My Blog

A New Jake Calcutta Story in March

The second Jake Calcutta story is getting a final proofread this week and will be ready for newsletter readers in my March 1st newsletter, he said with an unusual confidence in his communication schedule.

The second Jake Calcutta story, The Illuminating Adventure of Jake Calcutta and the Second Bite, is less adventure, more backstory. It’s the story of his grandmother, Rachel Kolkata, inventing time travel and taking Jake under her wing in the process. You’ll see Jake meeting the triplets in the lab, and the illustrious and ethereal Felicity Bruttenholm. (You are pronouncing that correctly, aren’t you?)

This one will be for newsletter subscribers only. Won’t be selling it at Amazon, at least not this year, and won’t be giving it away anywhere else.

Progress on Love Runs Out

I’m halfway through rewrites. Plan to finish in early March, then have it edited by end of March, proofread and published by end of April, he said once again obliviously confident in his scheduling prowess.

It needs a new cover, though. The story isn’t red-and-black dark, it’s blue-sky green-forest with dark undertones.


Massive Mustard Mess

Transcript (but it’s better if you listen)

When the Texas economy crashed in 89 I loaded my pregnant wife and 3 small children into our tiny little Isuzu and drove cross country to San Diego California where I knew people, had family and friends and hoped I could find work in construction.

We had no money of course so we packed food in the trunk and in coolers and planned on driving straight through and fixing food along the way.

Late afternoon somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona we stopped to make some sandwiches. As I got the mustard out I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the bottle was swollen to twice its normal size, having been in the trunk, in the summer, driving from Texas through the great southwestern desert.

When I opened the mustard about half of the bottle came out, part fine vinegar mist and part messy mustard spray. All over the roof of the car, the windshield, the driver’s window, and every part of the front of my body from my waist up including my glasses and my hair.

It took a while to clean everything up. I chose not to have mustard on my sandwiches after that. When I sold the car years later there were still mustard stains on the headliner.

And the happy ending? Sorry. When I got to California construction crashed but it boomed in Texas. And we’d already moved. Eventually I found work in information technology, working with computers, so maybe there is a happy ending after all because that’s the work I really love.

See you next week.


Not the Longest Joke in the World

You’ll find that elsewhere by Googling that phrase, ‘the longest joke in the world.’ That version, though an interesting story, is nearly 11,000 words long, most of it unrelated build up, not joke setup. Mine is 230 words, or about 2% of the original length. For this punchline, it’s still too long.

Coming down a desert dune in his SUV a guy sees something strange at the bottom: a huge snake coiled around a long pole.

He slides to a stop and looks through the window at the snake, which looks back, and then, to his surprise, asks him to put down his window.

“I won’t bite,” the snake says.

Must be the heat. He puts the window down. “What’s the deal? Why are you out here?”

“My name is Nate. I’m the guardian of this switch. If it’s pushed, all mankind dies.”

“Well, that seems dumb,” the man replied.

“Yup. But I know some not dumb things. Stick around and I’ll teach you the secrets of immortality, unending wealth, and how to put a USB stick in the right way the first time.”

Curiosity gets the better of the guy. But hunger gets the best of him.

“How about I run to town and get some snacks first?”

“It’s that way,” pointing with its tail.

He races off, gets his stuff, and comes back. Barreling down the dune, the brakes fail on his SUV—and he’s headed right for the switch of doom. As he fights the steering wheel he realizes that he can pass the switch on the left.

Then he realizes the snake is sunning itself right there.

Of course, he kept going because he figured, better Nate than lever.


Sleeping Lie

shirtsleeve wipe the window grime
your bark weaker all the time
don’t see you but you’re out there I can tell
shaggy coat too far away to smell

back and forth, closer every pass
you think you see me looking through the glass
shadow of coal pacing hot
you think you’re gonna take me but you’re not

hand on the doorknob, I know

I won’t turn my back
I won’t turn my back
I won’t turn my back
for you
today

I don’t pace I don’t shake I don’t freak out
once in a while I can’t help but peek out
you’re not close enough to bite
you’re still there prowling my night

I lean against the door, I know

I won’t turn my back
I won’t turn my back
I won’t turn my back
for you
today

I hit the light your eyes glow red
you whimper and cower and duck your head
thought you’d come to me to get fed
I’ll laugh out loud when I know you’re dead

you used to knock me down, get on my back
work your fangs to hear my spine crack
worry my neck like you were killing a rat
you and I we’re way past that

kick that door open, now I know

I won’t turn my back
I won’t turn my back
I won’t turn my back
for you
today


Raveled Sleave

Stumbling from the mouth of the cave, he shaded his eyes from the blinding blast of the harsh sun. It wasn’t enough. Sitting, he closed his eyes, letting the light filter through the lids, slowing seeping in until he could open them a crack and see where he was.

The mountain above was jagged, hard, rocky. Below, down a slope strewn with miniatures of the peak above, was a flat plain.

On the flat plain was a dwelling.

Between him and the dwelling, a small figure sat, doing something on the ground.

He stood, eager to go down. Not because he was curious about what the small figure was doing, but because that figure would see him, speak to him.

The heavy boots he wore were perfect for the terrain, as were the dungarees and light shirt. More than a few sleeps ago he’d stopped wondering about the clothing. It simply was, like everything else in his confusing existence.

“Hello.”

A young girl, more than half his height, but young. Seven, perhaps eight, if he had to put a number to it, but then, how would he know?

“Hello yourself.”

There was another curiosity. Had language never changed? The few people he spoke to understood him, in fact, spoke so exactly like him that he’d begun to assume he was being adapted, somehow, to each successive encounter.

“Are you a stranger? I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”

He crouched down, to be on her level.

“I don’t think I’m a stranger, but of course, you should always mind your parents.”

The young girl stood from her play, pushing figurines of animals around in a dusty menagerie.

“Do you want some lemonade?”

“I think I might like that. But still, you should ask your mother—”

“That’s what I’m going to do, silly. I’ll tell her you’re here to play with me, and that we need some lemonade because it’s hot.”

He smiled. “You make sense, young lady. I will wait.”

Shortly, she returned with two glass bottles filled with lemonade. A woman stood in the doorway, drying a plate and smiling.

Yet another unusual thing. Strangers trusted him, as if he wore a special sign from God that he was no danger to them. She simply smiled and went back inside to her cleaning.

He and the little girl moved the animal figurines around in what struck him as outlandish situations and circumstances. Her inexhaustible imagination would have worn him out when he was younger. He wondered at his own immaturity, selfishness. Was it part of the point of his situation, part of the cause, perhaps a remedy?

The lemonade was gone. The animals were, apparently, tired, and needed to be stabled for the night. The sun was, in fact, sinking behind an even bigger mountain across the valley.

He knew, but he asked anyway.

“Do you know what year this is?”

“Course I do.” Her answer sounded like she was saying two different numbers, twenty, and ten.

One-hundred and ten years. A new millennium.

He stood.

“Will you come play with me again tomorrow?”

He wanted to touch her, to ruffle her hair, but he didn’t.

“I’ll see. If I’m still around tomorrow, I’d like that.”

He would not see her again. He knew that. He did not know where he would wake up next. He only knew when.

Then, some child, it was always a child, would answer with another unusual pair of numbers, or rather, the same number twice, twenty-one twenty-one, each sleep a year longer than the previous.

His climb back up to the cave to sleep was the same stillness it always was.