BRAVERY IS FOR THE YOUNG

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Back when I was young, indestructible and had the common sense of Brussels sprouts, I wanted to go skydiving. Jumping out of an airplane and freefalling within a few hundred feet of the ground before popping the ripcord was a thrill I couldn’t imagine. I’d want to hold off opening the parachute for as long as possible, because at the time, hanging below a parachute hundreds of feet off the ground had to be the most boring thing I could imagine. Today if I was in an airplane it would take a whip, gun and a very angry sasquatch to get me out of it.

When I was little, a friend of mine, Ray, and I would climb an old railroad trestle. We would climb it from the ground to the top: up the stone supports, onto the steel girders and up to the railroad tracks where we would be about seventeen gazillion feet in the air. (I never actually measured it, so I may be off by a few feet one way or the other.) We never worried about falling because there was a river below with water to fall into. If we missed the water, there were trees along the banks with branches we could grab before we hit the ground. And if we missed the branches, we could maneuver ourselves in the air so we would land between the rocks, and the soft sand would break our fall–sometimes high optimism covers up low intelligence. Someday I hoped to scale some unconquerable peak. Hanging by two fingers, I’d stop for lunch and deftly unwrap a baloney sandwich with one hand and enjoy a cold Dr. Pepper from the cooler with ice strapped to my back, while all the time looking for that soft spot between the rocks in case I lost my grip. Nowadays I drive pitons, string ropes and put on a safety harness if I have to climb up on a chair to get a dish out of the top cupboard in our kitchen.

I used to skateboard when I was little, and I’m not talking the wussy skateboards they use today that don’t break in half over jumps and the wheels stay on. I’m talking homemade skateboards where you grab a 1X6 or 8 or 10 and nail an old pair of metal roller skates to it. That was skateboarding at its finest. We didn’t wear those sissy elbow pads and knee pads they wear today. No siree, nothing but skin to protect us from the pavement when we crashed. And we crashed a lot; because those old wheels locked up if you hit a crack wider than a quarter, a rock, a stick or a night crawler crossing the road. We had scrapes and cuts, but we were fine–most of the time you could barely see the bone. It didn’t bother us because we were tough and in a punch-drunk daze most of the time from loss of blood and head injuries, because we didn’t wear those sissy helmets either. Occasionally now, I’ll see one of those new skateboards with the polyurethane wheels sitting on the sidewalk, and a small voice will say, “You can still do it.” It’s Satan talking. So I don’t do it, because I still have the will to live.

I think part of the reason I don’t want to do dangerous things anymore is because I spent twenty-six years in law enforcement and had to do many dangerous things, such as teaching my oldest daughter to drive. (See Driving a Straight Stick.) I’ve driven as fast as I want to go in conditions I’d rather not drive in at all. I’ve felt that adrenaline rush as much as I care to in one lifetime. It’s not that I still don’t take chances. Just this morning I skipped my bran muffin. There’ll be hell to pay tomorrow, but I can take it.
Quick update on the sequel to my first novel In The

Sticks. I had been really struggling with it for awhile now. It’s not that I didn’t know where the story was headed, it’s just that there weren’t many twists and turns and a half a billion suspects. Those of you who read my first book know I like a lot of suspects. I like to let the reader think he knows who the murderer is, then, wham, I throw water all over his conclusion. I found a bunch of water buckets lately and the story is going well.

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IT’S CALLED SHOPPING NOT BUYING

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          In his short story, Delta Autumn, William Faulkner wrote: “But women hope for so much. They never live too long to still believe that anything within the scope of their passionate wanting is likewise within the range of their passionate hope…” What Faulkner was trying to say in his Nobel prize-winning, world-renowned style is: Women are nuts and believe anything they want, they can get. (If you have a problem with that, get a hold of Bill. I don’t make this stuff up; I just report it.)
When I first read that passage I thought, when did Faulkner meet my wife? My wife will hang the laundry out on the clothesline even though every weather report says there is a three hundred percent chance of rain, thunder is rattling the windows and quarter-sized drops of rain are dotting the cement of our patio.
“The storm might miss us,” she’ll say as a gust of wind comes up and flips over the garbage can, the grill and the Chevy Equinox.
When we take a trip, I live in constant fear of running out of gas because my wife is sure it will be cheaper in the next place down the road. If it is cheaper, she is certain at the next place they will be giving it away in some type of promotional deal. So we drive on with the yellow LOW FUEL light dinging as she searches for the mythical free gas. Normally we end up paying a higher price than we would have if we had just stopped at the first place, not that my wife doesn’t suggest driving back to the place where it had been the cheapest. But by then I’ve chewed off all my fingernails and half my toenails worrying that we’re going to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. I don’t want to hike fifteen miles to the nearest town to get a can of gas. Even then she’d probably make me hike to the town after that one, because that might be where they are having the free gas promotional deal. Gas is not something you should do a lot of shopping for the best deal.

Shopping is my wife’s downfall. When I need a pair of black socks, I go buy a pair of black socks. All you men are saying, “Tell us something not so obvious like the Chicago Cubs won’t win the World Series this year,” while you women are rolling on the floor in fits of laughter. There is an old saying among fisherman: If you caught fish every time you went, they’d call it catching not fishing. There is a reason women call it shopping and not buying. My wife will go to a fabric store to get a couple yards of muslin. I don’t know why she needs muslin, but she’s constantly running out of it–one day I’m sure I’ll find one of the rooms in our house wallpapered with muslin. While she goes into the store, I’ll wait in the car, because men are not allowed in fabric stores. There is no law forbidding it, but common sense dictates unless you want to hear volumes about gingham, calico, crepe, swansdown and aba–which men think was a Swedish singing group but isn’t– you’ll stay outside in the car and listen to ABBA on the golden oldies station.

Three days later my wife finally comes out of the store carrying ten bags.
“That’s a lot of muslin,” I’ll say.
“I didn’t get any muslin,” she’ll reply. “It wasn’t on sale.”
“So what’s in the bags?”
“Other stuff that was on sale.”
Sale is the magic word, and if it’s on sale and there’s a coupon, she’ll buy as much as they’ll allow, even if it’s aba.
Okay, I’ve had some fun at my wife’s expense because today is her birthday. I married an older woman, so for the next four months she will be a year older than me—not that I would ever mention it. Age seems to mean less every year. When I look at her now, I still see the same cute long-haired high school girl I saw when I first met her, because I’m old and I really need new glasses. No seriously, physical looks mean so little when you get down to it. Looks attract. Eventually Time sculpts all of us into wrinkled old people. If looks is all you have in a relationship, you have nothing. So happy birthday, Beautiful. I got you a card, a cake and some muslin.

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RETURN OF THE DUSTMOP WITH LEGS

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FOR WHOM THE LEGS GLOW

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I’m a white guy. I mean I’m a really white guy. Oh I can get a tan on my arms, face and even my back, but not my legs. My legs look like they belong to some alien creature from a planet without a sun. I’m not joking. They won’t tan and they won’t burn. I think they reflect too much for the sun to penetrate. Maybe it’s a hold-over from my ancestor’s caveman days. Mine were the ones who lived in the deepest part of the cave–I’m talking miles below the Mole people– and didn’t get any sunshine.

Having white legs comes in handy sometimes. If I ever got lost in the woods, I can just raise a pant leg and soon black government helicopters will be hovering overhead to check out the strange light seen on satellite photographs. When I was camping out as a kid if someone needed to find something in the tent at night, I would just stick a leg out of the sleeping bag, and they could use the light to look for whatever they needed, while making sure not to look directly at my legs to keep from singeing their retinas. They were always appreciative, but the radioactive hum coming from my legs got a little annoying, and people passing by would occasionally call the fire department, certain that the intense blaze inside the tent could only be the result of a raging inferno.

There are of course disadvantages to having glowing legs. Whatever is radiating from inside my legs has killed off many of the hair follicles. Over the years huge bald patches have developed on my legs. My calves and upper thighs are without hair. Nair and electrolysis could not make those patches smoother or more hair free. I wouldn’t put it pass my wife to shave them in the middle of the night while I’m sleeping, but if she’s doing it, she’s been very consistent over the years.

My second toe is longer than my big toe. I think that is the way it is supposed to be–after all it is called the big toe and not the long toe. My stubby-toed wife, however, assures me it is not normal, so perhaps that also is a result of whatever is wrong with my legs.

After giving this extensive research and deep thought for thirty seconds, I know what the problem is. When I was young they were still doing above-ground nuclear testing, and my mother told me constantly not to eat snow because it was full of radiation. At the time I was a big fan of Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk; radiation turned them into superheroes. So I ate a lot of snow–especially the yellow stuff, because I figured that’s where the radiation was the most concentrated. It always disappointed me that I never developed superpowers, but maybe I did. However, Captain Lightning Bug just doesn’t seem to have that superhero ring to it.

County Ops: The Vengeance of Gable Fitzgerald is still just 99 cents at the Amazon Kindle Store.

 

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IT’S COMPLICATED

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The world has gotten too complicated, and when I say the world of course I mean my washing machine. When I was a kid my mother had a wringer-style washing machine with an On/Off button. She sorted clothes into whites and colored–just like the restaurants and bathrooms did in the South at the time. I wasn’t in favor of sorting people, but it worked out well for the laundry. It kept me from having to wear pink underwear if a red shirt was washed with them. It was a simple system, but it worked—okay, Mom would occasionally get her hand caught in the wringer, but she never lost a finger. Our clothes dryer was a clothesline with no buttons. The washing machine we currently have has seven buttons with five selections on each button plus a dial with five more selections that range from PERMANENT PRESS to FRILLY UNDERWEAR THAT NOBODY WEIGHING OVER A HUNDRED POUNDS WOULD EVER WEAR.

I wondered how many combinations were possible on a washing machine with that many buttons. After less than ten minutes with a pencil and paper I discovered that I stink at math, but I’m sure the number of combinations has to be in the bazillions. And my wife sorts clothes into that many piles when she does the laundry. She does whites, colors, permanent press, delicates, Catholic, Protestant, low-fat, sugar free and smoking and non-smoking. The clothes dryer has just as many buttons as the washing machine and a dial, and each load has to be dried in a different way. I think we were better off with just the On/Off switch.

The first copier I ever used had an On/Off button and a Start button. You put the original document on top of a glass plate, closed the lid and pushed START. The machine whirred and a bright light, like some alien sun, went back and forth under the lid. Pretty soon it spit out an exact copy–although only in black and white–and I was truly amazed. The last copier I used had twelve buttons not counting the Start or On/Off buttons. Each button brought up a menu with at least five choices and each choice had five more choices. Now we’re talking a gazillion or so combinations. I once tried to make a two-sided copy of a form. I studied all the menus, pushed the buttons I thought I needed and after about a half hour, I hit START. I know something happened because the machine whirred and the little sun went back and forth. I might have put a copy in the machine’s memory or faxed a copy somewhere or launched a missile strike on Lichtenstein. What I didn’t do was make a two-sided copy. Nothing came out.

I deal with technology because I have to, but I don’t like it. My wife likes it and can’t deal with it. Last week I threw away a VCR we’d had for fifteen years. In all that time my wife never learned to use it, and I’m not talking the complicated stuff like setting the time. Every time she wanted to record a program I would have to help her.

My wife looking at the remote as if it was a piece of modern art: How do I record on this thing?
ME: Push the RECORD button.
My wife: Which one is that?
Me: The one that says record.

Recently we got satellite TV. The remote has forty-seven buttons! My wife is constantly yelling at me from the other room that the TV won’t work. I go in and what is on the TV screen is something Charlie Sheen would see when he’s smoking the really good stuff.
Me: What did you do?
My wife: I just turned it on.
Me: It only takes one button to turn it on.
My wife: I only pushed one button…at first.

I need a TV remote with an On/Off switch and a wringer. Now that would be progress.

Just an update, I was half finished with the novel I was working on, and I started over. I had been writing it in first-person, and it just wasn’t working. First-person works well for short things like this blog, but I have trouble staying with the voice over the long haul. I’ll let you know how it comes out. By the way, has anybody heard from Lichtenstein lately?

COUNTY OPS on sale at Amazon for 99 cents

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THE SECRET TO WHY YOU ARE FAT

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Kids aren’t eating their school lunches because they taste bad. School lunches have always tasted bad. If you put ketchup on Styrofoam it would taste better than the fish sticks they served us. But now lunches taste even worse. I figured that would be a scientific impossibility, like going faster than the speed of light or understanding the lyrics of any song Bob Dillon sings. The problem is our first lady, Michelle Obama, has decided kids nowadays are too fat. I was skeptical at first, but after doing extensive research for five minutes I have to agree. The average enlistee during World War II weighed one hundred forty-five pounds, and that was before boot camp. I know a fifth-grader who weighs that much–and she’s not even the biggest kid in her class.

To combat this obesity, the first lady has been campaigning to reduce calories in the school lunches. For those of you who don’t know, calories are particles that make food taste good. The more calories you have, the better food tastes. Recently Mrs. Obama has discovered that calories not only make food taste good, but they also make people fat, so she is trying to reduce the calories in school lunches to less than 850. Since corrugated cardboard has 920 calories, you figure out what’s left for taste.

Now I’m not one to disagree with the first lady, especially when I have to file income tax forms, but something is wrong. When I was a kid I ate everything that didn’t move, and sometimes things that did move, and nothing was healthy. A large bag of chips was the single-serving size. Doughnuts came by the dozen because that’s how they were supposed to be eaten. Mom never cooked healthy things. She put a stick of butter or margarine in everything she made: mashed potatoes, gravy, a glass of milk… If we ate salads they were either potato salads with potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise and a stick of butter, or fruit salads containing enough sugar to give honey bees diabetes. And nobody was ever fat. Oh sure we had some kids who were chubby or plump, but never anyone obese. In fact most of the people we called fat would be nicknamed Slim or Tiny today.

When I was young I was always hungry. I guess it’s because I was always doing something: running through the woods, running after a friend when we were playing tag, running away from my older, mean sister because I’d dropped a night crawler down her back .

Today’s kids don’t seem to run as much. Usually they are sitting in front of a computer or playing Xbox or talking on their smart phones… A thought just occurred to me. I’m surprised someone hasn’t thought of this before. Today’s kids are fat because: all these electronics GIVE OFF FAT RAYS!

I know what you’re thinking: This is a goofy idea, even for him. But stop and do some extensive research for a moment. Look at all the people with bulging beer bellies. What part of the body is the closest to the electronic devices? The stomach, right? It’s called a laptop because you set in on your lap when you’re on a plane or in a car, and when you play with your smart phone, it’s held down right in front of your belly. Those fat rays just keep swelling your stomach until it lops over the belt. And how many times have you known a woman to accidentally sit on her smart phone? “Whew,” she’ll say with relief. “I didn’t break it.” as if that is the worst thing that could happen–and we won’t even talk about the women who put their smart phones in their back pockets.

Okay, before a bunch of women start stuffing laptops in their bras, there are a few parts of my theory that need ironed out. If I can get a two or three million dollar government grant so I can go to Alaska for a couple months to do some extensive research and salmon fishing, I could probably come up with a solution, or at least a couple good-sized Chinook. Does anyone have the first lady’s phone number?

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TAKING A BREAK

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I made a vow a while ago to write something every week on this blog. Recently the hits have gone down drastically. I figure with summer approaching people have better things to do than read a blog that seems to wander aimlessly with no apparent reason or purpose. It is also possible that after reading a few posts, people are afraid of catching whatever it is I have and have decided to keep their distance. Anyway I am not going to post on any certain schedule for a while. It doesn’t mean I won’t post once a week, but it doesn’t mean I will either. Whenever the mood strikes me I’ll write something without any due date or regularity.
Since this will be my last post for a while, I’ll do a little promotion for my books.

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In The Sticks was my first novel and was published by Wings Epress. It’s a good mystery with many twists and turns and a lot of conflict between characters—I’m big on conflict between characters. The murderer changed three times while I was writing it, and the suspects changed constantly. It’s a well-constructed mystery with a surprise ending that I wrote when the novel was about halfway finished. The characters are all flawed. Most of my characters are flawed in my books. In real-life nobody is perfectly good or perfectly bad and everyone has those little flaws that make them unique. Perfect characters never ring true and tend to bore me, and once you reach that perfection level, people want to nail you to a cross. The two biggest comments I’ve gotten about the book are: it’s fast-paced and there’s more humor in it than you normally find in a mystery. I like to have something big happen in every chapter in at least one of the subplots. That always keeps things moving and makes the reader want to read more. The humor comes from the back and forth between the characters. You’ll find a lot of smart-alecks in my novels. I guess it’s because there is one buried in me. Wings Epress recently reduced the price of In The Sticks. The price was the biggest problem I had with that company, which is why I didn’t offer my second or third novel to them. I’m currently working on a sequel to Sticks, and since they have come down in price, I may offer it to them.

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Graves of His Personal Liking is my second novel. It was published by Whiskey Creek Press last November. I wrote it at the same time I was writing the rough draft of In The Sticks. It’s a western and was probably the most fun to write of the three novels—not the best, just the most fun. The love interests of Ben Cone play a big part in the story, but I wouldn’t call it a romance novel. It was nice while writing it not to have to worry about every detail being perfectly aligned like you do when writing a mystery. If I wanted to change the direction of the story, I didn’t have to go back and change everything that happened previously to make sure all the clues and back story fit into who the new murderer was; I envy non-mystery writers for that. Again the characters are flawed and John Wayne could not have played any of the parts–if he was still alive…and they made a movie out of the book.

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County Ops: The Vengeance of Gable Fitzgerald is my most recent novel. I had two literary agents express interest in it. They both finally passed on it. I never tried to get a publisher for it. I wanted to self-publish so I could use it as a promotional tool by reducing the price and drumming up some interest in my writing. It is not a true mystery—more of a whydunit than a whodunit. I call it a thriller but there are just a few tense moments. I like the relationship between the DCI agent and Gable Fitzgerald and the way their relationship changes. My wife didn’t like the way it ended when she read the first draft. I thought about changing it, but decided not to. I couldn’t think of another way to make the story end that I found acceptable. County Ops: The Vengeance of Gable Fitzgerald will be on sale for 99 cents starting Friday May 30 and continuing until June 5. If you haven’t read it yet, this would be the time.

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