Monday, July 31, 2006

Jean D' Arc

I'm still waiting for my story to be published. This is getting to be a mild form of torture. I'll try to keep my perspective though--they could force me to wear women's underwear and throw my first edition copy of Twain's Joan of Arc in the toilet.

I've never mentioned that before, but that was a great book. Reading it now, it was a bit of a dry read, like reading Shakespeare, only four hundred times more comprehensible. It's the one book that could actually make me believe there is a God. Seriously. I tend to believe science and provable facts, which pretty much has me scanning channels on Sundays.

Back in Jean D' Arc's day, in fourteen hundred-ish (I'm not looking anything up, so sue me), France was at a low point. I would have used the superlative, but France has a long and arduous history. To say this was its lowest is not for me to determine--but let's just say this was among them. Bodies lay in the streets decaying and nobody bothered to bury them up, opting to leave them for the wolves to feast upon in the night. England was winning the war between them, and it was generally accepted that it was just a matter of time. At least to my understanding.

Jean D' Arc lived in a tiny village called Domremy, which still exists today, although I have never seen it. I believe she was sixteen at the time. The story goes that she was visited by an angel that told her to visit the French king and acquire from him an army. No small feat, wouldn't you agree? But she did it. The king was suspect at first, but the angel had told her some secrets about him that only he would know, and those she whispered in his ear. That's the legend anyway. History reads that the king granted her request, that she rode at the army's head and crushed the occupation.

There are many explanations any good fiction writer could propose as to how this came about. Perhaps the king was so desultory that any glimmer of hope, even that sparked by such an unlikely catalyst, was worth a try. Perhaps the king had simply given up, a man with his head clamped a Guillotine, staring wild-eyed at the basket where his head will fall. But this makes me think. She was sixteen. I'm scared when I see a sixteen year old of either sex behind the wheel of a car. But this little girl not only convinced the king, but all of his generals too, who were none too pleased at first. But time after time, she was prescient in her strategies, as if an angel were telling her the enemy's next move.

So grateful was the French king for her country's deliverance that he exempted the village of Domremy of taxation, an exemption that lasted for a couple centuries. He wasn't grateful enough though, to intervene when the English finally captured her and burnt her at the stake.

Read Twain's fictionalized version. First, it's classic Twain, full of colorful characters. He researched the work for seven years before writing a single word. It's obvious that he fell in love with his subject.

One thing I've noticed though. The French could give a shit about her. One reaction I got: "What is it about you and Jean D' Arc?" The other: "France has been on the brink of destruction so many times. That's just one of them."

That goes a long way in explaining why they let her burn.

I think GW would say: "Joan of Arc is... I mean was... I mean, France owes a huge debt to Joan of Arc. Now watch this golf shot."

Friday, July 28, 2006

Inside and Out

I was so flaming mad at my dad when I introduced him to Shelby. She was my first "serious" girlfriend. Oh sure, I had only been with her for a few months, but I was sure she was the one. This is the thought that wakes me in the middle of the night. Are my children going to be as utterly stupid as I was?

Shelby complained afterwards that dad didn't like her. That's ridiculous I said. But it was true.

I called my step-mother Diana and let him have it by proxy.

"I can't believe he was so rude to her," I said. "He knows what she means to me. Why couldn't he at least pretend?"

"Because," Diana said, "he knows that she doesn't care about you the way she should."

Years later, and I mean years later, I introduced him to my fiance. This was different. I knew it. So much so that I never even considered that time before. Why did I punish myself time after time with dead-hearted women? Hands down in the back please. That was rhetorical.

Beth and Diana were happily chatting, looking over knick-knacks at a country store. My dad fell in beside me and put his arm around my shoulder. He was beaming. "She's beautiful Scott--inside and out."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bad Grades

I actually thought I was tough until eighth grade, where roughly half the class convinced me otherwise. Later I would discover that those same kids in Leavenworth Washington (town, not prison) thought I had come from some correctional facility, or some such place where kids with problems come from. When they found out I hadn't, they didn't like me anyway. How do I know that? That's actually an interesting story. Not now though.

I also thought I was good looking, and charming. Again, I was forced to rethink the issue in the same grade. Actually it was the grade before when the clues trickled in, and maybe even a grade before that. In sixth grade Ohio, I was ok, until we moved to Idaho. In sixth grade Hayden Lake, kids paired off in marriage; but I was never betrothed. Ty Eastman, whom I was destined to fight with on a couple occasions, almost got a divorce once. They were able to work out their problems though, and so they lasted for a couple more weeks. Looking back now, it was kind of cute. We happened upon her on the playground, and he told me, "Hold on, I need to take care of this."

Their hands were waving as they spoke, but gently. I overheard her say, "I don't want a divorce, do you?"

"No, that's silly. Of course I don't."

Then he left her with a smile, walked back to me and we strode away. Ah oui, Lamour!

In seventh grade, Canfield Junior High, I gave Lois O'Hara a Valentines card with the word "love" in it. I didn't really mean for the message to be so strong. Certainly I didn't feel that. She was hot and I wanted her to know I thought it. Taped to the card was a pack of Hubba Bubba--or was it Bubblelicious with the ultimate bubble? I gave it to her after science class. She read it Brett Maverick style, stone cold poker face; coolly thanked me and walked away. Like a puppy I followed while she ignored me, all the way to her boyfriend's locker. Oh, I get it now!

Having moved to Couer d' Alene for the second half of seventh grade, I entered Lakes Junior High in almost complete anonymity. Kristen--I thought I had forgotten her name, but it was Kristen. She gave me a leather wrist band with my name branded in big green letters. I wore it, but I covered it with my jacket sleeve. A nuance not missed by some little tart in a class I shared with her and Kristen. "You wear it to make her feel good, but you hide it because you're ashamed."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Shooting Salmon

There is an excellent book that I read called The Tracker by Tom Brown, in an effort to research a book idea I had about a boy who learns to track from an old Indian. Coincidentally, Tom Brown had nearly that same experience with an old Apache. A particularly interesting passage was about a wild pack of dogs the old Apache called the Guardians, who attacked and killed intruders that happened into their space. As a boy, Brown would occasionally see a tame dog running amongst the wild pack, acting just as vicious as the rest. But that same dog would go home again for a scratch behind the ear, a warm meal and a soft bed.

I don't like fishing, hunting or camping. And let's face it; I don't enjoy getting dirty either. That's not to say I won't do it, but I certainly won't suggest a plan that puts me in a situation where I have to do any of the above. You could say then, that growing up in Juneau was completely wasted on me.

My dad always had a small arsenal of guns--shotguns, handguns and rifles of various calibers. And if I do say so, I'm not a bad shot. Dad (also see, nightmare tenant) once set up targets in our duplex basement. The landlord was apparently out of town that weekend. The backdrop was a stack of plywood several sheets deep, such that a .22 couldn't penetrate. My brother and I dug the lead out and kept the slugs in a bucket.

When I was in high school, Mike Marlin and Chris Clarke talked me into hiking with our guns deep into the woods, where the salmon came to die in a stagnant pool at the end of the river. For those who don't already know, salmon swim upstream from the oceans to lay their eggs and die. Each has a biological program that drives them with eerie ferocity to travel to the end of their known world. And once they've performed that imprinted duty, the light turns out and they simply die in what can be described as a mass grave with a smell to match. We found such a place that day, littered with salmon in various states of repose--floaters in beds of foam, stragglers on the shore like shipwreck survivors, others biding their time below decks, awaiting the inevitable.

Chris had a semi-automatic .22 rifle, most likely illegal at the time. Probably still is. His target was still alive near the opposite shore, just below the surface. I can still see the smile on his face and the gleam in his eyes. I can hear the repeating pop of the gun; see the tiny sprays of water like that of a handful of thrown pebbles. The big fish fled in such a panic that it literally swam up the beach and into the woods while Chris kept pumping the lead into its body, laughing with the glee of a television mad scientist.

The others had shotguns and high caliber rifles, which joined the volley. Fish heads and fish tails flew every which way.

The roar was deafening.

We were killers of the gangland variety--bored kids gone temporarily insane, in the grips of our basest instincts. I'd like to report that I walked away, put my own rifle away, and walked home alone. But I didn't. I'd also like to tell you that I was mortified, that it wasn't in the slightest bit fun. But I have to admit that it was.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Soccer Camp

I took part of the day off yesterday to take my son to his first day of Soccer camp, a week long affair that lasts from nine to noon. The coaches are traveling abroad from England, three young guys on a journey through the states, having a good time along the way. There is something about the English accent that lends a fair amount of respect and credibility to the speaker. Kind of a reverse prejudice us Americans have to our country of origin. It's laughable, but when the assembled parents first heard the head coach speak, we all nodded and smiled. Our kids were learning from an authentic soccer player, not some American pretender.

If soccer doesn't work out, they might become a comedy troupe. Coach asked my son his name. My son told him. "I love your work Jackson," he said, "always have." He held out a fist for my son to bash with his own--a bastardized form of high five. Jackson regarded it like a serving of liver and onions. The coach said, "C'mon Jackson, don't leave me hanging." I took Jackson aside and taught him the knuckled-five protocol, practiced it a few times, then took him back to coach for his maiden voyage.

The coaches introduced themselves to the crowd of kids and parents by giving up an interesting personal factoid. One used to play soccer in the UK, another worked for a soccer team, and the other once ate twenty seven peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a row.

My wife picked Jackson up at noon, and got the up and down scope-out from the head coach. She said he barely tried to conceal it. "Dog," is the term I believe she used. But let's face it, she wasn't totally displeased with the affirmation that yes, she still has it.

How many yummy-mummies do you think these guys end up with? This traveling band of boners--young, virile, with English flipping accents. How is a single mom to resist? Or worse, one whose husband doesn't take care of business at home like he should.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Even my wife, who has seen me go through several inter-personal issues at work with cantankerous co-workers, thinks I played this one just right. Usually I blow my top and the rest of the office wilts. There goes Scott again! Not this time though. My officemate du jour rubbed my fur till it stood on end, crackling with static, but I've kept my mouth shut--mostly. One by one, his attitude has estranged him from the others, in one creeping, slowly expanding concentric circle, the wake of which has finally reached the front office.

It's just a matter of time. Strangely, I feel bad for him. He lost his father when he was a young boy. He talks too much and too loud, sort of like I used to do. Why did I do that? Because I wanted attention I wasn't getting at home. Now he's likely to get canned, and as bad as I feel about that, there's nothing I want to do to stop it. If I were a man of God, I suppose I would talk to him now, give him some clue as to what's in store. Offer some advice, advice that might hurt now, but help him for the next job, or save him in this one. The man lost his father and I can see it in everything he does.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hard Kisses

On a whim a couple years ago, I took a creative writing course at Solano Community College. The school was right next door to my subdivision. I could practically walk there. My youngest son was still in the womb, due any time soon, so this was my last chance at doing something with my relative free time. I didn't expect much. Boy was I surprised.

In many ways I will always be that small-town boy with a narrow mind. Prejudices creep in, guiding me in small ways. For instance, I used to despise the whole profession of psychology, and regarded anyone who saw a "shrink" as weak. Eventually, personal experience forced me to change my mind. The same prejudice kept me from reading a single line of poetry without dismissing it with a scoff. Dr. Laurie Duesing, my esteemed creative writing professor, blew those doors off the hinges.

Her class put me on the track I'm on today. If she had been anyone different, someone negatively critical for instance, I might not have continued.

Dr D, as her students affectionately call her, is an accomplished poet. She wrote a collection of poems that can be purchased at Amazon called Hard Kisses. I always return to the same piece, again and again. The poem is called Precision, which for me has many meanings. The obvious I will leave for your interpretation. For me, this poem is arrow sharp in delivering pain to my heart, as if for a moment I am behind her eyes feeling the loss of someone who lived fast and hard.

by Laurie Duesing

The day you flew in perfect arc
from your motorcycle was the same day
I broke the perfect formation of your women
at the railing, leaving behind
your grandmother and mother, to run
and jump the fence. The stop watch hanging
from my neck, suspended between gravity
and momentum, swung its perfect pendulum.
All our motion was brought to conclusion
by your broken body at rest
on the ground. Your breath never rose
to the oxygen placed on your face
and your heart never rallied
to the arms pressing your chest.
You wore the perfect clothes:
the ashy grey of death.

At the hospital they said your failure to survive
was complete. Though I never saw
the neck you perfectly broke or your body
cleanly draped by a sheet, I did see
your dead face bruising up at me
and for lack of something to touch,
I touched the stop watch
which had not died.
If any nurse or doctor had asked,
I could have told, exactly,
to the hundreths of seconds, how long
it had been since I'd seen you alive.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Water Powered Vehicles

I read a long time ago about an engine powered by water. The technology wasn't quite there yet, but its inventor felt he was quite close. The idea, he said, was so simple, on the magnitude possibly, of the Purloined Letter.

Urban Myth? The cynic in me says probably so. Googling around I found an article about a South African inventor who claims to have a vehicle that runs on water and emits steam and oxygen. Say goodbye to the rainforests if that's true. What this story does is claim without any scientific references, anything to make me think this is anything more than just that--a claim. I have my fingers crossed just the same.

Another search result, the first actually, sent me here. Here's an excerpt:
President Bush has made a challenge to the American people to begin running our cars on hydrogen as soon as possible, and has allocated over one billion dollars for research to find out how to do that.

In a suburb of Toronto, Canada, a small company called Rothman Technologies, Inc., has in fact discovered not one but two viable methods for breaking down ordinary water into hydrogen and oxygen. Neither method involves the need to spend a billion dollars. They are simple answers. The existing engines in our automobiles could work with these systems with very little alteration and no need for an external support infrastructure like the one now provided by gas stations, and which would be required by fuel-cell technology.

To understand how these water-fuel systems work, it helps to begin by realizing that ordinary water is actually a "battery" containing vast amounts of energy. Water is H2O--two parts hydrogen combined with one part oxygen. And, as President Bush says, hydrogen is an excellent fuel.

The amount of energy in the water molecule is thus vast, and has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of energy it takes to break down that molecule. This is an extremely important point, as so many people--even scientists--are unclear on this concept. And yet if we can find an economical means to break down the water molecule, our energy problems are over.

Interesting. I've heard a lot of talk in the past about how Big Oil would never let something like this go to market. Imagine how wonderful this would be, if suddenly every car in North America no longer needed gasoline. Oil would still be needed to lube the moving parts, but gasoline would be a thing of the past.

Would the war on terror suddenly find amiable resolution? I don't think oil is the direct reason we are in Iraq, but when you boil it all down, oil is the cause. If we didn't need it anymore, at least not so desperately bad, the price would go down. Depression style. Terrorism wouldn't be so well funded then, would it?

Note that the Rothman information is quite old, and digging around, I see claims that the technology doesn't work. Stands to reason I suppose. Wouldn't this be all over the news? Or is there really a conspiracy by Big Oil to bury this?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Manchurian Candidate

Looking around in Toyz R Us, I bumped into lady who was browsing the video game section with me. I was thinking about picking up a particular label--I don't remember which--when the lady informed me that video games cause seizures in children.

Just before I wrote this, I researched the subject just a little. Not that I needed to. Call it due diligence. The affliction is called Photosensitive epilepsy. This affects approximately two in every ten thousand children. These odds are five times more unlikely than losing a baby as a result of having amniocentesis, yet women do this almost by rote. People so afflicted are prone to having seizures as a result of flashing lights, or repeating patterns of light--which rules out the old Flintstones cartoon, that scrolled the same background as Fred and Barney cruised down Hollyrock Boulevard. I wonder if my cohabitant at the toy store has a television.

I doubt anyone reading this really believes that the above should be a deterrent, but be aware that the doomsayers exist. Here is my take on video games. If you put me in the cockpit of an airplane today, with a bit of instruction, I could be just a little bit dangerous. Why? Because I've managed complex sets of controls in a variety of games that required me to study and practice in order to manage the chaos of the game. You could say that I have a highly developed sense of hand-eye coordination, and I know this because I have mastered over a hundred different video games in my time.

As for my son, gaming has taught him to read, add, subtract, and to tell the relative difference between numbers. He has a map in his head and can tell me where any building in the game is and how to get there. The sheer volume of information he contains in his head for one game literally fills a book. Not only that, but it has given him the desire to learn more about reading and math, and a possible motivation to create something of its ilk in the future. When he was three years old, he could solve puzzle games like Putt Putt Saves The Zoo.

He still loves to go outside, just in case you may think he only plays video games. At two he was riding a scooter. At four he rode his bicycle without training wheels. For two years now he has been swimming, and can pick objects off the eight foot floor of the pool. I put everything in front of my son, sign him up for every sport and expose him to every craft class available, like art and woodworking. And of course we read together every night.

To me, video games are an important part of his development. I don't have any use for all that psycho-mumbo-jumbo that it stunts a child. The worst case, my son turns out like me, who grew up in a video arcade, Jousting with Eric, playing Loopin', Tron, Space Invaders, Gorf, Millipede, Xevious, Battletank, pinball and a host of others I have forgotten. The last I checked, we were both doing fine.

Neither of us has had a seizure yet, robbed a bank or liquor store, or killed anyone--yet. Perhaps someday we will, once the secret signal--Rosebud?--is sent that hits play on recorder in our heads, planted by the cartoon princess at the climax of Dragon's Lair.

**** Update ****

A friend who shall be unnamed has just alerted me to studies indicating that surgeons have better eye-hand coordination because of their experience with video games. A quick google search yielded this article. Here's an excerpt:
All those years on the couch playing Nintendo and PlayStation appear to be paying off for surgeons. Researchers found that doctors who spent at least three hours a week playing video games made about 37 percent fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery and performed the task 27 percent faster than their counterparts who did not play video games.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Warrior

My son and I became the Pokemon champions of the entire Hoehn region this weekend. We raised Flygon to level 60 and ripped through the Elite Four like a hot knife through butter. Wallace was a little tougher, but we came equipped with a level 59 Raichu, a few Revives and Hyperpotions. The rest, as they say, is history.

You may kiss my toes.

Coming into work this morning, I played an 80's compilation I made from old Napster downloads. My wife liked Scandal and Patty Smyth, so I included two of their songs: Goodbye To You and The Warrior. The lady can reach.

Patty was good friends with Valerie Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen when David Lee Roth left the band, so Eddie offered Patty the vacated post. Patty turned it down. She had just married John McEnroe, and decided to stay home and be a mother instead.

In an interview around that time, she said, "You should have seen their jaws drop when I turned them down." I would have been shocked too. Supposedly she has admitted to eventually regret that decision. Was it noble? Or did she just know too much about the internal workings of the band to put herself in that position. I don't know.

But my goodness, she would be a legend today. Now people are wondering who she is, and if her last name is a typo. As for me, my hat is tipped in her general direction. She's got brass ovaries, and should be immortalized upon the altar of motherhood. She turned down the rock and roll dream for a higher calling.

But after all she has achieved, can she claim to be the Pokemon champion?

That's right baby, you keep dreaming.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Spotty At Best

I just got an email from the editor of Deathlings. My story will be up sometime next week. I wasn't sure when it was slotted to be up, but apparently their web master is on an organic farm in Iowa--I hate it when that happens--so they are struggling with getting the issue up themselves. So, an announcement is forthcoming.

Meanwhile I am attempting another story, or three. Now there are fragments laying about my hard drive. This is harder than it should be.

My jeans are all in the laundry, so I'm reduced to wearing khakis to work. Which looks nicer I'll admit. After the deluge, New England is finally enjoying a sunny morning. For some reason, after every rain, there are a dozen or so frogs in my pool, when the season is in bloom. Which apparently it is. I pulled out a bunch--herd, gaggle, pack, pride?--this morning and restarted the pool filter. But since it hadn't been running in a couple days--rain always flips the power breaker--I poured liquid burn-out around the edges, which is basically a bleach that kills germs. Sitting here at work, I just realized that my previously flawless khakis have splattered bleach spots all over.

I'm such a farm boy. I swear. The day before I wore jeans with a hole in the rear, and a disgusting blotch on the knee where I knelt in a puddle of rust. Note to self: stop getting dressed in the dark, and throw those damn things away.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Message In A Bottle

Ok, now I'm totally convinced of it--the internet is another of my guardian angels, the central nervous system of God. When I first started this blog, almost a year ago to date, I was literally talking to myself. Back then I read instapundit everyday, a political blog that probably got 100K hits an hour. There was no way I was ever going to reach that kind of notoriety, and nor did I try. Actually, that isn't totally true. I launched another blog simultaneously to opine on my political observations, but that died after one post. Boooring! So I turned inward and talked about the thoughts that swam through my head from time to time. Old flames, exciting times, troubled times, funerals, road trips, fights, victories, defeats. I made a connection with a handful of readers--and so we swapped stories and encouraged each other to keep going.

Then came Jason's Two Lights contest, then Ann Maries, then my connection with Flood, a suggestion to submit my story to Deathlings, and bada-bing! I'm getting published. How divine.

Meanwhile, my old college stories are floating out there still, alone, like a message in a bottle. And like that stranded castaway who watches its pitifully small splash, I never thought it would ever actually reach the intended recipient. But this one did.

This morning, after snoozing the alarm three times, I stumbled out of bed, stepped into my flops, crept past the kids--skillfully avoiding the creaky floorboards--then snuck into the office to check my email before walking the dog. I was greeted by the following (edited slightly to remove personal information--and read the post if you really want to understand):


I found the blog about Jason and his wonderful stage performances. He's my dad! I shared your blog with my dad and he couldn't believe it! He was amazed at how you captured the memory of those times so precisely. He also wanted me to pass along that he is very flattered that you found his performances so engaging. He spent a lot of time practicing his acts but more for fun than striving for perfection. But, to know today that all that made such an impression warms my dad's heart. Thanks so much for painting a picture of my dad when he was younger so that the both of us could relive the memories, me for the first time, and my dad for the hundredth!

(Chuck Berry's daughter!)

Where do I even begin! I wrote her back of course. This is just too exciting. To think I provided such a candid and flattering account of her father, and that they would actually find it. Can you even imagine how that must feel? I told her that I can't, but the reality is that I can imagine it, and imagine it well.

I've lamented in the past that the times I spent in school may as well have never happened, because nobody remembers. It was an entirely unique universe composed of all our personalities, one that will never be reconstructed or appreciated.

Washington State University, 1984.

A small part of it came back to life today.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Back Then

I love Sitemeter. This is a recent discovery for me. I've read several blog entries over the last year, people talking about the search terms used to find their blog. How do they do that? Answer: digging around in Sitemeter. How cool.

Back on October of '05, I wrote a couple posts about pledging the Fiji fraternity. I broke several rules by doing so. They fancy themselves as being super duper trifecta top secret, but it's all a bunch of bull, even to those who eventually come to embrace it. But now my blog, having been around for so long I suppose, gets top billing sometimes for Google searches, Yahoo and too. Two days ago, I got an email from a young man thinking about pledging Fiji as WSU. He was concerned about joining. To him, the guys at the fraternity today seem like a bunch of cool guys, but my stories were unflattering. How long ago did you attend, he asked me.

Back when I was at WSU, David Lee Roth was still the lead singer of Van Halen. Jump was number one. I know, Van who? It's embarrassing to admit, but we danced in basements to Karma Chameleon Time after Time. I was the Owner of a Lonely Heart, but What's Love Got To Do With It anyway? But Let's Hear it for the Boy, because Against All Odds I made it through.

An unknown actor called Kevin Bacon starred in his first role called Footloose. Ever even heard of it? Eddie Murphy was actually funny back then. I know, I know, but it's true. He could do no wrong after his smash success that year with Beverly Hills Cop. Harrison Ford was in his prime in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And who could forget Dr. Venkman who never studied in Ghostbusters? Ralph Machio was a household name, as was Mr. Miagi. Back then Police Academy needed no suffix.

People were watching Dynasty and Dallas, The Cosby Show and Family Ties. A lot of shooting and explosions rocked the world of A-Team, but nobody got killed. The shows we watched can only be found in obscure DVD collections and Nick at Nite.

What am I trying to say? Things change. Like I told him, these are the best years of your life. Live them to the fullest.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Drop It Already

I really need to carry either a notepad or a tape recorder with me at all times. Several ideas, either for stories or posts, crossed my mind then washed down the stream. But that's alright mama, any way you do. My philosophy has always been, if I did it once, I can do it again.

Saturday morning started badly. My wife asked me how I liked the pancakes, and I did the unholiest of unholies and told the truth. Why not? Usually she is spot on. And besides, what if this was a test? It happens. But not this time. This time she really thought they rocked. So I stomped through a couple chores, gathering the garbage for the dump, mowing the pool area to bag the shavings, muttering all the while. This is usually my reaction to marital fights--extreme housework. She knows it too. If she wants something done, all she has to do is cop an attitude with me and away I go.

Anyway, she apologized to me later, right when I was thinking about doing the same. That always feels good. There is a fine line between ingratitude and constructive criticism. Alright ladies, let me have it.

My sixer stumbled into our room Saturday night holding his belly, keeled over and crying. The location of his pain scared us half to death. One thought froze our hearts--appendix. We propped his knees and probed the area, but he wouldn't let us touch. When we mentioned the emergency room, his pain did not miraculously disappear, but his complaining did. We gave him Tylenol and he fell asleep. The phone doctor told us to press the spot. If he wakes up, take him to emergency.

A half hour later he was in the back seat and I had a bag packed with toothbrushes, snacks and waters. It was just past midnight, and not a soul was parked in the hospital lot. Emergency was empty but for a single moaning grandma surrounded by family and nurses. The doctor made me feel better at once. The appendix, he said, is on the right side. Your son's pain is on the left.

Listen, he said. He placed two fingers flat against my son's liver and rapped against them with two fingers of the other hand. A dull thud. He moved to the stomach and rapped again. Hollow. Now over the afflicted area. Somewhere between dull and hollow. On the compass that would read dull by dull hollow. His intestines are full. An x-ray ruled out blockage. Little man has been holding it too long.

I told poop jokes all the way home.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Pig in a Dress

I pay an embarrassing amount of money for a membership at a local health club called the Thoreau Club. Last night they sponsored a barbeque that I was lead to believe was complimentary to pool members. Twenty bucks later, we were enjoying a cheeseburger apiece. The bathroom floors were awash in urine, so my wife inquired to maintenance. She was told that those bathrooms are cleaned every day.

Think about that. There were probably three hundred people in the pool area, roughly two thirds little kids. And they clean the bathroom every day. Have you ever seen a McDonald's bathroom when it isn't maintained every hour?

The condiments bar, stocked with lettuce, tomato, ketchup and the like, didn't have tongs to pick anything out with. My wife watched a man dig through the lettuce, like an eager child up to his elbow in Cap'n Crunch rummaging for the toy surprise, until he found just the right piece. All we could think was does this man wash his hands after he wipes--if he even wipes?

The club pretends to have class, but they could take a few plays from the Four Seasons handbook. You can adorn a pig in a dress, perfume and lipstick, but you still have a hairy hog that rolls in its own shit.

Next year it's the Y.


Update : I need a cool name for a crime family. Anyone want to try? Namely (ha ha ha) I would like a first name for the father and the underachieving son, and maybe a name for the son who is most like father. The older son is next in line, smarter, but not ruthless enough)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Autopsy Room Four

I read the first short story by Stephen King in the Everything's Eventual collection, and was reminded how a professional writer does it. Jaye wrote yesterday about research. I'm sure Mr. King has anyone available to him that he needs. Who wouldn't be more than happy to tell him everything he needs to know about their business?

Thank goodness for the afterward. King admits to making up a few facts. So seamless did he do this that I assumed the existence of an entire species of poisonous snake.

The story was called Autopsy Room Four. It wasn't entirely original, rather a twist on an old TV show I had seen before, to which King pays homage. The man protagonist has been bitten by a poisonous snake and is dead by most standards, but is completely aware of his situation as he lies on the autopsy table. Did that just give you a cold chill? It did me. But just as Wesley was in Princess Bride, our man was only mostly dead, and only needed to recover from the poison to wake up again. King teases us the whole time as the coroner toys with the meat clippers that will open his chest while he is fully aware.

What impressed me, and thus the reason I am writing this post, is the technical jargon King employed. I don't have the book in front of me or I would reproduce some of the language. The doctor turns on a tape recorder and dictates his observations. King has done some research, unless he moonlights as a coroner, or actually spent time on the battlefield as his paralyzed character has.

So I have an idea right now to rewrite a short story I wrote in college, but with more detail and character development. I need to know something about heart transplants, and how one person can know if another is a viable donor. My friend got married to a woman whose brother is a heart surgeon in New Orleans. For three days he and I hung out maybe ten years ago. The chances of being remembered are slim. And what would I say anyway?

How could I interview a heart surgeon? How would you go about this?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Happy Fourth

Man are we stupid. I'm pretty sure that we will never quite get the concept of time and how long it takes. Last night was quite spectacular, even if our youngest passed out during the extravagant fireworks display. These were the coolest I'd ever seen. They pulled out some new rabbits from the hat. The best was a bit understated--just a splash of green dots that spread randomly, first slow, then fast, then slow again. It reminded me of the old Star Castle game, or Tempest. In fact, the whole fireworks display bordered on screen saver quality, as if the pyro-zen-technicians had achieved wizard-like mastery of the craft. Thank goodness I wasn't smoking pot. It would have freaked me out real bad. I would have seen a disembodied head commanding us to kneel.

I surprised myself by knowing the lyrics to all the patriotic songs. Missing however were the voices of the crowd. Perhaps the inclusion of God would have been too offensive to our Muslim neighbors. I was saddened a bit that we weren't all singing at the top of our lungs, proud for just one night of what we have achieved. More people knew the fight song at Washington State University. Flag-waving has achieved dubious status, associated with right-wing nutters, pick up trucks, and six-pack totin' good ole boys with no front teefas. We can't be associated with them there types here in Boston. Thems the ones as voted dubya inta orifice.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

For a Dog She Speaks

Our new puppy is quite the attention grabber from strangers. At dinner tonight, we sat outside with her on a leash. A woman stepped out from the passenger side of a minivan and asked if it would be rude to have a look at our little cutie.

"Of course you can," I said.

"You never know," she said, "I saw a news report where some people have puppies in training, and people like myself could be intruding."

"Intruding is sticking your finger in the mouth of my newborn baby and saying goochie-goochie-goo, ok?"

She laughed and pet the dog. "I couldn't resist. My mother said, 'Look at the dog!', so I had to come out. Those are her first words in two months." She looked down and said, "She has Alzheimer's."

"Does she want to see the dog?" I said.

"You wouldn't mind?"

When the side door slid open, her mother sat there cradling a baby doll that was swaddled tight. I held out the dog and said, "This is Roxie."

Her daughter repeated loudly, "Her name is Roxie."

"I know that," she replied sternly. A man beside her took the doll as I placed Roxie in her lap. She pet her for a moment, then her eyes went sort of dull, as if focusing on a distant object over the horizon.

This was my first experience with someone so afflicted. Only a glimpse. Have a good holiday Eve. I still don't know what it's like, but I thought of you today.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Odds and Ends II

I reused an old title for lack of serious inspiration. I've update my links to include a few new bloggers I have been visiting lately. I also linked my interview at Flood's site, and my guest blogger spot on Fringes.

A belated congrats to all the winners and honorable mentions of the flash fiction contest at Jason's place. Some of my new friends made top honors. Elisha's story, Jimmy Crick, was a clear winner. You won't find a single one of us that disagrees.

So now that I have an article on the way, I am getting serious about a repeat performance. A special thanks to my new friend Anthony, who inspired me to look around for places to submit. Also to Toni, my writer's group companion and friend from California, who provided me with several sources to consider. See my sidebar for my list as it grows.