Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Cats in the Cradle

Tonight, dear reader, I would like to relate to you a story of cats. You may read this story and think that perhaps I have over reacted a bit in the telling and that really there was not much to it in the end. However, I would beg the reader’s indulgence in remembering that I write fantasy novels by and large and as such have a rampant imagination. It is with that in mind that I ask that you to bear with me as I tell this tale.

It was on an early spring day last year about mid-March when I found myself at a lonely farmstead in southeastern Indiana. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, it is a landscape of steep hills and broad ravines. Springs are abundant there, welling up from fissures in the bedrock which is ever near the surface. Pasture land falls off readily to wooded streams that meander through the lowlands making their way eventually to Salt Creek. This particular property adhered to this bucolic archetype with rolling hills and a stream bending its oxbow through the lowest part of the land. It was my job to identify and delineate any and all wetlands on the site. I’ll not bore you with the details of my job, but suffice it to say that I finished right as the day was ending.



Trudging up the last hill on my way back to my truck, I paused to watch the sun dip below the tree line. Well, truth be told, I stopped because the wheezing of my breath had become louder than the squelching of my boots in the mud and the thought of passing out on that lonely hillside did not appeal to me. The chill wind that had harried me for most of the day faded away leaving only the song of early migratory birds ringing through the trees. I pulled down the hood of my sweatshirt and heard the lowing of the cattle in a distant pasture as the sky faded from rosy gold to pale yellow.



Once my breathing had settled from "Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!" to something akin to normal, I resumed my trek back to the truck. I had parked on a gravel road that led back to the hill above the oxbow facing towards the farmhouse and the silos. This road forked just before reaching the house with the wider lane going left between the house and the silos and barn. The other was narrow and ran behind the house to the right towards the road. I slumped into the cab, grimacing as my muscles protested every move I made. The tires crunched against the gravel as I pulled forward meaning to go through the wider left lane.

The farmhouse was small with white clapboard siding and green shutters at the windows much like most houses in the area that were part of working farms. It was obvious that no one was home, which I took no account of as most farmers have to supplement their work with second jobs. I rolled slowly past the fork in the road and up the gradual slope towards the house. The metal silos were just to the left  of me hiding the majority of the barn which was set back a bit. I could see the the barn doors were open, but again I thought nothing of it as this was not uncommon in the area.

It was then that I saw the cat.

There at the top of the rise came a small grey cat. It was little more than a kitten, really. It walked slowly out to the middle of the road and sat, curling its tail about its legs. What I remember most now is the yellow eyes. They were such a bright contrast to the smoke grey fur that you could not help but be drawn to them.

"Look at those eyes," I said as I rolled to a stop. "Come on, little one, get out of the way."



I pulled forward a few more feet, but the cat showed no sign of moving. It merely sat there regarding me with an aloofness that only a cat can manage. I beeped the horn, but received even less reaction.

"Well, this won't do," I said as I put the truck in park and opened the door.

It was well into the gloaming of the day at this point, but there was enough light for me to see my surroundings. I walked forward towards my little grey friend making shooing noises in my best non threatening voice. The cat, of course, made no movement other than to settle down into a resting position. It blinked languidly at me as I drew near.

It was then that two other cats wandered into to my view from the house.

"Oh, more of you," I said watching a ragged black and white tom and a less ragged calico pad their way towards me.

At this point, my imagination took over with enthusiasm.

You know....this is the point in the story where things go bad.

"And I just got out of the truck..." I murmured to myself.

I turned to go back with the plot of every horror movie and book I had ever read or seen tumbling chaotically in my head. Bram Stoker's Dracula won out narrowly over Stephen King's Cujo leaving me with the thought of demonic cats stealing my breath and/or soul like the old folks used to claim.



"Counteth oneth, twoeth, threeth. Throweth," I whispered, chuckling at my own crazy.

I had gotten three steps into my strategic retreat when I stopped. The barn was in full view now. Both doors had been left open revealing the John Deere green of the machines inside. It was the cats that made me stop.

"What the hell?" I exclaimed.

I watched as dozens of cats in all shapes and sizes streamed from the open doors. Now, had it not been going onto dark and had I not been exhausted from slopping around in the mud all day, I might have welcomed the herd of cats trotting their way towards me. However, as it was, I was left with the overwhelming desire to leave. It was only when I felt the touch of the black and white tom against my leg that I bolted for the truck.



I backed up to the fork in such a rush that I nearly slid into the field. Turning hard, I aimed the truck towards the other lane behind the house. The dash alarm chimed to remind me to put on my seat belt, but I ignored it.

"Yes dear, I hear you," I said to the truck. "But I would rather not have my soul sucked out at the moment, thanks."

It was only when I was out on the main road that I stopped to buckle up. I paused, though, as I was reaching for my seat belt to look into the bed of the truck.

...Just when you think the guy is safe....

As I was driving away, I looked over to the drive between the house and the barn and found the little grey cat still perched at the top of the rise staring at me with those bright yellow eyes. 


 


Sunday, February 3, 2019

There is Water at the Bottom of the Ocean

The past few seasons or two, I have been trying to process composing a post like the one that follows below.  

Trying to get to the root of my processing thoughts has been challenging.    

After chewing on many, many thoughts and no final conclusion, I’ve decided to punch out some of these thoughts.  And really, I feel that is the conclusion to these thoughts that I’m about to punch out though the keyboard.  

It doesn’t really matter….

Many, many moons ago for a short time, I started attending a new start-up church, here in Indiana. This church was nothing special. Just another non-traditional Christian church, reaching out to the world.  

The pastor was nothing special either.  Though I enjoyed his messages, over all, I found them to be blah.  I felt his messages seemed more focused on his journey in life and what he was going though rather than what God wanted him to focus on.  

Maybe that’s why this particular church closed its doors a year or two after they opened.  A good friend of mine will remind me now and then, “If God’s not in it, then it wasn’t meant to be.”

This pastor would always end his messages with “So What”.  He even had a slide in his power point presentation in bold lettering, “SO WHAT.”  That was his wrap up time.  I found that I loved this part of this man’s message.  Not because it was his cue to show us that he was ending his message. No, it was because it showed his reality of humanity.  

“So what?” 

So what did you hear from what I just spoke about, is what he was asking on one level.  On a different level, it was his cry as to, So What does it matter if you heard me at all.   

It was the “so what” that stuck with me from my short time attending that church.  
I think it was the final “dot” that I needed to see/hear, to line up what both my parents told me throughout my up-bring.  

“So now what?” I can hear my mom ask with a side of sarcasm.  

“Now what are going to do with that?” my father would ask with a blank face.

After stewing on these moments from my past, I have been asking myself many questions.

What does it matter if I write this post?  What does it matter if I write a book? What does it matter if I take more beautiful photos? What does it matter if I toy with writing music?  What does it matter if I cook an amazing meal to enjoy with family or friends?  

What does it matter if I do creative things?  This is my thought in lining up the “dots” to my parents and this pastor from my past.

And no.  I am not looking for acknowledgment to my craft or art. Nor am I asking for the meaning of life. For those non-believers who may still be reading this post who may have pre-judged me or this post already,  I can hear you now. “Here we go again. Another Bible thumper asking for the meaning of life.”

How’s that for pre-judgment? 

No.  I’ve asked these questions to myself many times.  

Why do I do the creative things that I do? 

And selfishly I’ve come to accept the following.

It doesn’t matter.

It gives me joy.

And that’s all that should matter.

So, go on and continue to do your arts and express you creativeness.  It doesn’t matter if it makes sense.  As long as it makes sense to you and gives you joy.

The title to this post is a lyric from a song.  Why did I choose this title?  It doesn’t matter.  The lyric gives me joy.  I feel it’s fitting considering the conversation of this post.   





I will give each of you a gold star for naming the song.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Let's Take the Long Way Home, Gail Caldwell

I have moved recently.  Only my husband can attest to the boxes I have emptied and stacked on bookshelves--many have gone to Goodwill, and many have ended up on funny piles stacked haphazardly by my reading chair and my bed.

These books are my "one chapter chance."

I have collected many books over the years, and as awful as I feel about this, I have started the "one chapter chance" rule.  If I can't get into the book after one chapter, I give it away.

This doesn't always work.  I'm fearfully stubborn, and I hate not finishing books, so I tell myself "one chapter chance."  Many books shouldn't have made it but continue to dog-ear where I leave off and start something else.  I finish many of these books after putting them down and picking them back up, losing the intended impact.

Anyway, one of these "one chapter chance" books is Let's Take the Long Way Home by Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell.  It's a memoir.  I'm not too sweet on memoirs generally, but I've read a few that I have enjoyed.

This one was good.

Caldwell writes about her friendship and loss of Caroline Knapp, another successful writer.  The parts of the book that struck me were the parts when Caldwell spoke of herself or Caroline as a writer:
She was so quiet, so careful, and yet so fully present, and I found it a weightless liberation to be with someone whose intensity seemed to match and sometimes surpass my own.  Her hesitation was what tethered her sincerity: As much as Caroline revealed in her books, she was a deeply private person who moved into relationships with great deliberation.  I had known enough writers in my life, including myself, to recognize this trait: What made it to the page was never the whole story, but rather the writer's version of the story--a narrative with its creator in full control.
 I have felt this way about other writers and artists.  This friendship, this kindred of intensity, is what we share in writing.  Other artists understand; many others do not.

Thank you, to all of my writing friends, "whose intensity seemed to match and sometimes surpass my own."

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Opportune

A note to self before you leave work,

As you walk to your car and pass by the 20-somethings leaving classes looking past you to a future with no physical obstacles and with no thoughts but for today...while students plan...

When you drive by Methodist Hospital and know the accomplished men and women fighting for another minute of life have earned it and all their breaths remaining and can't comprehend your ease...while patients heal...

As the sycamores along Illinois snap their bark exposing their white armor turning their backs to your miscalculations of time...while trees expand...

When you reach the canal that barely moves - yet moves - as you drain away the months and years...while the canal spills...

As you cut through Broad Ripple village and the revelers come to play yet hate your secured introversion as they glance at to your secured domestication...while the villagers masquerade...

When you take note the young and the old taking to the trail along Westfield are indifferent to your consistent stumble through life...while the individual extends....

As you reach your drive on up the perpetually green hill of ivy stretching away along the ground and up the pines to escape the disease of your fading...while you fade...

you have dog-eared all your opportunities.



Saturday, December 22, 2018

Folding Sheets

There are moments in a person’s life where reality dispels the illusions we build for ourselves and lay bare the basics of our lives. It is in these times that we discover the fundamental elements that make us who we are. It is the basic programming of our lives that remains when all else is stripped away. One such moment happened to me in the summer of 2017 when my mother was taken to hospital with sepsis.

She was there for ten days. We took turns - my sister, father, and I - sitting by her side as  the doctors struggled to diagnose her condition. It was only after the third day that they were able to ascertain that her bloodstream was infected with staphylococcus oralis, a bacterial infection likely obtained from an over zealous dental cleaning. During this time, and for some time after the antibiotics had started to work, she was delirious. The woman who had been my mother was no longer there, but rather replaced by this frail and gaunt soul in contest against Death. 

Yet, as I sat there watching her, there were signs that she was not completely lost to us. There was one constant during those early days even as she drifted in and out of lucidity. She kept folding her sheets. It wasn’t that she was merely turning them over in her hands, but rather taking measure of them with her hands and precisely folding as if to place them straight into the linen closest. The fact that she was lying on them didn’t seem to matter much at the time. She did this with her blankets and wash cloths as well, all the while tsk-ing and muttering at them when she couldn’t get them put right.

It was also during those early days before the diagnosis came through that she came perilously close to passing. I was alone with her as my sister and father were yet to arrive when she settled into a moment of clarity. Her eyes were watery, but clear as she clasped my hand as tightly as she could. She raised her free hand and rested it shakily on my cheek as she smiled sadly at me. 

“My boy,” she said weakly, patting my cheek with her trembling hand.

I cried then as I do now at the remembering of it.



But, this story has a happy ending of sorts. She survived the ordeal and has returned home, though a bit worse for wear. The Alzheimer’s that just begun to take hold prior to her illness is now much more pronounced. Yet, she remembers each of us though  she cannot say our names. Music still comes to her easily despite her losses, especially Christmas carols. Sentences may be beyond her reach now, but tonight as we were folding their laundry, I set Pandora to the “Fred Waring” Christmas channel and we sang Silent Night together word for word as we put the sheets in the linen closest.


Sunday, December 9, 2018

Eavesdropping @ DFW TGIF



Eavesdropping.  Everyone does it to an extent.  Listening in to others talk about what ever.  Business or personal, it doesn’t matter.  Not knowing all of the context or the background to other peoples’ conversation can be very interesting.  

My wife and I tend to do it a lot when we are out and about. It’s great way to pick up story ideas. Let it be from a whole story, a sub story, or a way to build up someone’s character.  Different accents, or dialects, so on.   

Recently, I was on a business trip.  A quick two-day trip for some training and a factory tour.  I love traveling.  It is a great time to people-watch and eavesdrop.  And this latest trip I got to see and hear some interesting people.  My favorite stranger that I came across on this trip, well, I should say to be fair, she interjected herself onto me.  
   
We had just over a two-hour layover in Dallas Fort Worth International.  Walking through terminal C, my co-worker and I saw a TGIF restaurant and bar just around the corner from our gate.   We agreed it would be a good place to grab some food and drink. We had no problem finding a spot at the bar, only one other guy sitting at the end.  We dropped our bags at the foot of our stools and took a seat. 

The bartender came up to us with the usual bartender jargon, “Can I get you guys something to drink?” as he laid down two white drink napkins.  

We got our drinks.  My co-worker downed his beer looked at me and said, “Nick if you don’t mind watching my bag.  I’m going to step outside and smoke a cigar.”

I nodded, and said, “No problem.”

He picked up his bag and put it onto the bar stool that he was sitting on and off he went.

Not more than three minutes after he left a women came up to me, asked if she could sit where my co-worker was sitting.  I informed her that the seat was taken but she could sit one seat over.  

She was an older lady.  I would guess she was mid 60s, maybe early 70s.  She had money, or maybe she wanted to look like she had money. Regardless her style was that tacky, clunky old lady look.  Long fake fingernails that were thick with chunky light blue nail polish.  A thick woven white sweater with light blue accent throughout the sweater.  Big chunky rectangular shaped gold earrings, matching necklace and bracelets. Chunky. Gaudy.  Her makeup was just as over the top as the rest of her.  Red lipstick and all.  

She ordered her drink which was just a tacky as her.  I felt sorry for the bartender.

“I’ll have a very dirty vodka martini.  But I want you to splash in a little of the olive juice into the martini glass first with a little vermouth.  I want the vodka shaken not stirred and go ahead and put in more olive juice into vodka shaker.  I also want six green olives. Three, in the martini glass. And three on a skewer.  Oh and I will be ordering some food.”  

The bartender grabbed her a menu and went off to make this women’s olive juice with a little bit of vodka martini.  He came back with the drink and took her food order.  

It was just as interesting as her drink order.
            
“I would like to order the mushroom and onion burger.  But I don’t want a bun or fries.  And I don’t want the onions ether.  Can the cook just put the mushrooms on the patty with no bun or onions?  Also I would like a leaf of lettuce next to the patty.  Oh and I would like a house salad with no onions.”

The woman proceeds to get her iPhone out and start going though Facebook.  Sipping her martini.  

She then started texting whomever.  The clickity tap of her thick light blue fingernails against the screen of her phone was getting a little annoying.  It appeared that the nails were preventing her from getting a good solid connection to the keypad on her screen.  I could tell that she was getting impatient.  She started to talk message instead of typing.  Talking into her phone and then hitting send.  

At first, her messages where normal.  

“Just got into DFW.  Having a drink and getting something to eat.”

Normal correspondence…

Then she dropped a message that got my attention. Speaking into her phone with one hand and holding her martini in the other.

“I wanted to ask you.  Are you available to fly down to Nicaragua with me next month?  I have a friend with a condo and a butler.”

I causally turned and looked her direction.  She was looking into her phone.  The glow of the phone lit up her face and the make-up.  

Thinking to myself.  What kind of question is that?  Who gets that question?  Better yet, who has a butler?  Who uses the term butler?  Why Nicaragua?

All these questions flooded my mind.  And I thought this woman would make an interesting story character.  

I almost turned to her and said, I’ll go to Nicaragua. But I thought better.  She might agree and demand that I learn how to make her olive juice martini for her.   






Monday, November 26, 2018

Scattered

I'm a bit scattered.

Forgive me.

In the last month, we have moved into a new home with arched doorways, remodeling projects, lots of haphazard boxes still waiting for a purpose, and a new office--just for me.

My office is lovely.  The green, high-backed chair is perfect for reading.  My desk stores all my letters and random office supplies.  I have pulled out some old antiques and trinkets, too: my great-uncle's wind-up chime clock, the pottery cat Randy got me, my grandfather's old cigar boxes, my Katherina from Mexico, and some of my old books.

I have a thing about old books.

Nick has gotten me quite a few that I have mentioned on the blog--a grammar book from 1896, Lord Jim from 1931, and several Graham Greene editions, including a 1929 copy of The Man Within, Graham Greene's first but lesser-known novel.

Anyway, with the boxes and books, everything is a bit scattered. 

Amongst my boxes I found some things from my grandmother.  She lives alone in the house she has owned for nearly sixty years, and she sends things to me and my family.  I found this diary from 1943 that my grandmother sent about the time we were moving.


My grandmother would have been in her late teens when she wrote this diary.  I recognize her strong, angled handwriting with its open loops but closed vowels.  


I loved reading this diary about my grandmother and the straightforward actions that she told about simply in her diary.  I wanted more glimpses into her mind and thoughts to understand her better.

I may burn all my journals....

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Running Man

"Please try not to blink that bad eye while we do our thing. I know its uncomfortable with your lid bent around like that. What I found is that the strain of keeping one eye from blinking can be lessened if you blink away with the other eye. So...blink away! Good. And don't hesitate to cuss me out. It's all good." 

"Good. Just a few more pulses -- steady. Good.


"Feel like God is opening up inside your head? Well, I mean, you see a blinding light, but I promise it's just a the laser and not a celestial event. It's all good. All. Good.

"Just a few more seconds, Paul. Good. Good. I understand this has distracted you from life? Amazing what a little floater can do to your psyche. Good."


------------------


Forever, since he first saw him appear during a Ninth grade English class twenty years ago, Paul Cowlings knew the man running away in the corner of his right was a peculiar manifestation. He thought it began when he was forced to read, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, when he realized while staring into page 3 after several attempts to absorb the book's plot, but then lost interest and tried to envisage how Roderick Usher might look that a man appeared; or rather, someone appeared to be running inside the Usher home. 


The odd thing interested him more than anything else. He could stare into the page no matter what story he was forced to read and there he was: Running Man. Paul could watch the man run for hours. 


"Pay attention, Paul!"

Soon, Paul could see Running Man just about everywhere in school. He heard "Pay attention, Paul" throughout his school activities. During Math class before lunch, or PE in the early afternoon...during History class at the end of the day and eventually outside of school and during football practice, church, and at home. No matter what he was doing or where he was at, Paul could clearly make out the man running in the corner of his right eye, just within the periphery, and forevermore interesting than what he was told to do or expected to do, or even when he thought better.

Paul tried to mentally tempt Running Man to go away -- hundreds of times. He tried more fervently to get the man to look back at him, or to just slow down and walk to wherever he was going. No matter what he said to the man running, pleas or suggestions, both mentally and verbally; Running Man never stopped running.

Running Man never looked back.

Pay attention, Paul. He heard throughout his adult life, too. He had been accused by family and friends, professors and bosses, girlfriends and college mates of just skidding by...just knowing enough to keep abreast, but never a strain beyond. Smart, even gifted -- if only he did a bit more or simply paid attention to his surroundings. He was always naturally aloof, his mother once said to a neighbor friend. He's good looking, but it's a shame he once heard his ex-wife's mother say on the cell. Even just the other day, his grumpy boss sat him down and claimed he liked Paul's software development skills well enough, but it's a shame he didn't try to fit in. Are you hearing me, Paul?


Running Man was easy to keep an eye on when developing and testing software. Paul was always at his best studying Running Man when work was laid out in replication events and outlined and when double- or triple-checked. To an extent, Running Man was a partner in all his life events...or non-events. Paul did his best work when Running Man was just within his sight. 

Running Man never changed over the years. While the 90's and 2000's fads came and went (not that Paul took much notice), Running Man always wore his pinstriped baggy suit that crumbled just above his polished black shoes and his dark-gray brim hat half tilted to the left of his head that hid the man's hair and gave only a glimpse of a profile. He looked more like an Al Capone, or a John Dillinger, and not some Roderick Usher or Nineteenth Century guy. And always - always - the man frantically ran away from some unknown pursuing thing -- or, did he run towards something? 


Paul asked this a trillion times -- and he rather enjoyed thinking about it, even killing his favorite guesses so as to beget more guesses. He thought to ask his colleagues what they might think of Running Man -- but no; no. Only Paul never brought it up. Only Paul and Running Man knew of each other. Why should he tell anyone? Running Man was harmless.


Running man never got old.


Paul could not 'not' see the running man. Even when he closed his eyes, the man was there; albeit, less defined and more shadowy like he was chasing – or being chased - into a gray fog. Yet, Paul could make out the usual baggy folds of the man's pants; see the brim of the man's tilted hat, silhouette or no. 


Of course, the man running distracted him from time to time, especially during Paul's most stressful moments.


Job interviews, the running man kept running. Marriage and the ultimate divorce -- the running man never slowed. Parents death, one just after the other -- running man still ran to or from something or someone unknown. Apartments, diploma, text books, graduation, roses, wedding ring, a corner house, trips, bills, threats, lawyers, wreaths, wills; Running Man ran.


Paul, however, took a pause one summer afternoon at work when his boss rolled a chair next to him and, with a sense of hesitancy, finally plopped down and scooted closer.

"You've read and signed your evaluation. But, Paul -- I figured that I just lay this on the line for your benefit. To the point...to the point. If you don't push yourself a little harder, Paul. Well, I really hate to tell you this, but I'll have to let you go. Again."


For once, Paul paid attention. He liked his job. He liked his boss. He liked his computer...his desk...and his post-it notes. He liked the simplicity of his career...of following his outlines drawn up by the team...he liked doing exactly what he was told to do -- and, for once in his life, to not look out of place. He liked having a job that did not take too much attention away from Running Man.


"I wish you weren't so distracted in your own thoughts. Your staring into space scares the hell out of us -- but, we know you don't mean to do that. We accept people with, uh, disabilities. Don't want to live in a world that doesn't. Listen, Paul. Any chance you can get out of your head? Get some help? For once?"


The psychologist referred him to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist referred him to another psychiatrist who then figured something out, more on a hunch than by some intense therapy session: Paul had an eye issue, and not a psychosis issue.

"You are naturally inside your own head. To others, you might seem aloof. Adapt to your surroundings. Be aware. Pay attention more, and you'll do just fine. I want you to visit the Optometry office across the hall. I think you are suffering from some kind of vitreous abnormality of the eye."

--------------------

"Okay. Let's see if that works. Now...where's my slate. Look directly at the blank slate. Tell me, Paul; what are you seeing? 


"Do you see a projection any longer? Well, I call it that. Don't mean to offend. As I understand it, you might 'think' you see the dog running -- What's that? Oh. man running. Got it. But, that's just your mind subconsciously trying to make sense of the floater shadowing. 


"We have a tendency to associate natural things and events to what we see with our own eyes -- even when they can't be real in the slightest. Ghosts. Deja vu. Trump elected President. Gotcha. Takes all your attention, doesn't it?


"Good, keep looking. What do you see, Paul? Keep blinking. What do you see? All good?"



Paul blinked. He stared at the slate held by the doctor. Gone. He then stared at the mauve color of the doctor's office. Gone. He blinked again. Gone! The man running in the corner of his right eye; he had disappeared. He was no more. Running Man finally ran away!

It was all good. For once.

--------------------
Paul was their last patient. After the procedure and with no Running Man to take his attention, he felt all alone, but heard every scuffle of papers from the receptionist desk; heard every unanswered call and every shutting of the door. He saw nothing but the white ceiling as he lay there recuperating -- no Running Man; only white plaster, until the nurse's face appeared over him. She bandaged the patch over his eye, asked if he needed a ride back to his apartment. No, that won't be necessary. Not at all. Paul saw well enough out of his left eye, and thankfully, he saw nothing but black out of his right.

"Mr. Cowlings. Please reconsider. I know Dr. Irvine won't be pleased that you turned down our Lyft service."


Paul started the rental car. He rarely drove. He had to renew his Driver's License twice and take three Driver's retraining courses to reduce the points added to his license -- but, he still drove short distances, if infrequently. His ex-wife Logan used to do all the driving. She didn't mind it. She was afraid he'd be, well...distracted. The engine noise was hardly noticeable. He stared at the radio and thought he might do something he had never done before: listen to music. Did Logan listen to music? Yes, he remembered that she did. But, he couldn't recall what kind. He drove across the parking lot, took note of the few cars remaining. He discovered the southeast exit was blocked and wondered if he had noticed that before. He returned to the doctor's building and drove around back to get to the north entrance.


He thought the world anew! He wanted to do things. He looked forward to driving his car...the sun-baked plastic dashboard was intoxicating. He might stop by a park and go walk...maybe go to the used book store after picking up some coffee and find that House of Usher story-- and finally give it a good read. He never ordered anything but 'coffee'. Maybe he'll buy one of those seasonal drinks! 


Logan, too. He will give her a call tonight and just -- well; he would just like to talk to her, instead of just hearing her talk. This time, he'd pay attention to what she says. What she needs. He remembered they used to sit on the couch and watch TV. He never paid attention to what they were watching -- Running Man sometimes lost his step and had to restart. It was a fairly new phenomena, and he had wondered if the television screen might have had something to do with Running Man stumbling and needing to regain his pace.


He admired the large sycamores in the parking lot islands left behind by the land developers, to give the new complex some feel of age. He tried to guess how old they were until his guessing was interrupted by a familiar blurring in the corner of his right eye.

He blinked.

The blur only grew larger with each tree that he passed and clearer and clearer. Yes. It was not a figment of his imagination. It was that floater. It was that man. Running Man had returned!

Though, the Running Man seemed to be walking. No. No. Now, he was running. He ran frantically, too, not like the slower pace run from before. Running man took on a new gate and, frankly, seemed more real, as if the laser treatment made him more dimensional, more vibrant than ever. Yet, the man no longer wore a hat, and he had on what looked more or less like modern pants and a striped shirt.

The therapy -- it only brought Running Man to the modern world, to the forefront. He even appeared to be running towards the office building, and -- for once in over 20 years, the man actually looked back. Finally! Paul strained to get a good look, and for once -- for once! -- Paul would see Running Man's face. Paul focused his attention on the man's eyes: wide with fright as if he was, indeed, running from something and not towards something.

And, just before the guy disappeared from Paul's sight forever, as Paul finally, somehow, met up with Running Man and he even appeared to run over him by Paul's car; Running Man had a kind of resemblance to Dr. Irvine.

But, Paul didn't pay much attention to how the doctor looked. He just wanted the laser thing done and hoped he would see Running Man less frequently -- but not gone forever.





Monday, November 5, 2018

Excerpt from Chapter 12

            Loose stone rasped beneath Surien’s boots as he walked the narrow path that led from the Settlement to the Raven’s Circle. Glancing up, he caught sight of a narrow black form winging its away to the west. He growled softly, grinding his teeth at being watched so blatantly. Had he believed that the dragon was alone, he would have sent every whorri left to him after it. Luck never favored him that way, though. Likely, there was a full Flight lurking within the clouds or just beyond sight in the mountains.


            Turning back to the path, he walked on. Lights began to glow within the windows of the houses that he passed as twilight deepened. The dwellings became fewer and fewer as he walked until, as twilight deepened into night, he was alone on the path. The mat of grey clouds had begun to tear, shredding into drifting threads in the evening breeze.  His eyes adjusted quickly, gleaning the pale near - light of Morobe’s slender crescent. The only sound other than his boots on the path was that of the creaking leather and clinking scales of his armor. His broad hand rested lightly on the pommel of the metal tipped goad sheathed at his belt. The red short cape attached beneath his gorget drifted with the breeze casting shifting shadows on the ground. Sweat and rain cooled against his skin setting a chill within him as the heat of the day faded. The chain mail at the back of his padded helm caught at his matted hair, but he ignored the discomfort intent on the path ahead.


            The path descended from the Settlement towards a cleft in the rock of the hills. Sheer walls of dark stone rose steeply on either side with only the twisted and stunted form of scrub trees clinging desperately to small cracks in the stone face as relief. Boulders and rocks lay strewn across the path tumbled down from the heights over the centuries since his people had been banished to this place. He picked his way past each of the falls placing his feet deftly in footfalls he knew to be safe. Ethereal fingers of fog crept up from the ground in sinuous threads as the night deepened further obscuring the line of the path. Surien did not slow, but merely continued his determined pace down the receding slope.
            Here in the deepening night alone with nothing other than his own thoughts to distract him, he could sense its presence. The dark shadowed other which had become part of his being so many years ago. A gift…a reward bestowed to him by the Raven’s Circle for surviving the Selection. He alone of thirty had survived the trials to be selected as Master of the Bloodbourne. Those that wore the red called him Master and bowed deference just as he had done for his predecessor these twenty years prior.
            The shadowed presence was just that – an apparition - never corporeal, but as much a part of him as his true shadow. Though truly, it seemed more akin to his soul. It lived though he knew it never drew a breath. It was aware. Its thoughts filtered into his own wrapping its sentience in with his own until it had become, after all these years, an extension of his own existence. It had power as well. Through this grafted existence, he was able to control the Hellkites. The influence and control that he was able to exert on the creatures and their handlers flowed from this other. He knew with certainty, though, that this was only the smallest portion of what lay within that presence. He could feel the storms of potential roiling within whenever he drew upon it to exert his control. It was there seemingly just behind him as always. Cold, powerful and as much a part of him as each breath he took.
            The rattling of stone rolling against stone brought Surien’s thoughts away from the darkness that had been given to his soul. Hellkites, three on either side, rose from their posts in the rock. Mauls, bred from the wolf stock that had been found in these mountains when his people had first been banished here. Fangs twice as long as those of an ordinary wolf with large instep claws that could rend a creature twice its size in moments. They had been mindless slavering wretches when he had first taken up the goad. Yet, he had managed to breed intelligence back into them by pairing them with captured wolf stock from the Odonae. In twenty years, he had managed to take a mindless species and turn it into a creature which no longer needed handlers or breeders to control it. They were given direction just as any human would be and they heeded it.


      Surien raised his hand towards the nearest to his left. It was larger than the others with a coat nearly darker than the stone on which it rested. Even to his sight, the Maul was nearly undetectable save for the two golden eyes peering at him from the deepening night.
      “Tarring siar, Rend.” Surien growled.
      The creature blinked languidly, and then lowered itself into a resting pose. A breath later the scrape of claws against stone came to his ears as the others settled back to their stoic watch. Surien grinned slightly, allowing himself this small measure of satisfaction. His sentries paid no further heed to him as he passed between them.
      Fifteen more steps brought him to the end of the path. Torches ensconced in iron brackets affixed to two stone obelisks on either side of the path guttered fitful light. Surien squinted at the brightness, stopping for a moment to let his eyes readjust.
      “Weakness,” he grumbled still squinting at the torches.
      The pale and weathered stone of the obelisks stood nearly twice his height. Hewn from something other than that of the mountains, they stood at the entrance to the Conclave – the gathering place for the Raven’s Circle. Each pillar had the image of a raven chiseled into it. Ancient glyphs trailed beneath each bird, but they had become so worn over time that they were no longer legible. Still, it did not matter. He had been taught the phrases long ago and could recite them now even were he overcome with senility.
      He turned to the left pillar and spoke, “What lies without.”
      Turning to his right, he canted, “What lies within.”
           

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Changing

Indiana Corn, Lapel IN
Nick Dyakanoff  Photography 
Change is in the air.  It’s all around.  The end of summer and the start of fall is happening.  This is my favorite time of year while living in the Midwest.
  
The summer days of extreme mugginess that melt me down to a puddle of human goo are getting fewer and fewer.  The crisp smells in the early mornings are becoming more and more. Smells that I embrace.  The visuals of change are all around--one of the best natural events of Midwest living has started.  The corn and soybean fields were once rich in vibrant colors of green. Within the last month, they have turned into colors of brittle yellow gold.  Farmers are lining up their harvesting equipment out in their fields to start collecting the long-awaited yield.


Cranberry Hair, Lapel IN
Nick Dyakanoff  Photography 

Teasing colors of oranges, reds, and yellows are peeking out on the leaves of trees.  First, just a few branches show their colors.  Almost like a shy strip tease of what’s to come.  
Each day more and more branches seem to show off a little more color.  Before you know it, all of the trees are peaking in glorious colors.  In some cases, the colors are so magnificent they seem unreal. 

Kokiwanee Nature Preserve, Lagro IN
Nick Dyakanoff  Photography 
A fictitious miracle.  

As if the trees are giving a farewell before they go to sleep.

I love the fall season.  It seems to me the culture in the fall months get focused with a quiet busy-ness.  Kids are back in school.  School sports and activities start to take over schedules.  American Football starts up.  People huddle together on the weekends to watch and cheer on their teams. Summer produce becomes less spectacular. And some are busy collecting produce to take home to can or freeze.  Workloads at work seem to start building up a little.  Got to finish that project before the holiday season starts.  Or before it gets too cold outside to be able to work…
  
I feel it and see it every year.  It makes me wonder if this quiet busy-ness is a cultural phenomenon that has been engrained into us?   Or if it’s a natural habit that is part of our build in DNA?  Hunter-gatherers are getting ready for the cold, desolate, dark season.


Hominy Ridge Lake, Lagro IN
Nick Dyakanoff  Photography 


I’ve been writing for this Blog for just over a year. This is something that I thought I would never do… write stuff and put it out for the world to view.  Within this last year of producing written work for you to read, I have learned a lot about myself and writing.  I find myself trying to figure out how to put things into writing.  I see myself trying to figure how I might try to describe someone or something in writing. Or I replay a conversation in my head that I might have found interesting.  Then I try and use that conversation for a story that I may be playing out in my head. 

I’ve learned that writing can be a wonderful outlet to escape into.  And writing is not as easy as it appears.  

I still struggle with writing and posting to the blog.  I think I am still trying to figure out how best to utilize this blog.  I want to share stories from my childhood.  But sometimes I feel this blog is not the right platform to use for that. 

I guess I’m trying to learn the audience.  And plus I’m still getting a grasp of how long a blog post should be.  I don’t want to post long 5000 word posts.  But some of my Alaska stories will most likely be that long.  Plus I seem to use the word/letter “I” a lot, and “I’m” wanting to get way from that.  Maybe I will change the point of view and have a new character that isn’t me for the Alaska stories.  

Regardless, joining this blog and exercising different parts of my brain has brought good healthy changes for me.  I feel more aware of things around me.  I’m looking more to see details and to possibly use in a blog post. 

I like the changes that I see outside during the fall season and I like the changes that I see within my thought process.  


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Eminem, The Beastie Boys, and Writing Today

Nick and I had a conversation the other night.  It went something like this.

"I was on Facebook scrolling through the comments about Eminem's new album cover and the mysterious nod to a past influence," Nick said.  Nick is crazy smart about music.  And many other things.  "The new Eminem album looks like the 1986 Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill debut album."

"Show me."

He pulled up the albums.
Eminem, Kamikaze

Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill


Um, yes.  He was right.

"So what about Facebook?"

 "I scrolled through a bunch of comments.  The comments are all over the place.  Luke posted about it. You remember Luke?"

I remember Luke.  Nick used to work with him.

"Well, Luke responds in a huge paragraph that has two sentences.  Long sentences.  Sentences that run into each other and don't have any separation."  He's annoyed.

"And words like 'cause' are spelled 'c-u-z'"--I consider telling him that "cause" isn't really a word, but I let it be--"and" he had another spelling example here that I don't remember.

I called him out at this point.  "Neither one of us is very good at spelling.  And you write run-on sentences."

"Yeah, but this is unreadable.  If someone has something to share on social media, they should be able to communicate what they are trying to say."

This is a familiar topic for us.

"Are you more annoyed about the grammar or that nobody seemed to recognize the similarity between the two albums?"

"I guess that no one recognizes the album cover," he said.  "There's this one post about how kamikazes were in World War II, and the plane is a jet--probably not made until the 1960s.  They're missing the point."

We have gone over this territory before.  I rarely go on Facebook or any social media.  Sure, everyone has an opinion, and it's great that everyone has an opinion.  The tough thing is that critical thinking and listening to others seems to be on the decline.

I believe the trend in educational system and literary school of thought has strayed from any literary thought that looks for context--history, tradition, relevance, etc--outside of self.  30 years ago, reading Shakespeare meant studying the history and the politics and the traditions and the text.  My experience with education shows that these are too difficult, irrelevant, and often offensive to many people.  The only context that is important is the self--and no answer is incorrect.  Everyone's opinion is valid--even if it has no relevance to the current book.

Throw grammar in here.  Language is a marvelous, evolving monster, and to impose formal rules on children can stifle creativity and overwhelm them.

I am no grammar nazi.  I believe that in most contexts, if you can communicate to your ideas, you are successful.

On the other hand, the extreme tendencies in some schools to avoid grammar and context in reading makes the social media craziness an unsurprising outcome.

I tell Nick as much.

Then, we're back to Eminem.  "Everybody seems to have an opinion about the album cover," he said, "but no one seems to make a connection to Beastie Boys."

"Everybody voices their ideas," I said, "but no one seems to have a context or reason for what they are saying?"

"Yes.  And I can't make sense of a lot of it," Nick said.  "Or maybe we are just getting old."

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Doubt and Petulance

My writing has been focused on the North-of-Ireland coast and...flax.

As indicated in my post Gull and Chain, I have devoted most of my writing time this summer to developing my period piece taking place at a fictional flax farm manor in Northern Ireland, Ken Kerr. And, because I am odd, I have to make this love story as tragic as humanly possible, because flax is not very sexy my fellow Forgers, and I feel romance is dead. DEAD.

(Oh, these young folk...if they only knew how love stormed those seas of doubt and romance rode those exotic waves of passion -- before the click of an app. Tsk. Tsk. Yes, I'm Mister Romantic! I know what I'm lecturing you about!).

In all seriousness (although romance is truly dead, except perhaps at the Moir homestead...I strongly suspect each of Mike's fables is analogous to a steamy autobiographical moment), fewer than fourteen days have I missed not expanding or editing or totally deleting scenes and descriptions from my story. With the help of Google Docs, I find myself reconsidering and rewriting my Irish story's dialogue, paragraphs, and chapters during traffic jams on Meridian Street, on my small breaks between assays and timed conditions, and --much to the annoyance of my family-- in-between having ordered dinner at Mama Corolla's and waiting for its delivery.

"No, Scott. I'm not giving you my phone. Ah! Don't-touch-my-phone. I'll put it away. Geez." (Psst! Romance. Is. Dead. White. Clam. Linguine. Arrives!)

I share one of those edited chapters (but new to you. Please share your expert critiques. I have several drafts ahead of me, no 'doubt'): Doubt and Petulance. My protagonist, Sir Robert Taylor, is the son of an abusive English baron. I thought Sir Robert's impulsive and indecisive behavior; his tormented, doubting mind could be explained partially by living under his misanthropist father's rule. I counter that force, albeit unevenly (and purposefully), with the creation of a kind, thoughtful, and honest grandfather who knows all too well his grandson's predilection to solitude, to reading fiction and writing poetry instead of mastering Hedge Manor's land and farm wealth; and to survive yet another day regardless of accomplishment.

 I also needed to discovery how Sir Robert ends up owning an old flax farm and manor in Ireland that comes with a lovely and brilliant lady, Ceara, and her equally brilliant, if more sensual brother, Hugh. Ah...is that fair? To claim Hugh sensual? Or, was Hugh only a man whose knots unto Sir Robert simply could not be undone?


Doubt and Petulance
“Doubt is the greatest flaw among men. And you, so educated!”
He witnessed his oft scowling and morose father scold and extinguish the delight and cheerfulness that was his grandfather when time came to deciding Sir Robert’s fate. There must have been hundreds of situations, the compliant and fledgling Robert Taylor then thought, when that wisdom regarding doubt could be the wrong antidote, or unfair. Men had worse flaws than doubt. Yet: Hugh.
Knots.
His grandfather wanted him to go to Oxford, to enter the Clergy – or go into Mathematics.
“Both disciplines lead you and your followers to ultimate truths.” He happily concluded as he led his grandson to his father’s bureau – and then stiffened his spine at the doorway as if he were entering Satan’s den. By wary eye, he instructed his grandson’s spine to harden, too, before they entered and again when they finally stood in the presence of the leviathan behind the desk who was finishing signing his bible of property ledgers.
The hurried and deep scratches the man made with his pen: sadistic.
“Why you two look so dumbfounded? Which is it? Fickle as cock robins, are you?”
His father insisted his son go to Antrim and manage the baron’s recently purchased flax fields – and reset the stone and reclaim the household of a Ken of Kerr upon the recent death of the Catholic tenant who managed to keep his manor and some flax fields, in contract.
Flax fields? What was Sir Robert to do with flax?
They both stood there, staring down at the businessman who was no real father but only a scowl that occasionally barked, and spat...and knocked.
We fickle as robins.
His grandfather knew of Sir Robert’s weaknesses; his grandson’s own troubling demeanor to set to rhyme his natural sentiment rather than to prose his inheritable influence. His father respected only the brawn of his son’s shoulders and the young man’s newly sprouted beard -- and loathed the meandering, reserved spirit who would some cursed day inherit his and his grandfather’s wealth. No matter. As the selfish Baron had reproached him during breakfast or demonstrated in the fields full of laborers or berated him whilst hosting mortified guests at their manor near Appleby; Sir Robert was to be “broken to fundamentals and rebuilt a man so as to earn my title and pound wealth -- and not by my blood will you do boy, but by my design, and only that!”
Petulant.
The scoundrel needed his son to go to Antrim “set cross that piss of sea”. Yet -- and never a doubt -- his grandfather knew his grandson was not fit for such adventure; such independence. He knew his grandson was one to be kept, in comfort – if not in hiding from the reaches of his own father. And, when the moment came to discuss Oxford or Proprietor, Grandfather and Grandson hesitated…hesitated for just a few ticks of the clock whilst the Miser of Westmorland seethed over the display of grown men in doubt.
...The greatest flaw.
He remembered his grandfather’s response. He remembered instant fear for his grandfather’s safety.
“Is it fair to delay this boy’s education for a debtor’s plot of grass? And in that woeful land? Is there honor in that, James? And, for God's sake, James. What has God planned for Robert’s talent? He has a duty to determine his own honorable profession and not to be...cast off to the wilderness. Now, you needn’t be so frustrated, James. Oh -- and please don’t sigh like a petulant boy. Hear us out. Robert and I have discussed this at some length. We agree his skills are better suited to vocations of-.”
“—Maths and Gospels? Not this again. He’s no wise man. He adrift! And he’s no Enchanter, either. Imagine him before the church -ha! Empty hexes, grand sorcery. Who would believe him in their time of need?”
“Robert would make fine clergy. Or, Lecturer of --”
“Lecturer of elves and fairies.”
“Enough James.”
“We know he’s fit for failure of the most sordid affairs. A man with no spine is susceptible to any and all disease. Buggery, no doubt, he'd make a fine pillow --”
“Enough! You disgusting.... Enough!”
 “I am the one who has had enough! His escape to college will not do. Why: So he can learn how to bugger by profession? No! His duty is to find his spine. His duty is to bleed, like I have very well to do. His duty is to enlarge my investments – not to delight in his fancyin’! What investments have he ever sacrificed, whilst I gave him sup and shelter? None. None! An’ those writings? He scarcely comes out of his room, he and his bloody quill, whilst I have studied well and took to the bleed of both mind and body. If my spine bends, then so will his. So must his! Duty to this family is his duty – Mathematics and sorcery can wait. He will learn all he needs to know by calculatin’ the trade – look at me, boy Robert! I’m your father and not that old fool!”
“He is no longer a boy. He is a man. And, because he is a man, his duty is only to himself. We are finish here, James.”
“No we ain’t, old man. I’m not finished with you. You dare lead my boy away from the only contract he can never escape, and that is the contract he has with his father. I bailed you and mum from the bloody thieves you had foolishly loaned our wealth– for so long have I cared for your interests and hers; but, if God’s pulpit is what this dandy prat wishes to scrutiny, then he will learn it in the wilds of Ireland by saving them wretched squalor under the crack of his whip. I said look at me, boy!”
Sir Robert startled and gasped as his father’s fist seemed to split the desk. His grandfather only raised a brow. He was never surprised by his son’s behavior, for he was always, always one division and two sums ahead of the miser’s own selfish calculations. Sir Robert reaffirmed his spine; watched through his eye’s periphery how his grandfather merely tapped his bent fingers on the desk, looked straight ahead towards the chairs against the wall -- as if addressing counsel. He then politely, yet directly, stated, “As I understand the situation, your Catholic debtor was the last of his kind to hold onto his small plot and manor whilst working under the former proprietor. If Robert is to govern over the till, then he will do so only if he is Lord of it all.”
“Lord? Of it all? Oh, no old man. Not my fields. Not ever – and never with my waking-”
“--He will be the rightful Baron of the newly acquired fields as well as the Manor. Kerr, is it, my boy?” His grandfather asked Sir Robert, yet waited for no answer and reset his graying, yet stealthy eyes on the festering beast. “He will be Lord of the Manor Kerr and all its domain, or I will bequeath more of my property to your cousin Frederick, and without hesitation. I believe he is to be married this time next year?”
“Them my fields, old man -- what you haven’t already tossed to the dogs! And you are aware these here fields near town -- that I alone tilled and toiled; they belong to me. To me!”
“No. They belong to me. Only Antrim --”
“I alone own them fields in Antrim!”
“Yes, indeed. Only Antrim, James. I own all but a few lots of Hedge Manor. You haven’t enough acreage to sustain your needs here or across the sea. Look here, son. You haven’t much choice, James, seeing as how I am still of sound body and mind. As well, it is only fair. Now, sit back in your seat. Go on, sit down and let us discuss this as gentlemen. You can make this arrangement work for you. If Robert fails, then you will have proven your acrimony. If he succeeds, then you get your crop - and your coin -- and your rightful place guiding your son’s prospects, sticking your damn pitchfork in him wherever you care to plant it. And, as per my contract, I will guarantee your share of Hedge Manor -- before I am called.”
The beast; he seethed and looked down at his ledgers – his thumb bending the corner and creasing the pages gently; an unusually gentle fidget of a tyrant. Sir Robert remembered thinking he might have to knock his father down if he so sprung forth and knocked his grandfather -- or, he would have to take the blow himself. Yet, suspiciously, his father was nodding.
Never had I seen him nod.
“It does seem fair, now that you have put it forth. You must -- I said look at me, boy. Listen carefully. You can be Lord of the squalor. Baron of all of Ireland’s bogs. I don’t give a damn. It is all yours, but only after he puts in writing my fair share of Hedge n' fields. And, I will add to that contract -- for I won’t accept such a contract without it -- Stewart’s blacksmith shop and livery -- or no deal. And, for sure, you are quite correct, old man. I won’t trust upon your death that you will give me what is mine. No, no. Never.”
The tyrant, he seemed delighted. He grinned as he took his seat. “As for you…. Look at me boy. Give me my crop when it due – and I don’t give a damn whatever else becomes of you and your unearned title. Still, I give you bit of advice in return: never find yourself in debt to me, boy Robert. For, I will have it all whatever you managed to have gained. I’ll rip away every stone from them fields – and your stones along with them. And as far as what’s fair is bein’ tossed about, Clergyman…” The Tormenter then rose from his seat and set his dirt-brown eyes on the old man; the beast’s heavy chest expanding over the desk from the infernal raging inside his otherwise emptiness, “if this lilly-daint so much as misspells our name on an order, or if he casts a shadow on it with any poor shade of light, then I’ll have his goddamned, willow-boy fanny chopped off and sittin’ right on this here desk -- to shove my quill!”
His father then sprang round the desk and spat towards Sir Robert’s feet. He remembered his grandfather pushing his revolting son backwards – a hard, good thump on the chest despite his own frailty. Sir Robert remembered then looking down at his boots as he heard his father slam the door behind them; imagined seeing his fine leather boots covered in his father’s venom – but finding nothing wet or poisonous burning through his soles. He remembered his father’s spilled tea, too, and it all over the desk...and its terrible stench of sour milk and anise.
To this day, the stench of anise came forth whenever Sir Robert felt shoved about, cornered, or reprimanded.
He then remembered his grandfather’s hand on his back-- its warm, familiar heat as his grandfather massaged and led him out of that dank room...and his surprise when his grandfather felt the strength to crack a joke about how even Satan would have agreed to thread the flax after engaging “this abhorrent, petulant creature of ours.”
Flax? What am I to do with flax?
 “Now you are aware,” At the foot of the stair, his sighing grandfather leaned against him and wiped his forehead with his kerchief, “once the spark is set in your father’s mind, he then kindles his own fire with the home and all its furnishings.” His grandfather held onto the banister, seemed determined to go up without Sir Robert’s aid, but then turned and pointed his bent and fragile index finger at him, the wet kerchief wadded in his palm, “Give him his crop and always on time. More importantly, never perform a transaction with that -- with your father without witness. Never, son, without witness -- do you hear me, Robert? Good. And, then be done with him. Put him out of your mind and soul. And, for God’s sake, appreciate every minute you can tick away without your father’s presence.”

All is gray when Flax is blue....