Patrick, the little kid up the street who ate 3/4 of a stick of Imperial margarine trying to get the crown to magically appear in his head like in the commercials, had a swimming pool. Just once, all the kids in the neighborhood were invited over to swim while his father played lifeguard. Patrick, tiny as he was, jumped into the deep end like a fish. My older brother and Rose the neighbor girl both swim around in the deep end. And there I was, in the shallow end, with the babies. Except Patrick. He was a baby, but perhaps margarine made him buoyant.
I said I wanted to swim in the deep end, too, and Patrick’s father said, “Why don’t you swim over to the ladder on the side and let’s see how you do.”
I confidently ducked under, knowing I could swim farther underwater, and in about 3.4 seconds, ran out of breath and popped to the surface, yelling, “Help! Help! Help!”
There was a huge splash and someone lifted me out of the pool and set me on the side. Patrick’s father, from in the pool, said, “Perhaps you should stay in the shallow end for now.”
It is astonishing to me that 50 years later, I still find it embarrassing. I’m not saying I would have preferred a tragic death in front of my friends to being rescued. I’m not saying that.
We are strange creatures indeed.
After finishing his latest fiction I’m rereading Stephen King’s On Writing which, although not precisely instructional, is the most inspiring book I’ve read when it comes to staying the course as a writer.
Last night this reminded me why:
“I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since—too many, I think—being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who as ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent.”
“. . . in my heart I stayed ashamed. I kept hearing Miss Hisler asking why I wanted to waste my talent, why I wanted to waste my time, why I wanted to write junk.”—from Stephen King’s On Writing p50
shatter leaves from the trees and slash them through my dream
pour them onto the road I cannot travel
smear them across the windows I cannot see
tear the rain from the air and chase it from this place
dry the lies
and the hate and
upturn the funnel
empty the blackness till it whitens
drag my heart from here to that place I belong
that place where I dreamt I was me,
where I dreamt I was myself
We chatted for an hour about brownies. I would make a big batch and bring them to the gig.
At some point I got out of bed, still on the phone, opened the door, and walked through the next room toward the kitchen.
He was sitting, no clothes at all, on the bed by the window, sunrise streaming across the white sheets. He stopped talking as I walked through, but he didn’t look at me.
Before I got to the kitchen I woke up.
Continue reading “My Naked Dylan Dream”
We read in order to learn how to face life’s challenges.
A book without challenges teaches us nothing.
The greater odds our hero faces, the more we learn from their success (or, to be fair, failure.)
I’ll confess that the young boy in my current work in progress is me, and I’m using the book to work through some childhood difficulties I’ve never been able to shake; nothing world-shattering, just the usual pains of being different and trying to grow up.
Continue reading “Merciless”
He sat, pretending to watch the garish musical on the big screen. Why anyone would present a so-called gala night featuring some forgotten and forgettable musical was a mystery to him.
Since he was here to catch a blackmailer, ignoring the noise and commotion onscreen was part of the task, and he was glad of it.
Also glad that he knew exactly who he was looking for. Easy to catch a criminal in the act when you know who they are. Follow them around a bit, do some discreet digging, and hey presto! Usable information leading to eyewitnessing their perfidy.
The light from the preposterous dance number bounced off a shiny silk suit. No, it wasn’t the suit.
It was a knife blade. And that was flashing toward the suit.
The suit worn by the blackmailer he was going to catch in the act.
Instead, he’d caught his murder, live and in person.
I climb the stairs, avoiding the few creaky ones I’m used to avoiding coming down. Soft-soled shoes help, but I know whoever is up there will hear the slightest noise.
Every time they rummage, stumble, make any noise, I take an extra step. My slow climb is taking minutes that feel like hours.
I miss, or rather, don’t miss, one of the creaks. The noise above stops abruptly and a figure dressed in black appears at the top of the stairs.
My assailant, male I think, rushes me, probably trying to push me backward down the stairs.
I quash the instinct to fight back. Instead, I drop to my stomach, arms flailing above me.
I catch an ankle.
Then I catch a knee in the back as he tumbles over me.
By the time I turn and scamper back down, he’s lying motionless on the floor.
Before I even check for a pulse, I pull the ski mask off his head.
It’s more of a shock than when I first realized someone had broken into my home.
Finding that pulse matters now.
“What makes you think she’s in trouble?”
“I knew you wouldn’t take me seriously.”
“Not saying that. I need the lay of the land before I take the case.”
“Just because I’m not old enough to drive—”
“Hey, age has no bearing on whether someone needs help.”
“Or tells the truth.”
“That, too. People of all ages lie to me. People of all ages get confused about people they love. People of all ages come in here and tell me all kinds of stories. I pepper them with questions like I’m doing right now, and if I don’t like their story, they can take it somewhere else. So like I said, age has nothing to do with it whether I’ll believe you, or take you seriously, or take the case even if I do. I still need to know what makes you think she’s in trouble.”
“She packs my lunch for school every day. Writes me notes.”
“This is not surprising.”
“Wait, I wasn’t finished. This is the note I found in my lunch today. Read it.”
“He’s going to kill me. Get help.”
The blue-grey clouds squished over the rooftops down the road as I warmed my hands on my mug of darker-than-clouds coffee. A good night’s sleep would have been nice, thank you very much, but no, I got to bed early, tossed like a fish till all hours, then awoke, twitching and wild-eyed, at 3:13am. I’m not superstitious, so twitching awake from a nightmare to my WalMart digital clock displaying the usual number of disasters followed by the unluckiest number didn’t bother me at all. Not one bit.
When it’s black night out here you can’t see the next house, a hundred yards up the road, unless Mort is going fishing and he’s up early. Otherwise, new moon like this, you see nothing but stars until the sun oozes up over the hills behind my cottage. Then, the stars are there one moment, gone in a blue-grey haze the next.
Except that was all in my imagination, of course, what with the thick dark cover of clouds. It would get lighter. It would not get sunny.
Matched my prospects for the day.
I swallowed the last of the lukewarm brew in my mug and went upstairs to shower, shave, and dress for my last day as an outsider.
The last thing the police officer said was in English, sort of.
“You, go easy in the boulevard.”
My brother nodded vigorously.
I continued looking vaguely out the windshield at the traffic passing by.
Like many teenagers in the 70s, we sometimes took Dad to work so we could use the car.
Work just happened to be in another country.
Continue reading “Go Easy in the Boulevard”