’s mother,
She hasn’t been heard of since,
King John said he was sorry,
And so did the queen and the prince,
King John, somebody told me,
Said to a man he knew,
“If people go down to the end of the town,
Well what can anyone do?
If people go down to the end of the town,
Well what can anyone do?”

No disrespect to Mr. Milne. It just happened.

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Down Time

It’s been a long time since I posted anything. I’d just hit a problem in “Awakening” and wasn’t sure where to take the story when I got a call from my Veteran’s Administration doctor. She’d asked me to have some lab work done since there weren’t any recent tests in her records. I dutifully went and visited the vampires and was having lunch afterward when the phone rang.

“We need you to go to the hospital. Do you want to go to the VA facility in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, or would you rather use a closer-by civilian facility?”

“Uh, closer, I guess.”

I called my civilian primary care doctor, who told me to call a specialist down the road from his office. They told me to call another specialist in Boston.

A few days later I was talking to a doctor in Dana-Farber Cancer Center, listening to a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. A few days after that, I was checking into Brigham & Women’s Hospital for chemotherapy. Since I had never been a hospital patient in my life, this was an experience.

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Hospital garb. Hat & prayer shawl made by my pal Deb Bock

First, let me say that the doctors and nurses at Dana-Farber-Brigham & Women’s are even better at treating you well than the staff at Disney World.

Second, being in the hospital for a month isn’t any fun. Even Brigham’s chicken pot pie gets old after a while, and you just can’t live on nothing but creamsicle frappes.

Anyway, seven months, three hospital rounds of chemo and a stem cell transplant later, I’ve just had my first fresh vegetables, in the form of tacos. They were right behind a hot pastrami sandwich on my list of “can’t have it” dietary obsessions. I got the the sandwich first because of my bride’s heroic efforts in searching out pre-packaged pastrami. I’m allowed to eat hot food at a restaurant now, as long as I go during a slow time when there aren’t many customers. That’s okay because that’s when we like to go.

The only down side of being allowed out is that I’m on a study medication that makes me feel like not going out. Hopefully I’ll acclimate to it and we’ll get to our little nearby seafood place soon. Fried shrimp and onion rings are calling my name.

So, thank you, Lord, for Dr. Panesar at the VA, without whom I’d never have known anything was wrong, for the doctors and nurses at D-F/B&W, for my dear sister, who was a perfect stem cell donor match, and for all the good lab results.

Oh. I’ve saved a lot of money on haircuts, too.

This is my first attempt at writing since the whole thing started. Maybe I’ll take a look at Awakening next.pastrami with mustard200

 

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Awakening

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.

“What?”

“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.

Statue_of_Brigitte_Bardot_in_Rio_de_Janeiro

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!

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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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